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Biofuels, Seeds, Vogel

Posted by | September 5, 2007

Seeds of Partnership

The popularity and convenience of pre-washed bagged salad greens has made their production a $3 billion a year industry. It has also posed challenges for those who grow the seeds for salad greens, a significant industry in western Washington. The state is a leading producer nationally of spinach seed as well as other vegetable seed crops.

“The farmers who grow spinach for bagged salads prefer a strain that is short, which is harder to manage as a seed stock,” said Kirby Johnson, president of the Puget Seed Growers Association. “On the other hand, they’re willing to pay a premium price for the seed.”

“The growers are planting spinach and other greens on a much more intensive level, planting as much as five to 10 times more seed per acre than traditional spinach,” said Lindsey du Toit, WSU vegetable seed plant pathologist. “It’s also a more short-term crop that is harvested within 30 to 40 days after planting. Then another crop is planted, so that’s driving up seed demand.”

Johnson and du Toit will be discussing the connection between WSU research and the state’s vegetable seed production at the “WSU at Benaroya Hall: In Concert with Communities” event as part of WSU Week in Seattle.

According to Johnson, controlling weeds and plant diseases are the two biggest challenges for the state’s vegetable seed growers. He credits du Toit with solving a problem that was particularly vexing for the state’s spinach seed growers.

“We were spending a lot of money treating for a fungus that we thought was Cladosporium and not getting results,” Johnson said. “Lindsey determined that it was a different fungus, Stemphylium. It’s more expensive to treat but at least the treatment is effective. She’s absolutely the best we’ve ever had.”

For more information about “WSU at Benaroya Hall,” please visit: http://www.onsolidground.wsu.edu/benaroya.html

For a longer version of this article, please visit WSU Agriculture: http://cahnrs.wsu.edu/ag/archives/2007/seeds-2007-09.html

Lindsey du Toit, WSU vegetable seed plant pathologist.


Poplar Grant Fuels Partnership

WSU researcher Jon Johnson, a poplar physiologist based at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, has won a $583,000 grant to assess poplar wood as a feedstock for the production of ethanol.

Johnson is partnering with GreenWood Resources, a hybrid poplar company headquartered in Portland, Ore., with plantings throughout the western U.S., Chile and China, and with ZeaChem, which has developed and patented a conversion process for ethanol production.

The challenge Johnson and his collaborators face is in assessing the quality of the feedstock from the ethanol-producers perspective.

“The problem with most studies is that they investigate either the production side or the conversion side of the process. What we’re doing is bringing those two aspects together,” Johnson said. “There’s an attitude of ‘if we grow it, they will come,’ without much thought about the end-user, the ethanol producer, and if the feedstock is really optimal for ethanol production.”

For more information, please visit WSU Agriculture: http://cahnrs.wsu.edu/ag/archives/2007/johnson-poplar-2007-09.html

A hybrid poplar in one of Jon Johnson’s test plots.


Vogel Plant Bioscience Building To Be Dedicated

WSU’s plant biosciences building officially will be named the Orville A. Vogel Plant Biosciences Building at a public ceremony scheduled for 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 15, inside the northwest entrance.

Vogel served as a USDA Agricultural Research Service scientist and a WSU faculty member from 1931 to 1972. He and his wheat breeding team developed the first commercial semi-dwarf wheat varieties and complementary production systems in the Pacific Northwest. His work with dwarf wheat varieties is widely recognized for laying the foundation for the Green Revolution in developing countries.

In 1973, on the occasion of Vogel’s retirement, Norman Borlaug, who three years earlier had received the Nobel Peace Prize as father of the Green Revolution, said that Vogel’s contribution to world wheat research “changed our entire concept of wheat yield potentials.” Vogel was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1975 by President Gerald R. Ford for his lifetime of work. Vogel died in 1991.

The Vogel Plant Biosciences Building is located at the intersection of Wilson Road and Stadium Way.

Orville A. Vogel developed the first commercial semi-dwarf wheat varieties.