Washington State University
Paul Carter, director of Washington State University Extension in Columbia County, has been honored for his work educating farmers about soil health and the need to address increased acidity.
Carter received the 2018 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.
Carter is based in Dayton, Wash.
He’s been working for about 14 years to educate farmers and industry members about the problems of increased soil acidity.
“The difficulty right now is, with our commodity prices, what can we afford to do and can we figure out a way that we can at least have some minimal impact without breaking the bank?” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how to keep the farmer in business and improve the soil condition.”
He advocates a more holistic approach to soil nutrition, building positive microorganisms and nutrients.
“There’s a huge need,” Carter said. “When the acidity increases, we see loss of some of the really good soil bacteria and an increase of the more detrimental fungi.”
When Carter moved to Washington from Indiana, he thought addressing soil acidity by adding lime was standard practice. But it’s not as highly accepted in Pacific Northwest dryland farming areas, he said, although it’s more common in irrigated farming.
“It’s going to have to be (standard practice) at some point, or we’ll be out of business,” he said. “Our soils will get to the point where plants won’t grow. We have a few places that are already to that point.”
If farmers don’t begin to take some steps, even minor ones, Carter said, “some day they’re not going to farm the land.”
Carter said the award means he was recognized by his peers on a national and regional level.
“You kind of find out you might be having more impact than you thought you might, that your work has been well-received and respected,” he said.