Molecular Lab Detects Pests, Trains Young Scientists
As genomics research unravels some of life’s complexities, laboratories like the new molecular lab at WSU Puyallup applies that knowledge to real-world problems. For molecular geneticist Katie Coats, that means working with the WSDA and WSU Puyallup plant pathologist Gary Chastagner to understand the genetics of the exotic plant pathogen Phytophthora ramorum, the cause of sudden oak death. This fungus-like pathogen has killed more than a million oak trees in California and has been found in a number of Puget Sound nurseries. If uncontrolled, this pathogen can spread through air and water to other trees and plants in nurseries and into surrounding landscapes. It has the potential to create substantial financial losses to horticultural and timber industries due to resulting quarantines and trade restrictions.
“The WSDA is providing plant samples that have tested positive,” said Coats. “Their tests,” she explained, “show that the pathogen is present. We take it one step further, using the molecular lab to genetically fingerprint the pathogen in an attempt to identify different strains of the pathogen. We can determine if they are persisting in nurseries or if new strains of the pathogen are being regularly introduced into nurseries. If we can track how the strains are spreading, we can more effectively eradicate them.”
The molecular lab is also helping Sumner High School sophomore students Becca Humphries and Alexandra Montano gain hands-on microbiology experience as they conduct real-life experiments. Both students consider themselves emerging microbiologists. They look at this experience as an opportunity to become more involved in science. They are working with Coats as part of an FFA program under the direction of their advisor, Greg Pile.
–TanyaLee Erwin, WSU Puyallup
For more information on research and extension at WSU Puyallup, please visit: http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/
Innovative Ag Pilot Projects Funded
$500,000 in funding from the Washington State Legislature will power four agricultural pilot projects. The William D. Ruckelshaus Center announced the funding Feb. 11. The Washington State Conservation Commission will administer the grants for the projects.
A direct-seeding project, led by Ty Meyer, production ag manager for the Spokane County Conservation District, will increase the adoption of direct-seed operations through the use of a mentoring program, an on-farm demonstration of direct seeding, and a side-by-side case study comparing direct seeding with conventionally tilled ground.
A Farming for Wildlife project will test the novel concept of creating habitat for shorebirds on farmland by implementing habitat rotations. Among other things, the project will examine the potential disease and pathogen control benefits associated with habitat rotations and flooded farm fields. This project is being directed by Kevin Morse, the manager of the Nature Conservancy’s Skagit Delta Project.
Jim Hazen, executive director of the Washington State Horticultural Association, is leading the Insect Pest Management (IPM) project, which will change practices, attitudes and perceptions of IPM among farmers while maintaining acceptable crop protection, sustaining grower profitability, reducing pesticide exposure risks to farm laborers, and enhancing environmental health.
Don Nelson, WSU Extension beef specialist, will test the feasibility and repeatability of converting land coming out of the Conservation Reserve Program into a vertically integrated grass-fed beef production system.
For more information on the Ruckelshaus Center, a joint project between WSU and the University of Washington, please visit: http://www.ruckelshauscenter.wsu.edu/.
Adapted from an article by William Gaynor of the Ruckelshaus Center.
Keller and Mills Win Best Viticulture Paper
Deep in Washington wine country, WSU researchers are adding value to the burgeoning wine industry. The latest evidence of that comes from the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, which just announced its Best Paper Award.
This year’s award for best paper goes to viticulturist Markus Keller and research technology supervisor Lynn J. Mills for their paper, “Effect of Pruning on Recovery and Productivity of Cold-Injured Merlot Grapevines.” “The paper presents research on how to approach pruning after cold damage has occurred,” Mills said.
We’ll have more detailed coverage of Keller and Mills’ paper in the next issue of Voice of the Vine, our bi-weekly e-newsletter covering viticulture and enology at WSU. To subscribe to Voice of the Vine, please visit: http://wine.wsu.edu/.