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Position Details

073 Nutrient and Waste Management Specialist

Submitter: James MacDonald (Associate Dean )
Submit Date: 12-Nov-10
Proposal: Nutrient and Waste Management Specialist (Specialist )

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Status

This proposal has been formally submitted for the 2012 cycle.

Comments

6 Comments

1
The Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UCD, including the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and Russell Ranch, are pursuing research and outreach initiatives on nutrient and water management as well as recycling of agricultural and urban waste through land application. This Specialist could collaborate with ASI in those initiatives.
We would also like to ensure that the background and expertise of this Specialist would include water quality aspects, so that the Specialist could provide leadership in researching the water quality impacts of different nutrient/waste management practices, as well as integration of nutrient and irrigation management. An additional research and extension area would include collaborating across the ANR research and extension spectrum to develop a long-term statewide monitoring framework with credible and reliable indicators for assessing the impacts of on-farm nutrient/waste management practices on water quality in different farming conditions across the state’s key production regions. Such work might include developing a monitoring protocol that could be integrated into existing field research already being undertaken by ANR colleagues.
If these elements were added, then this position would address ANR’s initiative to improve water quality, quantity, and security, in addition to the other initiatives already listed.
Posted Mar 29, 2012 9:28 AM by Sonja Brodt
2
Given the many urgent issues related to nutrient management in California, this position should receive very high priority within ANR. Much of the expertise related to nutrient management within the Univ of Calif has been lost through retirement in recent years. At the same time the importance of nutrient and waste management has continued to grow.

There are fundamental issues related to nutrient stewardship that underpin sustainability of agriculture in California. For example, there are major environmental impacts to consider (such as water and air quality), economic sustainability, and social acceptance. Clearly, this is a time to augment the efforts of ANR in this area.

This position could provide key leadership for training Certified Crop Advisors and industry agronomists to better improve their stewardship of nutrients and waste products on the >80,000 farms and ranches in the state. There would be many trans-disciplinary opportunities for collaboration across UC departments, campuses, and various public (such as USDA-NRCS and CDFA) or private organizations (such as WPHA and IPNI) for this specialist. A specialist with a strong understanding of field-based processes and production agriculture would be most suitable.
Posted Jul 13, 2012 2:57 PM by Rob Mikkelsen
3
Given the many urgent issues related to nutrient management in California, this position should receive very high priority within ANR. Much of the expertise related to nutrient management within the Univ of Calif has been lost through retirement in recent years. At the same time the importance of nutrient and waste management has continued to grow.

There are fundamental issues related to nutrient stewardship that underpin sustainability of agriculture in California. For example, there are major environmental impacts to consider (such as water and air quality), economic sustainability, and social acceptance. Clearly, this is a time to augment the efforts of ANR in this area.

This position could provide key leadership for training Certified Crop Advisors and industry agronomists to better improve their stewardship of nutrients and waste products on the >80,000 farms and ranches in the state. There would be many trans-disciplinary opportunities for collaboration across UC departments, campuses, and various public (such as USDA-NRCS and CDFA) or private organizations (such as WPHA and IPNI) for this specialist. A specialist with a strong understanding of field-based processes and production agriculture would be most suitable.
Posted Jul 14, 2012 8:31 PM by Rob Mikkelsen
4
Nutrient management is an emerging and critical issue for tree nut growers and this position is needed to address both economic and regulatory concerns for California pistachio growers. There are educational needs as well as research/technology needs that this position should address as we try to both define and improve nutrient use under changing circumstances. Research and extension are also needed to provide guidance to conventional and organic growers using organic amendments and byproducts.
Some urban areas are looking at the San Joaquin Valley as a potential urban waste disposal site, particularly sewage wastes including biosolids. How the nutrients and salts associated with this waste are managed are critical to maintaining and improving water quality in this area. The food safety aspects of ag and urban waste should not be overlooked although research/extension in both nutrient management and food safety is a bit broad for any one individual.
Posted Aug 7, 2012 2:57 PM by Bob Klein, California Pistachio Research Board
5
This position was ranked #1 of a ranking of BOTH Farm Advisor and Specialist positions through a survey of CE positions by the Agronomic Crops Program Team. It cuts across all crops, and it represents expertise that we have lost or are continuing to loose, but is badly needed to address issues of nutrient management in veg crops, agronomic crops, orchards, city wastes, and dairy nutrient recycling. There is considerable technical and research-based expertise required to address groundwater pollution issues as well as other environmental consequences of nutrients. This should be on the top of anyone's list of CE positions to fill.
Posted Aug 7, 2012 7:47 PM by Dan Putnam, UC Davis
6
Almond growers have identified the need for improved efficiencies in nutrient managements as a high priority area and have been funding research with several researchers in an effort to do so. However, from that research, combined with the more recent regulatory pressures on nitrogen fertilizers, we have identified a particular need for additional effort to better understand how various sources of organic matter for nutrients interact with the trees’ needs and soils. This is true whether the source is animal waste, human/urban waste (biosolids), or plant material. Thus, we support the need for additional applied expertise in the area of nutrient management using various sources of waste/organic matter and perennial crops.

The UC-Davis Nitrogen Assessment and the Nitrate Report both indicate it would be beneficial if could find ways to better utilize animal waste to supply plant nutrients. However, that use faces several hurdles – food safety being a big one for tree nuts, the addition of salts, the uncertainty of N being available when the tree really needs it, etc. There are also increasing examples of cities seeking the right to put biosolids on agricultural lands and again there is uncertainty about how best to do so and not cause other issues. Currently it is not uncommon for almond growers to incorporate some native cover crop and/or chipped prunings without fully understanding how best to do so for soil tilth and tree access to nutrients when needed. In parallel, the costs for synthetic fertilizers have increased significantly over the last 10 years and the regulatory pressures on nitrogen have increased.

We have heard the younger generation of farm advisors, PCAs/CCAs and growers asking for better advice on nutrient management in our research committee meetings. Thus, a specialist in the area of nutrient management with a focus on the use of various organic matters sources would be very helpful.

We do have some suggestions for the job description as currently written. While increased nutrient use efficiency is our top research priority, is not primarily from the use of “organic and low input based systems”, nor is the focus to be “carbon neutral”. Tree nuts are a high protein food, thus are high users of N fertilizers. Relying on organic matter sources (at least the currently available types) solely is not realistic for the majority of the acreage. Thus, we suggest that the research priorities be re-ordered and reworded to 1) improve nutrient use efficiency using various sources of organic matter, solely and in combination with synthetic fertilizers; 2 ) efficacy and risks associated with land application of waste and waste waters in agricultural, natural, and urban landscapes; 3) identification of nutrient and agricultural amendments to improve nutrient use efficiency; 4) investigating the fate of any type of fertilizer (not “agricultural chemicals” which implies pesticides) input in the environment, particularly water resources.

It is not clear whether research priority (3) for “developing cost effective and energy efficient nutrient management strategies for bio-fuel production” is to focus on the growing of plants for biofuels or the use of animal/urban/plant waste for biofuels and the waste from that for fertilizer. We agree with the need for the latter (and it fits the justification), but think others are already focused on the development of biofuel crops. Thus suggest the language be clarified.

In addition, we suggest that the position specifically include collaboration with the various existing and proposed irrigation management positions (e.g. the new LAWR plant water specialist or the proposed position for (025) Irrigation System Engineering), as any nutrient management is necessarily tightly linked to the irrigation system and management. Also, consideration should be given to how best to collaborate with proposed position #81 “Orchard Systems Ecology Specialist”. If 81 and this position (73) are both funded, close collaboration would be very fruitful. Also a look needs to be given to what other proposals in the area of biofuels have been put forward to see if overlap or synergies are possible.

It is not clear from the description how much of the focus is to be on perennial and/or annual crop systems. We would argue that there are currently skill sets available within the UC system focused on some of these questions for annual crops but none really for perennial crops, yet the acreage of perennial crops has increased significantly the last 15-20 years in California. Almond acreage alone has doubled in 20 years. We have tried to find research collaborators to fund and have not been successful in the area of organic matter fertilizers in orchards.
Posted Aug 7, 2012 8:18 PM by Gabriele Ludwig

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