Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type

Honors Project


College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Betsy Martinez Vaz


Urea is the most commonly used nitrogen compound in fertilizers across the world. It provides the most nitrogen at the lowest cost. However, with the size and solubility of this compound, it is easily washed out of the soil. This results in the need to continuously add fertilizer to fields, creating adverse effects on the environment due to nitrogen runoff and leading to increased expenses for farmers. Triuret, a urea oligomer, is a compound with promising potential for use as a nitrogen source, providing a slower release of nitrogen into the soil. It is hypothesized that this compound can be applied to crops in a similar manner to urea and be broken down slower by naturally existing soil microbes. In this study, a series of 7 different ratios of urea:triuret were used on corn plants to evaluate the viability of triuret as a nitrogen substitute, an additional set without nitrogen was used as a control. Microbial enrichments were done to evaluate whether naturally occurring soil bacteria could grow on triuret as a nitrogen source. Soil was collected from the surface of the plant, as well as the rhizosphere and grown on liquid media. Results showed that triuret has a toxic effect on corn plants and prevents successful maturity. In a follow up experiment, a portion of soil was autoclaved to evaluate whether the toxicity is caused by the triuret compound itself, or due to breakdown products created by soil microbes. This experiment showed a delayed effect of the triuret on plant health, but after approximately 14 days in the lifecycle of the plant, toxic effects began to be observed and growth was significantly inhibited. Studying the effects of these alternative nitrogen compounds on plant health is important for finding a solution to nitrogen deficiency and the nutrient runoff crisis.








Departmental Honors Projects