What does it take to start a long-term experiment?
“What were they thinking?” It’s a common question asked by agricultural scientists about the design of long-term cropping system experiments. Starting a long-term study is a big investment and having asked those questions ourselves while working with multi-decadal trials, you can imagine how daunting it was to be tasked with setting up a Long-term Agroecological Research and Extension (LTARE) site through the Washington Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI).
The main objective of the Mount Vernon Long-term Agroecological Research and Extension site is to identify and promote management practices that enhance soil health, carbon sequestration, and the environmental and economic sustainability of agricultural systems in western Washington
Soil Health at the Washington State Conservation Commission
Sustainable Farms and Fields launches!
The first application review has occurred for Sustainable Farms and Fields, a program of the Washington State Conservation Commission with a goal of increasing carbon sequestration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions on farmland, rangeland, and aquaculture tidelands.
Additional long-term agroecological research and extension sites selected
About a month ago, a review panel discussed funding additional LTARE sites as part of WSU’s Washington Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI). These sites are the core activity of WSU in its role in WaSHI with the other two agencies, the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the State Conservation Commission. These sites represent major agroecological cropping systems or production zones and evaluate the business as usual alongside other treatments, including moonshot approaches to maintain or improve soil health.
Bathroom reading: connecting biosolids to soil health
We tend not to want to think too hard about the contents of our toilets, much less where they go after we flush. While our waste may be out of sight and out of mind after this point for the average person, in reality, the problem of what to do with our waste isn’t as “flushable” on a larger scale.
As I wrote in my last post, the focus and excitement around soil biology leads many to believe that they have a soil biology problem. To fix this perceived problem, some recommend trying various types of soil amendments or inoculants to enhance the soil’s microbial community.
I am not sure of the causes. Perhaps it’s the demand for soil health information which far surpasses the supply of science-based content? Or maybe the speculation and exaggeration that this high demand produces? The intense focus on soil biology for soil health (Coyne et al. 2022) is surely a factor. And the excitement that comes with learning about the new discoveries in soil microbiology. Whatever it is, the results are clear.
Healthy soils produce healthy crops, right? Nope. Although it would seem the very definition of soil health, this popular thinking does not match what plant pathologists find (Janvier et al., 2007). It’s not true.