Posted by Karen Hills | June 21, 2018
In non-irrigated areas that are too dry to support annual cropping, fallow (the practice of leaving land unplanted) preserves soil moisture for future crops. However, annual fallow combined with conventional tillage has resulted in a net decrease in soil carbon over time in our region, with negative impacts to soil health across large areas. And even when tillage is eliminated, it is very difficult to maintain soil carbon over time in a wheat-fallow system. For this reason, the impact of climate change on the frequency of fallow in crop rotations has important future implications both for soil health and for opportunities for carbon sequestration.
Posted by Anne Schwartz | June 18, 2018
Anne Schwartz is a long-time CSANR Advisory Committee member, former Tilth Producers of Washington president, proprietor of Blue Heron Farm, and lifelong advocate for sustainable agriculture. Anne is a guest blogger, challenging College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences faculty, and CSANR faculty in particular, to focus on and address the challenges of True Cost Accounting.
True Cost Accounting is the study in economics that addresses all of the upstream and downstream costs and benefits associated with a set of management decisions and ensuing practices, and their long-term impacts on natural resources and communities. Other terms used to indicate a similar approach include: Full Cost Accounting (FCA), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Triple Bottom Line (TBL), Natural Capital Accounting (NCA), and Cradle to Cradle (C2C). Read more »
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | June 14, 2018
What are the climate impacts of a given farm practice? While we know lots of strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions on farms, quantifying that impact can be difficult. However, there is at least one farm in our region –one that uses some pretty neat practices – for which scientists have attempted to answer that question. And the farmer just happens to be a long-time member of CSANR’s advisory committee, Dale Gies. Read more »
Posted by Karen Hills | June 11, 2018
Biochar as a soil amendment has been the subject of much attention in recent years because of its ability to sequester carbon and to improve aggregation, water holding capacity, and organic matter content of soil amended with it (Lehmann, 2007; Marris, 2006). A recent article on the Ag Climate Network blog from our colleagues at Oregon State University discusses what’s needed to economically produce forest to farm biochar. In contrast, researchers at Washington State University are investigating what we could call waste to farm biochar. Waste to farm biochar, if deployed on a larger scale, could offer a two-part benefit – removal of wood from the municipal solid waste stream and creation of a valuable product from this wood. In recent work, researchers are looking at two possible wastes that could be made into biochar: wood-based fractions of municipal solid waste and the large woody material remaining after compost production—referred to as “compost overs.” Read more »
Posted by Georgine Yorgey | June 7, 2018
Building on our long-term efforts relating to dairy nutrient management, we now have a new publication that summarizes the various approaches being explored for nutrient recovery on dairies – and what we know about the current costs and performance that are associated with each strategy. The publication, Approaches to Nutrient Recovery from Dairy Manure, was a long term effort by Craig Frear (formerly of CSANR), Jingwei Ma, and Georgine Yorgey (CSANR). This publication is a companion to The Rationale for Recovery of Phosphorus and Nitrogen from Dairy Manure.
CSANR has worked in the field of dairy waste nutrient recovery for a number of years. Please visit our Anaerobic Digestion topic page for additional publications, videos, and resources, as well as our Anaerobic Digestion Systems project page for specifics on our work.
Filed under Climate Change, Energy, Sustainability, Sustainable Practices and Technology
Posted by Andrew McGuire | May 31, 2018
Imagine this. You are an avid fisherman in south-eastern Australia. You relish getting away to the many lakes in the nearby mountains. Each lake is a bit different, different surroundings, different fishing holes, but you always see the same minnows, or perhaps two species as you heard a ranger say at a campfire talk, “based on expert taxonomic assessment.” You call them brown minnows, some call them mountain galaxias. They seem common, normal; but we see not as a minnow sees, but with human eyes and thoughts.
In 2012, a group of Aussie scientists (Adams et al. 2014) made a discovery: the minnows from the different lakes that look the same to you, are actually 15 distinct species. What was thought to be one or two species before, even by simple DNA tests, became 15 species with more comprehensive genetic testing (“involving multi-locus nDNA markers”). Organisms such as these minnows, which look very similar, even identical by most standards, but are different species are called cryptic species. A group of these is called a cryptic complex of species. Because of the high number of minnow species, this case is raised to the “hyper-cryptic complex” status. Read more »
Filed under Community and Society, Perspectives on Sustainability, Sustainable Practices and Technology
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 »
Posted by Karen Hills | March 15, 2018
Karen Hills and CSANR Associate Director, Georgine Yorgey co-wrote this post.
Across the dryland areas of the inland Pacific Northwest, soil erosion and the use of near monocultures of wheat have long been serious sustainability challenges, ones that we have been working on for decades, including over the last seven years through regional collaborations. Reducing or eliminating tillage has been one important strategy for reducing erosion across the region in recent decades. Improving diversity by including crops such as canola, peas, chickpea and quinoa in rotations is another approach, but across the inland Pacific Northwest from 2007-2014, 53% of dryland crop acreage was used for winter or spring wheat, while an additional 31% was fallow (meaning that to preserve moisture for the following crop, no crop was grown) (Kirby, E. et al., 2017). Read more »
Posted by Andrew McGuire | March 13, 2018
Green manures have a lot in common with the other kind of GM crops (GMOs), though there are also some differences. Both green manures and GM crops produce pesticides in their plant cells, yet green manures are completely unregulated. Both are “unnatural” uses of crops, yet nobody argues about green manures. Conventional farmers use green manures, but unlike GM crops, so do organic farmers. Green manures require tillage, but GM crops make no-till easier. Monsanto and other multinational seed companies do not produce GM green manure crops, but they should.
If brown manures are livestock-processed crop biomass, then green manures are their raw, unprocessed predecessors. A green manure is a cover crop that is tilled into the soil while still green. Unlike brown manures, the biomass is grown in place and is used in place with no transport costs. Read more »
Filed under Sustainable Practices and Technology
Posted by Esther Rugoli | January 16, 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.
My name is Esther Rugoli, and I am in my second year in Agriculture Biotechnology at Washington State University. It was my first time to hear about The Tilth Conference, and it was such great chance to attend in Vancouver, Washington.
I am from the Rwanda, and most farmers in my country grow food to feed their families and they are left with little or none to sell. Now the number of commercial farmers is increasing, but there is still the problem of food insecurity in my country. I always think of agriculture in a business-based manner because in the future I want to see my country growing more food at a commercial scale. Before I attended The Tilth Conference, I was less informed and thought organic farming was all about growing few crops for food with your family. I could not think of a farmer growing organic food and still producing enough to put on a large market. Read more »