About the CNA

by Zixin Lu last modified Oct 07, 2015 10:28 AM

Our approach: The CNA comprehensively examines the existing knowledge on nitrogen science, policy, and practice in California. Our scientists have collected and synthesized a large body of data to analyze patterns and trends. This approach aims to move beyond "academic business as usual" to more effectively link science with action and to produce information that informs both policy and field-level practice.

What is unique about the CNA: Rather than generating new primary data, the CNA looks at existing knowledge to distinguish between what is well-known about agricultural nitrogen, and that which is more speculative. A large amount of information already exists on agricultural-related nitrogen in California that has never been looked at as a whole. The CNA adds value by sorting, summarizing, synthesizing, analyzing, translating, and communicating this information.     

The CNA includes:

  • Identification of underlying drivers (e.g., regulations, population growth) and direct drivers (e.g., fertilizer use and soil management, fuel combustion) that affect stocks and flows of nitrogen in California agriculture.
  • Calculation of a mass balance to examine how nitrogen moves through California agroecosystems and the state as a whole (including agriculture, sewage, industry and transportation).
  • Evaluation of the state of knowledge about nitrogen's impacts on ecosystem health and human well being. 
  • A series of scenarios, or "plausible stories about the future," that provide insights about nitrogen issues that will require attention over the next 20 years.
  • A suite of practices and policy options and the potential effects each would have on agriculture, the environment, and human health.
  • Outreach Materials that help the public understand the complex nature of the nitrogen cycles and help decision makers at the farm and public policy levels.                                                                                                    

Stakeholder involvement:
A primary goal of the assessment is to develop information and products that are relevant to stakeholders. Because of this, stakeholder participation  has helped to shape the direction of the assessment. The assessment process included stakeholder meetings to generate research questions and to develop a series of "scenarios" of the future of nitrogen in California.  We have conducted outreach to producers and industry groups, policy makers, non-profit organizations, and government agencies to involve them in these activities.  An eight-member technical advisory committee provides oversight for the project, a stakeholder advisory committee provides comment and review from stakeholders' perspectives, and an eight-member multidisciplinary faculty work group on nitrogen science and agriculture conducted complementary research.  

Our team: Our project is led by four principal investigators – Thomas P. Tomich, Kate M. Scow, Sonja Brodt, and Randy Dahlgren – professors at the University of California, Davis. Additional project staff includes three post-doctoral research fellows, two communications and outreach fellows, and academic and communications coordinators. Forty-three authors contributed to the CNA.

Our Partners: The Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis partnered with the following organizations to conduct the California Nitrogen Assessment:


The California Nitrogen Assessment is funded by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation with additional support from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Event Details


One Shields Drive
UC Davis
Davis, CA

(530) 752-3915