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Soil Sciences

Fall 2017

Shifting waters

On the south end of Puget Sound, where I lived for a number of years, water surrounds Olympia: Black Lake, Budd Bay, Capitol Lake, inlets, rivers, and creeks. It’s part of the picturesque scenery that I enjoyed daily, until I saw a half-submerged SUV at an intersection. The storms of 2007 flooded some streets, not to mention covering I-5 just south in Centralia. Water had become an unexpected hazard.

We can expect even more heavy storms and major floods, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, as the climate changes. Floods that were once seen every 20 years are projected to happen as much as … » More …

Palouse Ridge Golf Club in morning
Fall 2017

Game changer

A small, brownish dry spot is visible on the ninth fairway at Palouse Ridge Golf Club.

Superintendent Mike Bednar is unbothered, which might seem a bit surprising given the course’s enviable reputation among national golfing groups.

“This is designed to play hard and fast,” says Bednar ’92, ’04, explaining Palouse Ridge needs to be a bit on the dry side to deliver the kind of gameplay challenge that’s kept it atop national rankings ever since its 2008 opening. “We’ve got an irrigation system that lets us water only when and where it’s necessary.”

 

The design isn’t just about gameplay, though.

As water becomes … » More …

Fall 2017

Plant for the future

Somewhere in the dryland wilds of eastern Washington, Michael Neff and his wife stop the car.

“I’ve always wanted to hike these dunes,” he says to her. “I could not believe the grasses that were stabilizing those dunes!” Neff says later. He refuses to identify where, exactly, the dunes in question are located. “It’s those little pockets of diversity that we need to identify and preserve,” he explains, almost—but not quite—apologetic.

Trained as a botanist and now a professor of molecular biology at Washington State University, Neff expands on why this is important: “If we’re going to be resilient in the face of climate … » More …

Fall 2016

The long view

“I do not believe that any man can adequately appreciate the world of to-day unless he has some knowledge of … the history of the world of the past.” —Theodore Roosevelt, 1911

A hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt’s vision of conservation came to fruition with the establishment of the National Park Service. Although President Woodrow Wilson established the NPS, Roosevelt had doubled the number of national parks and passed the Antiquities Act in 1906 when he was in the Oval Office. Roosevelt believed that we must have a deeper and longer-term view of our country’s natural and historical heritage.

In the spirit of Roosevelt’s aims, … » More …

Fall 2016

Till tomorrow

Agricultural research shifts to the LONG game

As David Huggins looks out across the rolling hills of the R.J. Cook Agronomy Farm at Washington State University in Pullman, his enthusiasm about soil is tempered with a sense of urgency about the future of agriculture.

Huggins, a USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist, is keenly aware of the squeeze placed on agriculture by a growing global population in the face of limited resources and a changing climate.

“At no time in the history of the world have we known more about our farming system and our understanding of soil, the atmosphere, and our crops,” … » More …