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Environmental Sustainability

 

Our global food production needs to increase by 50% in the next 20 years to sustain the increasing world population and prosperity. Although theoretical estimates have suggested that the accumulated P (an essential plant macronutrient) in agricultural soils is sufficient to sustain maximum crop yields worldwide for about 100 years, most soils are deficient in bioavailable P. Phosphorus deficiency often limits plant growth although it is critically important for improving soil fertility in both tropical and temperate regions. The practice of applying inorganic P fertilizers to alleviate P deficiency is inefficient for both logistical and economic reasons because 75-90% of soluble P from fertilizers rapidly becomes immobilized as Fe, Al, or Ca-PO4 phases in soils.P fertilizers are also known to degrade soil quality. Furthermore, at the current world-wide rate of application of fertilizers, the readily available sources of high grade phosphate rocks will be depleted within the next 60 to 90 years. Therefore, sustainable alternatives to improving P bioavailability are needed.

To address the current need for sustainable and cost effective P management in soils, we are developing a biocatalyst that makes mineral-soil –P avaialble for plant needs thus reducing or eliminating the need for application of chemical fertilizers. Additional benefit of this technology is to improve surface and ground water quality. application of manures and fertilizers has resulted in increased potential transfer of soil P (solid associated) to solution and eventually, via erosion and runoff, to surface waters where it plays a key role in eutrophication and impairment of affected waters as a resource for drinking, recreation and industry.