Sustainable Ag Lecture Series - Spring 2013
Each term, the Center for Sustainability hosts a public lecture and/or event highlighting topics in sustainable agriculture, food or resource management.
Friday, May 17
9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
San Luis Obispo Grange Hall
May 17 Workshop Highlights New Methods for Assessing Agricultural Nutrient Levels
The Cal Poly College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences’ Center for Sustainability and the Cal Poly Compost Project hosted a special public workshop titled “Understanding & Testing Agricultural Nutrients” Friday, May 17. The event was part of the center’s ongoing training in nutrient cycling in soils and was presented in collaboration with the Coastal San Luis and Upper Salinas – Las Tablas RCDs (resource conservation districts) and with the support of center donor, Deb Robinson.
PDFs of SPEAKER PRESENTATIONS:
The workshop educated farmers, composters, certified crop advisors, extension specialists, land managers, consultants and anyone else interested about how nutrient cycles work in soils and how key agricultural nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) can be measured quickly, effectively and economically to establish best management practices. In particular, training on new technologies such as biological carbon dioxide-burst potential to assess nitrogen availability in soils were of special value to those needing to manage soil fertility. Measuring the respiration of soil organisms provides valuable information on how nutrients are being used, which is critically important in systematic soil function and in nutrient management planning.
The training comes at a critical time for the California agricultural industry, which is being called upon increasingly to monitor and budget nutrients. The accurate quantification of agricultural inputs to soils will play a fundamental role in safeguarding soil, water and air quality into the future.
The training featured leading experts in soil testing and management including Bob Miller, soil scientist, professor and coordinator of laboratory proficiency programs. Currently the technical director of the Agricultural Laboratory Proficiency program with Collaborative Testing Services Inc., Miller has more than 25 years of experience coordinating soil analysis proficiency testing programs. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nebraska. Before earning his doctorates in soil fertility and soil chemistry at Montana State University, he managed a plant nutrition laboratory at Texas A&M University. He served as director of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Diagnostic Laboratory at UC Davis and as extension soil specialist from 1988 to 1997. In 1992, he co-founded the Western States Proficiency Testing Program, which pioneered agricultural inter-laboratory collaboration in the Western U.S. In 1997, Miller joined Colorado State University as an affiliate professor in Soils and Crop Sciences, where he was a leader in the development of the North American Proficiency Testing program (NAPT).
Also speaking were Joe Mullinax, certified plant pathologist and owner of Denele Laboratories in Tulare, Calif., and Emmy Williams, soil scientist and laboratory manager of 20 years at Betteravia Farms in Santa Maria, Calif.
This unique combination of expertise provided workshop participants with a deep understanding of the state of the art in testing soil and agricultural amendments; how national laboratory proficiency programs (including NAPT and ALP) are seeking to standardize such testing; what industrywide data collection is revealing about nutrient use; and how progressive laboratory recommendations are best interpreted for maximum efficiency in agricultural nutrient utilization. Industry trends and forecasts were discussed. Local experts gave guest presentations highlighting regional efforts and testing concerns related to water quality security.
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