Nitrogen Below the Soil Surface in Washington
Farmers in Washington (USA), have had many years of experience in managing nitrogen levels across the soil’s surface. Farmers and agronomists have the necessary knowledge on how much nitrogen is needed to achieve healthy crop yields, by taking soil samples from the ground. Farmers have had many years of experience in managing nitrogen levels within the top foot or two of soil. However it is still a mystery from this day, as to how much nitrogen is below the soil surface. Many farmers, private owners and public water officials are wanting to find out as much as possible in relation to nitrogen levels below the soil surface.
Farmers are not particularly concerned with the unknown, since it does not affect the roots of their crops. However, certain crops such as sugar beets can absorb water and nutrients from 5 feet down. It would be a great interest to know how much soil can be found deep below the soil surface, since it may impact the fertilisation management and reduce sugar content.
Digging into the 6 foot soil can be challenging, since it requires a probe mounted on special equipment. This can be costly for farmers who require using this on a daily basis.
Yakima Ground Water Management Area is using the same approach as the Columbia Basin study, was conducted 14 years ago. The aim of this case study was to find out how nitrogen and irrigation water management is affecting groundwater quality. Data was collected from 438 fields, where farmers were recommended improving their farming methods.
The Washington State University wants to use the same method by involving as many farmers as possible. This study is also being carried out in northern Idalo, where soil samples are being collected to find nitrogen levels below the soil surface. Fishers will also work with Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission to collect soil samples and organise the data accordingly.