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CAHNRS News – October 21, 2011

Posted by | October 21, 2011

WSU discovery could revolutionize cereal crop pest battle

Traditional thought holds that a disease-causing organism has to penetrate a plant to initiate resistance. Now, two Washington State University scientists have established that a barley plant recognizes an invader and begins to marshal its defenses within five minutes of an attack. The discovery, along with the scientists’ successful cloning of barley’s disease-fighting gene and the pathogen’s signaling gene, could help to revolutionize the battle against cereal crop enemies, such as stem rust. Unless carefully controlled, stem rust has the potential to destroy a grower’s entire crop. Historically, stem rust has caused the loss of millions of bushels of grain and millions of dollars. Meanwhile, new threats are on the horizon. For example, Ug99 is an evolving wheat pathogen that poses a dangerous threat to global food security, especially in developing countries.

“Now that we understand how the plant-pathogen interaction mechanism works, we hope we can manipulate it to build resistance in plants,” said Andy Kleinhofs, professor of molecular genetics in WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. With further research, he added, that understanding could lead to new, more effective ways to battle crop diseases such as stem rust and Ug99.

“It will take time for research on Ug99 to see if the mechanism works the same as in this case,” Kleinhofs said. “If it is the same, we could use the technology to defeat Ug99.”

Kleinhofs and Assistant Research Professor Jayaveeramuthu Nirmala focused their research on understanding Rpg1, a gene that provides barley with resistance to the pathogen that causes stem rust. Rpg1 is unique in that it has provided durable resistance in barley over the past 60 years, Kleinhofs said. His laboratory team previously successfully cloned that resistance gene, which when combined with the recently discovered genes that activate it, delivers a one-two punch against stem rust.

It was while monitoring the activity of those combined genes that Kleinhofs and Nirmala observed and documented “communication” between the barley plants and stem rust spores.

In the process, the researchers identified the proteins recognized by the Rpg1 resistance gene and saw the series of signals that tell the plant to protect itself. “It is clear that the plant recognizes the pathogen within five minutes of the spore touching the leaf,” said Camille Steber, a research geneticist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at WSU.

The plant’s initial reaction to attack is invisible to the human eye, Nirmala said, but she succeeded in monitoring subtle changes in plant chemistry that demonstrated the plant not only recognized it was under attack but was starting to muster its resistance. Visible signs of the stem rust spore’s impact come within an hour, when pad-like lesions connecting the spore to the leaf cell begin to appear.

A reviewer of Kleinhofs’ and Nirmala’s recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said the discovery “will probably open a whole new avenue of research of plant-pathogen interactions.”

Steber said the discovery is a game-changer for plant scientists. “This is the first example where the lock-and-key of cereal-pathogen response is clearly understood,” she said.

Kleinhofs called his and Nirmala’s understanding of the signaling that was going on between plant and pathogen “one of those ‘Eureka!’ moments. Three is still a lot to be learned,” he added. “As with any new discovery, more questions arise than have actually been answered, but it is a good start.

52nd Week Closure

Last fall university officials announced Washington State University will close all non-essential business operations and associated buildings at all locations during the last week of Dec. (Dec. 25 – Jan. 1). To learn more about the 52nd week closure visit: Essentials or contact our Human Resource Services Representative, Kimberly Maupin, directly at 509-335-1231 or

AMDT Partners with vrSOFTWARE, Creates New Technology Opportunities

Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles is pleased to announce becoming an Educational Partner with vrSOFTWARE, a London based global company specializing in 3-D visual merchandising. This company donated $125,000 of in-kind Mockshop® software in support of teaching merchandising concepts to future industry leaders. We have opportunity to test the software while training students in leading edge processes such as creating planograms for visually communicating promotional strategies throughout a companies’ network. Students also gain additional technological expertise and opportunity to practice conceptualizing and visually proposing store environments and merchandising assortments. This partnership initiated by Dr. Carol Salusso AMT 208 faculty Fall 2011 had considerable support from Dr. Karen Leonas, AMDT Department Chair. Please visit at the end of the semester to “SEE” outcomes from this new possibility for apparel, merchandising and textiles majors.

Navigating Difference: Cultural Competency Training Module 1: Cultural Awareness

Nov. 7: 1 – 4 p.m., CUE 318 or Nov. 8: 9 a.m. – noon, Clark 147

As the diversity of our student population and our colleagues increases the importance of enhancing cultural competency skills becomes more critical.  In this workshop we will work to:

  • Explore personal and cultural values, biases, prejudices and views
  • Identify ways I which culture shapes beliefs, practices and values
  • Identify similarities and differences among cultures
  • Recognize our own cultures, including organizational culture

This award winning experiential curriculum is based on the WSU Extension Cultural Competencies ( and is designed using adult education theory and practice to create a safe and welcoming environment for all learners.

Registration is open to all faculty, staff and graduate students in CAHNRSExtension. Limited to 25 participants per session. Pre-registration is required: email Mary Katherine Deen at by Nov. 1 to register or with questions.

Green Times – A New E-Newsletter for Sustainable and Organic Agriculture

The WSU Extension Marketing, News, and Educational Communications team needs your help! They are developing a new e-newsletter that will begin publishing in a couple of weeks. The name of the publication is Green Times: Sustainable and Organic Agriculture News from Washington State University.

They plan to publish an issue of Green Times the first week of each month. Each issue will feature articles on WSU research and education, as well as events and profiles of the people making the organic and sustainable agriculture and food revolution a reality. They want this e-newsletter to be a tool for development, outreach, and education. To make this happen, though, they need your help: please send them your news about upcoming events, ideas for research stories, and suggestions for profiles of farmers and others working in sustainable and organic ag.

Subscriptions are free, so please click this link to subscribe today: (Concerned about your privacy? They will never share or sell your information.) Please pass this information on to your colleagues, both here at WSU, at other institutions, and especially to those in the sustainable and organic ag and food industries.

Authorship Workshop

The Office of Research and Graduate School will be hosting an Authorship Workshop for WSU faculty members and graduate students on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011 from 3 p.m.–5 p.m.

John Nilson, director of the School of Molecular Biosciences, and Paul Whitney, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, will be giving a presentation focused on publication ethics. More specifically, the topics that will be covered include the following:

  • What Publication Ethics Really Mean
  • What Constitutes Scientific Misconduct
  • What Constitutes Authorship
  • Obligations of Authors
  • Obligations of Reviewers
  • Obligations of Editors
  • Due Process
  • Examples of Authors Gone Wrong

This is an extremely important topic for all members of the academic community and faculty members are encouraged to attend. In addition, faculty members are asked to bring their graduate students to the workshop as well. This workshop provides an excellent opportunity for graduate students throughout the university to learn about publication ethics and will give faculty members a starting point to continue the discussion further with their students.

The remote locations for the Authorship Workshop are listed below.

Campus – Building / Room
Pullman – BLS / 402
Spokane – SAC / 401A
Tri-Cities – TWST / 247
Vancouver – TCL / 117

Additionally, attendees are encouraged to sign up for these workshops so that appropriate seating and materials are made available. Visit to register.

Sakata Seed Co. Tours NWREC

On Sept. 30, 2011, a team of Quality Assurance specialists and seed production plant pathologists from Sakata Seed Co. toured the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC with Lindsey du Toit. Members of this Sakata group are located in seven different countries in which Sakata produces and/or sells seeds. Lindsey discussed the history of the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, the various research and extension programs operating out of that center, and her vegetable seed pathology program.


Hanu Pappu, Professor and Chair, Department of Plant Pathology and Sam Smith Professor of Plant Virology was elected Secretary of the International Working Group on Viruses of Legumes and Vegetables. Members are from more than 27 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, North and South America, with research programs based in academia, government or industry and are actively engaged in research on vegetable and/or legume viruses. The group meets every three years, with the most recent meeting held in Malaga, Spain. The aim of the Working Group is to promote direct contact between legume and vegetable virus research workers throughout the world and facilitate information exchange and foster collaborations. Pappu’s research focuses on thrips-transmitted tospoviruses which are a major economic constraint to several legumes and vegetables in many parts of the world including WA. His ongoing projects include virus-host interactions at the biological and molecular levels, virus diagnostics and epidemiology, RNAi-based approaches for developing virus resistance, and IPM.

Department of Crop and Soil Sciences Professor Markus Flury was elected Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America during the Annual Meeting of the Soil Science Society of America in San Antonio this week. The Fellow is the highest recognition given by the society. It is based on professional achievements and meritous service. Up to 0.3% of the society’s active and emeritus members may be elected Fellow.

Tonie Fitzgerald, WSU Master Gardener Program leader, received the 2011 Award of Merit from the PNW Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture – awarded to an individual in recognition of outstanding meritorious service in advancing the principles, ideals, and practice of arboriculture – at their annual conference on Oct. 4, 2011 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Tonie was instrumental in the development of the City of Spokane’s Urban Forestry Program and a Street Tree Ordinance in the early 1980s. She developed and hosted the first WSU Turf, Tree and Landscape Conference for landscape professionals in the northwestern states in 1986. It remained the mainstay for  continuing education units for professional arborists, certified horticulturists and Master Gardener volunteers until the conference ended in 2010. Tonie provided leadership for the formation of the Inland Northwest Arborist’s Association and has co-authored many articles and Extension publications on tree selection and tree care practices for the green industry and homeowners. She has lectured at numerous regional conferences on IPM practices for tree pests and diseases. In 2010, Tonie adapted ISA’s Consumer Education Brochures for the WSU Master Gardener Training Manual to ensure that volunteers throughout Washington State are trained with researched-based arboricultural practices.

Carol Miles, vegetable horticulture Extension specialist at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, received a grant of $4,303 from the J. Frank Schmidt Family Charitable Foundation toward the establishment of an ornamental fruit tree arboretum at the Mount Vernon research station. The arboretum will be converted from an existing trial block of disease resistant ornamental crabapples, flowering cherries, and flowering plums now that research work has been concluded. The grant will support additional signage, benches, and other amenities to make the new arboretum accessible to the public.

Charles Brun, WSU Extension horticulture advisor for Clark County, was invited to speak at the 2011 International Plant Propagators annual meetings in Sacramento, Calif. He covered the new $150,000 Conley greenhouse that is being built at the former WSU Research and Extension Center in Vancouver, Wash.

The students in AMDT 411: Fashion Line Pre-development were asked to design a collection of four looks for Mary Janes Farm. MJF owns a bed and breakfast, publishes a magazine, and sells home goods and accessories, but they do not currently have a line of clothing, so the student teams were challenged to design a collection that embodied MJF while also meeting the needs of their target market. The teams developed mood pages, color palettes, fashion illustrations and technical flats to present to MJF brand managers Lucas and Megan Rae, who were kind enough to give the students individual feedback on their work and hope to feature some of the design ideas in their magazine.