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Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center

Aerial view of Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center

The mission of the Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center is to serve the public by providing scientific information to improve practices,techniques, and equipment for dryland crop production, and soil and water conservation, in the Columbia River Plateau and related land resource areas.

The Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center (CPCRC) was established in Pendleton, Oregon, in 1970 to conduct research on dryland agricultural problems in agronomic zones of the Pacific Northwest that typically receive less than 18-inches of annual rainfall. Geographically, this mainly includes the Columbia Plateau region of Oregon and Washington. The mission of the CPCRC is an integral part of the overall ARS mission to ensure high-quality, safe food, and other agricultural products while enhancing the natural resource base and environment.

Naturally occurring challenges specific to the inland Pacific Northwest include (1) landscapes with long, steep slopes and silt loam soils that are easily eroded by both water and wind, (2) variable soils and landscapes within farm fields that prevent uniform management, (3) temperature extremes causing water stress in growing crops, and (4) weed/pest pressures that cause economic and environmental concerns.

Superimposed on these natural challenges are (1) conventional intensive tillage practices that may result in rapid depletion of soil carbon and accelerated soil erosion, and (2) lack of methodology to integrate and apply research data to solve problems at the farm level in an effective and economical manner.

The mission of the CPCRC is accomplished through a series of field and laboratory studies working in cooperation with its sister ARS laboratory (Land Management and Water Conservation Unit, Pullman, WA), Agricultural Experiment Stations in OR, WA, and ID, action agencies such as the NRCS, private entities such as crop consultants, technology companies, and through on-farm trials and farmer participation.

In accordance with increasing demands from society in general and farm managers in particular, the CPCRC tailors its basic research effort to provide data for the development phase of research application to solve problems at the farm level.