© 2019 Society of Chemical Industry BACKGROUND: Hydrogels are materials with great potential in agricultural applications. Biodegradable hydrogels are used as preparations, for example to increase the substratum water capacity, and improve soil structure or agrochemical-controlled release. This work aimed to develop biodegradable hydrogels based on chitosan, gelatin and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) for releasing inulin isolated from Dahlia tubers to induce protection in chili plants against Phytophthora capsici. The hydrogels were characterized by water absorption capacity, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and stereomicroscopy microscopy, and degradation capacity using the soil burial test with sterile and inoculated soil. RESULTS: This work demonstrated the ability of a fabrication process in the preparation of gelatin-chitosan-PVA hydrogels for potential agricultural applications. The hydrogels showed a dense, tridimensional, interconnected and reticulated structure that was more evident in the hydrogel loaded with inulin. The hydrogels showed a water absorption capacity of ≤12 times its mass. FTIR and light microscopy demonstrated that the hydrogels were biodegradable. The percentage of degradation of hydrogels in inoculated soil was higher than in sterile soil using the soil burial test. Hydrogel loaded with inulin was found to be capable of inducing resistance in chili plants against Phytophthora capsici. CONCLUSION: The hydrogels prepared for the described methodology have great potential for use in the agricultural sector as a reservoir for agrochemicals and inductors in plant resistance treatments. Furthermore, the hydrogels were proven to be biodegradable, offering a promising tool in crop protection. © 2019 Society of Chemical Industry.