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The disconnect between the production and consumption of food

Posted by Chad Kruger | May 5, 2014
photo: Kabsik Park

Photo: Kabsik Park

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 »

Climate Change or Climate Variability: which matters more for crop production in the PNW?

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 »

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When MANAGING for soil carbon really pays

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 »

Considering the vulnerability of our food system to climatic disruptions

Posted by Chad Kruger | September 17, 2013

While the nationally televised Seahawks game was delayed for lightning Sunday night, much of the inland Pacific Northwest braced for the fourth major storm event this summer, with warnings for high winds and severe dust storms, massive electrical storms, heavy rainfall with localized flash flooding, mudslides and extensive power outages. Fortunately, my family did NOT get struck by lightning during this storm as we did in the August 10th storm and this storm also doesn’t seem to have sparked any new wild fires! In light of the on-going flood events in Colorado this week, it looks like we probably had it easy this time with only some inconveniences that should be corrected in the next 24-48 hours. However, given that September is National Preparedness Month, this seems like a good opportunity to highlight a recent commentary paper that I co-authored with some colleagues around the country evaluating research needs regarding the vulnerability of the food system to climatic disruptions. As with most commentary articles, this activity included a review of published literature coupled with expert assessment of where there are gaps in our understanding of vulnerabilities. Read more »

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When soil carbon sequestration REALLY pays

Posted by Chad Kruger | August 15, 2013

The dog days of summer have arrived in Eastern Washington – with daily temps reaching the high 90s every day. This is the second extended stretch of heat in the region this year. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change, Organic Farming, Sustainability
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Anaerobic Digestion: Beyond Waste Management

Posted by Chad Kruger | June 13, 2013

After nearly a decade of work, we’re finally ready to “show off” our achievements in improving the environmental performance of dairies. Take a look at the brief video we recently produced describing our efforts and join us in the field on July 10th!

Where are all the apple blossoms?

Posted by Chad Kruger | May 2, 2013

This weekend marks the 93rd Washington State Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee – one of the true highlight events celebrating agriculture and community in the state. And, after a few weeks of unseasonably cold temperatures, frosts, freezes and high winds, the weekend weather outlook is dazzling – sunny, mid-80s and calm! So, if you don’t have plans this weekend, come on over and enjoy a great community event in the fantastic spring weather!

Just don’t expect to see many apple blossoms. Full apple bloom was well over a week ago (see Wenatchee World). Read more »

Filed under Climate Change, Community and Society
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Why Hasn’t Spring Gotten Warmer?

Posted by Georgine Yorgey | April 23, 2013

Agriculture is a seasonal endeavor.  And so the weather during each season can profoundly impact farmers and the crops they produce.  Now, researchers at University of Idaho and Oregon State University are providing some new insights on how the seasonal climate has changed over the last century in the PNW, and how it might change over the next 50 years. Read more »

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Waiting for more data vs. acting in good faith

Posted by Chad Kruger | March 21, 2013

In the comment string of my original post Reflections on Savory, reader Rondi Lightmark asked a very legitimate set of questions:

How much closer are we going to get to catastrophes far worse than the Dust Bowl while scientists sit around and debate the merits of a new idea? Allan [Savory] has adequately demonstrated the success of his work to warrant significant support for implementing his methods on a large scale. What do we have to lose if we do? Who can answer that question?

While I responded to the comment in that post, I’ve had several similar questions raised in other settings recently so I thought this topic justified its own more general post. Do we wait for more data or act in good faith based on what we know? Here is the rub between science and action on challenging issues like climate change, soil erosion or desertification. I completely understand the frustration that it often seems as though science moves “too slowly” to enable us to respond effectively to increasingly complex global problems. On the question of climate and global carbon emissions, scientists like James Hansen (Hansen et al., 2008) have actually indicated that we may, in fact, have waited too long to take serious action and that we may be too late to curb the more detrimental global effects of a changing climate. With this in mind, it makes acting seem more urgent and often leads us to make significant societal investments in ideas that don’t have solid quantification or evaluation to support. Read more »

USDA report indicates climate change will create challenges for agriculture

Posted by Chad Kruger | March 19, 2013

USDA recently released a report that provides a comprehensive interpretive review of the scientific literature on the impacts of climate change on agriculture in the U.S. This report was undertaken in response to the soon to be released 2nd National Climate Assessment – an effort that reviews the impact of climate change on several sectors of the U.S. economy. The USDA report, entitled Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation, can be accessed from the website of the USDA’s Chief Economist .

Read more »

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