State explores field burning alternatives
Projects look at solutions for Washington's farmers
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Three research projects exploring alternatives to field burning in Washington state have been selected to receive funding.
The Agricultural Burning Practices and Research Task Force, chaired by the Washington State Department of Ecology, will provide:
* $60,000 for Lewis Engineering Consultants, to develop methods for making bleached and unbleached papers from straw pulp, providing an alternative use for the straw.
* $48,000 for Washington State University's Cook Agronomy Farm to study nutrient cycling and the effects of different crop residue management methods.
* $32, 500 to the WSU Lind Research Station, which will study the cause of yield declines for winter canola planted into wheat stubble. Because of that, farmers sometimes burn wheat stubble before planting canola.
Karen Wood, Eastern Washington air quality manager for Ecology, said state law allows agricultural burning when no practical alternative exists.
"We would like farmers to consider alternatives first, prior to burning," she said. "We understand it's often an economic decision."
The department collects a fee and uses the money for research, she said. Priorities include finding an alternative use for straw, reducing smoke and improving on-farm practices.
Bill Schillinger of the Lind station said irrigated farms planting canola following wheat experience reduced yield and height. He wants to examine soil pathogens in wheat residue.
Schillinger said the project will last three years.
The straw pulp project has developed paper and trays for berries and apples.
Wood said the goal is for research to prove the viability for commercial enterprises to continue the work.