By Heather Willard, PACE Writer
Jordan Francisco, a junior in Environmental & Plant Biology, did not spend his summer like most college students. He used a Provost Undergraduate Research Fund grant to design and conduct a study of peanut plants’ potential as a natural fertilizer.
“Peanuts are legumes, which naturally fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into usable forms that other plants could utilize. A source of nitrogen is available for plants once the peanut plant decomposes in the ground,” Francisco says.
“This natural form of nitrogen fertilizer would help farmers cut down on fertilizer costs and reduce agriculture runoff, which is a major environmental problem.”
With 128 plants that required analysis every other day, Francisco stayed busy.
“Every other day after the first buds came up I had to analyze – count flowers, water them, making sure there was no major disease or pests going on,” Francisco said.
Francisco was researching different varieties of peanuts, attempting to find a kind that farmers in Athens would be able to grow, as peanuts usually require a more southern climate. Francisco said the experience was a good one.
“The PURF is intended to let students learn and experience what it’s like to do in their future career, so I’m very glad and grateful. I was glad I did it, but I did realize field research was not my forte.”
Ultimately, Francisco hopes the project helps local farmers.
“Hopefully this will help farmers around the area see potential varieties that they could grow for profit. Hopefully it’ll help with the soil too, cut down on fertilizer and reduce agricultural costs –saving the environment,” he said. “Peanuts are legumes which naturally fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into usable forms that other plants could utilize. This means nitrogen is available for plants once the [unharvested part of the] peanut plant decomposes in the ground. This natural form of nitrogen fertilizer would help farmers cut down on fertilizer costs and reduce agriculture runoff, which is a major environmental problem.”
Currently, peanuts are only grown commercially in 13 states, but Francisco’s research has the potential of changing that and expanding the market. He plans on presenting his research at the Student Research and Creativity EXPO and is working on compiling and synthesizing biomass and yield data.