Assuring Clean Water and Sustainable Ecosystems via Improved Agroecological Management

Organization profile

Organization profile

Nitrogen is vital to growing food crops and farm profitability, but environmental conditions can cause fertilizer to negatively impact water supplies and increase costs. The overall goal of the project is to protect billions of gallons of water from contamination while improving agricultural efficiency. The global nitrogen cycle is dominated by human activities, principally via generation of reduced nitrogen and amendments to soils as fertilizers, microbial inhibitors, and pesticides. In developing countries, where most of the world’s population resides, water contamination is even more acute.

In this project, the team examines the effect on water of many of the major nitrogen inputs used in agriculture and develop microbial management practices to decrease runoff. A key component of the project goal is to manage the rate at which microbial communities in the soil degrade the amendments that have been applied. Slowing the rate of microbial degradation will achieve a measured-release, meeting the nitrogen demand of crops to improve roductivity while reducing runoff and leaching. Optimization will require understanding the biochemistry of nitrogen transformations, the dynamics of the microbial communities that degrade nitrogen containing compounds, and how these processes are influenced by practices in agricultural ettings. 

The team will develop an integrative program for systematically identifying optimal nitrogen amendment practices. This involves computer-based prediction systems, microbiology, DNA sequencing (genomics), plant studies, and ultimately, policy and business decision-making.

Projects 2018 2020

Grand Challenges Research Awards: Phase 2

1/1/181/1/20

Project: Grand Challenges