Washington Soil Health Initiative

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Diverse Solutions for Washington’s Diverse Soils

The Washington Soil Health Initiative, or WaSHI, is a partnership among the Washington State Conservation Commission, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, and Washington State University, working together to establish a coordinated approach to healthy soil in Washington. Through science-based technical assistance, policy support, research, outreach, education, and funding opportunities, WaSHI offers a win-win-win opportunity for farmers, the environment, and the people of Washington.

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What is Soil Health?

5 circles about what soil health is.

Healthy soil is essential to agricultural and environmental sustainability and productivity. Just as good health is vital to human well-being, the ability of a soil system to perform key functions is crucial to its health. Soil organisms play a critical role in driving these functions, making soil health an essential component of a thriving ecosystem. Resilience is a key characteristic of healthy soils.

They should be able to withstand disturbances such as flooding, drought, or high winds while supporting crop and livestock production with suitable nutrients, moisture, and physical conditions. Beneficial soil biological activity is also necessary to decompose crop residues, cycle nutrients, form soil structure, and help fight plant disease. Healthy soils also contribute to environmental sustainability by filtering pollutants and reducing run-off.

Key Soil Health Challenges in Washington

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Low Soil Organic Matter

Soils with little soil organic matter are less resilient to disturbances like drought. Soil organic matter is one of the most important soil health metrics as it relates to many others and can impact each of the other soil health challenges. 

acidity

Acidification

Soil acidification is when soil pH gets lower (below pH 7) over time.

nutrient imbalance

Nutrient Imbalances

Nutrient imbalances refer to situations when one or more essential plant nutrients are either deficient or available in excess of what plants take up at a given time.

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Compaction

Compaction results from loss of soil pore space, often due to traffic from heavy equipment, particularly when the soil is wet.

disease pressure

Pests, Like Pathogens

Soilborne fungal and bacterial diseases, along with pests such as parasitic nematodes, are a management challenge for Washington producers.

Erosion

Erosion

Fertile topsoil loss through wind and water erosion is one of the greatest challenges in Washington's agriculture.

Salinity

Salinity and Sodicity

Soil salinization occurs as salts (e.g., calcium, potassium, magnesium) accumulate in the soil, particularly in irrigated regions with low rainfall and high evapotranspiration.

Nominate an outstanding soil steward for the WaSHI Producer of the Year Award by July 1st.