EPA and USDA seek new fertilizer technologies

Advancing agricultural sustainability

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have announced the Next Gen Fertilizer Challenges, a joint EPA-USDA partnership and competition to advance agricultural sustainability in the United States.

The competition includes two challenges that seek proposals for new and existing fertilizer technologies to maintain or improve crop yields while reducing the impacts of fertilizers on the environment.

“The shared goal here is to accelerate the development of next-generation fertilizers for corn production that can either maintain or increase crop yields while reducing environmental impacts to our air, land, and water,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler says.

“USDA is committed to encouraging the development of new technologies and practices to ensure that U.S. agriculture is socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable for years to come,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue says. “This challenge will stimulate innovation and aligns with USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda announced earlier this year.”

“By evaluating the efficacy of existing technologies while sparking research and development of new technologies, these challenges explore the potential innovation that can result from academia, industry, government, and NGOs working together to address the complex issues related to excess nutrients in our environment,” Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, EPA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science and EPA Science Advisor comments.

Along with EPA and USDA, the competition is coordinated with The Fertilizer Institute, the International Fertilizer Development Center, the National Corn Growers Association, and The Nature Conservancy.

Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers

The first challenge, the EEFs: Environmental and Agronomic Challenge, aims to identify existing Enhanced Efficiency Fertilizers (EEFs) that meet or exceed certain environmental and agro-economic criteria. EEF is a term for new formulations that control fertilizer release or alter reactions that reduce nutrient losses to the environment. This challenge will not have a monetary prize, but winners will receive scientific evaluation of their product and recognition from EPA, USDA, and other collaborators and participants.

Innovations

The second challenge, the Next Gen Fertilizer Innovations Challenge, aims to generate new concepts for novel technologies that can help address environmental concerns surrounding agriculture practices while maintaining or increasing crop yields. A panel of expert judges will review the submissions. Each winner will receive at least $10,000.

The Next Gen Fertilizer Challenges open August 26, 2020. Registrants must submit their entries by October 30, 2020, for the EEFs: Environmental and Agronomic Challenge and by November 30, 2020, for the Next Gen Fertilizer Innovations Challenge. Winners will be announced in the winter of 2021.

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