A greener way to fertilize nursery crops

Aug 27, 2012 by Dennis O'brien
A greener way to fertilize nursery crops
ARS horticulturist Joseph Albano has found a greener alternative to a fertilizer additive that is believed to contribute to heavy metal accumulation in waterways.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist has found a "green" alternative to a type of fertilizer additive that is believed to contribute to the accumulation of heavy metals in waterways.

Ornamental nursery and floral crops require micronutrients like iron, manganese, copper and zinc. But fertilizers that provide these micronutrients often include synthetically produced compounds that bind with the micronutrients so they are available in the .

The most commonly used compounds, known as chelating agents, are not readily biodegradable, and can extract metals from sediments. Their use is believed to add to the amounts of iron and other that sometimes flow into or become soluble in waterways. Concerns in Europe about one, called EDTA, have prompted calls there for use of alternative chelating agents.

Joseph Albano, a with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Fla., thinks he has found a "green" alternative for the floral and nursery crop industries. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports USDA's commitment to .

Albano's alternative chelating agent is known as EDDS. It is a that is biodegradable and less likely to persist in the environment.

In a series of studies, Albano grew marigolds in standard soil-less potting media using fertilizers formulated with EDDS or one of two commonly used chelating agents: EDTA and DTPA. Each of the three treatments was chelated with iron so Albano could assess the effectiveness of EDDS as a fertilizer iron source.

The results showed that EDDS was a suitable chelating agent for use in fertilizers. There were no differences in plant growth or leaf-tissue among plants grown with iron-EDDS, those grown with iron-EDTA, or those grown with iron-DTPA fertilizers.

Iron-chelates, like iron-EDTA and iron-DTPA, degrade when exposed to light (photodegradation), so they are often stored in opaque containers that prevent exposure to sunlight. Albano also assessed iron-EDDS photodegradation and discovered that iron-EDDS degraded more quickly than iron-EDTA when exposed to light, which would contribute to its low persistence in the environment. Given how quickly it degrades, Albano recommends that iron-EDDS chelates also be stored in opaque containers.

The report, published in HortScience, was the first peer-reviewed study to evaluate EDDS as a chelating agent in fertilizers used in the production of a floricultural crop, according to Albano. The work is expected to encourage the use of EDDS as an environmentally friendly chelating agent in floral and nursery crop operations.

Explore further: Nine emerging trends in pet food

More information: Read more about this research in the August 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. ttp://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/aug12/fertilizer0812.htm

Provided by United States Department of Agriculture - Research, Education and Economics

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

MRI: An accurate method to evaluate iron overload

Jan 31, 2011

A research team from Iran investigated the accuracy of T2*-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI T2*) in the evaluation of iron overload in beta-thalassemia major patients. The study showed that MRI T2* is a non-invasive, ...

Iron deficiency in soil threatens soybean production

Dec 06, 2010

An expansion of soybean production into areas where soybean has seldom, if ever, been grown can be problematic for some farmers. Soils having high pH values and large amounts of calcium and/or magnesium carbonate are notoriously ...

Culprit Compounds That Block Beans' Healthful Iron Probed

Sep 25, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Familiar beans like reds, whites and pintos are rich in iron, a nutrient essential for our health. But not all of the little legumes' treasure trove of iron is bioaccessible -- that is, available ...

Recommended for you

LEDs shine in bedding plant production study

22 hours ago

Growers of annual bedding plant seedlings or plugs work to produce compact, fully rooted transplants with a large stem diameter and high root dry mass—qualities that make seedlings less susceptible to damage during shipping ...

Nine emerging trends in pet food

Jul 21, 2014

Four out of five pet owners now consider their pet a member of the family, and consumers are shifting their priorities when it comes to purchasing food for their pets accordingly (Mintel, Pet Food, 2013).

Arm swinging reduces the metabolic cost of running

Jul 18, 2014

Have you ever tried running without swinging your arms? It's not easy. Each step jars and it feels like hard work: but is it? Christopher Arellano, from Brown University, USA, says, 'We know from the literature ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2012
The problem w/ EDDS if it is made via the traditional, low cost method by reacting ethylenediamine w/ 2 moles maleate is that 75% of the molecules made are an un-natural form and thus not biodegradable. Nitrilotriacetate, NTA, may be a better and less expensive fully biodegradable chelating agent for ag. and hort uses, than EDDS.