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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
Trees capture and store more energy than any other organisms on Earth.
What will a native tree do?
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.
Cleans air by removing small particulates, reducing symptoms of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Filters groundwater by root chemistry. Tree leaves and needles transpire, creating clean, tree-filtered water, cooling and cleansing the air.
Shields other living creatures, including you, from solar heat, blocking ultraviolet rays that cause cancer.
Aids in recharging groundwater supply by preventing rain runoff from surrounding soils.
Produces aerosols from some trees, like willows, that fight cancer, while other trees produce antibiotic aerosols.
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?
Trees transfer solar energy to the soil, through photosynthesis, to feed the microbes that give soil life, that makes “living soil.”
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.
Trees prevent large-scale flooding, which washes topsoil away.
Trees produce organic material that enriches the soil, such as leaves and decomposing branches.
Trees fix nitrogen in the soil.
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?
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.
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.
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.