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High-residue farming, Amphibians, Sturgeon, Farm Walk

Posted by | May 21, 2008

High-residue Farming

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.

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 is 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.”

“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.

Top: Strip-till planting of corn into an alfalfa stand. Bottom: Andy McGuire, WSU Lauzier Agriculture Systems

Top: Strip-till planting of corn into an alfalfa stand. Bottom: Andy McGuire, WSU Lauzier Agriculture Systems Educator.


Get to Know Your Local Amphibian

Amphibians lead double lives and WSU Vancouver environmental scientist Peter Ritson wants you to get to know them. The recipient of a two-year, $14,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Ritson will be training community volunteers to monitor Clark County’s wetlands by examining amphibian populations.

Amphibians live one life in water and another on land. Many begin life with gills, and then develop lungs as they age. Amphibians include frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts as well as the odd, wormlike caecilians. Cold-blooded animals, amphibians use the environment to regulate their body temperature. Early amphibians were the first animals to leave the sea and venture onto land, forming a crucial evolutionary link from fish to terrestrial reptiles.

“We want to educate Clark County residents about the importance of amphibians and their associated habitats,” said Ritson. “We hope to encourage their protection in several ways: engaging citizens in wildlife protection by training volunteers to survey and monitor pond-breeding amphibian species, providing data essential to species conservation decisions, and increasing public understanding of the importance of wetlands in a rapidly urbanizing region.” To find out more about volunteering, contact Ritson at 360-546-9262 or email him at ristson@vancouver.wsu.edu.

Caecilian from the San Antonio zoo. The head end is in the water. For a related article in The Columbian, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/433uhv.

Caecilian from the San Antonio zoo. The head end is in the water. For a related article in The Columbian, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/433uhv.


Saving Sturgeon

Despite strict regulations, the vulnerable–and valuable–sturgeon has been greatly overfished and is on the endangered list in many parts of the world.

Barbara Rasco, professor in WSU’s School of Food Science, is among those working to help save the sturgeon in an international effort that could provide spin-off benefits for aquaculture in the Pacific Northwest.

The project is being funded by grants from the Western Regional Aquaculture Consortium and Aquaculture Washington Idaho. Rasco hopes to develop technical information that will not only help conserve global sturgeon populations but will also provide U.S. sturgeon growers with new tools to produce and market caviar.

“It is an important project,” said Rasco. “If we are going to harvest the fish, we should make the highest and best use of them and sell them for the best price.”

In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service voted to restrict the import of beluga sturgeon products from the Caspian Sea, citing concerns over unsustainable harvesting methods. Global demand for caviar–primarily from the United States–continues to exceed the supply, however, fueling a vigorous black market trade.

To this end, Rasco is collaborating with scientists, including graduate and undergraduate students, from Washington, Idaho, Montana, California and Oregon to investigate the reproductive biology of the sturgeon.

Adapted from an article by Becky Phillips. For the complete story, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/4p7kyv.

Green sturgeon is native to the Pacific Northwest

Green sturgeon is native to the Pacific Northwest.


Pullman Area Farm Walk, June 2

Discover the benefits of “solar tractors” at an upcoming Farm Walk on the Palouse. Zakarison Partnership is a diversified crop and livestock farm situated on 600 acres north of Pullman. Wheat, barley, oats, hay, locker lambs and pastured poultry are produced on the family-run farm.

To reduce petroleum inputs Eric Zakarison uses draft mules and oxen for light tillage, planting operations, haying, hay feeding during winter months, and log skidding. These “solar tractors” are maintained with fuel produced on the farm, including grass, grass hay, grain straw and oats. To complete the farm power/nutrient cycle, all animal manure is spread back on the farm to enhance soil fertility.

For more information about the farm walk, including how to register, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/4vx5sk.

Eric Zakarison putting training yoke on Babe, a three-month-old ox calf.

Eric Zakarison putting training yoke on Babe, a three-month-old ox calf.