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EPA and USDA announce competition to advance agricultural sustainability in the U.S.

Published on 28 August 2020

On Aug. 26, the EPA and the USDA announced the Next Gen Fertilizer challenges, a joint EPA-USDA partnership and competition to advance agricultural sustainability in the U.S.

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,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

“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 [nongovernmental organizations] 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 adviser.

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

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 the EPA, the USDA, and other collaborators and participants.

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 opened Aug. 26, 2020. Registrants must submit their entries by Oct. 30, 2020, for the EEFs: Environmental and Agronomic Challenge and by Nov. 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 Sept. 24, 2020, at 10-11 a.m. Eastern time.

More information about the challenges and the webinar is available at the EPA website.  end mark

—From an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency news release