Posts Tagged: nitrogen
Scientists need more information about how farmers use nitrogen fertilizers before the state imposes new regulations, reported Tim Hearden in Capital Press. Hearden's story was based on a study published in California Agriculture journal.
Nearly 600,000 tons of nitrogen fertilizer is sold in California each year, but sales figures are not an accurate indicator of how it is used.
Imposing regulations without supporting data could fail to address the problem while damaging agriculture, said Tom Tomich, co-author of the study and director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis.
"One of the other things that's unfortunate about the lack of information is it looks like California farmers have been increasing their nitrogen usage, but if we had better data, farmers would probably look pretty good," Tomich was quoted. "We have a long way to go, just like everyone on the planet. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the 21st century."
See the complete California Agriculture journal article: Nitrogen fertilizer use in California: Assessing the data, trends and a way forward.
Cutting planting slots and placing preplant fertilizer in a two-row strawberry bed.
"Currently there's a real problem of safe drinking water -- and we need to fix that system, and we need to do that quickly," Parker said. "But separately from that is how do we make sure we don't continue to have this problem in the future."
The Sacramento forum was one of two being hosted by the California Institute for Water Resources and the CDFA Fertilizer Research and Education Program to explore solutions to nitrate in groundwater and the role of policy in addressing the issue.
The second forum is from 1 to 5 p.m. June 18 at the Tulare County UC Cooperative Extension office, 4437 South Laspina St., Tulare. The forum is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required. For more information, see the Managing Agricultural Nitrogen website.
Lettuce farmers can use less fertilizer - saving money, cutting back water use and reducing nitrate groundwater contamination risk - without sacrificing crop yield by employing a "quick test" developed by UC Cooperative Extension, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.
With the quick test, growers can determine how much nitrogen is in the soil and use only as much fertilizer as their lettuce needs to grow.
UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Michael Cahn told reporter Julia Scott that he helped one company use 70 pounds less fertilizer per acre and get the same yield.
The Chronicle story was focused on imposing regulations to ease water nitrate contamination in California. Cal State East Bay earth and environmental science professor Jean Moran pointed to agriculture as the primary source of the problem.
"It covers a much larger area, it's a constant input of nitrates in groundwater and you have constant irrigation and over-irrigation, which drives the nitrates deeper into the groundwater," Moran was quoted. "But if you look for new evidence of regulations on nitrate issues in groundwater, you just don't find them."
Escaped nitrogen from agricultural production has "huge potential to contribute to climate change," according to the director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, Tom Tomich. He was quoted in "The Smog Blog," written by Mark Grossi of the Fresno Bee, in a post about $2.8 million in grant funding ASI received to research agricultural nitrogen. The story appeared in his blog last week and on the front page of the newspaper's Local News section yesterday.
According to an ASI news release announcing the new funding, many people, including politicians. are unaware that escaped nitrogen from agricultural production affects climate change and air, water and soil quality.
Earth's atmosphere is 78 percent nitrogen by volume, according to the Wikipedia entry on the chemical element. And in fact, "Mike D." commented on Grossi's blog posting, "I'm a bit confused as to how nitrogen could be a greenhouse gas when it already exists in abundance in the atmosphere."
This confusion perhaps underscores the need for more research and extension efforts on the topic. According to the ASI news release, data on agricultural nitrogen pollution are limited, and some nitrogen pollution forms are difficult to monitor. Measurements can be labor-intensive and expensive and are influenced by variables such as weather conditions, irrigation timing and method, and crop-specific fertilization practices.
I trust that, as the ASI's research is conducted and results are publicized, much more information about the role of agricultural nitrogen in global warming will become widely available.