'Rock star' praises soil
Civilizations rise and fall based on attitude toward soil
By MATTHEW WEAVER
A Washington State University expert will discuss soil health as part of a tie-in event for "Dig It!," the national Smithsonian exhibit on display in Spokane.
WSU Regents Professor of Soil Science and Agroecology John Reganold speaks at 4 p.m. May 19 at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. He is the final speaker for the "Know Soil, Know Life" lecture series accompanying the exhibit.
"Dig It!" project manager and Washington State Conservation Commissioner Lynn Bahrych called Reganold a "rock star" in the soil science world.
"He is internationally known for his research on what makes agriculture sustainable," she said.
That includes studying the practices of countries that have maintained the health of their soil for hundreds or thousands of years.
"Civilizations have risen and fallen depending on how well they care for their soil," Bahrych said. "John Reganold is the man who's studying globally the way in which different cultures and communities are thriving or not depending on how they care for their soil."
Reganold will focus on the importance of soil and give an understanding of how farmers, ranchers and gardeners treat soil.
"It's the foundation of our food, fiber and feed system," he said. "We need to make sure we're good stewards of soil. In places we are and in some places we're not."
Agriculture plays possibly the largest role in issues like global climate change and nitrogen pollution, Reganold said. He cited a 2010 National Academy of Sciences report calling for sustainable agricultural systems.
"Although conventional systems have done an excellent job producing good yields, they have not really done a great job in general of addressing the other three goals of sustainability -- the environment, economic viability and social sustainability," he said. "We're moving in that direction, but in general we could do better."
Museum communications and public relations manager Rebecca Bishop said attendance is holding steady for the "Dig It!" exhibit, which runs through Sept. 22. It will then go to the Bell Museum on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, Minn., for nearly a year, and then return to Washington for a year at the Yakima Valley Museum.
Bahrych estimated 7,000 to 8,000 students will have attended by the time the school year ends in June. Eight to 10 schools are still on the waiting list for the fall.
"Our goal is to particularly reach the outlying rural agriculture and ranching communities, where soil conservation is key to their prosperity," Bahrych said. "We really wanted to give the people likely to be managing those lands the opportunity to understand what an essential resource it is."