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Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program                                                            
Phase 2 (2006 Deadline)

The Development, Optimization, and Application of a High-Performing Engineered Fertilizer  
 
Syed H. Imam, Gregory Glenn, and Mark Jackson, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Western Regional Research Center, Albany, CA
Farooq-e-Azam, Nuclear Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Peshawar

USDA-NIFA Biogeyser

One of the BioGeyser water heater prototypes at NIFA.


Pakistani Funding (MoST):  $100,000
US Funding:    $116,250
Project Dates: May 1, 2007 - April 30, 2011

Project Overview

This multidisciplinary project aimed to combine fundamental knowledge of plant growth and development with polymer science and engineering to create a novel, high-impact fertilizer of superior functionality with an inherent sustained delivery mechanism. In view of the substantial losses of fertilizer nitrogen in the environment, the specific goal of the project was to engineer a high-performance plant fertilizer (HPF) by encapsulating fertilizer nitrogen in a biopolymer matrix so it can be released over time as the matrix breaks down. Besides the fertilizer nitrogen, encapsulation matrices will also contain essential nutrients, growth stimulants, and biocontrol agents, as well as natural microbes that fix nitrogen and synthesize humic and growth promoting compounds for optimal performance. Sustained release of the active materials will be achieved via manipulation of biodegradation properties of the matrix polymer. When exposed to soil, microbes, humidity, and sunlight, the matrix polymers will degrade at a controlled rate, loosening the matrix and gradually releasing encapsulated agents over a long period. As opposed to multiple applications of a convention fertilizer, a single application of the HPF should be sufficient until the crop is harvested, not only saving time, energy, water, and overall cost, but also benefitting the environment. The long-term goal of this study is to conduct extensive field trials to assess the impact of the HPF formulation and evaluate its commercial viability.

Major Results

  • Developed and characterized the performance of a unique matrix that retained and supported microbial growth in vivo and delivered natural compounds in the vicinity of plants and their roots
  • Identified and selected natural microbes that produce plant growth promoting substances, fix nitrogen, and release bioactive compounds that serve as bio-control agents
  • Successfully tested microbial fertilizer in greenhouse studies and small field plots successfully, with results indicating superior performance of this microbial fertilizer as compared with controls as demonstrated by much healthier plants with higher biomass, root mass, and chlorophyll content
  • Filed a provisional patent with the United Stated Patent and Trademark Office with respect to matrix and certain fertilizer formulations
  • Provided training to 5-6 students and/or researchers and conducted a week-long workshop in Pakistan to transfer the technology to Pakistani scientists   

Progress Report Summaries

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USDA-NIFA Fertilizer Production

Technicians at NIFA turn compost materials at the pilot scale facility established for the production of humate-based organic fertilizers.

Back to Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Program Phase 2 Grants List