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Cranberries, Bugs, Pygmy Rabbits

Posted by | June 20, 2007

Did You Know?

Decades ago, economic geographer Albert L. Seeman pointed out that “there are but few sections of the United States that have the environment which is necessary for the growing of the cranberry.” One of those few is the Washington coast around Gray’s Harbor and Willapa Bay, where cranberries have been cultivated for 130 years. Although a minor player in the global cranberry market, Washington supplies most of the fresh berries consumed west of the Rockies.

Cranberry research is ongoing at nearby WSU Long Beach where, WSU Extension professor Kim Patten reports, researchers have “hit a home run” with a new herbicide. Patten screened hundreds of potential candidates before finding one—Callisto—that was broad spectrum enough to defeat the perennial weeds that plague cranberry bogs and yet gentle enough not to damage the sensitive vines. Having patiently shepherded Callisto through the registration process, Patten said the herbicide arrived in times to help Pacific Northwest growers meet the demand created by Ocean Spray’s new $30-million Craisin processing facility in Hoquiam.

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.

Due It at a Distance

For the past five years, WSU has been collaborating with the National Plant Diagnostic Network on Distance Diagnostics through Digital Imaging. The Web-based service allows growers, agronomists, county Extension agents and Master Gardeners to take photos of diseased plants, weeds, and insect pests, and send them to experts for accurate identification.

One of the main benefits of DDDI is a faster response time; a diagnosis can be reduced from a few weeks to a few days by eliminating time samples spend in the mail. A quick diagnosis can reduce costs to growers: experts at the University of Georgia estimate that DDDI saves Georgia growers $80 million a year by reducing crop loss and treatment expenses.

DDDI creates a real-time view of disease progression during the growing season which enables Extension agents to warn growers of emerging pests and pathogens. Additionally, DDDI allows several experts at different geographic locations to evaluate a sample, helping insure an accurate diagnosis.

Currently 16 counties across Washington actively participate in the DDDI program. An increased outreach and awareness campaign this spring has increased use seven fold in 2007.

For more information on how you can start using WSU DDDI please visit the program website:

Imaging and diagnosis with multiple experts–all at a distance. Photos: Norm Dart, WSU Puyallup.

Pygmy Rabbits Take Baby Steps toward Recovery

The sagebrush steppe of north central Washington is home to a genetically unique sub-species of pygmy rabbit. Over the years, though, their numbers have dwindled. The largest and perhaps only remaining population of the rabbits experienced an unexplained decrease over the winter of 2000-01. The sudden decline left a population of less than 30.

In 2001, a captive breeding program was stared as a cooperative effort involving Washington State University, the Oregon Zoo, and the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, with funding from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Bonneville Power Administration and other sources. In a story that received major media coverage all over the world, the first rabbits from the program were released into their native habitat in March, 2007.

It was a rough spring for the pygmy rabbits. Most were quickly killed by predators. Two kits, though, were born in the following months. WSU conservation biologist Rod Sayler told the Associated Press, “We consider that our first goal; to have that breeding success. Our next goal is to have animals survive longer and have more kits.”

For more information, including a short video about the program, please visit:

They survived! A pygmy rabbit kit photographed by WSU grad student, Len Zeoli.