By Sonia A. Hall
The top agricultural commodities in Washington do not include corn. Yet questions being explored in corn can be relevant to these and many other crops produced in the Pacific Northwest. Screenshot from the Washington State Department of Agriculture website, accessed March 8, 2021. https://agr.wa.gov/washington-agriculture
Maize, or corn, may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about agriculture in the Pacific Northwest (though 275,000 acres, of corn were harvested in 2020 in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, according to the US Department of Agriculture QuickStats). However, I was intrigued by a recent article focused on corn in ScienceDaily titled Climate-adapted plant breeding: Improvement of crops with genes from seed banks. The research paper the article discusses is about molecular technologies that allow researchers to scan the entire genome of different corn plants, which then allows them to link the data from field trials to genes that are relevant to specific traits. But what I found more intriguing was the discussion that framed why being able to do this is important. Continue reading
By Embrey Bronstad
This is part of a series highlighting work by Washington State University (WSU) researchers through the Waste to Fuels Technology Partnership between the Department of Ecology and WSU during the 2017-2019 biennium. This partnership advances targeted applied research and extension on emerging technologies for managing residual organic matter.
Biochar has the potential to provide a win-win for climate, soils, and forest health. Previous posts on AgClimate.net have discussed the effects of integrating biochar with composting facilities, engineering biochars for specific applications, and potential for biochar use in Washington to draw down carbon dioxide. The Pacific Northwest is particularly suited for a supporting a thriving biochar industry, both because of the ubiquity of waste woody biomass as a biochar production feedstock and the extensive agricultural acreage that could benefit from biochar application. Many researchers in the region have developed a library of evidence documenting the numerous benefits of biochar use. So why aren’t more people producing and using it?
To increase adoption of any product, more than just the scientific benefits must be taken into consideration. Markets have to be developed, which means knowing the minimum selling price at which biochar can be produced and the maximum purchase price potential buyers are willing to pay. It also helps to know what the optimum application is for maximum return, for example, when are crop yields improved enough to justify the cost of putting biochar on the field?
Figure 1. A biomass power plant that has been modified for biochar production uses forest residues from areas of high fire hazard areas as feedstock. Photos: Josiah Hunt.
To this end, researchers from Washington State University sought to evaluate the potential market for biochar in the Pacific Northwest using techno-economic analyses that coupled both biochar production costs and agricultural returns for a number of crops. Continue reading
By Fidel Maureira, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Washington State University
Cartoon adapted from https://pixabay.com (free for commercial use; no attribution required).
A few months ago I wrote an article that gave a preview of the work we were conducting, to explore whether Washington State could become the new California in vegetable production as the climate warms. Results from this work are now in, and the answer is… yes, the potential is definitely there. Continue reading