Author Archives: sonia.hall

Pairing Solar Power and Agriculture in the Pacific Northwest

By Morgan Lawrence, USDA Northwest Climate Hub

Row of a cucurbit crop alongside row of solar panels

Crops can be grown beneath solar panels to reduce their exposure to the sun and protect from extreme heat. Photo: Oregon State University NEWAg Lab

Climate change has caused unprecedented warming, varying precipitation patterns, and higher risks of drought and wildfires across the Northwest. These impacts threaten agriculture, natural resources, and human health in the region. Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy can reduce carbon emissions and slow the effects of climate change. However, renewable energy often requires large tracts of land—a requirement  that can conflict with agricultural land requirements. Agrivoltaics could present a solution. Continue reading

Does Pacific Northwest-Sourced Biochar Have a Future as a Soil Amendment in Annual Cropping Systems?

By Doug Finkelnburg, University of Idaho Extension

Workers removing charcoal-like material from a trailer with a large, covered metal container

Biochar production is demonstrated at UI (University of Idaho) Extension workshop. Photo: Chris Schnepf.

I recently had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the “Making and Using Biochar” workshop hosted by my colleague and Area Forestry Extension Educator Chris Schnepf in Sandpoint, Idaho. The program was designed to give foresters, forest owners, and agriculturists an introduction to biochar in forestry and agriculture and was an opportunity to see demonstrations of biochar production. The audience packed a large room at the Sandpoint Organic Agriculture Center and heard from experts on biochar production and use in USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Forest Service funded projects.

The arguments for biochar use are compelling. Continue reading

ANNOUNCEMENT: Join Us for the 2023 Northwest Bioenergy Summit!

Summit bannerJoin us in attending the 2023 Northwest Bioenergy Summit on October 11-12 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, WA.  The Summit will bring together diverse public and private interests for a comprehensive overview of the opportunities and challenges facing bioenergy development in the northwest. From new funding sources and cutting-edge research to project and market development, the Summit will explore how bioenergy is uniquely positioned to address the complex interplay between energy generation, waste management, transportation, soil health, rural economic development, and much more. For more information and to register, go to: . Hope to see you there!

Date:                     October 11-12, 2023
Time:                     8:00 am – 8:00 pm / 8:00 am – 2:30 pm
Location:              Three Rivers Convention Center (Kennewick, WA)

Event Website:
Attendee Registration Link:

Protecting the Land that Feeds Us and Mitigates Climate Change

By Andrea Krahmer and Nellie McAdams, Oregon Agricultural Trust           

Overhead view of green pastures, hills and pond.

Agricultural lands provide opportunities for carbon sequestration and resilient food systems in the face of climate change. Photo: Oregon Agricultural Trust.

From wine grapes to cattle and hay, Oregon produces more than 220 different crop and livestock products. About one-quarter of Oregon’s land base (16 million acres) is in agricultural production, and these lands provide opportunities for carbon sequestration and resilient food systems in the face of climate change. However, these lands can also be attractive to developers, especially around urban areas. Because of the foundational nature of land to agricultural and conservation values, our statewide nonprofit organization Oregon Agricultural Trust (OAT) partners with farmers and ranchers to protect agricultural lands for the benefit of Oregon’s economy, communities, and landscapes. Continue reading

Implications of Shifting Timing in Water Availability in Eastern Washington

By Aaron Whittemore, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

Side of irrigation canal with intake to the pump, dry above the level of the water

The Roza-Moxee pump station during the 2015 drought. Photo: Tim Poppleton/OCR

The Columbia River Basin has grappled with limited water supplies for decades. This was most noticeable during 2015, when we experienced severe summertime drought across large areas of Washington State, which reduced the amount of water available to meet the region’s demands. The 2015 drought and other recent occurrences of lower water availability are representative of a warmer future with lessening snowpack and earlier snowmelt. In fact, Washington is expected to experience drought again this summer due to rapidly melting snowpack and low precipitation forecasts, underscoring the prevalence of water supply issues for the state. Continue reading

Check It Out: Cooling Queens Helps Them Survive the Hot Summers

By Lulu Chen, Intern at the AgAID Institute, Washington State University


Bee flying towards a white flower.

Climate change poses a unique difficulty for beekeepers banking queen bees over the summer. Photo: Dirk Gently under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Warmer summers brought on by climate change pose a unique difficulty for beekeepers. However, a recent study by Washington State University suggests a viable remedy. The study looks into the practice of “queen banking,” which involves keeping extra queens for use in the future. The researchers found that by keeping queen bees in controlled indoor situations over the summer, beekeepers may increase honey bee survivorship and take proactive steps to address climate change. It is important to note that there are a few factors, which should be covered in more detail, that make it necessary to bank queens during the summer. Continue reading

Can Baby Kangaroos Help Address Climate Change?

By Katie Doonan, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

Female kangaroo grazing, with joey in pouch

Cultures from baby kangaroo dropping show promise in reducing methane emissions by adjusting ruminant metabolic pathways. Photo: Mark Galer under Adobe Education License.

Okay, okay- while baby kangaroos singlehandedly solving climate change is out of the question, the potential for baby kangaroo droppings to help decrease methane emissions is an exciting prospect!

Methane from ruminant digestion is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture- we’ve all heard the concern over cow burps, otherwise known as enteric emissions. The relative potency of greenhouse gases is assessed through both their warming potential and with their longevity in the atmosphere.  Methane persists in the atmosphere for roughly 12 years while carbon dioxide warms for centuries. While methane’s longevity is significantly shorter than carbon dioxide, methane is about 20-30 times more potent of a greenhouse gas in terms of warming potential (IPCC 2007). Reducing methane emissions, whether from enteric digestion or other sources, provides a significant reduction in warming over a more immediate timeframe than carbon dioxide. It has thus been a priority for policymakers, researchers, and agriculturalists in the effort to mitigate climate change impacts. Proposed solutions for reducing enteric emissions from ruminants range from dietary changes to altering the rumen microbiota through vaccines, though each of these possible solutions is still in development. Continue reading

Check It Out: Targeted Cattle Grazing for Wildfire Fuel Breaks in the Great Basin

By Morgan Lawrence, USDA Northwest Climate Hub

Cattle on an open rangeland site, with mountains in the background

Cattle grazing at sunset on public rangeland in Malheur County, Oregon, with the east side of Steens Mountain visible in the distance. Credit: Greg Shine, BLM.

Wildfires in the Great Basin are bigger and badder than ever. In fact, the 12 largest fires on record in the region have all burned in the last two decades, and more acres of rangeland burn annually than forest in the U.S. Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation caused by climate change have pushed the region into a new era of megafires—fires that burn 100,000 acres or more. Wildfires in the Great Basin often occur in quick-burning fuels, such as grasses and sagebrush, that allow fires to grow rapidly, threatening communities, wildlife, and industry. Fuel breaks (strips or blocks of reduced or removed vegetation) can slow the spread of wildfire and provide a safer space for firefighters to work. Fuel breaks can be implemented with prescribed burns or mechanical treatments like mowing or dozing. However, some of these methods can be expensive, difficult to maintain, and fossil-fuel intensive. To keep pace with megafires, rangeland and fire managers need sustainable management practices that can protect property, wildlife habitat, and resources.

Targeted cattle grazing could be an effective addition to the fire mitigation toolbox in the Great Basin. Continue reading

Progress in Applying a Multi-Model Ensemble Approach to Soil Carbon

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

Flowering potato crop, with center pivot across the background

Potatoes are an important crop in the Pacific Northwest, that could benefit from more accurate estimates of carbon sequestration under different practices. Photo: WSDA under CC BY-NC 2.0.

When it comes to climate adaptation and mitigation opportunities in agriculture, few (if any) are of greater importance than practices that sequester more soil carbon, which can directly reduce the heat-trapping effects of atmospheric CO2. Boosting soil carbon also has multiple direct benefits for growers, such as increasing yield potential and resilience to both drought and heavy rainstorms.

This is a global challenge, including all producers across the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Its sheer size and scope mandates coordinated action across multiple sectors, including grower groups, the research community, industry, and government scientists. I serve on two such multi-sector groups: Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) and Field to Market. Continue reading

Check it out: Atmospheric Rivers in the Northwest

By Janelle Christensen, USDA Northwest Climate Hub

Colored image of the North Atlantic, showing the river of moisture in warm colors

An atmospheric river noted in green and yellow band going into the West Coast, February 2004. Image: NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory Advanced Quantitative Precipitation Information.

Atmospheric rivers are a buzzword right now. A few years ago, I had never heard the term, and now I hear it on the news and tossed about in everyday conversation with colleagues and friends. Although atmospheric rivers are not a new phenomenon, they were only given a name in the 1990s. I grew up knowing about the Pineapple Express, one of the largest ones that hits the West Coast every year, but like many people, I did not know that this was a common atmospheric event. Because I’m hearing the term more and more, I decided to look into the current research about atmospheric rivers and what impacts climate change will have on them. Continue reading