California Fields Produce High Levels of Pollution

Farmers in the Midwest, Northeast and North Central states interested in splitting their N applications should follow some best practices, including knowing what their soil type needs.

According to a recent study from UC Davis, California agricultural fields are causing major nitrogen oxide pollution in the state. The study indicates up to 20% to 32% of this smog is produced by agriculture fields with fertilizer applications.

“Recent findings have suggested that agriculture is one of the dominant sources of nitrogen oxide in the U.S., particularly the Midwest region, where fertilizer inputs are substantial,” the study says. “Local field measurements have similarly ascribed high nitrogen oxide emissions to agricultural soil.”

The group tested soils from California’s Central Valley and says statewide assessments are needed before suggesting new policies for the pollution. If the study is proven, it could mean regulations will be implemented that change farm operations in the state—a move with which farmers and other stakeholders might disagree.

“I would say from our perspective, we would caution that this is one report and to our knowledge it has not been peer-reviewed,” says Renee Pinel, president and CEO of the Western Plant Health Association in Sacramento. “A wide range of universities and regulatory entities have been researching this area for an extensive period of time and not found agricultural lands to be significant contributors of nitrogen oxide.”

“Before more regulations that will add even more costs to agriculture are considered, we believe that this study needs to be thoroughly reviewed by other scientists and duplicated to assure its validity,” she adds.

The UC Davis study concludes that ag soils produce up to 51% of the state’s total nitrogen oxide budget and sources it back to nitrogen fertilizer applications. It continues to insinuate that regulation or other changes will be necessary to reduce this pollution. “Implementation of strategies to reduce these emissions will be imperative.”