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UC Davis begins $2.8 million in studies of agricultural nitrogen's impacts
Date:6/12/2009

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  • Nitrogen runoff in bays and coastal areas, where it makes algae numbers spike then crash, drawing oxygen from the water and leading to "dead zones" -- areas that cannot support finfish, shellfish or most other aquatic life.

    Those environmental impacts are not fully documented, Tomich said.

    "With this new funding, we can start to fill in those blanks, and improve management of nitrogen, carbon and water to help move agriculture toward sustainability in significant ways," he said.

    Data on agricultural nitrogen pollution are limited, and some nitrogen pollution forms are difficult to monitor. Measurements can be labor-intensive and expensive and are influenced by variables such as weather conditions, irrigation timing and method, and crop-specific fertilization practices.

    The new studies should improve data-collection methods, said Agricultural Sustainability Institute researcher Johan Six, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences.

    "It's urgent that we know how much nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases are released during irrigation and fertilization of farm lands in California," Six said. "The good news is we know that it is economically feasible to reduce these emissions. The first step is quantifying the necessary reductions."

    The new Agricultural Sustainability Institute grants and objectives include:

    • $1.5 million from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for a statewide assessment of existing scientific evidence on nitrogen use in conventional and alternative farming systems, and relevant practices and policy options. Also: a program to improve communication about nitrogen concerns among California farmers, ranchers, extension advisors, environmental and community groups, agribusiness (including the fertilizer industry) and government agencies (including California Department of Food and Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). This grant
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    Contact: Tom Tomich
    tptomich@ucdavis.edu
    530-574-2503
    University of California - Davis
    Source:Eurekalert

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