WERA103: Nutrient Management and Water Quality

(Multistate Research Coordinating Committee and Information Exchange Group)

Status: Inactive/Terminating

WERA103: Nutrient Management and Water Quality

Duration: 10/01/2015 to 09/30/2020

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

Plant nutrients are essential for the profitable and sustainable production of food, fiber, and bio-energy. Agricultural producers, consultants, and regulators all require accurate and up-to-date nutrient requirements and management information to make intelligent decisions.

Nutrient management in the Western Region is becoming increasingly important because of the need to maintain or increase productivity, to maximize resource use efficiency, to protect ground and surface water resources, and to ensure the long-term health of soil. When improperly used, nutrients have been implicated in decreased soil, air, and water quality, as well as reduced profitability, productivity, and water use efficiency.

Many specific management options can be implemented to improve the way nutrients are used. Best Management Practices (BMPs) are being developed for crops throughout the West to maximize nutrient use efficiency and to reduce adverse environmental impacts. Federal agencies, state Land Grant institutions, and private industry work cooperatively to identify and reduce the potentially negative impacts of poor nutrient management on economic and environmental sustainability. Since these issues are more related to cropping systems and regional conditions than to state-line boundaries, regional cooperation is needed to develop reliable, consistent, science-based recommendations. Information sharing on a region-wide basis improves accuracy and efficiency, and reduces duplications of effort and inefficient use of resources. Regional efforts apply more broadly than individual localized ones. This project has provided and continues to provide a unique and powerful educational forum for scientists, industry representatives, governmental agencies, and consultants to engage in dialogue concerning nutrient management issues.

BMPs are being developed by scientists for implementation across public and private sectors. A re-evaluation of current nutrient management practices and the development of improved techniques to determine specific crop nutrient requirements provide the foundation for increasing efficiency and profitability of nutrient use and improving soil, water, and air quality. Additionally, quantifying the fate of nutrients in unmanaged ecosystems provides important insight to processes occurring in managed agricultural soils. The use of organic nutrient sources, such as manure and compost, also pose challenges to efficient utilization and environment protection. Accurate soil, water, and plant analytical information is essential for making wise nutrient management decisions. This information is increasingly required for establishment of environmental regulations and for compliance to environmental standards. The cooperation and continuing education of analytical labs offering agricultural services and agricultural consultants is important for providing accurate information to local decision makers. Outputs from this project provide a sound footing for decisions by industry, government, producers, and scientists.


  1. Refine and improve nutrient recommendations based on soil, water, and plant analysis for efficient crop production and nutrient use, promoting responsible use of nutrients, and minimizing environmental impact in the Western Region.
  2. Develop and promote strategies for sustainability of soil, water and air resources - improve and sustain soil conditions (e.g. organic matter, soil health, salinity, nitrate levels) and air and water quality through management approaches such as efficient use of fertilizer, manure, compost, biological amendments, cover crops, reduced tillage, and efficient irrigation management in Western cropping systems.
  3. Provide education and outreach on the principles of soil-plant-animal-water systems function and management, and the tools and practices that lead to sustainable agricultural production.

Procedures and Activities

Procedures for Objective 1:
a) Develop and provide nutrient correlation and calibration standards for regional crops.
b) Develop and distribute regional standards for nutrient use regional crop production systems.
c) Evaluate and apply new nutrient analytical and interpretive methodologies.
d) Evaluate the efficacy of emerging organic, conventional and alternative fertilizers and nutrient management strategies.

Procedures for Objective 2:
a) Update and maintain and the Western States Laboratory Plant, Soil and Water Analysis Manual.
b) Review and revise soil/plant/water analysis guidelines to reflect BMPs.
c) Review methods to evaluate soil productivity and health that are suitable for soils in arid and semi-arid growing regions.
d) Explore and implement internet distribution outlets for outreach media (e.g., the methods manual and analytical interpretation guides).
e) Enhance the group website by expanding clientele outreach media.

Procedures for Objective 3:
a) Facilitate regional education across government agencies, private industry and universities through conferences, websites, extension publications, newsletters, and other appropriate media.
b) Disseminate information within the Western Region to extension educators, private agencies (e.g., Certified Crop Advisors) and other interested parties (e.g., K-12 teachers) through conferences, training the trainer opportunities, and access to published interpretive materials. c) Conduct direct education to agricultural producers through conferences, grower meetings, and published interpretive materials. Related, Current, and Previous Work:

Research relating to nutrient use efficacy is conducted throughout the region. Through this regional group, current information is relayed to diverse users including crop consultants, government regulators and agencies, industry, and university researchers. Recent biennial Western Nutrient Management conferences were held in Reno, Nevada in 2011, 2013 and 2015. This forum extended information on topics ranging from 1) nitrate management and regulatory status, 2) evaluations of nitrogen crop demands, fertilizer formulations, mineralization, leaching, volatilization, and monitoring 3) water and salt management to soil, manure, and plant testing, 4) data analysis techniques for field studies, and 5) specific crop nutrient recommendations. This is a major conduit for bringing current research and policy information to user groups.

This group conducts additional outreach activities including:

1) Articles in the American Society of Agronomy Crops & Soils Magazine Western Regional Roundup. Recent articles include:

  • D.D. Tarkalson and D.D. Bjorneberg, Deep-band placement of fertilizer increases corn grain yield in eroded soils. Jan-Feb 2013
  • J. Walworth, Zinc management for western pecans. Mar-Apr 2013
  • Olga S. Walsh, Robin J. Christiaens, and Arjun Pandey, Foliar-applied nitrogen fertilizers in spring wheat production, Jul-Aug 2013

2) The Nutrient Digest is a publication of the WERA-103 Committee. This free, web-based quarterly publication provides an outlet for nutrient issues and research updates. Recent issue contents include:


  • One-Time Summer Tillage of Chemical Fallow in Dryland Winter Wheat Rotation Does Not Negate Long-Term Benefits Accrued Under No-Till Management. Urszula Norton; University of Wyoming.
  • The New University of Idaho Cover Crop Calculator. Amber Moore; University of Idaho.
  • Conservation in Furrow-Irrigation Cropping Systems. Jay Norton; University of Wyoming.


  • Soil Quality and the Benefits of Crop Rotation, Reduced Tillage, and Manure Application. Jay Norton; University of Wyoming.
  • Year-To-Year Integration of Yield Response to Fertilizer Application in Tree Fruits. Grant Cardon; Utah State University.
  • Nutrient digest Newsletter Receives the ASA Extension Excellence Award. Amber Moore; University of Idaho.
  • Foliar Nutri-Hite May Improve Grain Yield and P Concentration of Winter Wheat. Kefyalew Girma; Washington State University.


  • Foliar-Applied Nitrogen Fertilizers in Spring Wheat Production. Olga S. Walsh; Montana State University.
  • Using Zinc to Reduce Cadmium in Durum Grain. Joyce Eckhoff; Montana State University.
  • Sulfur for Plant Nutrition. Robert Mikkelsen; International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI).


  • Nutrient Ratios, Sufficiency Levels, or Both? Nat B. Dellavalle; Dellavalle Laboratory, Inc.
  • Integrating Fertilizer and Manure Nitrogen Sources. Amber Moore; University of Idaho.
  • Leaf Sampling and Interpretation, the Nutrient Budgeting for Almond. Patrick Brown; Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis.
  • Nitrogen Management for Highbush Blueberry. David Dryla; USDA - ARS Corvallis.
  • Can Late Season Nitrogen Increase Yeast Assimilable Nitrogen (YAN) in Wine Grapes? Joan R. Davenport; Washington State University.


  • Reduced Tillage in Three Year Potato Rotation. Harold Collins; USDA - ARS Vegetable and Forage Research Unit, Prosser, WA.
  • Management Practices to Increase Wheat Grain Protein. Clain Joes; Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University.
  • Early Detection of Nitrogen in Corn is Key to Practicing 4R Nutrient Stewardship. Dr. L. Longschamps; Colorado State University.
  • Recommending Soil Copper Thresholds for Potato Production in Idaho. Amber Moore; University of Idaho.


  • Nutrient Best Management Practice = Assessing Adoption by Colorado Procedures. Troy Bauder; Colorado State University.
  • Irrigation Practice Affects Soil Phosphorus Availability. Jim Ippolito; USDA - ARS Kimberly, ID.
  • A New Pacific Northwest Extension Publication: Estimating Plant-Available Nitrogen from Cover Crops. Nick D. Andrews; Oregon State University.
  • Partnership with University of Idaho Parma Center and the J.R. Simplot Company. Terry A. Tindall; J.R. Simplot Company.


  • Influence of Recent Acidification on Soil Test Phosphorus and P Sorption. Kyle E. Bair; Washington State University.
  • Suitability of Composts for an Acid-Loving Plant: Highbush Blueberry. D.M. Sullivan; Oregon State University.
  • Selected Wine Grape Macro Nutrient Deficiencies. Joan R. Davenport; Washington State University.


  • Evaluation of Sensors for Improved Nitrogen Recommendations in Spring Wheat Production. Olga S. Walsh; Western Triangle Agricultural Research Center, Montana State University.
  • Detecting and Correcting Soil Calcium Limitations. Tim K. Hartz; University of California.
  • Where Do Fertilizers Come From? Rob Mikkelsen; Eastern North America International Plant Nutrition Institute.
  • Questions From the Field in The Land of Enchantment: What Can I Do To Make The Best of A Bad Water Year? Robert Flynn; New Mexico State University.


  • Overwinter Loss of Soil Nitrate. Clain Jones; Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University.
  • Choosing Your Nitrogen Fertilizers Based on Ammonia Volatilization. Donald A. Horneck; Oregon State University, Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center.
  • Announcing the New Nutrient Management Website from the University of Idaho. Amber Moore; University of Idaho.
  • Urea Application on Cold Soils. Rick Engel; Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, Montana State University.

Expected Outcomes and Impacts

  • Improved nutrient management recommendations and nutrient management guides for traditional and alternative crops in the region.
  • Conduct the biennial Western Nutrient Management Conference. This conference brings agricultural professionals and industry members from the Western Region together for training and communication on nutrient management. This leads to improved efficiency and reduced impact of fertilizer use on the environment.
  • Produce outreach publications, such as Nutrient Digest, Soils and Crops, and various online publications to highlight current nutrient management issues and research.
  • Provide educational opportunities in multiple venues throughout the Western region, with invited presentations by committee members. This will provide insight into scientific and technical resources for training, conferences, and grower meetings.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Educational Plan

The educational component of WERA-103 will focus on delivery of the latest nutrient management information and other technology to educators, industry agronomists, government agencies, and other interested parties. This will be done through regional publications, regional conferences, web-based bulletins, and other web based outlets such as educational videos, short courses and podcasts.

The past efforts by this group include holding the biannual Western Nutrient Management Conference (WNMC) which involves university, government and industry personnel sharing their findings, addressing and responding to emerging issues and interacting with a large group to expand the bidirectional understanding of the regional needs. The WNMC also fosters additional cooperative research and extension efforts.

Coordination with the North American Proficiency Testing Program and generating associated publications will educate the agricultural industry about continued advances in soil and plant analysis that are calibrated and scientifically rigorous, to support soil and plant analysis programs across the region.

Planned publications outlined in Methods will support state faculty and industry personnel in their ongoing educational efforts in nutrient management and water quality. The coordinated efforts of the groups producing these publications will help focus research efforts on those areas where additional data is needed and the working group forum ensures the regional nature, scientific rigor, and combined industry and extension promotion of sound, science based practice throughout the region.


The Committee Chair provides leadership for the committee and is responsible for coordination with the Western Directors, and for planning the annual meeting. The Committee Chair Elect provides support to the Chair and becomes the Chair the following year. The Secretary is responsible for submitting minutes and state reports from annual meeting and becomes Chair Elect. Officers serve for one year.

An individual is selected from the committee to be the Coordinator of the Western Nutrient Management Conference. This person works closely with the Committee leadership in program planning. Other subcommittees are established as needed to meet the planned programming of WERA-103.

Committee membership is open to qualified nutrient management professionals from a broad range of entities. The committee is currently comprised of representatives of Western region land-grant and other universities (University of Arizona, Brigham Young University, University of California-Davis, Colorado State University, University of Hawaii, University of Idaho, Montana State University, Oregon State University, Utah State University, Washington State University, and University of Wyoming), the USDA Agricultural Research Service, fertilizer producers (Wilbur-Ellis Co., J.R. Simplot Co., Agrium Advanced Technologies, Koch and Yara), agricultural testing companies (Dellvalle Laboratory, Inc., Soil Test Farm Consultants, Inc., Western Ag Innovations, Inc.), and the International Plant Nutrition Institute. The interdisciplinary nature of the committee is unique and vital to the group’s function.

Literature Cited

Western Nutrient Management Conference Proceedings. 2011. Vol. 9. March 3-4, 2011. Reno, Nevada http://www.ipni.net/ipniweb/conference/wnmc.nsf/0/4C6C97D2DFD5B75385257BF900510E36

Western Nutrient Management Conference Proceedings. 2013. Vol. 10. March 7-8, 2013. Reno, Nevada.

Western Nutrient Management Conference Proceedings. 2015. Vol. 11. March 5-6, 2015. Reno, Nevada.


Land Grant Participating States/Institutions


Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

ARS-ID, Brigham Young University, Dellavalle Laboratroy, Inc, IDA Consulting Services, Inc. , J.R. Simplot CO, Manure, Compost and USGAPT Proficiency Programs, Qualitech, Soiltest Farm Consultants, Inc, University of Idaho, USDA-ARS/Arizona, USDA-ARS/Idaho, Western Ag Innovations Inc., Wilbur-Ellis Company
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