WSU surveys farmers on soil health before January workshop

Soil acidity will be discussed during a Jan. 22 workshop in Pullman, Wash.

Washington State University researchers are surveying farmers about their soil health ahead of a Jan. 22 workshop in Pullman.

Registration is open for the WSU Extension “Management Matters for Soil Health” workshop, 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Jan. 22 at Banyans on the Ridge in Pullman, Wash.

Researchers sent a follow-up survey to farmers this week to see if they made changes to their practices or see any improvement since soil health workshops earlier this year, said Haiying Tao, assistant professor of crop and soil sciences for WSU.

It would be difficult to see many long-term improvements in the soil if growers made changes, Tao said.

“It takes time to show up in the soil,” she said. “It takes time, years, to see improvement in soil health.”

But growers looking to improve soil pH could see improvements within six months to a year, she said.

Low soil pH — a measure of acidity — is an emerging issue. It affects crop growth, increases toxicity problems and the risk of nutrient loss or nutrient fixation in the soil and not in the plant, Tao said, damaging crop yield and quality.

Poor soil health means bacteria can shift from beneficial to less helpful or even harmful fungi, she said.

“If just one thing, (such as) pH, is out of balance, it pulls everything else to become out of balance,” Tao said.

The emphasis this year is on increasing soil organic matter, she added.

“It is one thing that you can do something about to improve soil health,” she said.

Tao hopes to have 75 to 100 people in attendance. Last year, the workshop drew a large crowd. In the future, Tao hopes to divide the audience into smaller groups for more interaction and hands-on opportunities.

WSU will continue to offer soil health workshops, to benefit future crop production, Tao said. Researchers are gathering data to provide farmers more information about soil health.

A soil pH workshop is slated for February.

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