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Cherries, National Ranking, Riparian Buffers, Red Wine

Posted by | February 7, 2007

It’s a Fact

Cherries represent about 5% of the value of Washington’s varied agricultural harvest. The total value of agriculture in 2005 was $6.41 billion, with cherries worth $338 million. Cherries came in number one in value per acre, at $11,535; that figure reflects both yield and price.

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.

WSU Receives National Ranking for Plant Science

The Chronicle of Higher Education has just released the results of a national survey which ranks WSU fifth in the area of "botany and plant biology." The ranking is based on faculty scholarly productivity, including number of publications (books and journal articles), grants received, and awards and honors. The survey analyzed over 7,300 doctoral programs. Overall, WSU ranked second in terms of number of journal articles published per faculty member, and second in the percentage of faculty whose work was cited by another work.

"This honor truly recognizes the breadth and depth of our plant science programs," said James Petersen, WSU vice president for research. "Ranging from basic research in plant molecular sciences through the field application of new discoveries, this team benefits science, Washington agriculture, energy and human health."

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Benefits of Effective Riparian Buffers

Providing riparian buffers to protect fish-bearing waterways has become a fact of life in Pacific Northwest agriculture. But is it possible to generate an economic return from a buffer to help offset the costs of installation, maintenance and land taken out of crop production? For three years, Associate Professor of Natural Resources Jon Johnson and his team have been conducting on-farm research in the Skagit Valley to find answers to this and other questions. Johnson and his team planted plots of fast-growing hybrid poplar in order to test their effectiveness in buffering waterways from nutrient run-off, to measure the effect of shade on cropland, as well as to assess the potential economic value of the buffers.

WSU economist Carolyn Henri analyzed rates of tree growth in the buffer areas to determine whether growers could raise harvestable timber to produce an economic return. Factoring in harvest costs and market assumptions, Henri found that by harvesting 50 percent of a mature crop growers could profit from a poplar buffer. "More extensive research is needed," Johnson said, "but we’ve come up with data that will help growers provide effective buffers and will better inform policymakers and regulators as they enact buffer regulations."

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Tasting Red

WSU assistant professor of food science, Carolyn Ross, combines sensory analysis with analytical chemistry techniques to identify and describe the flavor and odor profiles of Washington wines. Ross is currently working on a project to determine consumer perception of astringency in red wine. Astringency is that pucker in the mouth caused by some strong reds. Wine drinkers often describe an astringent wine as "tannic" or "grippy."

"It is a very important quality of red wine and one that definitely impacts people’s enjoyment of it," Ross says. She is conducting an inventory of several hundred Washington reds to develop astringency profiles. "It is important to the industry to explore whether people want to buy an astringent red wine and how much they are willing to pay for it," Ross says. "This will help us start to determine the properties that consumers find desirable, and this knowledge may impact the wine industry in producing such wines."

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