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Crop and Soil Sciences

The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University serves the Land Grant tradition by offering nationally competitive undergraduate and graduate education programs, conducting fundamental and applied plant and soil research, and extending the science of our disciplines to serve the public.


CSS News & Updates

Two combines in a field at night.

Harvest Time at Spillman Farm will be Easier with Gift of Combines

Generations of Coug students have worked under the hot sun harvesting test crops at Washington State University’s Spillman Agronomy Farm. At first they did the work by hand, cutting and gathering wheat, barley, pea, lentil and chickpea crops from small test plots. Specially-made combines for the research plots were an improvement, but they still were labor-intensive to operate. With the arrival of two new Zurn plot combine harvesters, students and faculty have access to similar technology, safety and comfort found in commercial rigs, said Arron Carter, a professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and the O.A. Vogel Endowed Chair of Wheat Breeding and Genetics. The machines cut, thresh, weigh and bag samples, with special features to prevent cross-contamination between plots. The Zurn 150 combines came to WSU thanks to the Washington Grain Commission, which approved the nearly $500,000 gift in 2021.
Tuffs of grass in a field.

Lawns for a Hot, Dry Future Tested at WSU Turfgrass Research Farm

Late summer has transformed Washington State University’s turfgrass research farm from waving meadows to dormant, golden stubble. But over in the corner, rows of a Pacific Northwest newcomer are tall and verdant despite summer’s heat. Deep-rooted and heat-loving, Bermuda grass is one of about a dozen experimental varieties at WSU’s new Perennial Grass Breeding and Ecology Farm. Here, researchers test candidates for the lawns of the future: grasses that stay soft and green under hotter climates or minimal watering and fertilizer. “One of our goals at the farm is to bring out new types of grasses that aren’t typically grown in our area,” said Michael Neff, farm director and professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. “We want grasses that work for our soil, for farms and lawns, and for harsher environments.”

Graduate Students Accepted into Prestigious Fellowship

Four WSU graduate students recently earned acceptance into the prestigious Rockey FFAR Fellows Program. FFAR is the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Established by Congress in 2014, it is a non-profit corporation that funds pioneering research, health, sustainability, and agriculture. The Fellows Program was established to provide professional development and career guidance to the next generation of food and agriculture scientists. Fellows are co-mentored over a three-year program by university and industry experts. The program prepares a career-ready STEM workforce by having students from multiple disciplines work together and focuses on professional development and soft skills, like networking. The four WSU fellows are: Monica Crosby, School of Food Science; Madeline Desjardins, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences; Stephen Onayemi, Department of Entomology; and Riley Reed, Department of Entomology

STEM Opportunities Abound in Agriculture Fields

Washington State University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences explores and conducts research in plants, soils, and pests to identify best practices to improve crops and cropping systems. Crop and Soil Sciences strive to make foods safer, healthier, and more sustainable. The department provides a wide variety of opportunities for students seeking STEM degrees. Opportunities range from lab, field, technology, education, and greenhouse employment. The multidisciplinary education within crop and soil sciences allows students to learn a broad set of skills to take with them into the workforce.

New Guides from Extension: Weed Control, Dairy-Defending Raptors, and Hard Cider Chemistry

Learn how to control a pesky weed of grain and pulse crops, attract birds of prey to protect dairies, and view a first-of-its-kind study of the chemical properties of eastern Washington cider, with help from new and revised guides from WSU Extension. Found at the WSU Extension online store, the latest publications include: Integrated Management of Mayweed Chamomile in Wheat and Pulse Crop Production Systems (PNW695), Revised May 2022 Producing as many as 17,000 seeds per plant, mayweed chamomile is a troublesome weed in grain and pulse crops throughout the high-rain zones of the inland northwest. This guide shares integrated management approaches to help in long-term, sustainable control. Authors include Extension Small Grains Weed Science Professor Drew Lyon; WSU Research Weed Scientist Ian Burke; Oregon State University Extension Weed Science Specialist Andrew Hulting; and University of Idaho Weed Science Research/Instruction Associate Joan Campbell.
2022 Field Day Abstracts cover.

2022 Field Day Abstracts are Now Available

The online, full color version of the 2022 Field Day Abstracts are now available to download on our Field Day Abstracts page.
Rachel Breslauer sitting in a field.

Grad Student Wins Fellowship to Study Buckwheat’s Potential

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – Rachel Breslauer didn’t grow up in an agricultural setting. Hailing from a town an hour and a half outside New York City, she became interested in food security and food justice in high school. A woman in a field surrounded by a plant with small pink flowers. Rachel Breslauer in a field of field of buckwheat. While earning her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University, Breslauer worked a few on-farm research projects in dairy and cropping systems. Those experiences brought her to WSU, where she earned a master’s degree. Now she’s working on a Ph.D. in WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, focusing on alternative crops and looking at how to bring newer crops and diversity into fields.
WSU students Cody Wang, Miguel Fuentes, and Taylor Hunt pose with the AgTM program’s newly aquired miniature ‘dozer, while Assistant Professor Tadd Wheeler sits at the controls.

After Decades, Student-Built Bulldozer Comes Home to WSU

Cougs always find their way home. Their bulldozer did too. Students in Washington State University’s Agricultural Technology and Production Management Program (AgTM) will overhaul and bring back to life a one-ton, custom-made miniature bulldozer believed to have been built by their student forerunners in the 1960s. The antique machine was donated this fall by an Illinois family after a long career of Midwestern farm work, as well as stints digging basements under houses.

WSU Graduate Student Wins Science Coalition Student Video Challenge

Washington State University student Molly McIlquham took first place in the graduate student category of The Science Coalition’s third-annual Fund It Forward Student Video Challenge. Graduate and undergraduate students currently enrolled at Science Coalition member institutions were asked to create a video explaining their personal connection to fundamental research and why Congress should continue to invest in the partnership between federal research agencies and their university counterparts.
Experimental plots at Mount Vernon Long Term Agroecological Research and Extension project.

WSU Releases Roadmap for Soil Health Initiative

PULLMAN, Wash. — A 124-page “roadmap” that outlines current challenges and pathways to help maintain healthy soils as an agricultural and environmental resource has been released. Washington Soil Health Initiative, recently funded with a $2.1 million annual allocation from the Washington State Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee, is a partnership among Washington State University, the Washington State Department of Agriculture and Washington State Conservation Commission
Logo for ARCS

WSU Ag Programs Highly Ranked in the World

US News and World Report places WSU at #30 for Best Global Universities for Agriculture Sciences. For more information, go to the US News list. QS World University Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry places WSU at #44 worldwide. For more information, go to the QS Worldwide list.