Explore the newly created environmentally friendly hydrogel that could be a useful tool for agriculture, especially Florida agriculture.

Florida agriculture could have a new tool in the fight against drought and to aid in nutrient management: an environmentally friendly hydrogel. Hydrogel are collections of molecules that are able to absorb large amounts of water and fertilizers and then slowly release them back into the soil for crops to utilize. Hydrogels are typically made from petroleum products, according to a Citrus Industry article, and they are “expensive, toxic, and have difficulty degrading” according to the article. However, a research team has developed a new hydrogel that is plant-based and biodegradable. See the details below.

Details on the Environmentally Friendly Hydrogel

The research was led by Gang Chen, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Florida A&M University-Florida State University College of Engineering. The new hydrogel is made from straw that is left over from the processing of rice, wheat, and corn. It’s biodegradable and is made from materials that would otherwise go to landfills or be burned.

In studying the plant-based hydrogels, Chen’s team found it increased yields anywhere from 11 percent to 136 percent. The development could be especially useful for Florida farmers, as Florida’s sandy soil has poor water- and nutrient-holding capacities. It could be a tool for Florida citrus growers to combat the water and nutrient losses caused by decreased root mass, which is caused by citrus greening.

Kelly Morgan, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences professor and director of the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, said in the article  “This is a great use of valuable resources that should be used and may be cheaper and more effective than the existing chemical water-retention products now available.” Morgan added that he supported field testing of the new development see if it will be beneficial to growers.

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.