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Tree Fruit Econ, STEEP, Rites of Summer

Posted by | June 3, 2009

New Ag Economist Hits the Ground Running in Wenatchee

Labor, cost structures, price premiums for quality–all are issues for Washington’s tree fruit industry. They also are the research and extension focus of agricultural economist Karina Gallardo, one of the newest faculty members of the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.

“I like WSU because it gives me an opportunity to work closely with industry groups and because of the diversity of scientists I get to work with,” Gallardo said. “It provides the perfect mix of science and economics.”

Gallardo already is working on a number of projects aimed at benefitting the tree fruit industry. She is part of the Enhancing Biological Control to Stabilize Western Orchard IPM Systems project led by Vince Jones, WSU professor and entomologist. In addition, she is working with WSU Extension Specialist Gene Kupferman and the Northwestern Pear Bureau to see if there is any price premium consumers are willing to pay for pears treated with different post-harvest ripening agents.

Another big project for Gallardo is updating the database of cost factors of different tree fruit. “We need a system capable of delivering updated production budgets for major tree fruit in the state, such as apples, pears, cherries, peaches and nectarines, on a yearly basis,” she said.

But providing budget information is not the only thing growers need to make prudent production decisions, Gallardo said. She is partnering with Mykel Taylor to look at a variety of ways to help address labor issues facing the industry. Taylor is an assistant professor of economics and Extension economist. “We are looking at ways to increase labor effectiveness,” Gallardo said.

For example, does the increased productivity of adopting new technology such as mechanized platforms that move workers through an orchard offset the cost of implementing it? “A variety of factors influence that,” Gallardo said. “There’s price, but there are also other factors such as the size of the operation and the demographics of the orchard owners or decision-makers.”

For more information on economic sciences at WSU, please visit:

For more information on tree fruit research at WSU, please visit:

Karina Gallardo

Karina Gallardo, WSU ag economist

A STEEP Learning Curve Pays Off in Profits and Conservation

After 30 years of research and education, STEEP — Solutions to Environmental and Economic Problems — has earned a national reputation as a landmark in conservation practice development for the Pacific Northwest.

“Adoption of conservation tillage would not have been possible without the tremendous effort by scientists funded by STEEP. This was probably one of the most cost-effective federal programs. We achieved conservation of our natural resources, while protecting farm income, for less than 20 cents per acre per year,” Extension specialist Hans Kok said. Kok co-authored a formal assessment of the STEEP’s inmpact.

The support of farmer groups such as commodity associations was instrumental in securing continued funding for STEEP over the years.

Significant STEEP accomplishments include the demonstrated yield advantage and improved use efficiency of band placement over broadcast fertilizer in reduced- and no-tillage systems. This knowledge later influenced the design of drill openers that allowed simultaneous placement of seed and fertilizer.

Similarly, the shank-and-seed concept developed by STEEP was the forerunner of the two-pass, low-cost, reduced tillage seeding system for winter wheat used widely by Palouse growers since the 1990s.

Researchers also identified the “green bridge” of weeds and volunteer cereals as a host in untilled soil for Rhizoctonia root rot. Until discovered, this unexplained effect limited progress with no-till for spring-seeded wheat and barley. Once understood, the green bridge effect could be averted in no-till through adjustment of various practices, including the application of herbicides.

To learn more about the project, please visit

Improved organic matter coverage is one of the many benefits of the STEEP project.

Improved crop residue coverage is one of the many benefits of the STEEP project, which helped introduce the undercutter method of tillage to Palouse farmers.

WSU Field Days: A Rite of Summer

From February to October and from apples to wheat, farmers across the state kick the tires on new crops and learn about the latest farming techniques at more than 80 field days, farm tours and other educational events sponsored by WSU Extension and collaborators.

Palouse wheat growers, for example, learn about the latest varieties and lines under development at the Spillman Agronomy Field Day in July. They can see how these varieties perform in their area at small grains research tours.

“Field days give growers opportunities to observe and see things that will help them become successful business people,” said Stephen Guy, WSU Extension agronomist. “These events also provide university and Extension people with an opportunity to interact with farmers on a personal basis.”

You can see a calendar of upcoming events at Events at Puyallup can be found at

WSU field days, a rite of summer for over 100 years, bring together research faculty and industry professionals.

WSU field days, a rite of summer for many decades, bring together research faculty and industry professionals.