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On whether the “organic vs. conventional” comparison is meaningful

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).

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Filed under Nutrition, Organic Farming, Sustainability
3 Comments

New Insights Gained into the Role of Dairy Products in Promoting Healthier Diets

Posted by Chuck Benbrook | December 9, 2013

Dozens of studies, most of them conducted in Europe, have shown higher levels of health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk compared to conventional milk, as well as lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids.  The National Institutes of Health, in a factsheet on omega-3 fatty acids, reports that:

“Most American diets provide more than 10 times as much omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. There is general agreement that individuals should consume more omega-3 and less omega-6 fatty acids to promote good health.”

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Filed under Nutrition, Organic Farming
4 Comments

Expanding organic on the landscape: does farm size matter?

Posted by David Granatstein | November 3, 2013

In the 1970s, I was part of the “back to the land” movement and very interested in organic farming as the solution to sustainability problems in agriculture. At that time, organic was close to invisible on the agricultural and food landscape. In spite of this, many of us strived toward “the whole world being organic.” A lot has changed since then; and a lot has not. Organic has undergone exponential growth in the marketplace, with increases in both the number of farmers and the land area involved. Organic is still a small fraction of the market, however, and many of the problems we saw decades ago still persist. Read more »

Organic farming – environmental benefit, yield cost?

Posted by David Granatstein | August 27, 2013

While most consumers may choose organic foods for their potential health characteristics (e.g., lower chance of pesticide residue and potentially greater nutrient value), these same consumers generally believe that organic farming is “good” for the environment and thus worth supporting.  But is the assumption of environmental benefit correct? And is there a cost? Let’s take a look at how the newer studies compare to older research findings. Read more »

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
9 Comments

No glyphosate-tolerant wheat found by WSU wheat breeders

Posted by Chad Kruger | August 8, 2013

I know that many residents of Washington were extremely concerned to learn about the discovery of glyphosate-tolerant wheat in an Oregon farm field this spring. WSU’s Agricultural Research Center released a news update today indicating that the glyphosate-tolerant gene was NOT discovered in any of the WSU breeding lines (commercialized or in development) nor in other tested lines developed by regional universities and companies. While it’s still not clear how this incident happened, this is certainly great news for the region. Also, I think it is really important to note how rapidly and extensively our breeding programs and administration responded to this concern to protect the interests of the state and our wheat producers.

More detail is available here.

 

Study Shows Soil-Building Benefits of Manure and Crop Rotation, so why didn’t they say so?

Posted by Andrew McGuire | June 27, 2013

Here is the secret to building soils – manure and diverse crop rotation. Underwhelmed? Researchers in Iowa (Delate et al, 2013) came to this conclusion after conducting ten years of field research. Only this wasn’t their conclusion.

“Iowa State study shows soil-building benefits of organic practices,” reads the headline of the Leopold Center press release on this research. This is misleading for two reasons. Read more »

Can one small winery make a difference?

Posted by Marcy Ostrom | May 7, 2013

At Klickitat Canyon Winery and Meadowlark Vineyard, designing a resilient farming system begins with native habitat restoration. Owners Robin Dobson and Kathleen Perillo say they will know they have succeeded when the Meadowlark returns to nest under their vines. Read more »

CSANR BIOAg funds new research and education projects

Posted by Chad Kruger | May 1, 2013

Perhaps the most important activity undertaken by CSANR each year is the selection of new BIOAg projects to fund. The goal of the BIOAg competitive grant program is to engage a broad, interdisciplinary spectrum of WSU faculty in projects that further the development, understanding, and use of biologically-intensive and/or organic principles, practices, and technologies to improve the sustainability of agriculture and food systems in Washington State. We select projects that meet one of three objectives: to stimulate new research initiatives, to augment critical gaps in existing areas of knowledge, and to move existing, game-changing research out into the real world. Read more »

A wrong decision for the right reason?

Posted by David Granatstein | April 24, 2013

A couple of weeks ago Dr. Jeff Ullman, formerly of WSU, gave a provocative seminar on the fate of various constituents of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment.  He and his co-researchers have discovered that a wide range of chemicals from these products do not degrade when going through our bodies, animal bodies, or wastewater treatment facilities, and can sometimes be detected at very low levels in drinking water.  He focused on recent work1 trying to test the hypothesis that antibiotics fed to livestock (often in continual sub-therapeutic doses) can be excreted by the animal, remain biologically active, exert selection pressure on human pathogens that might be present in the environment outside the animal, lead to the development of antibiotic resistance by these pathogens, and then be ingested by another animal.  Ultimately, their careful step-by-step study did show it was possible for this to occur.  However, they found that not all antibiotics act the same.  Cefoxitin and florfenicol, for example, retained their bactericidal activity and thus could select for resistance, while tetracycline and ciprofloxacin were almost completed deactivated within 24 hours of contact with the soil.  They conclude that efforts to control antibiotic contamination might best be focused on those compounds that retain their biological activity in soil since these are the ones that could exert a selective pressure for resistance in the environment.  Read more »

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