Next generation fertilizer project endorsed by industry and government

20 Mar 2018

Research to develop next generation fertilizers by recycling nutrient-rich wastes has earned a University of Queensland postgraduate student two national Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture.

The novel research concept saw UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences PhD student Rhys Pirie  recognised with the Cotton Research and Development Corporation-supported award and also the Minister’s Science and Innovation Award.

Using the awards, the project will investigate repurposing organic wastes such as livestock manure, biosolids and cotton gin trash as economically and environmentally efficient alternatives to commercial fertilizers.

Rhys said while organic wastes were attractive alternatives to commercial fertilizers,  the challenges for growers included high transport costs, lower nutrient densities, higher moisture content, and determining application rates, -which lessened their appeal.

“My project focuses on low-energy methods to transform organic wastes into high-efficiency fertilizers,” he said.

Rhys said nutrient efficiency had large economic and social implications, with the loss of nutrients from fertilizers and manures increasing costs for farmers, and impacting on human and environmental health.

He will work with a market-leading company with expertise in organic waste, then test the resulting pelletised fertilizers in greenhouse trials, using cotton plants.

The next stage will evaluate whether the trials can progress - to be commercially and economically viable.

“While my project is working with the cotton industry now, there’s potential that the research results could be taken up by other agricultural industries, and lead to lower social and environmental impacts from farming systems,” he said.

In congratulating Rhys, his supervisor Professor Susanne Schmidt said he was an outstanding student who was on track to be a next generation leader in Australia’s agriculture industry.

A second UQ researcher, UQ School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences virologist, Dr Kirsty Short also received an Innovation Award to improve the understanding of bird flu resistance between species.

Media: Rhys Pirie,, +61421118284