Today (February 1), Xampla announced a partnership with chemical company Croda International to begin plastic-free seed coating trials. The project, backed by the UK government and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, will see an investment of £640,000 in the company’s biodegradable coating.
Used throughout agriculture, coatings protect seeds from pests and diseases and increase germination to improve crop yield. However, they are often formed from non-biodegradable petroleum-derived polymers, polluting the soil with microplastics.
Scheduled for completion within a year, the proposed biodegradable alternative aims to achieve the same level of effectiveness as traditional coatings without threatening soil health.
Xampla Managing Director Simon Hombersley said, “Working with Croda International is a huge opportunity to show how we can deploy our all-natural replacement for traditional seed coatings that often contain microplastics.
“Croda has been working on this issue for a few years, seeking to reduce the impact of microplastics on agricultural soils, and not without success. It’s by working with big names like this that we can really move the market and bring change quickly. »
Erik-Jan Bartels, General Manager of the Incotec Seed Enhancement business at Croda International, added: “We are delighted to be working with Xampla on this development. Our goal is to use smart science to improve lives, and this project does just that.
“Microplastics in agriculture altogether represent 10% of the global microplastics problem, and in this case seed coatings represent 1%, but that doesn’t make it less important to change the industry, as we have been doing for a while. time.
“Seed coatings are a high-growth part of our business and we are determined that growth will come from sustainable, plant-based alternatives.”
Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published a report warning against the use of plastics in the agricultural industry. Highlighting their widespread presence in agricultural soils, the report found that microplastics threaten the size of yields and significantly harm the environment and human health.
Based on these findings, the report recommends banning non-biodegradable polymers in coatings to avoid microplastic soil pollution in favor of biodegradable alternatives. Further research on the use of microplastics in agriculture was also advised.
In 2019, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) proposed a broad ban on microplastics across the EU in an effort to reduce plastic pollution in the environment. Its implementation, according to the body, could result in a 500,000 tonne decrease in plastic particles entering the environment over 20 years.