On Solid Ground – Jan. 9, 2013 – Premium Beef, Disease Resistance

WSU Offers Commercial Premium Beef

Tom Cummings oversees WSU cattle operations, including its launch of premium beef. Photo: Linda Weiford, WSU News.
Tom Cummings oversees WSU cattle operations, including its launch of premium beef. Photo: Linda Weiford, WSU News.

WSU has launched its own beef brand for sale to the public. Harvested from cattle locally born, raised and “respectfully cared for” by staff and animal-science students, WSU Premium Beef is healthy and flavorful, according to cattle operations manager Tom Cummings. “We give our cattle lots of attention,” he said. “Not only that, but it’s a local food system. Consumers know where the beef comes from and that’s important to a lot of people these days.”

Two kinds of beef are for sale: Angus choice, which at roughly $5 a pound is “comparable to what you’d get in a high-end restaurant,” Cummings said, and Wagyu (pronounced “wah-gyou”), which is famously known as beef so tender you can cut it with a fork. The Wagyu runs about $9 a pound. If that seems pricey, consider that sensory fireworks go off with each bite, said Jamie Callison, an executive chef and instructor with WSU’s School of Hospitality Business Management.

“Believe me, it’s worth every penny,” Callison said. The chef often prepares WSU Premium Wagyu Beef for the Feast of the Arts fall dinner series. “It’s rich and has a melt-in-your-mouth quality. There’s nothing else like it.”

Callison also likes to fix a pot roast with either Angus or Wagyu beef because it is especially well received. What’s more, “you don’t need a shelf full of ingredients to make it,” he said. Download a PDF of the recipe from http://bit.ly/wagyu-recipe.

WSU Premium Beef is available in whole, half, and quarter sizes, as well as in boxed cuts. To order, contact Tom Cummings at 509-335-2280 or tmcummings@wsu.edu.

Check out a short video at http://bit.ly/Uw14qu about cooking with the beef offered by WSU. Learn about the history of WSU Wagyu beef at http://bit.ly/VD0qZo. Learn more about livestock agriculture at WSU by visiting the Department of Animal Sciences website at http://bit.ly/13dWXVu.

–Linda Weiford

Why Aren’t Plants Sick More than They Are?

New Research Offers Insight on Molecular Signaling of Non-host Resistance Mechanism

Lee Hadwiger in a greenhouse with pea plants. Photo by Brian Clark/Washington State University.
Lee Hadwiger in a greenhouse with pea plants. Photo by Brian Clark/Washington State University.

Why are plants immune to most of the diseases surrounding them in the environment? That’s a question Lee Hadwiger, WSU professor of plant pathology, has been wrestling with for most of his 47 years at the university.

Called non-host resistance (NHR), the mysterious trait gives plants their most robust and durable immunity to the myriad pathogens challenging them. If NHR weren’t a commonplace in nature, plants would be constantly attacked by fungi, bacteria and other pathogens swarming in air, soil and bodies. But, for the most part, plants are immune to those challenges.

In a paper published in the January issue of the peer-reviewed journal Phytopathology, Hadwiger and his colleague, USDA Agricultural Research Service plant pathologist James Polashock, offer new insight into the mechanism triggering the NHR response in plants. “Innate immunity has to be triggered by something,” Hadwiger said, “but we are only now gaining some insight on how signaling occurs at the molecular level.”

Hadwiger and Polashock show that fungal DNase enzymes trigger the NHR response in a variety of plant species. They further theorize that these fungal DNase genes appear to provide an unlimited source of components for developing transgenic resistance in all transformable plants. DNase is generic term for a wide variety of enzymes that catalyze changes in DNA molecules. Hadwiger explained that DNases from fungal mitochondria have a small peptide molecule that enables them to move through plant cell membranes and thus induce expression of NHR in the plant. Hadwiger and Polashock demonstrated that when a plant encounters a fungal DNase purified in the lab, the NHR response is triggered.

Hadwiger and Polashock used baker’s yeast, a relatively innocuous fungus not known to cause disease, to trigger the NHR response in pea. Hadwiger and students in his laboratory had previously induced this defense response by transferring a fungal DNase gene to tobacco. The tobacco plants then expressed the NHR response to a known tobacco pathogen.

“The potential positive impact of this for agriculture would be a reduction in the use of fungicides,” Hadwiger said. Currently, disease resistance genes are typically introduced in commercially important plants through conventional breeding techniques. But, Hadwiger said, conventional breeding targets races of specific diseases and the introduced immunity may last only about seven years before the fungus evolves and overcomes the plant’s resistance.

“The natural NHR resistance would be preferable,” Hadwiger said. Towards that end, Hadwiger said he will remain vigilant about how best to transfer this natural process to plants that succumb to their specific diseases. He is optimistic that non-genetic engineering techniques may be devised to enhance the activity of the DNases transferred in the fungal-plant interactions.

Learn more about research in the WSU Department of Plant Pathology on their website at http://bit.ly/16C6yU.

–Brian Clark