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WSU Research Perspectives & Policy

Growing cyberforests to predict the impacts of climate change

Hardwood forrest at sunrise

Realistic 3-D simulation helps forest managers anticipate disturbances

Drought, heat, and other irregular conditions spawned by climate change take a toll on tree ecosystems. How, exactly, will those stressors affect forests in the future? Predictions have been difficult—until now.

WSU Vancouver mathematicians Nikolay Strigul and Jean Lienard have created a 3-D computer simulation to visualize how tree ecosystems can be altered by factors such as carbon dioxide levels, wildfires, and drought. The simulator lets forest managers predict wildfires and other disturbances. If a forest is destroyed, the tool can help determine the species of trees and ecological factors necessary to reestablish it.

The computer model … » More …

Organic farming: A fruitful alternative

A closeup of David Crowder

Study compares profitability of organic and conventional agriculture

To be sustainable, organic agriculture must be profitable. How lucrative is organic farming relative to conventional methods? The answer may surprise you.

Soil sciences professor John Reganold teamed with WSU entomologist David Crowder to compare the financial performance of organic and conventional farming. The pair synthesized data across studies spanning a 40-year period. They compared costs, gross returns, cost/benefit ratios, and net present values—a measure that accounts for inflation.

Their study heralds organic farming as the clear profitability frontrunner. The authors consulted with 3 agricultural economists to confirm their findings, which were published in the Proceedings of … » More …

Putting a price on nature’s services to agriculture

A photo of John Reganold inspecting plants

Scientists calculate the economic value of organic farming processes

On organic farms, nature does a lot of the heavy lifting. Earthworms turn the soil. Insects prey on pests. Cover crops supply organic matter to the soil and make nitrogen available to plants. Farmers who take advantage of these natural processes can sidestep expenditures on costly and less eco-friendly alternatives.

In dollars and cents, exactly how much is Mother Nature’s labor worth?

Washington State University soil scientist John Reganold was part of an international team of scholars that put a sticker price on the benefits that nature provides agriculture. In a study funded by the New … » More …