Researchers have found that recycling biotech byproducts increases soil health and reduces carbon emission while maintaining crop health.

In this research study, the team applied inactivated spent microbial mass (SMB) and measured maize yields over two growing seasons and changes in soil carbon. Source: D. O'Dell / UTIAIn this research study, the team applied inactivated spent microbial mass (SMB) and measured maize yields over two growing seasons and changes in soil carbon. Source: D. O'Dell / UTIA

The group analyzed two fields of maize over a year. One field was treated with heat-inactivated spent microbial mass (SMB) and the other was treated with a typical farmer fertilizer practice. SMB is a biotechnology waste byproduct that can provide nutrients that are also in conventional fertilizers.

The team was comprised of researchers from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, Dupont, USDA, MetCorps and Oklahoma State University. They measured the net ecosystem exchange of carbon dioxide between the crop’s surface and the atmosphere of the plots. The team then measured the maize yields over two growing seasons and the changes in carbon over 1.7 years.

The SMB plot had similar yields to the typical farmer fertilization plot, but SMB had to be applied more than the typical fertilizer. The annual net ecosystem exchange of carbon dioxide was greater with SMB, but some of these emissions were recycled back into the system.

This study was published in Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment.