Posted by David Granatstein | July 26, 2018
Organic agriculture in Washington State, as with the rest of the country and world, experienced continued growth in 2017, as we documented in our latest report. New records were reached for certified farms and acres in the state, as well as for farmgate sales of organic products. Certified acres rose 3% to 110,000 acres, representing about 0.8% of the cropland in the state. There were 892 certified farms (2.3% of farms in the state), 29 farms registered for transition, and an uncounted number of exempt organic farms (sales less than $5,000 per year). Apples experienced the largest growth, up 36% to >22,000 acres. This remains the most prominent organic crop in the state economically, accounting for about 12% of all bearing apple acres in the state and over 90% of the fresh organic apple production in the U.S. The number of organic dairies also reached a new high of 50, with a record number of organic dairy cows. There were declines in acres of organic wheat, corn, dry bean, blueberry, snap bean, and potato acreage, while acres of organic corn silage, asparagus, green pea, pear, cherry, and mixed vegetables went up. Total organic farmgate sales were in excess of $667 million, a 2% growth that was slower than previous years perhaps due to lower organic apple prices. Grant County remained the leader in organic farms, acres, and sales statewide, while Skagit County was tops in western Washington for organic acres and sales. The central Washington irrigated area has the most transition acres and will continue as the dominant area for organic agriculture in the state. Read more »
Filed under Organic Farming
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | July 19, 2018
The BIOAg Grant Program is one critical way that the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources carries out its mission improve the environment, increase farm profitability, and improve the human sustainability of agriculture and the food system. We use this program to incubate research and educational activities at WSU that advance the sustainability of agriculture in the state – enabling WSU faculty and partners to leverage significant additional external support to advance these goals. In addition, the Program has supported a number of graduate students who have and will pursue careers in academia, industry and community leadership with a focus on agricultural sustainability.
Posted by Karen Hills | June 21, 2018
In non-irrigated areas that are too dry to support annual cropping, fallow (the practice of leaving land unplanted) preserves soil moisture for future crops. However, annual fallow combined with conventional tillage has resulted in a net decrease in soil carbon over time in our region, with negative impacts to soil health across large areas. And even when tillage is eliminated, it is very difficult to maintain soil carbon over time in a wheat-fallow system. For this reason, the impact of climate change on the frequency of fallow in crop rotations has important future implications both for soil health and for opportunities for carbon sequestration.
Posted by Anne Schwartz | June 18, 2018
Anne Schwartz is a long-time CSANR Advisory Committee member, former Tilth Producers of Washington president, proprietor of Blue Heron Farm, and lifelong advocate for sustainable agriculture. Anne is a guest blogger, challenging College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences faculty, and CSANR faculty in particular, to focus on and address the challenges of True Cost Accounting.
True Cost Accounting is the study in economics that addresses all of the upstream and downstream costs and benefits associated with a set of management decisions and ensuing practices, and their long-term impacts on natural resources and communities. Other terms used to indicate a similar approach include: Full Cost Accounting (FCA), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Triple Bottom Line (TBL), Natural Capital Accounting (NCA), and Cradle to Cradle (C2C). Read more »
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | June 14, 2018
What are the climate impacts of a given farm practice? While we know lots of strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on farms, quantifying that impact can be difficult. However, there is at least one farm in our region –one that uses some pretty neat practices – for which scientists have attempted to answer that question. And the farmer just happens to be a long-time member of CSANR’s advisory committee, Dale Gies. Read more »
Posted by Karen Hills | June 11, 2018
Biochar as a soil amendment has been the subject of much attention in recent years because of its ability to sequester carbon and to improve aggregation, water holding capacity, and organic matter content of soil amended with it (Lehmann, 2007; Marris, 2006). A recent article on the Ag Climate Network blog from our colleagues at Oregon State University discusses what’s needed to economically produce forest to farm biochar. In contrast, researchers at Washington State University are investigating what we could call waste to farm biochar. Waste to farm biochar, if deployed on a larger scale, could offer a two-part benefit – removal of wood from the municipal solid waste stream and creation of a valuable product from this wood. In recent work, researchers are looking at two possible wastes that could be made into biochar: wood-based fractions of municipal solid waste and the large woody material remaining after compost production—referred to as “compost overs.” Read more »
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | June 7, 2018
Building on our long-term efforts relating to dairy nutrient management, we now have a new publication that summarizes the various approaches being explored for nutrient recovery on dairies – and what we know about the current costs and performance that are associated with each strategy. The publication, Approaches to Nutrient Recovery from Dairy Manure, was a long term effort by Craig Frear (formerly of CSANR), Jingwei Ma, and Georgine Yorgey (CSANR). This publication is a companion to The Rationale for Recovery of Phosphorus and Nitrogen from Dairy Manure.
CSANR has worked in the field of dairy waste nutrient recovery for a number of years. Please visit our Anaerobic Digestion topic page for additional publications, videos, and resources, as well as our Anaerobic Digestion Systems project page for specifics on our work.
Filed under Climate Change, Energy, Sustainability, Sustainable Practices and Technology
Posted by Andrew McGuire | May 31, 2018
Imagine this. You are an avid fisherman in south-eastern Australia. You relish getting away to the many lakes in the nearby mountains. Each lake is a bit different, different surroundings, different fishing holes, but you always see the same minnows, or perhaps two species as you heard a ranger say at a campfire talk, “based on expert taxonomic assessment.” You call them brown minnows, some call them mountain galaxias. They seem common, normal; but we see not as a minnow sees, but with human eyes and thoughts.
In 2012, a group of Aussie scientists (Adams et al. 2014) made a discovery: the minnows from the different lakes that look the same to you, are actually 15 distinct species. What was thought to be one or two species before, even by simple DNA tests, became 15 species with more comprehensive genetic testing (“involving multi-locus nDNA markers”). Organisms such as these minnows, which look very similar, even identical by most standards, but are different species are called cryptic species. A group of these is called a cryptic complex of species. Because of the high number of minnow species, this case is raised to the “hyper-cryptic complex” status. Read more »
Filed under Community and Society, Perspectives on Sustainability, Sustainable Practices and Technology
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | April 19, 2018
2017 was an incredibly busy and productive year for us at CSANR, and I’m pleased to be able to share some of what we accomplished through our 2017 annual report (.pdf). Among the highlights:
- Laura Lewis was named the leader of the new WSU Food Systems Program, and Kirti Rajagopalan joined us as an assistant research professor to co-lead our evolving work on climate and water resources.
- Marcy Ostrom and David Granatstein co-taught a graduate-level Agroecology class.
- We funded 9 BIOAg projects led by WSU colleagues, including projects to: increase legume nodulation for improved symbiotic nitrogen fixation (Mike Kahn); evaluate the impact of border vegetation patterns on blueberries (Lisa DeVetter); and explore sustainable crop-livestock integration in the dryland areas of the inland Pacific Northwest (Haiying Tao).
Posted by Andrew McGuire | April 4, 2018
What is regenerative agriculture? Why is it different from sustainable agriculture? And how do I reconcile what practitioners of this system are claiming with the scientific evidence? These were all going through my mind when, a couple weeks ago at an advisory committee meeting of the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, we watched a YouTube video of Gabe Brown’s TEDx talk in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Brown farms near Bismarck, ND, and has become the American face of regenerative agriculture in the past decade. Here is what I learned. Read more »