UC Davis Researchers Collaborating on Project to Help Farmers Improve Fertilization and Irrigation Practices

  • By Tiffany Dobbyn •
Photo by: Sat Darshan S. Khalsa

UC Davis researchers are collaborating with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources on a project to help farmers in the state improve their fertilization and irrigation practices.

CDFA received $2 million from the USDA for a three-year project that includes sending seven UC Cooperative Extension personnel to the San Joaquin Valley to perform education and demonstration projects, provide on-farm consultation and conduct outreach activities to promote locally appropriate best practices.

Department of Environmental Science and Policy Professor Mark Lubell is part of the UC Davis team that is studying the effectiveness of the CDFA’s approaches and how to make the program more effective in the future. That also includes looking at grower behaviors.

“We want to know if we are achieving the goals of the program, including behavioral change goals,” Lubell said. “We look at individual farmers, we look at their operations, the types of crops they grow, types of irrigation systems used, all these farm structures matter a lot. We look at their connection to outreach, how well networked are they, their attitudes towards government; that’s all part of the story.”

Mark Cady, senior environmental scientist for CDFA’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program, says part of the goal is to improve practices to reduce pollution from fertilizer. Cady and Lubell say to do that requires integrating best practices for both fertilization and irrigation, which are essential for California farmers to achieve greater crop productivity and cost savings.

“We know that the integration gets you better outcomes, not only for the environment, but for farmers too,” Lubell said. “Farmers can be more precise in their application of water and the application of nutrients, and that precision can reduce the money used on those inputs. That efficiency leads to greater savings.”

The team of UC researchers also includes Professor Patrick Brown and Assistant Professional Researcher Sat Darshan Khalsa, both with plant sciences; Daniel Geisseler, assistant Cooperative Extension specialist with land, air and water resources; Doug Parker, director of the California Institute for Water Resources; Khaled Bali, irrigation water management specialist with UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center; and graduate and undergraduate students.

Tiffany Dobbyn is a communications specialist at UC-Davis and can be reached at tadobbyn@ucdavis.edu.

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