Save the Date: Healthy Soils, Healthy Region Workshop

Several regional organizations are coming together March 12-14, 2019 at the Pendleton Convention Center for a hands-on workshop and training seminar.

“The Healthy Soil, Healthy Region Workshop is a region-wide approach to bring together agricultural professionals and producers from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho for a 3-day workshop to improve awareness of existing, new, and evolving regional soil health practices and assessment methods. The workshop will provide hands-on training on soil health practices, improve understanding of the practical barriers producers face when implementing soil health practices, and increase familiarity with tools that can be used by producers to make decisions related to soil health. We will also strive to get the various groups working on soil health in the region on the same page regarding sampling protocols, method selection, and the current state of the science.”

Registration opens November 1, 2018: http://csanr.wsu.edu/healthysoils/

Fill out our conference planning survey: http://bit.ly/HSHRSurvey

North Central Washington Cover Crop Tour October 4th, 2018

Hear from farmers about cover cropping and grazing in dryland wheat. There will also be updates from RMA, NRCS, and WSU on soil health and animal nutrition.

The Field Day will take place on October 4th, 2018. The tour will start at Cavadini Partnership in Bridgeport and end at the Double J ranch in Okanogan. Following the tour, there will be beverages and a BBQ.

Please RSVP by September 22nd. To RSVP, email rachel@okanogancd.org.

 

Washington State House Bill on Biochar Research

Follow the link for the House Bill Report HJM 4014.

Here’s the complete text from House Joint Memorial 4014:

TO EACH MEMBER OF CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, AND TO JAY INSLEE, THE GOVERNOR OF WASHINGTON STATE, AND TO THE DIRECTORS OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST AND ROCKY MOUNTAIN RESEARCH STATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, AND TO THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE REGION 6 REGIONAL FORESTER, AND TO THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE DEPUTY CHIEF FOR STATE AND PRIVATE FORESTRY, AND TO THE PRESIDENTS OF THE WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY AND THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, AND TO THE DIRECTORS OF THE WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF ECOLOGY AND THE WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, AND TO THE WASHINGTON STATE COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC LANDS:

We, your Memorialists, the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Washington, in legislative session assembled,
respectfully represent and petition as follows:

WHEREAS, Biochar is a carbon rich solid produced for noncombustion purposes by the thermochemical conversion of organic matter; and

WHEREAS, An important coproduct of biochar production is energy in thermal, gaseous, electrical, and liquid fuel forms; and

WHEREAS, Biochar can be produced from many forms of organic matter including: Whole trees, residual forest materials, wood chips, seaweed, food processing waste, demolition waste, wheat straw, and many other forms of agricultural and municipal waste; and

WHEREAS, People working for the United States Forest Service, the Washington State University, the University of Washington, and the Washington State Department of Ecology have been researching the use of biochar and found that several potential markets exist for the product, including as agricultural soil amendments, reforestation treatments, pollution remediation, animal feed, and landscaping
material; and

WHEREAS, Forest health activities to thin forests, decrease fuel loads, and remove trees killed by insects and disease can be expensive because there are currently few markets for small roundwood and virtually no markets for residual material, such as tops and limbs; and

WHEREAS, Biochar provides a potential economic use for woody biomass that can help offset forest fuel reduction project costs, which means more acres can be treated; and

WHEREAS, Removing excess forest biomass for use as a feedstock for biochar can minimize the severity of wildfires; and

WHEREAS, The Agricultural Research Service has found that the addition of biochar to soils may increase soil carbon, soil nutrient content, and plant productivity; and

WHEREAS, Biochar can increase the economic value and productivity of Washington soils and benefit Washington farmers by reducing expenditures for irrigation and fertilizer while increasing soil pH and yields; and

WHEREAS, Designer biochars can be produced from different feedstocks with varying production techniques to enhance or diminish specific attributes; and

WHEREAS, Biochar is a porous material that retains water which can reduce drought risk and irrigation inputs to farms, urban landscaping, and recreational facilities; and

WHEREAS, United States Forest Service studies have found that biochar in soils attracts and holds water, increases ion exchange capacity, makes soil more porous, and enhances absorption of organic compounds, all of which enhance soil productivity and facilitate plant growth to reduce erosion and restore compacted, oxidized, and degraded soils; and

WHEREAS, Biochar can be used in filters, such as those used in water treatment facilities, and well-established markets exist for
activated carbon; and

WHEREAS, Biochar can be used for remediation projects to absorb pollutants destined for our wells, rivers, lakes, and oceans; and

WHEREAS, Biochar is modeled after “terra preta” a process used thousands of years ago in Brazil’s Amazon basin where indigenous people created plots of rich, fertile soils that continue to hold carbon today and remain nutrient rich; and

WHEREAS, Biochar can store carbon in the ground that may otherwise be released into the atmosphere from wildfires or decomposition; and

WHEREAS, Biochar can be fed to ruminants to increase weight gain, and its application can also reduce methane emissions from manure and compost piles; and

WHEREAS, Washington State is a national leader in the advancement of biochar research, development, and early commercialization; and

WHEREAS, The production, placement, and benefits of biochar can enhance rural economic development and employment;

NOW, THEREFORE, Your Memorialists respectfully affirm their support for the research efforts of the United States Forest Service, the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, the Washington State University, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and other institutions to produce biochar from the removal of wildfire fuel loads from the forest floor, waste agricultural products, and other waste biomass destined for landfills or combustion; and support the research of biochar as an animal feed, remediation tool, landscaping material, and soil amendment for forest and agricultural lands.

BE IT RESOLVED, That copies of this Memorial be immediately transmitted to Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington State; the Directors of the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain Research Stations of the United States Forest Service; the United States Forest Service Region 6 Regional Forester; the United States Forest Service Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry; the Presidents of the Washington State University and the University Of Washington; the Directors of the Washington State Department of Ecology and the Washington State Department of Agriculture; the Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands; and each member of Congress from the
State of Washington.

“Retail And Government Conservation Work In Parallel To Serve Farmers”

One of our committee members was recently featured in an article published by Farm Journal’s Ag Farm. Gary Farrell, president of Ag Enterprise Supply and Washington State Soil Health Committee co-chair, discussed retailer partnerships with conservationists and producers in the article “Retail And Government Conservation Work In Parallel To Serve Farmers”.

From the article:

“Farrell has more than four decades of experience in the industry and is a past president of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) as well as a current co-chair of the Washington State Soil Health Committee, and a committee member of the Soil Health Institute.

For the past four years, Farrell has been working to promote the benefits retailers bring in helping farmers adopt conservation practices, while also spotlighting how the retail industry can partner with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to take full advantage of the conservation programs they offer. His work resulted in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the USDA-NRCS, ARA, CropLife America, The Fertilizer Institute and others.”

Read the full article here.

 

Photo courtesy of Farm Journal’s Ag Pro. Farmer Robert Sievers (left) has worked with Gary Farrell of Ag Enterprise Supply to optimize inputs while adopting conservation. (Vance Kardos)

Soil Committee is Giving Away Trees in San Juan County

The Washington State Soil Health Committee has started an education and outreach program in San Juan County. The project aims to distribute, at no cost, surplus native bare-root trees that would otherwise be destroyed at the end of the nursery season. The trees will go to landowners in San Juan County who are doing shoreline restoration, wetland recovery, or native tree planting. So far, hundreds of bare-root native trees have been provided to three San Juan County farms:  Smiling Dog Farm on Orcas Island, Horseshu Farm on San Juan Island, and Ken Davis’s farm on San Juan Island.

Download our flyer for more details on how to plant and care for your native tree.

Did you know?

Trees are the longest-living organisms on Earth.

Trees capture and store more energy than any other organisms on Earth.

What will a native tree do?

  1. Provides fresh oxygen for you to breathe.  One acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of carbon dioxide and exhales 4 tons of fresh oxygen (USDA), cleaning our air and combating climate change.
  2. Cleans air by removing small particulates, reducing symptoms of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
  3. Filters groundwater by root chemistry. Tree leaves and needles transpire, creating clean, tree-filtered water, cooling and cleansing the air.
  4. Shields other living creatures, including you, from solar heat, blocking ultraviolet rays that cause cancer.
  5. Aids in recharging groundwater supply by preventing rain runoff from surrounding soils.
  6. Produces aerosols from some trees, like willows, that fight cancer, while other trees produce antibiotic aerosols.
  7. Reduces depression and anxiety. Visual exposure to trees has produced recovery from stress in five minutes, as measured by blood pressure and muscle tension, according to research at Texas A & M University.

What will your native tree do for your soil?

  1. Trees transfer solar energy to the soil, through photosynthesis, to feed the microbes that give soil life, that makes “living soil.”
  2. Trees prevent soil erosion in the broad area of their rooting zone, providing sub-surface drainage for rain runoff and holding the soil in place.
  3. Trees prevent large-scale flooding, which washes topsoil away.
  4. Trees produce organic material that enriches the soil, such as leaves and decomposing branches.
  5. Trees fix nitrogen in the soil.
  6. Trees work symbiotically with the fungal mat that lies under the ground, giving soil structure, and supporting all terrestrial life in mysterious ways.

What other benefits will the ecosystem receive?

  1. In San Juan County, planting trees on the shoreline produces humic acid which stimulates the growth of plankton in sea water, thereby enriching the food web in the Salish Sea.
  2. Trees provide habitat and food for birds and other animals. Your wildlife will love you, especially if you leave dead trees standing. Birds and other nesting creatures regard a dead snag as premium residential housing, as well as five-star dining on resident bugs.

 

Project Update: Whitman County Cover Crop Symposium

The first annual Palouse Alternative Cropping Symposium was held on Friday, February 23rd in Pullman, WA.

Alternative Cropping Systems Symposium

The event was a great success with 80 people in attendance and six fantastic presentations from local growers who are experimenting with cover crops and cover cropping and grazing. In addition to the presentations the program included an interactive poll that addressed where growers get most of their information, soil health on the farm and what barriers exist for trying cover cropping. This event was the first of three Alternative Cropping Symposiums that will be facilitated by the Palouse Conservation District over the next couple of years. The goal of the symposium is to connect growers in the region that are experimenting with cover crops and to provide a forum for peer to peer education. This event was made possible by a grant through the Washington State Soil Health Committee and through donations from our generous sponsors. Sponsors for the symposium included: Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative, Palouse Conservation District, OTT Hydromet, Northwest Farm Cred Services, Viterra, Spectrum Crop Development, Clearwater Seed, Spokane Community College, Pearson Farm and Fence, Spray Center Electronics, Roots of Resilience, and Rainier Seeds.

If you are interested in participating in the symposium next year or you wouldlike more information about the event visit www.palousecd.org or contact Ryan Boylan(ryanb@palousecd.org) or Lovina Englund (lovina@palousecd.org).

For more information on this grant project, click here.

NASA and the Washington State Soil Committee Agree Biochar are “Superstars”

In an article on the Daily Press website, NASA Langley scientist touts biochar: as an ‘environmental superstar.’

From the article:

“Biochar can be made from common organic waste material — from chicken and cow poop to sticks and brush from your yard. It can make environmentally unfriendly synthetic fertilizers obsolete. It can trap nutrient runoff before it pollutes places like the Chesapeake Bay. It can even filter out toxic heavy metals from water.”

The Washington State Soil Health Committee has funded two grant projects featuring biochar. One of the biochar projects is in San Juan County and the other is in Mason County. Below are the summaries of each project.

San Juan Conservation District:
Continuation of biochar project begun in 2016. Following up on the original six-farm test plots, in which biochar was added to soil, the yield will be evaluated in the spring of 2018. In addition to the test plots, biochar kilns were designed and provided to forest landowners on each of the four ferry-served islands. Workshops were offered on each island to demonstrate how to make biochar from forest waste. Online instructions are available for making biochar at home.

Biochar was added as an alternative to the slash burns in the County’s draft Solid Waste Management Plan.

The San Juan Conservation District also starts a new three-year project to introduce no till-direct seed practices to the county, including use of cover crops to improve soil health and limit use of chemicals.

Mason County Conservation District:

The goal is to fill the knowledge gaps on the effects of biochar in the Mason County region. The project will involve measuring the effects of biochar on the balance of pH, the retention of nutrients, the amount of soil microorganisms in local soil types, and crop yield.

Cover Crops in Low Rainfall Wheat Fallow Regions of Eastern Washington

Following a National Forum on Cover Crops and Soil Health, producers became interested in conducting on-farm demonstrations to improve soil health through cover crops.

Continue reading “Cover Crops in Low Rainfall Wheat Fallow Regions of Eastern Washington”

Washington State Soil Health Committee Grant Recipient Presents at Cropping Conference

One of the 2017 Washington State Soil Health Committee grant recipients presented at the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association’s 2018 Cropping Systems Conference Program in Kennewick, WA.

The Palouse Rock Lake Conservation District received a grant to purchase four, 48 inch AquaSpy Soil Probes. Additionally, they purchased a two-year subscription for a cloud storage service. The probes will upload data every 15 minutes via a solar powered on-site apparatus.
The purpose of the grant was to document measured changes in soil moisture, temperature and conductivity every four inches to a soil depth of 48 inches. This will be during a fallow season and after wheat winter was planted in the follow in the fall.
The equipment will document changes through the harvest of 2018.