IIT-Mandi team develops biodegradable microgels : The Tribune India

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IIT-Mandi team develops biodegradable microgels

To be source of clean nitrogen, phosphorus for sustainable agriculture

IIT-Mandi team develops biodegradable microgels

IIT-Mandi’s team of researchers. Tribune photo



Tribune News Service

Dipender Manta

Mandi, April 19

A research team from IIT-Mandi has achieved a significant breakthrough in sustainable agriculture with the development of natural polymer-based multifunctional smart microgels. These microgels were engineered to release nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilisers over an extended period, presenting a promising option of enhancing crop nutrition while minimising detrimental environmental impacts.

Improves germination

The microgel formulations are eco-friendly and biodegradable, as these are made with natural polymers. These can be applied by mixing into the soil or by spraying these onto plant leaves. Recent studies with maize plants have shown that our formulation greatly improves maize seed germination and overall plant growth compared to pure urea fertiliser. Dr Garima Agrawal, Assistant prof

A spokesperson of IIT-Mandi said: “As global populations surge towards an estimated 10 billion by 2050, ensuring food security has become increasingly critical. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in meeting this demand, with fertilisers playing a significant role in boosting crop productivity. However, the inefficiency of traditional nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilisers, with absorption rates being as low as 30 to 50 per cent and 10 to 25 per cent, respectively, pose challenges in optimising agricultural output while minimising environmental impact.”

“Modern agriculture relies heavily on fertiliser application to meet the escalating food demand of a growing population. While fertilisers are essential for providing nutrients to plants and improving crop yields, their effectiveness is often compromised by factors such as gaseous volatilisation and leaching. Consequently, excessive fertiliser application not only leads to high costs but also has adverse effects on the environment, including groundwater and soil contamination, as well as human health,” he added.

Developing technological alternatives that prolong fertiliser release is imperative to facilitate a shift towards sustainable agriculture practices, said the spokesperson.

“The research team comprising Ankita Dhiman, Piyush Thaper and Dimpy Bhardwaj from School of Chemical Sciences was led by Dr Garima Agrawal. The research was funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board, Government of India and the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India,” he said.

Explaining the motive and results of the study, Assistant Professor Agrawal, said: “We have developed natural polymer-based multifunctional smart microgels for the slow release of urea over a prolonged period. These microgels also act as potential sources of phosphorus for plants and are cost effective, biodegradable and environment friendly.”

“The microgel formulations are eco-friendly and biodegradable, as these are made with natural polymers. These can be applied by mixing into the soil or by spraying these onto plant leaves. Recent studies with maize plants have shown that our formulation greatly improves maize seed germination and overall plant growth compared to pure urea fertiliser. This sustained release of nitrogen and phosphorus helps crops thrive while cutting down on fertiliser use,” said she, adding that : “These findings pave the way for sustainable agriculture, offering a promising solution to optimising nutrient supply, enhancing crop yields and mitigating environmental challenges associated with traditional fertilisers.”

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