The Yaqui Valley, in Sonora, Mexico is a region of rapid demographic, economic, and ecological change in both upland and coastal areas. Situated on the west coast of mainland Mexico on the Gulf of California, the Valley currently comprises 225,000 has of irrigated wheat-based agriculture: recently adding aquaculture to its landscape. It is the birthplace of the Green Revolution for wheat and one of Mexico's most productive breadbaskets. Today, population growth, urbanization, agricultural intensification, land use change, water diversions, groundwater pumping, coastal modifications, wetland conversions, and aquaculture growth threaten the sustainability of certain of the region's resources. Research in the Valley has become timely and critical, both in the Valley's own right, and because it is a likely forerunner to similar irrigated valleys around the world.
CESP began research in the Valley in 1992 when Stanford Professors Pamela Matson and Rosamond Naylor teamed up with Dr. Ivan Ortiz-Monasterio of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to initiate a study of fertilizer use in intensive wheat-based agriculture. Results of this study indicated that farmers used more fertilizer than required, and excess fertilizer N was lost in the atmosphere in the form of trace gases that cause air pollution and to water systems where it is carried to the Gulf. The researchers evaluated a number of alternative fertilizer management options, and found that farmers could save money by using less fertilizer and still receive comparable yields from their crops.
Since this initial study, Stanford's research presence within the Valley has expanded to include different dimensions of agriculture and variability, the role of institutions and impact of national and international policies, water resource use and management, aquaculture development, the affect on estuaries of upland land use change, and the burgeoning role of the livestock sector