‘Wonderful to see young people in STEM’ – Hackett congratulates young scientist

Minister of state Pippa Hackett has said it is “wonderful to see young people, particularly girls, involved in STEM”, as she congratulates the winner of the department-sponsored award at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE).

Elizabeth Bourke of St. Mary’s College in Arklow, Co. Wicklow, won the award with her project titled: “Nutrient recycling efficiency using bio-based organic fertilisers”.

Congratulating Bourke on her success, the junior minister at the Department of Agriculture Pippa Hackett said on social media that it is “wonderful to see young people, particularly girls, involved in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]”.

“There were over 150 research projects in the Biological and Ecological category at this year’s [exhibition], and this will hopefully mark a bright future for research in these hugely important areas.”

The transition year student’s project investigates if there are any differences between chemical fertiliser and four different types of bio-based fertilisers in the yield of spring wheat plots.

The project

“It also examines which treatments are best for soil health. The project aims to move farmers towards a more carbon and nutrient efficient agriculture, compared to conventional fertiliser-used systems,” the student explains.

There are seven plots of 30m², replicated four times, to get a representative result. In the spring wheat trial, four different types of bio-based fertiliser have been used: lime treated dairy sludge; cattle slurry; lime treated pig slurry; and poultry manure.

“There are two treatments of chemical fertilisers and one controlled plot that got no fertiliser at all.

“I did headcounts during the growing season to compare the differences between the treatments. Headcount differences ranged from 241 heads/m² in the zero fertiliser plots, up to 425 heads/m² in the chemical fertiliser plots.

“The bio-based fertiliser plots ranged from 379 heads/m² for poultry manure, to 394 heads/m² for cattle slurry, to 406 heads/m² for lime treated pig slurry and DAF sludge.

All the plots were harvested individually, on August 28. A summary of the results would indicate that yields from fertiliser treatments ranged from between 8.2t and 9.9t to the hectare; lowest for cattle slurry and highest for lime treated pig slurry. All the fertiliser treatments had significantly higher yields than zero treatment – more than double.

“This result was expected, as indicated by the headcounts. Among the different bio-based treatments, pig slurry solid was the winner. There was no difference in yields between any of the bio-based versus 100% chemical treatment.”