Posted by Andrew McGuire | September 19, 2017
Once you start asking questions, innocence is gone. -Mary Astor
My first question about manure, “Can Manure Supply Nitrogen and Phosphorus to Agriculture?” was answered here. But manure is more than nutrients. The bulk of manure is organic material, the carbon that the primary-producer feed crop took from the air and built into organic molecules (hence the name “organic”). When added to the soil, some of this manure bulk ends up as soil organic matter.
Organic matter is a small but crucial portion of soil. If we can maintain a soil’s organic matter levels, we have gone a long way in maintaining soil health and function. Can manure do this? Can manure sustain soils?
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Posted by Andrew McGuire | September 7, 2017
Once you start asking questions, innocence is gone. -Mary Astor
Manure, whether fresh, old, or composted, is often declared to be a key component of sustainable agriculture. In countless trials, researchers have found multiple benefits of manure application (Haynes and Naidu 1998), and so manure use is promoted as a solution in discussions of sustainable agriculture topics including: soil fertility, soil health, organic farming, regenerative farming, carbon sequestration, and renewable resources.
However, I have questions. Not about the actual spreading of manure, or calculating application rates, but about manure’s role in sustaining agriculture. Is manure a sustainable source of nutrients? Is manure a sustainable organic soil amendment, able to build soil organic matter, store carbon in the soil, and so assist in reducing greenhouse gases? When is manure application a sustainable practice?
In my next few posts, I will answer these questions with the hope of finding manure’s true role in sustaining agriculture. First, let’s look at the nutrient-supplying potential of manure. It all starts with figuring out where manure comes from. Read more »
Posted by Andrew Shirk | August 17, 2017
Andrew Shirk, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington, co-authored this post with Sonia A. Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University.
Healthy ecosystems provide us with clean water, clean air, and rich soils, resources that help meet our needs and fuel our economies. They also support many wildlife species. If we can consider those animals as an indication of the state of these ecosystems, things look grim globally. We are losing species at least 100 times faster than what’s been the norm, based on the fossil record. Currently, 1 out of every 4 mammal species and 1 out of every 8 bird species is under threat of extinction, with more species becoming threatened each year. One of the main reasons for these grim numbers is loss of habitat, and growing crops on what was their habitat has contributed to that. But agriculture is also key to providing for our needs and fueling our economies. So can agricultural landscapes contribute to both food production and habitats? From our experience with Greater Sage-Grouse conservation in eastern Washington, we’d argue that the answer is yes. Read more »
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | July 13, 2017
Dryland crops are a common sight east of the Cascades, and cover a LOT of acreage in the Pacific Northwest – more than 5.8 million acres according to recent statistics. Over the last three years, a group of us at CSANR have had the privilege of working with more than 40 co-authors (!) from our region’s three land grant universities – WSU, University of Idaho, and Oregon State University – and from USDA Agricultural Research Service to summarize the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about our region’s dryland systems. That work has now been published as a book, Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest. With touchstone chapters on climate considerations (which has always played a predominant role in determining what crops can be grown) and soil health, this wide-ranging book has chapters on conservation tillage systems, residue management, crop intensification and diversification, soil fertility management, soil amendments, precision agriculture, weeds, diseases, and insects, and policy. We invite you to explore the books many chapters online here or download the entire book as a PDF. If you know you will want to read this book and refer to it over time, you can also receive a free printed version as long as funds allow, by ordering here. Read more »
Posted by David Granatstein | July 10, 2017
It’s hard for much to make the news other than politics these days. But the world keeps on turning, we keep on eating, and growers keep trying to meet consumer demand. Two recent CSANR reports provide updates on organic trends – one on the organic sector in Washington State in general, and one specifically on organic tree fruit.
In 2016, demand for organic foods grew once again reaching a new high of $43 billion of retail sales in the U.S. Sales grew at 8.4% over the previous year, a bit lower than the 10-12% annual growth since 2009. Global organic food sales were estimated at $81.6 billion in 2015 (the most recent year); U.S. sales made up 48% of this, with Europe accounting for 39%. Sales in Asia reached 8% and have been steadily increasing. Details on global organic trends can be found at World of Organic Agriculture . The most recent national sales summary is at the Organic Trade Association. Read more »
Filed under Organic Farming
Posted by Sonia A. Hall | June 5, 2017
The conditions the Northwest experienced in 2015 have received a lot of attention, because we saw drought even though precipitation was close to normal. So the drought was due to higher temperatures, which meant snow didn’t accumulate anywhere near as much as it does on average. With less water available for irrigation in summer (see our earlier articles on the 2015 drought here and here), we’d expected irrigated crops to suffer, and we’d also expect growers’ bottom line to suffer.
But when the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Annual Statistical Bulletin for Washington State came out in October 2016, it was followed by an article in Capital Press discussing the apparent paradox that agricultural production values hit record highs in 2015, even though the region was under that newsworthy “snow drought.” Though I did not personally fact-check the Capital Press article, it’s an intriguing paradox. A presentation I heard at the recent (January 2017) Climate Impacts to Water Conference provided some insights. Ballav Aryal, a graduate student in the School of Economic Sciences at Washington State University, presented research that highlighted two factors that might explain this apparent paradox. Read more »
Filed under Climate Change
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | June 1, 2017
Successful farmers are skilled at coping with risk, from weather to markets, and a variety of other factors. So to answer the question, “what practices might best help our region’s farmers adapt to climate change?” we went straight to the source. Our region is home to many accomplished farmers who are pioneering a range of new farming practices that improve sustainability, enhance resilience, and are likely to be helpful in adapting to climate change. Their farming practices include reducing and eliminating tillage; diversifying crop rotations; integrating livestock and cover cropping into dryland wheat rotations; and working with partners in their communities to address water related issues. Read more »
Posted by Vincent Jones | May 30, 2017
This BIOAg funded project focused on critical knowledge gaps in the use of plant volatiles as attractants for two different beneficial lacewing species (Chrysopa nigricornis and Chrysoperla plorabunda). The purpose was to investigate whether it was possible to manipulate the spatial distribution of natural enemies in agricultural systems to augment biological control in areas with large pest populations of woolly apple aphid (WAA). Read more »
Filed under Sustainable Practices and Technology
Posted by Chad Kruger | May 25, 2017
We’ve arrived at the 10th year that CSANR has held a competitive process to select seed projects under the BIOAg Grant Program. This year’s selections bring us to a total of 91 funded project proposals, standard and integrated. The program is one key way that the Center achieves its goal of incubating research and educational activities that advance the sustainability of agriculture in the state. 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 sustainability. Read more »
Posted by Beverly Gerdeman | May 22, 2017
Spotted wing drosophila (SWD), Drosophila suzukii, is considered the most important pest of soft fruit in Washington State. Current control methods require weekly insecticide applications, which are unsustainable. So far however, no effective biological controls have been identified. Large numbers of yellow dung flies were observed in a Whatcom County red raspberry field following an early spring manure application. This prompted an investigation into the potential of yellow dung flies to impact SWD populations by feeding on overwintering females returning to berry fields early spring.