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Premier Edition

Posted by | August 23, 2006

It’s a Fact

Washington is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States with more than 400 wineries and approximately 350 wine grape growers. It has nine major American Viticultural Areas and produces more than 20 different varietals.

First Step to Fertilizer-Free Future

B.W. (Joe) PoovaiahResearchers at Washington State University and in the United Kingdom have announced a discovery that may someday allow farmers to decrease their dependence on nitrogen fertilizers, resulting in billions in savings to farmers and a reduction in the amount of nitrogen pollution in waterways around the globe. Legumes, such as beans, peas, and alfalfa, host billions of bacteria in tiny nodules along their roots. The bacteria convert, or “fix,” atmospheric nitrogen into a form the plants can use. Non-leguminous crops such as wheat and corn don’t. They must be treated with nitrogen-rich fertilizers in order to grow and produce at peak levels. But WSU lead investigator B.W. (Joe) Poovaiah, a professor in the Department of Horticulture and the Center for Integrated Biotechnology, said their work raises the possibility of someday producing non-leguminous plants that can form symbiotic relationships with nitrogen-fixing bacteria just as legumes do. “If major field crops such as wheat and corn can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, it will help with two problems,” Poovaiah said. “You’re going to help the farmers, and help Mother Nature.” In addition, most nitrogen fertilizers are petroleum based; alternatives reduce reliance on foreign oil. While more work is needed before farm-ready applications of his work are available, Poovaiah is optimistic that it could happen within the next decade.

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Got Omega-3 Enhanced Milk?

WSU researcher Shulin Chen is developing a process to convert cull potatoes and potato waste into omega-3 enhanced milk, potentially establishing milk as an alternative source of omega-3 fatty acids for consumers. Using potato starch from the culls, Chen’s process produces algae that producers can use as a feed additive for dairy cows. Through natural processes, cows can extract the omega-3 fatty acids and excrete it in their milk, resulting in milk fortified with omega-3 fatty acids and increased nutritional characteristics. The project would help the environment by taking thousands of tons of cull potatoes from the waste stream, increase profits to both potato farmers and the dairy producers, and provide the public with enhanced milk products. Finding alternative uses for cull potatoes will increase the potential profits of growers while reducing waste. And, while omega-3 enhanced milk may not significantly increase milk sales overall, for a mid-sized dairy farm, the potential economic implications could be significant. The opportunity would exist for farms to label their milk as Omega-3 Enhanced, giving them a value added product that could significantly increase profits.

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