Cropping Systems Field Day in Douglas County

Rochelle Wickwire, a Washington State Department of Natural Resource (DNR) summer intern, and I had the opportunity to attend the 2016 Cropping Systems Field Day in Douglas County on May 24. This field day was sponsored by Washington State University, USDA-Agricultural Research Service and Central Washington Grain Growers. This is the second year that I’ve attended the tour and it was exciting to see what our lessees are participating in and the variety of farm practices being implemented.

Tom Poole

The 2016 Cropping Systems Field Day began with a stop at the farm of Tom Poole. Photo: Cindy Preston/DNR.

The first stop of the day was at Tom Poole’s farm north of Mansfield. Mr. Poole presented the topic of winter canola as a rotation crop. Douglas County producers are expanding their planting of canola as a rotational crop. He also discussed sunflowers and how they fit as a rotational oilseed crop for the Douglas County area. The use of canola as a cover crop is also increasing on state lands along with experiments using different cover crops planted with direct seed methods.

Douglas Poole

Douglas Poole describes cover crops used on his ranch.

At the next stop Douglas Poole discussed the topic of spring forage triticale and 2015 and 2016 cover crop endeavors on his ranch. Multiple farmers in Douglas, Lincoln and Okanogan counties have participated in cover crop trials with Leslie Michel of the Okanogan Conservation District.

Ian Burke, WSU associate professor

Ian Burke, a WSU associate professor, describes weed management. Photo Cindy Preston/DNR.

After lunch the group looked at some winter peas at a site north of Waterville and heard Howard Nelson from Central Washington Grain Growers discuss what he likes about this crop.

At the last stop of the day, Dr. Ian Burke presented the topic of chem-fallow and weed management. The field day also included a presentation and discussion about upcoming herbicide trials planned for the area.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of these field days you will find that it is educational and well worth your time.

by Cindy Preston, Natural Resources Specialist, Agriculture Leasing Unit, DNR Southeast Region

Rangeland Conservation Programs Working for You

Does your rangeland look like this?

Rangeland invaded by annual grasses.

FIGURE 1: Rangeland invaded by annual grasses. Grant County. Photo: DNR.

Would you like it to look more like this?


Figure 2: Annual rangeland reseeded to Sherman big bluegrass through EQIP project. Whitman County

Perhaps you’ve heard this before, but the USDA Farm Bill has a program for that! Working with lessees, local Conservation Districts, and the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), DNR has helped to facilitate some amazing projects to improve our State’s rangelands. Best of all, lessees are reaping the rewards: as animals have better gains, habitat is improved, and the producer may qualify for supplemental payments.

Now back to the images of rangeland and our questions. Altered fire regimes, historic grazing practices, and invasive plant encroachment, have converted much of Washington’s native rangeland to something resembling the parcel pictured in Figure 1 that has been invaded by annual grasses. Restoring this rangeland after it has been invaded by cheatgrass, medusahead, and bulbous bluegrass is an uphill, if not a seemingly insurmountable battle.

This is where a program like the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can help. Conservation Districts and the NRCS provide technical support, financial assistance, and flexible conservation planning that can make projects like range reseeding successful.

Figure 2 demonstrates a successful EQIP enrollment in Whitman County. Here, our lessee’s dedication to excellent land stewardship and partnership with the local NRCS office culminated into a massive range restoration project. Hundreds of acres of rangeland invaded by annual grasses have been reseeded to Sherman big bluegrass. Excellent forage value, and vastly improved wildlife habitat are just some of the rewards of this reseeding effort.

Why not your lease or land? With many programs available, and the need for economically and ecologically productive rangelands so great, the opportunity to participate in these programs is hard to ignore.

Tips for ensuring a smooth enrollment process:

  • Talk with your local DNR land manager early and often. We are more than happy to help. An conversation early in the process can help ensure a smooth enrollment  in to the program.
  • Be familiar with your lease terms, expiration date, and project timelines. Frequently, certain lease terms must match project terms and understanding timelines is crucial for a successful enrollment.
  • Be sure your Conservation District or NRCS office knows that you are planning projects on State land. Often, land ownership can be an overlooked piece of the puzzle, leading to late notification of DNR land managers, thus limiting enrollment options.
  • Foster good relationships with your local Conservation District and NRCS office. Program sign-ups are almost always limited, so having good communication with your local conservation offices is essential to knowing what programs are available when.

For more information on conservation programs available in your area, you may contact:

Emma Barnett, Southeast Rangeland Manager; Phone: (509) 237-1571;

Kevin Guinn, State Rangeland Management Specialist; Phone: (509) 754-3023 ext. 1129
John Kouns, Area Rangeland Management Specialist; Phone (509) 659-1761 ext. 113

Find more information about EQIPS and other conservation programs in the 2014 Farm Bill

By Emma Barnett, DNR Land Manager

New Conservation Tool: USDA-NRCS Conservation Client Gateway

NRCS logo This spring the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service introduced an online tool for requesting technical and financial assistance.

Anyone who is familiar with the USDA-NRCS might be interested in a new online portal the agency recently rolled out. Termed the “Conservation Client Gateway,” the tool is available to individual landowners and will be available to businesses in the near future. The tool offers you the ability to request USDA-NRCS technical assistance; apply for conservation program financial assistance at the click of a button; view, sign, and submit documents online; track the status of your requests, and track your payments.

Check out the Conservation Client Gateway on the Natural Resources Conservation Service website.

Research indicates poorer quality wheat when carbon dioxide levels in the air rise

Spring wheat in Eastern Washington. Photo: DNR

Research is finding that rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide negatively affect the protein content of wheat grain.

Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide stimulate the photosynthesis and growth of most plants. So that seems positive. However, unless plants increase their uptake of nutrients to a corresponding degree, their yields will have a lower nutritional value. Lower nutrient nitrogen results in a lower protein content, and thus poorer nutritional quality.

This is the finding of researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, in a recently published study in the journal Global Change Biology.

 “Protein content is the most important quality aspect for crops, with implications for both nutritional value and the baking properties of the grain,” explains Håkan Pleijel, Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Gothenburg’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Wheat—together with rice—is the world’s most important crop in quantitative terms. Wheat grain also is unusually rich in protein, and wheat is the crop that provides the human race with the most protein.

Read the whole article.

What’s Up Down in the Corner?

Irrigated orchard on state trust lands in the southeast ‘corner’ of Washington State. Photo: Ryan Cloud, DNR

In the southeast corner of Washington State lies the Dayton Unit of DNR’s Snake River District. The Dayton Unit includes 52,000 acres of state trust land in Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla Counties managed to benefit the various trust beneficiaries. These lands have a wide variety of uses, including: Dryland, Irrigated, Grazing, Windpower, Vineyard, Orchard production, and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Conservation of Wildlife Habitat. In 2011 leases for these lands generated a record income of over $1 million for the trusts.

With the favorable growing conditions for dryland wheat in 2011, about 350,000 bushels of wheat were produced. Multiple record yields included 3 leases that averaged more than 100 bushels per acre, and several others in the 90 bushel range. Almost 75 percent of the dryland leases in this unit are either direct seeded or minimum tillage (2-pass). There are 9,000 acres in Dryland Agriculture and another 2,500 acres of land enrolled into the Conservation Reserve Program. 

It is looking like 2012 will be another great year.

In 2004, DNR’s first Wind Power lease went into production in Walla Walla County with twelve 0.66 Megawatt Generators. Today in the Dayton Unit there are 28 turbines producing electricity with a rated capacity of 37.92 Megawatts. Last year a little more than 95,000 megawatts of wind energy were produced on trust land.

Leases for wind turbines and dryland grain both earn money for the trusts. Photo: Ryan Cloud, DNR

The irrigated agriculture leases are serviced by river pump stations in the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and ground water wells. The majority of these irrigated 2,400 acres in the Dayton Unit are under pivot irrigation with the remainder under either hand lines or drip irrigation.  

Range with deer

Mists float across lush rangeland on trust lands in the southeastern corner of Washington. Photo: Ryan Cloud, DNR

Other DNR programs ‘in the corner’
As is true across the state, in addition to managing state trust lands, DNR also provides Wildland Fire Protection and Forest Practice Regulations such as for the forested state and private land surrounding the Umatilla National Forest in the four counties. The bedlands and shorelands of the Grande Ronde, Snake, and Columbia Rivers—and all the structures in the water, and in the air space above—are managed by the Aquatics Program. DNR’s Small Forest Landowner Program assists private landowners to plan how to achieve goals for their forests; and DNR also regulates the surface mining practices and site restoration for the state. 

For more information regarding these programs contact our Ellensburg office.

Ryan Cloud, Dayton Unit Land Manager