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Tree Fruit, V&E Endowment, Obesity, Strawberries

Posted by | January 17, 2007

It’s a Fact

According to a study conducted by Dr. William S. Jensen for the Washington State Horticultural Association and the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, the state’s tree fruit industry “produces nearly $6 billion in economic value and more than 140,000 jobs for Washington families.” Among others, Washington’s growers produce apples, cherries, pears, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, and prunes.

Endowed Chair in Viticulture and Enology Campaign

Thanks to all of you who are supporting WSU’s Viticulture and Enology program by making this year’s 6th annual Celebration of Washington Wines an early sell out. I look forward to seeing those of you who will be attending. It’s particularly heartening because I’m pleased to announce that WSU is establishing the position of endowed chair of Viticulture and Enology, and all proceeds from this year’s auction will be dedicated to the endowment fund.

The endowment will be used to attract a world-class leader for this growing program. We intend to recruit not only an internationally recognized scientist, but an individual with the expertise to expand research and marketing activities within the program.

We’ll be working closely with the wine industry and with private donors in the coming months and years to build and sustain the fund so that our program can help our wine industry grow, thrive, and continue to meet its needs and goals.

Those goals include a continuing commitment to world-class research, having more well-trained and skilled workers within the state, development of wine grapes with high quality characteristics, ensuring proper variety selection for Washington’s varied grape growing regions, and developing new and expanding existing markets for Washington wines.

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Modeling Obesity Therapy with Cattle

Using cattle as a model, assistant professor of animal sciences Zhihua Jiang leads a group of WSU researchers who have found evidence that the UCN3 gene may provide pharmaceutical companies with a new target for development of drugs to address obesity and its related conditions. Jiang’s finding stemmed from studies to improve the texture and flavor in beef (see last week’s On Solid Ground).

The gene, which is expressed in a wide variety of animals, including humans, significantly effects fat accumulation in muscle tissues in cattle and, according to Jiang, “regulates food intake and energy balance.” He concluded that the finding could have implications for human health, in particular through the development of anti-obesity drugs.

World-wide, more than 1.6 billion adults over the age of 15 are overweight, according to a 2005 World Health Organization projection. At least 400 million are obese. Approximately one-third of the U.S. population is obese. Obesity and overweight are associated with such chronic diseases as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke.

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Are Organic Strawberries Better for You?

Preliminary results of research at WSU are showing that organically grown strawberries may offer more nutrition than conventionally grown berries. John Reganold, Regents professor of soil science, and Preston Andrews, associate professor of horticulture, are analyzing the results from a two-year study of organic and conventionally produced strawberries grown side-by-side in farm fields in California.

In order to better model what goes on under real-world production conditions, Reganold does most of his research on commercial farms. The pair wanted to conduct their research on Washington farms, but “we couldn’t find enough side-by-side organic and conventional farms growing the same variety on the same soils,” Reganold said. “Everything has to be exactly the same except management.”

Reganold added, “The frontier of comparing organic with conventional is the nutrition part.” Although they’re still crunching the data, Reganold and Andrews found that organically grown berries contain more antioxidants, Vitamin C and flavor than conventionally grown strawberries.

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