Chile: The impact of micro and nanoplastics on agroecosystems is investigated by an expert from UDEC Agronomy

Identify and quantify micro(nano)plastics in strawberry fields and assess the impacts of microplastics on soil properties and plant performance to explore the effect of the type and dose of microplastics present in soils and their combination with other pollutants, are some of the objectives proposed by the academic of the Department of Soils and Natural Resources, of the Faculty of Agronomy, Dr. Mauricio Schoebitz Cid, who was recently awarded Regular Fondecyt resources, in the amount of 228 million pesos.

The research will last 4 years, since, as the expert explained, the project will study the effect of microplastics on the soil microbiota and the impact on the growth and accumulation of bioactive substances in strawberry plants.

“In agroecosystems, microplastics (MPs) can enter the soil environment directly (sewer sludge, wastewater, atmospheric deposition) or indirectly through in-situ degradation of plastic fragments (plastic covers, water pipes). , greenhouse covers, nursery pots and silage bags). Plastic covers or "mulch" have been a worldwide practice in recent years in agriculture, because plastic covers generate suppressive effects on weeds, modify soil temperature, humidity and promote greater yield and quality of the fruit. However, these practices produce a great contamination of the soil that, consequently, affects the growth of the plants”, explained Dr. Schoebitz.

According to what was mentioned by the expert, the excessive use of plastics in agriculture has caused many soils to be contaminated with large amounts of plastic waste. “We are talking about (63-430.000 tons in Europe and 44-300.000 tons in North America) and even concentrations as high as 7% of the weight of PMs have been reported in highly contaminated upper soils. Several studies, in the field of agriculture, have shown that PMs can have adverse effects on the soil, fauna, soil microorganisms and can act as a vector for other pollutants, such as human pathogens, persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals” .

In this sense, he maintained that within the first tasks, extracting and identifying PMs in strawberry fields is considered, by means of Fourier Transformed Infrared Microscopy (FTIR) and they will be quantified by means of near-infrared visible spectroscopy to monitor PMs in soils with in order to evaluate the physical and chemical effects of the soil.

The following academics will participate as co-investigators in the research: Nelson Zapata, María Dolores López, both from the Faculty of Agronomy, Juan Araya from the Faculty of Pharmacy of the UdeC, Milko Jorquera from Engineering, Science and Administration of the Universidad de la Frontera and the professor, Antonio Roldán from the CEBAS-CSIC of Spain.

In addition, the main researcher, Dr. Mauricio Schoebitz, will have the collaboration of the students who belong to the Soil Microbiology Laboratory, Gustavo Riveros (PhD student in the Agronomic Sciences Program), Andrés Pinto (Master's student in the Agronomic Sciences Program), Vanessa Flores (undergraduate Agronomy student) and Cristóbal Sáez (undergraduate Agronomy student).

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