Last summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formed a partnership to advance sustainability in agriculture. The group introduced two challenges aimed at accelerating the development and use of existing and new product technologies that are affordable to reduce the environmental impacts of U.S. corn production. The first half of the two-part competition, the “Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizer (EEF): Environmental and Agronomic Challenge”, is still ongoing. Earlier this month, however, the group announced the winners of the second half of the competition, the “Next Gen Fertilizer Innovations Challenge.”
EPA and USDA are working in collaboration with The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA). The challenges were developed with input from stakeholders such as corn grower representatives, fertilizer companies, university researchers, and environmental and industry NGOs. The goal of the Next Gen Fertilizer Innovation Challenge is to improve fertilizer efficiency through novel technologies that can reduce environmental releases of nitrogen and phosphorus from corn and other row crops while maintaining or increasing crop yields. While nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers facilitate the growth of crops, they can have harmful effects on the environment and human health when applied without consideration of the appropriate rate, timing, source, and method. “Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizer” (EEF) is a term for new formulations that control fertilizer release or alter reactions that reduce nutrient losses to the environment.
USDA and EPA note that these prizes are not meant as endorsements of the products or technologies. They have been evaluated solely on meeting eligibility and technical criteria for the challenge. With that in mind, congratulations to our friends at Holganix and Dr. Robert Neidermyer on being one of four Tier 3 Winners for their “Bio 800+” submission. Below is the full list of winners and a little about their submissions. Learn more about the challenges and the USDA-EPA partnership HERE.
Tier 1 solutions ($17,500 prize)
- Dr. Christopher Hendrickson, Aqua-Yield Operations LLC, Draper, Utah, for a nano-smart fertilizer.
- Taylor Pursell, Pursell Agri-Tech, Sylacauga, Ala., for “Urea 2.0,” which replaces the conventional urea core with a customizable mixture of materials to provide fertilizers tailored to local needs.
Tier 2 solutions ($10,000 prize)
- Dr. Kuide Qin, Verdesian Life Sciences, Cary, N.C., for using innovative mixture technologies to improve performance of industry-standard nitrapyrin for longer effectiveness, less nitrate leaching, and prevention of farm equipment corrosion.
- Dr. Catherine Roue, Fertinagro Biotech International, Portage, Mich., for “Phosphate Liberation Booster” technology, which uses secretions from phosphate-starved plants to boost plant uptake so less fertilizer may be added, and legacy phosphorus can be accessed.
- Chandrika Varadachari, Agtec Innovations Inc., Los Altos, Calif., for “Smart-N,” which is a smart-fertilizer that releases nutrients on-demand by the crop, and which creates a chemical “cage” for urea that dissolves into plant nutrients.
Tier 3 solutions (Honorable mention)
- Dr. Jaroslav Nisler, the Institute of Experimental Botany, The Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic, for using derivatives of the plant growth hormone MTU, which helps create longer growth periods, protection from stress, larger plants, and potentially less nutrient loss per unit of fertilizer applied.
- Dr. Leanne Gilbertson, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, Penn., for creating a “protected fertilizer package,” which can carry nutrients through soil pores to the area around the plant roots.
- Dr. Robert Neidermyer, Holganix LLC, Aston, Penn., for “Bio 800+,” a microbial inoculant that harnesses the power of over 800 species of soil microbes, kelp, and other soil amending ingredients to promote greater crop production and plant health.
- Paul Mullins, Brandon Products Ltd., Ireland, for “BBS-1,” a biostimulant derived from seaweed extract that is applied as a fertilizer coating to improve nitrogen-uptake in root cells.
The first part of the challenge, “EEFs: Environmental and Agronomic Challenge,” identified existing EEFs currently on or near-market that meet or exceed certain environmental and agro-economic criteria. Those products were announced in March 2021 and are currently undergoing greenhouse trials at the International Fertilizer Development Center. You can see the list of entries that were recommended by the judging panel to move forward to greenhouse trials HERE.