Category Archives: Carbon & Soil Organic Matter

New Ideas for Improving the Resilience of Semi-Arid Systems

By Georgine Yorgey and Karen Hills,

Swathed cover crop that will be fed to cattle in the field, Nez Perce, ID. By Darrell Kilgore

Across the dryland areas of the inland Pacific Northwest, soil erosion and the use of near monocultures of wheat have long been serious sustainability challenges, ones that we have been working on for decades, including over the last seven years through regional collaborations. Reducing or eliminating tillage has been one important strategy for reducing erosion across the region in recent decades.  Improving diversity by including crops such as canola, peas, chickpea and quinoa in rotations is another approach, but across the inland Pacific Northwest from 2007-2014, 53% of dryland crop acreage was used for winter or spring wheat, while an additional 31% was fallow (meaning that to preserve moisture for the following crop, no crop was grown) (Kirby, E. et al., 2017). Continue reading

Addressing Climate Change and the Agricultural Economy from a Market Driven Perspective

by Doug Finkelnburg

In November I participated in a truly innovative summit titled, “Safeguarding Idaho’s Economy in a Changing Climate – Our Water, Our Land, Our Health, Our Future” which brought together a diverse coalition of public and private stakeholders to discuss economic resiliency challenged by our changing climate. This first-of-its kind, for Idaho, summit occurred simultaneously in Boise, Moscow, Ashton and Pocatello, ID with keynote speakers in Boise streamed to the remote locations. Keynote presentations were followed by facilitated workshops at each viewing site. The goals of this conference were to share what efforts were underway across multiple sectors of Idaho’s economy to address climate change, explore economic opportunities and efficiencies, build new collaborations and provide resources for future projects at all scales. Continue reading

Crop residue–Help or hindrance?

By Karen Hill

Figure 1. Wheat residue on field near Ritzville, Washington, which is part of the drier grain-fallow cropping system. (Photo credit: Darrell Kilgore)

The production of crop residue varies dramatically across the Inland Pacific Northwest, with estimated residue production for winter wheat ranging from roughly 0.9 ton/acre in the drier grain-fallow cropping system (Figure 1) to 8.5 ton/acre in the wetter annual crop system, which has enough precipitation to support cropping every year. Crop residues are often seen as simply something to “manage” so that they don’t impede future plantings or as a byproduct that can be sold to help improve the bottom line. However, while editing chapters for the recently released publication Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest, I was introduced to another way to think about these residues in the chapter in that publication titled “Crop Residue Management.” Continue reading

Real-life agricultural innovation: implications for future preparedness

By: Sonia A. Hall

Both John Aeschliman (left) and Douglas Poole (right) practice no-till, though they farm with very different precipitation regimes. Photo: Alex Garland.

Extension has traditionally involved getting results from researchers to decision-makers in agriculture. Partly because I work on climate change and agriculture, and partly because of the approach my team and the researchers we work with take, extension is, for us, a two-way street. In this article I want to highlight the “other” side of that street: how innovations that producers test out in real life complement research and supports future preparedness.

In preparation for a new project I reviewed case studies and profiles others I work with published as part of the Regional Approaches to Climate Change – Pacific Northwest Agriculture (REACCH-PNA) project, which focused on dryland cereal production in a changing climate. These case studies tell the stories of producers who are implementing practices that break some mold, and that is leading to both interesting results and to benefits that will help them be prepared for future climates. Continue reading

REACCH Seminar Series: Wheat Focused Presentations

By Amy Pendegraft

Articles contained within this post:

  1. The Where and When of Earthworms in Wheat
  2. Research on the Ground: A Survey of Wheat Growers
  3. Climate Change and Winter Wheat Systems: A Case Study from the Pacific Northwest
  4. Pulling Weeds: Timing downy brome control in a changing climate

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Stepping back: What have we learned about agriculture and climate change, and where do we go from here?

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

Are forest management plans for carbon storage compatible with those for timber harvest and wildlife habitat?

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

Impacts and tools for dryland farmers adapting to climate change

By Liz Allen

As climate and agriculture researchers we’re constantly learning from farmers who we interact with. Our conversations with dryland wheat producers in the inland Pacific Northwest have shown us that many farmers are very skilled at managing for multiple risks at once and making decisions under various kinds of uncertainty. Climate models project substantial warming by mid-century (Figure 1) as well as more frequent storm events and more extreme minimum and maximum temperatures in the future. At the same time, a higher concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere may contribute to more rapid crop growth.  As more detailed and sophisticated models of climate change and crop dynamics are developed, it is increasingly clear that managing under observed and projected climate change impacts will require new perspectives for farmers and other agriculture sector decision makers. Those involved in agriculture will need to develop their understanding of climate-related hazards and poise themselves to take advantage of emerging opportunities linked to a changing climate.

Figure 1. Cumulative growing degree days (base 32°F) 1971–2000 (left) and 2040–2069 represen¬tative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 (right), projections obtained from the AgClimate atlas. See the Climate Considerations chapter in Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest for more information on how to interpret projections like this. (Source: Kruger et al. 2017)

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