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Pears, Bulls, Bugs, Weather

Posted by | April 4, 2007

It’s a Fact

Washington State produces nearly half of the nation’s pears. Total U.S. production in 2005 was 811,600 tons, valued at $315 million.

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.

A House Built for Bugs

Why would anyone intentionally build a new house with deck posts in contact with soil, improperly installed window flashings, a leaking toilet and attic insulation running right up to ventilation holes?

The answer is to provide the first hands-on training facility in the western United States for structural pest inspectors where they can actually see the real-world conditions that invite pest infestations. The 1,152 square-foot “house,” located at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, features four kinds of exterior siding and four kinds of roofing materials to allow trainees to see what creates pest-friendly conditions in a variety of structural materials.

“People who do structural pest inspections in homes don’t have much opportunity to get hands-on training,” according to Carrie Foss, WSU Extension urban integrated pest management coordinator. The training facility will provide lasting benefits for Washington citizens, according to Foss. “Improved training for inspectors will help us all protect our investments in buildings and homes, improve structural safety and reduce impacts on water quality by reducing the need for pesticide use,” she said.

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WSU’s Cattle Industry Collaboration Adds Value

For the past 14 years, WSU has been collaborating with the cattle industry and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association (WCA) in an annual Bull Test and Sale at the WSU Prosser Research and Extension Center.

Rod Wesselman, a cattle industry leader who sits on the WCA board of directors, said that the purpose of the test and sale are to ensure that “the best quality genetics get out there to better the entire cattle industry.” Sale manager Gary Kendall of Kendall Cattle in Potlatch, Idaho, said the annual test and sale attract livestock breeders and buyers from all over the Pacific Northwest because “it’s convenient to have one spot for feeding, testing and the sale. And with the university’s backing, we know the testing is neutral.”

Bulls are tested for a variety of fitness factors over a 114-120 day period culminating in late March. Data on each bull is collected for weight gain on a high-roughage rotation, breeding fitness and, through the use of ultrasound, intramuscular fat (marbling), rib-eye area (steak size), and back fat. Since many of these characteristics are directly correlated with genetics, bulls that score high on the tests add significant value to their progeny, according to Yakima County Extension Educator Frank Hendrix.

AgWeatherNet Receives Industry Grant

The Washington Wine Industry Foundation (WWIF) announced that it has awarded WSU’s AgWeatherNet $55,000 from a USDA Risk Management Agency grant partnership to fund research into new technology to streamline collection and distribution of weather data to the Washington agricultural industry.

“We are pleased to be able to help fund the research into new methods of transmitting weather data,” said Vicky Scharlau, WWIF executive director, in a press release announcing the grant. “The weather is a huge and continual risk factor for growers, and having more accurate information in a timely manner is key to mitigating that risk and to making better decisions.”

Growers use the weather information to make decisions for pest and disease control, irrigation needs and frost protection.

“Having the most accurate weather information is critical for the tree fruit industry,” said Dan Kelly, assistant manager for the Washington Growers Clearing House. “Each year, we face serious impacts due to weather events. If this research identifies a better way to relay weather data, particularly in areas that cannot be covered with conventional methods, it could help prevent crop loss.”

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