ITHACA, N.Y. – Cornell University has been awarded $1 million dollars after taking part in a nitrogen reduction challenge at Tulane University in Louisiana last week.

After 77 initial submissions, Cornell’s team of researchers, Adapt-N, was among four finalists who competed this summer at a farm in northeast Louisiana – the finalists were challenged to grow a crop of corn while also aiming to reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer runoff.

Tulane launched this challenge as a way to battle hypoxia in the Gulf. Hypoxia is the result of low oxygen levels in the water and is often caused by nitrogen fertilizer runoff.

Lead researcher for Adapt-N, Harold Van Es, said their goal in the challenge was to figure out a way to reduce the level of nitrogen runoff from farms as a way to deal with the hypoxia issue in the Gulf.

“We worked to address the hypoxia problem that impacts the Gulf of Mexico, which is basically a dead zone in the Gulf which occurs every summer,” Van Es said. “The hypoxia issue is due to the nitrogen fertilizer that’s used near the Mississippi River Basin.”

Adapt-N created a computer modeling system as a way to reduce nitrogen use in crops while also increasing the farmer’s profitability rate. The user of the system enters information such as the date of planting, type of corn, and soil data which is then matched with weather data like precipitation and temperature to calculate the precise amount of nitrogen needed, Van Es said.

Van Es said farmers will be able to apply this technology to estimate the nutrients the crops may need which will cut down on costs for farms and levels of runoff into the Gulf.

Adapt-N accepted the award in Louisiana on Dec. 14. The cash prize was awarded to the team which will now be shared amongst the company and the inventor.

Featured image courtesy of Flickr.

Alyvia is a Crime Reporter with The Ithaca Voice. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Journalism and Photography.