A new material made from canola oil waste could be key in improving fertilisers and helping sustain global food production, a new study has found.
The new polymer - a rubber material - slows down the fertiliser's release of nutrients into the soil at a useful and controllable rate, preventing run-off and promoting better health for plants.
Doctor Justin Chalker says it's the way forward to feeding the growing population.
"There is a limited amount of fertiliser, especially phosphorus-based fertiliser, and we don't have in place a sustainable supply of mineral phosphorus," Doctor Chalker told AAP.
"It is critical if we want to feed a growing global population, we cannot afford to waste these nutrients."
Doctor Chalker said majority of fertilisers used globally were not used by the plants to which they are applied.
"More than 50 per cent of fertiliser is washed off the field and that is a waste of material."
Fertiliser run-off can also lead to other environmental issues such as freshwater pollution.
For the last two years Doctor Chalker and his team from Flinders University have been working on new types of materials derived from waste.
The invention came about after the scientists discovered a method of reacting used cooking oil and sulphur together.
This is the third unique application for this particular rubber after it proved to be effective in removing toxic mercury from the environment and cleaning up oil spills.
Doctor Chalker said he used canola oil waste because it is widely available and cheap to produce, adding that other oils could be utilised in a similar fashion.