Sustainable Practices and Technology

Human Perspectives Add Value to Entomological Research

You are at the grocery store in the produce section. Pears are in season, so you go over to pick a few out – maybe they will elevate your next charcuterie board. After inspecting a few, you grab pears that appear to be pristine, symmetrical in shape and with smooth, unsullied skin. These are worth your money.

Pears in rows of a carton

How Worms are Revolutionizing Sustainable Agriculture

We often encounter worms on the sidewalk after it rains or in our vegetable gardens. Despite how casual these encounters may be, worms are an essential species for ecosystem health. Through this research, I am investigating how worms can benefit agricultural wastewater treatment to improve sustainable and holistic agricultural practices.

Woman taking samples in vermifiltration bed

Nano Tools for Managing Plant Diseases

There is no silver bullet to manage agricultural pests. Growers generally rely on a combination of cultural, genetic, chemical, and alternative pest management approaches to keep pest populations below economic threshold levels. Use of synthetic pesticides is thus an integral component of conventional pest management programs. However, improper use of pesticides can lead to potential issues such as pesticide residues, crop damage, human health hazards, and environmental pollution.

Hands holding beaker and pouring a liquid into it

Profitability Tool for Growers Considering Alternative Rotations in Dryland Systems

For the inland Pacific Northwest, climate change predictions including wetter springs and drier, hotter summers leads to production system uncertainties and risks for dryland, small grain farmers. Annual precipitation is projected to increase by about 5-15% by 2050 except during the summer months where precipitation is projected to decrease, resulting in decreased soil moisture during the late summer months.

Dusty field

Water Use Limitations of Cover Crops in Dryland Cropping

I have seen it work. As a graduate student, I researched cover crops in a California dryland wheat system, comparing a wheat-fallow system to one with a cover crop replacing fallow (McGuire et al., 1998). A wet winter allowed for successful wheat yields in both systems. However, research results suggest that this is often the exception in dryland agriculture. More often, water use by the cover crop reduces the yield of the following cash crop.

Hand drawn figure of different fates of water

What does it take to start a long-term experiment?

“What were they thinking?” It’s a common question asked by agricultural scientists about the design of long-term cropping system experiments. Starting a long-term study is a big investment and having asked those questions ourselves while working with multi-decadal trials, you can imagine how daunting it was to be tasked with setting up a Long-term Agroecological Research and Extension (LTARE) site through the Washington Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI). In 20 years, would people be wondering what the heck we were thinking.

Two people in a field behind a tractor

What Do Hurricanes and Soil Carbon Have in Common? The Wisdom of a Multi-Model Ensemble Approach

“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” So goes an apparently ancient Danish aphorism also mistakenly credited to a wide range of humorists, from Yogi Berra to Mark Twain – and even to a Nobel Laureate, Niels Bohr. Whatever its origins, it is undeniably true. I will discuss an approach for hedging our bets against an uncertain future. I will start with an example where this is already being done, and then we can tackle soil carbon.

Computer image from model of hurricane paths

Looking to the Future: AgAID Institute

In September 2021, WSU began leadership of a new Agriculture-Artificial Intelligence (AI) research Institute: the AgAID Institute. As the growing population increases food demand, agriculture faces complex challenges related to labor, water scarcity, weather events and climate change. The AgAID Institute is developing AI solutions to help address these pressing challenges and spur the next agricultural revolution with the use of AI.

Person behind a computer and sensors in a field