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Challenge Seeks Faster, Simpler Crop Analysis Methods

Herbicide spraying (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

(Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

A new challenge on InnoCentive seeks better tools for farmers to evaluate their management practices and improve the use of fertilizer and other crop inputs. The competition, sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Iowa Soybean Association, will award a $15,000 prize to the winning entry. The deadline for the challenge is 13 August 2011 and requires a written proposal.

The specifications note that farmers now have various tools, including online calculators from the Ag Technology and Environmental Stewardship Foundation and Iowa Soybean Association. To many farmers, however, these methods are made only for large scale agriculture, are not available at the right times during the growing season, or are considered too expensive.

The sponsors indicate that by making these management tools easier to access and adopt, and improving the information they deliver, growers will have the opportunity to make better decisions — based on real evidence — on crop nutrient needs.

Environmental Defense Fund and the Iowa Soybean Association seek a solution that benefits both the farmers’ profitability and the environment. Better tools, they say, could help growers reduce their operating costs by using fertilizer more efficiently and increase yields. At the same time, these solutions can help mitigate the serious problems associated with nitrogen pollution:  coastal dead zones, impaired drinking water supplies, degraded fisheries and recreational areas, and risks to human health.

A related challenge on InnoCentive sponsored by Environmental Defense Fund seeks a solution to to the problem of agricultural nitrate pollution.  The competition calls for concepts for systems to capture or concentrate nitrates from agricultural field drainage.  The challenge has a prize of $7,500 and a deadline of 13 July 2011.

Read more: U.S. Agencies to Fund Green Technology Start Up Challenge

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