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CAHNRS News – September 4, 2009

Posted by | September 4, 2009

Stevens Retires as IAREC Director; Jacoby to Assume New Post

Irrigated agriculture in Washington has seen a lot of changes in the past quarter century; on Oct. 1 this year it will see one more. Dr. Robert G. Stevens, director of Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser is retiring after 24 years of service and leadership.

Bob Stevens

“Very few, if any, have contributed more to Washington State University, CAHNRS or Washington agriculture than Bob has,” said Dan Bernardo, dean of the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “He has been an incredibly valuable asset to the center at Prosser, to the college, to WSU and to the irrigated agriculture industry of our state and beyond. I will miss him.”

A barbecue celebrating Stevens’ career is scheduled for Sept. 18 at the IAREC. The reception starts at 4:30 p.m., a barbecue beef dinner will be served at 5, and the program will consist of a tribute/roast about Bob and his career. For more information or to RSVP, contact Sharon Taff at 509.786.9220 or

Stevens’ official last day as IAREC director is Oct. 1. Pete W. Jacoby, associate dean in CAHNRS, will assume new responsibilities as IAREC director that day.

“Pete has the knowledge of Prosser, irrigated agriculture and WSU policy and procedures to make this transition as smooth and seamless as possible,” Bernardo said. “He and Bob already have been working through some of the details.”

Bob Stevens joined WSU in 1984 as a WSU Extension soil specialist and a faculty member in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. His work has focused primarily on best management practices regarding soil, water and nutrient management to insure productive, profitable agriculture and a healthy environment. He also conducted research on the effect of nutrient cycling and rate and timing of fertilizer additions on plant nutrient available as well as nutrient loss to the environment.

He was named interim director of IAREC in 2004, a post he continued to hold until this year, when Bernardo named him director. Stevens postponed his retirement at least twice to provide stable leadership at the center. In the position, he gained the support and appreciation of ag stakeholders throughout the state.

In February 2009, the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers presented Stevens with an Industry Service Award. “Bob not only contributed to the success of grape and wine growers through his work as a soil scientist, but also in his recent role as interim center director at Prosser,” said Vick Scharlau, the association’s executive director. “He is truly one of our unsung heroes doing work required, but largely unnoticed. We just wanted him to know that we noticed and we appreciate all he’s done for our industry and for the other ag sectors he serves.”

Friends of Animal Science Tailgate BBQ & Silent Auction

Please join us at 12 p.m., Sept 5, at Ensminger Pavilion to learn about the exciting things happening in the Department of Animal Sciences and what our talented students are doing. Tickets are $10 at the door. Come enjoy live music, a silent auction with proceeds benefiting scholarships, and special guest speakers. Visit for more information.

CAHNRS Fall Festival

Come join us for food, fun and games on Sept. 17, 4-6 p.m. at Spillman Plaza (between Johnson and Hulbert Halls). There will be student club exhibits, department displays and a chance to win a scholarship toward a major in CAHNRS. Meet students, professors, advisors and the deans of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

Under the Big Tent: A Locavore’s Dilemma

A public debate on eating locally will be held Wednesday, Sept. 16 at noon on Glenn Terrell Mall at the CUB.

Workshop on Tenure and Promotion

Fran McSweeney, Regents Professor of Psychology and Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, will give a workshop and answer questions about all aspects of faculty performance reviews. The workshop will particularly focus on tenure and promotion. Any faculty member who has an interest in these issues should attend, particularly those who are just beginning their careers at WSU or who will come up for an important evaluation soon. The workshop will be given on Thursday, Sept. 10 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Originating in Pullman and accessible in Spokane, Tri-Cities and Vancouver though WSU Videoconferencing Services, it will also be video streamed to allow access through the internet. Complete scheduling details are available at This workshop is part of an effort to increase the transparency of all faculty personnel policies.


Plant Pathology graduate students brought home several awards from the Best Student Paper Competition during the Pacific Division Meeting of the American Phytopathological Society held in Portland, OR, Aug. 1-5. Jeremiah Dung (PhD student with Dr. Dennis Johnson) won second place and 3rd place was a tie between Laura Costadone (M.S. student with Dr. Gary Grove) and Evans Njambere (Ph.D. student with Dr. Weidong Chen). Grant Poole (Ph.D. student with Dr. Tim Paulitz) and Hongyan Sheng (Ph.D. student with Dr. Tim Murray) were recognized for winning competitive travel awards to attend the meeting. Congratulations to the winners and all other students who took part in this competition!

Ashfaq A. Sial, entomology Ph.D. student with Jay Brunner, was recently notified that his graduate student grant proposal was funded for $21,239 from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. His research is on assessing the risk of resistance evolution, and determining the biochemical and molecular basis of resistance against two newly registered reduced-risk insecticides, chlorantraniliprole and spinetoram, in the obliquebanded leafroller, a caterpillar pest of apples.

Ole Sleipness recently joined the WSU landscape architecture faculty as a clinical assistant professor after completing his Ph.D. in environmental design and planning at Clemson University. His dissertation addressed how promotional materials and the built environment itself are used to brand residential communities in the rural Southern Appalachian Mountains as “green,” as well as challenges to implementing sustainable development in such settings. Before his doctorate, Ole earned a bachelor of landscape architecture from WSU and a master of city and regional planning from Clemson. In addition to teaching landscape architecture courses, he is looking forward to pursuing research in rural conservation and development issues in the Inland Northwest.

Horticulture professor Virginia I. Lohr has been invited to speak at the International Workshop on Health, Environment, and Town/Life Planning for Sustainable Welfare Society this October in Tokyo, Japan. Her presentation will be titled “Positive responses to plants and why they may occur”.

Jacob Blauer, graduate student in the molecular plant science program working in Dr. Rick Knowles’ lab, was awarded the National Potato Council Scholarship for this academic year. The scholarship is awarded to graduate students pursuing advanced studies in Agribusiness which enhance the Potato Industry. Selection is based on academic achievement, leadership abilities, and potato-related areas of graduate study. Jacob’s research interests are in vitamin C content in potatoes and physiological aging.