Year: 2011, 2012
Grant Amounts: $35,444 (2011) $26,117 (2012)
During the first year of this project, Dr. Rhykka Connelly worked with four undergraduates and one high school student to explore the use of algae as fertilizer. The project included researching the effects of dried algae as a fertilizer and comparing its results to that of traditional fertilizers. The group built six raised garden beds in the field next to the Pickle Research Center to use as a test site. Traditional fertilizers have been known to cause multitudes of problems, particularly eutrophication in estuaries. Algae as fertilizer could change the way we fertilize our crops, and provide an alternative fertilizer method. Algae grows easily and is used in research at the Pickle Campus, which lends potential to new methods of crop fertilization. Also, using algae would drop the cost from $148.01 to $2.23 per acre for typical fertilization.
In the second year of the project, the group tested to see if algae would work just as well as a fertilizer if they did not put it through the drying process first. This would reduce the time and cost of drying algae, and would also provide water to the area they are fertilizing, saving more money in watering costs. Dr. Connelly worked with two undergraduate students to address these questions: Is drying the algae necessary? Can different types of algae have different applications?
The project has been translated into three invited talks, an undergraduate poster display, and a feature on the CEM website. See the video above to hear from Dr. Connelly about their findings.