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Economy, environment, values
Tribe funds expanded canola research, facility
Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012
By Tallie Mattson, WSU News intern
Video by the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences
PULLMAN, Wash. – Canola research with the Colville Confederate Tribes (CCT) enhances the region’s economy and environment while helping maintain tribal values. In the fall, the CCT awarded a $55,760 grant for Washington State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service to continue and expand the work.
This spring, the CCT and area growers intend to build a new canola oilseed crushing facility at the tribal school. The tribe has a canola storage site in place, said Frank Young, WSU adjunct faculty and research agronomist/weed scientist for the USDA-ARS located at the university.
Part of the funding will help the CCT expand canola research to other districts of the Colville tribe, Young said. Omak, Inchelium, Nespelem and Keller are the four districts that make up the CCT.
The next step is to teach the tribe how to grow canola on abandoned crop land, he said. Restoring pastures and hay fields potentially could provide 20,000 additional acres of the oilseed crop.
Project grows, changes
For the past four years, USDA-ARS and WSU Extension have worked with the CCT to diversify crops, enhance the region’s economy and provide oil for food and fuel, said Young.
The project began with hand planted and watered spring canola. Researchers now focus their efforts on winter canola, which yields almost twice as much with similar inputs, he said. It is used in crop rotation to improve winter wheat yield and for weed control.
Revitalizing the economy
Canola is providing the CCT with valuable products in place of previous resources that are no longer as economically viable.
"There’s no demand for lumber anymore,” Young said. The market for wood products has decreased and left many tribal members without jobs.
The tribe has established a goal to process enough oilseed for biodiesel to fuel the Pascal-Sherman school buses and other vehicles, he said.
Meanwhile, a feed store in Okanogan has agreed to distribute canola meal to livestock growers, said Young. Okanogan County has the highest livestock population in the state.
Once crushed, the canola meal also will be distributed to local fish hatcheries to feed salmon.
"If you keep one dollar in the local economy, it circulates three times,” Young said.
Reduced tillage and improved water quality are additional benefits from the canola research.
"In 2006, the first salmon swam up Omak Creek in 70 years,” said Dennis Roe, WSU crop scientist and adjunct faculty member. This was mostly a result of improved conservation practices.
Reducing tillage will save more crop stubble, he said, which will help prevent erosion into Omak and Foster creeks. Sediment fills in the stream channels and smothers fish spawning beds.
The research will look into how to establish canola without excessively disrupting the soil, Roe said.
The project also will have the tribe use safer herbicides, reduce the amount used and use other methods to slow the progression of resistant weeds, Young said.
USDA-ARS and WSU aim to honor tribal values in these research and conservation efforts.
"The CCT believes people are part of the earth,” said Roe. This belief is complementary to the research’s reduced tillage efforts.
In addition, "Most plants follow calendar dates, but we plant when Mother Nature tells us to,” said Young.
Tribal beliefs offer potential answers for managing the earth in a better way, Roe said; for example, the philosophy of using what you need is good resource management.
"It’s a circular philosophy,” he said. "Take what you need; waive the rest.”