"In effect, they set up a virtual ranch,” Cahn said.

When the farmer is ready to plant, the type of crop and results of a nitrogen quick test are added.

"The program recommends how long and when the irrigation should run and how much nitrogen, if any, should be added,” Cahn said. "The recommendations are updated automatically, taking into consideration the weather and the crop's stage of growth.”

Throughout the growing season, farmers can monitor the progress of their farms by viewing online tables where irrigation, fertilization and growth are tracked. At any time, all the data can be downloaded as an Excel file the farmer can using for accounting or making reports.

Corey Ranch manager Montes said he accesses CropManage on a tablet computer.

"It's very easy to use,” Montes said. "It's easy to log on, input information and read from the tables. I love it. It's a great tool and is definitely going to help us manage our water and fertilizer in a better way.”

Currently, CropManage contains information for production of romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce and broccoli. Strawberries and caneberry data will be added to the system. Research is underway on leafy greens, such as spinach and baby leaf lettuce, so they also can be added.

"Everything we learn in research, we will add to CropManage,” Cahn said. "And by using it, growers can give us feedback on how accurate the system is. This is a fluid product. If growers find something that doesn't work, we can change it.”

All the information uploaded to CropManage is held confidentially and secure on a UC server, protected with a private email address and password. The CropManage website's privacy policy outlines setup options for users who wish to remain completely anonymous.

Development of the website was supported by a grant from the California Department of Agriculture Fertilizer Research and Education Program.

For more information about the 2013 Irrigation and Nutrient Management Meeting on Feb. 26 or about CropManage, contact Cahn at (831) 759-7377, mdcahn@ucanr.edu.