Effect of varying thickness properties of the slow release fertilizer films on morphology, biodegradability, urea release, soil health, and plant growth

Zahid Majeed, Shamyla Nawazish, Ayesha Baig, Wasim Akhtar, Atia Iqbal, Wisal Muhammad Khan, Syed Majid Bukhari, Asma Zaidi, Pau Loke Show, Nurlidia Mansoor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Green biomass is a renewable and biodegradable material that has the potential use to trap urea to develop a high-efficiency urea fertilizer for crops’ better performance. Current work examined the morphology, chemical composition, biodegradability, urea release, soil health, and plant growth effects of the SRF films subjected to changes in the thickness of 0.27, 0.54, and 1.03 mm. The morphology was examined by Scanning Electron Microscopy, chemical composition was analyzed by Infrared Spectroscopy, and biodegradability was assessed through evolved CO2 and CH4 quantified through Gas Chromatography. The chloroform fumigation technique was used for microbial growth assessment in the soil. The soil pH and redox potential were also measured using a specific probe. CHNS analyzer was used to calculate the total carbon and total nitrogen of the soil. A plant growth experiment was conducted on the Wheat plant (Triticum sativum). The thinner the films, the more they supported the growth and penetration of the soil’s microorganisms mainly the species of fungus possibly due to the presence of lignin in films. The fingerprint regions of the infrared spectrum of SRF films showed all films in soil changed in their chemical composition due to biodegradation but the increase in the thickness possibly provides resistance to the films’ losses. The higher thickness of the film delayed the rate and time for biodegradation and the release of methane gas in the soil. The 1.03 mm film (47% in 56 days) and 0.54 mm film (35% in 91 days) showed the slowest biodegradability as compared to the 0.27 mm film with the highest losses (60% in 35 days). The slow urea release is more affected by the increase in thickness. The Korsymer Pappas model with release exponent value of < 0.5 explained the release from the SRF films followed the quasi-fickian diffusion and also reduced the diffusion coefficient for urea. An increase in the pH and decrease in the redox potential of the soil is correlated with higher total organic content and total nitrogen in the soil in response to amending SRF films with variable thickness. Growth of the wheat plant showed the highest average plant length, leaf area index and grain per plant in response to the increase in the film’s thickness. This work developed an important knowledge to enhance the efficiency of film encapsulated urea that can better slow the urea release if the thickness is optimized.

Original languageBritish English
Article numbere0278568
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2 February
StatePublished - Feb 2023


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