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Wheat, Berries, Partnership, Radio Waves

Posted by | March 14, 2007

It’s a Fact

At more than two million, wheat is grown on more acres in Washington than any other crop. Economically, wheat has more than a billion-dollar-per-year impact on the state.

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.

Berry Healthy Collaboration

Carter Clary, assistant professor of horticulture and landscape architecture, is collaborating with Neal Davies, associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, to study the antioxidant levels in dried raspberries and blueberries.

Co-funded by WSU’s IMAPCT Center and the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, the study will compare the phytochemical content of raspberries with blueberries. Antioxidant phytochemicals have salubrious health effects, including promotion of the immune system, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, and the reduction of cell damage that can lead to cancer. The American Cancer Institute advises that blueberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants.

Clary developed a microwave drying process that delivers dried strawberries and other fruit which retain the look and taste of fresh fruit. He is currently working on combining other drying methods with the goal of developing an economical method that preserves most of the nutritional value of fresh fruit. Davies will analyze raspberries and blueberries dried by different methods and those with the best nutritional content will undergo market evaluation by Tree Top, Inc.

For more information about red raspberries, please read this profile.

Alder Partnership

When the Weyerhaeuser Company’s red alder plantations began experiencing frost damage on some of their better performing clones, the company turned to Jon Johnson, an associate professor of natural resource sciences at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center. Johnson had previously researched cold hardiness in poplars and pines, and Weyerhaeuser’s Barri Herman, Senior Program Manager of Short Rotation Plantations, needed to know which of the company’s clones were more frost tolerant.

The result was a research collaboration expected to run for at least the next five years. The collaborators are looking at clonal rooting ability, growth rate, stem form, and maintaining consistent wood properties under cold conditions. “The Weyerhaeuser aim is to find the fastest way to get these trees to root and grow,” said Herman. “Jon is helping us speed it up.”

Alder has great economic value; it’s a widely used saw log, and the finely grained wood is used in everything from kitchen cabinets to guitar bodies. Alder plantations also do the environment a favor, as the trees collaborate with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to enrich soils.

Using Radio Waves to Control Pests

Methyl bromide has long been used to control pests that infest fruit and nuts after harvest. Use and production of the fumigant, however, has been strictly curtailed by recent international regulations. Not all countries are signatories to the regulations, though, and that puts Washington fruit growers and exporters at an economic disadvantage.

Now a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, led by WSU IMPACT fellow and biological systems engineering scientist Juming Tang, have developed an alternative to the ozone-destroying fumigant.

By harnessing the energy of radio waves or RF (radio frequencies), Tang and his colleagues have developed a non-chemical post-harvest pest control strategy. A high energy blast of radio waves heats the fruit up quickly. It’s thus an inexpensive method of pest control. Best of all, it uses existing technology, is environmentally sound and acceptable to consumers. “We’re not inventing something new here — the USDA did quite a bit of work on how to use RF on grains back in the 1960s, and researchers in Japan have studied how to use RF on tobacco leaves,” Tang said. “The general direction we’re taking is the same as heating food products to kill bacteria.”

For more information, please visit the IMPACT Center.