ANNOUNCEMENT: SoilCon is Returning in February 2022! Register Today

Logo. SoilCon: Washington Soil Health Week, February 22-23, 2023 #WASoilConThe 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.

Continue reading

Climate Analogs for Specialty Crops: See the Future Now

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

This article is part of a series, Climate Friendly Fruit & Veggies, highlighting work from the Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains: Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities (F&V CAMO) project, a collaborative research study co-led by investigators at the University of Florida and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute. Other collaborators include researchers at the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services, and Washington State University. This project seeks to identify and test climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in fruit and vegetable supply chains.

 

Photo collage showing a prophet, a crystal ball, a ouija board and a scene from Star Trek

Figure 1. We have always longed to see the future, whether via prophets,
crystal balls, science fiction, or even through the use of Ouija boards.

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” So said Yogi Berra, repeating a version of the apparently Danish proverb whose origins have been lost. Nevertheless, as difficult and logically impossible as it might be, humanity has an innate longing to see the future (Figure 1). Ancient kings kept prophets among their advisors. Fortune tellers make a living by gazing into crystal balls. Hasbro sells Ouija boards for $20.99. And among the most popular of today’s entertainment genres is science fiction.  Continue reading

A New Approach to Increasing the Use of Prescribed Fire in Oregon

By John Rizza and Emily Jane Davis, Oregon State University Extension

 

Person pouring fuel on a large pile of slash, with other parts of the pile smoking in the background

After mechanical treatments occur, prescribed fire can help to reduce the accumulation of fuels so that the landscape is more resilient to future wildfires. Photo: Emily Jane Davis.

The health and function of many of Oregon’s forest ecosystems have historically been driven by and supported with fire. The warming and drying climate conditions observed in recent years are adding to the likelihood of severe, large-scale disturbances. The data and literature suggest that wildfires, along with insects and disease issues, are altering the landscape at an accelerated rate (Schimel et al., 2021). After nearly two centuries of decreased fire frequency, our landscapes have accumulated heavy fuel loads that are increasingly likely to feed very large fires. The fire effects are also becoming more severe, which is contributing to the decline in the health of these valuable landscapes. Prescribed fire, an important tool for reinstating fire’s beneficial role in these landscapes, is challenging to implement. To address some of these barriers to prescribed fire use, efforts are underway in Oregon that take a new approach. Continue reading

Extreme Adaptation: Navigating the Troubled Waters of the ‘New Normal’

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

This article is part of a series, Climate Friendly Fruit & Veggies, highlighting work from the Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains: Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities (F&V CAMO) project, a collaborative research study co-led by investigators at the University of Florida and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute. Other collaborators include researchers at the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services, and Washington State University. This project seeks to identify and test climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in fruit and vegetable supply chains.

 

Water. H 2 O. It’s the dominant molecule of our lives. We are 60% water (on average). Life as we know it is only possible because our planet has so much water. We can survive a few weeks without food, but only a few days without water. The oceans are believed to have formed around 4 billion years ago, and so are nearly as old as the planet itself. The hydrologic cycle—the series of processes by which water evaporates from those oceans, condenses as clouds, and then returns to the earth as freshwater—forms the primary basis for our existence.

Map of the US, with most of the midwest and east showing increases in average precipitation, and most of the west, especially the southwest, showing decreases

Figure 1. Comparison of the ‘new normal’ annual precipitation averages (1991-2020) with the previous 30-year averages (1981-2010). Source: NOAA.

Water is actually the most important greenhouse gas: without water in the atmosphere, the average temperature of our planet would be around 0°F… a mammoth version of those chic, spherical ice ‘cubes.’ But the average temperature of the earth is 60°F and climbing. As the world’s oceans continue to warm, water evaporates more rapidly, and the hydrologic cycle accelerates. All that water must come back down somewhere, so annual precipitation levels across the planet are also increasing. Continue reading

ANNOUNCEMENT: Announcing NCA5 Public Engagement Workshops

By Holly Prendeville, USDA Northwest Climate Hub

The National Climate Assessment is a major U.S. government report on how climate change affects people and places in the United States. In January and February 2022, there are a number of public engagement sessions for each chapter of the 5th National Climate Assessment. At these workshops, you will have an opportunity to share your thoughts on the climate change-related issues most important to that chapter (see chapters at this link). The U.S. Global Change Research Program and the chapter authors will be present to collect your thoughts related to the chapter and they will use this information to decide which topics to cover in the chapter of the 5th National Climate Assessment.

Consider attending one or more of these workshops and sharing this information with your colleagues, partners, and networks. The full list of workshops and registration links can be found on USGCRP’s website. Here are a few key events relevant to the Northwest Climate Hub region (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington):

January 11 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Human Social Systems Register

January 11 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity Register

January 12 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Energy Supply, Delivery, and Demand Register

January 12 | 8:30 AM –1 PM AKST Alaska Register

January 18 | 10 AM–2 PM ET Sector Interactions, Multiple Stressors, and Complex Systems Register

January 18 | 11 AM–3 PM ET Land Cover and Land-Use Change Register

January 18 | 11 AM–3 PM ET Air Quality Register

January 18 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Register

January 25 | 1 PM–5 PM ET Oceans and Marine Resources Register

January 26 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Coastal Effects  Register

January 28 | 1 PM–5 PM ET Agriculture, Food Systems, & Rural Communities Register

January 31 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Economics Register

February 1 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Forests Register

February 1 | 9:30 AM–2 PM PT Northwest Register

February 1 | 2 PM –6 PM ET Transportation Register

February 7 | 11 AM–3:30 PM ET Adaptation and Resilience  Register

February 7 | 1 PM–5 PM ET Mitigation Register

February 9 | 10 AM–2 PM ET Climate Effects on U.S. International Interests Register

February 9 | 12 PM–4 PM ET Water  Register

February 11 | 11:30 AM–3 PM ET Human Health Register

 

 

https://www.globalchange.gov/content/nca5-engagement-workshops

 

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources at Washington State University is Hiring!

Washington State University logo

Are you interested in integrating research, extension, and communication to help build more resilient and sustainable agricultural systems in Washington State, the Pacific Northwest and beyond? Join our team as a new, full-time Assistant Applied Scientist! Our active projects are developing tools to forecast, assess and manage current and future water resources for agriculture and other multiple purposes, including municipal uses and flows for fish and hydropower. They also include projects to explore more resilient dryland cropping system strategies, and projects that use advanced data and robotics to improve perennial crop management. Continue reading

Building Better Biochar Breakthroughs: A Roadmap for Biochar Research

By Embrey Bronstad, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

What is the first thing you think when you hear “Black Gold”? Is it the theme song for the Beverly Hillbillies? A baritone “Texas Tea”? Well, some people think “BIOCHAR!”

Hand holding a handful of dark, soil-like substance

A climate and farming boon: Biochar! Photo: Flickr user mavnjess under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Now, if you are reading this article, you probably know what biochar is. You have probably heard about its benefits when integrated with compost or used in dairy lagoons. A clear opportunity exists for the implementation of biochar technology to mitigate climate change through its ability to sequester carbon. Indeed, a recent estimate suggests that implementation of biochar at scale in Washington State could offset between 8 and 19% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions (Amonette 2021a). Application of biochar to agricultural soils may also help producers adapt to climate change by improving soil water-holding capacity in settings where water resources during the growing season are expected to become scarcer. Also, by enhancing formation of soil organic matter, these amendments would increase soil health and resilience, thereby helping to ensure continued high levels of agricultural production as the climate changes. In addition to these climatological and agricultural benefits, biochar has great potential to address wildfire risk, improve forest health, restore ecosystem services, and revitalize rural economies (Amonette et al., 2021b).

Despite a burgeoning library of research into biochar over the last two decades, there remain significant knowledge gaps, Continue reading

The ‘Carbon Market Bazaar’: Future Windfall for Producers or Just Hot Air?

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

This article is part of a series, Climate Friendly Fruit & Veggies, highlighting work from the Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains: Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities (F&V CAMO) project, a collaborative research study co-led by investigators at the University of Florida and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute. Other collaborators include researchers at the University of Arkansas, University of Illinois, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services, and Washington State University. This project seeks to identify and test climate adaptation and mitigation strategies in fruit and vegetable supply chains.

 

Sellers along a high-ceiling building show their wares, including rugs, bags, and many other items

Emerging carbon markets for U.S. agriculture today may be compared to a Middle Eastern bazaar: hints of danger and mystery. But there might be a genuine bargain that could be the perfect and profitable fit for your operation. Photo: Blondinrikard Froberg under CC BY 2.0.

I’m a fan of action movies, where a Middle Eastern bazaar is a popular place for high-speed chases. Even without the careening bullets and motorcycles, there are hints of danger and mystery amidst the clamor and unknown languages filling the air. You barter over the selling price of exotic objects that cannot be found anywhere else. Am I about to pay ten times what something is really worth? So it is with the emerging carbon market and U.S. agriculture today. Major companies like Bayer and upstarts like Indigo Ag and Nori are now offering to purchase carbon credits directly from producers for the adoption of new practices they agree to begin employing on their fields. But what is this worth to producers? Continue reading

Get out the Map! A Soil Health Roadmap for Washington

By Karen Hills, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

Two hands holding a handful of dark soil

Maintaining and improving soil health can result in benefits both on- and off-farm. Photo: Chad Kruger.

Soil has been called “the living skin of the Earth.” The effort to maintain the health of this “living skin” in Washington got a boost in 2021 when the State Legislature passed the Washington Soil Health Initiative with a $2.1 million annual allocation (half of which goes to Washington State University). Washington State is just one of many states in the U.S. where interest in soil health has resulted in initiatives focused on maintaining soil health on working lands, but, notably, no other state’s soil health initiative is investing as much into research as Washington’s. Soil health is defined by the USDA NRCS as “…the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans.” Soil health is often described as a “win-win” with positive outcomes both on-farm and off-farm. For example, on-farm benefits include improved soil tilth, nutrient cycling, water holding capacity, and disease suppression. Off-farm benefits include reduced soil erosion and improved water quality, as well as reducing the impact on our climate, most directly through carbon sequestration.

The win-win nature of soil health allowed the Washington Soil Health Initiative to gain support from commodity groups in Washington as well as environmental organizations. Continue reading

Recent News Stories on Agriculture and Climate Change – Why Now?

By Sonia A. Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University

 

Flier for the Agriculture in a Changing Climate Workshop in 2016

AgClimate.net has been discussing all aspects of climate change and agriculture for years, as exemplified by a 2016 workshop AgClimate.net co-sponsored.

On AgClimate.net, we have been discussing impacts on agriculture resulting from a changing climate for years now. We also discuss practices or approaches that show promise for helping producers adapt to the changes to come. And we discuss the ways that the agricultural sector can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions or, conversely, capture carbon, mainly in soils. Recently, however, it appears that these kinds of issues are front and center for a much broader swath of the agricultural sector. What might be driving this shift? Could it be another example of the pandemic highlighting other vulnerabilities? Or is interest shifting because of scientists’ ability to better tease out the contribution that climate change is making to recent extreme events that are impacting our region? Continue reading