Tractor in wheat field
Participants touring research sites during the 2013 Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility Field Day at UC Davis. (Photo by Diane Nelson | UC Davis)

Russell Ranch Field Day: Nitrogen Research

Annual event to showcase variety of nitrogen research, including how field management affects cycling.

Managing nitrogen on California farms requires a close look from every possible angle. On Thursday, May 21, scientists and growers will provide a panoramic view of the latest developments in nitrogen research and management practices at the annual Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility Field Day at UC Davis.

“Our knowledge of nitrogen is constantly evolving,” said Tom Tomich, director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis, which houses Russell Ranch, and lead author on the forthcoming California Nitrogen Assessment. “It’s important to continuously take stock of what we know, and equally important to keep looking at the challenge of optimizing nitrogen use and lessening its negative impact from a variety of perspectives.”

Farmers, UC Cooperative Extension specialists and advisors, and the general public are invited to attend the event, which will showcase a wide variety of research from how nitrogen functions at the statewide level, to how field management can affect nitrogen cycling. Researchers will share how to view fields from above, using remote sensing to measure nitrogen content in crops, and how to dig into soils to best predict nitrogen requirements for a growing season.  

“Farmers need the tools to accurately manage their nitrogen inputs,” said Kate Scow, director of the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility. “Beyond what’s happening in research, we want to share tools and practical approaches to nitrogen management that can be immediately applicable for farmers.”

Farmers work hard to improve nitrogen use in order to optimize farming systems, stay ahead of anticipated nitrogen monitoring requirements, and manage limited water supplies. Many farmers have converted to drip irrigation systems for more precise watering and fertilization. The field day will address how to make the most of those systems.

In a panel format, California farmers will talk about their on-farm nitrogen management practices, and how drought is affecting their nutrient planning.

Field day participants will also get a tour of Russell Ranch’s long-term agricultural sustainability experiment, The Century Experiment, and can see first-hand the field level effects of different management practices side-by-side.

Now in its 22nd year, The Century Experiment is collecting 100 years of data and focusing on the long-term effects of a variety of farming inputs — water, fertilizer, energy, and additional soil amendments — on the Central Valley’s most prominent crops. 

The 2015 Russell Ranch field day will be held from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and includes lunch. Registration is $10 for the general public, $5 for students, and free for farmers. Certified crop advisers will receive four continuing education units for attending. Registration is required, and can be found here. For more information, click here.

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