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New Apple, Biofuels, Budget, Hmong Video Project

Posted by | February 10, 2010

A New Apple for Washington Growers

After 15 years in development, the WSU apple breeding program has released its first apple cultivar. Currently known as WA 2, the new apple has outstanding eating quality, appearance and productivity—and it’s bred to grow in the hot, arid conditions of central Washington state.

“Most of the varieties that we’re producing in this area were developed in mild climates, such as Minnesota and New Zealand that are not representative of the hot desert climate we have here,” Jay Brunner told the Wenatchee World. Brunner is director of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee. “Because they are adapted here, we know they will be well-adapted as opposed to some new variety from another location.”

WA 2 is attractive with an orange-red to pinkish-red blush over a yellow background and has large and conspicuous lenticels or dots, making it easy to distinguish from other cultivars and adding to its overall pleasing appearance. The fruit has outstanding texture, being firm, crisp and juicy and loses very little firmness in storage and on the shelf.

WA-2: a new apple for Washington growers

WA 2: the new apple has just been released for grower evaluation. Commercial growers are welcome to participate in the evaluation of WA 2. This year’s evaluation sign up period ends March 31. For more information, please visit:

Working on a Reliable Source of Biofuels

The future production of biofuels in Washington could be made easier, thanks to research underway at WSU.

Michael Neff, an assistant scientist in the department of crop and soil sciences, is examining how oil-rich seeds from Camelina can be genetically altered to survive in low-rainfall areas of the Northwest. Neff said the work is crucial in developing a potentially lucrative agricultural crop and a source of renewable material for biofuel production.

Michael Neff

For more about Neff’s camelina research, check out this short video:

A Threat to Research

The following is an excerpt from WSU President Elson Floyd’s most recent “Perspectives” column:

“As the budget process in Olympia moves forward, we at Washington State University recognize that we will share in the cutbacks mandated by the state’s fiscal shortfall.

“However, we must and will resist any reductions that will have crippling and irreversible impacts on our university and on our state. A potential threat to $26 million in state funding for research, primarily agricultural research, clearly falls in that category.

“It is important to put this issue in context. At this point, we have only received a request from Senate and House fiscal committee staffers regarding our state research dollars. However, we are concerned that money may be at risk because of a quirk in the federal legislation regarding stimulus funding.”

Read the rest of President Floyd’s “Perspective” on his Web site:

WSU President Elson Floyd

President Elson Floyd

For more on the current budget situation, follow Dean Dan Bernardo’s blog at:

Hmong Farmers Video Project

Seeing is believing, and in the case of Hmong farmers, seeing is a way of learning new farming practices. That’s why members of the Hmong community of western Washington are now producing videos.

In the Hmong culture, farmers learn through storytelling and art. While classroom-style teaching reaches some farmers in the area, barriers such as language, work schedules and learning styles made it difficult to effectively convey new practices to Hmong farmers.

“Classes and workshops on improving farming practices had low attendance because of learning barriers,” said Bee Cha, Hmong outreach extension educator. “Since the Hmong farmers were not going to classes and workshops, we wanted a better way to reach out, so we brainstormed non-traditional methods of education.”

Washington State University King County Extension and Small Farms Team took sustainable business and farming practice education for Hmong farmers to the next level. They taught Hmong youth how to produce videos, and now those youth are making videos to educate the farmers in their communities.

Since the Hmong began to immigrate to King County in the early 1980s, WSU has helped the farmers find markets in which to sell. But while WSU’s Small Farms Team has been making education available to local farmers, the various barriers have constrained extension educators in teaching new agricultural methods to the Hmong farmers.

“We wanted to offer something more convenient and culturally appropriate,” said Todd Murray, director of WSU Skamania County Extension.

Hmong are from the highlands of Laos and immigrated to King County as refugees resulting from the Vietnam War. Currently, Hmong farmers represent a significant component in the King County’s agricultural landscape. There are approximately 90 Hmong family farms in the state of Washington, with 50 located in King County, according to Cha.

After discovering that most Hmong farmers had access to technology, including DVD players, the WSU King County Extension and Small Farms Team decided to investigate video education.

“We wanted to reinvigorate the education we provide to satisfy their needs,” said Murray. “It was important to create an education that worked with their lifestyle.”

County extension educators decided to train young farmers in video production so they could create their own educational videos on business and sustainable farming practices.

After purchasing video equipment, computers and software with grant support from the King Conservation District, 12 young farmers took classes at 911 Media in Seattle to learn video production skills. After learning how to structure projects through production planning, filming and editing, the group was challenged to create a video project on an aspect of Hmong culture.

Since then, two of the students have been hired by WSU to create instructional documentaries. So far, the duo has produced videos on flea beetle management and another on proper record keeping for taxes. The flea beetle video is in its final stages of production. Once complete, the videos will be distributed on DVD and also will be viewable online.

“We are hoping this will turn into a long-term project and that it can be translated into other languages,” said Murray. After the videos are distributed, research will be done on their effectiveness.

“I think this project is unique and will definitely have a bigger impact and a wider audience than we had in classes and workshops,” said Cha.

“This is the most fun project I’ve done working with WSU,” said Murray. “Hmong is an interesting culture, and it was a great community to work with.”

by Holly Luka CAHNRS Marketing and News intern

A still from a video produced by young Hmong farmers

A still from one of the videos produced by young Hmong farmers.

Sample videos produced by the team are available online at

The project was funded by King Conservation District and supported by the WSU Small Farms Team through grants from USDA Risk Management Agency and USDA Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers.