Drought management experts from Israel and Australia will join U.S. scientists in California for a workshop in Modesto on Jan. 12 and 13. Growers, crop consultants, irrigation practitioners, state agency members and others are invited to participate.
The two-day event, “Proven Solutions to Drought Stress: Water Management Strategies for Perennial Crops with Limited and Impaired Water Supplies,” is designed to foster conversation on a variety of drought management aspects and strategies. The drought workshop will be held at the Modesto Centre Plaza at 1150 9th Street in Modesto.
“California, Israel and Australia have all faced recurring drought conditions of varying severity and duration,” said James Ayars, research agricultural engineer of USDA Agricultural Research Service in Parlier, Calif., who spearheaded the event to bring together this prestigious group of scientists. “In view of more frequent and more severe recurring droughts in the years to come, it makes sense for us to pool our knowledge and plan more strategically for the future.”
Other speakers include Shabtai Cohn, head of Israel's Agricultural Research Organization Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences Institute, John Hornbuckle, associate professor at Deakin University in Australia, and other researchers from Israel and Australia.
This workshop is sponsored by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), UC California Institute for Water Resources and the Israel Ministry of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Organization.
“We hope to share expertise gained from experiences in our respective countries and learn new approaches for growing crops with limited water and poor quality water under the prospect of increased climate variability and change,” said Daniele Zaccaria, UC ANR Cooperative Extension specialist in agricultural water management in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis and one of the event organizers. “Although Australia and Israel have very different climatic and socioeconomic conditions, there may be drought management strategies and policies that work in California that they can apply, and they may have practices and policies that we can adapt to address issues in California.”
Registration is $80 and includes lunch for both days. Dec. 18 is the deadline for early registration. After Dec. 18, registration is $120 until Jan. 1, 2016, and $150 after Jan. 1. There will be no on-site registration.
Certified crop advisers can earn continuing education units: Soil & Water Management 12.0 CEU and Crop Management 0.5 CEU.
To see the agenda and to register, please visit http://www.droughtmgt.com.
Lodging is available next to the Modesto Centre Plaza at the DoubleTree Hotel at 1150 9th Street in Modesto.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Conceived by Michael Cahn, UCCE farm advisor in Monterey County, and programmed by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources web team, the free website – ucanr.edu/cropmanage – allows farmers to quickly calculate the precise fertilizer and water needs of their crops.
“It’s great,” said Salvador Montes, ranch manager at Corey Ranch in the Salinas Valley, who pilot-tested the software last year on lettuce crops. “It’s very accurate in predicting the irrigation times and fertilizer (needs). It actually worked! We didn’t see any significant yield reduction using less water and fertilizer.”
By applying only the exact amount of water and fertilizer to optimize plant growth, the new website keeps farmers from using too much. Overfertilizing in the past has resulted in groundwater contamination with nitrate, a serious concern in the Salinas Valley and other farming regions. In coastal areas, overpumping wells can lead to sea water intrusion into the aquifer.
“Besides, fertilizer and water are expensive inputs,” Cahn said. “Applying more than the crop needs is like throwing money down the drain.”
On Feb. 26, Cahn will offer a mini CropManage workshop during the 2013 Irrigation and Nutrient Management Meeting at the Monterey County Agricultural Center, 1432 Abbott Street in Salinas. The meeting runs from 7:45 a.m. and concludes with a pizza lunch at 12 noon. Following lunch, the one-hour CropManage workshop begins. No reservations are required.
“Inspiration for this project,” Cahn said, “came from local growers who expressed a need for software to help them use the quick nitrate soil test and weather-based irrigation scheduling in their farming operations.”
Cahn and his colleagues, Tim Hartz, UCCE specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, and Richard Smith, UCCE advisor in Monterey County, have been conducting trials for years to determine whether the combination of quick nitrogen testing and weather-based irrigation scheduling could reliably reduce the amount of nitrogen that lettuce growers apply.
“We demonstrated a 30-percent reduction in nitrogen fertilizer application,” Cahn said.
The excitement of such a significant result was tempered by the fact that implementing the research results on individual farms would require some serious math.
“When we introduced farmers to the quick nitrate test, some said they would have to hire someone to manage all the data, keep records and make decisions. I realized that we could make this a lot easier for them by programming software to do the work,” he said.
For example, farmers who wish to use weather data to schedule irrigation for lettuce must sign into CIMIS (California Irrigation Management Information Service) to request an email with reference evapo-traspiration for their locations. The data must be punched into an equation along with the irrigation coefficient for lettuce – a figure that represents how much water the lettuce needs – and the size of the lettuce canopy at the time of irrigation. This time-consuming data collection and manipulation is eliminated with CropManage.
“We’ve figured out how to facilitate all these calculations,” Cahn said.
“In effect, they set up a virtual ranch,” Cahn said.
When the farmer is ready to plant, the type of crop and results of a nitrogen quick test are added.
“The program recommends how long and when the irrigation should run and how much nitrogen, if any, should be added,” Cahn said. “The recommendations are updated automatically, taking into consideration the weather and the crop’s stage of growth.”
Throughout the growing season, farmers can monitor the progress of their farms by viewing online tables where irrigation, fertilization and growth are tracked. At any time, all the data can be downloaded as an Excel file the farmer can using for accounting or making reports.
Corey Ranch manager Montes said he accesses CropManage on a tablet computer.
“It’s very easy to use,” Montes said. “It’s easy to log on, input information and read from the tables. I love it. It’s a great tool and is definitely going to help us manage our water and fertilizer in a better way.”
Currently, CropManage contains information for production of romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce and broccoli. Strawberries and caneberry data will be added to the system. Research is underway on leafy greens, such as spinach and baby leaf lettuce, so they also can be added.
“Everything we learn in research, we will add to CropManage,” Cahn said. “And by using it, growers can give us feedback on how accurate the system is. This is a fluid product. If growers find something that doesn’t work, we can change it.”
Development of the website was supported by a grant from the California Department of Agriculture Fertilizer Research and Education Program.
For more information about the 2013 Irrigation and Nutrient Management Meeting on Feb. 26 or about CropManage, contact Cahn at (831) 759-7377, email@example.com.