Improving Nitrate Fertilization by Encapsulating Zn-Al Layered Double Hydroxides in Alginate Beads

Vander L. N. Nunes, Richard L. Mulvaney, Reinaldo B. Cantarutti, Frederico G. Pinto, Jairo Tronto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Layered double hydroxides (LDH) are anionic clays that have potential as slow-release fertilizers; however, their formulation as powders makes them difficult to apply, and their slow-release properties are impaired due to instability under acidic conditions. In the work reported, Zn-Al LDH containing interlayered 15NO3− was synthesized for use as powder (LDH-N) or for encapsulation in alginate beads (LDH-AN), and then authenticated by X-ray diffraction, attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and elemental analyses. The two LDHs were compared to K15NO3 for evaluating their slow-release properties through (i) a kinetic study of NO3− release in water under dynamic conditions, and (ii) a growth chamber experiment designed to estimate fertilizer N uptake efficiency (FNUE) by growing pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum L.) on an acidic Oxisol in the absence of N losses. Both LDH materials exhibited slow-release properties in the kinetic studies, and NO3− release was reduced for LDH-AN as compared to LDH-N. Because of these properties, FNUE measurements in the growth chamber experiment should have been lower with the LDHs than with K15NO3, but this was not the case for LDH-N, which was attributed to the structural instability of powdered LDH in the presence of soil acidity and to the exchange of NO3− by more competitive anions such as CO32−. A significant decrease in FNUE was observed for LDH-AN, demonstrating retention of slow-release behavior that most likely resulted from the presence of a physicochemical barrier having high cation-exchange and buffering capacities while limiting exposure to soil acidity and anion exchange. Alginate encapsulation expands the practical potential of LDH for slow-release NO3− fertilization.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-136
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 13 2020


  • layered double hydroxides
  • slow-release fertilizer
  • nitrate
  • fertilizer nitrogen uptake efficiency
  • 15N
  • alginate


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