TTU researchers have wheat growing from nitrogen-based fertilizer

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 10:05 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Texas Tech is moving to lower the price of groceries for generations to come by finding a new way to make fertilizer.

This work comes from a grant Texas Tech received in August. Now, researchers have plants growing from that fertilizer.

The director of the Center for Advancing Sustainable Distributed Fertilizer Production (CASFER), Gerri Botte, said the way Texas Tech is making the fertilizer is better for the economy.

“Our approach is a complete sustainable and circular economy because we are recycling all this waste,” Botte said.

Botte and her team in CASFER are using waste that comes from the city of Lubbock water treatment plant.

“The biggest plus is this is a truly real, sustainable way to make fertilizer for food production,” Botte said.

When you go to the grocery store, Botte said you can tell fertilizer prices are higher when you pay more for the food you eat. She said this research could change that.

“It’s going to make us resilient and not be challenged by externalities that are affecting the fertilizer prices,” Botte said.

The team has created the first generation of this new fertilizer.

“I’m very excited to say that in six months we are able to already convert a waste into a potential new fertilizer,” Botte said.

The fertilizer is now across campus being used to grow wheat. Lindsey Slaughter, an associate professor of soil microbial ecology, said her team is comparing it to organic and inorganic commercially available fertilizers.

“Because we want to test and see, number one, are these products safe to apply plant and soil systems, and two, are they able to keep up competitively with other commercial fertilizers on the market,” Botte said.

Next, they will try it on other crops like corn, cotton and sorghum before sending it to area producers to try on their own farms. Slaughter said so far, the fertilizer is performing well, and you can’t tell a difference between which plants have the fertilizer and which don’t.

“Right now, they’re keeping up and they haven’t killed the plants, so that’s a good sign,” Botte said.

Botte said this fertilizer has grown more than plants, it has created partnerships from the labs to the greenhouse.