The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and OCP North America (OCPNA), a subsidiary of the global plant-nutrition company OCP Group, have announced the 2022 winners of the FFAR-OCP Disruptive Fertilizer Technology Fellowship (FFAR-OCP Fellowship) and are accepting applications for the 2023 fellowships.
Fertilizers are an essential input for producing healthy, high-yielding crops; however, plants may not absorb all the fertilizer applied, and excess fertilizer can produce harmful environmental consequences. Farmers need improved fertilizer technologies and guidance to improve soil and plant health, crop productivity and environmental resilience. The FFAR-OCP Fellowship aims to provide early-career scientists with opportunities to advance research on precision fertilizer application methods, nutrient recommendation methods and guidance on land applications of animal waste to customize and enhance fertilizer efficiency. Ultimately, the FFAR-OCP Fellowship intends to deliver new innovations in fertilizer products that are safe, effective, commercially scalable and easily understood by farmers. The FFAR-OCP Fellowship is a two-year program supported by $250,000 from both FFAR and OCP North America for a total program fund of $500,000.
“To feed increasing populations, we need high-yielding crops, but not at the environment’s expense,” said Dr. LaKisha Odom, FFAR Soil Health scientific program director. “This is a one-of-its kind fellowship that supports transformative innovation like new seed and/or fertilizer coating treatments or enhanced precision application technology that can revolutionize the fertilizer industry.”
The FFAR-OCP Fellowship is accepting applications for the 2023 cohort until 5 p.m. ET on August 9, 2023. The request for applications includes additional information about research priorities and eligibility requirements. Each awardee may receive up to $75,000 in funding, and applicants are not required to secure additional funds. FFAR and OCP are hosting a webinar about the request for applications at 1 p.m. ET on June 28, 2023; preregistration for the webinar is required.
“Feeding the soil is the key to feeding the world, but a generic approach won’t suffice,” said Dr. Amarjit S. Basra, OCP North America Chief Scientist. “The agriculture sector varies greatly depending on the crop, soil and region. To truly support a transformative food system, we must adopt a new paradigm for responsible plant nutrition. This paradigm should prioritize nourishing plants in a soil- and climate-smart manner, accounting for the specific needs of each crop and environment.”
The 2022 FFAR-OCP Fellows, the Fellowship’s first cohort, include:
Dr. Utsav Shashvatt, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), was awarded $74,997 through the FFAR-OCP Fellowship, which was matched by UC Berkeley, for a total award of $91,106 to recover nutrients in human waste to form two types of high-value fertilizers, controlled release and liquid, to offset conventional fertilizers use. Increased use of waste-derived fertilizers provides an opportunity to develop fertilizers from renewable resources and will help reduce dependence on conventional fertilizers, which are generated using non-renewable resources.
Dr. Kanwardeep S. Rawale of Biotech Naturale was awarded $75,000 to improve wheat varieties’ ability to efficiently use biofertilizer by identifying and transferring genes from wild wheat. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, biofertilizers contain living microorganisms that promote growth by improving nutrient acquisition when applied to plants. Modern wheat cultivars are bred to respond to synthetic nitrogen application, while their wild relatives offer the potential for a variety of value-added traits, such as improved biofertilizer use efficiency. This project has significant potential to transform biofertilizers into efficient chemical fertilizer alternatives for producers.
Dr. Maarten Everaert, an assistant professor at KU Leuven, was awarded $75,000 to increase phosphorus fertilizers access in sub-Saharan Africa through an innovative approach of phosphorus recycling using locally available resources. By improving their phosphorus-depleted soils, this project will help small-scale farmers to safeguard their agricultural productivity to meet local food demands, while also supporting limited use of external inputs, soil regeneration, wastewater treatment and minimal environmental impact.
FFAR and OCP North America Announce Fertilizer Fellowship Awardees and 2023 Opportunities
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Author: Matt Hopkins