Title : Nitrogen fertility in potato for optimum production and environmental stewardship
Groundwater in parts of the Southern San Joaquin Valley has high nitrate levels. A State Water Resources Control Board commissioned report has indicated that crop land agriculture is the main source of nitrates in the groundwater. Annual rainfall is less than 20 cm, thus irrigation is necessary for optimum crop production. A project was undertaken to evaluate current nitrogen fertility and irrigation scheduling in potato production and their contribution, or lack thereof, to nitrate movement in the soil profile and potential nitrate contamination of groundwater. A line-source sprinkler plot area was established to create soil moisture regimes of 120% of target, target (optimum soil moisture for potato growth) and 80% of target. Pre-plant and post-harvest soil samples were collected to a depth of 2 meters. Plant, root and tuber samples were collected and analyzed for nitrogen content. Soil moisture and irrigation amounts were monitored. Plant dry matter and tuber yield increased with each N rate increase. The high N rate increased plant growth disproportionally to the increased tuber yield. Appropriate irrigation scheduling did not produce water movement beyond the effective potato rooting zone. Excessive irrigation moved soil nitrate deeper into the soil profile.