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Christmas Trees, Sudden Oak Death, Cattle, Happy Holiday

Posted by | December 20, 2006

It’s a Fact

California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are the top Christmas tree producing states in the country. The best selling trees are Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Noble fir, Fraser fir, Virginia pine, Balsam fir and white pine.

Containing Sudden Oak Death

Elected officials joined leaders of the state’s forest products, nursery and Christmas tree industries this spring to tour and dedicate a new research biocontainment facility for plant pathogens at the Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center. WSU financed and installed the $250,000 isolation facility to expedite research on Sudden Oak Death, a deadly and easily spread plant pathogen. The fungus-like pathogen was identified in 2000 after killing thousands of trees in California and causing leaf blight on rhododendrons in Europe. It has been found in 14 California counties and in one county in Oregon.

Since 2002, WSU researchers have been traveling to Oregon State University in Corvallis to conduct cooperative research at their biocontainment facility. The new WSU isolation facility will enable WSU researchers to focus on the susceptibility of Washington plants to SOD and on disease controls specific to our state’s environment. SOD attacks many types of plants and trees common to the Pacific Northwest, including azaleas, big leaf maples, huckleberry, California bay laurel, camellia, myrtles, honeysuckle, Pacific madrone, Douglas fir, rhododendrons, and vibernum. It does not affect humans and is not a food safety concern.

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Going Mobile for a Sustainable Livestock Industry

The emissions generated by livestock can be a nuisance to a producer’s neighbors, in some cases are hazardous to the animals’ health, and can damage the planet’s ozone layer. For Dr Pius Ndegwa, a scientist in WSU’s Department of Biological Systems Engineering, this amounts to a challenge to the sustainability of the livestock industry. To meet that challenge, he has developed a state-of-the-art mobile air-quality testing laboratory. Where previously it’s been very difficult to make accurate assessment of on-farm air quality, the new mobile lab allows for on-site, non-disruptive testing, thus providing a means for accurate assessment of best management practices for livestock producers.

In the long run, Ndegwa says, animal emissions are very likely to be regulated. Ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, dust, a spectrum of volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, and a veritable zoo of microorganisms are all coming under close scrutiny. Ndegwa is looking to put livestock producers ahead of the regulatory curve by letting them know what they’re dealing with. Producers interested in working with Dr Ndegwa may contact him at

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Happy Holidays!

Due to the winter break at WSU, the next issue of On Solid Ground will be delivered Jan. 10, 2007. Happy holidays!