Jan 27, 2021
CDFA awards $2M in grants for nutrient management projects

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) announced Jan. 26 $2.18 million in grant funds are being awarded to agricultural organizations and universities.

The awards are as a result of the 2020 cycle of the competitive FREP Grant Program.

These grants will fund 11 research projects to improve the efficiency of nitrogen (N) fertilization in California agriculture, reduce the associated environmental impacts, and advance farmers’ understanding and implementation of best management practices (BMPs) for fertilizer applications in farmlands.

Funded Research Projects:

Assessment of Nitrogen Content of the Harvested Portion of Specialty Crops to Estimate Crop Nitrogen Removal and Improve Nitrogen Management in Crops

Richard Smith, Michael Cahn – University of California Cooperative Extension, Monterey County

This project is being awarded $353,576 to help determine the amount of nitrogen (N) removed in the harvested product for 35 Central Coast commodities. The researchers will develop coefficients that, combined with grower yield data, will provide an estimate of N removed in the harvested crop. This data can be used by growers to make informed in-season fertilization decisions and to fulfill reporting requirements for the regional water quality control board.

Assessment of Harvested and Sequestered Nitrogen Content to Improve Nitrogen Management in Crops, Phase 2

Charlotte Gallock, John Dickey, Ken Cassman – Kings River Watershed Coalition Authority

This project is being awarded $224,979 to assess N concentration in the harvested material of 33 California crops over several growing seasons. The research will also determine the N sequestered in the permanent tissues of eight perennial crops. This information will refine crop yield (Y)-to- removed (R) conversion factors for grower use in fertilization planning and water board compliance reporting,

Nitrogen Response of Industrial Hemp Cultivars Grown for CBD, Essential Oils

Robert Hutmacher, Daniel Putnam – University of California, Davis

Now that industrial hemp is a crop choice for California farmers, there is much to be discovered about the best management practices for efficient production. This project is being awarded $225,000 to evaluate two biotypes of industrial hemp and assess the impacts of N management approaches on tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) tissue content, including partitioning to harvested portions of plants. As information is developed in the study, the principal investigators (PIs) will provide information to grower groups, consultants and industry. They will use these opportunities to get feedback on the feasibility of proposed N management approaches.

Certification and Distance Learning for Fertigation

Charles Burt, Franklin Gaudi – Cal Poly San Luis Obispo​

This project is being awarded $225,000 to develop online distance-learning modules (in Spanish and English) for various aspects of fertigation including N processes and fertigation management. The modules will be free to the public and use an interactive format with the goal of developing a certification program.

Ventura County Nitrogen Management Training Program

Jodi Switzer ​– Farm Bureau of Ventura County

The Farm Bureau of Ventura County, recognized by the regional water board as the agricultural water quality coalition coordinator in Ventura County, is being awarded $55,886 to provide growers with information and certification needed to develop site-specific N Management Plans (NMPs) for their farms. The work from this project will expand training available to growers completing and implementing NMPs and who will benefit from education in the concepts of irrigation and nutrient management.

University of California Nursery and Floriculture Alliance Fertilizers and Plant Nutrition Workshops for Greenhouse and Nursery Growers

Lorence R. Oki, Dave Fujino, Don Merhaut, Maria de la Fuente​ – University of California, Davis

This project is being awarded $37,676 to provide greenhouse and nursery growers across California with knowledge to improve crop plant nutrition and fertilizer management, in English and Spanish. To achieve this, the project will improve upon educational materials and events provided under a previous FREP-funded project and deliver additional trainings. Greenhouse and nursery growers will learn about the proper and efficient use of fertilizers in these agricultural systems.

Outreach and Revenue Generation for Sustaining CropManage Irrigation and Nutrient Management Decision Support Tool

Michael Cahn – University of California Cooperative Extension, Monterey County

The CropManage decision support tool delivers irrigation and N fertilization guidance for many California crops. This project is being awarded $156,200 to promote the use of CropManage by providing targeted outreach to growers and industry groups. It will also develop and implement a plan to generate sustainable funding for the program.

Development of Site-specific Nitrogen Fertilization Recommendations for Annual Crops

Daniel Geisseler, Sanjai Parikh, Nick Clark, Michelle Leinfelder-Miles, ​Sarah Light, Konrad Mathesius, Rob Wilson – University of California, Davis

This project is being awarded $224,973 to develop robust, site-specific estimates of N mineralized from organic sources. These estimates can be used to adjust fertilization plans for crops across California. The researchers will validate N mineralization estimates in field trials across the Central Valley. They will also use Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) to characterize the chemical composition of soil organic matter. User-friendly, site-specific online N fertilization calculators will be developed for a variety of annual crops.

Enhancing Nitrogen and Water Use Efficiency in California Carrot Production through Management Tools and Practices

Aliasghar Montazar, Daniel Geisseler, Michael Cahn, Jaspreet Sidhu ​– University of California Cooperative Extension, Imperial County​

This project is being awarded $224,931 to quantify and describe carrot production improvements in fertilization and irrigation practices in California’s major carrot production regions. This project will provide more accurate information on carrot water use and N uptake patterns under different soil types, climate and conventional farming practices. This information will help California carrot producers and their advisers determine the optimal timing and amount of water and N fertilizer applications.

Techniques to Minimize Nitrate Loss from the Root Zone during Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR)

Anthony Toby O’Geen, Helen Dahlke, Thomas Harter, Isaya Kisekka, ​Majdi Abou Najm​– University of California, Davis

This project is being awarded $224,624 to identify best management strategies for Flood-MAR, informed by trends in dormant season N cycling. This work will focus on farm fields planted with tree or vine crops (after harvest through budbreak) and select field crops. This research will consider duration and frequency of water application, and the associated periods of anaerobic and aerobic conditions which drive N transformations.

“Crop Nutrient Minute” Video Series

Parry Klassen, Patrick Brown​ – Coalition for Urban Rural Environmental Stewardship

This project is being awarded $225,000 to make information readily available through web-based videos to growers and crop advisors working to minimize nitrate movement for major irrigated crops in the Central Valley and Central Coast. The videos will cover seven major-acreage crops: almonds, citrus, pistachios, processing tomatoes, wine grapes (high tonnage), strawberries and romaine. A total of 28 videos will be produced: seven five-minute videos and seven 30-minute videos, all in English and Spanish.

Since 1990, FREP has granted more than $22 million through 250 projects focusing on efficient fertilizer use and the protection of California’s environment. A database of research projects is publicly available at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/go/FREPresearch and the FREP Blog Research Update series often highlights projects.

The FREP Grant Program is currently accepting proposals until Jan. 29 for the 2021 grant cycle.

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