Science Fair Project Produces Agricultural Breakthrough

Three Irish teenagers have come up with a potentially game-changing solution to low crop yield

Who says you have to have a fancy degree to make a difference in the scientific community?

Three Irish teenagers are making strides in food sustainability without ever leaving their high school classroom. Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey, and Sophie Healy-Thow, all 16, won the Google Science Fair with their clever and innovative solution to low crop yields by pairing a nitrogen-fixing bacteria that naturally occurs in the soil with cereal crops it does not normally associate with, such as barley and oats. The results were crops that matured in half the time they usually take, and 74 percent more yield.

They came up with the idea after learning about the food crisis in the horn of Africa, and thinking about ways they could help.

In the experiment, the girls said, “These results have significant potential for increasing yields of food crops and reducing losses due to adverse weather conditions. They also offer opportunities for reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture by reducing fertilizer usage. As demand for cereals increases with population growth, this discovery could act as a partial solution to the impending food poverty crisis.”

The winners received a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a $50,000 scholarship.  

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Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter@JoannaFantozzi