New ‘big data’ tools help California wheat farmers reduce fertilizer guesswork – Food Blog

Growers in California grapple with loads of local weather uncertainty – however a brand new set of tools can help wheat farmers make essential fertilizer selections with extra precision and confidence.

An interactive web site integrates these tools – developed or tailored by researchers on the University of California, Davis and University of California Cooperative Extension – that present farmers with suggestions for making use of nitrogen fertilizers, particular to their very own websites and situations.

UCCE advisor Konrad Mathesius talks with wheat grower Fritz Durst

UCCE advisor Konrad Mathesius (left) talks with wheat grower Fritz Durst at an indication web site within the Sacramento Valley. Photo by Mark Lundy

“The system is made for being flexible, for being reactive – and not having a cookie-cutter approach, year-in and year-out, because the weather is not cookie-cutter, year-in and year-out,” mentioned Mark Lundy, UC Cooperative Extension specialist within the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.

While factoring in these climate variables, the administration device additionally attracts information from two indicators of nitrogen sufficiency or deficiency: the outcomes of a soil nitrate fast check (a easy check beforehand utilized in vegetable crop methods alongside the coast), and comparisons of plant well being within the broader subject to that in a “nitrogen-rich reference zone” (a apply initially developed within the Midwest).

Using them in tandem, within the context of California wheat rising, is a novel method. In a Nov. 4 webinar, Lundy will introduce the usage of the nitrogen-wealthy reference zone, a small space in a subject the place further fertilizer is added at first of the season.

“This project is a unique example of digital agriculture at work in an applied setting,” he defined. “We are integrating ‘big data’ sources like site-specific soil and weather data, as well as satellite, drone and other sensor measurements into an interactive web interface. This allows users to receive straightforward yet highly customized recommendations from somewhat complex agronomic models.”

Since 2019, agronomists from UC Davis and UCCE have been testing these tools in actual-world situations, with assist from the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program and a Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant.

The staff carried out 11 on-farm demonstrations in fields representing a variety of agroecosystems, together with the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Delta area, and Tulelake Basin.

Fritz Durst, a western Yolo County-based grower who participated in one of many case research, mentioned that the method of gathering the information was “actually pretty simple” and the device “eliminates much of the guesswork” for managing nitrogen fertilizers.

“This tool is extremely helpful for me to make decisions about the most efficient and cost-effective method for applying nitrogen to my wheat,” Durst mentioned.

In addition to doubtlessly rising crop productiveness and farmer internet-revenue, the device can profit the atmosphere by decreasing the quantity of nitrate leaching from fertilizer functions, in line with Lundy.

“It’s not only trying to say how much fertilizer to put down, sometimes it’s trying to confirm you don’t really need any fertilizer,” he mentioned.

More sources and occasions associated to the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Tool for California Wheat – together with demonstration actions – will seem on the UC Small Grains weblog.

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