Growers, dairy operators, agency representatives, agricultural commissioners, policymakers and other community members will gather for half-day forums in June to discuss management of agricultural nitrogen. The forums will be held in Sacramento on June 11 and in Tulare on June 18. The California Department of Food and Agriculture and University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources will be hosting the two community forums to explore solutions to nitrate in groundwater and the role of policy.

The report “Addressing Nitrate in California’s Drinking Water” released in March by the State Water Resources Control Board concluded that more than 90 percent of human-generated nitrate contamination of groundwater in the Tulare Lake Basin and the Monterey County portion of the Salinas Valley has come from agricultural activity.

(For more, see: Groundwater nitrate issue dumped in agriculture’s lap)

Plants need nitrogen to grow, but nutrients that are not used by the crop may move below the root zone. Nitrate, a byproduct of nitrogen, may infiltrate to groundwater. “The report found that farmers have already begun employing numerous techniques to reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer available in the soil,” said Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources and leader for the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources water strategic initiative. “At the forums, we will be discussing how those efforts are proceeding and exploring additional solutions to protect groundwater quality. We’ll be asking the agricultural community what additional research and education they need from UC.”

At the forums, UC Cooperative Extension specialists will describe methods of managing nitrogen on dairies and cropland. Members of the agricultural industry and representatives of statewide and regional programs will discuss the practical aspects of adopting nitrogen management practices. To wrap up the sessions, Parker will present a case study on the effects of policy on nutrient management in the Chesapeake Bay region in the Northeast and lead a discussion of the role of policy in nitrogen management in California.

The June 11 forum will be held at the CDFA main auditorium in Sacramento from 8 a.m. to noon, followed by an optional farm and research tour in the afternoon. The June 18 forum will be held at the UC Cooperative Extension office in Tulare from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.