Website helps growers manage nitrogen, irrigation applications

01/31/2013 02:23:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

The University of California has launched a website that helps growers easily track nitrogen and irrigation water applications to better manage their crop.

The website, known as CropManage, can be accessed on a regular computer or with a tablet, according to a news release.

Currently, it contains information for production of romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce and broccoli.

Strawberries and caneberry data are next up, and research is underway on leafy greens, such as spinach and baby leaf lettuce, so they can be added.

The idea for CropManage came from Salinas Valley growers who needed an easy way to use the quick nitrate soil test and weather-based irrigation scheduling.

Michael Cahn, a UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Monterey County, helped lead the project, along with colleagues Tim Hartz in the plant sciences department at UC Davis and Richard Smith, a farm advisor in Monterey County.

Field tests showed the Web-based program can help growers reduce nitrogen fertilizer applications by up to 30 percent.

Growers had complained at how cumbersome it was to obtain weather information from the statewide CIMIS system.

They also wanted results that didn't require serious math.

CropManage automatically downloads the CIMIS data and pulls soil, crop growth and water requirements from a UC research database.

A user simply names a field, adds the type of irrigation system used and how much water it delivers per hour.

At planting, the user selects the type of crop and inputs the results of the nitrogen quick test.

The program calculates the irrigation set length, the frequency and how much nitrogen, if any, to apply.

Throughout the season, the user can monitor the program—kind of like a virtual farm.

The data also can be downloaded into an Excel file.

During the 2012 growing season, several growers tested the beta version.

"It's very easy to use,” Corey Ranch manager Salavador Montes said in the release. "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.”

Learn more about a mini-CropManage workshop, Feb. 26, by visiting The Grower events.



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