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My First Tilth: educational, informative and full of surprises

Posted by Tuong Vu | April 19, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

My name is Tuong Vu, an undergraduate of the Organic Agriculture Systems major at Washington State University. About five years ago, I was very involved with my family’s restaurant but was never content with the food inventories we purchased from our main distributors (big, national suppliers). I wanted to look our customers in the eye and be proud to tell them that they are getting local, seasonal, fresh, healthy, and tasty foods. As a result, I motivated myself to go back to school to produce or contribute to the production of high quality food. The College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at WSU has excited me even more by introducing the theme of agricultural sustainability that touches on so many, if not all, aspects of society. Attending the Tilth Conference was a part of the great learning experience I am receiving at WSU; it was educational, informative, and full of surprises. I’d like to share some of my personal experiences through this CSANR Perspectives on Sustainability blog. Read more »

Filed under Organic Farming, Sustainability
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Let the worms do the work – Critters help dairies manage manure

Posted by Sonia A. Hall | April 18, 2017

Got milk? Dairies are in the milk business, but must also manage manure produced along the way, and the potentially useful nutrients it holds. Photo: NRCS in Oregon under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Managing manure is a big part of what goes on at the “back end” of a dairy. Doing it well is important to avoid impacts on surrounding neighbors due to odors, impacts on air and water quality, or the release of unnecessary amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane or nitrous oxides (which, by the way, are respectively 28 and 265 times more powerful as global warming “blankets” than carbon dioxide). There are multiple technologies being developed, tested, and used to improve manure management in dairies. These include anaerobic digestion, which produces bioenergy and helps reduce odors (we provided an overview about a year ago in this article). Nutrient recovery technologies are another aspect being studied. These are an array of different technologies that allow us to collect the potentially useful nitrogen and phosphorus found in manure, so it can be used productively rather than contributing to climate change or other issues. Read more »

Tilth Producers Annual Conference: The art of storytelling and its place in science

Posted by Zack Frederick | April 6, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

The Tilth Producers annual conference represents a mix of growers, industry stakeholders, educators, and students, each with their own perspective on a variety of sustainable and organic farming practices. As is the case in any heterogeneous audience, the challenge for a presenter is to find a way to engage individuals with different learning styles and interests and spur thoughtful discussion, while relaying the nitty gritty detail in the data. This is not easy. Read more »

As soil becomes more alive, plants become more talkative

Posted by Aaron Appleby | March 30, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

My name is Aaron Appleby; I am a senior at Washington State University, studying Organic Agriculture.  Living soil is a key aspect to sustainable farming, as it requires fewer inputs and promotes diversity amongst organisms, ensuring survival as different selection pressures are introduced. Carbon is essential for living organisms and although plants get their carbon from the air, the microorganisms that inhabit the soil need to ingest soil organic matter (SOM) to incorporate carbon into new cells and organic molecules for growth and reproduction.  Thus, the main benefit of increasing SOM is to the ability of the soil to sustain life, which in return provides nutrients plants can utilize to grow. Read more »

Filed under Sustainable Practices and Technology
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Apples and cherries help grow apples and cherries: composting at Stemilt Orchard

Posted by Adel Almesmari | March 27, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

My name is Adel Almesmari, and I have a Master’s Degree in Horticulture. I have been working for twelve years at the Libyan Department of Agriculture, three years at the Agriculture Research Center in Libya and three years as a faculty member at Omar Al-Mokhtar University, before traveling to the US. I am currently working towards my PhD in the Horticulture department at Washington State University. It was a pleasure to attend the 2016 Tilth Conference in Wenatchee, Washington. It is my first time attending the Tilth Conference, and attending this event provided the opportunity for me to communicate with experts and other professionals and I learned a lot from the workshops presented.

The Tilth conference was a diverse and wonderful event containing many quality sessions for participation. I cannot write about all that I attended, so I chose one to write about, the compost project at the Stemilt company. This compost facility is located in the center of the company’s farm, where the cultivation of apples and cherries primarily occurs. Read more »

Filed under Sustainable Practices and Technology
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One on one with a cover cropper

Posted by David Sullivan | March 21, 2017

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will be posting reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

While at the 2016 Tilth Conference in Wenatchee, I was able to ask Jim McGreevy a few follow up questions after his session “Cover Crops in Production Agriculture”. Jim manages organic vegetable and seed production at Cloudview Ecofarm, and is a strong advocate for the use of cover crops to improve soil health.

Why do you include cover crops as part of your field management?

“We are dealing with a high erodible soil on the farm and our goals are primarily to improve soil structure and increase organic matter levels. Of course cover cropping is really important for nutrient cycling on the farm as well.” Read more »

Filed under Sustainable Practices and Technology
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Parched and drenched – we can expect both in the Northwest

Posted by Sonia A. Hall | March 15, 2017

The snow-covered landscape, the Columbia River, and the pine forests covered with signs of the recent ice storm provided the backdrop for the Climate Impacts to Water Conference, hosted by Washington State University Extension. University of Idaho climate scientist John Abatzoglou gave a plenary talk, titled Parched and Drenched: Future Climate and Water Resources in the Pacific Northwest (check out the recording here).

What I really liked about Abatzoglou’s presentation was that he focused on one key number, and then got into the weeds of what it means and why it’s important to us. That key number in this case was the fact that the Northwest has seen an increase in average temperatures of 1°C (that’s almost 2°F, if you prefer Fahrenheit), which has mostly occurred in the last 50 years. Is this an important change, and should we care? Yes, because this past temperature increase has already led to more rain and less snow, a reduced winter snowpack, and spring runoff coming earlier in the year, leaving us drier in the summer. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change
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2016 in Review

Posted by Georgine Yorgey | March 8, 2017

G.Yorgey, CSANR Asst Director

Over the last three years, we have compiled annual reports in order to better share our accomplishments and reach out to our stakeholders – but I also find that the process powerfully reminds me why it’s such an incredible privilege to work at CSANR, an organization which brings together an incredible range of perspectives and expertise within and outside the university, to make progress towards more sustainable agricultural and food systems in our state.

 

Read more »

Filed under Sustainability
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Under what climatic conditions will it make economic sense to switch to a new irrigation system?

Posted by Keyvan Malek | March 2, 2017

High-efficiency drip irrigation system in wine grapes, a perennial, high-value crop in the region. Photo by Flickr user davitydave under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Investing in efficient irrigation systems usually requires significant capital. As with other capital-intensive investments, doing it would only make economic sense if the benefits exceed the costs. Each farmer can estimate the cost of switching their system to a high-efficiency system. But what about the benefits? What do they depend on? And will those factors they depend on change in the future? We used a model to play out some “what if” scenarios to address these questions in Washington’s Yakima Basin (see this article on using models in this way).

Efficient irrigation systems can improve yields through a more efficient delivery of water to the root zone, where crops can access it. Say you have 2 acre-feet of irrigation water available. With a traditional system you might lose 40% of that water through evaporation, drift, or percolation beyond the rooting depth, so your crop will only have 1.2 ac-ft to use. With a high-efficiency system, that availability might go up to 1.9 ac-ft or more, which allows the crop to produce higher yields. Read more »

Summarizing Scientific Knowledge about Agriculture and Climate Change in the Northwest U.S. and Plotting a Roadmap for the Future

Posted by Liz Allen | March 2, 2017

Back in March of 2016, a group of agriculture sector stakeholders– including researchers, policy makers and producers– met in Tri-Cities, Washington, for the Agriculture in a Changing Climate Workshop. The three-day workshop was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Northwest Climate Hub and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Facilitators from the William D. Ruckelshaus Center were instrumental in supporting generative dialogue. Workshop participants worked together to define priorities for the future research and extension efforts focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Northwest. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change
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