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Pest Control, Ag Efficiency, Research Award

Posted by | August 13, 2008

Greener Methods Control Key Pest of Cherries

Thanks to the efforts of Extension educator Tim Smith, sweet cherry growers in central Washington are using new environmentally friendly materials and methods to control Cherry fruit fly.

Washington is the nation’s leading producer of sweet cherries and a third of the crop is exported. The key quarantine pest of sweet cherries is cherry fruit fly, for which there is zero tolerance. As recently as five years ago, organophosphate or carbamate insecticides were the most commonly used control products. By 2004, many of the most effective insecticides were strictly limited or completely banned near fish-bearing streams.

Smith initiated trials in central Washington starting in the late 1990s to screen new methods and materials for use by both conventional and organic cherry growers. Thanks to Smith’s research, EPA granted registration of a limited-risk pesticide (spinosad) on cherries in 2001. Three years later it was approved for use in organic orchards as well as spinosad has a low level of toxicity. He demonstrated the use of new application equipment to growers since they had no experience using this type of material.

Today, this method of control is the most used cherry fruit fly control material. The shift to alternative products has reduced the use of traditional control products by well over 150,000 pounds per year. Insecticide-use data analysis indicates that growers are saving about $1.5 million per season on control costs, and applicator employees are much less exposed to organophosphate and carbamate insecticides. The shift of application from tractor-pulled spraying to ATV application saves about 223,000 gallons of fuel annually. All these savings and, at the same time, cherry fruit fly control has improved significantly as well.

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Cherry fruit fly

Shoo fly: new, greener methods control Cherry fruit fly, improving bottom lines and helping environment

WSU Wheat Breeder Partners to Improve Ag Efficiency

WSU wheat breeder Stephen Jones is partnering with an international team on a research project designed to improve the production efficiency of food, feed and biofuel crops.

The team is funded by a $9-million grant from the European Commission Research Directorate-General.

“If we put 100 pounds of nitrogen on wheat, we are lucky if 50 pounds ends up in the grain,” Jones said. He believes that a five- to 10-percent improvement in production efficiency of wheat is feasible. “We know there is variation for these traits already,” he said. “It takes finding that variation and capturing that variation in our improved varieties.”

The chief incentive for improving production efficiency is economic. “Over the past few years, the price of anhydrous ammonia has skyrocketed,” Jones said. “Reducing off-farm inputs is just as important to organic growers as conventional growers. If they don’t have a lot of animals, it is expensive for organic growers to get enough fertilizer without trucking in manure or compost. Their transportation costs are prohibitive.”

Part of the funding Jones will receive will support an exchange of graduate students. Students from Europe will spend up to a year in Jones’ program and his own doctoral students will spend time on a university farm in Scotland.

Steve Jones, Washington State University wheat breeder

Steve Jones, Washington State University wheat breeder

Stahnke Named Researcher of the Year

WSU Extension agronomist Gwen Stahnke won the Seed Research of Oregon 2008 Researcher of the Year Award. The award acknowledges Stahnke’s contributions to the turfgrass industry in the Pacific Northwest and nationally.

Stahnke’s research on transitional ryegrass has helped golf course superintendents repair turf on cool-climates courses on the Pacific Northwest.

Stahnke and Eric Miltner, both based at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, recommended the grasses used at Chambers Bay Golf Course in University Place.

Chambers Bay participates in the Audubon Silver Signature Sanctuary program. The program’s strict environmental preservation criteria requires a natural resource management program that includes integrated pest management and wildlife and water conservation coupled with economic development and community education. The Chambers Bay course is the site of the 2015 U.S. Open.

Stahnke assists a diverse clientele, including Master Gardeners, sports turf managers and superintendents. Stahnke is also the current editor of the International Turfgrass Society Journal.

For more information on WSU’s program in turfgrass management, please visit:

Gwen Stahnke

Gwen Stahnke, Seed Research of Oregon 2008 Researcher of the Year Award