ARI Project: 14-02-002 | Funding Round: Round 15 (2013-2014)  | Start Date: 07/01/2013  | Status: Active

Measuring and Monitoring Nitrogen Dynamics in Central Valley Crops

ARI Member Campus: California State University, Fresno
Research Focus Area: Water and Irrigation Technology
Project Personnel: Director: Vang, Kaomine, Center For Irrigation Technology - California State University, Fresno
Co-Investigator: Adhikari, Diganta, Center for Irrigation Technology, CSUF
Director: Vang, Kaomine, Center For Irrigation Technology - California State University, Fresno
Co-Investigator: Green, William, CIT
Co-Investigator: Khalil, Hany, Food Science & Nutrition Department, College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences, Cal Poly State University
ARI Allocation: $225,000.00
Match Donors: $75,000.00 - CA Department of Water Resources
$35,000.00 - CA Dept. of Food & Ag
$75,000.00 - Howard G. Buffet Foundation
$40,000.00 - Puresense
Total Funding: $450,000.00

Project Objective: The objective of this study is to develop a framework to rapidly characterize nitrogen and water dynamics in agricultural fields.

Project Abstract: Groundwater pollution due to agricultural practices is a pervasive issue in irrigated areas all over the world. It is also of ever growing importance in California where in regions such as the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley, one-third of the tested irrigation and domestic wells exceed the maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 45 mg/L (Boyle et al., 2012). Efforts to combat this problem are exemplified in Section 83002.5 of Senate Bill SBX2-1 that defines a mission to “improve understanding of the causes of [nitrate] groundwater contamination, identify potential remediation solutions and funding sources to recover costs expended by the State, to clean up or treat groundwater, and ensure the provision of safe drinking water to all communities.” The highly mobile nature of nitrate and the potential for additional nitrogen movement in the form of ammonia volatilization threaten water and air quality. This concern highlights the need for methods and tools to evaluate nitrogen transport in agricultural areas. The objective of this study is to develop a framework to rapidly characterize nitrogen and water dynamics in agricultural fields. This will be achieved through a distributed sensor network (DSN) system of robust site instrumentation that when coupled with physical sampling can measure nitrate leaching below the root zone, plant nutrient uptake, and nitrogen lost to the atmosphere through ammonia volatilization. By effectively quantifying these fluxes of water and nitrogen, this control system can deliver the optimum amount of fertilizer to minimize leaching of nitrate and other losses of N, while maximizing yield and water use efficiency. At least three specialty crops will be targeted in this stage of the proposed research. This study will be the initial step in developing a database that will be integrated into WATERIGHT, an irrigation scheduling program developed by the Center for Irrigation Technology (CIT). This will allow growers to manage their irrigation events as well as soil nutrient inputs to suit their crop of interest and field conditions.

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