Improving Soil Health for Northwestern Growers

collins-head-shotDoug Collins

Washington State University

SARE grant: Soil Community Structure, Function and Spatial Variation in an Organic Agroecosystem (2006)

Where he is now: Small Farms Extension Specialist, Washington State University

Doug Collins focused his research efforts on a topic of great interest to the region’s specialty crop growers, and one that would shape his Extension career to come: improving our understanding of complex soil processes and their role in farm productivity. He studied the spatial variation of microorganisms and other soil properties on a local organic vegetable farm. Through the data he collected, he was able to recommend general biological sampling methods and interpretation guidelines to optimize farm productivity and profitability through improved management decisions.

"We find these kinds of projects to be instrumental for developing progressive organic soil practices,” says Jim Baird of Cloudview EcoFarms, who has collaborated with Collins. “This information is very much needed in our agricultural world.”

Now, as an Extension faculty member with WSU’s Small Farms Program, Collins has received more than $500,000 in subsequent SARE funding to conduct three additional projects aimed at improving soil management on organic farms:

Selecting management practices and cover crops for reducing tillage, enhancing soil quality, and managing weeds in Western Washington

Increasing adoption of reduced tillage strategies on organic vegetable farms in the maritime

Optimizing nitrogen management on organic and biologically intensive farms

cover image of a publication

See publications at http://csanr.wsu.edu/ people/doug-collins.

Collins created a WSU Extension publication during this project, Soil Testing: A Guide for Farms With Diverse Vegetable Crops.

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