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Orchards of the Future, Infertility Research, Weed Scientist

Posted by | August 15, 2012

Orchard of the Future — Think Automation

WSU doctoral student Jingjin Zhang (left) and engineering technician Patrick Scharf measure photosynthetic energy absorption in sweet cherry trees at the WSU Roza Research Orchard near Prosser. The measurements are taken on a mobile platform that is part of a three-year project to develop a precision agriculture system for specialty crop growers. Photo by Qin Zhang/WSU.
WSU doctoral student Jingjin Zhang (left) and engineering technician Patrick Scharf measure photosynthetic energy absorption in sweet cherry trees at the WSU Roza Research Orchard near Prosser. The measurements are taken on a mobile platform that is part of a three-year project to develop a precision agriculture system for specialty crop growers. Photo by Qin Zhang/WSU.

In orchards and vineyards of the future, one sensor will measure the amount of photosynthetic energy being absorbed by tree and vine canopies at any time of day. Other sensors will record moisture levels from leaves and soil. A variable-rate irrigation system can then supply just the right amount of water and fertilizer, depending on what a particular plant needs. And all the information can be collected, processed, and seen by growers in real time through their mobile devices so they can make informed decisions quickly.

WSU’s Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems (CPAAS) is working with the University of California at Davis and others on a three-year, $2.6 million U.S. Department of Agriculture project to bring this future to the present.

“This research is aimed at developing and integrating soil- and plant-based sensors to monitor the condition of plant canopies for optimizing management within orchards and vineyards,” said Qin Zhang, CPAAS director. “We envision the creation of an information-based, decision-making infrastructure that will drive Washington’s tree fruit and wine grape industries into this new precision agriculture revolution, an era of precision crop management.”

Read the rest of this article by Nella Letizia at http://bit.ly/PReklJ.

WSU Researchers Investigating Infertility in Cattle, Humans

Cattle are an effective model for the study of human infertility.
Cattle are an effective model for the study of human infertility.

Understanding why 25 to 30 percent of pregnancies in beef cattle are lost and developing ways to improve those odds could translate to increasing the success of human pregnancies, according to Washington State University Professor Thomas Spencer.

Spencer, along with Holly Neibergs, an animal scientist at WSU specializing in genomics, and Tom Geary, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service at Miles City, Mont., have received a $1.125 million grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development through the National Institutes of Health. It is part of a relatively new NIH grant program called “Dual Purpose with Dual Benefit: Research in Biomedicine and Agriculture Using Agriculturally Important Domestic Species.” Ahmed Tibary, large animal clinician in WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, also is a part of the team.

Cattle and humans have the same problem,” said Spencer. “There is a lot of pregnancy loss within the first two to three weeks, and about half of those have to do with problems of the uterus. It’s very difficult to get samples from early pregnant women, so working with cattle is an effective way to explore issues that affect both humans and animals.”

Over the next five years, Spencer, Neibergs and Geary will research the origins of infertility and pregnancy loss using beef cattle. The team, which will include undergraduate and graduate students at WSU, also will work to develop new therapies to diagnose, treat and prevent infertility.

Read the rest of this article by Kathy Barnard at http://bit.ly/Tz9VZa.

Drew Lyon Joins WSU as Endowed Chair in Small Grains Weed Science

Drew Lyon
Drew Lyon

Drew Lyon will be joining the WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences as the Endowed Chair in Small Grains Extension and Research, Weed Science, starting September 1. This position, funded by the Washington Grain Commission, carries a 70 percent Extension and 30 percent research appointment, with emphasis on dryland crops of eastern Washington.Lyon is currently professor of agronomy and horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), with a 50/50 split in research and Extension. His responsibilities include the investigation and development of resource-efficient cropping systems for dryland crops with an emphasis on weed control, water management, and soil conservation.

Lyon’s Ph.D in agronomy/weed science from UNL and related experience have set the groundwork for his planned approach to weed control at WSU. His first goal is to make WSU’s research-based information on small grains and weed control more easily accessible and usable. “There’s good research being done at WSU,” Lyon said. “I want to make sure it’s getting out to the folks who need it and can use it.” With a broad spectrum of growers in Washington, Lyon notes that he will need to employ different methods to reach them all, including meetings, publications, and the Internet.

Understanding that research and extension are two-way streets, Lyon also wants to help feed information and experiences from the growers back to the researchers.

Lyon’s service in Nebraska shows that he is well suited to bring innovation to WSU Extension. His “Crop Watch: Wheat” website (http://cropwatch.unl.edu/web/wheat/) features articles on wheat and weed control, as well as weekly updates on the wheat crop. His “Virtual Wheat Varieties Tour” (http://cropwatch.unl.edu/web/wheat/virtual) provides Nebraskan wheat growers with information on the service that they value most from UNL: wheat variety testing. The site includes yield data, disease vulnerability, general descriptions and pictures of each variety, as well as a list of certified seed growers by variety.

–Bob Hoffmann