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Peppermint, Cherries, Feed Management

Posted by | March 7, 2007

It’s a Fact

In 2006, Washington growers produced 2,760,000 pounds of peppermint valued at nearly $35 million. Washington is the nation’s leading producer of peppermint.

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.

Cherry Breeding Update

Since the revival two years ago of WSU’s cherry breeding program, Jim Olmstead, the program manager, has been busy breeding pest resistance into new varieties of cherries. Particularly as interest in organic cherry production increases, developing varieties with resistance to powdery mildew is critical. Olmstead has two varieties with mildew resistance that will go into trials in a couple of years. Olmstead is also working with varieties with large fruit and great taste that are suitable for mechanical harvesting, thus addressing another major concern of growers about the stability of the agricultural labor supply.

Olmstead is working with old genetic material but using new variety development tools to try to speed up the process. “We’re using many of the tools that are available to speed up, and make the breeding process more efficient,” he said. His toolkit includes genetic markers, a technique which enables scientists to target and improve desirable traits much earlier in the selection process, before many seedlings even develop actual fruit.

The old genetics Olmstead works with are the trove of selections made by previous managers of the cherry breeding program, which WSU founded in 1949. Currently, the program is working with approximately 1,700 selections. Olmstead said, “Our goal is to develop varieties for growers which allow them to have sustainable and consistent production.”

Feed Management

WSU Extension is leading a nationwide program to help livestock and poultry operators and others develop ways to meet stricter environmental regulations for managing nutrients and to protect water quality by managing how and what livestock eat. Joe Harrison, an Extension specialist at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, is project director for the National Feed Management Education Project, while the project manager is WSU animal sciences doctoral student Rebecca White.

“The goal of the education project is to help producers adopt feed management practices that keep farms from accumulating excess nutrients and losing those nutrients to the environment,” Harrison explained. “An ideal situation would be that everything a farmer imports onto his farm in the way of feed, fertilizer and other inputs balances with what he exports.”

Livestock feed represents the largest import of nutrients to the farm, followed by commercial fertilizer. “There are opportunities to reduce feed imports, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous, to most animal and livestock operations,” Harrison added, “but they vary in how economically feasible they are and in their environmental impact. It’s important that agricultural professionals understand the degree of success that can be expected both from an economic and an environmental standpoint.”

For more information, please visit: Joe Harrison’s site