"Smart" fertilizer improves plant growth, prevents pollution from run off

A new "smart" phosphorus fertilizer, developed by Penn State horticultural scientists, improves plant root growth, drought tolerance, shoot quality and flowers while also preventing up to 90 percent of the nutrient run off that can foul waterways.

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.

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