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Agriculture

Faster drop for a new crop
Spring 2017

Faster drop for a new crop

Water and time are money if you’re a farmer. Trees are especially slow, and to get a new apple variety growing at a commercial scale can take years. It not only takes a couple of years after planting for fruit production to start, but it’s a long time just getting trees to plant.

The number of trees needed to plant a commercial-scale orchard is daunting. Even a small orchard of 100 acres needs nearly a quarter million trees to get going. And while it might take only a couple years to “raise a few rootstocks, thousands can take many years,” Washington State University apple breeder … » More …

Talk Back
Spring 2017

TalkBack for Spring 2017

 

Where would the wood?… 

I enjoyed the article “Wood Takes Wing” in the Winter 16 edition of Washington State Magazine on the many possibilities for wood as a new source of carbon molecules for all of those polymers we take for granted. Technologies that allow us to reduce burning of fossil fuels for energy recognize its highest value. The potential for atmospheric carbon reduction is a plus.

But there was an unasked question hanging behind the article—where will the timber come from to fill the old mills? The same environmental groups who just say no to transporting or burning fossil fuels also eagerly block … » More …

Spring 2017

Leeks

All Ray de Vries asks is that we enjoy leeks three times a day. The Skagit Valley farmer known as the Leek King is not being selfish, though. He’ll also tell you how to grow leeks so you can eat them all year round—and that everyone in the Pacific Northwest should grow them. “We’ve got the perfect climate,” he says.

The de Vries family got into leeks after Ray’s dad, Ralph, retired from dairy farming and planted a large produce garden. Ralph went to Seattle’s Produce Row and asked sellers what they needed. “We need leeks! As big as you can grow ’em!”

So that’s … » More …

Mushrooms, after the rains
Spring 2017

After the rains

WSU meteorologist Nic Loyd is stuck on one word for last October’s Washington weather: Wet.

Make that two words: Abnormally wet. Sea-Tac measured over 10 inches of rainfall. Even dry Yakima saw almost 2-1/2 inches. But the undisputed epicenter of soggy conditions was Spokane which registered not only their rainiest October ever, but the highest precipitation for any month ever recorded: a whopping 6-1/4 inches. That’s remarkable when compared to an average October rainfall of just 1-1/4 inches. Especially given that their typical annual total is just over 16 inches.

Loyd says this was due to an unusually deep and persistent trough of low pressure … » More …

Spring 2017

Waste not

Someone forgot about the fruit salad. When the refrigerator door opens, the sickly sweet aroma delivers a potent reminder. All the rotting apples, pears, and bananas in the bowl will need to be thrown out, and hopefully composted. It may seem insignificant, but that fruit salad represents a piece of the 40 percent of food wasted in the United States, about 20 pounds per person each month.

In recent years, food waste in this country and many other places around the world has grown not only in volume, but also in the collective consciousness. The numbers are staggering. Americans throw away an estimated $165 billion … » More …

Reduce food waste at home
Spring 2017

Reduce food waste at home

There are a variety of ways to reduce food waste at home, which can save you money, help the environment, and possibly feed people who need it.

Stop waste at the source

Assess food purchasing and preparation in your business or home to reduce the volume of food waste that is generated.

Make a list with meals in mind.
Buy only what you expect to use.
Keep fruits and vegetables fresh.
Prep perishables sooner rather than later.
Eat what needs eating first.
Treat expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines.
Save – and actually eat – leftovers.» More …

“Pori”, or Leeks, Tucuinum sanitatis, 1380s, National Library of Vienna
Spring 2017

All about leeks

Leek Facts

The Central Asian home of leeks and the other alliums is a global Center of Diversity. Useful to both crop-plant breeders and conservation organizations, these centers were first proposed by Russian botanist Nikolai Vavilov in the 1930s. Knowing where a plant’s wild relatives hail from enables breeders to bring new genetics into a line, or conservationists to work to preserve that area to ensure genetic diversity for the future.

Chemist Eric Block, author of Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science, calls the Central Asian home of the alliums “a tough neighborhood” where plants must fend off insects and other … » More …

Fall 2013

Water to the Promised Land

As an aquifer declines, farmers hope for water promised 80 years ago.

LAST SUMMER as we stood in the middle of Brad Bailie’s onion fields just north of Connell, the discussion, as discussions seem to do in the Columbia Basin, turned to water.

Bailie ’95 pumps irrigation water from a well drilled down 800 feet. Neighbors have pushed wells down to 2,000 feet. At such depths, the water is often laden with salts and minerals. After a while of irrigating with this water, a crust can form over the soil surface. Farmers must use a variety of means to break up the crust, including … » More …