A team of researchers in the University of Adelaide are developing fertilizers which are low cost yet effective and with considerably low environmental impact for farmers by making use of a new advanced material call graphene as a fertilizer carrier. The researchers have demonstrated that slow-release fertilizers can be effective when produced from loading essential trace elements onto sheets of graphene oxide.

By using graphene as a carrier, the efficiency of fertilizers is increased overall, the fertilizers can be applied in a more targeted manner, and the nutrient uptake by the plants are boosted. So far, graphene-based carriers have been demonstrated with micronutrients zinc and copper, the demonstration with macronutrients such as nitrogen phosphate is yet to be carried out as the work on it, is still in progress.

According to Professor Mike McLaughlin, who is the head of the University of Adelaide’s fertilizer technology Research Centre, fertilizers which show slower and more control release, provide greater efficiency and have reduced impact on the environment.

The research has demonstrated that copper and zinc micronutrients on graphene oxide sheets is an effective way to supply the plants with micronutrients which are required and increase the strength of the fertilizer granules for better transport.