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Organic Farming Provides Ecosystem Service and Solves Weed Problems

Posted by Andrew McGuire | April 14, 2016

In nearly all surveys of organic farmers their top priority for research is weed control. Weeds are a tough problem to solve, but with creativity and spunk, researchers in Spain have done it! In their 2016 paper, “Arable Weed Decline in Northeast Spain: Does Organic Farming Recover Functional Biodiversity?” Chamorro et al. provide a unique glimpse into the sort of thinking it will take to move agriculture to a different place. In a series of unanticipated turns, the authors lead us down a path to weed-free agriculture.

First, they contend that weeds are misunderstood. Weeds, as the paper admits, are a bane of agriculture, reducing yields as they do, but in a subtle departure, we are then told “The role of weeds in agroecosystems has been largely debated.” From this debate, the authors conclude that “the role of weeds is manifold”; weeds are not just yield-robbing competitors of crops, they also provide an “ecosystem service.” Read more »

2016 BIOAg Projects

Posted by Chad Kruger | April 7, 2016
B. Gerdeman will study the potential of predatory flies as pest control in raspberry for spotted wing drosophila (pictured). Photo: H. Burrack, NCSU, Bugwood.org via Flickr CC.

B. Gerdeman will study the potential of predatory flies as pest control in raspberry for spotted wing drosophila (pictured). Photo: H. Burrack, NCSU, Bugwood.org via Flickr CC.

Each year CSANR runs a solicitation for new research and extension proposals called the BIOAg program. This program has proven to be a critical factor in the success of CSANR Affiliated Faculty in establishing successful new projects and initiatives that address sustainability concerns for Washington’s food and agriculture system.

This program is the primary mechanism we have for engaging new WSU faculty in sustainable and organic agricultural research. This round we funded 7 projects (28% of proposed projects) covering berries, grapes, apples, vegetables, livestock and grains. The 7 projects represented 9 faculty investigators new to the BIOAg Program, representing Crop & Soil Sciences, Horticulture, Biological Systems Engineering, and Entomology. All 7 funded projects have a relationship with the priority area of improving soil quality. A list of funded projects is in the table below, and you can read more details on each of the projects here: http://csanr.wsu.edu/grants/2016/. Read more »

The Promise of Agriculture

Posted by Elisha Ondov | February 23, 2016

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual conference.  We have been posting reflections written by the students over the past several months. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Elisha Ondov, student guest-blogger.

Elisha Ondov, student guest-blogger.

My name is Elisha Ondov (pronounced E-lie-shuh). I am a student at Washington State University who, in November 2015, attended my first Tilth Producers conference in lovely Spokane. There I was introduced to the wickedly cut-throat world of the farming industry as I felt a little misplaced. A lot of people I spoke to (mostly students at WSU) wondered what brought me, a civil engineering student, to the conference. They thought I was lost, and I think they were right.

My time at the conference was quite an enjoyable atmosphere, but you get out what you put into it. As a socially reserved civil engineering student, it was fairly limited through my perspective. I am not a businessman with a product to sell. I don’t do agricultural research in a lab. I have been living in dormitories, so no yard to cultivate, and every aspect of my life does not support a farming lifestyle from family to friends and finances. Read more »

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Lessons for the student and the grower in me

Posted by Griffin Berger | February 8, 2016

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

Berger head shot crop

Griffin Berger, student guest-blogger.

My name is Griffin and I am a student at WSU majoring in both fruit and vegetables management and field crop management, and minoring in organic agriculture and horticulture. This year I attended the Tilth Producers of Washington Conference. The Tilth Conference is an event centered on sustainable agriculture and natural resources held in November that does not fail to deliver. The conference provides an environment for industry leaders, government agencies, educators, researchers, Ag companies, farmers, and students to have an open dialogue. The conference was a great place to share ideas, express opinions, and learn about upcoming and new ideas and technologies in the sustainable farming industry. Read more »

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Green Energy in a Blue Context: Taking Water into Account

Posted by Jaimi Lambert | January 14, 2016

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

Jaimi Lambert, student guest-blogger.

Jaimi Lambert, student guest-blogger.

I am currently a graduate student at WSU earning a Master of Science degree in Agriculture.  My focus is on sustainable agriculture and soil science, so having the opportunity to attend the Tilth Producers of Washington annual conference was very exciting!

I was able to attend many interesting workshops including one discussing water use and irrigation management given by Dr. Troy Peters – a WSU Extension Irrigation Specialist/Associate Professor in Prosser, WA.  I looked forward to this workshop expecting to learn more about current water management knowledge and practices that I could use to help develop my fledgling research proposal that, if funded, would be my project for a PhD.  Well, I did learn basic irrigation set-ups, uses and maintenance tips for water use efficiency. I also realized that water use and management is connected to other sustainability issues, like energy use and food production. Read more »

Filed under Energy, Sustainability
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A Passion Sparked and Fostered

Posted by Brendon Anthony | January 5, 2016

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

Brendon Anthony, student guest-blogger.

Brendon Anthony, student guest-blogger.

My name is Brendon Anthony, and I am currently pursuing a Master of Science in the Horticulture program at Washington State University. I have a passion for sustainable agriculture, and am constantly interested in how we can be developing better organic practices. I also run a non-profit organization called Harvest Craft, and we work with communities in third world countries to develop micro-farm businesses that are based on sustainable food production systems.

All this to say, the Tilth Conference, with all of its network, workshops, and wealth of information is my ideal place to glean insight and learn more about how I can effectively carry out my passion and career. It was such an honor to be able to attend this event, and I am very grateful to those who made this experience possible. Read more »

Filed under Community and Society, Sustainability
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A Reinterpretation of Values

Posted by James Gonzalez | December 17, 2015

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend Tilth Producers of WA annual 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.

James Gonzalez, student guest-blogger.

James Gonzalez, student guest-blogger.

What do I consider “valuable”? How do I determine what has worth and what doesn’t? Am I really in such a position that I can assign value to things? These are questions that I asked myself after attending this year’s Tilth Producers of Washington Conference. My name is James Gonzalez and I am a junior majoring in both organic agriculture systems and viticulture & enology at Washington State University in Pullman.

This year marks the third time I have attended the Tilth Producers conference in Washington. The first time I attended was in Yakima and the second time was in Vancouver. Both of my previous adventures at the conference left me filled with both knowledge and questions; questions that would eventually provide me with insight. This year turned out to be no different. Read more »

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Anaerobic digestion can be an excellent tool to convert waste into renewable energy; so why isn’t everyone using it?

Posted by Shannon Mitchell | December 2, 2015
See the linked WSU fact sheet above, "Anaerobic digestion effluents and processes: the basics" for more detailed information.

See the linked WSU fact sheet above, “Anaerobic digestion effluents and processes: the basics” for more detailed information.

Anaerobic digestion

For those of you less familiar with the terminology anaerobic digestion, let me first introduce this process. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is one option to treat concentrated organic waste streams, such as sewage sludge, manure, and food processing waste. The process is driven by anaerobic microorganisms, which means that microbes decompose the waste material while growing and reproducing in an environment void of oxygen. These organisms will die if oxygen is present. Anaerobic digestion is like composting, but instead of maintaining a good aerobic (with oxygen) compost pile, the organic waste is put in a completely sealed container void of oxygen (for more detail see the new WSU Fact Sheet: Mitchell et al., 2015). Read more »

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We are the 98%. Thanks to farmers and ranchers, from the rest of us.

Posted by Andrew McGuire | November 25, 2015

Just 2% of our population are farmers. Perhaps this should cause us as much concern as the 99-1% divide (highlighting economic inequality in our country), but today my goal is not warning, but thanksgiving. Here are some observations that we, the 98% should consider about the 2% of farmers, ranchers, growers, producers or whatever they would like us to call them.

Thank you to the producers of our feasts. Photo: Lauren M. via Flickr CC.

Thank you to the producers of our feasts. Photo: Lauren M. via Flickr CC.

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Early preparation for water transfers could reduce drought impacts for agriculture and fish

Posted by Georgine Yorgey | September 29, 2015

As this hot, dry summer winds down across Washington State, many areas are continuing to struggle with the impacts of drought.  (Those who would like a recap of August weather and drought conditions can see the WSU Drought Report here.)

Unfortunately, while the weather has become more fall-like, with welcome rain in some areas, all climate indicators point towards increased chance of warmer and somewhat drier than normal conditions through mid-2016 – as shown in the three month forecast from the Climate Prediction Center (see the maps below). Indicators consistent with this forecast include recent observations of a strong El Niño, forecasts of an 85% or greater likelihood of El Niño persisting through next spring, and a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) signal[1]. Together, this all points to a likelihood of reduced snowpack this winter – and limited water availability again next summer and fall. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change, Sustainability
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