Sustainable Practices and Technology

Using Autonomous Pathing Orchard Robots

I spent this summer working as an intern at the AgAid Institute, a renowned research facility dedicated to advancing the field of sustainable agriculture through innovative technologies and methodologies. I have been making significant developments toward a fully autonomous orchard robot by expanding on the same safety technology used in self-driving cars. For the agricultural robot to operate effectively in an orchard, it must be able to “see” its surroundings precisely.

Robot tractor in a field lane

Building the Case for Compost and Carbon Sequestration

In the spirit of “what gets measured gets managed”, there has been recent attention directed to how we can quantify potential benefits of compost as an agricultural soil amendment, and its potential to sequester carbon. Accounting for benefits in a defensible way is one key to creating channels for the most impactful action. The beauty of CSANR often lies in its ability to meet challenges like this where they are, to bring science to bear, and provide pathways forward to sustainable solutions.

bag of food scraps on top of compost

Tracking Beneficial Parasites to Safeguard Cherry Production

Cesar Reyes Corral, PhD student in the Washington State University Department of Entomology, has identified several beneficial insects that may be key to long-term management of X-disease.   X-disease has recently emerged as a major threat to cherry, peach, and nectarine production in the Pacific Northwest, by producing small, bitter fruit. This disease is caused by a bacterium called Candidatus Phytoplasma pruni that is spread by insects called leafhoppers.

Close up of a fly and leafhopper

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