Saturday, December 2, 2023

Nanotech wins big grant

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Applying nanotechnology to agriculture to increase productivity and reduce environmental impacts has secured a Lincoln University team a $1 million grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund.
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Lincoln University Associate Professor Craig Bunt said his team will develop a groundbreaking nano-coating that can be applied to fertiliser to control its rate of release into soil and to seeds to control the timing of germination.

“Controlling fertiliser rate of release is important because release that is too rapid can result in excessive nitrogen being lost into soil and waterways, causing significant pollution and other negative environmental impacts.

“When nitrogen is lost to the soil, waterways or atmosphere farmers must apply more fertiliser to achieve desired results, which increases farming costs.”

They will initially focus on understanding the science of the new polyester nano-coating and its biodegradation then apply the technology for controlled release fertilisers and delayed seed germination in partnership with companies and organisations such as Ravensdown and the Foundation for Arable Research.

While controlled-release fertilisers are available they have significant limitations, including lack of robustness reducing their effectiveness and a high coating-to-fertiliser ratio.

“Our technology, using a novel, revolutionary coating, will solve these limitations.”

It can also be applied to seeds to control the timing of germination.

“The benefits of delayed germination are manifold. 

“For example, farmers could sow crops traditionally sown in autumn several months earlier when weather conditions are more conducive to sowing.

“They could also sow two crops at once: one with uncoated seeds and the other with coated seeds to delay germination until after the first crop has matured or been harvested.

“Delayed germination could also allow farmers to control weeds that grow after sowing so that the coated seeds germinate after weeds have been sprayed. 

“This will increase crop yields because competition from weeds can be significantly reduced.”

He described the technology as a specific solution that increases sustainability, enhances productivity, and will help improve yield and export revenue.

The project team members include Dr Greg Walker of Otago University and Dr Sally Price and Weiyi (Ivy) Liu, both from Lincoln University.

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