Student discovers chemicals to grow wheat

ODESSA, WA (KREM/CNN) – A high school student discovered a way for wheat farmers to dramatically increase their crops.

Kira Powell's started last year as a sophomore at Odessa High School when she came across a chemical in her science class, sodium polyacrelate, and researched it.

"The way it works, the positive ions have been taken out so it's negatively charged," Powell said. "It's attracted to water."

Powell realized the chemical had super water absorbent properties and theorized it might come in handy for dry land farmers.

"It's like a sponge," Powell said.

A local farmer let her use his land, wheat seeds and equipment. She planted three different areas, two using different amounts of sodium polyacrelate, the third none. The best results yielded 27 percent more wheat than the ground with no chemicals.

"It was pretty exciting; it was an amazing figure," Powell said. "I wasn't ever expecting that much increase."

Powell won first place at a regional, state and national symposium. She also won first place at regional, state and international fair.

"It was pretty overwhelming, because here we are, this pretty small school, competing against countries likes Russia and Japan and winning, so we were pretty amazed," said Jeffrey Wehr, Powell's science teacher.

This was a pretty amazing accomplishment when you consider 16-year-old Powell also plays high school basketball, volleyball, and golf.

Powell has won $20,000 in scholarships and prizes. She is also going to London this summer to present her project to an international science fair.

Copyright 2011 KREM via CNN. All rights reserved.