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Fisheries, V&E Endowment, Biofuels, Cherries

Posted by | January 31, 2007

It’s a Fact

According to the most recent Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife annual report, non-salmonid recreational fishing in Washington is a $1 billion per year industry, while commercial fishing creates almost $300 million per year in economic impact. Spring Chinook fishing in the Columbia River brings in more than $15 million per year.

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.

Record-breaking Auction Kicks Off Endowment Campaign

Thanks to all of you for supporting WSU’s Viticulture and Enology program by making this year’s 6th annual Celebration of Washington Wines a record-breaker. I’m pleased to announce that the auction raised more than $200,000. This year’s auction puts us well on our way toward our goal of raising $1.5 million to fund an endowed chair in Viticulture and Enology. We’ll continue to work closely with the wine industry and with private donors in the coming months and years to build and sustain the endowment fund.

Washington’s wine industry grew out of research done at WSU more than a half-century ago that determined that premium European wine grape varietals could be successfully grown in the state. This enterprise has grown substantially since then because of a continued commitment between WSU and the wine industry to collaborate on research, training, marketing, and variety development.

Now WSU, in collaboration with the state’s growers, wineries, and private donors, is preparing to take this collaboration to the next level. Funding the viticulture and enology endowment moves us all closer toward a set of shared goals, including developing new and expanding existing domestic and international markets for Washington wines; continuing to educate the best undergraduate and graduate students as an investment in the future; and research that ensures the ongoing prestige, health and longevity of the industry.

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Exploring Potential Biofuel Sources

WSU professor and Director of the Institute of Biological Chemistry Norman Lewis and researchers in his laboratory are dedicated to understanding the complex biochemical processes involved in plant biosynthesis. The biochemistry of the woody (lignified) structures of trees and plants may lead to new biofuel production techniques. “Our petrochemical resources are clearly finite,” Lewis said. “The question now is ‘What can we do with some of the 350,000 different plant species or so to address biofuel demand?’”

Much of Lewis’ research focuses on how plants produce lignins. While lignins help give plants and trees rigidity, they must be broken down or eliminated in order to use them for production of paper, fuel and other products. The problem Lewis is attacking is biotechnological. He’s working with the genetics of woody tissues in order to make them easier to break down or remove, but without altering the structural properties of the target plants. The goal of the research is a technology that will produce fuel from agronomic crops.

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Cherry Fruit Fly Be Gone

Cherry growers must maintain zero tolerance for cherry fruit fly, a pest that can result in the destruction of a crop or its quarantine during shipment. Given that 30 percent of Washington’s cherry crop is exported, a method for controlling the pest was a high priority among researchers. Bans of organophosphate-based control methods were either severely restricted or banned completely. Enter Tim Smith, WSU Chelan County Extension Educator, who began screening alternative methods in the 1990s.

Among others, Smith tested a control method never before tried on fruit trees in the Pacific Northwest: application of a bait that speckles the tree with an edible substance laced with a biologically derived ingredient called spinosad that kills the fly when consumed. The results have pleased both conventional and organic growers. Spinosad is so low in toxicity that it has been approved by the EPA. Its use has grown from 11,000 acres in 2004 to 71,000 in 2006. At current levels, growers save about $1.5 million per season in application and materials costs.

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