WSU CAHNRS

College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Brian Clark

I started working at WSU in February, 2005. I write for a number of publications and, along with my colleague Phil Cable, am also the Marketing, News, and Educational Communications Web, social and new media guy.

Before joining WSU, I owned and operated a marketing, design and publishing firm in San Francisco. In that capacity I served dozens of clients, from large retail firms such as Williams-Sonoma to small high-tech start-ups.

I hold a B.A. in Communication from U.C. San Diego and a Master's in English from the University of Idaho.

Over the years, I've also written and published hundreds of poems, a fistful of short stories and essays, and a novel titled Splitting. I maintain a couple of blogs, one on science and the other on sustainable design and building.

Recent articles by Brian Clark

Tree fruit research updates, workshops planned at Aug. 7 orchard field day

Posted July 8, 2013

WENATCHEE, Wash. – New apple varieties, a new fruit scientist, pest control and tree fruit research will highlight workshops and presentations during a free field day beginning at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 7, at Sunrise Research Orchard, located off highway 28 on Sunrise Lane about 11 miles south of Wenatchee. Read more »

Kids learn physics, energy efficiency basics

Posted July 6, 2013

PULLMAN, Wash. – An innovative collaborative project is teaching young people the basics of physics. Using simple models, an interdisciplinary team is simultaneously opening doors to more sustainable, energy-efficient homes. Project SOS – the Science of Sustainability – is funded by a National Science Foundation grant to teach middle school students from local communities about the physics of energy transfer in their own homes. Read more »

Filed under Release, tagged , , ,
No Comments

WSU Extension Presents 2013 Fruit School on ‘The Honeycrisp Experience: Production, Harvest and Storage’

Posted May 30, 2013

WENATCHEE, Wash. – WSU Extension is offering a series of workshops designed for commercial growers interested in or currently growing the wildly popular Honeycrisp apple. In the 2013 Fruit School on “The Honeycrisp Experience: Production, Harvest and Storage,” participants will learn how to grow the tree and produce a crop that stores and eats well. Read more »

Filed under Release, tagged , , ,
No Comments

WSU Cherry Field Day and Orchard Tour Slated for June 6

Posted May 30, 2013

PROSSER, Wash. – Washington State University’s annual Cherry Field Day is coming up June 6. A full afternoon of research updates followed by an orchard tour are planned. A free lunch hosted by Wilson Orchard and Vineyard Supply begins at noon at the WSU Prosser Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC). Read more »

Filed under Release, tagged , , ,
No Comments

WSU releases new barley variety honoring longtime plant breeder Steve Lyon

Posted May 16, 2013

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – After more than 22 years of breeding wheat for Washington State University, Steve Lyon never expected to make a name for himself in the barley field. But this spring’s release of ‘Lyon,’ a new variety of barley, is one way his colleagues in Pullman have chosen to recognize his long-term contributions to small grains research. Read more »

Hop researchers learn advanced brewing techniques

Posted May 14, 2013

PROSSER, Wash. – In 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. founder Ken Grossman effectively put the Cascade hop of Yakima, Wash., on the map. The hop was central to the pale ale that made Grossman’s company a household name. More than three decades later, Washington State University researchers studying optimal brewing qualities with that same hop recently interned with Sierra Nevada master brewers to hone their brewing skills and learn advanced brewing methods that are being pioneered by American craft brewers. Read more »

Flower power fights orchard pests

Posted May 14, 2013

WENATCHEE, Wash. – Washington State University researchers have found they can control one of fruit growers’ more severe pests, aphids, with a remarkably benign tool: flowers. The discovery is a boon for organic as well as conventional tree fruit growers. Read more »

Orange growers feel the squeeze of new plague; WSU researcher contributes expertise to solution

Posted April 25, 2013

PULLMAN, Wash. – A pandemic is destroying orange groves in Florida. The disease, called citrus greening, is also spreading to citrus groves in Texas and California, threatening a more than $3 billion per year industry. If left unaddressed, the entire U.S. citrus industry could be wiped out and, as Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said, “We’ll end up paying $5 for an orange – and it’ll have to be one imported from someplace else.” Read more »

Filed under Release, tagged , , , ,
No Comments

WSU’s Voice of the Vine – Grape Flour, Innovators, New VEEN – April 25, 2013

Posted April 25, 2013

Good to The Last Drop: From Wine Grapes to Granola Bars

Gena McKahan presents her research poster about granola bars made with grape-seed flour.

Gena McKahan presents her research poster about granola bars made with grape-seed flour.

The remains of wine grapes picked and pressed typically return to fields as fertilizers, but scientists are also finding ways to recycle those edible remains into healthy foods.

Take Gena McKahan’s gluten-free, merlot grape-seed flour granola bar, for example. As a food science undergraduate at Washington State University, McKahan was curious how different amounts of merlot grape-seed flour would change a granola bar’s antioxidant content when baked with other ingredients. About half the antioxidants in grapes are found in the pomace—the pulpy pile of skins, seeds, and stems leftover from winemaking—and have been shown to help prevent some cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

McKahan made granola bars using a variety of percentages of grape-pomace flour and, overall, her data analysis showed an increase in antioxidant content as the amount of grape-seed flour increased.

“I worked in health care for seven years as an ER tech, so I have seen a lot of people with diabetes and Celiac disease,” McKahan said. She believes developing functional foods (foods with added nutritional value) can help an increasingly gluten-sensitive and diabetic population more easily and accessibly meet their dietary needs.

“Gluten-free products and antioxidants are also part of the health trend,” McKahan said. “The population is looking at labels.”

AprésVin flour made from merlot grape seeds.

AprésVin flour made from merlot grape seeds.

Even if a granola or snack bar is nutritious, whether or not consumers will eat it depends largely on taste—an especially pertinent concern since wine flours tend to be more astringent, or bitter, McKahan said. In addition to grape-seed flour, the granola bar included buckwheat, rice, teff seed, and potato starch flavor. Overall, a consumer panel of 60 people said they preferred the granola bars containing 0 and 5% grape pomace flour in comparison to bars with 10 and 15%.

The research also confirms WSU sensory analyst Carolyn Ross and researcher Maria Rosales’ previous study, published in the Journal of Sensory Sciences, which suggested a granola bar with less grape-seed flour still had higher than zero antioxidant content and could be marketable. In their recipe, Ross and Rosales included sunflower seeds, another rich source of antioxidants. McKahan omitted sunflower seeds in her analysis confirming grape-seed flour on its own provides a supply of antioxidants when baked.

Eric Leber, co-owner and president of AprèsVin (French for “After Wine”) donated merlot flour for the experiments. He’s an advocate of using the whole grape. After a winemaker is done with the grapes, the seeds can be pressed for oil and then ground into flour. Leber expresses gratitude for the partnership with WSU researchers and says those in the grape-seed flour industry can use the information to inform their customers about how to best use the flours when baking.

“Using grape pomace is all about sustainability which is important in developing a viable wine industry from both a business and environmental standpoint,” he said. “It’s just a win-win-win.”

And with 8 million tons of grape pomace produced annually worldwide, there’s plenty of research material to go around.

Learn more about research in the School of Food Science at sfs.wsu.edu.

-Rachel Webber

What’s Science Got to Do with the Wine in Your Glass?

Thomas Henick-Kling talks about the importance of science in the growing and making of a great glass of wine.

Thomas Henick-Kling talks about the importance of science in the growing and making of a great glass of wine.

In a single glass of wine you may discover hints of peach, citrus, mineral, melon, smoke, or spice. But you may not notice that the same glass holds a complex blend of geology, biology, chemistry, microbiology, and meteorology, with a touch of technology. Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program, told over 120 wine enthusiasts about the science embodied in glass of wine, at the April WSU Innovators Lecture in Seattle.

Henick-Kling described the skyrocketing growth of Washington’s wine industry in the last two decades and the pivotal role that science plays in the success of this $8.6 billion industry. Washington is now the second largest producer of premium wines in the United States. He touched on a broad array of research projects conducted at WSU, all of which contribute to wines that display regional and grape varietal flavors.

Wine Science Begins with the Landscape

Each of Washington’s 13 distinct viticultural areas (AVAs) produces wines that express the unique terroir of the area. Terroir is the complex and synergistic effect of soil, climate, and topography, as well as grape cultivars and vineyard management style on a wine. Basalt bedrock, Missoula-flood sand and gravel, wind-deposited loess – all contribute to the individuality of grapes grown in regions such as Red Mountain, Ancient Lakes, or Horse Heaven Hills. To the trained palette, the flavors and results of terroir are apparent.

Climate conditions vary throughout the wine growing regions of Washington and are monitored closely by the WSU AgWeatherNet system. With 144 weather stations located throughout the state, AgWeatherNet provides vineyard managers with region-specific information that helps them know when to turn on wind machines to protect buds during cold snaps and when to best employ disease and pest interventions.

Researchers at WSU are modeling grapevine development to understand the relationship of irrigation timing and water quantity and their effects on grape flavors and cold hardiness. They’re developing sensor-based decision tools for precision canopy and water management. Plant pathologists are learning how plants infected with leafroll virus produce less ripe fruit, which affects wine quality. They’re discovering how restoring native habitat supports biological pest controls in vineyards.

Beyond the Vineyard

Wine science and the quest for regional flavor extend well beyond the vineyard. “I’ve never found wine in the vineyard,” said Henick-Kling. “Wine flavor begins with the grape and is modified by the microorganisms that are allowed to prosper during fermentation.” Henick-Kling, a microbiologist and fermentation specialist, explores the multiple personalities of these microbes. “Each yeast strain has its own character that lends to the taste of wine. Only about 100 strains have been explored for their unique qualities so far. We’re characterizing new strains to identify undiscovered flavors and aromas,” he said.

Enologists are exploring the detailed chemistry of compounds that impart specific flavors, aromas, color, and texture; how they’re affected by heat; and how they can be extracted during winemaking. Sensory and consumer scientists are conducting sensory evaluations and using analytical chemistry techniques to identify and describe wine flavors and aromas to better understand precisely what consumers mean when they say, “I like this wine.”

World-Class Wine Science Center

In the vineyard, the winery, and the lab, wine science must be tied to the local conditions that impart the unique characteristics of a wine. Ted Baseler, CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and WSU Regent, spoke about the campaign to build a new WSU Wine Science Center to be located at WSU Tri-Cities – in the heart of Washington’s wine country.

“With $17.5 million raised by industry, private, and public donors, we’re just $4.5 million from establishing a world-class research and teaching center that is a steeple of excellence,” Baseler said. Ste. Michelle recently hired two graduates from the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program. “They were turnkey — they knew exactly what to do. WSU is producing scientifically well-trained candidates for employment in the industry.”

WSU offers the only Bachelor’s program in wine science in Pacific Northwest, in addition to graduate studies and certificate programs.

Learn more about wine science research and educational opportunities by visiting wine.wsu.edu.

-Sylvia Kantor

Spring issue of Viticulture and Enology Extension News now available

VEENThe new issue of VEEN is ready for you to download. This issue has articles about using native plants for biocontrol, understanding the biophysics of water and its relationship to grape fruit quality, a new graft-transmissible grape disease, the new electronic “tongue” in the WSU wine sensory lab, and a winemaking article on tannin extraction and astringency.

Download your copy here: http://bit.ly/11F5Wfq.

Filed under Voice of the Vine
No Comments

Deadline June 3 for farmers to decide on participation in ACRE farm subsidy for 2013

Posted April 25, 2013

DAVENPORT, Wash. – Farmers need to decide by June 3 whether or not to participate in the federal ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election) farm subsidy program for 2013. Below are some information and suggestions from Washington State University Extension for farmers to consider before deciding. Read more »

Filed under Release, tagged , ,
No Comments

CAHNRS News – April 19, 2013

Posted April 18, 2013

Revision to Educational Policies and Procedures Manual

Though spring semester is not yet over, we know that faculty are already planning courses for summer and fall. Please be aware that the Faculty Senate has approved a revision to the Educational Policies and Procedures Manual (EPPM), requiring that all syllabi provide student learning outcomes:

Course Syllabus

The instructor(s) of each course shall make available to enrolled students a course syllabus which should (a) be presented during the first week of class, (b) contain expected student learning outcomes, and (c) include information about the method(s) to be used for evaluation of student progress and determination of grades. The University, College or Academic Unit may, in published policies, specify additional information to be included in course syllabi. [approved 2/14/13]

This good practice aligns with standards of WSU’s regional accrediting body, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which mandates that, “Expected student learning outcomes for courses, wherever offered and however delivered, are provided in written form to enrolled students” (Standard 2.C.2).

CAHNRS Award Winners

Congratulations to all the recipients of the 2012-2013 CAHNRS Excellence Awards.

CAHNRS Faculty & Staff Award Recipients, 2012-2013

R.M. Wade Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award
Michael M. Neff – Crop and Soil Sciences

Excellence in Extension Award
Dale Moore – Extension Vet Science

Excellence in Research Award
Thomas Spencer – Animal Science

Individual Integrated Award
Jay Brunner – WSU Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center

Early Career Excellence Award
Holly Neibergs – Animal Science

Team Interdisciplinary Award
WSU Decision Aid – Entomology

Administrative Professional Staff Excellence Award
Don Holbrook

Administrative Professional Technical Staff Excellence Award
Marianne Elliott – Plant Pathology

Classified Technical Staff Excellence Award
Peter Gray – Food Science

Classified Technical Staff Excellence Award
Beth Toerne – Institute of Biological Chemistry

CAHNRS Student Award Recipients, 2012-2013

Family and Consumer Scientist of the Year Award
Corinne Markle – Interior Design

Aggie of the Year Award
Gwen Graf – Animal Science

Outstanding Junior in Human Sciences Award
Kevin Ketcham – Human Development

Outstanding Junior in Agriculture Award
Corrine Harris – Animal Science

Outstanding Freshman of the Year Award
Michael Burley – Human Development

Superior Club of the Year Award
Food Science Club – School of Food Science

Battle of the Agies Award
AgTM – Agriculture & Food Systems

Outstanding Senior Awards

Kristina Peterschick – Agricultural Education
Jordyn Hutton – Agricultural and Food Business Economics
Lexi Roach – Agricultural Technology and Production Management
Gwen Graf- Animal Science
Breda Fitzgerald – Apparel Design
Ryan Christian – Agricultural Biotechnology
Jon Paul Driver – Agribusiness Economics and Management
Jesse Fosse – Economic Sciences
Laramee Fox – Field Crop Management
Jake Fisher– Food Science
Nick Vincent – Fruit and Vegetable Management
Yadira Olivera – Human Development
Kristin Hayden – Human Development Online
Catherine Weisenburger – Interior Design
Tom Jensen – Landscape, Nursery, and Greenhouse Management
Janel Navran – Merchandising
Nichole Studevant – Natural Resource Sciences
Adam Bright – Viticulture and Enology
Katie Meline – Wildlife Ecology

Kudos

Taya Brown, senior in Organic Agriculture Systems and Biology, has been selected as a recipient of the WSU President’s Award for student leadership. Learn more about the award at http://bit.ly/YQy5UF.

Hossein Sadeghi, a graduate student in biological systems engineering, is one of two nationwide recipients of the 2013 Freeman Fellowship from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Awarded to one or two graduate students each year to support research and related travel expenses, the $5,000 fellowship was established in 1924 by John R. Freeman, past president and honorary member of ASCE. Sadeghi’s award will be used toward an irrigation and drainage project during 2013-14.

Seminars

Economics

April 19
Ellen McGrattan, FRB Minneapolis, “On Financing Retirement with an Aging Population.” Host: Gibson. Hulbert 23, 3:30–5 p.m.

April 22
Dawn Thilmany, Colorado State University. Host: Gallardo. Hulbert 23, 3:30–5 p.m.

April 26
Jeff Dorfman, University of Georgia. Host: Fortenbery. Hulbert 23, 3:30–5 p.m.

Public Lectures

2013 Catts Lecture

Steve Wratten, a professor of ecology with Lincoln University’s Bio-Protection Research Centre in New Zealand, will present the 2013 E. Paul Catts Memorial Lecture at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 26, in the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education (CUE), Room 202. The lecture, titled “Bees, Birds, Butterflies, Biological Control and the Future of Agriculture,” and a social immediately following in CUE 518 are free and open to the public.

As the center’s deputy director and project manager, Wratten runs a six-year research program on biodiversity, ecosystem services and sustainable agriculture, according to the center’s website. Many of the postdoctoral and doctoral research projects in the group concern the ecological basis of biological control, especially conservation biological control of insect pests and diseases.

A post-lecture dinner is set for 7:30 p.m. at Banyans on the Ridge. Cost is $25, and an RSVP is required. Please contact Adam Williams, 509-335-5425, adam.williams@wsu.edu, to attend the dinner.

For more information about the Catts Lecture, visit the website at http://entomology.wsu.edu/events/e-paul-catts/.

Recent News Releases

In eNews

The April 10 issue of On Solid Ground features stories on Sudden Oak Death, the new Food Science online degree program, and the entomology graduate students’ Insect Expo. Read the issue here or visit the archives to subscribe and read back issues.

Archives

CAHNRS News is archived at http://cahnrsnews.wsu.edu/category/cnews/.

Filed under Admin News
No Comments

Online Forest Stewardship U helps small forest owners manage their land

Posted April 17, 2013

PULLMAN, Wash. – Many forestland owners, particularly those with small acreage, are seeking information on how to keep their trees healthy and on track to provide enjoyment for years to come. Washington State University Extension has launched Forest Stewardship University, which offers a series of online courses. The self-directed courses are available on demand at http://bit.ly/ForestStewardshipU. Read more »

Filed under Release
No Comments

WSU weed scientist returns to Scotland for ‘superfruit’ study with UK berry breeders

Posted April 16, 2013

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – When Washington State University weed scientist Tim Miller teamed up with fruit researchers in the United Kingdom last summer, he was hoping to learn how weeds affect the quality and nutritional value of raspberries. He will travel to the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie, Scotland for a second year of berry trials May 14-23 and, when he returns, his findings may help growers produce a higher quality “superfruit.” Read more »

Filed under Release, tagged , , ,
No Comments

WSU leads development of heat-tolerant grain

Posted April 9, 2013

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University will lead a $16.2 million effort to develop wheat varieties that are better at tolerating the high temperatures found in most of the world’s growing regions – temperatures that are likely to increase with global warming. Read more »

WSU’s Voice of the Vine – Serving Temperatures, Vineyard Beauty II, Science in Your Glass – March 28, 2013

Posted March 28, 2013
Showcase your wines by serving them at temperatures that optimize mouthfeel, flavors, and aromas.

Showcase your wines by serving them at temperatures that optimize mouthfeel, flavors, and aromas.

Taking the Temperature of a Lemberger

When it comes to pinpointing the perfect serving temperature for wine, Washington State University scientists are getting warmer.

While it’s often been said white wines are best served chilled and red wines near room temperature, sensory analyst Carolyn Ross is de-mystifying such anecdotes using a relatively new technique called napping. Napping, which comes from the French word for tablecloth (nappe), allows panelists to group their wines by similar traits on a placemat and then write down the attributes they used to choose the groups directly on their “nappes.”

“Panelists use their own language to cluster the wines and then we decode it,” Ross said. “The method requires some interpretation and is complicated for data analysis, but it can really help us understand how attributes change with temperature…while allowing panelists to use their own sensory language.”

In the study, twelve panelists tasted six different Washington State Lemberger wines at three temperatures: 50°F, 60.8°F, and 71.6°F. Physical chemistry predicts that the release of volatile components from a sample increase as temperature rises. This helps explain why, overall, panelists used flavor and aroma terms more frequently with higher serving temperatures than with lower serving temperatures.

“Researchers have shown that many products, when served cold, give off fewer aromas than warm ones,” Ross said. “That’s true of wine and other foods.”

Decoding the nappes

According to the study, Lemberger served at 50°F and 60.8°F left panelists with impressions of a wine that, compared to the wine served at the higher temperature, was sour, bitter, highly astringent, and low in aroma. The cooler wine samples were also described as smooth and thin in comparison to warmer wine samples, which is consistent with research on viscosity, Ross said.

Wines served at 60.8°F and 71.6°F were more frequently described as having spicy and berry notes than the 50-degree sample and panelists were more likely to use “sweet” to describe wines served at those higher temperatures, Ross said.

Sensing a difference in astringent mouthfeel

Ross found it interesting that panelists also grouped their wines by low and high astringency, actually discerning a difference in the tannin level and the intensity of the dry mouth feel that lingered after sipping a sample.
“Even though we didn’t require panelists to use intensities, we kept them qualified in our results because people tended to consistently distinguish between high and low,” she said. ”That was something we hadn’t seen in the previous study.”

Ross said this could be a function of the type of wine–in the past they used a Pinot Noir with lower tannin levels to bring out certain flavors. Each wine has its own qualities that can be influenced by temperature, she said.

“This is useful for those in the wine and hospitality industries who have thought this to be the case, but have lacked formal sensory science studies,” she said. “These industries can use this information to better showcase their red wines.”

-Rachel Webber

Second Phase of ‘Vineyard Beauty with Benefits’ Begins—Again with Aid from Prison Inmates

Native plants like this blanket flower have been shown to attract beneficial insects in and around eastern Washington vineyards. Photo courtesy of David James.

Native plants like this blanket flower have been shown to attract beneficial insects in and around eastern Washington vineyards. Photo courtesy of David James.

In 2011, WSU entomologist David James began the Vineyard Beauty with Benefits Project to restore native habitats within and around eastern Washington vineyards while attracting beneficial, pest-eating insects and pollinators. James and other researchers conducted field and plot studies on more than 100 plants native to the region in the project’s first two years and identified those that showed the most promise.

Next month, James will begin the second phase: evaluating the top five plants in a vineyard setting to confirm their benefits to integrated pest management (IPM) and to determine impacts, if any, to wine grape production and quality. His work is supported by BIOAg and Washington Grape and Wine Research Program grants from the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

“The short term impact of this project to the Washington wine grape industry will be identification of native, drought-adapted plants that will establish, grow, and survive well in vineyards,” James said. “They would also serve as a resource and habitat for beneficial insects responsible for controlling grape pests like spider mites, rust mites, leafhoppers, mealybugs, and cutworms.

“Long-term benefits of resilient and hardy native ground covers on wine grape IPM will be considerable in terms of sustaining biological-based pest control,” he added. “Substantial, industry-wide decreases in pesticide inputs and environmental contamination are expected within a few years of implementation, along with increases in farm profitability.”

There are no commercially available, proven IPM-enhancing ground covers that will survive in eastern Washington vineyards without regular irrigation, James said. The availability of one or more such ground covers would provide a significant and welcome benefit to viticulture in the region. The first phase of the Vineyard Beauty with Benefits Project revealed that possible candidates included yarrow, showy milkweed, Northern buckwheat, snow buckwheat, and mountain monardella.

“This project will, ultimately, identify the best native plant ground covers that can be used in vineyards to enhance and sustain biologically based IPM of wine grapes in eastern Washington,” he said. “It will also enhance conservation of threatened pollinator species like native bees and butterflies.”

Building on his earlier success with a Monarch butterfly pathway study, James is again teaming up with Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) inmates, this time for help with identifying and counting insects and mites. The inmates will be trained to use microscopes to examine grape leaf and sticky trap samples collected monthly from James’s test plots.

“The work we conducted with WSP in 2012 on rearing and releasing Monarch butterflies to understand migration routes was such a success, both in terms of research results and educational and mental benefits to the inmates, that we wanted to expand the possibilities of collaborative research,” James said. “If the marvel of metamorphosis as revealed by Monarch butterfly caterpillars can stir the souls of convicted felons, as it did, then I believe they will be held even more spellbound by the world they find under the microscope.”

To read Voice of the Vine‘s previous coverage of this project, please see http://bit.ly/10dWKiE. For more information about the Vineyard Beauty with Benefits Project, visit http://bit.ly/11DCOqZ.

—Nella Letizia

Science of Wine is Topic of WSU Innovator Lecture April 4 in Seattle

Drink in the science with Innovators speaker Thomas Henick-Kling.

Drink in the science with Innovators speaker Thomas Henick-Kling.

What role does science play in the quality of wine? Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the Washington State University viticulture and enology program, explores this and other questions in “Science in Your Glass,” the WSU Innovators luncheon, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle.

“Our understanding of all aspects of the winemaking process, from molecules to markets and from vineyards to bottles, underpins the wonderful success of the Washington wine industry,” said Henick-Kling. “This nearly $15 billion industry is an engine of job-creating vitality. I’m excited to be able to share some of the science that makes this all possible.”

The unique characteristics of Washington’s climate and soils contribute to the distinctive taste of its premium wines. But those same characteristics create challenges and opportunities for growers and winemakers specific to the Pacific Northwest.

WSU has partnered with state winemakers and growers since the 1960s to engage in cutting-edge research and provide hands-on education for a highly trained workforce. WSU researchers have helped growers select vineyard sites and vineyard management practices for optimum fruit quality. The university has developed environmentally sound pest and disease management techniques and is helping unlock the chemical mysteries of wine flavor profiles.

“In addition to discussing the science that goes into growing great grapes and making premium wine, I’ll talk about what I see as some of the major issues facing this rapidly growing industry,” Henick-Kling said. “I’ll also give an update on WSU’s vision for the Wine Science Center, a world-class facility that will help ensure that Washington wine continues to grow in market share and in prestige in the global marketplace.”

Henick-Kling has been director of the WSU viticulture and enology program since February 2009. Before moving to Australia in 2007 to become director of the National Wine Industry Centre, he was a wine researcher and educator at Cornell University for 20 years. He was instrumental in establishing Cornell’s undergraduate program in enology and viticulture and in developing the program’s focus on premium Rieslings. His research has long focused on the basics of fermentation science: the yeasts and bacteria that convert sugars and acids into alcohol, aroma, flavor, and rich mouthfeel. His research has contributed to the fundamental understanding of biological processes that enable winemakers to turn good grapes into great wine.

The Innovators lecture series highlights WSU research achievements and promotes informed discussion about matters of vital importance in the twenty-first century. Through lectures and panel discussions by faculty experts and industry leaders, WSU explores a variety of topics and inspires new visions for a vibrant future.

Register online for “Science in Your Glass” at http://bit.ly/scienceinyourglass. Learn more about WSU’s world-class wine science program at http://wine.wsu.edu.

-Brian Clark

Filed under Voice of the Vine
No Comments

WSU’s On Solid Ground – Biofuels, Stink Bug, Food System – March 27, 2013

Posted March 27, 2013

Beyond Biofuel: Expanding the Possibilities from Algae Extraction

Shulin Chin is working on a way to get more bang for your algae buck.

Shulin Chin is working on a way to get more bang for your algae buck.

The potential value of an industry based on extracting fuel from algae could be even greater than expected by adding dietary supplements such as DHA and lutein to its list of products. Shulin Chen, professor in the WSU Department of Biological Systems Engineering, presented this innovative idea in a successful application for a Grand Challenges Explorations grant funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation proposing sources of low-cost micronutrients for infants in developing countries.

Working from the discovery that molecules of algal oil closely resemble oils of energy-dense fossil fuel, Chen is researching ways to create motor vehicle fuel from algae. As with many groundbreaking technologies, economic feasibility can be a barrier to large-scale implementation.

“DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, is often extracted from fish and sold at a considerable cost as a health supplement,” said Chen. But fish don’t produce DHA; they absorb it from algae that they feed on.

DHA is a primary component of the human brain, skin, and eye. A deficiency in DHA can result in low birth weight and is implicated in heart ailments. “Many areas in India have low birth weight,” said Chen. “DHA supplements can help.”

Lutein, another compound found in algae and plants, is concentrated in the macula of the eye, and studies suggest it serves a protective role. BCC Research, a market forecasting organization, predicts the annual growth rate of the lutein market at 3.6 percent through 2018.

Ensuring the Practicality of a Novel Biofuel Resource

And up through the beaker came a bubbling, nutritious crude...

And up through the beaker came a bubbling, nutritious crude…

“By extracting DHA and other high-value co-products from algae, biofuel plants can generate more income and become economically competitive,” said Chen. “But first we need to find efficient, environmentally benign extraction techniques.” Currently known extraction processes involve hydrocarbon solvents, which are not favorable for health supplements, and supercritical carbon dioxide, which is prohibitively expensive. “We are looking at some possibilities for low-cost extraction techniques, and are generating preliminary data on the processes,” he said.

Chen’s confidence that reliance on biofuel from algae will eventually be a reality is also supported by promising findings about the aquatic organism’s minimal cultivation requirements. Farmers can convert non-arable land to algae production, so food crops do not need to be displaced fuel. In addition, algae have higher growth rates than plants, offering superior production efficiencies. And the remarkable biomass can grow in water that is not suitable for human consumption.

For more information on Chen’s bioprocessing and bioproducts engineering research, see http://bit.ly/wsuchen.

-Bob Hoffmann

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Continues to Spread

A couple features clearly distinguish Brown Marmorated Stink Bug from other, native species. 1: Last two antennal segments have white bands. 2: Shoulders (edges of thorax) are smooth.

A couple features clearly distinguish Brown Marmorated Stink Bug from other, native species. 1: Last two antennal segments have white bands. 2: Shoulders (edges of thorax) are smooth.

Stowing away in packaging and transported by ships, trucks, RVs, and other vehicles, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is moving into Washington. The pest, a native of Asia that causes severe crop damage, was first spotted in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in the mid-1990s. The bug has since spread to most of the other 48 states. The pest established itself in the Vancouver, Washington area in 2010–“with pretty good-sized populations,” according to Jay Brunner, a WSU entomologist and director of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee.

Brunner said that native stink bugs, while occasionally a problem for agriculture, are localized and don’t reproduce in orchards. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) does reproduce in orchards, so both immature and adult individuals can be present at any time.

BMSB feeds on a wide range of crops, Brunner said. In addition to tree fruit, it’ll feed on grapes, corn, soybeans, and many other agricultural crops and ornamental plants. Tree fruit and other producers in the eastern U.S. experienced severe crop damage from BMSB in 2010, Brunner said.

In response, a nationwide team of scientists and Extension professionals, including from WSU and neighboring states, has been working to combat the pest. “The team is focused on a spectrum of issues,” Brunner said. “Researchers are looking at the insect’s basic biology, as well as developing attractants, monitoring systems, and determining what pesticides work and aren’t so harsh that they eleiminate existing biocontrol systems.”

Biocontrols – or using good bugs to prey upon pest species – is a major component of the suite of pest management tools used in Washington fields and orchards. “Chemicals that we know can control BMSB are broad-spectrum toxicants that severely suppress natural enemies of pests,” Brunner said. Using these chemicals would mean drastic changes to existing–and highly successful–pest management programs.

“We can hope that [Brown Marmorated Stink Bug] doesn’t adapt to the arid climate of eastern Washington,” Brunner said. But two stink bugs were found in the Yakima area in 2012, so it is clearly moving or being brought into the area. “Riparian areas along the Yakima River will most certainly be good habitats for the BMSB,” he added.

Brunner urges people to learn to identify BMSB and to distinguish it from, native stink bugs. “We’ve trained Master Gardener volunteers to identify this insect, so when people find it in homes and gardens, it’ll help us track its movement,” he said.

Learn more about BMSB, including a quick guide to its identification and what is being done to control its spread, at http://www.stopbmsb.org/.

–Brian Clark

Concern for Future Food Informs WSU Grad Student’s Trip to Nation’s Capital

Megan Waldrop in the lab. Photo by Angela Lenssen/Washington State University.

Megan Waldrop in the lab. Photo by Angela Lenssen/Washington State University.

When she saw an email announcing a chance to win a travel grant that would take her to the US Department of Agriculture’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program, WSU food science graduate student Megan Waldrop thought, “It’s a long shot… but what the heck.”

To win, she had to write a short essay on what she considered the greatest challenge facing agriculture. Waldrop said she’d just finished a 20-page paper on sustainable agriculture—could she adapt an idea from that paper and whittle it down to a mere 500 words? Focusing on climate change, she wrote a succinct essay, then gathered the other materials required to be considered for the grant, including a letter of recommendation from the dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS).

When the USDA announced the winners, Waldrop said, “I was very surprised–pleasantly surprised–to find out that I had won. I never get these things!”

Waldrop traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Forum and tour the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service headquarters in Arlington. “The forum seemed like a great chance to learn more about food policy,” she said. “I’m really interested in food security, sustainability, and the connections between health and access to food.”

The forum is two intense days of discussions about those and other issues, including the challenges facing a food system that needs to feed an ever-burgeoning population.

Waldrop has the educational background to both benefit from, and contribute to, the forum. She took her undergraduate degree in economics at U.C. Berkeley. At WSU, she is working on a master’s degree in food science, focusing on sensory aspects of sweeteners.

“We use an ‘electronic tongue’–a tool that has digital taste sensors that lets us profile different tastes presented in a solution.”

Waldrop’s background also includes a stint at the Culinary Institute of America, at both the Hyde Park, New York, and Napa, Calif. campuses, and work in the restaurant industry as a pastry chef. “I love food,” she said; “maybe too much!”

This scholar is also hungry for further education. Waldrop plans to continue at WSU in a doctoral program in economics. “I’m still figuring out my future goals, but I’m looking at the USDA’s Economic Research Service as a possible career avenue.” There, she’d be able to pursue her interest in policy decisions backed with sound, science-based information.

As for the challenge to agriculture, Waldrop said that climate change is “all encompassing. It was hard to pick one topic to focus on in that short essay, but climate seemed like a good focal point for addressing a lot of issues.”

Focus is good. As the dean of CAHNRS wrote in his letter of recommendation for Waldrop, “She’s like a rocket looking for direction. Megan is going to make a significant impact whatever she chooses to do.”

–Brian Clark

WSU’s Green Times – Sustainable Fertilizer, Rain Gardens, Biodegradable Mulch, Enviro Education – March 21, 2013

Posted March 21, 2013

Comprehensive Effort to Create Sustainable Fertilizers

Phosphorus recycled from human and animal waste for plant fertilizer could ease demand for the dwindling, increasingly expensive rock-mined element. Scientists at WSU have found plants flourish with struvite, a waste ingredient composed of magnesium, nitrogen, and phosphorous. Teamed with Multiform Harvest, a Seattle phosphorous recovery company, the researchers are fine-tuning the application and proportion of essential components in the fertilizer with the goal of marketing a product and ultimately adding security to the world’s food supply.

Adding fertilizers to marigolds and peppers in the greenhouse.

Adding fertilizers to marigolds and peppers in the greenhouse.

“You can’t continue mining a finite resource forever,” said Rita Hummel, a scientist at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center. “But as long as we can reclaim struvite from animal manure and sewage, we have a sustainable resource. We’re figuring out how to use it effectively and safely.”

Local Benefits

Hummel is using Multiform Harvest struvite from wastewater treatment plants at Yakima, Washington, and Boise, Idaho. She and her fellow researchers hope to include struvite extracted from manure from area dairy farms to develop regional nutrient recycling.

“When you feed a cow, about 20 to 25 percent of the phosphorus the cow eats ends up in the milk carton,” said Joe Harrison, Hummel’s scientist colleague at WSU. “That means about 75 to 80 percent ends up in the manure.”

Marigold from early experiments with (l-r) no phosphorus, struvite, and triple superphosphate.

Marigold from early experiments with (l-r) no phosphorus, struvite, and triple superphosphate.

Hummel is using Multiform Harvest struvite from wastewater treatment plants at Yakima, Washington, and Boise, Idaho. She and her fellow researchers hope to include struvite extracted from manure from area dairy farms to develop regional nutrient recycling. “When you feed a cow, about 20 to 25 percent of the phosphorus the cow eats ends up in the milk carton,” said Joe Harrison, Hummel’s scientist colleague at WSU. “That means about 75 to 80 percent ends up in the manure.”

Not only could reclaiming struvite from waste localize production and distribution, it could also help mitigate water pollution problems such as overloading phosphorus in agricultural soils. “The research being performed at WSU is central to us generating the hard data we must have to get this recycled phosphorus into the agricultural market, from large fields to specialized greenhouses and nurseries,” said Kevin Fullerton, product developer for Multiform Harvest.

Encouraging Results

Tomato from early experiments with (l-r) no phosphorus, struvite, and triple superphosphate.

Tomato from early experiments with (l-r) no phosphorus, struvite, and triple superphosphate.

In previous greenhouse crop studies, Hummel discovered struvite had a similar effect on plants as the commercial phosphorus source, triple superphosphate. Crops like basil, cucumber, marigold, and tomato barely sprouted without phosphorus, but flourished with struvite from King County municipal wastewater.

With support from a USDA small business innovation research grant, Hummel will experiment with different rates and ways of applying the struvite–adding it to the potting mix, sprinkling it on the surface, and placing it beneath the plant–to determine the rate at which it is released.

“One of the things we need here in western Washington is a slow-release product so it doesn’t leach out the bottom of pots and run down drains and into streams, rivers, and the Puget Sound,” Hummel explained.

Reliable Recycling

Most phosphorus in the United States comes from Florida, but this production could decline sharply in the next 30 years, Fullerton said. Current practices indicate such a loss would lead to dependence on the other known stockpiles in Morocco, China, South Africa, and Jordan.

“If we can take a waste disposal problem and turn it into a fertilizer that actually replaces something we have to mine and are running out of-–that’s sustainability,” Hummel said.

-Rachel Webber

Rain Garden Mentors Help Put a ‘LID’ on Stormwater Runoff

Stormwater runoff is the number one cause of pollution in Puget Sound – it’s not good for fish and wildlife and it’s not good for people. Every time it rains, polluted runoff washes into streams and rivers and, ultimately, the Sound.

Thanks to the inaugural graduating class of WSU Rain Garden Mentors, homeowners in Clallam County will soon have more options for protecting Peninsula creeks, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Puget Sound from stormwater pollution. Rain Garden Mentors will begin reaching out to Clallam County homeowners starting in May.

Rain gardens are beautiful landscape features that mimic natural processes to help filter and slow stormwater that flows off roofs, driveways, patios, and landscapes before it enters Puget Sound. Planted with native plants and flowers, rain gardens also attract birds, butterflies, and wildlife. Rain gardens are part of a suite of techniques for managing stormwater runoff called low-impact development (LID).

Matches Made in Rain Garden Heaven

The City of Port Angeles encourages homeowners to install rain gardens and other stormwater filtration systems and even discounts part of their utility bill for doing so. WSU Rain Garden Mentors provide rain garden installation and planting advice while the City of Port Angeles provides incentives and engineering expertise.

A newly planted and established rain garden, in Puyallup, WA. Photos courtesy Rain Dog Designs, LLC.

A newly planted and established rain garden, in Puyallup, WA. Photos courtesy Rain Dog Designs, LLC.

Jonathan Boehme, a City of Port Angeles Stormwater Engineer, is enthusiastic about the partnership with WSU. “We’re just on the beginning of the LID wave,” Boehme said. “This summer we have a proposed rain-garden rebate program that would provide a $250-$500 rebate for the cost materials.” According to Boehme, Port Angeles has plenty of existing infrastructure (homes and buildings) and not a lot of new development where LID techniques can be implemented. Getting existing homeowners excited about installing rain gardens is where the opportunity for real impact lies. “Rain Garden Mentors are going to be a great resource for the community. We’re excited to work with them to help roll out our LID programs in the city,” Boehme said.

Master Gardener Program Coordinator, Laurel Moulton, is excited about the win-win nature of the program. “With the extreme budget cuts we’ve had, this program has potential to fill gaps and help the city, the county, and the Clallam Conservation District address this serious water pollution problem,” she said.

With Rain Garden Mentors providing education, Clallam County is prepared to consider rain gardens as an alternative to downspout drywells (underground pits filled with gravel) which are standard for new construction in the county. County engineer Ross Tyler is also hopeful about the program. “Rain gardens are much more efficient in terms of mitigating both the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff.”

Hands-on Design and Build

The WSU Rain Garden Mentor Program teaches Master Gardeners volunteers how to assess a potential garden site and design a rain garden. Trainees gain hands-on experience while installing rain gardens, and they learn about incentive and grant programs which they then help homeowners access.

Rain Garden Mentor volunteer, Doug Ridgeway, is a retired California flood control construction manager who had never considered anything like a rain garden before. “I now see them as a very effective way of dealing with stormwater,” Ridgeway said. He also sees rain garden construction as an economic opportunity for small contractors and is happy sharing his knowledge of rain gardens with people in Clallam County.

12,000 Rain Gardens

The WSU Extension Rain Garden Mentor program in Clallam County is part of the 12,000 Rain Gardens Campaign which aims to install 12,000 rain gardens in 12 counties surrounding Puget Sound by 2016–a charge headed up by WSU Extension and the nonprofit Stewardship Partners.

WSU Master Gardeners have long emphasized water quality protection through gardening practices like reducing pesticide and fertilizer use, composting, mulching, and using groundcovers to reduce erosion. Now homeowners in western Washington communities have another tool to help them garden as an act of stewardship.

The WSU Rain Garden Mentor program in Clallam County is the result of a unique partnership between WSU Extension, the Clallam Conservation District, the City of Port Angeles, and Clallam County. Learn more at www.raingarden.wsu.eduor contact Laurel Moulton at lmoulton@co.clallam.wa.us.

-Sylvia Kantor

Alternatives to Polyethylene Plastic Mulch Explored in New WSU Extension Publication

“Using Biodegradable Plastics as Agricultural Mulches”

“Using Biodegradable Plastics as Agricultural Mulches”

Widely used for crop production worldwide, polyethylene plastic mulch controls weeds, conserves soil moisture, increases soil temperature, increases crop yield and quality, has a relatively low cost, and is readily available.

But the use of polyethylene mulch raises many concerns. Polyethylene mulch is manufactured from non-renewable, petroleum-based feedstock, is neither biodegradable nor recyclable, and typically has an operational life of only one growing season before it gets thrown away. In 2004 alone, 143,000 tons of plastic mulch was thrown away in the U.S., either in landfills or burned on site. This amount of plastic mulch, typically measuring four feet wide and 1 mil thick, would wrap around the earth over 100 times.

Biodegradable plastic products are more desirable because they can reduce non-recyclable waste, conserve resources, and decrease environmental pollution. In agriculture, biodegradable plastic mulches offer an alternative to polyethylene mulch production and disposal.

Organic farmers in the U.S. are not able to use currently available biodegradable plastic mulch products because they do not conform to current NOP standards. Currently, certified organic farmers are allowed to use polyethylene mulch if it is removed at the end of the growing season. To some people, such use represents a contradiction between the resource conservation goals of sustainable, organic agriculture, and the waste generated from the use of polyethylene mulch.

“Using Biodegradable Plastics as Agricultural Mulches” explains how biodegradable plastic mulches are made, what constitutes biodegradability, and the advantages and disadvantages of plastic mulch in general. This WSU Extension publication is also useful in informing the conversation between agricultural professionals, farmers, and policy makers about the current research on biodegradable plastic mulches for agricultural uses.

“Using Biodegradable Plastics as Agricultural Mulches” is available as a free PDF download at http://bit.ly/biodmulch.

Teaching the Teachers: Environmental Education Is Focus of March 30 Workshop

Washington State University Extension will offer Project Learning Tree Training for teachers and informal educators 9:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., March 30, at the Snohomish County Extension office, 600 128th St. SE, Everett.

The workshop will use the acclaimed Project Learning Tree curriculum to give participants access to hundreds of simple activities for integrating environmental education into a classroom, club, or after-school program. Activities address Washington’s four Essential Academic Learning Requirements for science, with an emphasis on experiential learning and getting kids outside to explore science and nature.

The training costs $45, and includes the Project Learning Tree Environmental Education Activity Guide, lunch, and six clock hours of instruction. Registration information is available at http://bit.ly/156vXpW or 425-357-6023. Information on a second workshop, to be offered May 18, is available at 425-357-6023.

Filed under Green Times
No Comments

WSU’s On Solid Ground – Struvite, Cattle Fertility, New Apple – March 13, 2013

Posted March 13, 2013

Comprehensive Effort to Create Sustainable Fertilizers

Adding fertilizers to marigolds and peppers in the greenhouse.

Adding fertilizers to marigolds and peppers in the greenhouse.

Phosphorus recycled from human and animal waste for plant fertilizer could ease demand for the dwindling, increasingly expensive rock-mined element. Scientists at WSU have found plants flourish with struvite, a waste ingredient composed of magnesium, nitrogen, and phosphorous. Teamed with Multiform Harvest, a Seattle phosphorous recovery company, the researchers are fine-tuning the application and proportion of essential components in the fertilizer with the goal of marketing a product and ultimately adding security to the world’s food supply.

“You can’t continue mining a finite resource forever,” said Rita Hummel, a scientist at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center. “But as long as we can reclaim struvite from animal manure and sewage, we have a sustainable resource. We’re figuring out how to use it effectively and safely.”

Local Benefits

Hummel is using Multiform Harvest struvite from wastewater treatment plants at Yakima, Washington, and Boise, Idaho. She and her fellow researchers hope to include struvite extracted from manure from area dairy farms to develop regional nutrient recycling.

“When you feed a cow, about 20 to 25 percent of the phosphorus the cow eats ends up in the milk carton,” said Joe Harrison, Hummel’s scientist colleague at WSU. “That means about 75 to 80 percent ends up in the manure.”

Tomato (top) and marigold from early experiments with (l-r) no phosphorus, struvite, and triple superphosphate.

Tomato (top) and marigold from early experiments with (l-r) no phosphorus, struvite, and triple superphosphate.

Not only could reclaiming struvite from waste localize production and distribution, it could also help mitigate water pollution problems such as overloading phosphorus in agricultural soils. “The research being performed at WSU is central to us generating the hard data we must have to get this recycled phosphorus into the agricultural market, from large fields to specialized greenhouses and nurseries,” said Kevin Fullerton, product developer for Multiform Harvest.

Encouraging Results

In previous greenhouse crop studies, Hummel discovered struvite had a similar effect on plants as the commercial phosphorus source, triple superphosphate. Crops like basil, cucumber, marigold, and tomato barely sprouted without phosphorus, but flourished with struvite from King County municipal wastewater.

With support from a USDA small business innovation research grant, Hummel will experiment with different rates and ways of applying the struvite–adding it to the potting mix, sprinkling it on the surface, and placing it beneath the plant–to determine the rate at which it is released.

“One of the things we need here in western Washington is a slow-release product so it doesn’t leach out the bottom of pots and run down drains and into streams, rivers, and the Puget Sound,” Hummel explained.

Reliable Recycling

Most phosphorus in the United States comes from Florida, but this production could decline sharply in the next 30 years, Fullerton said. Current practices indicate such a loss would lead to dependence on the other known stockpiles in Morocco, China, South Africa, and Jordan.

“If we can take a waste disposal problem and turn it into a fertilizer that actually replaces something we have to mine and are running out of-–that’s sustainability,” Hummel said.

-Rachel Webber

Collaborative Management of Thrips-Caused Crop Losses

Thrips may be tiny, but the insects cause billions of dollars in damage to crops each year, which is why WSU scientists are taking part in a five-year, $3.75 million project to study the pests’ role in virus transmission and ways the resulting losses can be stopped.

Up close and personal: Thrips are typically 1 mm long (about the width of a sharpened pencil lead!) and have fringed wings.

Up close and personal: Thrips are typically 1 mm long (about the width of a sharpened pencil lead!) and have fringed wings.

The multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary research team is generating new knowledge on thrips-transmitted tospoviruses–infectious agents that cause a variety of crops to wilt and eventually die. Tospoviruses also lower the quality of fruits and vegetables produced by their infected plants, said Naidu Rayapati, a researcher at the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser and a co-principal investigator on the USDA grant.

“We are looking at the epidemiology of diseases caused by tospoviruses, especially the role of vectors (carriers) in the spread of these viruses at the fundamental level,” Rayapati said. “We want to know how these viruses spread and contribute to the evolution of new strains. For example, can a single insect acquire and transmit two viruses to the same plant simultaneously?”

The project will focus on areas in California and the southeastern United States where thrips damage is most severe. The collaboration includes entomologists, plant pathologists, molecular breeders, and extension faculty from UC Davis, Kansas State University, North Carolina State University, Cornell University, the University of Georgia, and the USDA Horticultural Research Laboratory. Rayapati said the team is also interested in understanding how management techniques applied in one region might work in another.

“As a team, we are bringing different expertise to bear on a common problem,” Rayapati said. “We hope to generate appropriate knowledge of thrips and tospoviruses and come up with improved strategies that can really help provide management of thrips-transmitted tospoviruses to multiple crops in different regions.”

Maximized Scope

Rayapati said he is also actively recruiting students, with an emphasis on those from minority communities in the Yakima valley, to begin work on the project for summer and fall 2013. “This project has an extension component in terms of working with the stakeholders to convey science-based information for practical applications, but we are also focusing on training the next generation of scientists,” he said.

Learn more about Naidu Rayapati’s research by visiting http://bit.ly/aR2rfU.

-Rachel Webber

Improving Dairy Cattle Fertility

WSU’s Neibergs, left, and Spencer.

WSU’s Neibergs, left, and Spencer.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture has invested $3 million to help address cattle infertility, which is one of the biggest barriers to global competitiveness for American dairy farmers. The five-year grant, announced this week, includes scientists from WSU, the University of Idaho, and the University of Florida working on research, outreach, and teaching components.

Tom Spencer, who holds the Baxter Endowed Chair in Beef Cattle Research in the Department of Animal Sciences at WSU, explained that the conception rate in an average herd of dairy cows has dropped from 50 percent in the 1980s to 35 percent today. “In general, there has been a 1 percent per year decline in fertility,” he said. An infertile animal has to be culled from the herd, leaving the producer with the expense of supporting the animal until infertility is confirmed, as well as the cost of replacing the animal.

Early Detection

“Fertility is a complex polygenic trait, so it is harder to select for than other traits,” Spencer said. “If we can identify and isolate the multiple genes responsible for fertility, we may be able to tell earlier what cows are going to be fertile-–maybe as early as at birth.” He and WSU animal scientist Holly Neibergs plan to work with UI Extension Dairy Specialist Joseph Dalton to collect blood samples from Northwest cows for DNA analysis.

The goal of the project is to increase the sustainability, profitability, and international competitiveness of the US dairy industry, Spencer said.

“Our hypothesis is that dairy cow fertility can be increased through genetic selection for maternal fertility in heifers and cows and the use of sires with high daughter pregnancy rates,” he said.

Read the rest of this story by Kathy Barnard on the WSU News website.

Licensee Needed to Commercialize New Apple

wa38WSU has just released ‘WA 38,’ an eye-catching new apple cultivar with with a remarkably firm, crisp, and juicy texture that also stores well. The large, dark red apple has outstanding eating quality, exceptional flavor, ample sweetness, and sufficient tartness to impart distinct character.

“Our feeling is that when it comes to the combination of taste, texture, and beauty, WA 38 has no equal in today’s marketplace,” said WSU apple breeder Kate Evans. A trademark is under development.

The WSU Research Foundation, the licensing arm of WSU and assigned owner of WA 38, desires to find, through an announcement of opportunity, an exclusive licensee to manage commercialization of the apple. This would involve contracting tree propagation to nurseries, sublicensing to growers, managing the trademark, and collecting royalties.

Qualified applicants, which includes individuals, individual companies, groups of companies, cooperatives, groups of individuals, and/or companies banded together under a cooperative arrangement, can download a copy of the announcement from http://treefruit.wsu.edu/research/ and email Tom Kelly at kellytj@wsu.edu with any questions.

-Brian Clark

Licensee Sought to Commercialize New Apple Variety from WSU

Posted March 11, 2013

WENATCHEE, Wash. – Washington State University has released a new apple cultivar, “WA 38,” an eye-catching, large, dark red apple with a remarkably firm, crisp and juicy texture that also stores well. The apple has outstanding eating quality, exceptional flavor, ample sweetness and sufficient tartness to impart real character. Read more »

Science of wine is topic of WSU Innovator lecture April 4 in Seattle

Posted March 4, 2013

SEATTLE – What role does science play in the quality of wine? Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the Washington State University viticulture and enology program, explores this and other questions in “Science in Your Glass,” the WSU Innovators luncheon, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle. Read more »

« Older Posts

Contact Brian Clark

Assistant Director,
Marketing, News, and Educational Communications

Hulbert 221C
Phone: 509-335-6967
Email: brian.clark@wsu.edu

College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, PO Box 646228, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6228, 509-335-2844, Contact Us
© 2014 Washington State University | Accessibility | Policies | Copyright | Log in