At a recent Orcas Island Farmers Market in the San Juan Islands, our Committee Chair, Lynn Bahrych, ran into Girl Meets Dirt. Girl Meets Dirt is an established business on Orcas. They make organic jams, shrubs, and spreads from heritage fruit produced at old orchards that they help maintain. Girl Meets Dirt helps the orchardist do the pruning and soil enhancements for the fruit trees. Then they harvest and process the fruit. Girl Meets Dirt creates new and delicious jams from the ground up, starting with soil health improvement. This is why we decided to share a bit about them!
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:
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.
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.
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.
The first annual Palouse Alternative Cropping Symposium was held on Friday, February 23rd in Pullman, WA.
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.
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.
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.