Current Research Projects

Here is a list of current research projects that are funded by WOCS.

Optimizing Soil Base Saturation for Enhanced Canola Production

PI: Joao Antonangelo
Co-PI: Rich Koenig

We hypothesize that canola yields are severely impacted by soil acidity and optimizing soil base cation saturation percentage by liming can alleviate aluminum toxicity and improve yields. Hence, there exists an optimum soil base saturation range for canola production, beyond which the growth and productivity of the crop are not increased. By precisely determining this optimal range, farmers can adjust soil management practices accordingly to achieve improved crop yields and resource-use efficiency. Optimizing canola production by understanding the relationship between soil base saturation and crop productivity will address the better resource management objectives set forth by the Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems and will align with the need to identify practices for producing stable yields. To establish the optimum soil base saturation for canola production, this research will follow a comprehensive approach. First, an extensive review of existing literature will be conducted to synthesize current knowledge on soil base saturation and its impact on oilseed crops. Next, a well-defined experimental setup will be established ensuring soil pH variations. Canola will be cultivated under controlled conditions, and rates of alum and lime will be applied, depending on the initial soil pH. Soil attributes related to base saturation will be determined after incubation time and before canola cultivation, and critical parameters such as biomass and grain yields will be measured and analyzed. In the second year, an agricultural land will be chosen to design and implement a field experiment encompassing various soil base saturation levels to determine their effects on canola growth, development, and yield. The data obtained from the experiments will be subjected to statistical analysis to identify the optimal soil base saturation range for canola production and relate this with soil pH and the rate of lime applied.

Incorporating Oilseeds in Intermediate Rainfed Crop Rotations

PI: Aaron Esser

Growers throughout the intermediate cropping zone (13 to 18″ of annual precipitation) have been experimenting with oilseeds in their crop rotations for 25 plus years with mixed success. During this time numerous studies have been carried out looking at multiple aspects of production individually with these crops in research plot settings. Starting in 2012, spring oilseed crops have been incorporated into the crop rotation at the WSU Wilke Research and Extension Farm near Davenport, WA. The justification is it to “put its money where its mouth is at”and use the research data collected to demonstrate the value of these crops in rotation with cereal grains and summer fallow to show farmers and their business partners (landlords, bankers, etc) how and where these crops fit into a profitable crop rotation over a duration of time. This serves as a very good platform to provide Extension outreach through field day presentations, oral presentations at grower meeting and published technical bulletins.

variety trial plots.

Winter and Spring Canola Variety Testing

PI: Jesse Ford

The primary objective of the Winter and Spring Canola Variety Testing proposal is to provide growers and the agribusiness industry with information on the adaptation and performance of winter and spring canola varieties across the different climatic regions of eastern Washington. An additional objective is to deliver an Extension education program to communicate production techniques and benefits of canola to growers and the agribusiness industry. One of the key elements to continued increases in production and profitability is identifying appropriate varieties, and then extending that information rapidly to growers and agribusiness personnel. The project is envisioned as an integral part of the Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems research and extension program at Washington State University, and each variety trial will likely be the subject of an extension field day.

Managing Soil Physical Properties for Improving Emergence in Winter Canola

PI: Haly Neely

Stand establishment is one of the biggest challenges to growing winter canola in low rainfall areas. Many soil physical properties, such as soil texture, are inherent; however, management practices can modify critically important soil properties for emergence including soil bulk density and porosity. A critical soil property is moisture availability to the seed, which we can measure as water potential. This proposal will address a Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems high priority topic area and was developed after conversations with three leading winter canola growers. The overall objective of this proposal is to address challenges in stand establishment by determining how fine scale soil properties impact establishment success and identifying potential management practices that increase emergence. This proposal will use two soil types including a Ritzville silt loam from Adams county and a Walla Walla silt loam from Whitman county. We will focus on three firming practices including an in-furrow press wheel, split packer, and a soil surface press wheel. Our specific objectives include: 1) quantify how firming practices interact with rainfall accumulation (0”, 1/10”, 2/10”, and 4/10”) to impact soil properties and seedling emergence, 2) quantify how firming practices interact with seeding depth (2”, 3”, and 4”) to impact soil properties and seedling emergence, and 3) translate and validate greenhouse findings to field conditions. Measurements for all three objectives will include seedling emergence, soil water potential in the seed row, and soil temperature over time. We will also measure other key soil physical properties including wet aggregate stability, bulk density, porosity, and soil water retention curves. For Objective 3, we will install water potential and soil temperature sensors in triplicate at three locations where we expect to see differences in seedling emergence in each field. Our potential long-term impacts will be increased winter canola production across the region due to improved management techniques that increase emergence success.

Are Soil Micronutrients Limiting the Dryland Canola Production?: A Survey

PI: Shikha Singh
Co-PI: Surendra Singh and Joao Antonangelo

There has been a considerable increase in the acreage under canola production in eastern Washington as it offers several benefits such as weed control, breaks disease and pest cycles, and also improves water infiltration in soils. Nutrient management in canola has gained a lot of interest and several studies are being conducted to establish the nutrient management guide for canola production in the Pacific Northwest. However, most studies have focused on macronutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. To our knowledge, there little to no information available for micronutrients levels and management for canola in Pacific Northwest. Therefore, the objective of this study is to conduct a survey across the low and intermediate rainfall regions of eastern Washington to determine if micronutrients are at all a concern in this region for canola production. We plan to work closely with growers to collect soil samples and get those analyzed for all micronutrients and then find out which micronutrients are deficient in our soils and potentially limiting the canola yields in the region. This proposal address the micronutrient management priority of the WOCS research. Data collected from this survey will be beneficial in finding out which micronutrients are deficient in which areas which will be helpful in guiding future canola production and research on micronutrient management in canola.

Survey for Soil and Plant Micronutrients in Dryland Canola Production abstract (pdf) in the 2024 Dryland Field Day Abstracts

Evaluating Suitability of Pea-Canola Intercropping in Intermediate rainfall zones of eastern Washington.

PI: Shikha Singh
Co-PI: Aaron Esser and Rich Koenig

Canola and pea intercropping (peaola) provides several benefits such as weed control, reduced nitrogen inputs and resource use efficiency. Peaola has been extensively studied in Canada and Australia and has been reported to be greatly profitable to growers but very limited information is available for its suitability for the dryland region of eastern Washington. Therefore, the objective of this study is to evaluate various seeding rates of peaola under different nitrogen regimes on yield, biological nitrogen fixation, soil nutrient availability, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi colonization, soil microbial biomass, enzyme activities and soil carbon fractions. This proposal addresses multiple WOCS priorities including seeding rate, quantification of effects of intensification and identification of economic optimum fertilizer management practices for yield stabilization and return on investment. We plan to establish a new trial at the Wilke Research Farm near Davenport, WA in which various seeding rates of peaola under different nitrogen rates will be evaluated. Data collection will be done for two years. The PI and colleagues will be on the lookout for additional funding opportunities to study long term effects of peaola intercropping. We plan to hire a Masters student on this project and data collected from this trial will be part of the student’s MS thesis. Results obtained from this study will be used to obtain larger funding for on farm trials to validate our findings.

Long-Term Influences of Canola Integration into Wheat-Fallow Systems in Dryland Region

PI: Surendra Singh
Co-PI: Tim Paulitz, Jeremy Hansen, and Daniel Schlatter

This proposal requests funding to continue and build upon two ongoing cropping systems trials with canola in the rotation near Ritzville, WA. These two trials have been the part of multi-components research activities while providing continued research-based information to regional growers since 1997. In these trials, canola is grown as part of 3-yr (winter canola – spring wheat – no till fallow) and 4-yr (winter canola – no till fallow – winter wheat – no till fallow) rotations to study the agronomic, economic, soils, and microbial components under canola integration in the cropping system. Research conducted in these studies align very well with multiple WOCS research priorities including but not limited to crop establishment, management, agronomics, economics, microbiome, and overall soil health. In this proposal, we will continue to collect detailed data from these field trials regarding complete crop and fallow soil water dynamics, microbial community, foliar and root diseases, weed ecology, and grain yields. Soil microbial activity has been, and will continue to be, assessed in rotations using both DNA sequencing and PLFA methods on bulk and rhizosphere soil. We will continue to quantify arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Maintaining and continuing these trials will be crucial in order to collect such data that can only be obtained through long-term cropping systems experiments. Previously, several publications and presentations have been completed and we will continue to fully explore canola integration in wheat-based cropping systems of dryland region.