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Strangers On Familiar SoilRediscovering the Chile-California Connection$
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Edward Dallam Melillo

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300206623

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300206623.001.0001

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Supplementing the Soil

Supplementing the Soil

(p.92) 5 Supplementing the Soil
Strangers On Familiar Soil

Edward Dallam Melillo

Yale University Press

This chapter describes efforts to improve the fertility of California's soils. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, nitrogen depletion in California's soils was a major concern. Farmers relied on two imports from Chile—nitrogen-rich Chilean alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and Chilean sodium nitrate (NaNO3)—to meet the nutrient demands of a continuously expanding agricultural system. Chilean alfalfa was indispensable to the emergence of Northern California's profitable dairy businesses, which made California into the nation's top milk butter, ice cream, and yogurt-producing state by the end of the twentieth century. Chilean sodium nitrate was essential to Southern California's prosperous citrus-fruit industry, which served as that region's primary engine of economic growth from the 1880s through World War II.

Keywords:   Northern California, Southern California, soil fertility, nitrogen depletion, Chile, alfalfa, sodium nitrate, dairy industry, citrus fruit industry

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