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Biofuels, Feed the World, Grapevine Wisdom

Posted by | January 27, 2010

Department of Energy Funds Biofuels Research

WSU scientists based in the Tri-Cities and Pullman are getting a combined $1.1 million for biofuels research from the U.S. Department of Energy.

DOE announced $80 million for biofuels projects, split between three consortia. WSU is one of several groups involved in the consortia and will receive funding as part of the two groups co-led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which is getting $14 million.

For WSU Tri-Cities, this means $620,000 of research funding as part of the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium. The work will be done by the WSU Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy team based at the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory on the Richland campus.

“This is only the start of more great things to come in the BSEL building,” said Birgitte K. Ahring, director of WSU’s Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy and Battelle Distinguished Professor. “This opportunity lays the groundwork for amazing partnerships nationwide and will help us find new ways to make fuels from non-food plants.”

The BSEL opened in May 2008 on the Richland campus. Construction of the $24.8 million facility was a partnership between WSU and Battelle, which operates PNNL for the U.S. DOE. The building allows the organizations to work together to develop solutions to some of the nation’s largest energy problems, to strengthen opportunities to move technology into industry and to provide students with a hands-on educational experience.

Faculty from the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering and the Deparment of Biological Systems Engineeering in Pullman and the Tri-Cities will contribute to the execution of these projects.

For the Pullman campus, $495,000 from the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts consortium is for algae research to be conducted in the WSU College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, under Professor David Kramer with the Institute of Biological Chemistry.

Kramer is a WSU “innovator” whose research focuses on increasing plant productivity and redirecting photosynthetic energy toward new and efficient biochemical pathways in an effort to harness bioenergy.

David Kramer

Learn more about Kramer’s research by visiting

Learn more about how Kramer is rethinking photosynthesis in this Washington State Magazine article:

How Will We Feed the World?

When four agricultural experts gathered on the WSU campus recently to talk about the state of the global food system, nearly 400 community members, students, faculty and staff crowded into Ensminger Pavilion to hear what they had to say.

The experts were brought together by the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences to wrestle with the issues facing modern agriculture. Called “Feed the World,” the event in Ensminger was part of the college’s participation in the university’s Common Reading program, “Food for Thought.” The program requires freshmen across the university to all read the same book; this year, students read Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

One of the big questions the panelists discussed was inspired by the observation that the world’s population is growing. Even if, as some experts predict, it stabilizes at roughly 9 billion, that’s a lot of mouths to feed. What, the audience wanted to know, are the obstacles and opportunities in creating a safe and abundant food supply?

photo by Brian Charles Clark

About 400 people came to hear what ag experts have to say about the future of farming.

Learn how ag industry experts responded to questions from students and members of the community by reading the rest of this article at

Read Dean Dan Bernardo’s response to “Feed the World” on his blog at

The Science of Grapevines

WSU viticulturist Markus Keller’s book is a bestseller — and it hasn’t even been published yet.

The textbook has a Feb. 12 publication date. But based on pre-orders, it is already an bestseller in the plants/physiology category.

The Science of Grapevines: Anatomy and Physiology is the only book to comprehensively explore the physiology of the grapevine as it occurs around the world,” Keller’s publisher writes.

Chateau Ste. Michelle Distinguished Professor of Viticulture, Keller has worked in the vineyards of his native Switzerland, where he also earned master’s and doctoral degrees. In addition to teaching in Switzerland, Washington, Australia and Argentina, he has conducted research in Australia and New York.

Keller is based in Washington wine country at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

“The book addresses a gap not filled by other, currently available texts, which focus on the vines of particular regions,” Keller said. “Today’s student, grower and winemaker needs to know about the scientific background in a global context while being able to apply management practices tailored to specific varieties and vineyard sites, because today’s wine industry is global and there has been a net increase in lands around the world being used for grapevine cultivation.

“We see our viticulture and enology students graduating and going to work harvest in the wine regions of South America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa — and then following the seasons to come back north and work in Europe and North America,” he said.

The Science of Grapevines by Markus Keller

For more information about “The Science of Grapevines,” visit the publisher’s website at

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