Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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.
Along with EPA and USDA, the competition is coordinated with the National Corn Growers Association, The Fertilizer Institute, the International Fertilizer Development Center, and The Nature Conservancy.
“This is a great opportunity to partner with USDA and EPA in developing new technologies that will help farmers advance their sustainability efforts,” said Kevin Ross, NCGA president. “Corn farmers are committed to sustainability and have made major improvements in recent years related to fertilizer use and nutrient management, but farming better is a journey, not a destination. We are always looking for ways to make our family businesses successful and do so with an eye toward healthier soil and cleaner water.”
“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,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
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 a scientific evaluation of their product and recognition from EPA, USDA, and other collaborators and participants.
“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,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “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,” said Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, EPA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science and EPA Science Advisor.
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 today, 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.
An informational webinar will be held on September 24, 2020 at 10:00 – 11:00 AM ET.
More information about the challenges and the webinar is available at https://www.epa.gov/innovation/next-gen-fertilizer-challenges.