Considering that crop production has to be raised until 2050 to feed a total human population of over 9 billion heads, the required increase in agricultural production within the next three decades is higher than the increase obtained in crop production since mankind “invented” agriculture. This will call for higher fertilizer inputs, and optimizing nutrient supply and nutrient use efficiency. Optimizing nutrient supply and thereby increasing agricultural production is therefore of high importance for a sustainable bioeconomy. The GreenGel project aims to develop a novel technology platform for controlled compound release on plant leaves through nutrient loaded containers (nanogels) which are immobilized through anchoring peptides. Nanogels will be designed with tuneable release kinetics of nutrients and reengineered anchoring peptides will ensure a strong and rain-withstanding binding of loaded nanogels on plant leaves. A demand matching and long-lasting nutrient release contributes to fertilizer stewardship and thereby to the general aim of the Bioeconomy Science Center for a sustainable and integrated bioeconomy in which discipline boarders are bridged to develop novel solutions.
For a proof-of-concept, the GreenGel nutrient release technology was successfully established to combat iron deficiency of cucumber plants. An anchor peptide library was generated and screened for cucumber leaf binding. The identified peptides were conjugated to synthesized nanogel containers loaded with nutrient (iron). The attachment of the conjugated anchor-peptide nanogel hybrids was successfully proven. The final foliar fertilization experiments were performed with the anchor peptide nanogel hybrids (GreenGels) on cucumber leaves. Over a period of nine days the chlorophyll content was monitored by SPAD measurements. Cucumber leafs treated with the developed GreenGels showed no decrease of the chlorophyll content whereas untreated cucumber leafs showed iron deficiency symptoms resulting in a reduced chlorophyll content. The proof-of-concept for the GreenGel nutrient release technology was successfully demonstrated.
Participating Core Groups
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schwaneberg
Dr. Felix Jakob
Lehrstuhl für Biotechnologie
RWTH Aachen University
Phone: +49 241 80 - 24170
Fax: +49 241 80- 22387
Prof. Dr. Andrij Pich, Institut für Technische und Makromolekulare Chemie, RWTH Aachen University
Prof. Dr. Heiner Goldbach, Dr. Thomas Eichert, Professur für Pflanzenernährung, Institut für Nutzpflanzenwissenschaften und Ressourcenschutz (INRES), Universität Bonn
01.11.2014 – 31.12.2015
The total budget of GreenGel is € 149.865. GreenGel is part of the NRW-Strategieprojekt BioSC and thus funded by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Meurer, RA, Kemper, S, Knopp, S, Eichert, T, Jakob, F, Goldbach, HE, Schwaneberg, U and Pich, A (2017). Biofunctional Microgel-Based Fertilizers for Controlled Foliar Delivery of Nutrients to Plants. Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 56(26): 7380-7386.