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Klickitat County Washington Cover Crop Trials

Our friends at NRCS Pullman have been doing cover crop trials. The NRCS Pullman Plant Materials Program staff started a forage cover crops field trial in the Columbia Hills on a dryland wheat/fallow cropping system. They were evaluating cover crops planted in fall or late winter of the fallow year for establishment, growth, forage production and weed control.  A Great Plains no-till drill was used to plant several cover crop mixes and several varieties of winter peas.  The winter planting was done on March 7, 2018, and the fall planting was done on September 11, 2018.  Monitoring was conducted periodically throughout the growing season.  


Click here to read the full report. Below are some pictures from the trials. A special thank you goes out to Soil Health Committee Member Allen Casey for sharing.

Electricity “Eating” Bacteria and Soil Health

Bacteria, which are one of the essential organisms in healthy soil, have been shown to  “eat” electricity and transfer it to metals or other solid surfaces, producing a stream of electricity. An experiment by WSU scientists has revealed electricity-consuming bacteria living in a Yellowstone Park hot spring.

For the first time, scientists made a successful in situ collection of bacteria living in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park and using an unconventional source – electricity – for food and energy.

Thanks to EarthSky.org for publishing an great article about this:

“These bacteria eat and breathe electricity”

Washington Grown Episode: Underground

This episode of Washington Grown went underground! The crew visited Urban Eden Farm in Spokane to learn about some of the crops they grow underground and how they care for their soil. They also talked with members of our Washington State Soil Health Committee about what farmers are doing in the state to improve soil health. Keep watching until the end, because they make a delicious beet salad at Salare and get a unique burger recipe from a viewer as well! Finally, the Washington Grown crew visited 2nd Harvest to learn how they are bringing food security to the area as well as helping clients learn how to prepare healthy food.


The part of the episode featuring the Washington State Soil Health Committee was shot on October 3rd, 2018. It was filmed on Dale Gies’ potato farm outside of Moses Lake, WA. Dale plants mustard before planting potatoes as a way to control nematodes instead of using commercial fumigants. Here’s some behind-the-scenes footage from the day of filming.

Governor Inslee Discusses Soil Health and Farming

In March of 2017, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee discussed soil health and farming in the state of Washington.

“One of the great blessings of the state of Washington is our farmland and preserving it is not only iconic for the state of Washington but necessary for our survival economically.” Says Governor Inslee in his opening remarks.

If you do not want to watch the entire session, you can skip ahead. The section about soils starts at 19.28 and runs through 22.24.

Thank you to Results Washington and TVW for supplying the video.

Washington Grown Video Shoot – Behind the Scenes

On October 3rd, 2018, the television show “Washington Grown” filmed on Dale Gies’ farm Dale Gies is a potato farmer outside of Moses Lake, WA. Dale plants mustard before planting potatoes as a way to control nematodes instead of using commercial fumigants. These are some clips from the day of filming.

Washington Grown Video Shoot

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Notice: Recommended Standard Methods for use as Soil Health Indicator Measurements

The Washington State Soil Health Committee recently commented on The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Notice: Recommended Standard Methods for use as Soil Health Indicator Measurements.

If you would like to comment, you can do so by following this link.

Here is the letter:

Continue reading “The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Notice: Recommended Standard Methods for use as Soil Health Indicator Measurements”

San Juan Native Tree Farm in Autumn Colors

Here is a native tree nursery in its autumn finery. When these bare-root plants were rescued they were skinny brown sticks. Now they are growing amazingly well, bursting with color and life. They will be transplanted by the Master Gardeners in the San Juan Islands to provide low-cost restoration throughout the islands, bringing native plant DNA to places where it has been removed. At the same time, these young trees will enrich the soils wherever they are planted for generations to come.

The Native Tree Farm is a program that was started by the Washington State Soil Health Committee 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.

You can read the full story on the nursery here.

San Juan Native Tree Farm in Autumn Colors

San Juan Native Tree Farm in Autumn Colors

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.