The general background of this research is that a major part of the global carbon pool is stored underground, in our boreal forests, in the form of organic matter. It is only now becoming clear how plant roots contribute to the formation of organic matter, especially to the concentration of nitrogen in it. The latest research on soil nitrogen shows that some plant roots promote high concentrations of organic soil nitrogen, thus contributing to for formation of organic matter, where carbon is stored.
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!
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.
Please RSVP by September 22nd. To RSVP, email email@example.com.
With a close-up view of an exhibit in the Royal BC Museum, microscopic organisms under the soil are made large.
These are the first reports for the eight new contracts for 2017-2020 and for the continuation in 2017 of the first round of projects, which received additional funding. The results are encouraging and, in some cases, fascinating. By demonstrating positive outcomes, these results will promote better soil practices in our state.
Palouse Rock Lake Conservation District:
A new project to measure and compare moisture retention in cover crop fallow and direct seed fallow.
This study is a home run. By comparing moisture retention every four inches up to 48” in side by side cover crop fallow and direct seed fallow, the study has these results so far:
- No net loss of moisture in cover crop fallow as compared to direct seed fallow
- Decrease in soil temperature in cover crop fallow, which benefits soil organisms
- Suppression of weeds without herbicides
- Reduction of soil compaction, which enhances moisture absorption and retention
- Reduction in soil erosion
- Early signs of possible increase in yield
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 CD 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.
Underwood Conservation District:
Completion of original 2015-2016 project to monitor soil moisture in test plots in an orchard, using a control plot, a plot with compost, and a plot with compost and mulch
Results so far show no significant difference in moisture. We are waiting to hear if there is any difference in productivity (yield). We have questions about the 2017 workshop: how may attended, who were the presenters, and what did they present?
Washington Environmental Council:
Continuation of Nisqually Community Forest project which aims to create a template for sustainable forest practices in Pacific Northwest forests.
- The project has linked sustainable forest practices with improvements in both water quality and quantity
- DOE’s Clean Water Revolving fund was changed to allow sustainable forest projects including forest land purchases
- First certified Carbon Project with 520 acres saved from clear-cutting with Microsoft buying the carbon credits
- Set up protocol and step-by-step process for creating and selling carbon credits to offset the cost of land purchases
- Demonstrating that by growing trees longer, e., longer harvest rotations, the forest is more resilient and stores more carbon over time; older forests also provide better wildlife habitat
Whitman Conservation District:
Experiments with various cover crops in the Palouse to identify those best for fall and for spring and to determine whether pelletized compost adds extra yield or other ecological benefits. This will be evaluated in the spring of 2018.
Washington State University: Soil Health Field Day
Soil Health Field Day in Davenport at the experimental farm. Well attended with dozens of farmers and conservationists. Highlighted soil differences between no-till and conventional test plots.
Washington State University:
First year of three-year study of soil characteristics in irrigated agriculture in Eastern Washington.
- 60 soil samples were studied from 30 growers to establish a baseline.
- Some of the results were surprising, for example, that the amount of soil fines was inexplicably low in many sites.
- Several “exemplary soils” were discovered, which were also surprising. More research will be done to discover the secret of those exemplary soils
- This study includes a process of evaluating which soil health measurements are of value, and which are not.
“We are legion.” Mushrooms, or Fungi, are everywhere. They are an essential component of healthy soil. As old as the oldest plants, and far older than animals, fungi occupy their own branch in the tree of evolution. Without fungi, green plants would perish. They restrict the length of life and prevent abnormal reproduction of both plans and animals. Without fungi, neither plants nor animals would survive. We have much to learn about how to live productively with our fungal friends, but one novel partnership has proven successful in the Swiss Alps.
“Soils around the planet are soaking up far less carbon than we previously believed. This is a harrowing development. Soils absorb trillions of tons of carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere. However, recently released research revealed that soil will absorb far less carbon as we near the year 2100 than was previously estimated. That means this is yet another factor that will cause more warming to the planet.”
Dahl Jamail, “Scientists Sound Alarm on Climate,” October 3, 2016, Truthout