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Crop Production and Soils

Crop Production

The WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources  provides comprehensive information, resources, and publications on specific crop topics:

 

Additional Crop Production Resources:

Farmer Technical Assistance

Do you need assistance diagnosing a crop problem, identifying a pest issue, or any farm related question in Clallam, Jefferson or Kitsap Counties? We have a specialist right here in our region that can help you. Please fill out the Farmer Technical Assistance Request Form to get started.

 

Farmer Technical Assistance Request


Soil Health

Soil health, also referred to as soil quality, is defined as the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. We are here to help farmers access tools to help them manage their  soils for future generations.

By farming using soil health principles and systems (including no-till, cover cropping and diverse rotations) farmers actually increase their soil’s organic matter and improve their soils microbial activity. As a result, farmers are sequestering more carbon, increasing water infiltration, improving wildlife and pollinator habitat—all while harvesting better profits and often times better yields.

The Regional Small Farms Program strives to bring quality curriculum and education to our area farmers to aid in the conservation of their most valuable resource: Soil. For more information or to request a specific class be brought to your area, contact your local extension agent.

Soil Survey Tool:
Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world.

How to use:

  • Go to USDA Web Soil Survey.
  • Hit green button, type in your address of your farm on the left. The map will show an aerial view.
  • Using the red AOI (area of interest) buttons, draw out the boundaries of your farm. Double click once you are at your last point. Your area of interest should be mapped out.
  • Navigate to top tabs and go to soil map. The map unit legend on the left will tell you your soil type(s). If you click on the hyperlinked soil types, a chart will pop up and tell you more about your soils.

Soil Sampling:

Check with your local Conservation District office for soil sampling services. In addition, there is a list of labs that accept soil samples below.

WSU does not endorse laboratories listed. Provided resources are ones that farmers in our area have utilized successfully and are available to the public.

A&L Soil Lab Soiltest Farm Consultants Cascade Analytical Kuo Testing Labs
Learn how to collect soil samples:

Methods to Build up Your Soils Organic Matter:

Cover Crops

A cover crop is a plant that is used primarily to slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability, smother weeds, help control pests and diseases, increase biodiversity and bring a host of other benefits to your farm.

WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources hosts an extensive publications library including cover cropping topics open to the public.

Additional Resources:

Organic Farming Systems and Nutrient Management

WSU Publications

screen shot of understanding and measuring organic matter in the soil WSU publication
Understanding and Measuring Organic Matter in Soil
soil fertility in organic systems
Soil Fertility in Organic Systems
soil testing for farms with diversified vegetable crops
Soil Testing: A Guide for Farms with Diverse Vegetable Crops
Other Recommended Soil Resources:

WSU Department of Crop & Soil Sciences – conducts fundamental and applied plant and soil research.

WSU Organic Farming Systems and Nutrient Management Soils & Laboratory Testing resources.

Natural Resource Conservation Service – Soil Resources & Publications

Tillage Alternatives

Tillage has long been used to incorporate crop residues, prepare a seedbed, control weeds, and loosen the soil. However, in accomplishing these goals, tillage also reduces soil organic matter, disrupts soil structure, and leaves the soil surface prone to wind and water erosion. Systems that reduce or even eliminate tillage, while maintaining yields, have been developed for some crops and regions. These systems have the potential to build soil health and reduce erosion.

Diverse Rotations

The diverse rotation system works by keeping soil covered and undisturbed year-round. This minimizes soil erosion and reduces the need for fertilizers and herbicides.

Additional Resources:

WSU Tillage Alternatives Publications

Composting

Composting harnesses the natural process of decomposition to return organic materials like food and yard waste back to the soil as an amendment. In addition, adding beneficial organic material helps filter water, supports millions of organisms to thrive and anchors plants for optimal growth.

Composting on the Farm:
Visit the Organic Farming Systems and Nutrient Management page for online WSU resources and publications for composting and nutrient management.

Backyard and garden composting:
Many residents, schools and organizations are reducing the amount of food waste they dispose of by choosing to compost on site. It is easy to do and rewarding! Are you ready to get started?

View or print Clallam Counties brochure on Composting Basics for information on the benefits and how to’s. Contact the Clallam County Extension Waste Reduction Coordinator to request local composting experts for community events, presentations and composting projects.

WSU Compost Project
The WSU Compost Project, through Snohomish County Extension, is closing the loop, returning compost made from food and yard waste, back to local farms to build soil quality. Visit the WSU Compost Outreach Project for more information and full resources.

For more information on soils, compost and mulch visit: WSU publications

View the WSU Compost Outreach Project video series: