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EPA and USDA announce competition to advance ag sustainability

The competition includes two challenges that seek proposals for fertilizer technologies to maintain crop yields while reducing the impact of fertilizers on the environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are announcing the Next Gen Fertilizer Challenge. 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,” 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.” 

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.

Kevin Ross, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said corn farmers are committed to sustainability and saw this as a great opportunity to partner with USDA and EPA to bring new technologies to the farm. Farmers have already adopted major changes including no-till and cover crops, and look forward to continuing to advance ways to improve their environmental footprint.

“Farming better is a journey not a destination,” Ross said. He said the mission of maintaining yields without driving costs for farmers is important and was confident in the success of the program.

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.

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, Aug.26. 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 from 10 a.m. -11 a.m. ET Sept. 24.

More information about the challenges and the webinar is available at https://www.epa.gov/innovation/next-gen-fertilizer-challenges.

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