A West Seattle cornfield that’s also a research hotbed

The stereotypical cornfield might stretch for as far as the eye can see, under the flat blue sky of some Plains state. But a West Seattle cornfield – more like a cornpatch – is generating attention, information – and hope. Under a not-so-flat gray sky, a closely watched harvest began Wednesday morning at the SeaChar Carbon Garden site on the south side of the South Seattle Community College campus on West Seattle’s Puget Ridge. While it may look like an unremarkable plot of corn, the difference lies beneath- some of the corn was grown in soil amended with biochar, defined here as the result of “a 2,000 year-old practice that converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.” The same site declares biochar is no less than “a powerfully simple tool to combat climate change.” But no one’s making those claims without research, here in West Seattle and at other test sites around the globe:

In our video, that’s Jim Grob talking between samples while working yesterday morning with daughter Olivia – getting quite the education on a day off her Pierce County school – and Steve Tracy. While another group started to harvest corn a few rows south, this trio was sampling soil that’s headed for a federal lab in Idaho. The corn was planted in early June. (It’s just yards away from the future Community Orchard of West Seattle, as mentioned yesterday in our story about the collection of donated cardboard at that site for future sheet mulching.) And the biochar story doesn’t just include the farming side – it also includes the creation side – people here and elsewhere are working to get clean-burning, biomass-producing stoves to people who otherwise are cooking over polluting, health-endangering open fires; read more about that here.

6 Replies to "A West Seattle cornfield that's also a research hotbed"

  • Switchgrass Farmer September 30, 2010 (1:29 pm)

    Have seen a presentation at Iowa State where they were also working with biochar. Will be interesting to learn how results match up.

  • curious October 1, 2010 (9:20 am)

    I am wondering what exactly is West Seattle It seems everytime there is a news happening in the South End of Seattle it is referred to as WEST SEATTLE which always confuses me because I never considered White Center or South Park or anything South of Roxbury or East of Delridge as West Seattle proper. Am I mistaken..When the news comes on I get nervous when they say things happened in WEST SEATTLE until they mention the address and it is nowhere near my home. Just curious why all incidents are referred to as WEST SEATTLE..I have family all over this state who call me worried that it is taking place near our home. Does anyone have an answer for me? thanx just curious

    • WSB October 1, 2010 (9:44 am)

      West Seattle is from (mostly) the shores of the Duwamish on the east, to the city limits on the south, to Puget Sound on the west, to Elliott Bay on the north. Hope that helps. – Tracy

  • curious October 1, 2010 (1:52 pm)

    Thanx for your description but I dont think so..Otherwise they wouldnt have names like SOUTH PARK BURIEN WHITE CENTER etc and if i am correct it is on the other side of Roxbury which is the city limits. If something happens in North Seattle they usually describe the area such as U District and North Gate etc. Clears it up for those who are worrying about their loved ones when you pinpoint area and not just say WEST SEATTLE But thanx for trying. If an area is out of the city limits it is not SEATTLE

    • WSB October 1, 2010 (1:55 pm)

      Burien has a distinct starting point that is south of White Center (the boundary moved farther north after the relatively recent annexation vote). WC officially begins at Roxbury – note the “welcome to Highland Park” sign, for example, on the north side of Roxbury at 8th. South Park is certainly not included in the boundary areas I’ve described. It starts on the east side of 509. You can certainly dispute this if you care to, but as discussed in coverage of the quadruple murder-suicide a week ago, that’s where the city and media – organizations/agencies that have to deal with geographic descriptions frequently – draw the lines. None of what I’ve described is outside the city limits. (South Park isn’t, either, but it is east of the WS boundaries.) West Seattle certainly has its sub-divisions, such as Delridge, Alki, Pigeon Point, Fauntleroy, Gatewood, Seaview, The Junction, Admiral, Arbor Heights, Genesee Hill, etc. etc. etc., but unlike North Seattle, it tends to identify as one large neighborhood overall, which is unique – TR

  • more of the same!! October 1, 2010 (8:19 pm)

    Thankyou. Appreciate your take on the boundries..But I still think they need to call the area properly and get the information out to the public correctly. There was never a question that Alki is in West Seattle in fact it is probably the most West. LOL As well as the Junction and Admiral. I agree to that degree but as far as some of the other areas other than the ones you listed I still take issue..It goes a little too far out of this area to be considered West Seattle Proper. Again thankyou for your comment and take on this question. I guess it depends on how long one has lived in this area as to where you draw the lines. Nuff said..Have a nice nite.

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