Washington State Magazine

Fall 2011 Earth, Wind and Food


Fall 2011

Earth, Wind - and Food

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In This Issue...

Features

A Fine Thin Skin—wind, water, volcanoes, and ice :: Different as they seem, the soils of Eastern and Western Washington have one thing in common. They come—either by water, wind, or ice—generally from elsewhere. And what takes eons to form can be covered over or erode away in a geologic heartbeat. by Tim Steury

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Map: Washington soils }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: How you contribute to soil health }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: When soil goes sour }

Above & Beyond :: In the spring of 1792, George Vancouver praised “the delightful serenity of the weather.” A few years later, William Clark complained of a dour winter that was “cloudy, dark and disagreeable.” How right they both were. Weather patterns determined by mountains and ocean grant the Pacific Northwest a temperate climate that also has a dark and unpredictable side. by Hannelore Sudermann

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Links: Links to weather news, AgWeatherNet, and other resources for following Pacific Northwest weather }

Billions Served :: Seven billion people will soon become nine billion before the global population levels off. Can so many people be fed from a finite Earth? Yes, they can, say WSU researchers. But the solutions will necessarily be many. by Eric Sorensen

Panoramas

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Images of Antarctica: WSU geochemist Jeff Vervoort and interior design assistant professor Kathleen Ryan discuss their exhibit of photos from the frozen continent. }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Puzzle: Creature crossings: A lesson in teaching the nature of science }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Video: Valley View Fires of 2008 and Firewise Community Produced by the Spokane County Conservation District }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Map: Historic wildfires of the Pacific Northwest }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Story: How to protect your home from wildfires }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Video: Small forest management }

Departments

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Project: Coug-o-lantern Stencils for carving the WSU Cougar head logo on pumpkins }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Illustrations: Plans and sketches for new WSU football facilities and Martin Stadium }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Recipes: Pumpkin recipes }

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Interactive photo: Tour the Admiralty Head Lighthouse }

Tracking

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Cougar logo through the years }

New media

:: The Docks by Bill Sharpsteen ’80

:: L.A. Rendezvous by Charles Argersinger

:: A Chinaman’s Chance by Alex Kuo


Cover photo: “Small Forest in the Palouse Hills” by Chip Phillips

Fall 2011
Web Exclusives

How you contribute to soil health

by Tim Steury | © Washington State University

If you contribute your daily bodily wastes to a municipal waste treatment plant, you are more than likely directly benefiting Washington soils.

According to Puyallup soil scientist Craig Cogger, each person in Washington produces about 60 pounds of biosolids per year. “Biosolid” is a euphemism for human waste and other inputs once they have been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. For the past 15 years, Cogger has helped spread biosolids on wheat land in Douglas County and studied the effect.

That effect has surprised him.

“We have seen a remarkable increase in organic matter,” he says, “despite the fact that the amount of biosolids is very modest.

“We didn’t expect any long-term increase,” he says, referring to the difficulty of increasing organic matter in arid soils. “It seems to be a combination of biosolids and increased biomass” as a result.

Applying biosolids to agricultural land is permitted under the Clean Water Act. The use of Class B biosolids as a soil amendment is more tightly regulated than animal manure, says Cogger. “With manure, you have guidelines. With biosolids, it’s regulations.”

Class B biosolids are the basic refinement of wastewater treatment. They are stabilized and digested, resulting in some destruction of pathogens, similar to manure. Class A is heat-treated, through composting or drying, to kill pathogens. They are as clean or cleaner than native soil.

Biosolids are very rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, with smaller amounts of potassium and “pretty good levels of micronutrients.”

“Farmers in Douglas County really like it,” says Cogger, “because of the economic benefits, they get the equivalent or better yields [compared to synthetic fertilizers], and they see their soil getting better.”

However, in spite of 8 million people producing biosolids, they provide only a fraction of needed fertilizer.

Categories: Agriculture, Earth sciences, WSU Extension | Tags: Biosolids, Soil, Soil health