Category Archives: Impacts & Adaptation

A role for agricultural landscapes in conserving wildlife – Part 1

By: Andrew Shirk and Sonia A. Hall,

Male Greater Sage-Grouse performing its mating display in a wheat field
in Douglas County, Washington. Photo courtesy of Michael Schroeder.

Healthy ecosystems provide us with clean water, clean air, and rich soils, resources that help meet our needs and fuel our economies. They also support many wildlife species. If we can consider those animals as an indication of the state of these ecosystems, things look grim globally. We are losing species at least 100 times faster than what’s been the norm, based on the fossil record. Currently, 1 out of every 4 mammal species and 1 out of every 8 bird species is under threat of extinction, with more species becoming threatened each year. One of the main reasons for these grim numbers is loss of habitat, Continue reading

What have we learned about dryland cropping systems in the last 15 years?

By Georgine Yorgey

Dryland crops are a common sight east of the Cascades, and cover a LOT of acreage in the Pacific Northwest – more than 5.8 million acres according to recent statistics. Over the last three years, a group of us at the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) have had the privilege of working with more than 40 co-authors (!) from our region’s three land grant universities – WSU, University of Idaho, and Oregon State University – and from USDA Agricultural Research Service to summarize the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about our region’s dryland systems. That work has now been published as a book, Advances in Dryland Farming in the Inland Pacific Northwest. With touchstone chapters on climate considerations (which has always played a predominant role in determining what crops can be grown) and soil health, this wide-ranging book has chapters on conservation tillage systems, residue management, crop intensification and diversification, soil fertility management, soil amendments, precision agriculture, weeds, diseases, and insects, and policy. We invite you to explore the books many chapters online here or download the entire book as a PDF. If you know you will want to read this book and refer to it over time, you can also receive a free printed version as long as funds allow, by ordering here.

The effort to produce this book, and its printing, was made possible with the support of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the REACCH project. This six-year project aimed to enhance the sustainability of Pacific Northwest cereal systems and contribute to climate change mitigation.

Adapting to Climate Change: How Forestry and Cropping Systems Differ

By Chris Schnepf

“Family forest owners own a large portion of forests in many PNW regions” (Photo – C. Schnepf)

Many westerners presume any forest they drive by is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. But nationally the largest portion of forests are owned privately. Even in the West, key regions have a very high percentage of private forests. For example, over half of the forests in the Idaho Panhandle are private.

Some people debate whether forestry should be considered part of agriculture. Like farmers, forest owners and managers are discerning how to adapt their management to a changing climate. But forestry in North America starts from a different point than most cropping systems. Continue reading

Irrigation Efficiency Series (Part 1 of 2): Is efficiency the answer to managing water shortages?

By John Stevenson

After a particularly wet winter and spring and an above-average snowpack, it’s easy to put the past behind us and forget the several years of drought our region recently experienced.  But drought happens, as they say, and will certainly happen again.  So it is worth reflecting on how irrigators will better cope when drought returns. Across the West, irrigation efficiency has gained attention in this context, as a way to stretch the number of days that irrigation water is available when drought hits.

Furrow irrigation, traditionally used in the Northwest, and one of the targets for improving irrigation efficiency. Photo by Flickr user Hanna 3232, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Continue reading

How can we build a more collaborative research and extension paradigm?

By Gabrielle Roesch-McNally,

Many who conduct scientific research often find themselves asking, why is it that people don’t do more with the data and tools that scientists develop? There are cases when more scientific research is needed to better understand a phenomenon or instances where more interdisciplinary research will expand our understanding of a particular topic. There are other times, though, when improved processes for stakeholder involvement in research and tool development is what is necessary. This is true for many problems linked to climate change, or any other agricultural or natural resource issue. In this article I focus on those “other times:” when the way we “do” science matters and can ultimately improve or hinder the effectiveness of our scientific research and the impacts it will have in solving real-world problems. Continue reading

Drought and small revenues – do they always go hand in hand?

By Sonia A. Hall

The conditions the Northwest experienced in 2015 have received a lot of attention, because we saw drought even though precipitation was close to normal. So the drought was due to higher temperatures, which meant snow didn’t accumulate anywhere near as much as it does on average. With less water available for irrigation in summer (see our earlier articles on the 2015 drought here and here), we’d expected irrigated crops to suffer, and we’d also expect growers’ bottom line to suffer.

Drought (and other stresses) can have a significant impact on crop production—see this comparison of the size of an ear of corn in Missouri during the 2012 drought to its “normal” size (space between hands). The expectation is that decreases in production will lead to drops in revenue, but is that always the case? Photo: Malory Ensor/KOMU News under CC BY 2.0

But when the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Annual Statistical Bulletin for Washington State came out in October 2016, it was followed by an article in Capital Press discussing the apparent paradox that agricultural production values hit record highs in 2015, even though the region was under that newsworthy “snow drought.” Continue reading

NW Climate Conference call for abstracts now open!

Tacoma Convention Center, Photo by HighSierraProductions.com

Call for Abstracts now open!

The Eighth Annual Northwest Climate Conference
Working Together to Build a Resilient Northwest

October 10-11, 2017
Tacoma Convention Center | Tacoma, WA
http://pnwclimateconference.org/

We are pleased to announce the call for abstracts for the 8th Annual Northwest Climate Conference – Working Together to Build a Resilient Northwest. We invite you and your colleagues to submit abstracts for special sessions, oral presentations, and posters. The due date for abstracts is Monday, June 12, 2017. Continue reading

Exploring Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for Agriculture in the Northwest

By Liz Allen

Workshop participants included government agency staff, agriculture industry representatives, and annual and perennial crop producers. Photo Credit: Red Hills Vineyard in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Photo by Stuart Seeger, CC BY 2.0.

One of the best things about my work is that it connects me with researchers from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds who are committed to conducting science that informs natural resource management decisions. I’ve been fortunate to work with WSU researchers studying regional climate change impacts for nearly 6 years now, and over that time many of my academic colleagues have developed new skills related to communicating their research to diverse audiences. I’ve also witnessed scientists’ growing interest in learning from stakeholders who make decisions about managing agricultural and natural resources “out there in the real world”. Continue reading

Could the Northwest become an increasingly important dairy-producing region as climate change unfolds?

By Liz Allen

Dairy cows of Tillamook County, Oregon. Photo by Jimmy Emerson, CC BY NC 2.0.

In a previous article I explored how climate change in California’s wine country—coupled with shifting temperature and precipitation patterns in Oregon and Washington—may catalyze new opportunities for winegrape production in the Northwest. I also suggested that these opportunities might be accompanied by an increase in locally produced cheeses due to growth in the region’s dairy industry. In this article, I’ll discuss research indicating that during the 21st century, climate change impacts could lead to more favorable conditions for milk production in the Northwest relative to other current dairy centers of the U.S. In 2016, Idaho, Washington and Oregon produced roughly 11% of the nation’s milk. It is conceivable that this percentage could increase substantially in coming decades. Continue reading

Let the worms do the work – Critters help dairies manage manure

By: Sonia A. Hall

Got milk? Dairies are in the milk business, but must also manage manure produced along the way, and the potentially useful nutrients it holds. Photo: NRCS in Oregon under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Managing manure is a big part of what goes on at the “back end” of a dairy. Doing it well is important to avoid impacts on surrounding neighbors due to odors, impacts on air and water quality, or the release of unnecessary amounts of greenhouse gases such as methane or nitrous oxides (which, by the way, are respectively 28 and 265 times more powerful as global warming “blankets” than carbon dioxide). There are multiple technologies being developed, tested, and used to improve manure management in dairies. These include anaerobic digestion, which produces bioenergy and helps reduce odors (we provided an overview about a year ago in this article). Nutrient recovery technologies are another aspect being studied. These are an array of different technologies that allow us to collect the potentially useful nitrogen and phosphorus found in manure, so it can be used productively rather than contributing to climate change or other issues. Continue reading