- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Tulane University says it has received more than 50 entries but is still taking registrations for a $1 million contest to combat “dead zones” where water holds too little oxygen to support aquatic or marine life.

One such area forms off the Louisiana coast every summer, but the problem is worldwide. Last year’s Louisiana dead zone was about as big as Connecticut and Rhode Island combined.

The Nitrogen Reduction Challenge is looking for ways to maintain or increase agricultural yields while reducing runoff of nitrogen and other nutrients that contribute to the problem called hypoxia. Waterways carry the nutrients to lakes or coastal areas, where they feed blooms of one-celled plants and animals. Those die, fall to the bottom and decompose, using up oxygen from the bottom up.

Solutions could include but aren’t limited to database management systems, fertilizer stabilizers, new fertilizers, and new ways to apply fertilizers, according to the rules. The rules note that projects should not include cover crops or other biological systems or best management practices for irrigation or edges of fields.

Registrations are due by Aug. 15, and an advisory committee will review the first 100 technical submissions received by Sept. 30.

The university said teams from the U.S. and abroad, including for-profit companies, non-profits, government agencies, farmers, universities, individuals, or any combination, are encouraged to apply.

Up to five semi-finalists will get farm plots in northeast Louisiana to test their ideas, all of them using the same variety of corn provided by the same vendor. The judging will include the weight of corn harvested and the amount of fertilizer used. That will be measured by weighing the fertilizer brought by each team and the amount remaining at the end of the test.

A national advisory committee will choose the winner from among those that meet the challenge goal. If none meets the goal, there won’t be a prize.

The $1 million came from Phyllis Taylor, president of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation and a member of Tulane’s board.

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Online:

Challenge webpage: https://tulane.it/2bctI2P

Challenge rules: https://bit.ly/2bfLxw0

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