CA on Nitrates & Water Quality

Take-Home Lessons from California on Nitrates and Water Quality
California water coalitions are leading the way in addressing nitrate contamination. What can growers learn about nitrogen management from their progress?

Nitrate contamination is one of the biggest threats to water quality in our nation, particularly in California, where it affects vast areas of irrigated farmland. As farmers in California go through the regulation process, what are they learning and how can other growers benefit from their experience.

The Proof is in the Data
One thing California growers will have to do in the near future is track and report their nitrogen use. Parry Klassen, fruit grower and executive director of the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition, was part of the Department of Food and Agriculture committee tasked with developing an approach for farmers to track nitrogen use and report information to aggregators.

“I believe that nitrogen tracking and reporting will help us better define what we in agriculture already do with nitrate fertilizers,” says Klassen. “Ultimately, what growers will have to do is prove to the regulators that we are taking steps to manage nitrogen properly. I say this because I believe many growers are following best management practices. We just don’t have the data to prove it.”

Know Your Water
As part of the tracking process, farmers in California are testing their irrigation and well water for nitrates and accounting for those levels in their annual fertilizer budgets, a good practice for any grower looking to reduce nitrate leaching.

“The amount of nitrates in well water is site specific and varies according to region,” says Klassen. “In the East San Joaquin area, we have a lot of nitrates in our well water, some areas have the equivalent of 50 nitrogen units per season. If you need 300 pounds of nitrogen for your crop, you would plan on putting out 250 to account for the 50 in your groundwater.”

In addition to testing water supplies, California growers have implemented basic agronomic practices that are long-proven methods to help reduce nitrogen leaching.

Back to the Basics
“We often focus too much on sustainability at the expense of going back to basic agronomic practices for nitrogen management,” says Klassen. “For example, proper timing of nitrogen application based on crop demands and matching fertilizer rates to individual crops.”

Other examples — split applications to spread nitrogen use out over the consumptive period for better efficiency and uptake, soil and tissue analysis, the use of drip and micro systems for spoon feeding the crop and nitrogen budgets based on known crop consumption levels.

While there are several best practices for nitrogen management, nothing is a one-size-fits-all solution. It often takes a combination of several practices, tailor-made to site-specific conditions, to effectively reduce nitrogen leaching.

Responsible Nutrient Management
Much of effective nitrogen management boils down to managing nutrients responsibly by using less fertilizer applied, taking advantage of precision placement, utilizing prescription programs and applying balanced formulations that include micronutrients. Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers is an advocate of Responsible Nutrient Management®, which incorporates these principles.

In California and elsewhere, AgroLiquid recognizes the challenges growers face in trying to manage nitrogen for maximum uptake by the crop. Their N-Suite of products, High NRG-N, NResponse and eNhance, offer a wide variety of application options to support nitrogen management practices and effectively meet the cropping needs of the grower.

(Webinar) Getting More For Less From The Fertilizer You Apply

No-tillers can’t afford to waste money on applied fertilizer. Neither can the agriculture industry continue to watch these resources negatively impact watersheds without expecting possible severe regulations. Nobody knows that any better than no-tiller Mike Starkey of Brownsburg, Ind., whose farm lies right at the base of the Eagle Creek Watershed that supplies the city of Indianapolis its drinking water.

This 1 hour webinar produced by No-Till Farmer Magazine originally broadcast November 27th, 2013.

CA Part 8

Part 8:

To prepare for the layoffs many food lines have been set up and are prepared to stay running during the winter. The Endangered Species Act will cause collateral damage. For every $1 spent on the farmer approximately $7 is spent in town. These effects will hurt not only workers, but the government and schools as well.

Listen for the last section of the series.

CA Part 7

Part 7:

The Endangered Species Act doe not just affect the farmers, but is a threat to the economy too. There is potential for widespread layoffs. America could be at risk as California produces majority of the nuts, fruits and vegetables in the nation. This impact goes further than the valley.

Listen for Part 7 of the series.

CA Part 6

Part 6:

The California water shortage has been a problem since 2009 and has only been getting worse. There is great uncertainty in the future. Many do not see the need for balance with the water restriction laws. People need to realize farmers are environmentalists too. 

Listen for Part 6 of the series.

CA Part 5

Part 5:

The constant reduction of water deliveries in California are not just hurting operations. The pain goes further. Without the needed water California will have to bring in food from other countries. Many of these countries do not have the regulations we do to grow healthy food.

Listen for Part 5 of the series.

CA Part 4

Part 4:

The water pumps that have been shut off due to the Endangered Species Act have enough water to produce crops on 200,000 acres of land. With water levels being at a record low a more than average rainfall must happen this winter or there will be zero water deliveries. Everyone across the nation will be affected by this.

Listen for Part 4 of the series.

CA Part 3


With up to 400,000 acres potentially not being planted, Latino farm workers are the first to experience unemployment. The job loss is already noticeable. Not only will their families suffer in California, but they will suffer in Mexico as well. Employees will no longer have enough money to send remittance to their loved ones.

Listen for Part 3 of the series.

CA Part 2


Many Latino workers came to California for a better life. They have worked many years to be able to finally send their children to college. If no federal water is delivered in 2014 workers are in danger of not only losing their jobs, but their houses too. 2014 is looking to be a devastating year.

Listen to hear more on Part 2 of the series, and check back for Part 3!


CA Water Crisis

The Endangered Species Act is contributing to a large water crisis in California. Listen to the first part of a series of 8 to learn how 2014 may be a devastating year for California and more.


Up to 400,000 acres of land devoted to crops in the Central San Joaquin Valley may lay idle this winter and early spring due to the possibility of zero water allocations. This low water allocation has been put in place due to the Endangered Species Act. This act is not only affecting farmers and growers, but workers and their families too. To many 2014 is not looking bright.

Check back for part 2 coming soon!