By KEVIN WALKER
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has announced a fertilizer research opportunity – the competitive grant is aimed at helping farmers and growers optimize nutrient use, ensure soil fertility and address environmental concerns regarding fertilizer use.
The fertilizer research grant program is accepting grant proposals until 3 p.m. on Sept. 28.
According to information from MDARD, successful proposals will help expand nutrient management that optimizes plant production and/or environmental protection with the goal of helping to apply innovative technology in agricultural operations in the short term.
Proposals will be evaluated through a competitive process using the Fertilizer Research Advisory Committee, which was established under Michigan law in 1994. This is the first year competitive external grants are being awarded, said Tim Boring, vice president of the Michigan Agribusiness Assoc.
The grant is funded via the Fertilizer Research Fund, which is financed by fees growers pay when they buy fertilizer. Applicants for grant funds will be asked to describe how the project has the potential to impact and produce measurable outcomes for the state's farming and agriculture industries.
“Our organization pushed for the creation of this fund,” Boring said. “We in Michigan don't have a lot of answers to nutrient loss issues, especially phosphorus and nitrogen into Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay, specifically. We need new tools to deal with this problem.”
He is hoping to get research “that's different from what we've seen in the past.” MDARD said it's purposely not providing dollar figures for this opportunity, or certain other details due to the complexity of the research involved.
“Use your best discretion while being cognizant of the fact fertilizer committee members will have to review each proposal thoroughly and in a timely fashion,” a statement from the department said.
In addition to the Sept. 28 deadline for submitting proposals, the following dates have been posted: the fertilizer advisory committee will meet to receive proposals for scoring on Oct. 8 and will make selections on Oct. 22. Award announcements will be made Oct. 31.
It's not clear how many awards will be made. Although the department does not have any hard figures on the amount of money to be awarded, it stated, “at this point, we are anticipating granting something in the area of $680,000. The funds collected will be totally committed through this RFP process.”
Researchers and institutions outside Michigan are eligible to apply for this grant; however, MDARD stated the relevant committee will evaluate the research to “assure that it fills informational gaps that are important to Michigan and Michigan producers. It will also be important for us to be able to apply research results to soil, commodity and weather conditions that are found in Michigan.”
The department added it has deliberately not limited proposals based on time or funding, until available dollars are exhausted. Anyone interested in applying for this grant should go online at www.michigan.gov/mdardgrants to get an application and see more details on this program.
Proposals must be received via email at MDARD-FertResearch-Grants@michigan.gov no later than 3 p.m. Sept. 28.