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Cattle, Spuds, Ag Tour

Posted by | September 19, 2007

DNA Technology Goes into Commercial Production

DNA technology that will benefit beef and dairy cattle producers in the selection, breeding and management of their herds has been licensed for commercial development by Merial Limited., a leading animal health company. The technology was originally developed at WSU by Zhihua Jiang, assistant professor of animal sciences, whose breakthroughs we’ve been reporting on in On Solid Ground for the past year.

“We are pleased to take this discovery to the next level by partnering with Merial,” said Keith Jones, executive director of the WSU Research Foundation. “This research has the potential to have a major impact on beef and dairy cattle breeding and production methods.”

Declines in reproductive efficiency have been a worldwide problem challenging the dairy industry for several decades. Dairy producers have been losing money because they have been forced to spend a lot on getting their cows pregnant and culling cows that were not getting pregnant, thus not calving and producing milk. The technology developed by Jiang’s group should aid genetic selection and help producers efficiently tailor production toward desirable traits.

“Effective utilization of these tools can deliver in excess of $100 million in annual improvements, for example, in beef production to U.S. cattlemen,” said Stewart Bauck, DVM, MS, executive director of strategic marketing for IGENITY, a DNA testing service of Merial.

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Zhihua Jiang, assistant professor of animal sciences at Washington State University

Study to Focus on Spud Nutrition

The potato, shunned by some Americans for its high carbohydrate content, may be healthier than we give it credit. A new study at WSU is examining some of its nutritional benefits.

Brightly colored potatoes, such as purple, red and yellow, contain higher levels of antioxidants compared with white potatoes, according to Boon Chew, WSU professor of nutritional immunology. Antioxidants help to prevent diseases by improving the human immune system.

“We want to be able to have our pie and eat it too, so to speak,” Chew said, referring to being able to eat potatoes at the same time as improving health.

Chew and Jean Soon Park, WSU assistant research professor, will compare the health-related benefits of white, yellow and purple potatoes. Chew is working with Chuck Brown, a USDA Agricultural Research Service plant geneticist, at the WSU Prosser Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center, to identify potato varieties that have the highest antioxidant content. Brown is growing the potatoes for the study.

Brightly colored potatoes may be an excellent source of antioxidants

Thanks to Hannah Hathaway, a WSU undergrad working as an intern with Marketing, News, and Educational Communications, who contributred to this article.

State Ag Directors to Tour WSU-NWREC

On Saturday some very important people in agriculture will be dropping by WSU’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon.

The NWREC is the first stop on an agriculture tour of Skagit County for the nation’s 50 state directors, secretaries and commissioners of agriculture who will be in Seattle for the annual meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. The delegation also will visit Sakuma Brothers berry farm and the Knutzen Family potato farm on its Skagit tour.

The centerpiece of the renovated NWREC is the new Agricultural Research and Technology Building that houses state-of-art labs and research facilities. More than $2 million in community support was added to $6 million provided by WSU to renovate the NWREC.

“These facilities are a real tribute to both the community’s commitment to its agricultural history and tradition, and to WSU’s ongoing commitment to agriculture,” says Debra Inglis, NWREC interim director. “I believe this university/community partnership can serve as a model for revitalizing other R & E centers throughout the country.”

Washington Department of Agriculture Director Valoria Loveland, the current president of NASDA, says the annual meeting and tours are an opportunity to bring the state’s $32 billion agriculture industry to an influential national audience.

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WSU’s Northwest Research and Extension Center, exterior and, bottom, one of the new labs made possible through a community-university partnership