Organic Acreage, Farmgate Sales Up Again in Washington
The latest annual profile of Washington state’s organic acreage and crops is out, and the numbers are rosy. Compiled by the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources since 2002, the number of certified organic acres in the state appears to have increased by183 percent between 2003 and 2008.
But the really good news is that gross farmgate sales from organic production increased by 48 percent in 2007, to more than $213 million.
“We always like to point out that the figures in the profile are a best estimate because of anomalies and inconsistencies in the available data,” says WSU CSANR sustainable agriculture specialist David Granatstein. “Our data sources and reporting improve every year, but we remain conservative with our analysis so this report represents a low-end estimate of the organically farmed land in the state.”
Seventy percent of the state’s organic acreage is devoted to three crop categories: Tree fruit, vegetables, and forage crops for feeding livestock.
Washington continues to lead the nation in organic apple, pear and cherry acreage, primarily in irrigated areas of central Washington. Apples are the state’s predominant organic tree fruit crop with apple orchards comprising 76 percent of the certified tree fruit acreage. Fuji and Gala are the leading varieties grown organically.
Distance No Barrier to WSU Organic Ag Education
WSU, the first institution in the country to offer an academic major and an online certificate in organic agriculture, has again expanded its offerings in distance education. Registration opens April 13 for the next series of courses in WSU’s online certificate in organic agriculture, refreshed this year with new courses and new leadership.
Admission to WSU is required to enroll in courses and to earn the certificate, and participants may apply as non-degree seeking students. More information is available at WSU’s Center for Distance and Professional Education Web site at www.online.wsu.edu or by calling 1-800-222-4978.
Students currently in the certificate program hale from throughout the United States, including Texas, New Mexico, Iowa and Washington, D.C.
WSU Regents Professor John Reganold, an international leader in organic agriculture, developed the first core course, Soils 101, for the certificate program, and now is leading its overall development. Professor Joan Davenport, a soil scientist at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser, has developed a new course for the certificate program — Soils 20 1 — which will be offered for the first time this fall.
Other courses in the program focus on topics ranging from economics and resolving environmental conflicts to ecological soil management and crop growth and development. The program also includes an “on the ground” practicum or professional internship in organic agriculture.
Students at WSU campuses also can pursue the online certificate. “We anticipate that many students in a variety of disciplines will find value in adding this certificate to their course of study,” said Janet Kendall, director of WSU’s Center for Distance and Professional Education.
Keeping the Lid on Sudden Oak Death
Phytophthora ramorum, better known as sudden oak death, is more than a threat to trees and woody plants. It is a potential threat to the economy of Washington’s forest products, horticulture and landscaping industries.
SOD has already killed more than a million trees in California and Oregon, and it’s been found in 42 Washington nurseries. Western Washington is a “high risk” area for the diseases caused by the fungus-like pathogen because of favorable environmental conditions and an abundance of susceptible host plants including Douglas-fir, grand fir, rhododendron and Pacific yew.
WSU plant pathologist Gary Chastagner says that an outbreak in the natural environment could result in quarantines on the movement of host plant materials. “That would cause serious economic impacts for such industries as forestry, Christmas trees, nurseries, landscapers, and even restrict the movement of yard waste for municipal composting.”
Since 2002, Chastagner and his team at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center have been researching the risk this pathogen poses to conifers, it’s spread in nurseries, and effective approaches to manage SOD. In response to industry concerns, WSU invested a quarter million dollars to build a biocontainment facility and later added a new molecular lab at the Puyallup Center to greatly expand the team’s capacity to research critical issues related to the establishment, host susceptibility, spread and management of P. ramorum.
Since early detection is key to reducing the risk of widespread outbreaks, the team has developed an educational program, thanks to funding support from the U.S. Forest Service. The program offers training, workshops and educational materials to teach horticulture professionals symptom recognition and early detection in urban and natural landscapes.