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Developing Innovative Solutions to Global Problems

Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources is developing innovative solutions for some of society’s biggest problems. Funded primarily with a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, CSANR is leading research and educational efforts in agriculture, food, and natural resource systems that are economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially responsible.

CSANR’s current programs are focused on small farms, organic agriculture, biologically intensive agriculture, and climate friendly farming.

“WSU has long been committed to agricultural innovation,” said Chad Kruger, interim director of CSANR. “Agriculture is Washington’s largest industry and employer, and we strive to serve that industry in ways that minimize environmental impact while maximizing economic value.”

A recently completed CSANR project, Climate Friendly Farming, won a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Partnership Award. The project was designed to explore how agriculture can move from being a source of greenhouse gases to being a sink for carbon, with the goal of mitigating climate change.

“For example, the solid fiber from anaerobic digestion [of dairy waste] was treated and tested as a replacement for peat in potting mixes,” said David Granatstein, a WSU sustainable agriculture specialist. “This adds value and can help keep peat in the ground where it will continue to be sequestered carbon.”

Joe Harrison, nutrient management specialist at the WSU Puyallup R & E center, is working to perfect a technology that extracts phosphorus from dairy manure and converts it into a dry, commercially saleable fertilizer called struvite.
Joe Harrison, nutrient management specialist at the WSU Puyallup R & E center, is working to perfect a technology that extracts phosphorus from dairy manure and converts it into a dry, commercially saleable fertilizer called struvite.

Granatstein is the principle investigator on the Organic Farming Research for the Northwest grant that has funded over a dozen different research projects in the state, some of which have secured significant additional USDA funding to expand the work. One of the projects involves research on organic wheat varieties in both eastern and western Washington. In eastern Washington, researchers are working to develop a wheat variety specifically suited to organic farm conditions. Researchers hope to release a new variety in the next few years. In western Washington, researchers are focusing on finding existing wheat varieties suited to organic crop rotations in the region.

Another useful project supported by the OFRNW grant is the annual compilation of organic statistics for Washington and Oregon, as well as national and international trends on organic tree fruit production, of which Washington state is a major producer. Other research projects include orchard floor management, using legumes to add nitrogen to the soil, and evaluating seed treatments for organic crops that can protect them against seedling diseases, especially in the spring.

CSANR was created in 1991 after more than 1,500 Washington citizens identified the need to increase funding support for sustaining agriculture and natural resources, family well-being, and rural growth and revitalization.

By Holly Luka, CAHNRS Marketing, News, and Educational Communications intern

Climate Friendly Farming Reaches for the Future

Washington State University’s Climate Friendly Farming project has a lofty goal: to mitigate global warming.

As part of the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, the CFF project combines field studies, computer modeling, technology development and deployment, and educational outreach to explore how agriculture can move from being a source of greenhouse gases to being a sink for carbon.

Cows

“The Climate Friendly Farming team integrates researchers and Extension educators from several disciplines to tackle the complex issue of greenhouse gas emissions on many fronts,” said David Granatstein, a WSU sustainable agriculture specialist and one of the founders of the project.

One of the project’s most exciting innovations is an anaerobic manure digester that takes dairy cow waste from “rot to watts,” collecting methane gas that can be used to generate electricity or as a vehicle fuel. Another creative tool is a crop-soil simulation model that can potentially be used to validate agricultural credits in a carbon market or cap-and-trade system.

“WSU has long been committed to agricultural innovation,” said Chad Kruger, director of the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Agriculture is Washington’s largest industry and employer, and we strive to serve that industry in ways that minimize environmental impact while maximizing economic value.

In recognition of their forward-looking research and innovations, the Climate Friendly Farming Team won the 2009 USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Partnership Award for Innovative Program Models.

By Holly Luka, CAHNRS Marketing, News, and Educational Communications Intern