University of California, Riverside

Environmental Sciences

James Oster

James Oster

James Oster Photo

Soil and Water Specialist - Emeritus

Academic Degrees:

  • PhD., Purdue University, 1964


  • Soil Chemistry: soil salinity and sodicity
  • Soil Physics: salinity and sodicity effects on water infiltration and movement in soils
  • Plant physiology: matric and osmotic effects on plant growth
  • Irrigation water management
  • Environmental impacts of irrigated agriculture
  • Water quality

Representative Publications:

J.D. Oster, Emeritus Soil and Water Specialist

Publications in journals, book chapters and conference proceedings

  1. Oster, J. D., and P. F. Low. 1963. Activation energy for ion movement in thin water films on montmorillonite. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 27:369-373.
  2. Oster, J. D., and P. F. Low. 1964. Heat capacity of clay and clay-water mixtures. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 28:605-609.
  3. Oster, J. D., and R. D. Ingvalson. 1967. In situ measurement of soil salinity with a sensor. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 31:572-574.
  4. Rawlins, S. L. and J. D. Oster. 1967. Osmotic mechanism and negative pressure by P. F. Scholander. Science 156:67.
  5. Oster, J. D., S. L. Rawlins, and R. D. Ingvalson. 1969. Independent measurement of matric and osmotic potential of soil water. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 33:188-192.
  6. Ingvalson, R. D., J. D. Oster, S. L. Rawlins, and G. J. Hoffman. 1970. Measurement of water potential and osmotic potential in soil with a combined thermocouple psychrometer and salinity sensor. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 34:570-574.
  7. McNeal, B. L., J. D. Oster, and J. T. Hatcher. 1970. Calculation of electrical conductivity from solution composition data as an aid to in-situ estimation of soil salinity. Soil Sci. 110:405-414.
  8. Oster, J. D., and L. S. Willardson. 1971. Reliability of salinity sensors for the management of soil salinity. Agron. J. 63:695-698.
  9. Oster, J. D., and B. L. McNeal. 1971. Computation of soil solution composition variation with water content for desaturated soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 35:436-442.
  10. Goertzen, J. O., and J. D. Oster. 1972. Potentiometric titration of sulfate in water and soil extracts using a lead electrode. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 36:691-693.
  11. Oster, J. D., L. S. Willardson, and G. J. Hoffman. 1972. Sprinkling and ponding techniques for reclaiming saline soils. Amer. Soc. Agr. Eng. Trans. 15:1115-1117.
  12. Austin, R. S., and J. D. Oster. 1973. An oscillator circuit for automated salinity sensor measurements. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 37:327-329.
  13. Wesseling, J., and J. D. Oster. 1973. Response of salinity sensors to rapidly changing salinity.  Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 37:553-557.
  14. Rhoades, J. D., J. D. Oster, R. D. Ingvalson, J. M. Tucker, and M. Clark. 1974. Minimizing the salt burdens of irrigation drainage waters. J. Env. Qual. 3:311-316.
  15. Branson, R. L., P. F. Pratt, J. D. Rhoades, and J. D. Oster. 1975. Water quality in irrigated watersheds.  J. Environ. Qual. 4:33-40.
  16. Oster, J. D., and J. D. Rhoades. 1975. Calculated drainage water compositions and salt burdens resulting from irrigation with river waters in the western United States. J. Environ. Qual. 4:73-78.
  17. Oster, J. D., L. S. Willardson, J. van Schilfgaarde, and J. O. Goertzen. 1976. Irrigation control using tensiometers and salinity sensors. Trans. Amer. Soc. Agr. Eng. 19:294-298.
  18. Oster, J. D., and J. D. Rhoades. 1977. Various indices for evaluating the effective salinity and sodicity of irrigation waters.  Proc., Intl. Salinity Conf., Texas Tech. Univ., Lubbock, TX. pp 1-14.
  19. Hoffman, G. J., C. Dirksen, R. D. Ingvalson, E. V. Maas, J. D. Oster, S. L. Rawlins, J. D. Rhoades, and J. van Schilfgaarde. 1977. Minimizing salt in drain water by irrigation management design and initial results of Arizona field studies.  Agric. Water Manage. 13:233-252.
  20. Oster, J. D. and I. Shainberg. 1979. Exchangeable cation hydrolysis and soil weathering as affected by exchangeable sodium.  Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 43:70-75.
  21. Oster, J. D., and Fred W. Schroer. 1979. Infiltration as influenced by irrigation water quality.  Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 43:444-447.
  22. Hoffman, G. J., S. L. Rawlins, J. D. Oster, J. A. Jobes, and S. D. Merrill. 1979. Leaching requirement for salinity control.  I.  Wheat, sorghum, and lettuce. Agr. Water Manage. 2:177-192.
  23. Dirksen, C., J. D. Oster, and P. A. C. Raats. 1979. Water and salt transport, water uptake, and leaf-water potentials during regular and suspended high frequency irrigation of citrus. Agr. Water Manage. 2:241-256.
  24. Kleijn, W. B., J. D. Oster and N. Cook. 1979. A rainfall simulator with non-repetituous movement of drop outlets. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 43:1248-1251.
  25. Oster, J. D., and H. Frenkel. 1980. The chemistry of the reclamation of sodic soils with gypsum and lime. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 44:41-45.
  26. Oster, J. D., and G. Sposito. 1980. The Gapon coefficient and the ESP-SAR relation. Soil Sci. Amer. J. 44:259-260.
  27. Oster, J. D., I. Shainberg, and J. D. Wood. 1980. Flocculation value and gel structure of Na/Ca montmorillonite illite suspensions. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 44:955-959.
  28. Shainberg, I., J. D. Oster, and J. D. Wood. 1980. Sodium/calcium exchange in montmorillonite and illite  suspensions. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 44:960-964.
  29. Thien, S. J. and J. D. Oster. 1981. International system of units and its particular application to soil chemistry.  J. Agron. Educ. 10:62- 70.
  30. Shainberg, I., J. D. Oster, and J. D. Wood. 1982. Electrical conductivity of Na/Ca montmorillonite gels. Clays and Clay Minerals 30:55-62.
  31. Kleijn, W. B. and J. D. Oster. 1982. A model of clay swelling and tactoid formation. Clays and Clay Minerals.  30:383-390.
  32. Oster, J. D. 1982. Gypsum usage in irrigated agriculture: a review. Fert. Res 3:73-89.
  33. Hoffman, G.J., James D. Oster and William J. Alves. 1982. Evapotranspiration of mature orange trees under drip irrigation in an arid climate. Trans. Amer. Soc. Agr. Eng. 25:992-996.
  34. Kleijn, W. B. and J. D. Oster. 1983. Effects of permanent charge on the electrical double layer properties of clays and oxides. Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. J. 47:821- 827.
  35. Oster, J. D. 1984. Leaching for salinity control. In: Y. Shalhevet and I. Shainberg (eds.)  Soil Salinity under Irrigation--Processes and Management. Springer-Verlag. The Volcani Center, Bet-Dagan, Israel. pp 175-189.
  36. Oster, J.D., and M. Singer. 1984. Water penetration problems in California soils. Technical Report 10011. Department of Land Air and Water Resource, Univ. Calif. Davis. 94 pp.
  37. Hoffman, G. J., J. D. Oster, E. V. Maas, J. D. Rhoades and J. van Schilfgaarde. 1984. Minimizing salt in drain water by irrigation management. Agr. Water Manage.  9:61-78.
  38. Oster, J. D. and J. D. Rhoades. 1984. Water Management for salinity and sodicity control. In: G. S. Petty­grove and T. Asano (eds.) Irrigation with Reclaimed Municipal Wastewater--a Guidance Manual.  California State Water Resources Control  Board. Sacramento. pp 7-1 - 7-19.
  39. Buxton, D. R., D. A. Fuccillo, and J. D. Oster. 1984. Moving from metric to SI units:  agronomic societies adopt uniform system.  Metric Reporter. 12(5):3.
  40. Oster, J. D. and K. K. Tanji. 1985. Chemical reactions within root zone of arid zone soils. J. Irrig. Drain. Eng. 111:(3) 207-217.
  41. Wood, J. D., and J. D. Oster. 1985. The effect of cellulose xanthate and polyvinyl alcohol on infiltration, erosion, and crusting at different sodium levels. Soil Sci. 139(3):243-249.
  42. Prichard, T. L., G. J. Hoffman, and J. D. Oster. 1985. Reclamation of saline organic soil.  Irrig. Sci. 6:211-220.
  43. Oster, J. D., J. L. Meyer, L. Hermsmeier, and M. Kaddah. 1986. Field studies of irrigation efficiency in the Imperial Valley. Hilgardia. 54(7):1-15.
  44. Tracy, J. E., J. D. Oster, and R. J. Beaver. 1990. Selenium in the Southern Coast Range of California:  well waters, mapped geological units, and related elements. J. Env. Qual. 19:46-50.
  45. Letey, J., A. Dinar, C. Woodring, and J. D. Oster. 1990. An economic analysis of irrigation systems. J. Irr. Sci. 11:37-43.
  46. Knapp, K. C., B. K. Stevens, J. Letey, and J. D. Oster. 1990. A dynamic optimization model for irrigation investment and management under limited drainage conditions. Water Resour. Res. 26(7):1335-1343.
  47. Wichelns, D.  and J. D. Oster. 1990. Potential economic returns to improved irrigation infiltration uniformity. Agr. Water Manage. 18:253-266.
  48. Evans, R. G., C. J. Smith, J. D. Oster, and B. A. Myers. 1990. Saline water application effects on furrow irrigation of red-brown earths. Trans. ASAE.  Vol. 33: 1563-1572.
  49. Oster, J. D., J. Letey, and K. Knapp. 1990. Economics of drainage water reduction. In: S. C. Harris (ed.) Irrigation and Drainage, July 11-13, 1990. 1990 National ASCE Conference, Durango, CO. pp 427-434.
  50. Oster, J.D, and M. L. Arpaia. 1991. Haas avocado response to salinity as influenced by clonal rootstocks. In: C. J. Lovatt, P. A. Holthe, and M. L. Arpaia (eds.)  2nd. World Avocado Congress, The Shape of Things to Come, April 21-26, 1991. Orange, CA. Vol.1:209-214.
  51. Oster, J.D., R. G. Evans, C. J. Smith, J. B. Prendergast, and B. Myers 1991. Infiltration variability of a furrow irrigated Lemnos loam using permanent furrows. In: T. J. Gish and A. Shirmohammadi (eds.) Preferential Flow.  ASAE National Symposium. Dec. 16-17, 1991. Chicago, Ill. pp 209-214.
  52. Oster, J.D. 1993. Sodic soil reclamation. In: Lieth, H. and A. Al-Massom (eds.) Towards the Rational Use of High Salinity Tolerant Plants. Kluwer Acad. Press Vol. 1:485-490.
  53. Oster, J.D., R. B. Smith, C. Phene, A. Fulton, S. W. Styles, and T. Fernandes. 1993. Irrigation methods for drainage reduction: subsurface drip vs. furrow irrigation.  15th ICID Congress, The Hague, The Netherlands, September 1993.  Transactions Volume 1-C:1083-1095.
  54. Letey, J. and J. D. Oster. 1993. Subterranean disposal of irrigation drainage waters in western San Joaquin Valley. In: R. G. Allen (ed.) ASCE 1993 National Conf., Management of Irrigation and Drainage Systems: Integrated Perspective. July 21-23, 1993. Park City, Utah. pp 691-697.
  55. Oster, J. D. 1994. Irrigation with poor quality water. Agr. Water Manage 25:271-297.
  56. Oster, J.D. 1994. Management of irrigation water and its ecological impact. Trans. 15th World Congress of Soil Science, Acapulco, Mexico, July 10-16 Commission II. Symposia. Vol 3a:332-345.
  57. Oster, J. D., M. J. Singer, A. Fulton, W. Richardson, and T. Prichard. 1994. Water penetration manual for California soils. Trans. 15th  World Congress of Soil Science, Acapulco, Mexico, July 10-16. Commission I: Symposia. Vol 2a:52-59.
  58. Amali, S., D.E. Rolston, A.E. Fulton, B.R. Hanson, C.J. Phene, and J.D. Oster. 1997. Soil water variability under subsurface drip and furrow irrigation. Irrig. Sci. 17:151-155.
  59. Raul E. Ferreyra, Agustin U. Aljaro, Rafael Sch. Ruiz, L P. Rojas and J. D. Oster. 1997. Behavior of 42 crop species grown in saline soils with high boron concentrations. Agr. Water Manage. 34: 111-124.
  60. J.E. Mace, C. Amrhein, and J.D. Oster. 1999. Comparison of gypsum and sulfuric acid for sodic soil reclamation. Arid Soil Res. and Rehab. 13, Issue 2.
  61. Oster, J.D. 2000.  Irrigation sustainability. Proc. 6th International Micro-Irrigation Cong., Oct.22-27, 2000. Cape Town, South Africa.
  62. Oster, J.D., and I. Shainberg. 2001. Soil responses to sodicity and salinity: challenges and opportunities. Soil Res. 6:1219-1224.
  63. Kaffka, S., J.D. Oster, J. Maas, and D. Corwin. 2004. Forage production and soil reclamation using saline drainage water. pp 247- 253 IN (ANON).  Proc. 2004 National Alfalfa Symp., San Diego, CA, Dec.13-15.
  64. Oster, J. D. and J. Rhoades. 1990. Steady state root zone salt balance. Chapter 22. In: K. K. Tanji (ed.) Agricultural Salinity Assessment and Management. ASCE Manuals and Reports on Engineering Practices, No.71, ASCE, New York. pp 469-481.
  65. Fulton, A. E., J. D. Oster, B. R. Hanson, C. J. Phene, and D.G. Goldhamer.  1991. Reducing drainwater:  Furrow vs. subsurface irrigation. Cal. Agr. 45(2):4-8.
  66. Smith, R. B., J. Oster, and C. Phene. 1991. Subsurface drip produced highest net return in Westlands area study. Cal. Agr. 45(2):8-10.
  67. Smith, R. B., and J. D. Oster. 1991. Analysis:  Demonstration projects compared.  Cal. Agr. 45(2):11.
  68. Oster, J.D., T. Fernandes Macedo, D., and A. Fulton. 1999. Developing Sustainable Reuse and Disposal of Saline Drainwater on  Eucalyptus (E. camaldulensis). Final Report. United States Bureau of Reclamation and Tulare Lake Drainage District, 56 p.
  69. Styles, S., J.D. Oster, P. Bernasconi, A. Fulton, and C. Phene. 1994. Demonstration of emerging technologies. In: J. Guitjens and L. Dudley (eds.) Agroecosystems:  Sources, Control and Remediation.  July 21, 1994.  San Francisco, CA.  Pacific Div., Am. Assoc. Adv. Sci. Vol. 2.
  70. J.D. Rhoades, S. Lesch, S. Burch, J. Letey, R. LeMert, P. Shouse, J.D. Oster and T. O’Halloran. 1997. Salt distributions in cracking soils and salt pickup by runoff waters. J. Irrig. Drain. Eng. 123:329-335.
  71. Oster, J.D. and  N.S. Jayawardane. 1998. Agricultural management of sodic soils. In: M.E. Sumner and R. Naidu (eds.) Sodic Soils: Distribution, Processes, Management and Environmental Consequences. Oxford University Press. New York. pp 125-147.
  72. Oster, J. D., I.  Shainberg, and I. P. Abrol. 1999. Reclamation of salt affected soils, Ch. 19. In: J. van Schilfgaarde and R. Wayne Skaggs (eds.) Agricultural Drainage. Agron. Monogr. ASA, CSSA, SSSA. Madison WI. pp 659-691.
  73. M. Qadir and J.D. Oster. 2002. Vegetative bioremediation of calcareous sodic soils: history, mechanisms, and evaluation. Irrig. Sci 21: 91-101.
  74. Oster, J.D., and S.R. Grattan. 2002. Drainage water reuse. Irr. Drain. Sys. 16:297-310.
  75. Oster, J.D., and D. Wichlens. 2003. Economic and agronomic strategies to achieve sustainable irrigation. Irri. Sci 22: 107-120.
  76. Corwin, D.L., S.R. Kaffka, S.R., J.W.Hopmans, Y. Mori, J.W. van Groenigen, C. van Kessel, S.M.Lesch, and J.D. Oster. 2003. Assessment and field-scale mapping of soil quality properties of a saline-sodic soil. Geoderma. 114: 231-259.
  77. Grattan, S.R., and J.D. Oster. 2003. Use and reuse of saline-sodic waters for irrigation of crops. J. Crop. Prod. 7:Issue 1-2.
  78. Qadir, M., and J.D. Oster. 2004. Crop and irrigation Manage strategies for saline-sodic soils and waters aimed at environmentally sustainable agriculture. Sci. Total Environ. 323: 1-19.
  79. Qadir, M., A.D. Noble, J.D. Oster, S. Schubert, and A. Ghafoor. 2005. Driving forces for sodium removal during phytroremediation of calcareous sodic and saline-sodic soils: a review. Soil Use and Manage. 21: 173-180.
  80. Wichelns, D. and J.D. Oster. 2006. Sustainable irrigation is necessary and achievable, but direct costs and environmental impacts can be substantial. Agr. Water Manage. 86: 114–127.
  81. Corwin, D.L., S. M. Lesch, and J.D. Oster. 2006. Monitoring Management-induced spatio-temporal changes in soil quality through soil sampling directed by apparent electrical conducity. Geoderma. 131: 369-387.
  82. Qadir, M., J.D. Oster, S. Schubert, and G. Murtaza. 2006. Vegetiative bioremediation of sodic and saline-sodic soils for productivity enhancement and environment conservation. pp 137-146.  In M. Ozturk, Y. Waisel, M.A. Khan, and G. Gork (eds.) Biosaline Agriculture and Salinity Tolerance in Plants. Birkhauser Basel.
  83. Oster, J.D., B.E. Clothier, and D. Wichelns. 2006. History of Agricultural Water Manage. In P.A.C. Raats (ed.). Responsible Management of Water in Agriculture: Wesseling-Van Schilfgaarde-Bouwer. Agr.Water Manage. 86: 3-8.
  84. Oster, J.D., D.E. Stottlemyer, and M.L. Arpaia. 2007. Salinity and water effects on ‘Hass’ avocado Yields. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 132: 253-261.
  85. Qadir, M., J.D.Oster, S. Schubert, A.D. Noble, and K. L. Sahrawat. 2007. Phytore-mediation of sodic and saline-sodic soils. Adv. Agron. 96: 197-247.
  86. Raats, P.A.C., and J.D. Oster. 2008. Personal Report. Jan van Schilfgaarde. Agr. Water Manage. 95: 751-753.
  87. Letey, J.G.J. Hoffman, J.W. Hopmans, S.R. Grattan, D. Suarez, D.L. Corwin, J.D. Oster, L. Wu, and C. Amrhein. 2011. Evaluation of soil salinity leaching requirement guidelines. Agr. Water Mange. 98: 502-506.
  88. Oster, J.D., J. Letey, P. Vaughan, L. Wu, and M. Qadir. 2012. Comparison of transient state models that include salinity and matric stress effects on plant yield. Agr. Water Manage. 103: 167-175.
  89. Wu, L., C. Amrhein, and J.D. Oster. 2012.  Salinity assessment of irrigation water using Watsuit. In: W.W. Wallender  and K.K. Tanji (eds.) Agricultural Salinity Assessment and Management. 2nd Ed. ASCE Manuals and Reports on Engineering Practices, No.71, ASCE, Reston VA. pp 787-800.
  90. Grattan, S.R., J.D. Oster, S.E. Benes and S.R. Kaffka. 2012. Use of saline drainage waters for irrigation. In: W.W. Wallender  and K.K. Tanji (eds.) Agricultural Salinity Assessment and Management, 2nd Ed. ASCE Manuals and reports on Engineering Practice #71, ASCE, Reston VA. pp 687-719.
  91. Oster, J.D., and D. Wichelns. 2014. E.W. Hilgard and the history of irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley: Stunning productivity, slowly undone by inadequate drainage. In: A. Chang and D. B. Silva (eds.) Salinity and drainage in San Joaquin Valley, California. Science, Technology, and Policy. Global Issues in Water Policy, Volume 5. New York. pp. 7-46.
  92. Wichelns, D., and J.D. Oster. 2014. California and beyond: An international perspective on the sustainability of irrigated agriculture. In: A. Chang and D. B. Silva (eds.) Salinity and drainage in San Joaquin Valley, California. Science, Technology, and Policy. Global Issues in Water Policy, Volume 5. New York. pp. 381-406.
  93. Linneman, C., A. Falaschi, J.D. Oster, S. Kaffka, S. Benes. 2014. Drainage reuse by Grassland area farmers: the road to zero discharge. In: Macauley, S., Thoreson, B.P., Anderson, S.S. (eds). Groundwater Issues and Water Management – Strategies Addressing the Challenges of Sustainability. Proc. USCID Water Management Conference, March 4 – 7, 2014. Sacramento Ca. pp 65-78.
  94. Smith, C.J., J.D. Oster, and G. Sposito, G. 2015. Potassium and magnesium in irrigation water quality assessment. Agr. Water Manage.


  1. Shainberg, I., and J. D. Oster. 1978. Quality of irrigation water. Intl. Irrig. Inf. Center Publ. #2, Bet Dagan, Israel, and Pergamon Press, New York, NY. 65 pp.
  2. Oster, J. D., M. J. Singer, A. Fulton, W. Richardson, and T. Prichard. 1992. Water penetration problems in California soils: prevention, diagnoses, and solutions. Kearney Foundation of Soil Science, DANR, University of California. 165 pp. Revised 1993.

Professional service:

  • Panel member -- Center Commissioned External Review, Integrated Water and Land Management Program. International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. 2010.
  • Editor-in-Chief. Agricultural Water Management. Elsevier. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 2003 - 2013.

Honorary Awards.:

  • Fellow, American Society of Agronomy
  • Honoree: California Chapter, American Society of Agronomy. 2007

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