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2017 In Review

Posted by Georgine Yorgey | April 19, 2018

2017 was an incredibly busy and productive year for us at CSANR, and I’m pleased to be able to share some of what we accomplished through our 2017 annual report. Among the highlights:

  • Laura Lewis was named the leader of the new WSU Food Systems Program, and Kirti Rajagopalan joined us as an assistant research professor to co-lead our evolving work on climate and water resources.
  • Marcy Ostrom and David Granatstein co-taught a graduate-level Agroecology class.
  • We funded 9 BIOAg projects led by WSU colleagues, including projects to: increase legume nodulation for improved symbiotic nitrogen fixation (Mike Kahn); evaluate the impact of border vegetation patterns on blueberries (Lisa DeVetter); and explore sustainable crop-livestock integration in the dryland areas of the inland Pacific Northwest (Haiying Tao).

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Regenerative Agriculture: Solid Principles, Extraordinary Claims

Posted by Andrew McGuire | April 4, 2018

What is regenerative agriculture? Why is it different from sustainable agriculture? And how do I reconcile what practitioners of this system are claiming with the scientific evidence? These were all going through my mind when, a couple weeks ago at an advisory committee meeting of the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, we watched a YouTube video of Gabe Brown’s TEDx talk in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Brown farms near Bismarck, ND, and has become the American face of regenerative agriculture in the past decade. Here is what I learned. Read more »

Crop residue–Help or hindrance?

Posted by Karen Hills | January 25, 2018

The production of crop residue varies dramatically across the Inland Pacific Northwest, with estimated residue production for winter wheat ranging from roughly 0.9 ton/acre in the drier grain-fallow cropping system (Figure 1) to 8.5 ton/acre in the wetter annual crop system, which has enough precipitation to support cropping every year. Crop residues are often seen as simply something to “manage” so that they don’t impede future plantings or as a byproduct that can be sold to help improve the bottom line. However, while editing chapters for the recently released publication Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest, I was introduced to another way to think about these residues in the chapter in that publication titled “Crop Residue Management.” The lead author, Haiying Tao from Washington State University, and her co-authors make the interesting point that crop residues should be seen as a valuable resource and that there’s an important tradeoff that should be considered before exporting them from the farm. Residues not only serve a critical role in protecting soils from wind and water erosion between crops, they also add carbon and nutrients back to the soil, improving soil health and helping to maintain its productivity over time. Read more »

Filed under Climate Change, Sustainability
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Less for grain, but YES for produce – My trip to Tilth

Posted by Cody Holland | January 23, 2018

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference. We have posted reflections written by the students over the past several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Cody Holland

I’d like to preface this blog post by thanking WSU CSANR and Tilth Alliance for generously supporting the costs of my trip to Vancouver. Fact is, I wouldn’t have gone otherwise. As a full-time student, it’s all too easy to stay ‘on-rails’—incentivizing constructive risks, like trekking to an interdisciplinary conference—is chicken soup for the student soul. But now I’m mixing metaphors.

My expectations were essentially ‘nil’ preceding the conference: maybe I’d meet a future employer; “gee, never been to Vancouver before”; “with a name like Tilth, it’s got to be good”; conference SWAG. I’d examined the seminar docket ahead of time – looked an awful lot like a WSU syllabus: The View From 400 Feet: Sensors and Analytics in Precision Agriculture, From Farm Worker to Farm Owner: Experiences of Latino Farmers Across Washington, Produce Processing Capacity in Washington State for Farmers and Buyers, etc., etc. Alas, WSU CAHNRS does its job too well! Read more »

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Organic Waste

Posted by Khalid Almesfer | January 18, 2018

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will post reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Khalid Almesfer

My name is Khalid Almesfer, and I have a Master’s Degree in Soil Science. Now, I am PhD student in Soil Science at Washington State University (WSU).I watched how desertification and pollution were affecting agricultural land in my country (Saudi Arabia) and I decided to study soil science (soil chemistry) as a major in college. I had always felt that I was inclined to this kind of study. In addition to this, I found that there is a growing need for specialists in this field who could implement and advance scientific skills in soil chemistry, which is very important in my country, which is witnessing an accelerated development in all agricultural sectors.  I also participated in different research projects including a survey on soil resources and water quality evaluation in Southern Tihama plains, Saudi Arabia in 2004-2008, and an integrated survey for natural forests in the western and southwestern regions of Saudi Arabia in 2000-2003. I participated in a study on evaluation of soil pollution around Mahad AD’ Dahab Mine and also participated in a baseline of secondary treated sanitary waste-water irrigation at Al-Kafji Joint Operation, and in the evaluation of pollutants in agricultural soils, together with evaluation of soil degradation (features and causes) in some irrigated agricultural soils in Saudi Arabia. Read more »

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Toward sustainable agriculture

Posted by Abdelsalam Aldrmon | January 9, 2018

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will post reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Abdelsalam Aldrmon

My name is Abdelsalam Aldrmon. I am from Libya and I earned my master’s degree in environmental science from Omar Al-Mukhtar University Libya. I have been a PhD student at WSU in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences for two years. I am most interested in issues related to agriculture and the environment. Now I am working on a project: Designer Biochar to Improve Soil Hydraulic Properties, Chemical Properties and Crop Productivity.

My expectations before attending the Tilth Conference were like any other conference and I was looking forward to topics related to sustainable agriculture. The best session for me was the first session, sustainable systems. What really aroused my interest was the diverse audience including students, farmers, marketers, scientists, and others, not like any conference I had previously attended. I think that what made the Tilth Conference distinctive. Read more »

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Reflections on Tilth

Posted by Sean Hulbert | January 3, 2018

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will post reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Sean Hulbert

The 2017 Tilth Conference was a very informative and memorable experience for me! First a little background information: I am the son of a third-generation farmer and soon to become the fourth in the Skagit Valley! I spoke to my parents beforehand about the conference and they did not know anyone who would be attending so I was going in with the expectation that I would meet new companies/people. Boy was I wrong; instead I was instantly recognized by name as many of the Tilth members had farmed or worked in the Skagit Valley. Many of whom work with the WSU Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. This was a great experience and made the conference very enjoyable for me as we shared stories of farming and living in the Skagit River Delta. Read more »

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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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