Sustainable Practices

REACCH Decision Support Tools Scientists with the Regional Approaches to Climate Change (REACCH) project developed a suite of web-based decision support tools which focus on decision-making issues specific to crops in the inland Pacific Northwest. Both short-term decisions, such as scheduling fertilizer application and pest management practices, as well as long-term decisions, such as assessing specific locations for crop suitability, are supported.

AgClimate Atlas The AgClimate Atlas is a web-based application developed by University of Idaho researchers with support from the USDA NW Climate Hub. The atlas provides downscaled climate data and derived climate metrics including cold hardiness, growing degree days, and reference evapotranspiration that may be useful for agricultural decision making. For example, certain wine grape varietals have growing degree day requirements (base 50°F) that are not currently met across much of the Northwest, providing one limitation on cultivation. However, by the mid-21st century, additional warming is projected to result in a large increase in accumulated heat that may allow for those varietals to reach maturation in the region. Users can select from a variety of metrics, climate scenarios, models, and time horizons (for example, early, mid, or late 21st century). Users can also “mouse” over to extract information for a specific pixel, or download these maps in a format that can be used in ArcGIS or equivalent GIS software.

 Integrated Scenario Tools The Northwest Climate Science Center funded a project to create a coordinated set of climate, hydrology and vegetation scenarios called Integrated Scenarios of the Future Northwest Environment. Researchers at the University of Idaho developed tools to visualize data from that project. For example, for irrigated crops in the Northwest, the amount of water storage in the mountain snowpack and the timing of streamflows are key factors. Using the streamflow web tool ( users can see graphs that project substantial drops in streamflow during June-August when irrigation demand peaks.

There are many practices that could reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint and/or make it more adaptable to climate change. Many of these practices are being actively researched by regional researchers. Some practices of interest may include:

Anaerobic Digestion

Anaerobic Digestion (Biogas). 2014. Publication list compiled by WSU Center for Sustaining Ag and Natural Resources. Digesting dairy manure reduces emissions of methane (CH4) that would otherwise occur during manure management. It also produces renewable energy, and (with associated technologies) can reduce other emissions as well.

Precision Agriculture

Precision Agriculture Offers Exciting Conservation Opportunities for Farmers June 24, 2014. By Kristy Borrelli. Evidence suggests that more closely matching applied nitrogen to plant needs will reduce nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. This post provides information relevant to the dryland areas of the inland PNW, with links to additional resources.

Cropping Intensification

Cover cropping 2014. Resource list by WSU Center for Sustaining Ag and Natural Resources;  Small Farms Cover Cropping 2014. Resource list by WSU Small Farms Team. Both include many relevant publications relevant to cover cropping for orchards, irrigated vegetables, and small farms. Growing a cover crop that is tilled into the soil rather than harvested can help maintain or build soil organic carbon over time.

Biofuels Cropping 2014. Webpage by WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, with resources relevant to growing oilseeds in dryland systems.

USDA ARS Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology 2014. Webpage by USDA ARS Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology Research Unit, with information on peas, lentils and chickpeas.

Wheat and Small Grains 2014. Webpage by WSU Wheat and Small Grains Team. This resource has additional resources on growing legumes and other small grains. These diverse crops are one tool for increasing cropping intensity and improving soil organic matter over time.