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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Private-Public Effort Aims to Develop Biobased Nursery Pots / June 14, 2006 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Private-Public Effort Aims to Develop Biobased Nursery Pots

By Sharon Durham
June 14, 2006

Plant pots made from farm wastes could one day be a boon to the horticultural industry—and to the environment. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) of the American Nursery and Landscape Association are working together to create biodegradable pots for nursery production.

ARS and HRI signed a three-year cooperative research agreement to develop and test biobased nursery containers. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency. HRI is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

ARS research associate Justin Barone, in the Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Research Unit at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center, is slated to formulate the biodegradable nursery containers. He will test the suitability of agricultural byproducts such as poultry feathers, egg protein and lipid, milk and cheese protein, blood protein, animal and plant lipids, polysaccharides and plant proteins for conversion into polymeric products that can be pressed into pot shapes.

Barone will also design and build a mold of standard container dimensions to match nursery industry standards.

ARS horticulturist Donna Fare, in the U.S. National Arboretum's Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit at McMinnville, Tenn., will study the effects of the new, biobased containers on plants and determine their longevity under nursery production conditions.

The pots will also be tested for use in composting, during which carbon dioxide production will be monitored. The ultraviolet and weather stability of pots during storage will also be determined.

ARS has granted exclusive license rights to HRI for products developed from this research. HRI will solicit funds to support the research from nursery industry companies and, later, will pass on nonexclusive rights to interested companies. This should speed delivery of the technology to a wide range of commercial entities.

Last Modified: 6/23/2006