Elimination of Fertilizer Discharge from Greenhouse and Nursery Container-Grown Plants

EPA Contract Number: 68D10037
Title: Elimination of Fertilizer Discharge from Greenhouse and Nursery Container-Grown Plants
Investigators: Robbins, James A.
Small Business: Briggs Nursery Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 1991 through March 1, 1992
Project Amount: $50,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (1991) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


In the U.S. there are over 24,753 acres of container- grown nursery plants. Reported annual rates of application of nitrogen (N) fertilizer range from 1036 to 4730 pounds of N per acre. Determinations of the environmental fate of the applied nitrogen shows that only 5-8% of the applied nitrogen is incorporated into the plant. The U.S. annual production of 24,753 acres of container-grown woody nurs- ery plants with nitrogen applied at the rate of 1500 pounds per acre yields 37 million pounds of N per year. If 6% of the applied nitrogen is retained by the plant, then over 34 million pounds of N remain as a potential pollutant. Over 48% is leached from the plant container and discharged in the effluent from the container production area. High growth rates of nursery plants are associated with root matrix solutions containing 80-500 mg N/liter; nitrogen concentra- tion of effluent from the root matrix with "best manage- ment" practices exceeds 282 mg N as nitrate/liter. The Public Health Service considers 1O mg NO3-N per liter to be potentially hazardous.

The fertilizer "conserver" is designed to protect dry fertilizer under an inverted, impermeable cup from the mass flow of surface-applied irrigation water or precipitation. the objective of this project is to evaluate the technical feasibility of the fertilizer "conserver" to eliminate fertilizer discharge from a container production system. Proposed experiments are designed to evaluate materials and size of the fertililzer "conserver" that would eliminate fertilizer discharge and yet produce quality plants. The simplicity of the "fertilizer conserver" and anticipated elimination of fertilizer discharge from a container operation suggests rapid acceptance by the greenhouse and nursery industry worldwide.

Supplemental Keywords:

Scientific Discipline, Waste, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Sustainable Industry/Business, Nutrients, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Chemistry, Fate & Transport, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Wet Weather Flows, New/Innovative technologies, Biology, Engineering, Chemistry, & Physics, fate and transport, waste reduction, fertilizer, leaching, pollution prevention, leachate

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final