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A role for agricultural landscapes in conserving wildlife – Part 2

Posted by Andrew Shirk | October 24, 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.

Fields enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have augmented native habitat and helped Greater Sage-Grouse avoid extinction in the agricultural landscape of eastern Washington after decades of decline (see part 1 of this series for details). Even though the local sage-grouse population has stabilized in recent decades, it remains highly vulnerable because it is still small and isolated from other populations. As we enter an era of rapid climate change, the right conditions for sage-grouse habitat may shift away from currently occupied areas, requiring populations to move and colonize new areas over a short period of time. And they must do so across a landscape that is now replete with major highways, urban areas, and other barriers to movement. And even if wildlife can cross these barriers, the area of suitable, available habitat may shrink under the future climate. Read more »

There is not enough manure (or compost) to sustain agriculture

Posted by Andrew McGuire | October 18, 2017

There is not enough manure. Not enough to supply nutrients to our crops, not enough to maintain our soils. Those were the conclusions in my last two posts, but before we see what this means for agriculture, let’s look to other organic amendments. Is there enough of any of them?

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Can manure sustain soils?

Posted by Andrew McGuire | September 19, 2017

Once you start asking questions, innocence is gone. -Mary Astor

How much manure do you need to spread to maintain your soil’s organic matter? Photo: werktuigendagen via Wikimedia Commons

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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Can Manure Supply Nitrogen and Phosphorus to Agriculture?

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 a key component of sustainable agriculture. From countless trials, researchers have come to similar conclusions (Haynes and Naidu 1998). Manure use is promoted as a solution in discussions of sustainable agriculture topics including: soil fertility, soil health, organic farmingregenerative 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 putting manure in its proper 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 »

A role for agricultural landscapes in conserving wildlife – Part 1

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.

Conservation Reserve Program field in Douglas County, Washington. Photo: Michael Schroeder.

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 »

2017 BIOAg Grant Awards

Posted by Chad Kruger | May 25, 2017

Dave Crowder will investigate microbial mediation of disease resistance, pollinator attraction, and crop yield in apples. Photo: J & P Donaho, Flickr c.c.

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 »

My First Tilth: educational, informative and full of surprises

Posted by Tuong Vu | April 19, 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 Tuong Vu, an undergraduate of the Organic Agriculture Systems major at Washington State University. About five years ago, I was very involved with my family’s restaurant but was never content with the food inventories we purchased from our main distributors (big, national suppliers). I wanted to look our customers in the eye and be proud to tell them that they are getting local, seasonal, fresh, healthy, and tasty foods. As a result, I motivated myself to go back to school to produce or contribute to the production of high quality food. The College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at WSU has excited me even more by introducing the theme of agricultural sustainability that touches on so many, if not all, aspects of society. Attending the Tilth Conference was a part of the great learning experience I am receiving at WSU; it was educational, informative, and full of surprises. I’d like to share some of my personal experiences through this CSANR Perspectives on Sustainability blog. 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.

 

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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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