Cherries, Families and Anaerobic Digestion

It’s a Fact

Washington is the nation’s leading producer of sweet cherries. The crop returned about $169 million to the state’s 2,400 growers in 2003.

On Solid Ground is a weekly, electronic newsletter for the friends and stakeholders of the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), WSU Extension and the WSU Agricultural Research Center.

Family Meals Still on the Decline

Despite scientific evidence that families eat more nutritiously and children are less prone to high-risk behaviors when families eat together regularly, family meals continue to decline, according to registered dietitian Martha Marino of the Nutrition Education Network of Washington. The Nutrition Education Network is an alliance of public and private organizations coordinated through Washington State University Extension. “The increasing demands on our time pose a real challenge to families having regular meals together,” said Sue Butkus, a nutrition specialist at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center. “Between work schedules, soccer and band practices for the kids, video games and the Internet, family meals together tend to get squeezed out.” A national survey found that children who regularly eat with their families have fewer behavior problems in school. They also are less likely to get involved in drugs, alcohol and early sexual behavior.

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Anaerobic Digestion: Turning manure into marketable bioproducts

Shulin Chen, acting director of the WSU Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy and professor of biological systems engineering, is conducting research to optimize anaerobic digester design for converting animal manure into marketable bioproducts. He has found that manure can be transformed into three high-value products: methane, which could supply 40 percent of the region’s residential electrical energy; a fibrous, organic material that is a perfect soil conditioner for nursery plantings and home gardening; and a crystallized solid called struvite that is rich in nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus.

Anaerobic digestion is a natural, biological conversion process proven to be effective at converting wet organic wastes into biogas. That gas can be used to produce clean, renewable energy while also alleviating many of the environmental concerns associated with the waste, such as odor and greenhouse gas emissions. The process also helps to protect soil and water quality. The Vander Haak dairy in Whatcom County, a partnership in which WSU is involved, is operating the state’s first commercial anaerobic digester for dairy manure. The digester captures methane gas, which is then burned to generate electricity that is used by the farm, with any surplus generation being sold to the Northwest power grid.

Currently, the digester is generating about 285 kilowatts of power and processing the manure of 1,200 cattle.

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