UC nitrate *quick test* protects water quality

May 17, 2010

Lettuce farmers can use less fertilizer - saving money, cutting back water use and reducing nitrate groundwater contamination risk  - without sacrificing crop yield by employing a "quick test" developed by UC Cooperative Extension, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

With the quick test, growers can determine how much nitrogen is in the soil and use only as much fertilizer as their lettuce needs to grow.

UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Michael Cahn told reporter Julia Scott that he helped one company use 70 pounds less fertilizer per acre and get the same yield.

The Chronicle story was focused on imposing regulations to ease water nitrate contamination in California. Cal State East Bay earth and environmental science professor Jean Moran pointed to agriculture as the primary source of the problem.

"It covers a much larger area, it's a constant input of nitrates in groundwater and you have constant irrigation and over-irrigation, which drives the nitrates deeper into the groundwater," Moran was quoted. "But if you look for new evidence of regulations on nitrate issues in groundwater, you just don't find them."

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By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist