Location: Bioproducts Research
Project Number: 2030-41000-058-04-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement
Start Date: Oct 1, 2013
End Date: Jun 30, 2016
@To obtain higher crop yields, U.S. agriculture has increasingly become dependent on farm chemicals. Use of these chemicals for several decades has severely diminished the quality and quantity of beneficial microbes in soil as well as their capacity to carryout useful biological activities in an effective manner. The purpose of this project is to produce, optimize and conduct field trials of a high-performance biologically efficient substitute for chemical fertilizer and chemical pesticides developed by the ARS scientists in Albany, CA. This product contains selected naturally-occurring soil microbes of specialized functionalities encapsulated in a biobased porous matrix. Effective strategies are needed to stop and reverse the deterioration of agricultural soils caused by continuous use of farm chemicals and to decrease our dependence on harmful farm chemicals.
Increase use of fertilizers and pesticides compromises soil quality and contaminates ground water. Only 30-40% of applied fertilizer is used by plants. The rest is lost and contaminates the environment. Some soil microbes secrete compounds and enzymes that help plants fix nitrogen and solubilize nutrients. However, these microbes exist in low concentrations in soil. A novel matrix has been developed to encapsulate these microbes and offers an alternative to fertilizers and pesticides. The main objectives are to (1) further develop and optimize matrix formulations with encapsulated microbes for onion, strawberry, and tomato crops, (2) develop pilot scale production capabilities, and (3) conduct large-scale field trials with onion, tomato, and strawberry crops. These novel matrix formulations can enhance soil health and reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides that contaminate ground water. This will improve environmental performance of California specialty crop growers.