The Smart Fertilisers Group adopts innovative techniques to develop a new generation of inhibitors and controlled-release fertilisers.
The group applies multidisciplinary expertise and approaches from nano-chemical engineering, synthetic chemistry, plant physiology, plant biochemistry, soil microbiology and economics to the development of smarter, more efficient fertilisers, which will have a significant impact on the profitability and sustainability of agriculture.
This research will enable the Australian fertiliser industry to produce innovative and cost-effective fertiliser products. Our projects also provide excellent research training opportunities in a multidisciplinary environment, allowing researchers to advance Australia’s reputation as a ’clean and green’ producer while creating opportunities for market expansion, nationally and internationally.
News and events
Contact the team
The Soils and Environment research group seeks to understand the impacts of agricultural management on soil processes and develop technology to improve agricultural sustainability.
We carry out a range of fundamental and applied research with the aim to help policy makers, industry partners and farmers make evidence-based decisions. Current research strengths and activities include:
- Nutrient cycling in agro-ecosystems
- Measuring, modelling and mitigating air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, particularly intensive animal production systems
- Novel fertiliser technologies
- Agro-ecosystem modelling and decisions support tools for efficient fertiliser use
- Reuse and recycling of agricultural and urban wastes
- Big data (data mining): Green index, nitrogen footprint, decision support systems for fertiliser use
- Soil and environmental microbiomes
- Transmission of antibiotic resistance genes in agro-ecosystems
- Soil microbial evolution and biogeography.
Novel smart fertiliser technologies
Development of novel inhibitors and controlled release coatings.
State-of-the-art instruments for trace gas measurements using micrometeorological techniques
Real-time, continuous field-scale measurement of greenhouse gas emissions from farms.
Soil node – Melbourne TrACEES Platform
The Melbourne Trace Analysis for Chemical, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TrACEES) Platform’s Soil node has a strong capability in soils and environmental research and testing.
Our group members
Professor Deli Chen
Professor of Soil Science; Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor
Deli Chen has expertise in water and nutrient dynamics in plant-soil systems, GIS based agroecosystem modelling and decision support systems for optimal irrigation and fertiliser management; and the measures, models and mitigates greenhouse gas emissions from land sources, impact of climate on agro-ecosystems, agricultural ‘big data’ and sustainable indices.
Associate Professor Helen Suter
Associate Professor of Soil Science
Helen Suter has been engaged in research to improve the efficiency of nitrogen use in agricultural systems, focussing on improving the environmental credentials particularly of intensive systems. Her expertise encompasses novel fertilisers, quantifying soil nitrogen supply and cycles, identifying N loss pathways (including gaseous emissions).
Dr Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam
Senior Lecturer, Climate Change and Biogeochemistry
Shu Kee (Raymond) Lam's research focuses on soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics in agroecosystems, including soil-plant interactions under climate change (elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration) and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions using urease and nitrification inhibitors. He also has expertise in global data synthesis (including meta-analysis).
Over the past five years, the University of Melbourne has established a multidisciplinary research team to develop unique chemical and engineering technologies that can now be applied to the manufacture of a new range of innovative responsive nitrogen fertilisers.
There is the potential for a range of innovative new-generation nitrogen fertilisers with environmentally benign coatings to target different soils, crops, regions, farming systems, and applications to deliver transformational improvements in nitrogen use efficiency for productivity and profit in the Australian agriculture.
Fertiliser manufacturers and suppliers have pledged to be integrally involved with our research projects from the outset, through contributions of funding and expertise - to ensure that the new fertiliser products will be best positioned for immediate and effective adoption in Australian production systems.