By Doug Finkelnburg, University of Idaho Extension
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
By Andrea Krahmer and Nellie McAdams, Oregon Agricultural Trust
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
By David I Gustafson, Adjunct Research Faculty at Washington State University
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
By Doug Finkelnburg, University of Idaho Extension
Cattle graze swathed cover-crops in annually cropped field in North Idaho, an example of crop and livestock practices that will be supported by the Climate Smart Commodities for Idaho grant. Photo: Doug Finkelnburg.
The largest grant ever awarded in the history of the University of Idaho will explore how Idaho’s agriculture can address climate change. Over the next five years, $55 million will be spent to research and implement greenhouse gas (GHG) reducing practices in Idaho’s farming and ranching systems. The goal of this effort is to reduce the emission of up to 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year in Idaho alone, roughly equivalent to preventing the consumption of 7 million gallons of gasoline (I calculated this with the EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator—a pretty neat tool). This is one of 70 projects USDA selected to receive $2.8 billion to better characterize GHG emissions related to agricultural production and develop mitigation strategies.
What sets this effort apart from previous climate-change and agriculture focused grants, other than the sheer scale of the effort, is its focus on implementation first and research second. Continue reading
Soil health is a trending topic in agricultural production and environmental resilience to climate change, but what does the latest research tell us and how can we put it into practice for regional agricultural systems?
SoilCon, an annual conference hosted by the Washington State Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI), aims to address these questions and more. Speakers at the conference will explain what metrics are used when assessing soil health, how these may change by production system and region, and explore management practices to support a resilient soil system. The topics will be relevant to agriculture or natural resource professionals, producers, consultants, University faculty and students, and interested members of the public. This free, virtual conference will bring research, extension, and production together to move soil health principles into practice.
SoilCon 2023 will be held February 14th & 15th, with sessions running from 8:00am-12:00pm PST each day. For more information and to register for SoilCon 2023, visit the event site. Attendance is free and open to all. SoilCon is possible with support from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WESARE).
Stay updated with SoilCon through Twitter and Instagram @WSU_SoilHealth.
SoilCon Event & Registration Link: https://pheedloop.com/wasoilcon23/site/home/
By Sonia A. Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, and AgClimate Lead Editor
2022 has come to a close, and 2023 seems to have revved up and is roaring along. We are still early enough in the year, though, to look back on 2022 and reflect on what you, our readers, found worthy of your time and attention. Here are the three most read 2022 articles, and three still-popular articles from earlier years. It is worth taking a look. I was struck by the breadth of topics and production systems these articles discuss, which is reflective of the variety in the Pacific Northwest that we explicitly try to cover in AgClimate.net. All these articles also have something in common: they discuss science-based resources that can help agricultural and natural resource professionals understand the implications of a changing climate, and explore options to be better prepared for the future. That is what AgClimate.net is about. Enjoy these top reads in 2022! Continue reading
By David I. Gustafson, Adjunct Research Faculty at Washington State University
Figure 1. Example of “spaghetti model” predictions of potential hurricane paths. Source: Samantha Kendall, “Hurricane Ian Expected to Impact Florida This Week,” posted on September 22, 2022, AllEars.net (https://allears.net/2022/09/22/tropical-weather-system-could-strengthen-to-hurricane-and-threaten-florida-next-week/).
“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” So goes an apparently ancient Danish aphorism also mistakenly credited to a wide range of humorists, from Yogi Berra to Mark Twain – and even to a Nobel Laureate, Niels Bohr. Whatever its origins, it is undeniably true. I will discuss an approach for hedging our bets against an uncertain future. I will start with an example where this is already being done, and then we can tackle soil carbon. Continue reading
By Chelsea Mitchell, PhD candidate, Washington State University, Washington Stormwater Center*
Figure 1. Bioretention systems are designed to drain and filter stormwater runoff. Credit Carly Thompson, WSU Puyallup.
Stormwater runoff has become one of the greatest environmental challenges we face in western Washington, a region with heavy rainfall and widespread urbanization. In parts of the landscape dominated by impervious surfaces, such as roads, buildings, and parking lots, rainfall is not able to infiltrate the ground (Figure 1). Instead, the resulting runoff picks up pollutants, causes flooding and changes our waterways. These issues are expected to become more severe with population growth and climate change.
There is a bright spot on the horizon, though. A charcoal-like product known as biochar has potential to address these issues when used in stormwater management. Biochar is formed when biomass is heated under low or no oxygen conditions in a process called pyrolysis. By limiting the oxygen level, you limit combustion and the release of carbon dioxide during biochar production. The resulting material has a stable, carbon-rich structure which resists being degraded for hundreds to thousands of years, keeping the carbon locked in place. Continue reading
By Karen Hills, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University
Certain carbon markets could provide a win-win for producers and environmental interests pursuing reduction in emissions. Photo: Scott McLeod under CC BY 2.0.
The ability to store carbon in soils—to sequester carbon—has been receiving increased attention lately, including on AgClimate.net. Recent posts included articles about potential for croplands in the inland Pacific Northwest to sequester carbon and an article on the emerging carbon markets and their relevance for fruit and vegetable producers. Carbon markets offer the promise of monetizing the benefits of practices that add carbon to the soil, and are also good for soil health. If these markets are effective, they would provide a win-win for producers and environmental interests.
Thanks to the wonders of a zoom-friendly world, I recently attended a mini-workshop hosted by the University of Florida and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Extension where we explored carbon markets. Continue reading
The Washington State Soil Health Initiative, with support from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, is proud to announce that SoilCon is returning in 2022. This virtual conference will bring research, extension, and production together to discuss soil health parameters at a local, regional, and global scale. The conference will be held February 22nd & 23rd, with sessions from 8:00am-12:00pm PST each day.