What is in this article?:
- California agriculture in groundwater controversy over nitrate contamination.
- Dairy, almonds and citrus growers are taking steps to cut down on unnecessary nitrogen use and improved efficiency in irrigation delivery systems for nitrogen and other nutrients.
Shallow groundwater system
• Growers in his region are confronted with a shallow groundwater system and increasing levels of nitrates, said Parry Klassen, executive director of the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition.
He is recommending that farmers in the coalition put together “nitrogen budgets” to keep tabs on nitrogen use as a benchmark. “Let’s find out what our crops are putting on,” he said. “I have faith we’ll show we’re doing a darned good job.”
Klassen said “wellhead housekeeping” using backflow preventers and preventing pooling of water will be a priority as a step to keeping unnecessary nitrates out of groundwater.
The coalition is also classifying particularly “vulnerable” areas.
• Asif Maan, with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and Fertilizer Research and Education Program, said the program is looking to do more outreach to growers and crop advisers.
Maan said a searchable research database went online July 1, making it easier for users to access information without having to wade through highly technical reports, though there are links for those as well.
He said users will be able enter search criteria that include a keyword, crop, county and date to get a summary of information.
The agency is also working with certified crop advisers to come up with a program to help growers implement nutrient management systems. It expects to have a program for training and added certification in place by December.
• Tibor Horvath, conservation agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, talked of assistance available through his agency.
He said in 2010 and 2011, the NRCS spent $782,061 to develop comprehensive nutrition management plans on 158 farms with 118,500 acres of crop land in the Central Valley through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Some money was spent on more than 600 waste transfer pipelines and flow meters to transfer manure to fields of crops.
Money was also spent on cover crops that scavenge residual nitrogen and on manure separators, screen separators and settling basins.
The agency also has a new assessment tool called the nitrogen index.