A two-layer, biodegradable coating developed by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) promises to protect seeds from water shortages, thereby potentially preventing food shortages.

The coating features two layers: a gel-like substance that holds onto moisture while enveloping the seed and a second inner coating that features rhizobacteria, otherwise known as preserved microorganisms, combined with nutrients that encourage growth.

Source: MITSource: MIT

The coating, according to researchers, is intended to protect the seed from water shortages specifically during the critical germination phase wherein seedlings form. However, the coating also serves to encourage growth via microbes that introduce nitrogen into the soil, thereby offering fertilizer to the seedling.

“Our idea was to provide multiple functions to the seed coating,” explained the researchers, “not only targeting this water jacket, but also targeting the rhizobacteria. This is the real added value to our seed coating, because these are self-replicating microorganisms that can fix nitrogen for the plants, so they can decrease the amount of nitrogen-based fertilizers that are provided, and enrich the soil.”

The coating, which is currently undergoing field tests, is detailed in the journal Nature Food.

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