PULLMAN, Wash. – Andy McGuire, Washington State University Extension’s Lauzier Agricultural Systems Educator at Ephrata, has received a $50,000 grant from the Paul Lauzier Charitable Foundation to further research and demonstration work on high-residue farming systems at WSU’s Othello Research Unit.
The grant will be used to purchase a center pivot sprinkler irrigation system to be installed this summer.
High-residue farming is a system of practices, including minimum tillage and direct seeding, that maintains a cover of living or dead plants on the soil to conserve soil and moisture. Crops are often planted directly into the residues of previous crops.
Over time, such practices can improve soil quality and result in savings of fuel, labor and equipment costs, according to McGuire. Reduced irrigation water use and pumping costs, as well as reduced wind erosion are other possible benefits. Wind erosion prevention is attracting interest in irrigated farming regions in the Columbia Basin.
“We can have a problem with spring wind erosion in areas that have sandy soils,” McGuire said “Farmers worry about their crop blowing out in the spring, and we’ve seen a lot of high winds this year.”
High-residue farming has been used in the Midwest for many years, but the farming techniques practiced there must be adapted to the irrigated Columbia Basin.
“It’s done a lot in the Midwest, but not under irrigation systems and not in the complicated rotations that we have here,” McGuire said. “We don’t depend on rainfall so much as they do, and we grow a lot more than corn and soybeans, so we have to figure out how to fit different crops in rotation using these systems.”
McGuire has been conducting demonstrations on leased land. Moving the demonstrations to Othello will enable him to conduct longer term research and provide one location where farmers can come to see the farming technology in use.
“I don’t think any farmers are going to make investments in the kind of machinery they will need without seeing how it works and seeing some of the benefits,” McGuire said.
The Paul Lauzier Foundation, created from the estate of an Ephrata area farmer who died in 1995, supports community and youth development, public health and safety, education and agriculture. A gift to WSU in 1997 from the foundation created the Extension agricultural systems position currently held by McGuire.
More information on the Extension High-Residue Faming under Irrigation Project is available at http://www.grant-adams.wsu.edu/agriculture/highresidue/.
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