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Aage Christensen A/S participates in innovation project regarding fertilization of plants through leaves instead of through roots

Aage Christensen A/S, researchers from University of Copenhagen and different companies are to develop a method allowing nutrients to penetrate the surface of leaves directly by way of fat molecules. Innovation Fund Denmark invests DKK 21.5 million in the project.

Agricultural crops and forest trees require abundantly use of fertilizer to secure yield and quality. Normally fertilizer is applied directly to the soil and is absorbed through the roots of the plant. Unfortunately, many nutrients adhere so hard in the soil that they are never absorbed by the plant. The low-efficient fertilizer utilization contributes massively to agriculture's environmental and climate impact, as both fertilizer production and utilization are very resource-consuming.

With the project LIPOSOME the researchers plan to bypass soil fertilization and instead apply nutrients directly to the leaves of the plant. By encapsulating nutrients in very tiny fat balls, extracted from the fatty substances of the plant itself, the plant can absorb these efficiently through the surface of the leaf (cuticle) and control how they enter its metabolism at the same time.

The principal idea of the project is inspired by the newest tendencies from the pharmaceutical industry. Small fat balls called liposomes will be designed in nanoscale, and they are to act as "Trojan horses" diffusing through the plant surface even on plants with a very thick cuticle. By tailoring the liposome surface with a range of specific characteristics it can be ensured that nutrients are released in the exact tissue where the plant uses them and at a speed suitable with the needs of the plant.

Innovative thinking in connection with how to fertilize plants is more important than ever, if environmental and climate considerations are to be improved. The goal of the project is to increase utilization efficiency significantly and show that this can be done by using the basic principles behind the concept Green Chemistry, where new chemical processes affecting the environment as little as possible are developed. In this case it means that the liposomes are mostly manufactured from residual products or recycled materials with minimum environmental impact.

Through our experience of many years with liposome extrusion with Avestin extruders Aage Christensen A/S will be able to guide not only during the initial extrusion of the nanosized liposomes, but also adjust the results to obtain optimum conditions for the liposomes.

The project is a cooperation between two departments at University of Copenhagen (Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences as well as Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management), the fertilizer manufacturer Flex Fertilizer System ApS, the conifer grower VeSoe ApS as well as Aage Christensen A/S.

Together we are to develop the first generation of liposome-based fertilizers for agriculture and forestry.