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Youth-led action to heal opioid epidemic earns Society honors for CROP+TR

SAR award group
From left, CROP+TR team members including Prevention Science doctoral student Erica Doering, Research Coordinator Kate Hampilos, Associate Professor and Co-Director Elizabeth Weybright, and doctoral student Elizabeth Purser take part in the Society for Research on Adolescence’s 2022 annual meeting. Weybright accepted the project’s 2022 Organizational Impact Award, pictured below, on behalf of CROP+TR.

Washington State University’s cross-college efforts to help rural youth and communities overcome the opioid epidemic were honored by the Society for Research on Adolescence.

Praised for its youth-led action research, provider training, and technical assistance, WSU’s Center for Rural Opioid Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery (CROP+TR) earned the Organizational Award for Excellence in Research and Programming for Youth.

Team members including co-leader Elizabeth Weybright, associate professor in the Department of Human Development, research coordinator Kate Hampilos, and doctoral students Erica Doering and Elizabeth Purser accepted the honor at the society’s annual meeting, March 4, 2022, in New Orleans.

The award recognizes significant contributions in science, policies, and programs that serve young people from diverse backgrounds. Recognition focused on the Center’s youth participatory action research project, Take-PART, in which teens in Washington’s Yakima, Spokane, and Clallam counties helped peers and community members understand the opioid crisis.

Award plaque
The 2020 Organizational Impact Award, pictured overlooking the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

Offered to youth through local 4-H programs, Take-PART—the acronym is short for Participatory Action Research with Teens—enabled young people to learn about the epidemic from first responders and experts, then inform others through fair displays, booths, podcasts, and other outreach efforts.

In collaboration with the WSU Colleges of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Medicine, researchers created Opioid 101 digital resources for teens, as well as free on-demand web training on the neurobiology of opioid misuse and addiction, aimed at adults and educators.

“It’s an honor for CROP+TR to be acknowledged for our efforts to empower youth as change-makers in their own communities, and to support those who work with youth and communities to address opioid use,” Weybright said.  “The passion, creativity, and enthusiasm teens bring make them strong advocates for local change. This work is especially important in rural communities who are disproportionately and negatively impacted.”

CROP+TR is a joint venture of the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, and WSU Extension, and is funded by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In addition to youth, CROP+TR supports organizations and individuals engaged in opioid-related work.

“Although CROP+TR was only established in 2019, they have made significant strides to promote evidence-based programming targeting historically marginalized youth in Washington State,” commented CAHNRS Interim Dean Richard T. Koenig and Floyd College Founding Dean John Tomkowiak in nomination materials. “By engaging teens as true partners in the research process, we see positive outcomes among youth, their families, and the broader community.”

Learn more about the Center’s work here.

WSU students win national landscape competition

By Carmen Chandler, CAHNRS Academic Programs

Three senior Landscape Nursery and Greenhouse Management (LNGM) students, Cora Borgens, Jamie Conner, and Khalil Al-Wazan, won first place in the Fall 2021 LandCare Case Competition.

Overhead view of landscape with different areas highlighted in different colors.
The final result of the winning proposal made by WSU students.

The competition required teams to develop creative landscape solutions for a designated client, solving the client’s priorities to maximize the allotted space while navigating the hurdles of California terrain. Teams filled over 226,000 square feet of landscape, including 80,000 square feet of turf deemed unsustainable in California’s current ongoing drought. They had to install irrigation, improve curb appeal, generate revenue, and increase the client’s return on investment to complete the competition.

After teams received the instructions, a LandCare branch manager mentored them in the process. This mentor could answer questions about the case study and give them a better understanding of what the client wanted. Mentors could only answer the team’s questions, not give opinions or suggestions on the project.

Six university teams had approximately six weeks to create a detailed written case study and a five-to-ten minute video presentation solving the client requests. Team WSU created a nine page written case study and a 29 minute video presentation, surpassing what was expected for the large-scale competition.

“You get all this thrown at you and you aren’t sure what to do with it,” Jamie said.

Meeting with their mentor gave the team more clarity. From there, they delegated the project into three sections, taking on specific tasks to return to the group and combine their ideas.

Each section had its own goal and priorities to fulfill the case requirements. Cora took her area and focused on native plants to create a habitat garden for local wildlife with an accessible sitting area. Her goal was to have a place for wildlife to live and provide entertainment for the employees that will use that area, integrating native habitats into a useful and functional space for both to enjoy.

“Human aesthetics shouldn’t come at the cost of the wildlife that already existed there,” Cora said.

Team WSU learned of their win late last year, two weeks after submitting their project. That wait led to some anxiety.

“Before that point, we firmly believed we could win this,” Khalil said.

The contest provided the students with a new perspective of what they can do with their degree.

“It opened my eyes up to different opportunities,” Jamie said. “After participating in this competition, I can definitely see myself doing landscape.”

Each student received a $1,000 scholarship for winning the competition and walked away with an experience that they will carry throughout their careers.

Fresh from WSU Extension: Freeze damage to crops; Giant hornets; flour food safety

Red cedar foliageScientists at Washington State University Extension share ideas every month through newly published guides. The latest new and revised publications help farmers, landowners, beekeepers, and food preparers improve, understand, and update their practices.

Seasonal Foliage Discoloration and Loss in Pacific Northwest Evergreen Conifer Trees (FS056E, Revised January 2022)
Colorful, falling foliage from deciduous trees is a hallmark of autumn. Some evergreens, such as western redcedar, also have foliage that turns yellow or orange and is shed in fall. Written by Extension Forestry Professor Kevin Zobrist, this publication explores the different foliage retention strategies of trees, the phenomenon of seasonal foliage loss in evergreens, and how it differs from deciduous trees, as well as other seasonal color variations in Pacific Northwest conifers that may look unhealthy but are generally harmless.

A large, dead hornet held in a human hand.
Asian giant hornets are usually about 1.5 to 2 inches in length, with an orange-yellow head and striped abdomen (Photo courtesy WSDA).

Distinguishing Asian Giant Hornet Damage to Honey Bee Colonies (FS370E)
Native to east Asia, the Asian giant hornet was found in 2019 in Washington state’s Whatcom County. The hornet is a potentially devastating predator of honey bees—while bees in the hornet’s home range have evolved a defense against the large hornets, the European honey bee relied on for pollination in the U.S. has not. Written by Postdoctoral Researcher Kelly Kulhanek and Assistant Research Professor Brandon Hopkins, this guide helps keepers identify signs of hornet attack versus other damage to colonies, such as rodents.


Wheat crown illustration
Figure 1. from the Extension guide; Image created by David Brian Fowler, University of Saskatchewan Department of Plant Sciences, Winter Wheat Production Manual.

Assessing Freeze Damage to Winter and Spring Wheat Using a Crown Viability Test (FS369E)
Factors such as available soil water, as well as soil and air temperature, have a major effect on the growth and development of wheat plants. In the drylands of eastern Washington, farmers look to snow cover in winter to provide water for the upcoming growing season and protect the vital crown—the underground growing point where the stem, tillers, and roots connect—against rapidly changing or subfreezing temperatures. Written by Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Unit Assistant Professor Dale Whaley, this guide helps wheat growers identify potential winter and spring freeze damage by using a crown viability test.

Harvesting Blueberries: A Guide to Machine Pick Blueberries for Fresh Market (FS368E)
Fresh-market blueberries are a valuable​ crop, but harvesting high-quality fruits has become challenging due to the cost and decreasing availability of hand-harvest crews. Many growers have turned to machine harvesters. Examining field establishment, planti​ng and field design, pruning and training, harvest, packing facilities, food safety, and other topics, this guide shares practices that can improve harvest efficiency and fruit quality in machine harvesting for the fresh market; authored by WSU Associate Professor Lisa DeVetter, Oregon State University Associate Professor Wei Yang, USDA Research Horticulturist Fumiomi Takeda, and University of Georgia Professor Jinru Chen.

There Are Dangers Lurking in Your Flour (PNW717)
Recent flour recalls highlight how raw flour can cause serious foodborne illness, and should not be treated as a safe product, especially for young children or others at risk. This publication outlines the risks of flour-based crafts and shares steps you can take to keep people safe. Authors include Statewide Consumer Food Safety Specialist Stephanie Smith and WSU Youth and Families Program Research Intern Rachael Beck.

Find all recently published guides on the WSU Extension bookstore.

Grant supports affordable testing to fight Little Cherry Disease

Washington State University will help Washington cherry growers test more trees for the damaging Little Cherry Disease thanks to a Washington State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant received by the Washington State Tree Fruit Association.

Tree branches bearing large numbers of small, red as well as pale cherries.
Cherry trees infected with Little Cherry Disease bear small, bitter or bland fruits that often lack attractive coloring.

Named for its most distinct symptom—small, colorless fruit—what growers call ‘Little Cherry’ is a simultaneous outbreak of Little Cherry virus-2 and the X-disease phytoplasma, both of which produce similar symptoms on infected cherry trees and are difficult to tell apart, even by experts. This is more difficult because symptoms are usually noticed only a few weeks before harvest.

The pathogens are spread in orchards by small insects: the virus by mealybugs, and the phytoplasma by leafhoppers.

Tests are available for growers to learn if a tree is infected, but they can be expensive. The new three-year, $530,000 grant will help to expand testing capacity at WSU’s Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab in Pullman with more equipment and supplies. This support will reduce testing fees by approximately 50%, to $50 per test.

“Affordable and available testing is a key element of our industry’s response to Little Cherry Disease” said Jon DeVaney, WSTFA President. “Washington’s cherry growers appreciate the support of the WSDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and WSU’s Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab in this effort.”

“Active, aggressive tree removal is the best way to suppress this outbreak and prevent further spread, and testing is an essential tool to identify trees in the early stages of infection,” said Scott Harper, WSU virologist and director of the Clean Plant Center Northwest. “It will help growers make informed management decisions for their orchards.”

Harper’s lab supported the initial wave of testing in 2018-2019, and commercial labs took over testing in 2020, but few growers could afford to test every tree that they suspected might be infected.

“WSU and collaborating laboratories are working hard to provide growers with Little Cherry testing services,” said Tianna DuPont, a WSU Tree Fruit Extension Specialist. “Additional support for the WSU Plant diagnostic lab is essential to provide sustainable robust public diagnostics so growers can identify and quickly manage the multiple problems that attack their trees.”

Removing infected trees quickly is the best way to fight the disease, as there is no treatment and early removal can limit spread of the virus to nearby trees in an orchard, Harper said. Testing also helps avoid removing a tree exhibiting symptoms that look like the disease, but isn’t infected with little cherry pathogens.

WSU tree fruit scientists work closely with growers to fight diseases and support the Washington cherry industry, which produces more sweet cherries than any other state.

New from Extension: Understanding wireworms; do coffee grounds make good mulch?

Compost containing coffee grounds
Coffee grounds can be used as a component of compost piles.

The latest guides from WSU Extension help farmers manage a persistent insect pest, and also assist home gardeners in learning about useful, and less useful, mulches.

Biology and Management of Wireworms in Western Washington (FS364E)

Wireworms cause damage to a wide range of agricultural crops. With no single, simple solution, these larval pests demand a combination of cultural, mechanical, and chemical control strategies. Authored by B. Diehl, Stephen Bramwell, B.S. Gerdeman, Brook Brouwer, Travis Alexander, this publication shares information, graphics, and photos to help farmers identify, monitor, and manage wireworms.

Using Coffee Grounds in Gardens and Landscapes (FS207E)

Americans consume more than 980 million cups of coffee a day, generating a lot of coffee grounds in the process. Putting coffee grounds to use in the garden makes both economic and environmental sense, and an increasing number of people are using them directly as mulch. Speculation abounds that coffee grounds repel cats, kill slugs, prevent weeds, aerate and acidify the soil, provide nitrogen, and attract earthworms. This publication examines the science behind the use of coffee grounds in gardens and landscapes and provides recommendations for home gardeners to use coffee grounds appropriately. Part of the Home Garden Series, authored by Linda Chalker-Scott.

Dust Mulch Efficacy in Gardens and Landscapes (FS167E)

Dust mulching is a soil-water conservation practice recommended by some popular gardening books and websites for home gardeners. While dust mulching may be an effective practice for dryland agricultural production, there is little scientific support for its use in home gardens. This publication reviews the science behind dust mulching and will guide home gardeners to more appropriate mulch materials for their gardens and landscapes. Authored by Linda Chalker-Scott.

Rubber Mulch Use in Home Gardens and Landscapes (FS163E)

Part of the Home Garden Series, this guide shares up-to-date scientific research on the use of recycled rubber mulches in home landscapes with a focus on human and environmental safety. Scientific research provides ample evidence that rubber mulches should not be used in gardens and landscapes. Authored by Linda Chalker-Scott.

Find more guides at the Extension Publications store in a range of categories, from agriculture and natural resources to 4-H, family and home, energy, economic development, and more.

From Oregon State Beaver to CAHNRS Ambassador president

By Carmen Chandler, CAHNRS Academic Programs

A Corvallis, Ore. native and born and raised Beaver, Madison Escobar’s experiences as an ambassador at Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) drive her hopes and goals as the group’s newly elected president.

A woman snuggles a cute black and white cow that has a hat on its head.
Madison Escobar with a heifer in her Dairy Cattle Management class.

Deciding on what school to attend was not as easy as choosing her major, but WSU Pullman made a strong impression. By her senior year of high school, Madison knew that she wanted to go out of state for college, but she still searched for a town with the same feeling that she grew up with.

“Washington State University felt like home in the sense that it was a small-town community that I like, and I wanted to go somewhere new and have new experiences for my undergraduate education” she said.

Madison, a third-year Animal Sciences student on the pre-veterinary track, is applying to veterinary school this upcoming summer. Madison recalls that “animals have always been my passion from a very young age.” She said that studying animal sciences in college was a “perfect fit”, especially given her history of caring for family pets.

Madison began working with the Ambassadors in April 2021 when she found out about the program through her Animal Sciences advisor. When she started, the Ambassadors operated differently – they were fully remote due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As WSU reopened its doors in August 2021, Madison didn’t know what to expect going into her first in-person semester as an ambassador. However, this year has brought the ambassador team closer together.

“One thing I love about our team is how connected we all are,” Madison explained. “We are all from different majors, backgrounds, and areas of study. We all have the commonality of being super passionate, driven, and excited about our respective areas of study.”

In-person classes have introduced Madison to a new experience as an ambassador.

“I love working with people who have the same mindset as me and working with students who are passionate about spreading awareness to prospective students and getting the CAHNRS name out there,” Madison said.

The ambassadors serve as a student leadership organization that provides a connection for prospective students to gain knowledge of CAHNRS academic programs. Ambassadors encourage higher education and create awareness of opportunities within the fields of study that the college provides.

Becoming the group’s president was not originally the plan for Madison. “I knew that I wanted to push my involvement more. We had election nominations coming up and I knew I wanted to do something on the executive board, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do” she said.

Before elections, Madison said she was nominated by the current CAHNRS Ambassadors President.

“That felt really cool that he saw that potential in me,” she said.

Madison officially took over as president in late December, and already has plans for the Ambassadors program.

With her experience at WSU, Madison has advice for students considering enrolling in a CAHNRS program. She recommends talking to an ambassador or a student who is in the program, in addition to researching online.

“We have great information on our websites about the majors” she said. “And talking to students is a great way to understand a student’s perspective of being in CAHNRS”.

For current WSU students interested in being an ambassador, Madison suggests attending recruitment events throughout the semester. To become an ambassador, there is an interview application process twice a year at the end of each semester. Further information about the ambassadors can be found on the CAHNRS website.

Program leading dialogues on race and racism wins national Extension award

A voluntary training program aimed at preparing interested individuals to lead dialogues about race and racial issues has won the National Diversity in Extension Award from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. Washington State University Extension was a charter member of the Coming Together for Racial Understanding (CTRU) program and is expanding their work.

Around 20 people sit on folding chairs in a circle talking.
In 2019, the first group of WSU Extension CTRU trainees met in person to learn how to lead dialogues about race and racial issues.

In 2016, national Extension leaders formed a team to consider how Extension professionals around the country could respond to growing community tensions around racial issues, said Marcia Ostrom, WSU School of Environment associate professor and extension specialist. This team recommended building Extension’s skills and capacity to promote civil discourse on race through launching a voluntary nationwide training program.

Ostrom, who works on food and agriculture, organized a WSU Extension team to apply for the first week-long CTRU train-the-trainer program in 2018. Core teams of three from 20 states learned how to lead dialogue-to-change processes so they could go back and train their colleagues.

“Extension is here to serve everyone,” Ostrom said. “As a land grant institution, our job is to serve the population we have in Washington. That population is becoming increasingly diverse. We can’t really offer inclusive Extension programming unless we’re comfortable working across cultural and racial differences.”

The national CTRU program, coordinated by the Southern Rural Development Center, offers ongoing training and support for state teams. Thus far, WSU’s core CTRU team has focused on building capacity among Extension faculty and staff. They have trained 46 new volunteer facilitators to lead dialogues on race using the CTRU curriculum. In turn, these facilitators helped to lead study sessions for another 115 colleagues.

In one of their first programs offered for the public, trained CTRU facilitators worked with Michael Wallace of Whatcom County Extension and the county’s newly-formed Government Alliance for Racial Equity to hold dialogues on racial equity. Around 30 county employees, divided into four groups, engaged in facilitated weekly dialogues in November and December to develop a deeper understanding of how racism affects individuals, institutions, and communities.

Jenny Glass, a plant diagnostician at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, co-led a group of six county employees who volunteered to take part.

“We looked into culture and racism and talked about ways we can impact racism,” said Glass, who has worked at WSU for 20 years. “As a facilitator, we didn’t teach, we encouraged discussion and listening, guiding people through ideas. It was a great place to listen and speak.”

Glass signed up to receive the CTRU facilitator training after seeing an email describing the program.

“Over the years, I’ve become frustrated that we say Extension serves everyone,” said Glass, who teaches community groups about various plant diseases as one aspect of her work. “But in general, it feels like we don’t do that. I want to get my work out to underserved communities and this training is a great step in that direction.”

Jen Moss, a SNAP-Ed co-lead for the region covering Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, Island, and San Juan counties, said she had a very positive experience when she did the CTRU facilitator training. She also saw different reactions from her colleagues doing the training.

“I saw people have major revelations and moments of ‘Wow, this is important,’” Moss said. “And I saw people who have been doing work in this area for a long time get excited to engage in the topic with colleagues. There really was something for everyone.”

Moss has since facilitated conversations with people outside of Extension who are interested in learning more about topics like diversity, equity, and inclusion. She said participants like the fact that the program isn’t debate, it’s people talking with each other.

“One of the main tenets of this program is dialogue,” Moss said. “The program is more of a guideline. It’s not so scripted that we can’t bring in our own perspectives or tailor the training for specific partners.”

Anyone who wants to learn more about Extension’s role in leading civil dialogues on race and equity or the CTRU program can contact one of the core CTRU trainers for Washington: Marcia Ostrom; Bernardita Sallato; or Lee Anne Riddle.

Doctoral graduate in Crop Sciences helps improve crops that feed the world

Sandhu studying whear
As a doctoral student, Sandhu used a near-Infrared camera to measure spectral and vegetative traits of wheat plants at WSU’s Spillman Farm.

A new doctoral graduate of WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Karansher Sandhu is engaged in work that improves crops and products that are global food staples.

“I grew up on a farm,” in India’s northwestern state of Punjab, “and being a farm boy drove my interest to pursue a bachelor’s degree in agriculture.”

Sandhu majored in Plant Breeding and Genetics from Punjab Agricultural University, India, and made his way to WSU to continue his education, coming to WSU in the fall of 2017 to start on his doctorate directly after earning his undergraduate degree.

Karansher Sandhu
Karansher Sandhu

Sandhu’s academic work helped improve grain yields and nutritional quality in wheat, benefiting farmers and, ultimately, wheat-eating consumers.
Starting in 2022, Sandhu continues his work of discovery as a soybean product development scientist with Bayer Crop Sciences.

“With this, I will be taking the first step towards my early career development,” said Sandhu, who advises fellow students: “Always have a hunger to learn new things on your own, and from friends and professors.”

New Fruit Management grad Eric Barragan ready to assist apple, cherry industry

Eric Barragan
Eric Barragan, Fall 2021 Agricultural and Food Systems graduate.

A fall 2021 graduate in Agricultural and Food Systems, Eric Barragan plans to put his degree and experience in fruit and vegetable management to work to help apple and cherry growers.

“I was drawn into this field as a kid,” Barragan said. “I used to go to orchards to help my parents pick cherries. I enjoyed the environment, and grew a passion to learn more about farming.”

Hailing from central Washington, Barragan previously studied horticulture and tree fruit production at Wenatchee Valley College. He gained practical experience as an agricultural technician in Regional Extension Specialist Tianna Dupont’s lab at WSU’s Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center, where he scouted for integrated pest management efforts in pear orchards, identifying insect pests and beneficial predators, entered data, and drafted weekly reports for growers.

After graduation, Barragan will enter the workforce: “My goal is to help growers produce more fruit.”

Looking back on his college career, “I’ll always remember Cougar Football Saturdays,” Barragan said. “To my fellow Cougs, I’d say just continue to enjoy your time here. It goes by faster than you think.”

3rd gen Coug grad Dylan Hereford draws on hands-on, classroom experiences

Dylan Hereford

Graduating this month with a bachelor’s degree from WSU Animal Sciences and a focus on animal management, Dylan Hereford is a third-generation Cougar with deep WSU family roots.

“I was drawn to WSU for college,” said Hereford, whose mother, Julie Sovereign, and grandfather, Gerald Sovereign, attended the university before him.

Originally interested in pursuing veterinary studies, Hereford found animal management of dairy and beef cows “more in my wheelhouse.” Highlights of his college career include reproductive managment classes with Associate Professor Martin Maquivar, and experience in technical cattle reproduction classes.

His agricultural knowledge gives Hereford additional knowlege as he plans to enter the farm credit industry after graduation.

“For others pursuing my degree, some advice that I have is to gather all the hands-on experience that you can,” he said. “You’ll be glad for it later, once you’re able to relate it back to class. It honestly helps to be able to use it in your real life.”