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CAHNRS News – February 25

Posted by | February 25, 2011

Congratulations, Jim Cook! Wolf Prize Well Deserved

All of us in CAHNRS and across the Cougar Nation were heartened to hear the news of our colleague Jim Cook’s receipt of the prestigious Wolf Prize in Agriculture. The Wolf Prize is awarded once a year by the Wolf Foundation and is one of the six Wolf Prizes established by the Foundation and awarded since 1978. The prize is considered the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in Agriculture.

The Wolf Foundation explained Jim’s contributions as follows: “As a true pioneer in plant pathology, he has initiated, developed and is leading, the field of biological control of plant diseases. In this respect, he, too, has had an impact beyond his own field. Professor Cook led the team that discovered the nature of suppressive soils that limit the growth of certain plant pathogens. He has identified and provided both fundamental and practical solutions to control different groups of soil-borne pathogens.”

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Jim’s distinguished career is the tremendous impact he has made in both advancing scientific discovery and improving the sustainability and profitability of agricultural producers in Washington State. Some view these as mutually exclusive outcomes; however, he has demonstrated, beyond a doubt, that if one is intentional in addressing each of these goals day in and day out, they can both be achieved at the highest level. I assure you that the wheat producers of Washington State hold Jim in as high regard as the distinguished group of scientists who selected him for the Wolf Prize.

Beyond being an exemplary scientist, Jim is also the consummate team player and a selfless contributor to WSU, the academy and the agriculture industry. Perhaps the ultimate act of selflessness was his willingness to delay his retirement for two years to serve as interim dean of CAHNRS. Much of our recent success in advancing plant science research can be traced back to decisions that Jim initiated during his time at the helm. He is also a huge Coug supporter; you will always find him on game day in the fall cheering on the Cougs.

Jim is also a prolific writer and an outspoken advocate for agriculture and agricultural research. In editorializing about Jim’s recognition, the Seattle Times noted, “This award in agriculture research is testament that Washington’s cutting-edge research goes well beyond medical advances and silicon chips.” My initial reaction to that statement was a sarcastic, “hello!” However, we must recognize that our urban friends on the Westside sometimes forget about the excellence of WSU’s core land-grant disciplines. We need to celebrate the Times for making this public recognition.

Congratulations, Jim, on a well deserved recognition. –Dan Bernardo

New on Dean Bernardo’s Blog: Perfect Storm Would Be Disastrous for Ag Research, Extension

When Hurricane Grace collided with a tropical cyclone off the Atlantic Coast in 1991, the result was what experts called “the perfect storm.” It created 70 mph winds and 30-foot waves, and a movie starring George Clooney.

Today we are seeing a “perfect storm” of similar proportion building with respect to agricultural research funding the Washington State. The confluence of major funding shifts at both the state and federal level could cripple the ability of Washington State University to conduct the agricultural research so critical to keeping the state’s largest industry competitive and profitable.

Currently, funds from a variety of sources support WSU’s agricultural research and extension activities – endowments, gifts, and industry grants, for example. By far, though, the largest sources are federal grants and formula funds, as well as state appropriations.

At the federal level, officials are debating whether to roll back current budgets for agricultural research to FY08 levels for partnership programs such as the Hatch and Smith-Lever funds. WSU currently receives approximately $8.2 million in those formula funds and would stand to lose $576,000 if they are reduced to ’08 levels. Proposals coming out of Washington D.C. this week might elevate these cuts to levels well in excess of $1 million.

Federal officials also are considering eliminating all congressional directed spending for special research grants – approximately $3.6 million for WSU this fiscal year. Although these grants are not “earmarks” in the traditional sense of the word, they are being lumped into that same category, making them highly vulnerable to cutting. Combine that with proposed reductions in the federal competitive grant programs and two of the most important sources of funding available to WSU ag researchers may evaporate.

The same kinds of threats are emerging for the state funds for agricultural research at WSU. The $21.5 million the university receives from the state for agricultural research continues to be targeted for elimination or reduction year after year. To date, it has not suffered cuts larger than the rest of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, or WSU in general. However, we continue to be concerned about proposals to reduce the state agricultural research allocation in both the current fiscal year and the coming biennium. In addition to this targeted reduction, large decreases to WSU’s general budget will surely adversely affect ag research and Extension. In fact, if the biennial budget resembles the Governor’s budget, WSU would lose over half of its state funding in four years (2008 to 2011).

What will be the impact on our programs as these proposed reductions play out? To name a few:

  • A smaller research faculty and staff.
  • A smaller Extension presence at the local level.
  • Our partners (e.g., commodity commissions) will be asked to pay a larger share of research costs.
  • There will be diminished effort directed toward local issues and problems, resulting in reduced technologies and practices available to our producers.
  • Washington agriculture will be exposed to increased risk from disease, pests, and other vagaries.
  • Fewer graduates will be available for employment in the food and agricultural sector.

In general, the bottom-line impact of the reductions described above is the dismantling of one of the finest agricultural research mechanisms in the country. WSU plant sciences faculty are ranked among the most productive in the world. This past year alone, faculty competed for and won nearly $50 million in extramural funds for agricultural research. The estimated economic impact of WSU agricultural research exceeds $200 million annually.

Overall, if the “perfect storm” becomes a reality, it means the loss of hundreds of jobs and literally tens of millions of dollars of lost economic impact in Washington and beyond.

Washington State is one of the leading agricultural powerhouses in both the United States and internationally. In part, that is due to its progressive and supportive investment in the scientists researching and developing the technology and scientific solutions necessary to remain competitive and profitable. Destroying the industry’s primary research and development arm leaves it competing in the world market with a dramatic and costly disadvantage.

More information about WSU’s budget situation is available at

WSU in Search of Graduate Student Who Can Change the World

Washington State University is asking its Ph.D. students if one of them has enough gumption to believe they can improve the lives of at least a million people.

The student with the best idea will win a $30,000 scholarship to Singularity University (SU), a Silicon Valley institution aimed at fostering earth-shattering technologies. Just as important, the winning WSU student will serve as the representative for the entire United States in this international contest, with the ultimate winners taking part in an inventive 10-week graduate studies program.

Salim Ismail, Singularity University’s executive director says the work carries a sense of urgency.

“If you look at the spread of pandemics, the financial crisis, or aspects of climate change – these global challenges are rooted in accelerated factors, in exponential factors,” said Ismail. “Our aim is to find the next generation of young leadership and arm them with this awareness and how harness technology to get to these levels.”

WSU has a pool of about 2,000 Ph.D. students to draw from. WSU’s Vice President of Research Howard Grimes helped convince Singularity University the US representative should come from WSU because of the broad field of expertise available.

“We have critical thinkers at WSU from important areas in fields of business, engineering, the humanities, agriculture, molecular biology, veterinary medicine and other sciences,” said Grimes. “From our research strengths in everything from safe food, to agriculture, to smart grid technology, I am convinced one of our world class students will bring forth that one idea that can change the world.”

Ph.D. students from all of WSU’s campuses and research stations are encouraged to apply, with applications due March 21.

Singularity University launched two years ago, the brainchild of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil and Peter H. Diamandis, a pioneer of personal spaceflight and chief executive of the X Prize Foundation.

To hear an interview with Salim Ismail, visit

For more information, check out

Academic Integrity Hearing Board Volunteer Needed

The Academic Integrity Hearing Board is in need of a CAHNRS tenured teaching faculty member to serve on their board. The board convenes to hear cases once each month, typically the last Thursday and/or Friday, depending on the number of cases to hear. The time commitment is 2-4 hours per month.

The term “academic integrity hearing board” means those teaching faculty who, collectively, have been authorized by the university or college to review an instructor’s determination that a student violated university academic integrity policies and whether or not the outcome proposed by the instructor is in keeping with the instructor’s published policies.

If you are interested in serving on the Academic Integrity Hearing Board please contact the Dean’s Office (335-3590 or by Tuesday, March 1, 2011.

Imagine U Participants Needed

You are invited to participate in Imagine U @ WSU, an outreach program that brings Washington State University to high schools in underserved areas in the state of Washington. Imagine U @ WSU brings faculty, staff, students, and alumni to the high schools to provide presentations in the form of hands-on instruction, discussions on fields of research, and what it takes to go to college. Past presenters have commented on the rewarding experiences they have had in working with these students, some who never thought college could be in their future.

The upcoming programs will take place in a variety of schools in Western and Eastern Washington during WSU’s Spring Break, on March 14, and the week of May 16-17 when faculty are free from teaching classes and while the high schools are still in session. Enrollment Management will cover your travel expenses (within reason). For full details about being a presenter go to


Marsha Baerlocher, undergraduate student in Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles, won the Sixth Place Fashion Design Award from 2011 the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association – Fiber to Fashion Student Design Competition. Two other students, Bailey Sheldon and Casey Burnette, were ranked within the top 15% at the competition.

Dr. Dennis A. Johnson, professor of plant pathology, has been selected to receive the award of Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS). He will be recognized with this award during the APS annual meeting to be held this August in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Dr. Lori Carris, associate professor of plant pathology, has been selected to receive the Award of Excellence in Teaching from the American Phytopathological Society (APS). She will be recognized with this award at a special recognition ceremony during the APS annual meeting to be held this August in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Dr. Jack Rogers, professor of plant pathology and WSU Regents Professor, recently co-authored a comprehensive, bilingual treatise on microfungi in Costa Rica and other tropical regions.

Dr. Gary Chastagner, professor of plant pathology, has been selected to receive the award of Excellence in Extension from the American Phytopathological Society. He will be recognized with this award at a special recognition ceremony during the APS annual meeting to be held this August in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Dr. Chastagner is recognized for his success in addressing stakeholders’ needs through translational research in the area of diseases of ornamental bulbs and Christmas trees.

More WAWGG, Less Bark!

WSU faculty and students, with collaboration from USDA ARS scientists, scored big at the poster session at the annual Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers a couple weeks ago in Kennewick. Here’s a list of all the awards they won:

Professional Category

  • First Prize – Impacts of grapevine leafroll disease on an own-rooted wine grape cultivar by Olufemi J. Alabi, Linga R. Gutha, Luis Casassa, James Harbertson, Maria Mireles, Joan Davenport and Rayapati A. Naidu
  • Second Prize – A computer model for predicting grapevine cold hardiness by John C. Ferguson, Lynn J. Mills, Julie M. Tarara, Gary G. Grove, Gerrit Hoogenboom, and Markus Keller
  • Third Prize – Understanding genetic diversity among grapevine viruses helps to develop robust diagnostics and sound management strategies by Rayapati A. Naidu, Olufemi J. Alabi, Sridhar Jarugula, Linga Gutha, Tefera Mekuria, Sudarsana Poojari and Robert R. Martin

Graduate Student Category

  • First Prize – Development of highly sensitive molecular diagnostic assays for the detection of grapevine leafroll associated viruses by Sudarsana Poojari, Patricia Okubara, Olufemi J Alabi and Rayapati A. Naidu
  • Second Prize – Know thy enemy: Recreating a virus for R&D applications in grape virology by Sridhar Jarugula, Siddarame Gowda, William O. Dawson and Rayapati A. Naidu
  • Third Prize – Unraveling the effects of extended maceration in Merlot wines with different ethanol levels by Federico Casassa, Maria Mireles, Eric Harwood and James F. Harbertson

Undergraduate Student Category

  • First Prize – Studies on epidemiology of the grapevine leafroll disease by Elizabeth L. Swanson, Olufemi J. Alabi and Rayapati A. Naidu
  • Second Prize – Epidemiology of the grapevine leafroll disease in Washington vineyards by Andrew L. Schultz and Rayapati A. Naidu
  • Third PrizeDo state laws affect wine sales? by Carlye Rice and Dennis Reynolds

Surf Report

In 2010, the CAHNRS Web site received over 1 million visitors, making our college’s home page one of the heaviest trafficked sites in the entire WSU network. Without a doubt, this is due to the highly impactful stories constantly being generated by our students, faculty and staff. It’s our research news, success stories, and alumni profiles that keep our web sites fresh – and a model for “how to do it right” throughout the entire university community. Here are a few of the latest stories.

Instrument maker has Cougar Gold-en touch: You’ve enjoyed the cheese, but what do you do with a Cougar Gold can? Alumnus John Elwood builds fine stringed instruments, so using the iconic can to craft a banjo seemed a logical choice. Read more at

Attending conferences such as the National Block and Bridle Convention provide WSU students with a unique learning experiences and networking opportunities that give them an industry edge. “It allows students to think on a larger scale,” said WSU Block and Bridle Club member Courtney Breithaupt, “and to study first hand situations we have previously only read about.” Read more about the WSU Block and Bridle Club’s trip to the national convention at

WSU Alumna Boldly Blazes Trail in Turfgrass Management Industry: WSU alumna Jennifer Camp (Turfgrass Management, ’98), the new Parks and Open Spaces Superintendent for Liberty Lake, Wash., decided when she was 16 she was going to go for a lot of “firsts” in her life. Read Jennifer’s story at

Innovative Class Takes Students to the Fields for a Firsthand Look at Plant Diseases: Students in Naidu Rayapati’s “Diseases of Fruit Crops” class got the opportunity to apply their knowledge on diseases gained in the classroom to real-world situations in grower fields. They took a field trip to Prosser, Wash., where they visited tree fruit and grapevine “clean” plant programs at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, studied diseases and disorders in apples and grapes, observed crop protection tactics applied to fruit crops, met with growers and wine makers to assess the economic importance of diseases, and saw firsthand the connection between research and agricultural production. Read more at

Changing the Future of Rural Communities with Restoration and Economic Revitalization: A single semester’s work in the eastern Washington town of Ritzville has blossomed into a full-scale, ongoing project. The Rural Communities Design Initiative, founded and run by Washington State University Spokane associate professor of interior design Janetta McCoy, has tested a model of design intervention with five additional rural communities in Washington State to confirm that repurposing and renovating community buildings can lead to revitalization in the community’s economy. Read more about the rural development project at