Funds Available for Fertilizer Research and Education

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is accepting applications for Phase I of the Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) with applications due January 29, 2021. Grant Funding of $75,000 per year for up to three years is typical for projects.

Proposals must focus on at least one of the priority areas listed below and may focus on research and/or education projects to provide growers and industry with cost-effective practices to improve the efficient use of fertilizer and minimize environmental impacts. All projects should have strong scientific merit (e.g. replicates, statistical analysis). Research projects must include outreach to end-users. Outreach and education projects should include measures of impact.

Who is eligible to apply for the FREP? Any individual or group may submit a concept proposal. Concept proposals may originate from outside California, but at least some of the work must be performed in California, and all the work must be relevant to California agriculture.

What projects are eligible for this program? FREP invites research and education project proposals in three priority areas:

  1. Improving Input Management
    • Demonstrating and/or Validating Management Practices that Optimize Nutrient and/or Irrigation Water Use – Innovative management practices must be implemented on farms to promote agriculture sustainability and address agricultural challenges in California. Extension efforts that improve management practices and help implement efficient nutrient management practices on growers’ fields are a high priority. Important activities include but are not limited to:
      • Field validation of, or improvements to, existing decision support tools to help make them more practical for growers, California conditions, or California cropping systems;
      • Supporting peer-to-peer and community-based learning;
      • Field–scale demonstration of recommended practices related to management of fertilizing materials, including replication where appropriate.
      • Refinement and demonstration of components relevant to Irrigation and Nitrogen Management Plans;
      • Demonstration and/or evaluation of irrigation monitoring tools and practices appropriate to specific cropping systems.
    • Addressing Challenges and Barriers to Adoption of Management Practices – A variety of money and time-saving management practices that improve environmental outcomes, with respect to nitrogen (N) loss, are available; however, many of these practices have not been adopted on a large scale. Research focused on addressing barriers to widespread adoption of improved management practices could include:
      • Testing scalable incentives or programs that may increase grower implementation of practices to optimize water and fertilizer use; and
      • Analyzing the costs, benefits, and economic thresholds associated with adoption of various improved management practices, including perceived and modeled costs of specific practices and how they are affected by different farm characteristics.
  2. Understanding Plant-Soil Processes:
    • Filling Knowledge Gaps for Nitrogen Management in Specific Crops, i.e. Berries; Root crops; Vegetable crop transplant production systems; Optimal crop rotations; Uptake, storage, and remobilization pools of nitrogen in tree crops.
    • The Role of Organic Input Materials in Soil Nutrient Management – Across California, organic materials are applied to agricultural soils to improve physical, chemical and biological properties of soil. More information on the plant-available nitrogen from organic sources is needed for management decisions, and to help growers estimate mineralization rates for nitrogen budgeting. These organic materials include, but are not limited to, wood chips from whole orchard recycling, nitrogen-containing soil amendments, and organic fertilizers.
      • Evaluating the influence of organic inputs on total nitrogen budgeting; and Evaluating the effects of liquid ammonia products from organic sources on microbial communities, plant development, and soil health parameters.
  3. Loss Pathways
    • Understanding Nitrogen Movement from the Root Zone – Our understanding of nitrogen movement from the root zone to groundwater and atmosphere is insufficient. This lack of information has resulted in incomplete modeling of the transport and fate of nitrogen through agroecosystems and uncertainties in estimates of the quantity of nitrate from nitrogen fertilizers accumulating in groundwater and N20 and NOx compounds released into the air. Research is needed to understand how management practices influence nitrate movement out of the root zone. Research may include, but is not limited to:
      • Managed aquifer recharge: timing and effect on nitrogen loss;
      • Nonproprietary research using instruments and sensors to measure N loss; and
      • Understanding other potential loss pathways (e.g. tile drains, gaseous losses).
    • Mitigation Strategies to Reduce Nitrogen Losses – There are technologies and practices that may mitigate nitrogen losses via various loss pathways. Research is needed to better understand the technologies and strategies that can minimize N losses and maximize nitrogen use efficiency.
      • Testing and verification of management practices to reduce nitrate leaching from root zones;
      • Innovative strategies to capture nitrogen leached below the root zone (e.g. trap crops, cover crops); and
      • Novel fertilizer sources including, but not limited to, enhanced efficiency fertilizers (e.g. urease inhibitors, nitrification inhibitors, and slow release fertilizers).

What are the funding levels for the 2021 FREP? Grant funding of $75,000 per year for up to three years is typical for projects. Projects requesting more than $75,000 per year and lasting longer than three years will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Is there a cost-sharing/match requirement? Cost sharing is not a requirement of the FREP, however, concept proposals leveraging other sources of funding are strongly encouraged and are welcomed.

What is the grant duration? The typical grant duration is three years with research beginning January 1, 2022. However, projects requesting more than $75,000 and lasting longer than three years will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

What is the award timeline? Applications are due on January 29, 2021 by 5 pm PT. Phase I of the process begins with the submission of concept proposals, which undergo both an administrative review and a technical review. Successful applicants will be invited to submit a detailed grant proposal in Phase II of the process. The invitation to submit Phase II grant proposals are expected to be announced March 2021 with Phase II applications due May 17, 2021. Award announcements are expected October 2021.

The full Request for Concept Proposals can be found here.

For more information on this grant or how to apply with Morrison’s assistance, please contact the Morrison Grants Team by email at or call us at 530-893-4764.


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