IMG_1027color cropScience in Action to Improve the Sustainability of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Food Systems

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Perspectives on Sustainability - CSANR Blog

  • Orchard Netting: A Catch All for Climate Change Adaptation

    August 22, 2016

    Brendon Anthony is pursuing a Master of Science in the Horticulture program at Washington State University.

    As a child in elementary school I learned that the two basic requirements for the growth and success of a plant are sunlight and water. However, as I have undergone further schooling and research, specifically in horticulture, I have learned how extremely simplified those requirements are. In reality, it takes numerous inputs and extensive management to steward the growth of a plant.

    Honeycrisp apples like these are an important tree fruit crop in the state. Photo: D. Rivard via Flickr c.c.

    Honeycrisp apples like these are an important crop to the PNW tree fruit industry. Photo: D. Rivard via Flickr c.c.

    Though sunlight and water are not the full picture, they are certainly foundational. In the face of a changing climate with more extreme and unpredictable weather, they are resources that are becoming more and more challenging to preserve, utilize, and control. How to best manage sunlight and water is being investigated and tested by the Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry. This is an industry that relies on consistent temperatures both in the winter to facilitate dormancy, and during the growing season to prevent frost damage or sunburn. It is an industry that uses gallons upon gallons of water to ensure a high yield. So, how does an industry so dependent upon these crucial resources react to a rapidly changing climate, all while maintaining sustainability in their pocket books and in their surrounding environment?

  • Biosolids – understanding benefits and risks

    August 16, 2016
    Biosolids being spread on agricultural fields. Photo: A. Bary.

    Biosolids being spread on agricultural fields. Photo: A. Bary.

    Biosolids?  Yes, that means sewage sludge.  Well, sort of.  But before you say YUCK and click off the page, let’s start with what they really are: biosolids are the materials produced from digestion of sewage at city wastewater treatment plants. They are rich in plant nutrients such as organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and can be applied to wheat, alfalfa, and timber land for plant fertilization and soil conditioning. When biosolids are applied at rates that meet plant nutrient needs, farmers and researchers are seeing crop yields equal to or greater than those seen with synthetic fertilizer. Applying biosolids as fertilizer also allows them to be recycled for a useful purpose rather than disposed of in landfills or incinerated.

  • How useful are models anyway? An example, now open for public comment

    July 14, 2016
    Cover of the draft 2016 Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast Legislative Report, currently available for public comment.  Click image for link.

    Cover of the draft 2016 Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast Legislative Report, currently available for public comment. Click image for link.

    Water, water everywhere… but will it continue to be there in the future? Will it be available when we need it? Or do we need to invest in projects or policies now, because the water in the future will not be the same as in the past? These are the issues that the collaborative research team working on the 2016 Columbia River Long-Term Supply and Demand Forecast are using models to address, at the direction of the Office of the Columbia River (OCR, part of the Washington Department of Ecology) and the Washington State Legislature.

    Preliminary model results were presented at three public workshops in Richland, Wenatchee and Spokane in late June, and the draft report is available for public comment on OCR’s website until July 20, 2016. Here’s the summary of changes in water supply projected by this research:

    • Average annual supply of water for all uses across the Columbia River Basin down to Bonneville Dam is expected to increase around 12% by 2035.
    • That water would be available earlier in the spring than it has been in the past: water supply between November and May is projected to increase by almost 30%, while water supply between June and October is projected to decrease almost 11%.