Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Carrots, Biofuels, Apple Sunburn and Spillman

Posted by | October 11, 2006

It’s a Fact

Washington’s growers are the top processing-carrot producers in the nation. They grew 157,700 tons in 2004, 37 percent of U.S. production. The sale of processing carrots
accounted for $11 million of Washington’s agricultural economy that year.

On Solid Ground is a weekly, electronic newsletter for the friends and stakeholders of the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), WSU Extension and the WSU Agricultural Research Center.

Biofuels Provide Alternative

Escalating energy prices have revived interest from consumers, policy makers, and industry in the potential for developing bioenergy resources, specifically liquid biofuels, to supplement petroleum-based gasoline and diesel. WSU scientists are evaluating a number of crops that could feed biofuels production in the state and fit within the rotation of the state’s traditional crops. Bill Pan, chair of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, and Bob Stevens, director of the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser, are studying the growth habits and oil characteristics of giant reed. Researchers Hal Collins, Rick Boydston, Ashok Alva, An Hang and Steven Fransen are evaluating a number of oilseed crops. They include rapeseed, mustard, sunflower, safflower and soybean. The group is also evaluating switchgrass for use in ethanol production. John Browse, in the Institute of Biological Chemistry, has doubled the yield of fats in plant oils by understanding the genes that control fatty acid characteristics. Eventually, his work could help the nation reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and provide environmentally friendly ways to produce plastics, resins, and other chemical products.

For more information, visit:

Apple growers: Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Each year, sunburn damages about 10 percent of Washington’s $1.2 billion apple crop, costing growers about $120 million in gross income. Scientists at WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee have examined the effects of sunlight and fruit skin temperature on incidence of sunburn damages. They’ve identified three types of sunburn, most recently one that occurs on fruit that have not been acclimated to sunlight – shaded fruit exposed after thinning. Just-picked fruit allowed to sit in the bin in bright sunlight may also sunburn. A research team led by WSU Professor Larry Schrader invented RAYNOX, a film that can be sprayed on fruit to block the harmful effects of the sun. Available commercially since 2003, RAYNOX can reduce sunburn by 50 percent. It is now used on about 30,000 of the state’s 200,000 acres of apples and has increased gross income for those producers by about $10 million.

For more information, visit:

Spillman Marker Rededication, Oct. 21

Washington State University’s first wheat breeder will be honored at 11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 21, when State Sen. Mark Schoesler and WSU President V. Lane Rawlins rededicate the Spillman Memorial Stone in the Clark Hall Plaza, near the intersection of Wilson Road and Lincoln Drive. William Jasper Spillman was a member of the Washington Agricultural College faculty from 1894 to 1902. “Professor Spillman’s first varieties were released in 1905,” said Steve Jones, WSU wheat breeder. “They were grown for more than 50 years and the genes from those varieties can be found in the pedigrees of today’s wheats. Spillman was the only American to independently rediscover Mendel’s Law of Heredity, which describes how traits are passed on genetically, and he is credited for gaining acceptance of Mendel’s Law among fellow scientists and farmers.

Spillman’s ashes were spread on research plots on the college campus where Spillman had conducted his wheat breeding work more than 30 years earlier. An inscribed granite memorial marker was dedicated at that location in 1940. The stone was removed in the late 1950s to make room for construction of Johnson Hall. In 1960, it was moved to the Spillman Agronomy Farm outside Pullman where it remained until 2006 when it was moved back to campus, within 100 feet of its original location.

For more information, visit: