By Georgine Yorgey
Cattle grazing on an allotment east of the Owyhee River Canyon, Oregon. Used with permission via Flickr from the Bureau of Land Management (CC BY 2.0).
As a number of large climate-and-agriculture projects at our Pacific Northwest universities have come to an end over the last year, we felt it was time to step back and take stock. Our projects have included dryland wheat farming, anaerobic digestion systems for dairies, and improving understanding of the interactions among carbon, nitrogen, and water at the regional scale. Now that they are complete, what have we learned? Where should research and extension go from here? In an effort to prioritize and catalyze future regional research and extension efforts, we worked with partners to host a workshop titled “Agriculture in a Changing Climate” (March 9-11, 2016). The event brought together a diverse set of stakeholders—university faculty and students, crop and livestock producers, and individuals representing state, tribal and federal government agencies, industry, nonprofit organizations, and conservation districts—to summarize what we know, identify challenges and gaps, and define priorities for moving forward. Continue reading
By: Laurie Houston
Old growth forest Mt. Hood Oregon. Researchers at OSU and the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station have developed a method for assessing tradeoffs among management scenarios with varying emphasis on carbon storage, timber production and habitat for focal wildlife species. Photo Credit: US Forest Service
Since 1960, the U.S. Forest Service has managed national forests for multiple uses including timber production, water supply, recreation, and fish and wildlife. Added now to that portfolio of management objectives is carbon storage to help mitigate climate change. However managing for multiple uses is extremely complex, because management that favors one use may not always simultaneously favor other uses. Forest management effects on carbon storage generally are known: older trees store more carbon than younger trees; harvesting trees decreases the volume of carbon stored on the landscape; the amount of carbon being stored increases more rapidly in young forest than in older ones. Continue reading
By Karen Hills
Models suggest that climate change in our region will involve an annual temperature increase of 3-4°F by the 2050’s, accompanied by changes in precipitation patterns, including drier summers despite a 5-15% increase in annual precipitation (Kruger et al. 2017). Even with this information, uncertainty still exists about what climate change will mean for agriculture, in general, and for dryland farming systems in our region, in particular. The book Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest, does its part to help managers make decisions despite this uncertainty. Continue reading
By Karen Hills
Figure 1. Two spadesful of soil, showing different levels of soil aggregation, in conventional and reduced tillage. Soil aggregation is one measure of soil quality. (Source: Bista et al. 2017; Photo credit: R. Ghimire)
Though severe erosion can quickly deplete topsoil, rebuilding topsoil is an extremely difficult and slow process, so conserving this resource is imperative. Soil erosion is one of the biggest challenges in agricultural production in the inland Pacific Northwest. Conventional tillage can lead to soil degradation and erosion by wind and water, which can cause concerns for air and water quality, respectively. Conservation tillage—a tillage system which retains residues from the previous crop on the surface, resulting in at least 30% coverage of the soil surface after the planting of the next crop—can dramatically reduce soil erosion. It also offers other benefits, such as improvements in soil quality (Figure 1) and reduced fuel use, allowing it to be widely adopted in some parts of the region. There are many types of conservation tillage used in the Pacific Northwest, which offer different levels of protection of the soil, all the way up to no-till, which results in minimal soil disturbance and maximum retention of soil residue. Continue reading
By: Sonia A. Hall
Over 30% of wheat is grown in temperate drylands globally, which are expected to see a 41% increase in suitability for rainfed agriculture. Photo credit: Flickr user Sparky, under CC BY-NC 2.0.
One challenge I struggle with when sharing research focused at global scales is how to tease out answers to questions that are meaningful in the region and at the scale I work in. My approach is to focus on how the big picture results sketch out, and think about what it all means (even when the specifics are not exactly right, which they rarely are). Hopefully I’ll be successful in this article about a paper I co-authored, on agriculture in temperate drylands (I define these below) at a global scale. Led by Dr. John Bradford at the U.S. Geological Survey, we looked at temperate drylands across the world, and explored how rainfed (non-irrigated) agricultural areas could shift as the climate changes. Read on, and see if I convince you that wheat growers in the Pacific Northwest should care about these results. Continue reading
By Karen Hills
It is human nature to be entranced by the latest electronic gadget that is promised to make our lives easier. Sometimes gadgets really do help us, and other times this help is counterbalanced by the hours spent trying to troubleshoot when things go wrong. Because I’m not really a “gadget person” by nature, I must admit that I hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to precision agriculture during my time working in the world of agricultural research. However, I recently had the opportunity to learn more about this topic while helping to compile and edit the book Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest. By reading the chapter on Precision Agriculture co-authored by Bertie Weddell, Tabitha Brown, and Kristi Borrelli, I learned about some of the most important factors to consider when it comes to the use of precision agriculture technology: variability and scale. Continue reading
By Karen Hills
Diversifying crop rotations is a key strategy used to break pest and disease cycles and improve yields. But in the driest areas of the Pacific Northwest the low precipitation amounts limit the diversification strategies that are feasible. These areas have some of the least diverse cropping systems in the region, often with winter wheat as the only crop. In areas receiving less than 16 inches of precipitation a year, that are generally too dry to support annual cropping, producers rely on summer fallow to retain winter precipitation in the soil profile. Areas where over 40% of the land a given year is fallowed are classified as grain-fallow cropping systems. From 2007 to 2014, only 4.3% of these areas, on average, were planted to another crop besides winter wheat (Kirby et al. 2017). What opportunities exist for diversifying crop rotations in these low diversity areas? In my work compiling the recently published Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest, I learned one answer to this question: winter peas. Continue reading
Public Comment Period for National Climate Assessment
The National Climate Assessment is a U.S. government interagency report that summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. These reports are extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. The draft report has been completed, and is now available for public comment.
You can review and comment by visiting review.globalchange.gov before Jan 31! Here’s the associated Federal Register Notice.
A series of webinars will be held to familiarize folks with the NCA and the Review & Comment website, we’re hosting a series of webinars including:
- Wednesday, Dec 6, 5pm EST
- Tuesday, Jan 16, 8pm EST
Webinar link: https://icf.globalmeet.com/NCAProjectWebinar
Call-in: (605) 475-5606
By: Gabrielle Roesch McNally
Eagle Creek Fire: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Curtis Perry
2017 has certainly been a year of extremes, from record breaking rain and snow events to a long and dry summer across much of the Northwest. Dry and hot summer conditions were accentuated by massive forest fires across the West, many that impacted urban areas in ways not recently experienced (e.g., Eagle Creek Fire outside Portland, OR), costing the country over $2 billion in suppression costs this year alone. Add in the catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria and you know how much extreme weather is on everyone’s minds. Continue reading
In this series of webinars, scientists present timely information aimed at helping farmers and agricultural professionals interpret the results of recent research on dryland cereal systems in our region. This webinar series stems from the new book Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest, a publication of the six-year Regional Approaches to Climate Change (REACCH; www.reacchpna.org) project, aimed at increasing the sustainability of dryland farming. All times listed are PST.
Webinars are free and no pre-registration is required. Each webinar will be 1 hour long, including Q & A session. Continue reading