Nitrogen fertilizers are now used by millions of farmers to make fertilizers for a wide range of crops, including citrus trees.
Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a method to make fertilizer with no carbon emissions, which could be a key step towards making nitrogen fertilizers environmentally friendly.
The new method could lead to the creation of a highly efficient fertilizer that is much less polluting than currently available fertilizers, said co-author Robert A. Daugherty, professor of chemical engineering.
Daeger’s new fertilizer uses a non-toxic mixture of two naturally occurring compounds, which combine to form a fertilizer with high nitrate content.
Davenport said the combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer will produce the best nitrogen content in the world.
Daunport and his colleagues demonstrated the effectiveness of the new process at room temperature in a lab, using a mixture of nitrogen and phosphorus that had been treated with sodium thiosulfate, a highly acidic agent that is also found in natural fertilizers.
They were able to make the fertilizer with only 4 percent nitrogen.
Dauger said the new method is particularly promising because it can be used to make a wide variety of fertilizer blends without the need for a lot of chemical reagents.
“You can make the same fertilizer with very low nitrate,” he said.
“The nitrogen is just as bioavailable as phosphorus, potassium and sulfur, which makes it an attractive option for the growing industry.”
Daunpitt said his group is now working on a commercial version of the method that could be commercialized within a year.
The nitrogen-based fertilizer is a cross-pollination of the two naturally-occurring compounds.
The compound used to produce the nitrogen-containing compound in this study is a naturally occurring plant, such as a carrot, lettuce or spinach.
The scientists said the researchers will soon conduct tests on the new fertilizer to verify its suitability for commercial use.
“We’re just starting to see the benefits,” Daung said.
The research was published online Jan. 23 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Daula, an associate professor in the department of chemistry, and Dauni were part of a team that developed a more efficient version of a nitrogen-tolerant fertilizer that was commercially available.
The company, BioTreat, is based in the U.S. state of Florida.
BioTecture is currently working on developing a commercial fertilizer that uses a new type of nitrogen-sulfur combination, a process that is currently under development for commercial production.
Dafu, a graduate student, co-authored the study with Daunsons co-authors, Robert Daug and James Daunbach.
The study was supported by the Office of Science and Technology Research (OSTR) at UC Berkeley and the National Science Foundation (NSF).