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CAHNRS News — Feb. 14, 2014

Posted by l.meyer | February 13, 2014

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Student identifies key issues for national ag forum

keikotuttleKeiko Tuttle believes the biggest challenge agriculture will face in the next five years centers around a food source that makes up 70 percent of the human diet: cereal grains.

“I always ask people, ‘Do you like cookies?’” the doctoral candidate at Washington State University explains lightheartedly, inviting people into a discussion about the influence of cereal grains in our food system and the need to feed a world population that some project to near 11 billion by 2050.

Tuttle is researching seed dormancy in wheat – that is, seeds that don’t germinate when planted. Understanding more about the genes and proteins that influence the process of dormancy and how the mechanism is released may provide solutions to problems growers have in the field.

Some of these problems degrade the important starch found in cereals and ultimately decrease the end-use quality of the grain. Preventing these problems can potentially eliminate economic losses to growers, millers and bakers.

This is especially critical in the Pacific Northwest, which provides the nation with about 95 percent of its soft white winter wheat. That is worth a $1 billion to the state of Washington, Tuttle said.

Tuttle is one of 10 graduate students in the United States whose essay on challenges in agriculture earned a trip to the USDA’s 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum on the Changing Face of Agriculture, to be held Feb. 20-21 in Arlington, Va. Read the full story in WSU News.

Microwave pasteurization improves food safety, flavor

Working to keep frozen and child foods safe, Tang and colleagues use a pilot-scale microwave-assisted pasteurization system developed at WSU.
Working to keep frozen and chilled foods safe, Tang and colleagues use a pilot-scale microwave-assisted pasteurization system developed at WSU.

A new technology available to food companies increases product quality while reducing the chance of contaminated chilled or frozen meals being sold in retail markets.

A group of engineers led by Juming Tang, distinguished chair of food engineering and associate chair of biological systems engineering at Washington State University, has developed a novel microwave-assisted pasteurization system that can semi-continuously process 8- to 20-oz. pre-packaged chilled meals. This marks an important milestone in a research program funded by a $5 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant awarded in 2011 to WSU and partners across the country.

WSU has established “pilot-scale capacity” whereby Tang and his colleagues can work with food companies to adapt the technology to a producer’s needs and then manufacture production equipment via a third party, making the system “scalable for industrial production,” said Tang. WSU anticipates licensing this technology to its start-up, Food Chain Safety, for commercialization in the coming months. Read more.

Remembering friend and colleague Dr. Jeff Smith

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 12.52.46 PMDr. Jeff Smith, colleague and friend within our scientific community, passed away on January 25, 2014, in Pullman, Washington.

Jeff obtained MS and PhD degrees in Soil Science from WSU, and was employed as a research specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the USDA-ARS in 1986 with the Land Management and Water Conservation Research Unit in Pullman. He published extensively on carbon and nutrient cycling and trace gas emissions in soils. His most widely cited work concerned the prediction of nitrogen mineralization rates in soils.

Jeff was a talented scientist and a great advisor and mentor. As an adjunct faculty member in the WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, he actively mentored dozens of young scientists and graduate students. He served on the USDA-ARS National Program Staff in 1999 and led efforts for GRACEnet, a nationwide network of sites monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, during the past decade. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate. Jeff was serving as the Program Manager of the Ecological Society of America, Regional Editor of Soil Biology & Biochemistry, and on the Editorial Board of Biology and Fertility of Soils at the time of his passing. He was a member of the Soil Ecology Society, Soil Science Society of America, Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and International Society of Microbial Ecology.

Outside the laboratory, Jeff was a decorated veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam. He was an active supporter of the local Humane Society.  Jeff liked to travel to international meetings and tropical getaways. He enjoyed water skiing, boating, and riding his motorcycle. Jeff is survived by his wife, son, and new grandson.

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Debra Inglis, professor of plant pathology at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, earned the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Leadership. Read the full story in WSU News.

WSU Snohomish County Extension Horticulture and IPM specialist Sharon Collman received the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association’s (WSNLA) Pioneer Award for enduring contributions to the green industry. Collman has been involved with WSNLA for 35 years, providing a variety of educational resources and programs.

WSU Horticulture Department spin-off company Phytelligence, Inc. and its main founder, Associate Professor Amit Dhingra, were featured in the latest issue of The Capital Press. Dhingra, along with five of his lab members, established Phytelligence in 2012 to assist the Washington horticulture industry.

Dhingra was also featured in the January issue of Good Fruit Grower for his work on the identification of fruit ripening compounds that have the potential to help consistently ripen fruit.

The work of Eliane Bodah, a graduate student in Horticulture working in Dhingra’s lab, was featured in the Daily Evergreen. Bodah’s graduate project focuses on the study of Fusarium solani, a fungus that attacks local potato and pea plants and destroys their roots. It is a major problem for farmers.

Congratulations to the following CAHNRS faculty and staff who won awards in the Professional category for their poster presentations at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual meeting February 5 – 7 in Kennewick. 1) Michelle Moyer, Jensena Newhouse, Maurisio Garcia, and Gary Grove, for “Managing Powdery Mildew: How Specific Product Use Can Change the Timing of the ‘Critical Period’ for Intervention” (1st Place Professional Poster); 2) Michelle Moyer, Gary Ballard, and Ken Eastwell, for “How Clean is ‘Clean’?” (2nd Place Professional Poster); and 3) Jensena Newhouse, Gary Grove, and Michelle Moyer, for “Effectiveness of Biopesticide-Based Programs on Grape Powdery Mildew” (3rd Place Professional Poster).

Megan Skinner won the Jody Conner Student Award for best student paper at the most recent North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) meeting (San Diego, Nov 2013). Her paper was titled “Feeding Ecology of a Mixed Cold-and Warm-Water Fish Community Following Hypolimnetic Oxygenation in Mesotrophic Twin Lakes, WA.” She won an honorable mention for the associated poster presentation.

The current issue of Washington State Magazine (pp. 28-35) about the Columbia River basalt, the GeoAnalytical lab, and the history of WSU geological investigations of the Columbia Plateau features John Wolf, Associate Director of the School of the Environment.


Feb. 18: Special Presentation: Opportunities in the Food Industry in Sri Lanka—Recovery After Conflict Tuesday, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in FSHN 354. University of Idaho Professor Gleyn Bledsoe, Program Director for the Sri Lanka Food Processor’s Association, will provide a status report on the industry with an emphasis on building the food processing and fishing sectors. Professional opportunities for students and new graduates will be discussed. Please RSVP to so we can plan for refreshments.

Feb. 26: Forest Health Conference: “State of the States”
Insects, diseases, fire and climate play critical roles in contributing to the health of forests in the Pacific Northwest, so region-wide forest health assessments help to determine the extent and intensity of the influence of these factors across all forests. This daylong workshop will summarize and forecast forest health issues affecting Pacific Northwest forests. Experts on insects, diseases and fire will discuss current conditions as they relate to forest health and climate. Participants can expect to walk away with an understanding of the most accurate context to assess health issues that affect their forests. Get more event information at

Feb 27: Hands-On Vegetable Grafting Workshop
Presented by WSU Mount Vernon. More detailed information at

Feb. 28: Spring 2014 Transformational Leadership Symposium for Women
We all serve as leaders in some capacity in our work places, in our communities and in our homes. CAHNRS invites you to engage in an exploration of how to improve our ability to be successful leaders as women in our professional and personal lives. Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Ensminger Pavilion, on the WSU Pullman campus. $10 students, $25 non-students (lunch included). Register here.

March 1: Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation (WWFRF) Winter Field Day
Saturday, March 1, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Washington State University Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center (WSU-NWREC), 16650 State Route 536, Mount Vernon. Hosted in cooperation with WSU-NWREC, this year’s event will include grafting and mason bee workshops; pruning demonstrations; and presentations on red flesh apple varieties, the best apples to grow in western Washington, growing fruit for a healthy diet, and fruit varieties from around the world. Rootstock and scion wood will be available for sale. Tours of the six-acre Fruit Display Garden, containing one of the largest and most varied collections of antique apple trees in western Washington, will be provided. Free to members of WWFRF; Non-members: $15 Single or $30 Family. Go to for more information.

March 12-13: E. Paul Catts Memorial Lecture Events
Dr. H. Frederik Nijhou will present “The Developmental Physiology of Body Size: Studies with Manduca sexta” on March 12 at 12:10 p.m. in FSHN 354. On March 13 he will speak on “The Biology of Butterfly Color Patterns” from 4:10 to 5:00 p.m. in CUE 203. A reception will follow from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in CUE 518.

March 20: 2014 Western Washington Wine and Grapes Workshop
To be held at the South Seattle Community College Teaching Winery. This workshop will feature information on must amelioration, color and fermentation management, vineyard nutrient and pest management, and pairing of winemaking styles with western Washington grape varieties. More info.

In eNewsletters

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Feb. 11 – WSU’s On Solid Ground- Good Fungi, New Food Tech This edition features a story about Tarah Sullivan and her work with fungi in agriculture and a profile of new technology developed by Juming Tang that increases product quality while reducing the chance of contaminated chilled or frozen meals being sold in retail markets.

Jan. 29 – Voice of the Vine- What’s That Smell, Leafroll, Wine Center This edition features a look inside the Sensory Evaluation Lab with Carolyn Ross, plus new information about grapevine leafroll disease from Naidu Rayapati. 

Jan. 23 – Green Times- Grains in a Glass, Humanure, Fighting Bugs This edition features stories about the emerging western Washington grain economy and WSU researcher Stephen Jones, investigation of human waste as compost from PhD student Caitlin Price-Youngquist, and research by Bill Snyder into what long-established organic farms can teach us about natural pest control.