Reflections on 2023

CSANR is an entity not easily explained in one fell swoop, but the range and breadth of projects we’ve undertaken throughout 2023 really showcase our primary goal: to find inspired solutions for the future of agriculture and the environment. Take a minute to reflect with us on 2023 and look forward to the developing projects and partnerships of 2024.

People talking next to fences in a field
CSANR staff, Advisory Committee members, and Leadership Team members at the 2023 CSANR Advisory meeting at Wilke Farm in Davenport, WA. Photo: Katie Doonan

Top “Perspectives on Sustainability” Blog Post

Putting Numbers to the Difficult Task of Increasing Soil Organic Matter- Andrew McGuire

You may know that it is difficult to increase soil organic matter, but how difficult is it, with numbers? First, your crop harvest removes up to 50% of the biomass grown. Then, about 90% of the remaining crop biomass is decomposed by soil organisms leaving only 10% contributing to soil organic matter.  You also have to account for the annual 1-5% losses of existing soil organic matter. Using these and other estimates, let’s do some rough calculations so you know what to expect. The task is difficult, but the math is easy, I promise.


Completed Projects

Increasing the Economic Value and Sustainability of Washington’s Agriculture Sector Through Industrial Symbiosis

The 2022 Washington State Legislature directed Washington State University (WSU) to partner with organizations with relevant expertise to “develop recommendations for increasing the economic value and sustainability of Washington’s agriculture sector through the use of industrial symbiosis principles.” In response, this Agriculture Symbiosis report has been produced by WSU in partnership with the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure (CSI) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) through research and consultations with stakeholders and experts.

Waste to Fuels Technology 2021-2023 Biennium

The Waste to Fuels Technology program is a partnership effort between Washington State University, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Solid Waste Management Program to support the development of technology to process organic waste products into sustainable fuel sources.

Noted goals of the 2021-2023 biennium included:

  • Developing research to ensure compost facilities can understand air emissions and ways of controlling these emissions.
  • Increasing the understanding of solid waste-to-energy and material recovery strategies across state and local governments.
  • Understanding and use of recycled organic products to amend soil, filter storm and surface water, and sequester carbon, which helps diversify end-use markets.
  • Ensuring that compost facilities operate well and generate high-quality, clean products.

For an in-depth report on the goals, processes, and outcomes of the 2021-2023 biennium, visit the link below or access through our Publications Library.


New and Developing Projects

Climate Analogs Academy

Through a NIFA-funded CAP (2017-68002-26789) focused on US fruit and vegetable systems, our team developed a climate change analog tool and introduced it to nearly 100 specialty crop Extension professionals from across the country. We then piloted a facilitated dialog with 10 paired Extension professionals in the Southeast and Southern Plains Hub regions to explore the potential of analogs to facilitate actionable information exchange for climate adaptation.

Building on this demonstrated interest, we propose to scale up this pilot dialog into a national train-the-trainer program partnering Extension with the USDA Climate Hubs in the major US specialty crop regions.

The Climate Analogs Academy aims to empower US Extension professionals to lead regional climate change adaptation in specialty crops. Our strategy to overcome some common pitfalls of climate change education is to focus on building dialogue around technical information and building strategic relationships. We will use the Climate Analogs Tool to pair Academy participants working with some of the same crops but in a county with their future climate conditions. These are the climate analogs. A small cohort of 10 extension professionals will engage in peer-to-peer dialog, a workshop series, and develop projects with regional USDA Climate Hubs.

Our goal is to build Extension and Climate Hub capacity and expertise to catalyze climate change adaptation in US specialty crops.

Carbon & Cow$ Podcast

In this podcast series, we dive into the forefront of emerging opportunities in carbon markets and where dairy and livestock industry can play a role. With growing opportunities in regulated and voluntary program carbon programs and increasing pressure for industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we hope to bring knowledge and insight from industry, academia, and the public sector to give producers the best information possible in deciding whether or not to implement on farm greenhouse gas reduction practices that enable them to participate in these markets.

From carbon offsets and low carbon fuel generation to on farm manure management considerations for installation of anaerobic digesters, our aim is to cover the many factors that may play a role in project development and long-term economic viability.

Life Cycle Assessment of Apple

The foundation for improvement, whether that is in adapting to or mitigating climate change, is understanding how our current operations function and the associated climate change impact. Life cycle assessments (LCAs) take in data from all aspects of producing a crop (growing, harvesting, processing, storing, and packing) to create a modeled climate footprint based on real industry standards. Adaptation and mitigation strategies can be directed at areas of most significance and reduce the climate footprint in practice.

WSU, the Northwest Horticultural Council, and the Washington Tree Fruit Commission have partnered to develop a life cycle analysis for apples based on conditions in the Pacific Northwest. While LCA research has historically addressed grains and livestock, specialty crops research is limited.

Make sure to watch for the tree fruit grower survey that will be released in 2024. These surveys provide invaluable data on actual practices and increase the accuracy of the life-cycle analysis, which provides a stronger foundation for applicable information to return to growers. The survey and data collection are specifically designed to protect confidentiality and grower privacy.

For more information:


Ongoing Efforts

SoilCon

SoilCon has been an incredible resource for those interested in improving soil health across the globe. Over the past three years, the event has brought together 84 experts and nearly 2,000 attendees to share their expertise on various topics, including long-term research, soil biology, and Native American perspectives on soil health.

Thanks to generous sponsorship from Western SARE, SoilCon was created and available to all attendees for free. The organizers from various Washington-based organizations invested countless hours in surveying the interests of agricultural professionals to ensure that the conference covered the most relevant topics. And the organizers heard that people needed the opportunity to attend in person.

In 2024, SoilCon will look a bit different but will provide the best of both worlds this year—virtual and hybrid events. Whether you prefer the convenience of online learning or the enriching experience of in-person gatherings, SoilCon has you covered through a network of events across Washington state throughout February. More information can be found on the WaSHI website.


Stay Connected

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