Smart Fertilizers As an Approach to Sustainable Farming
In 2019, the fertilizer market was USD 95 billion and it projected that during the forecast period of 2020-2025, approximately a CAGR of 3.2% would be recorded. Fertilizers are critical to agricultural productivity. Balanced fertilization would involve both macronutrients (NPKs) and micronutrients, whereas unbalanced fertilization reduces crop yields and depletes the soil. There will be an increasing strain on global food systems soon, and agriculture will face the challenge of ensuring food safety for the growing world population.
A combination of biotechnology and nanotechnology can revolutionize farming systems and provide solutions to current and potential challenges.
A new type of intelligent fertilizer that can control nutrient release is needed to improve nutrient use efficiency by synchronizing nutrient availability with plant needs. Agricultural soils should be used as a sink for carbon sequestration through best management practices to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions. Smart fertilizers or smarter input management should target end-users’ economic benefits (i.e., farmers) to improve adaptability. In this way can we achieve sustainable agriculture and feed the next generation without damaging the environment.
Excessive use of mineral fertilizers and unsafe pesticides has caused pollution and severe health problems. Nanoscience can solve these problems by providing higher performance nanomaterials.
There are three main types of nano fertilizers:
- nanoscale fertilizers (synthesized nanoparticles)
- nanoscale additives fertilizers (bulk products with nanoscale additives)
- nanoscale coatings fertilizers (coated with nano polymers or loaded with nanoparticles)
During the growth of crops, the release rate of nutrients is slow, reducing losses and improving the efficiency of nutrient use.
In the sense of a circular economy, organic waste is produced in agricultural systems as harvest residues used to create innovative fertilizers from natural materials.
It is an urgent need to ensure the sustainable intensification of agricultural systems. Compared to conventional fertilizers, quick fertilizers based on slow-release/controlled-release or carrier delivery systems have shown to increase crop yields, soil productivity and reduce nutrient loss. By acting as a carrier matrix for nutrients and bacterial inoculants, clay, nano-clay, non-degradable and degradable polymers, and agricultural waste are suitable for the development of smart fertilizers.
Top companies in the fertilizer market invest heavily in product development, particularly in the involved fertilizer segment. The industry nowadays is moving towards the use of crop and region-specific customized solutions while keeping sustainability as a significant concern. The major players in the smart fertilizer segment are market AG CHEMI Group, Nano solutions, Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited, Richfield Fertilizers, Smart Agri-Tech, Sonic Essentials, among others.