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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 »

What have we learned about dryland cropping systems in the last 15 years?

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 »

Farmer-to-Farmer Case Studies

Posted by Georgine Yorgey | June 1, 2017

Map of case study profile locations.

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 »

Attracting green lacewings to synthetic lures in apple orchards to manage pests

Posted by Vincent Jones | May 30, 2017

Featured BIOAg research: Spatial and temporal dynamics of attracting green lacewings to synthetic lures in apple orchards for pest suppression

Green lacewing. Photo: C. Baker

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 »

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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 »

Could predatory flies provide early season control of spotted wing drosophila in red raspberry?

Posted by Beverly Gerdeman | May 22, 2017

Featured BIOAg research: Potential for early season control of spotted wing drosophila by predatory flies (Scathophagidae) as a secondary benefit of manure amendments in red raspberry

Spotted wing drosophila on raspberry [male in focus (L), female out of focus (R)]. Photo: B. Gerdeman

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.

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Farm Incubator Programs in Higher Education

Posted by Alex Shih | May 11, 2017

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 months. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

2016 was an historic year for the annual Tilth Conference; for the first time this region-wide event was organized by two well-known and respected organizations in Washington State – Seattle Tilth and Tilth Producers of Washington. The recent merger of these two organizations under the new name, Tilth Alliance, is a large step toward building greater awareness and adoption of sustainable agriculture practices in the future. Congratulations! Read more »

Social & Soil Networks

Posted by Tyler Sabin | May 8, 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.

The Tilth Conference was a highly informative and welcoming experience to attend. As an organic agriculture undergraduate citing articles and extension publications, I find it rewarding to have the opportunity to meet the men and women doing the research. As an intern researching cover crops out of Pullman, I enjoyed the chance to discuss methods and results with the researchers doing similar work full time on a large scale. I found the information shared during the presentations by Nick Andrews and Doug Collins, both renowned for their work with cover crops, to be helpful in framing what I had seen firsthand. Their presentations also helped put my mind at ease knowing that even at the professional level, researchers are facing similar struggles to those that I encountered during my internship. Read more »

With heirloom varieties, Grant Gibbs takes a unique slice of the apple market pie

Posted by Sajal Sthapit | May 4, 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.

Photo: E. Palikhey/LI-BIRD

Washington grown apples are among the best in the world. The state produces more apples than any other state in the USA. The apple is also Washington’s number one agricultural commodity valued at USD 2.18 billion in 2013. Read more »

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