Growing organic greens over the winter in Pullman and Vancouver proved so successful that WSU plans to continue the research during winter 2008.
 
The project is just one of 13 funded with $225,000 appropriated by the state Legislature for grants through WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR). Projects were selected to explore ways to improve the sustainability of Washington agriculture.
Some of the projects include:
 
 
 
• Evaluating 26 organic leafy green vegetables including lettuces, spinach and Asian greens grown over the winter in unheated, unlighted, plastic-enclosed hoop houses. All varieties survived but productivity varied.
 
WSU crop and soil scientist Rich Koenig said nitrate levels, a critical component in the testing, also varied.
 
“The majority of varieties grown in Pullman had nitrate concentrations below the European (maximum allowable) standards (the U.S. has no standards for leafy green vegetables). Certain varieties grown in Vancouver had levels about the standard, but lower light intensity and higher soil nitrate levels at that site may explain the higher concentration,” said Koenig. 
 
• Finding a low-cost, immediate, low-odor solution for disposal of livestock c
arcasses. At seven farm sites around the state, carcasses were cove red by at least two feet of composting material. Left undisturbed for two to six months, the piles were turned with large equipment and left to compost another two to six months.
“This process minimizes biohazards since it can be done on a farm and does not involve transferring a carcass,” said Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, bioagriculture coordinator for CSANR. Workshops for farm and dairy workers are planned during the next several months.
 
• Evaluating the impact of livestock management practices on rangelands and pastures. A three-day training for 23 people used the Land EKG ecological monitoring system, which uses score sheets to characterize the landscape, identify biological inhabitants and activities, and rate ecological functioning in water, nutrient and energy cycling.
 
Don Nelson, WSU Extension beef specialist, said the training helps buil
d collaborative relationshi ps and develop a shared vision of what land owners and managers want the landscape to look like now and in the future. 
 
 
• Exploring winter canola as a rotation crop in eastern Washington. So far, some farmers have experienced substantial yield improvements in wheat crops planted after canola. 
 
“Winter canola is one of the few crops that can compete economically with winter wheat in the low-precipitation zone of the inland Pacific Northwest,” said WSU research agronomist Bill Schillinger
The study will also examine plant diseases, soil microbial changes and economic assessments of winter canola, summer fallow and winter wheat-planting rotations.