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STAR comes to Washington

The Washington legislature has funded a new program at WSDA intended to generate economic valuation for on-farm soil health management. Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources (STAR) was created by Illinois farmers in 2017. It is now used in four states, with an additional seven receiving STAR funding through the USDA Climate Smart Commodities Program.

a person looking at a tree.

Science-informed soil carbon policies in Washington and beyond

Soil carbon was historically the subject of niche curiosity, with only soil scientists and growers aware of its existence. The urgency of climate change, however, has sparked intensive public interest in managing farmland to build soil carbon.

a pie.

A Slice of the Soil Organic Matter Pie

Just like your favorite holiday pie, soil organic matter has a number of different slices that make it come together just right. Maybe each slice isn’t the same size, but without each piece, the pie just wouldn’t be complete. We can use this pie example to understand the different ways we can look at soil organic matter, either as a whole pie or as individual slices.

A professor in a children's classroom talking about soil.

Growing interest in soil health: an appreciation-based STEM curriculum for kids

Soil health education for youth is vital to change the outlook and attitude of future generations toward soil stewardship. Soil health is linked to some of the most important issues facing our planet and future generations, from a warming climate and increasing extreme weather events to toxic buildup of waste and contaminants, to fresh air and water, to the very food quantity and quality on our tables each and every day. Yet, unfortunately, most students enter college with little to no understanding of the importance of soil in our everyday lives.

a cookie.

What makes a good soil health indicator?

Just as my daughter had extensive criteria for what makes a cookie good, we can also think about criteria for what makes a soil health indicator good.

plastics in trash.

How is Soil-biodegradable mulch treating soil?

What happens to the plastics that we use? The most common answer: they get thrown away. But there is no AWAY!

A clod of compacted soil.

Soil Compaction: An inevitable part of modern agriculture or a symptom of poor soil health?

We can all point to the areas where the crops just don’t grow as well, where the tractor has to pull harder, or where water ponds and runs off. But how bad is the compaction problem?

two images, one of a goat and one of a cow in a field.

Building system resilience through diversification: livestock integration

Historically, it was commonplace for crops and livestock to share a home. Animals grazed uncropped or marginal lands, controlling weeds and turning the soil.

a person walking through a field.

WSDA creating resources for policymakers and farmers

The folks at the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) have been busy providing guidance on soil health to federal policymakers and farmers, and technical assistance providers alike. Two main outputs have been created since the December newsletter:

SoilCon, over the past three years, has brought together 84 speakers, over 2,000 attendees from over 20 countries, and 30% were repeat attendees.

SoilCon: Increasing the Awareness of Soil Health Across Washington

SoilCon has been an incredible resource for those interested in improving soil health across the globe.