The California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Western Plant Health Association (WHPA) teamed up last week to present the 20th annual Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) conference in Modesto. Based on attendance alone, it was a great success. More than 260 people attended – a record. Farmers, certified crop advisers, regulators and representatives of fertilizer manufacturers were among those in attendance. We would like to thank everybody who came out as well as CDFA Secretary Karen Ross for speaking to the group about some of the opportunities and challenges ahead, and Assemblymember Kristin Olsen, who commented on the importance of the conference and the value it can bring to producers throughout the state.
The conference addressed some key issues facing the fertilizer industry – notably, nitrogen fertilizers. Many of us working on this issue are aligned in our commitment to find practical ways to reduce nitrates in soil through the use of effective management practices. FREP is working proactively with coalitions, state water boards and commodity groups to assist in nutrient management plans to maximize efficiency and is planning to offer the following new tools to assist:
- A searchable database for 20 years of FREP research with goal of easy access, usability and transfer of knowledge to consultants, growers and certified crop advisors.
- A Certified Crop Advisor Training Certification Program to aide technical professionals, such as certified crop advisors, in working with growers on nutrient management planning activities.
A key component to the success of this conference is the dedicated staff and leadership of the FREP, which was responsible for all aspects of the conference. The department is fortunate to have dedicated staff working year after year to improve the conference and effectively deliver scientific research information to audiences that can implement the results on the farm.
As we look to the future, we know that world demand for food will increase, and that our growers will strive to meet that demand while enhancing environmental quality. We believe the annual FREP/WHPA fertilizer conference will help show the way.