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Climate Friendly Farming, Astaxanthin, Lind Field Day

Posted by | June 2, 2010

Climate Friendly Farming

Climate Friendly Farming

New agricultural practices, technology and strategies could dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with climate change, increase the amount of carbon held in the soil and replace products made with fossil fuels with those made with biomass, according to a report by Washington State University.

WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, in partnership with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, recently released the “Climate Friendly Farming” report to outline the progress of a five-year project aimed at turning farms from greenhouse gas emitters to carbon sinks. The foundation funded the “Climate Friendly Farming Project” in 2004 with a $3.75 million grant to CSANR. The goal was to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture, restore carbon to soils and replace fossil fuels with biomass.

“The Climate Friendly Farming project has been successful well beyond our expectations,” said Anson Fatland, senior program officer for science and technology innovations with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “With strong scientific foundations, the team has addressed greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in on-farm settings and made significant advancements in replacing fossil fuel-derived products with those derived from biomass. The farm of tomorrow will be more productive, with a smaller environmental footprint, thanks to the work of this group.”

Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, said the project results to date build a scientific base to support specific on-farm practices.

“The Climate Friendly Farming Project is an extraordinary interdisciplinary effort that involved some of the most prominent agricultural researchers at WSU,” he said. “Sound public policy in this arena must be based upon rigorous scientific analysis. This report provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the greenhouse gas emissions from Pacific Northwest agricultural systems.”

Chad Kruger, interim director of CSANR, agreed. He said overcoming obstacles facing farmers wanting to adopt new practices is the next step.

“Regardless of what happens with climate change and greenhouse gas policy, many of the management practices and technologies we evaluated can provide win-win scenarios for farmers and the environment,” Kruger said. “Overcoming technical and economic barriers will enable our farmers to be more sustainable.”

The project focused on agriculture’s relationship to greenhouse gases in dairy production, dryland grain farming and irrigated crop farming. The interdisciplinary team that tackled the issues included soil scientists, bio-systems engineers and economists from WSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

Specifically, the report explores and outlines the benefits of technology such as anaerobic digestion of dairy manure; conservation tillage to decrease erosion and other loss of carbon in the soil; managing carbon inputs such as crop residues, green manures and organic amendments to increase soil carbon; and improving nitrogen use efficiency to minimize one of the most significant greenhouse gases.

The entire report is available at http://csanr.wsu.edu/CFF/.

Visit http://csanr.wsu.edu/CFF/ to learn more about the Climate Friendly Farming Project.


Consuming “Pink” to Feel Rosy

Boon Chew in his lab.
Boon Chew in his lab.

A new study led by WSU food scientists Boon Chew and Jean Soon Park indicates that daily dietary supplements of astaxanthin, the pigment that gives salmon its pink color, may boost the immune response and protect from DNA damage in healthy young women.

Chew headed the research, conducted in collaboration with Inha University in Korea and La Haye Laboratories Inc., a Redmond, Wash. firm that develops and manufactures antioxidant supplements.

The trial is reportedly the first comprehensive human study on whether astaxanthin may regulate inflammation, immune response and oxidative damage, according to the researchers.

Astaxanthin is derived from an algae commonly consumed by fish and crustaceans that is responsible for imparting their pink color. As a supplement, its main health benefits are skin and eye health, and it has been linked to improved joint and central nervous system health.

The trial was a double blind, placebo-controlled study involving 42 women in their late teens to early 20s who were divided randomly into three groups. The control group was given a placebo and the other two groups received a daily dose of either two or eight milligrams of astaxanthin.

After eight weeks, the researchers found that both groups taking the supplement had significantly higher astaxanthin levels in the blood compared to the control group. They also noted that a marker of DNA damage was 32 and 43 percent lower in the two and eight milligram groups respectively, compared with the placebo group. The groups receiving astaxanthin also had significantly reduced levels of a marker for inflammation that is associated with heart disease.

The researchers also found that the women in the two groups receiving astaxanthin showed increases in the activity of their natural killer cells without an increase in the population of those cells, indicating a significant boost in the immune system.

Chew and his fellow researchers note that their research is ongoing, and that the parameters of future research will be broadened to include wider gender, age and racial populations.


Lind Field Day

Farmers at Lind Field Day
Farmers at Lind Field Day.

The 94th annual Washington State University Lind Field Day will be held Thursday, June 17, at the university’s Dryland Research Station north of Lind.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with the field tour starting at 9 a.m. A complimentary lunch and program will follow the field tour.

Research presentations include an on-site demonstration and discussion of new deep-furrow drill packer wheel prototypes, winter wheat and spring wheat breeding, camelina as a dryland oilseed crop, club wheat breeding, variety testing, winter wheat seedling emergence from deep sowing depths and grass weed control in wheat. WSU administrators, state legislators and wheat industry leaders will provide updates during the noon program.

An ice cream social follows the noon program.

The Lind Field Day is free and open to the public. Washington and CEU pesticide credits have been requested.

More information is available by contacting Bill Schillinger, WSU research agronomist, at (509) 235-1933 or schillw@wsu.edu.