As effects of human activity on the environment continue to take center stage, the effect of agriculture- a central part of human existence- has also been roped into the fray. Nowadays, even prime time news is highlighting the effects of mismanaged agricultural inputs and nutrients on the environment. In Des Moines, Iowa, there is a clamour to remove unwanted nitrate from Lake Erie. All over the country, blooms caused by algae are slowly but surely giving coastal waters an unpleasant green color.
As such, it is of essence and urgency that these nutrients are continuously monitored and controlled before they get out of hand.
And the NECi Superior Enzymes has just the right technology for that, available to all in the form of a small handheld photometer that combines with your mobile phones to help monitor phosphate and nitrate levels in your environment.
The Michigan based biotechnology company has come up with the little device that measures the levels of these nutrients by the amount of light able to pass through a sample, basing on some easy enzymatic reactions. It then links with your smartphone via Bluetooth to display the digital results on your screen.
NECi CEO Ellen R. Campell says in making the photometer, they begin by developing an articulate and elaborate testing methods as would be done in a laboratory. They then simplify the method to make it usable even by those who are not professionals in the practice. Campbell says that users actually have reason to believe that the results they receive on their screens have meaning.
Almost Like A Spectrophotometer
The hand-held photometer borrows from the principle of a laboratory spectrophotometer, which is a more sophisticated device that uses the intensity of light in a given spectrum to give results from which meaning can be deciphered. More on spectrophotometers at Science Triangle:
It uses the enzyme Nitrate Reductase, the same enzyme present in plants used in the process of converting nitrates to proteins and DNA.
It has been developed with the help of grants from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), a program under the US Department of Agriculture. It is basically enzyme-based, and seeks to accurately measure the levels of nitrate and phosphate around you.
Nutrients Of Agricultural Importance
These two nutrients are of great importance in agricultural practices, as they boost crop production and are consequently responsible for how food-secure the country is. Application of fertilizers and manures rich in them is therefore a necessary practice, but monitoring of their levels is just as important. Excess levels of the two are hazardous.
It causes them to leech and wash off to water catchments, ending up in the very water people use on daily basis. Treatment of water containing nitrate to make it safe for drinking is quite expensive. Increased levels in drinking levels in drinking water is especially dangerous to babies, who can easily contract the blue-baby complication.
It is thus necessary to keep these nutrients at manageable levels from the initial step- application in the farms- and routine checks to prevent unhealthy accumulation.
More information about NECi’s biotechnology tools is readily available to all at NECi.