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Articles by Ann Leslie Davis, Modern Farmer

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This story was originally published in Modern Farmer and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate crisis.

Chris Rauch was strolling past booths at the annual ag show in Spokane last summer when he spotted a large jar full of basalt powder. A nearby sign urged him to spread it on his croplands to help improve soil pH. 

Rauch looked at the gray dust and shook his head. 

“That’s crazy,” he thought. “Why would I want to put even more rocks in my fields?”

Rauch grows dryland wheat in the rolling gold-brown hills surrounding the Pendleton, Oregon, municipal airport. His farm lies on the Columbia Plateau, a 63,000-square-mile basin formed by ancient basalt lava flows. At the end of the last Ice Age, retreating glaciers scoured the bedrock, leaving a wake of grit and gravel to form the deep loess soil. 

Not much rain fall... Read more