Biopolymers for Sustainable Agricultural Solutions

EPA Grant Number: SU836792
Title: Biopolymers for Sustainable Agricultural Solutions
Investigators: Sengor, S. Sevinc
Institution: Southern Methodist University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Chemical Safety


Investigate a biopolymer’s effectiveness on tomato  germination and its impact on nutrient adsorption using hydroponics experiments; determine optimum loading to prevent nutrient leaching in urban agricultural systems.


The objective of this study is to investigate the innovative use of a biopolymer compound, produced from Rhizobium tropici sp., on the enhanced germination rate of tomato plants, and its impact on enhanced nutrient adsorption of the plants, using hydroponics experiments. Urban agriculture plays an important role in community development and in addressing issues related to healthy food access and food security in disadvantaged urban communities. However, these efforts face challenges, especially when it comes to soil contamination, water availability and water contamination, and nutrient runoff. Furthermore, questions related to the economic viability of urban agricultural systems are creating need for more research about urban farming productivity and profitability.


The P3 project will be accomplished through laboratory hydroponic system experiments with tomato plants. The experiments will be carried out with using either DI water or rainwater. Rainwater will be collected using proper barrels to capture enough rainwater from surface roofs from one of the SMU campus buildings. The type and amount of contaminants present in the rainwater will be determined. The optimum biopolymer compound dosage will then be determined for the minimal use of fertilizer with the upmost plant germination rate for all experimental units to be tested. The graduate and undergraduate students will form the P3 team and will be central to carrying out the proposed batch experimental studies and subsequent analytical work in the lab.

Expected Results:

Successful completion of the P3 project will achieve the novel application of the biopolymer compound for the minimization of fertilizer use and optimum plant growth efficiency, a crucial outcome for a sustainable chemistry in agriculture. The rate of plant germination, sugar content of tomato fruits, as well as nutrient concentrations dissolved in reservoir waters within the hydroponic unit will be compared for the 3 different biopolymer loading rates (0.3 %, 0.75 % and 1 %). The optimum % of biopolymer need will thus be determined for the optimum amount of nutrient absorption, and highest amount of plant germination. The results obtained in the controlled hydroponic units will also be compared for DI water and rainwater circulated units. The impact of biopolymer compound on retaining heavy metals or other cationic contaminants dissolved in the rainwater will also be investigated.

Supplemental Keywords:

Pollution prevention, nutrient runoff, minimization of fertilizers, biopolymer material, sustainable agriculture, chemistry in agriculture, environmental education;

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report