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BIOAg Funding Awards Announced

Posted by Georgine Yorgey | July 19, 2018
red raspberries

Meijun Zhu et al. are investigating how manure-derived fertilizers impact the bacterial community and antibiotic resistance genes in Washington red raspberry fields. Photo: T. Zimmerman

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.

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True Cost Accounting

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.

Anne Schwartz holding bunches of radishes

Anne Schwartz

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 »

Turning Urban Wood Waste into Biochar

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 »

Cryptic Species, Agriculture, and Confirmation Bias

Posted by Andrew McGuire | May 31, 2018
Australian minnows under water

Australian minnows, or Mountain Galaxias, part of a 15-species cryptic hyper-complex. Photo: CC http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/3677

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 »

Less for grain, but YES for produce – My trip to Tilth

Posted by Cody Holland | January 23, 2018

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

Cody Holland head shot

Cody Holland

I’d like to preface this blog post by thanking WSU CSANR and Tilth Alliance for generously supporting the costs of my trip to Vancouver. Fact is, I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. As a full-time student, it’s all too easy to stay ‘on-rails’—incentivizing constructive risks, like trekking to an interdisciplinary conference—is chicken soup for the student soul. But now I’m mixing metaphors.

My expectations were essentially ‘nil’ preceding the conference: maybe I’d meet a future employer; “gee, never been to Vancouver before”; “with a name like Tilth, it’s got to be good”; conference SWAG. I’d examined the seminar docket ahead of time – looked an awful lot like a WSU syllabus: The View From 400 Feet: Sensors and Analytics in Precision Agriculture, From Farm Worker to Farm Owner: Experiences of Latino Farmers Across Washington, Produce Processing Capacity in Washington State for Farmers and Buyers, etc., etc. Alas, WSU CAHNRS does its job too well! Read more »

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Organic Waste

Posted by Khalid Almesfer | January 18, 2018

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

Khalid Almesfer head shot

Khalid Almesfer

My name is Khalid Almesfer, and I have a Master’s Degree in Soil Science. Now, I am PhD student in Soil Science at Washington State University (WSU).I watched how desertification and pollution were affecting agricultural land in my country (Saudi Arabia) and I decided to study soil science (soil chemistry) as a major in college. I had always felt that I was inclined to this kind of study. In addition to this, I found that there is a growing need for specialists in this field who could implement and advance scientific skills in soil chemistry, which is very important in my country, which is witnessing an accelerated development in all agricultural sectors.  I also participated in different research projects including a survey on soil resources and water quality evaluation in Southern Tihama plains, Saudi Arabia in 2004-2008, and an integrated survey for natural forests in the western and southwestern regions of Saudi Arabia in 2000-2003. I participated in a study on evaluation of soil pollution around Mahad AD’ Dahab Mine and also participated in a baseline of secondary treated sanitary waste-water irrigation at Al-Kafji Joint Operation, and in the evaluation of pollutants in agricultural soils, together with evaluation of soil degradation (features and causes) in some irrigated agricultural soils in Saudi Arabia. Read more »

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It is not just feeding our families

Posted by Esther Rugoli | January 16, 2018

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

Esther Rugoli head shot

Esther Rugoli

My name is Esther Rugoli, and I am in my second year in Agriculture Biotechnology at Washington State University. It was my first time to hear about The Tilth Conference, and it was such great chance to attend in Vancouver, Washington.

I am from the Rwanda, and most farmers in my country grow food to feed their families and they are left with little or none to sell. Now the number of commercial farmers is increasing, but there is still the problem of food insecurity in my country. I always think of agriculture in a business-based manner because in the future I want to see my country growing more food at a commercial scale. Before I attended The Tilth Conference, I was less informed and thought organic farming was all about growing few crops for food with your family. I could not think of a farmer growing organic food and still producing enough to put on a large market. Read more »

It is a Lifestyle, not just a cultivation pattern

Posted by Adel Almesmari | January 11, 2018

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

Adel Almesmari head shot

Adel Almesmari

My name is Adel Almesmari, and I have a Master’s Degree in Horticulture. I am presently working towards my Ph.D. in the Horticulture department at Washington State University. This is my second time consecutively to attend the Tilth Conference and it was a pleasure again this year in Vancouver, Washington.

My expectations for the second time attending the Tilth Conference included having the opportunity to communicate with professionals and farmers, also learning from workshops. This year’s conference focused on many themes including sustainable systems, farm business, special topic workshops, and marketing workshops, but I was interested in my area in particular, which is sustainable systems. This event brought ideas and people from different trends to understand sustainable and organic farming. Read more »

Toward sustainable agriculture

Posted by Abdelsalam Aldrmon | January 9, 2018

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

Abdelsalam Aldrmon head shot

Abdelsalam Aldrmon

My name is Abdelsalam Aldrmon. I am from Libya and I earned my master’s degree in environmental science from Omar Al-Mukhtar University Libya. I have been a PhD student at WSU in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for two years. I am most interested in issues related to agriculture and the environment. Now I am working on a project: Designer Biochar to Improve Soil Hydraulic Properties, Chemical Properties and Crop Productivity.

My expectations before attending the Tilth Conference were like any other conference and I was looking forward to topics related to sustainable agriculture. The best session for me was the first session, sustainable systems. What really aroused my interest was the diverse audience including students, farmers, marketers, scientists, and others, not like any conference I had previously attended. I think that what made the Tilth Conference distinctive. Read more »

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Reflections on Tilth

Posted by Sean Hulbert | January 3, 2018

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

Sean Hulbert head shot

Sean Hulbert

The 2017 Tilth Conference was a very informative and memorable experience for me! First a little background information: I am the son of a third-generation farmer and soon to become the fourth in the Skagit Valley! I spoke to my parents beforehand about the conference and they did not know anyone who would be attending so I was going in with the expectation that I would meet new companies/people. Boy was I wrong; instead I was instantly recognized by name as many of the Tilth members had farmed or worked in the Skagit Valley. Many of whom work with the WSU Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. This was a great experience and made the conference very enjoyable for me as we shared stories of farming and living in the Skagit River Delta. Read more »

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