Posts Tagged: fertilizer
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced today (Dec. 4) that a Stop Use notice and statewide quarantine have been issued for the organic fertilizer product AGRO GOLD WS to all organic operations registered in California.
Residents who use the product in their gardens or landscapes should also be aware the product may contain weed killers, said Chris McDonald, UC Cooperative Extension natural resources advisor.
"Home gardeners should not use the organic biological amendment Agro Gold WS, which is commonly sold as a bundled package with the organic herbicide Weed Slayer," said McDonald. "CDFA has found Agro Gold WS to have been adulterated with the herbicides glyphosate and diquat, which may kill your plants."
He advises home gardeners to read the CDFA press release at https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/egov/press_releases/Press_Release.asp?PRnum=20-173 for more information.
On a recent late-summer Wednesday, a freight container filled with cases of expired Muscle Milk protein drink awaited unloading at the UC Davis Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester (READ) while a front-loader scooped heaps of spoiled vegetables into a mechanical processor. Nourished by a diet of assorted food waste from the UC Davis campus and area restaurants and markets, READ harnesses the activity of billions of microbes to produce biogas capable of generating 5.6 million kWh per year of clean electricity for UC Davis.
But a by-product of READ and other anaerobic digesters – the slurry of leftover solid and liquid material, or digestate – has caught the attention of UC Davis researchers interested in “closing the loop” on food production, consumption, and waste. When processed through an anaerobic digester, organic materials like food discards, expired or off-spec food products, or animal manure can be transformed into concentrated biofertilizers and soil amendments that are highly effective and easily applied to crops.
In an interdisciplinary collaboration at the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility, funded by the California State Water Resources Control Board and the California Department of Food and Agriculture, UC Davis faculty and students have developed a pilot-scale process for commercial production of several forms of this biofertilizer using digestate from READ and other nearby digesters. They are also evaluating their effects on yield and other agronomic metrics in corn and tomato field trials – paving the way for farmers and growers to take advantage of a highly sustainable source of plant nutrition.
The challenge and opportunity of fertilizer from anaerobic biodigesters
The digestate from READ and other digester facilities can be applied directly to soil as a fertilizer, but, because it has a limited shelf-life, it usually must be applied to land in the immediate region of the facility. With the input of food waste that can vary widely from day to day, a facility's digestate is inconsistent in texture and composition, making it difficult to transport and apply to fields using common farm fertilizer equipment.
Filtering and drying this digestate, however, results in solid and liquid forms that can be concentrated, homogenized, easily transported, and applied to soil through existing drip irrigation systems or surface spreading equipment.
This process could allow farmers and growers located further away, and working with common irrigation and fertilizer application equipment, to supplement or replace their synthetic fertilizer consumption with biofertilizers from food waste or animal manure.
How do biodigestate products measure up to synthetic fertilizers?
The research, co-led by professor Ruihong Zhang from the UC Davis Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering (who also designed READ in partnership with Sacramento-based tech company CleanWorld) and Professor Kate Scow from the Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, developed pilot-scale systems to efficiently and consistently separate the solid and liquid portions of food- and manure-based digestates. The researchers then examined the nutrient composition of the solid and liquid biofertilizer products, finding that biodigestate-based fertilizers contain valuable nutrients and microbes not found in many synthetic fertilizers.
In current field trials, the researchers are investigating the effects of each of the biofertilizer products on crop yield and quality. Their preliminary results show that it is possible to grow irrigated processing tomatoes and short-season corn using biofertilizer products as the sole source of fertilizer. The origin of the fertilizer matters, however – manure-based liquid fertilizer formed additional large particles after the final filtration, creating concerns about clogging the drip irrigation system. The team thinks an environmentally benign chemical sometimes added to manure digesters to clean the biogas may be the culprit of the problem, but future research is needed. The solid biofertilizer pellets they developed show much promise, as they can be applied using existing methods for spreading compost and can be economically transported farther away from the digester.
In addition to better understanding the best processes for producing and using the biofertilizers, further research is needed to understand how much of the nitrogen in each of the fertilizer products is available for uptake by the crop, as well as economic analyses to determine the commercial-scale production and transportation costs. The researchers will be able to narrow in on the agronomic and economic potential of biofertilizers through the upcoming analysis of the yield of the corn and tomato experiment plots at Russell Ranch. The results of a tomato experiment recently showed that the digestate fertilizers produced just as much fruit as a popular synthetic fertilizer.
Interdisciplinary research for agricultural innovations
Russell Ranch, a program of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, is designed as a shared space for interdisciplinary research and innovation. The biofertilizer research, among other active projects at Russell Ranch, is an example of the fulfillment of that intention. “The soil scientists are learning engineering, the engineers are learning biology, and the biologists are learning about soil,” Professor Zhang remarked.
The exchange also extends beyond the university: a recent UC Davis Biofertilizer Field Day drew attendees from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, several public agencies, the agricultural sector, other universities, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and food processors. If the research continues to illuminate a way forward for biofertilizers, these audiences may fill important roles in bringing this new technology into practice – and in recycling your lunch leftovers back into a more efficient and sustainable food system.
More information: UC Davis READ, Russell Ranch, and the biofertilizer research
The UC Davis Renewable Energy Anaerobic Digester was unveiled in 2014 as the nation's largest anaerobic biodigester on a college campus, and represented a unique private-public partnership. Professor Ruihong Zhang invented the anaerobic digestion technology used by CleanWorld, which developed it into one of the most advanced commercially-available digester systems in the country.
Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility is a “living laboratory” for interdisciplinary field research and innovation. Its flagship project, the Century Experiment, measures the long-term impacts of energy, water, carbon, and nitrogen inputs on agricultural sustainability in the flagship Century Experiment.
The biofertilizer research collaboration includes Zhang Lab graduate students Tyler Barzee and Hossein Edalati, Scow Lab postdoctoral researcher Daoyuan Wang, and Russell Ranch manager Israel Herrera. Collaborating institutions include CleanWorld, California Bioenergy, New Hope Dairy (Galt, CA), Fiscalini Dairy (Modesto, CA), and Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
This story en español.
"When plants are under drought stress, we don't want to promote a lot of leafy growth," says Missy Gable in the fifth installment of UC ANR's six-part video series on saving water in the landscape. "If using fertilizer, choose a fertilizer low in nitrogen, or don't fertilize this year."
The UC Master Gardener Program provides a detailed description of landscape fertilizer needs on its California Backyard Orchard website. Visit the website to learn about the various nutrient needs of growing trees and shrubs, symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, and how much fertilizer should generally be applied each year.
View the latest video here:
Additional videos in the UC ANR video series on saving water in the landscape.
The videos are also available on the UC ANR YouTube channel.
Coming next week, a video about using fertilizers under drought conditions.
An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
Author: Jeannette Warnert
California farmers are seeing new nitrogen monitoring requirements they must implement in the years ahead. The state of California continues discussion on how growers can improve nitrogen use efficiency and how California can best respond to increasing concerns about nitrogen's movement through our environment. Nitrogen continues to be a pressing topic for California agriculture.
As part of that discussion, members of the public are invited to participate in the Stakeholder Review of the California Nitrogen Assessment (CNA), a comprehensive examination of the existing knowledge on nitrogen science, policy, and practice in California. Researchers have collected and synthesized a large body of data to analyze overall patterns and trends in nitrogen imports, exports, internal flows and storage throughout the state.
The CNA was designed to respond to stakeholder needs, and many scientists affiliated with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources were involved in the writing and review of the document. The review process is an opportunity to hear from stakeholders to understand how well the assessment meets those needs and what improvements can be made to the CNA before its publication. This approach aims to move beyond academic “business as usual” to more effectively link science with action and to produce information that informs both policy and field-level practice.
The Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, the CNA's convening institution, is hosting a chapter-by-chapter public review process to allow stakeholders an opportunity to comment on the document before its final release.
On Friday, June 12, UC SAREP hosted a webinar of Chapter 8: “Responses: Policies and Institutions.” View the webinar here. The webinar includes an introduction to the chapter by its lead author, Ken Baerenklau, associate professor of environmental economics and policy at UC Riverside, and instructions for how stakeholders can submit comments on the chapter.
Chapter 8, “Responses: Policies and Institutions,” provides an overview of available policy instruments for nonpoint source pollution control and examines outcomes from the implementation of these policies in previous cases to control nitrogen pollution in practice.
This is the fourth in a series of webinars and stakeholder review periods to discuss the California Nitrogen Assessment, which includes:
- Identification of underlying drivers (e.g., regulations, population growth) and direct drivers (e.g., fertilizer use and soil management, fuel combustion) that affect stocks and flows of nitrogen in California agriculture.
- Calculation of a mass balance to examine how nitrogen moves through California agroecosystems and the state as a whole (including agriculture, sewage, industry and transportation).
- Evaluation of the state of knowledge about nitrogen's impacts on ecosystem health and human well-being.
- A series of scenarios, or "plausible stories about the future," that provide insights about nitrogen issues that will require attention over the next 20 years.
- A suite of practices and policy options and the potential effects each would have on agriculture, the environment and human health.
Stakeholder comments for Chapter 8 will be accepted until June 26, 2015. The comment period for Chapter 7, “Responses: Technologies and Practices” is still open, with comments due by June 15, 2015. The webinars for all stakeholder presentations done to date are available on the California Nitrogen Assessment's website.
For more information about the stakeholder review process and to access the chapters currently available for review, visit the California Nitrogen Assessment's website.
“Farmers and ranchers have to continually adapt their management of soil nutrients to changing conditions,” said Aubrey White, UC SAREP's communication coordinator. “Adaptation during this extreme drought presents a new challenge for growers and researchers alike. This forum dedicated to the issues farmers will face next season is an opportunity to share resources, research and ideas for success.”
Kicking off on Nov. 17, the Nutrient Management Solutions series will offer the agriculture community:
- Online presentations, videos or Q&A with farmers and UC Cooperative Extension advisors on nutrient management and soil fertility, with special focus on tree crops, grapes and dairy farms.
- Facilitated online discussions in the active FarmsReach Conversations, moderated by Series presenters. (Join the Nutrient Management Solutions Group in FarmsReach to participate.)
- A new “Soil Nutrient Management Toolkit” in FarmsReach, with selected practical resources and info sheets for farmers of all crop and product types.
The online series is part of the Solution Center for Nutrient Management—a growing resource for nutrient management research and information, online and in-person created by UC SAREP.
The presentations, videos and facilitated online Q&A will be hosted in three sections:
- Nov. 17-30 – Nutrient Management in Times of Drought: Tree Crops
- December (dates to be announced) – Nutrient Management in Times of Drought: Wine Grapes
- January (dates to be announced) – Nutrient Management in Times of Drought: Dairy Forage Crops
To get updates and announcements, or to share your ideas for the drought-focused Nutrient Management Solutions series, sign up for free at www.farmsreach.com. You can also go directly to the online group within FarmsReach, http://www.farmsreach.com/nutrient-mgmt-series, and follow news on Twitter at #AgSolutionCenter.
About UC SAREP
The University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (UC SAREP) a program in UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, provides leadership and support for scientific research and education in agricultural and food systems that are economically viable, conserve natural resources and biodiversity, and enhance the quality of life in the state's communities. SAREP serves farmers, farmworkers, ranchers, researchers, educators, regulators, policy makers, industry professionals, consumers and community organizations across the state.
Founded in 2007, FarmsReach is a network that connects small- and medium-scale farms to the products, support and services they need to be successful. By partnering with farmer members and agriculture organizations, FarmsReach offers a growing suite of services that empower farmers to make better business decisions, access new markets, preserve the environment and strengthen rural communities.
About Sustainable Conservation
Sustainable Conservation partners with business, agriculture and government to find practical ways that the private sector can protect clean air, clean water and healthy ecosystems. The independent nonprofit organization leads powerful collaborations that produce lasting solutions and sustain the vitality of both the economy and the environment.