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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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Living Fences and Breaking Barriers – My Tilth Experience

Posted by Jason Jacobson | February 17, 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 Jason Jacobson, and I am an Organic Agriculture Systems major at Washington State University.  Through the generous sponsorship efforts of WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR), I was able to attend the 2016 Seattle Tilth Conference in Wenatchee, Washington.

The farm tour proved to be one of my favorite events of the weekend, specifically the Gibbs Organic Farm, where permaculture and livestock integration played a major role in their operation, and the multiple enterprises on site served as a model and an inspiration to a new farmer like me. Additionally, the farm tour visited a compost operation, run by the Stemilt Fruit Company, which provided amazing insight into large-scale composting and some of the real-world challenges associated with it. Read more »

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Traditional Techniques and the “Hopper Popper”?

Posted by James Gonzalez | February 16, 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.

As Michael Philips so eloquently stated in his opening address for this year’s Tilth Conference, “It’s about finding who you are.” These words resonated with me tremendously throughout the duration of the conference, as this is a concept that had been on my mind throughout the previous year. My name is James Gonzalez and I am a senior at Washington State University in Pullman.

Being as this marks my fourth year of attendance at the Tilth Conference, I may consider myself familiar with the ins-and-outs of the conference goings-on. Previous years have put me in convention centers in Yakima, Vancouver, and Spokane, with this year providing me an opportunity to see Wenatchee for the first time. As with prior conferences, this one presented me with an abundance of knowledge and more questions than I could have answered. Read more »

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Sustainability; Strength from within

Posted by Adekunle Adesanya | February 14, 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.

‘Sustainability’ is one word that is on the lips of numerous people with different and diverse concerns. Environmentalists want sustainable ecosystems with sustainable energy production to sustain our planet. Agriculturalists want sustainable food production systems and methods that do not deplete the earth of its resources. Health practitioners want a sustainable health care system that is affordable and maintainable over generations. One peculiarity that cuts across all these is that regardless of the system of concern, getting the optimal use of its components without reliance or intrusion by external forces is the best way of being sustainable, i.e., ‘strength is from within’. Little wonder, that WSU is renowned for its  Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR), which has been investing in students to actively participate in sustainable solutions to complex agricultural problems. Read more »

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