WSU workshop helps growers address soil acidity

Haiying Tao of Washington State University will coordinate two days of workshops on soil health and acidity in Pullman.

Farmers can learn about ways to improve their soil at two upcoming Washington State University workshops.

A workshop on soil microbiology will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 15 at the Courtyard Marriott in Pullman, Wash.

A workshop on Palouse soil acidity will Jan. 16 at the same location.

In surveys, farmers expressed interest in learning more about micro organisms in soil, said Haiying Tao, assistant professor and nutrient management specialist.

"Soils look pretty static, right? But it's not as static as we see," she said. "There is so much going on in the soil. Its chemistry, physical and biological properties are very dynamic. Micro organisms are one of the main drivers for this dynamic change."

A handful of soil can have millions, even billions, of micro organisms and all of them have their own functions, she said.

Organisms of interest to farmers include those that decompose crop residue, converting nutrients into a form that they're available for plants or water filtration, Tao said.

Grower questions include what can be done to improve management practices for enhanced soil health, she said.

Action is also needed to combat soil acidification, Tao said. The workshop includes a refresher on why it happens and crop and the impacts it has on soil if it continues, she said.

Researchers from Montana, Idaho and Washington will share case studies about the use of agricultural lime. Soil acidity can be fixed by adding agricultural lime to the soil, but the supply of affordable lime is limited.

"We are still trying to figure it out, how we can provide solutions to the farmers and agronomists," she said.

Farmers and researchers need to establish a baseline, comparing today's soil to the past, to better understand how management decisions affect soil for the future and learn what's working and what's not, she said.

Cost is $75 for each workshop. Each workshop has 75 seats. The university is also exploring the possibility of recording and broadcasting presentations.

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