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Orchard IPM, Blue Thunder, Student Scientists

Posted by | May 13, 2009

New Grant Focuses on Stabilizing Orchard IPM Practices

Government-mandated reductions in organophosphate pesticide use have left orchard owners working to re-stabilize integrated pest management systems that have been in place for decades in the production of apples, pears and walnuts.

A collaborative project led by WSU scientists is aimed at just that – stabilizing the IPM programs in those three high-value tree crops – in light of the changes in pesticides available and sanctioned for use. The project specifically focuses on ways to enhance the effectiveness of natural enemies that are at the heart of successful orchard IPM in the western United States.

“Our goal is to make sure that natural enemies are protected,” said Vince Jones, a researcher at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center at Wenatchee and project director.

For example, some of the newer pesticides compromise the health and efficacy of the western orchard predatory mite, a natural enemy and control agent for spider mites, which are a key secondary pest in all three crops. Lacewings and syrphid flies, which are generalist predators of pests such as rosy apple aphid or the wooly apple aphid, also have been impacted.

The project includes research on physiological selectivity of pesticides, so that researchers can determine how to minimize impact on natural enemies. The project team also will look at ecological selectivity such as when and where the pesticides are used. “We’ll look at times when the natural enemies are present in the orchard, so we can change the timing or location of orchard spray programs to reduce the impacts,” Jones said.

Led by WSU’s Vince Jones (top), the team also includes scientists from USDA-ARS, Oregon State University and the University of California at Berkley. The project is funded primarily by the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service Specialty Crops Initiative with matching support from WSU, OSU, UCB, the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, the Washington State Commission on Pesticide Registration, the Washington State University Pest Management Transition Project and the California Walnut Board. The research team seeks to protect the natural enemies, such as syrphid fly (bottom), of pests of apple, pear and walnut.

For more information, please visit:

Blue Thunder!

More than 2,500 FFA members, teachers and parents from around Washington state are expected to attend the 79th Washington State FFA Convention, May 14 through May 16. The convention will be headquartered at the Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum.

The theme for this year’s convention is “Operation Blue Thunder” and will feature many leadership activities, competitive events, educational workshops and opportunities for students to be recognized for their outstanding achievements.

This year’s keynote is R5, a nationally recognized motivational group.

The WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences is partnering with the College of Veterinary Medicine to offer a series of 16 workshops, tours and other activities that will enrich this year’s convention experience.

Before the final gavel brings the convention to a close, state winners for 20 career development events will be decided, six new state officers will be elected, and the winners of the organization’s most prestigious honors — the state Agriscience Student Award and the Agri-Entrepreneurship Award — will be announced.

The primary aim of FFA is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

About 150 of the state’s 200 FFA high school programs, which daily teach some 22,000 students about the science of agriculture, will be represented on campus, according to Marv Kleene, associate professor of agricultural education and campus coordinator for the convention.

FFA returns to WSU Pullman for its annual convention.

Student Scientists Take New Food Products to National Competition

The Washington State University and University of Idaho School of Food Science has two food product development teams competing in the Institute of Food Technologists Student Association Product Development competition finals this summer. The food science students will compete against other product development teams from the U.S., Indonesia, the Netherlands and South Africa in Anaheim in June.

In an innovative effort to get young people enthusiastic about science, one team, led by junior food science major, Yukiko Sakai, has developed Erupt-a-Cake. This all-natural, ready-to-bake chocolate cake sports an erupting volcano and gummy dinosaurs.

“The target audience for Erupt-a-Cake is ‘tweens’ aged 8 – 12 years old,” said Sakai. “The kids make the cake and learn some science by combining an acid and a base to create the reaction that makes the volcano erupt.” While the final formulation of the product is still under wraps, all the ingredients are safe for children to work with and eat.

In the first ever “Developing Solutions for Developing Countries” category, Ph.D. student Babu Chinnasamy and his teammates are competing with Tu Mazi, a mango-flavored probiotic milk powder. Tu Mazi, Chinnasamy said, is designed to utilize the highly seasonal milk supply in Kenya in a way that ensures a nutritious and economy-stabilizing source of food in times of drought. By using an innovative dehydrating technology, milk and mangoes, abundant during Kenya’s rainy season, are powdered in a way that preserves probiotic bacteria so that the powder can be reconstituted with filtered water when supplies of milk and fruit run low.

Probiotics, some research suggests, have human health benefitting properties.

“There’s a lot of innovation going on at WSU and the UI,” said Stephanie Clark, associate professor of food science and the teams’ advisor. “Students who go through our program are gaining all the skills they need to take a product from concept to consumer. Going to the IFT finals again really underscores the strength of that preparation.”

Yukiko Sakai (center) and her team in a product development lab working on Erupt-a-Cake.

WSU and UI students have won numerous awards in the past 10 years for food product development and, since 2002, have competed in the IFT Student Association Product Development finals four times. For the complete history of product development awards and competitions, please visit:

For more information about the WSU & UI School of Food Science, please visit:

For a video featuring a SFS alum at work developing new food products, check out: