Following a soil acidification workshop that attracted double the expected number of farmers, Washington State University is offering a second one from 7:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 8 at Banyans on the Ridge Pavilion in Pullman, Wash.
WSU nutrient management specialist Haiying Tao expected 70 people for the acidification workshop, but 150 showed up. She said the facility has room for 150 attendees.
Tao believes the interest is due to growers understanding how serious the problem can be, even though they’re not experiencing a harmful yield loss yet.
“A few people actually mentioned they cannot plant some crops because of it, already,” she said. “There are not a lot of options in this area, so they want to learn what to do.”
Healthy soil is the foundation for healthy crops, Tao said. It reduces the chances of soilborne diseases or weeds because crops are more competitive, and decreases the impact of extreme weather fluctuations.
The workshop is intended to cover why soils are become more acidic and management practices and strategies for countering the problem.
Each area has its challenges with soil health, Tao said. High rainfall zones have water erosion difficulties, and drier areas have wind erosion. Some areas are shallow or have less organic matter.
Several speakers from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service will talk about assessing and documenting changes in soil health.
Tao said researchers are looking at strategies for improvement, or to slow down problems.
“It’s really a long-term investment,” she said. “It takes time for the soil to degredate, but it also takes time for you to bring back the soil health.”
The agenda includes soil erosion, the effect of crop roots on soil health, cover crops, soil acidity and earthworms.
WSU cropping systems professor Bill Pan and Chad Kruger, director of WSU’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon, will give an overview of state and national soil health policy and programs.
Tao hopes growers leave with the idea that their practices have a “long-term or very quick” effect on their soil health, and that practices to improve the soil are available that won’t affect their yield.
Tao is working on projects to help farmers monitor changes in soil health and in-field assessments.