SACRAMENTO, October 30, 2015 - The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), through the Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP), is pleased to announce that FREP has awarded almost two million dollars in grant funds to agricultural organizations and universities this year. These projects are focused on nitrogen fertilizers and the implications for water and air quality. Nitrogen in a key plant nutrient for food production. It can also lead to water and air quality impairments if not used efficiently. These grants will provide funding for nine projects that will improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of using nitrogen fertilizer in California agriculture and will advance farmers’ understanding and implementation of best management practices for agricultural nitrogen fertilizers.
The following proposals were approved for funding by CDFA’s Fertilizer Inspection Advisory Board:
1. Quantifying Nitrous Oxide Emissions under Different On-Farm Irrigation and Nutrient Best Management Practices that Reduce Groundwater Nitrate Loading and Applied Water
This research addresses multiple FREP priorities by comprehensively investigating nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, a potent greenhouse gas sometimes associated with crop production, and nitrate leaching below crop roots. This timely study addresses important knowledge gaps in California agriculture regarding the transport and fate of nitrogen through these systems.
2. Improving Nitrate and Salinity Management Strategies for Almonds Grown Under Micro-irrigation
Researchers will evaluate the effect of soil type and irrigation management on salt accumulation in the soil root zone of almond trees. Using this information, they will measure the impacts of these conditions on root growth and crop nitrogen uptake. Current California drought conditions make this an especially important project because it addresses the potential impacts of rising salt concentrations in soil and irrigation water due to drought.
3. Developing a Decision Support Tool for Processing Tomato Irrigation and Fertilization in the Central Valley Based on CropManage
FREP first funded CropManage software in 2010 as a nitrogen and irrigation management tool for growers. Since then, CropManage has become a valuable online resource that helps growers efficiently manage irrigation and fertilizer applications on their farms. Currently, CropManage supports a limited number of crops, but this project will add nutrient and irrigation recommendations for tomatoes, which are grown on approximately 288,000 acres of California cropland.
4. 2015 Demonstration of a Combined New Leaf Sampling Technique for Nitrogen Analysis and Nitrogen Applications Approach in Almonds
Researchers will demonstrate the benefits of early-season leaf sampling to predict mid-season plant nitrogen requirements for almonds. This practice reduces the chances of nitrate leaching past the soil root zone.
5. Evaluation of the Multiple Benefits of Nitrogen Management Practices in Walnuts
This project will investigate the impact of best management practices in Central Valley Walnut Orchards by quantifying nitrogen movement through the root zone relative to implemented practices.
6. Train the Trainer: A Nitrogen Management Training Program for Growers
Educational events will provide nitrogen management training to agricultural professionals who will then qualify to train growers. In the Central Valley, Regional Water Quality Control Board regulations allow qualified farmers to certify their own nitrogen management plans as an alternative to hiring consultants to provide certification. This project provides the technical information that the growers need in order to self-certify nitrogen management plans for land they farm.
7. Prediction of Summer Leaf Nitrogen Concentration from Early Season Samples to Better Manage Nitrogen Inputs at the Right Time in Walnuts, Prunes, and Pears
This project will create an early leaf sampling model for walnuts, prunes, and pears so that tree nitrogen status can be used to accurately guide fertilization strategies throughout the season. From 2009 to 2012, a successful CDFA-FREP project developed a similar early-season sampling protocol for almonds and pistachios and that project has contributed significantly to the improvement of nitrogen management in those crops.
8. Evaluation and Demonstration of Nitrogen and Phosphorus Management in Organic Leafy Green Vegetables Production on the Central Coast
This research will address and demonstrate fertilizer application rates in organic leafy greens and allow for a better understanding of mineralizable soil nitrogen in these cropping systems. The information from this study will aid in understanding the potential for nitrogen and phosphorus loss in organic systems and the best ways to minimize those risks.
9. New Fertigation Book. Fertigation is the delivery of fertilizers through irrigation systems.
This project will update the handbook Fertigation, which is intended for a variety of audiences. First published over 20 years ago, Fertigation has proven to be a valuable resource to the agricultural community. Updating this book will contribute to the advancement of irrigation and fertigation management and improve nutrient use efficiency in California agriculture.
For more information please visit the website at https://apps1.cdfa.ca.gov/FertilizerResearch/docs/Guidelines.html.
Since 1990, FREP has funded more than 200 projects focusing on California’s environmentally sensitive cropping systems. A database of completed research is publicly available at: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/FREPresearch.