ANNOUNCEMENT: Announcing NCA5 Public Engagement Workshops

By Holly Prendeville, USDA Northwest Climate Hub

The National Climate Assessment is a major U.S. government report on how climate change affects people and places in the United States. In January and February 2022, there are a number of public engagement sessions for each chapter of the 5th National Climate Assessment. At these workshops, you will have an opportunity to share your thoughts on the climate change-related issues most important to that chapter (see chapters at this link). The U.S. Global Change Research Program and the chapter authors will be present to collect your thoughts related to the chapter and they will use this information to decide which topics to cover in the chapter of the 5th National Climate Assessment.

Consider attending one or more of these workshops and sharing this information with your colleagues, partners, and networks. The full list of workshops and registration links can be found on USGCRP’s website. Here are a few key events relevant to the Northwest Climate Hub region (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington):

January 11 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Human Social Systems Register

January 11 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity Register

January 12 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Energy Supply, Delivery, and Demand Register

January 12 | 8:30 AM –1 PM AKST Alaska Register

January 18 | 10 AM–2 PM ET Sector Interactions, Multiple Stressors, and Complex Systems Register

January 18 | 11 AM–3 PM ET Land Cover and Land-Use Change Register

January 18 | 11 AM–3 PM ET Air Quality Register

January 18 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Register

January 25 | 1 PM–5 PM ET Oceans and Marine Resources Register

January 26 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Coastal Effects  Register

January 28 | 1 PM–5 PM ET Agriculture, Food Systems, & Rural Communities Register

January 31 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Economics Register

February 1 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Forests Register

February 1 | 9:30 AM–2 PM PT Northwest Register

February 1 | 2 PM –6 PM ET Transportation Register

February 7 | 11 AM–3:30 PM ET Adaptation and Resilience  Register

February 7 | 1 PM–5 PM ET Mitigation Register

February 9 | 10 AM–2 PM ET Climate Effects on U.S. International Interests Register

February 9 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Water  Register

February 11 | 11:30 AM–3 PM ET Human Health Register

 

 

https://www.globalchange.gov/content/nca5-engagement-workshops

 

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources at Washington State University is Hiring!

Washington State University logo

Are you interested in integrating research, extension, and communication to help build more resilient and sustainable agricultural systems in Washington State, the Pacific Northwest and beyond? Join our team as a new, full-time Assistant Applied Scientist! Our active projects are developing tools to forecast, assess and manage current and future water resources for agriculture and other multiple purposes, including municipal uses and flows for fish and hydropower. They also include projects to explore more resilient dryland cropping system strategies, and projects that use advanced data and robotics to improve perennial crop management. Continue reading

Building Better Biochar Breakthroughs: A Roadmap for Biochar Research

By Embrey Bronstad, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

What is the first thing you think when you hear “Black Gold”? Is it the theme song for the Beverly Hillbillies? A baritone “Texas Tea”? Well, some people think “BIOCHAR!”

Hand holding a handful of dark, soil-like substance

A climate and farming boon: Biochar! Photo: Flickr user mavnjess under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Now, if you are reading this article, you probably know what biochar is. You have probably heard about its benefits when integrated with compost or used in dairy lagoons. A clear opportunity exists for the implementation of biochar technology to mitigate climate change through its ability to sequester carbon. Indeed, a recent estimate suggests that implementation of biochar at scale in Washington State could offset between 8 and 19% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions (Amonette 2021a). Application of biochar to agricultural soils may also help producers adapt to climate change by improving soil water-holding capacity in settings where water resources during the growing season are expected to become scarcer. Also, by enhancing formation of soil organic matter, these amendments would increase soil health and resilience, thereby helping to ensure continued high levels of agricultural production as the climate changes. In addition to these climatological and agricultural benefits, biochar has great potential to address wildfire risk, improve forest health, restore ecosystem services, and revitalize rural economies (Amonette et al., 2021b).

Despite a burgeoning library of research into biochar over the last two decades, there remain significant knowledge gaps, Continue reading

The ‘Carbon Market Bazaar’: Future Windfall for Producers or Just Hot Air?

By David I. Gustafson, Adjunct Research Faculty at Washington State University

This article is part of a series, Climate Friendly Fruit & Veggies, highlighting work from the Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains: Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities (F&V CAMO) project, a collaborative research study co-led by investigators at the University of Florida and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute. Other collaborators include researchers at the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services, and Washington State University. This project seeks to identify and test climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in fruit and vegetable supply chains.

 

Sellers along a high-ceiling building show their wares, including rugs, bags, and many other items

Emerging carbon markets for U.S. agriculture today may be compared to a Middle Eastern bazaar: hints of danger and mystery. But there might be a genuine bargain that could be the perfect and profitable fit for your operation. Photo: Blondinrikard Froberg under CC BY 2.0.

I’m a fan of action movies, where a Middle Eastern bazaar is a popular place for high-speed chases. Even without the careening bullets and motorcycles, there are hints of danger and mystery amidst the clamor and unknown languages filling the air. You barter over the selling price of exotic objects that cannot be found anywhere else. Am I about to pay ten times what something is really worth? So it is with the emerging carbon market and U.S. agriculture today. Major companies like Bayer and upstarts like Indigo Ag and Nori are now offering to purchase carbon credits directly from producers for the adoption of new practices they agree to begin employing on their fields. But what is this worth to producers? Continue reading

Get out the Map! A Soil Health Roadmap for Washington

By Karen Hills, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

Two hands holding a handful of dark soil

Maintaining and improving soil health can result in benefits both on- and off-farm. Photo: Chad Kruger.

Soil has been called “the living skin of the Earth.” The effort to maintain the health of this “living skin” in Washington got a boost in 2021 when the State Legislature passed the Washington Soil Health Initiative with a $2.1 million annual allocation (half of which goes to Washington State University). Washington State is just one of many states in the U.S. where interest in soil health has resulted in initiatives focused on maintaining soil health on working lands, but, notably, no other state’s soil health initiative is investing as much into research as Washington’s. Soil health is defined by the USDA NRCS as “…the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.” Soil health is often described as a “win-win” with positive outcomes both on-farm and off-farm. For example, on-farm benefits include improved soil tilth, nutrient cycling, water holding capacity, and disease suppression. Off-farm benefits include reduced soil erosion and improved water quality, as well as reducing the impact on our climate, most directly through carbon sequestration.

The win-win nature of soil health allowed the Washington Soil Health Initiative to gain support from commodity groups in Washington as well as environmental organizations. Continue reading

Recent News Stories on Agriculture and Climate Change – Why Now?

By Sonia A. Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

 

Flier for the Agriculture in a Changing Climate Workshop in 2016

AgClimate.net has been discussing all aspects of climate change and agriculture for years, as exemplified by a 2016 workshop AgClimate.net co-sponsored.

On AgClimate.net, we have been discussing impacts on agriculture resulting from a changing climate for years now. We also discuss practices or approaches that show promise for helping producers adapt to the changes to come. And we discuss the ways that the agricultural sector can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions or, conversely, capture carbon, mainly in soils. Recently, however, it appears that these kinds of issues are front and center for a much broader swath of the agricultural sector. What might be driving this shift? Could it be another example of the pandemic highlighting other vulnerabilities? Or is interest shifting because of scientists’ ability to better tease out the contribution that climate change is making to recent extreme events that are impacting our region? Continue reading

Will I Be Able to Get Fries With That? A New Approach for Answering Life’s Big Questions About the Future of Food

By David I. Gustafson, Adjunct Research Faculty at Washington State University

 

This article is part of a series, Climate Friendly Fruit & Veggies, highlighting work from the Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains: Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities project, a collaborative research study co-led by investigators at the University of Florida and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute. Other collaborators include researchers at the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services, and Washington State University. This project seeks to identify and test climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in fruit and vegetable supply chains.

 

Side by side photos of a container with French fries and a jar of pasta sauce

A new integrated approach makes it possible to explore options for enhancing the resilience of future supply chains for popular U.S. foods, such as French fries and pasta sauce.
Photo: David I Gustafson.

It’s been a long, hot, dry, fiery, smoky summer in much of the American West. That’s where the U.S. gets most of its fruits and vegetables, including two widely-consumed processed products that some might not immediately associate with this category: French fries and pasta sauce. Most of those fries start as potatoes grown in the arid inland parts of the Columbia River Basin, and nearly all of that red sauce starts as tomatoes grown in the currently parched Central Valley of California. Given how hot and dry it has been this year, you might wonder how supplies of popular foods such as these are going to fare in the future, as climate change continues to increase the odds of even hotter growing conditions and impacts availability of water for irrigation.

In previous articles we reported on the remarkable resilience we found in these supply chains, a surprising opportunity for certain food preparation methods to significantly reduce carbon footprints, and the massive role that consumer waste plays in their overall environmental impact. Now our research team has published a new study in Nature Food where we examined the supply chains for French fries and pasta sauce in great detail, using a unique, integrated approach that we developed for exploring climate adaptation and mitigation opportunities in fruit and vegetable supply chains. Continue reading

Resources for Navigating the Confluence of Drought and Wildfire

By Luke Brockman, Oregon State University, Forestry and Natural Resources Extension, Fire Program

 

Open fields transition to forested hillsides, with two large smoke plumes and dense smoke across the landscape. A firefighting plane crosses in front of the smoke

Drought is an important contributing factor to the dry conditions necessary for wildfire to spread to the levels we see today. Photo: USDA Forest Service under CC BY 2.0

Climate change is driving record high temperatures across the world, and among the effects in the Pacific Northwest is the increased severity of drought, which contributes to conditions already setting the stage for intense wildfires. Projected agricultural impacts of drought include losses in wheat, barley, and Christmas tree production. Additionally, the drought extremity we are experiencing this year correlates with the severity of wildfires, since drought is an important contributing factor to the dry conditions necessary for wildfire to spread to the levels we see today. Consider that this year’s wildfire season has been 19 times worse in terms of acreage burned than last year’s—more than 1 million acres by mid-August and counting in just Oregon and Washington, compared to a mere 52,000 acres at the same time last year––and conditions are likely to worsen in the coming years.

Gathering science-based, real-time information about wildfires burning in your state is important, but can certainly be a challenge when distracting “Breaking News” headlines and a whole host of other less than informative publications shroud your search results. Read on for some examples of how two online resources, drought.gov and the Inciweb site, can get you started with up-to-date information about drought, wildfire, and the effects that the changing climate is having on our neck of the woods. Continue reading

Would You Lease Your Water Rights? The Devil Is in the Details

By Nicole Bell, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

 

Center pivot irrigation system in a bare field with crop starting to emerge

Irrigation water supply in eastern Washington relies on snowmelt, which is expected to change as temperatures warm. Photo: Flickr user brewbooks under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Climate change is expected to alter both the availability and demand for water. In the western United States, roughly 80% of surface water is allocated to agricultural uses, and the pressure to find more efficient ways to manage water is on, especially in drought years. Eastern Washington is no exception: the mountains in this region are relatively low in elevation, meaning that as the region warms, temperatures will cross that 32°F threshold more frequently, more precipitation will fall as rain rather than as snow, and snowmelt will occur earlier. Because the Pacific Northwest relies on snowpack for much of its summer water supply, this could create challenges for managing water. While previous articles have focused on the likely timing and availability of water in the Columbia River Basin, in this article I focus on water markets, or the transfer or leasing of water and water rights from one user to another. These markets provide a tool that could potentially help reallocate water to where it is critically needed during times of shortage. Continue reading

Announcement: Center for Sustaining Ag and Natural Resources is hiring!

Logo for the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State UniversityOur core focus is supporting the sustainable management of agriculture and natural resources, which includes a variety of program areas that directly address or intersect with climate change. The Extension Coordinator is a key member of the CSANR team, and works across many of these program areas. Apply today! Screening begins September 28, 2021. 

https://wsu.wd5.myworkdayjobs.com/en-US/WSU_Jobs/job/Extension-Coordinator_R-2568-1

Continue reading