It’s a Fact
More than 27,000 acres are planted in pears in Washington with a total farm-gate value of more than $125 million, approximately 10% of the total farm-gate value of Washington tree fruit.
Agricultural research at WSU stands to lose more than a million dollars if Congress drops USDA earmarks from its annual spending bill. Earmarks are funds directed to specific projects and programs, including agricultural research. The funds “are used for working on agriculture-related problems that are important to the state,” said Ralph Cavalieri, associate dean and director of the WSU Agricultural Research Center. Cavalieri said that 15 research projects would be affected if Congress does not restore the funding, including research on potato variety development, asparagus harvesting technology, perennial wheat development, and the establishment of wine-grape foundation blocks.
Earmarks have come under scrutiny by Congress as they often signify abuse and special-interest peddling. However, said Cavalieri, research efforts at WSU are not traditional earmarks though they fall under that category in congressional budget considerations. After years of reliable funding, “Every land-grant university will be affected,” Cavalieri said. “We will disproportionately lose this year.”
Dairy Cattle Contribute to Understanding of Human Health
The first study of its kind has demonstrated that nutrition affects dozens of genes in dairy cows when they start milking. The finding may eventually help dairy producers identify dairy cows that use feed most efficiently to make milk and stay healthy. The research also may benefit humans by identifying gene patterns in adipose tissue, or fat, as well as compounds made by cows that enter the milk and improve human health. The research was conducted by John McNamara, who has been on the faculty for 23 years; Jennifer M. Sumner, who received a doctorate in December; and Jan Vierck, research technician in McNamara’s lab. (Photo at right by Beck Phillips shows McNamara and Sumner.)
Adipose tissue plays a central role in human breast-feeding, obesity (the presence of too much adipose tissue) and efficient food production. McNamara’s team found that in dairy cattle, the ultimate milk machines, dozens of genes in adipose tissue change when the animals start making milk. Gene change during lactation enables the cow to use her stored body fat to make milk.
“The pinnacle of adipose tissue function is reached in pregnancy and lactation, in which animals first store fat, and then use it during later pregnancy and lactation, followed by restoration for the next reproductive cycle. In addition to being a major energy storage organ, adipose tissue is a source of several regulatory and health proteins including those controlling feed intake, inflammation and immunity,” McNamara explained.
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