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Camelina, Spotted Wing Drosophila

Posted by | October 20, 2010

Molecular Research Contributing to Understanding of Ancient Oil-seed Crop

Camelina sprig, seed and oil. Photo: Brian Charles Clark/Washington State University
Camelina seed, sprig and oil

Concerns about the future of energy resources have scientists all over the world scrambling for alternatives. Some researchers study ethanol, others algae. For still others, including WSU molecular plant sciences doctoral student David Favero, are confident oil-seed crops hold promise.

Favero, who is mentored by assistant professor of crop and soil sciences Michael Neff, is interested in a protein family common in members of the plant genus Arabidopsis. Arabidopsis, a small, flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, is often called the guinea pig of plant biology because it has been so well studied. Arabidopsis was the first plant to have its entire genome sequenced.

Arabidopsis is also related to camelina. Some proteins in Arabidopsis can bind DNA, changing the replication and repair of DNA, and the expression and function of certain genes. So too in camelina, which has proteins similar to those found in Arabidopsis.

Understanding how proteins interact in Arabidopsis could provide a model leading to changes in the amount of oil camelina produces and how well it adapts to harsh growing conditions.

Doctoral student David Favero. (Photo by WSU Photo Services)
Doctoral student David Favero. (Photo by WSU Photo Services)

“We are looking at what other proteins SOB3 and Escarola (members of a protein family found in Arabidopsis) interact with,” said Favero.

“We think these proteins form complexes with three family members that would likely bind DNA better,” he said. And that would influence gene expression.

Favero’s basic molecular research could have implications for the world’s energy future.

Camelina naturally grows in marginal conditions and is rich in an oil used as fuel for thousands of years.

Favero hopes that his work with Arabidopsis genes and proteins will lead to applications that enhance camelina as a viable energy source for widespread use.

adapted from an article by Christy Crudo

Camelina is already an important crop for at least some farmers in eastern Washington; see “Running on Camelina” at

Because it can be added to jet fuel without further processing, camelina is being eyeballed by the aviation industry. For more on that, see E. Kirsten Peters’ Rock Doc column at

Against the Fly: New Web Site Offers Spotted Wing Drosophila Info

Spotted wing drosophilae collected from a cherry orchard in Mattawa during the summer of 2010. Photo by Brian Charles Clark
Spotted wing drosophila collected from a cherry orchard in Mattawa during the summer of 2010.

First introduced accidentally into California in 2008, Spotted Wing Drosophila is a red-eyed “vinegar fly” that attacks ripening as well as rotting fruit.

The troublesome fly has rapidly spread northward along the Pacific coast into Oregon and Washington and is considered a serious threat to Pacific Northwest fruit crops such as cherry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, plum, pluot and nectarine. Recent evidence indicates that spotted wing drosophila is also a threat to wine grapes.

WSU researchers are working to growers with the latest science-based information about SWD fruit fly as soon as it is available to help guide your decisions about how to protect your crops.

With information ranging from regularly updated, region-specific trap capture data and biological background to integrated pest management strategies and popular press coverage of SWD, this site is designed to serve as a resource for commercial tree fruit growers in eastern Washington potentially impacted by SWD. You can even subscribe to receive alerts by text or email with information about emerging news and updates about SWD.

Visit the SWD web site at

Learn more about the pest in this article,