The new fertilizer is currently undergoing its first Pennsylvania field trials with the aid of a grant from the Commonwealth's Department of Agriculture. However, field trials in Florida have been ongoing since 1998 and have shown high performance of ornamentals grown in sandy soils prone to leaching.
The fertilizer has also been shown to improve plant growth and drought tolerance while virtually eliminating leaching in nursery or greenhouse plants grown in peat or soilless media. In the soilless systems tested by the Penn State researchers with a wide variety of ornamental plants and vegetables, leaching was reduced to less than one percent of conventionally fertilized plants. The new field fertilizer, which is being patented by the University, was developed by Dr. Jonathan Lynch, associate professor of plant nutrition, Dr. Kathleen Brown, professor of post harvest physiology, and Robert H. Snyder, research support associate, in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. The inventors say that, besides uses in agriculture and floriculture, the new fertilizer may be useful for stadium fields and golf courses as well.
Lynch explains that, in traditional fertilizer systems, the amount of nutrient available to the plant is large immediately after application and declines as the plant takes it up and the nutrient runs off when it rains. However, in the new "smart" system, the supply of phosphorus available to the plant always matches a level typically found in "natural" soils.
In the new "smart" system, phosphorus is automatically released and maintained at low, natural levels to meet the plants' needs by the chemical buffering action of aluminum oxide.
Contact: Barbara Hale