Dr. Yuncong Li is the Professor of Soil and Water Quality at UF/IFAS Tropical Research & Education Center and a recently elected Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). His research at the University of Florida spans almost three decades and includes collaborations with over 200 international scholars from 27 countries. He has published over 300 research papers and over 100 extension articles and filed three patents.
Dr. Li’s newest pending patent is for a biodegradable controlled-release fertilizer. The polymers used for coating controlled-release fertilizers currently on the market are petroleum-based. Petroleum, like plastics, has the potential to stay in the ground for many years and contaminate both soil and water. The polymer of this new controlled-release fertilizer, however, is made from biomaterials generated from lignin, a type of agricultural waste. Thus, the lignin-based polymer produces controlled-release fertilizers with renewable, biodegradable, inexpensive, and nontoxic materials, and is highly efficient. This controlled-release fertilizer will be much safer for the environment, and both cheaper and efficient for crops and growers’ wallets.
What’s next? Dr. Li hopes to improve coating materials further by testing additional agricultural wastes that can be utilized for the polymer. The release of the nutrient from coated fertilizer could be further improved to more precisely match specific crops. To learn more about this research, read Lignin–Clay Nanohybrid biocomposite-based double-layer coating materials for controllable-release fertilizer.