Reflections on Tilth

January 3, 2018
By Sean Hulbert

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.

All of the five sessions I attended were very informative, with the session regarding land trades from the perspective of the Lessee/Lessor a stand-out favorite. This topic hit home due to the importance of crop rotations and thus trading land with potato, flower, and other vegetable seed growers. Additionally, the Keynote speaker was excellent. David Montgomery, a Professor of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, gave an excellent hour-long presentation to the crowd. He linked soil erosion/degradation to the fall of many great societies in the world. Including the Romans, Greeks and Mesopotamians, he also compared his findings to what has been occurring in the Midwest and Palouse regions. Through tillage practices, soil erosion has been detrimental to agriculture and the environment. With the loss of soil health, increased chemicals have been used to produce the same yields, leading to even further decreased soil health and water pollution.

Dr. Montgomery has published three books on the soil topics and has had great findings with case studies completed in the Midwest. He has literally seen humans ‘beat nature,’ by no-till practices. Soil health has risen and soil organic matter (SOM) has accelerated above the natural levels. This is a great sign for the world as we must protect our soils in order to feed our growing population! Just like my grandpa, James H. Hulbert, used to say, “It’s all about the dirt,” whether it is disease, yields or the question of the crop to be grown, it truly is all about the dirt.

To conclude I have been in contact with Dr. Montgomery regarding his fourth book! I had a question following his presentation but the time frame did not allow for questions, thus I sent him an email asking why he did the majority of his research with colleges in the Midwest rather than WSU. He said he would like to reach out to WSU for his upcoming book and asked me for contacts, I then gave him the information for my old bosses in the Department of Soil Sciences here at WSU!

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