Posted by Chad Kruger | May 12, 2014
I’ve seen a lot of crazy ideas in the realm of agricultural technology and even toyed with a few crazy ideas myself. Crazy ideas seem to have an appeal in our society that exceeds any rational expectation for the likely success or concern regarding the downside of any given technology. Perhaps this is because people are always looking for the next revolutionary technology like tractors, hybrid seeds, and solar fence electrifiers. Or perhaps it’s because we’re hard-wired to expect technological silver bullets to solve distinctly human problems. In fact, I suspect the reason that our own crazy (and not quite perfect) idea for a household-scale biogas reactor is among the most visited pages on the CSANR website is because it conjures up images of this infamous science fiction idea:
Who wouldn’t want to have that? Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | May 8, 2014
Nick Bond, the Washington State Climatologist, pointed out an interesting observation at a meeting I attended last week. For summers from 2000-2010, nighttime temperatures (T-min) in many locations in the Pacific Northwest have shown a strong warming trend while daytime temperatures (T-max) have shown a general cooling trend (Panel 1). Each circle on the map is scaled based on the station’s temperature trend with red indicating increasing temperature and blue decreasing. This could be part of the reason I’ve had trouble sleeping at night in recent summers – more below!
Panel 1: Summer Min (nighttime) and Max (daytime) Temperatures: 2000-2010; Source: http://www.climate.washington.edu/trendanalysis/
Filed under Climate Change
Posted by Chad Kruger | May 5, 2014
Over the past several months we’ve seen: a freak early-season snow storm in the Dakotas that killed tens of thousands of cattle that could take affected ranchers more than a decade to recover from, continued and expanding drought conditions in the corn belt of the Upper Midwest, extended drought cutting off irrigation water in the “produce basket” of the Central Valley of California, massively destructive storms and flooding in the Gulf Coast, and a deadly virus killing piglets in more than half the country. In spite of this, we’re just finally seeing reports that the price of food is creeping higher – a whopping 0.4% two months in a row! – with the increasing price of bacon the one most people are complaining about. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | April 18, 2014
Several modeling studies have been conducted in recent years to estimate the potential impact of climate change on future crop production. These studies generally indicate that the magnitude of the potential near-future impact (through 2050) is relatively modest for most crops in the Pacific Northwest – and usually somewhat positive. Climate variability, on the other hand, already impacts crop yields at magnitudes equal to or greater than those projected for mid-century, and often in a very negative way. So why do these studies focus on future climate if current climate seems to be the bigger concern? Read more »
Filed under Climate Change
Posted by Chad Kruger | March 6, 2014
Since 2006, CSANR has provided seed funding for 60 new organic and sustainable agriculture research projects in Washington State through our BIOAg Program. These projects range from topics such as soil quality, organic and biological crop protection, and breeding, to livestock-crop integration, food safety and nutrition, and alternative crops. Projects have been funded in a wide diversity of crop and livestock production systems in the state, including tree fruit, cereal grains, small fruits, vegetables, forages, dairy, and a variety of other livestock systems. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | February 10, 2014
Interest in “soil quality” (a.k.a. soil health) has grown rapidly over the past decade regardless of agricultural production system or geographical region. While there have been focused efforts on soil conservation in the past, there seems to be a growing consensus that agriculture at large has historically undervalued the important role that soils can play in improving sustainability. Some of these functions include disease suppression, nutrient cycling, and water management. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | January 24, 2014
Historically, there has been passionate resistance from advocates of organic and sustainable agriculture systems to the introduction and use of genetically engineered (GE) crops. The position, as most often stated, is that GE and sustainable agriculture (specifically organic agriculture) are mutually exclusive. This position is codified in the National Organics Standards which have excluded the intentional use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in organic production and handling. The high-profile ballot initiative (I-522) had this issue front and center in Washington State for most of last fall. Read more »
Posted by Chad Kruger | December 11, 2013
My colleague Chuck Benbrook posted a fascinating article this week summarizing his recent paper that evaluates how organic milk impacts human nutrition. If you haven’t read it, you should. In the comments of Chuck’s post, another colleague Andy McGuire inquires and Chuck confirms, the likely reason organic milk is nutritionally superior to conventional milk is the composition of the feed ration (i.e., more grass).
Posted by Chad Kruger | October 25, 2013
In an effort to provide a balanced and pro-active public forum for the discussion of issues related to GMO’s and the I-522 Initiative, Washington State University’s Foley Institute is hosting a lecture and panel discussion on Monday, October 28th. The panel features Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair Paul Thompson, one of the world’s most widely known and respected academics for his research on the intersection of ethics and science in GMO technology. I’ve personally read much of Thompson’s work going back to my days as a graduate student and have found his insights very helpful in developing my own “non-expert” perspective on GM technology.
In addition, two WSU Faculty Members with expertise in GM technology and its broader implications, Mike Neff (Crop Biotechnologist) and CSANR’s own Chuck Benbrook will be part of the panel.
This event should be very informative and worth your efforts to attend in person if possible. However, realizing that Pullman is a long trek for many Washington citizens, the lecture and panel discussion will be recorded and broadcast by KWSU.
The recording is now available here: http://foley.wsu.edu/ ; scroll down to “I-522 debate.”
Posted by Chad Kruger | September 27, 2013
In August I published a post describing one mechanism by which increasing soil organic carbon (SOC) can lead to direct financial benefit on irrigated farms. In that particular example, the agronomic value of the carbon could be more than 10X greater than the potential value of a “carbon credit”. While it’s clear that there are general benefits to increasing SOC, in reality the specifics of each situation, such as the climate, soils, and management system, will all have an impact on monetizing any benefit. In this post I’ll examine a different case example published by some of my colleagues working at the WSU Cook Agronomy Farm, a dryland wheat farm near Pullman, Washington. Read more »
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