DDD Conference

6. Dr. Shahar Baram

The Untapped Free N – What Can Be Done About It?

Volcani Institute, Agricultural Research Organization, Israel

Irrigated agriculture is at least twice as productive per unit of land as rainfed agriculture and provides about 40% of the total global food produced. Nitrogen (N) fertilizers are an essential part of any commercial agricultural production. Yet, over-application of N-fertilizers has led to surface and groundwater contamination (mainly as nitrate (NO3-)), increased nitrous oxide emissions, crop loss, and harm to natural habitat following reactive N deposition. Despite its detrimental impact, nitrate in irrigation water of any source (i.e., surface water, groundwater, treated wastewater (TWW)) may serve as a “free N source” for crop production and accounting for that N-source, may reduce the farmer’s operational costs, reduce its carbon footprint and serve as a sustainable remediation solution for polluted water sources. To date, continuous, reliable data on the N concentrations in the irrigation water is scarce; hence farmers hardly account for that free N source. Recently, the N-Pool initiative was founded with the aim of providing free real-time data on the N concentrations in irrigation waters, starting with TWW. This will be achieved through collaboration between all relevant government bureaus in Israel and the integration of off-the-shelf N monitoring technologies solutions. Currently, we are working on establishing a pilot trial with TWW reservoirs in Israel.


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