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WSU’s On Solid Ground – Borlaug, Mushrooms, Pest Management – May 22, 2013

Posted by struscott | May 22, 2013

Borlaug Fellow Explores Nitrogen Fixation in Uganda

Michael Lege, doctoral student in Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences.
Michael Lege, doctoral student in Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences.

Enhancing biological nitrogen fixation–a process in which plants take gaseous nitrogen from the air and turn it into a form that plants can utilize for growth–could provide a way to enhance Uganda’s soil fertility without expensive chemical inputs or further environmental degradation, according to WSU Ph.D. student Michael Lege.

Lege won a Borlaug Fellowship as part of his doctoral program in Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences at WSU to promote food security and economic growth in developing countries. Come July, he’ll spend a year in Uganda studying distribution channels of bean seeds and agricultural information about the country’s dietary staple. He’ll be interviewing farmers and taking soils samples from bean fields, following up on research from his Master’s degree.

“Two of the barriers I found were poor access to both seed and information about farming technologies,” Lege said. In this coming project he will explore two basic types of seed distribution systems and identify differences in the movement of seeds and information, as well as the related sustainability effects.

Michael Lege volunteers on an agricultural project in Africa.
Michael Lege volunteers on an agricultural project in Africa.

Focusing on agriculture to improve conditions in Uganda has become a priority because it accounts for the largest part of the country’s economy. The majority of households are dependent on subsistence farming for food and low to no-input maize farming has depleted soils of phosphorous and nitrogen needed for crop growth, Lege reported.

“As better bean varieties and treatments for nitrogen fixation are developed, we need to understand more than just the seeds and inoculants if we intend to have a sustainable impact,” Lege said. “We need to understand the distribution systems that will actually make the materials and information available to farmers, as well as the social and ecological contexts into which the technology is being disseminated.”

To learn more about WSU’s International Research and Development programs in agriculture, visit

-Rachel Webber

Learn How to Grow Edible Mushrooms

During a recent mushroom cultivation workshop, Jim Freed of WSU's Forestry program demonstrated ways to innoculate small logs with edible mushroom spawn. Photo by Kate Halstead.
During a recent mushroom cultivation workshop, Jim Freed of WSU’s Forestry program demonstrated ways to innoculate small logs with edible mushroom spawn. Photo by Kate Halstead.

Whether you have a tiny backyard or hundreds of acres, growing gourmet mushrooms can be a satisfying and tasty venture. In the Pacific Northwest, there are about a dozen species, including oyster, shiitake, and maiitake, which can be grown using many of our native tree species. However, ensuring success with this type of backyard farming involves developing a good understanding of the process and knowledge of the techniques involved.

If you live on the west side of Washington or plan to be in Snohomish County on Saturday, June 1, you’re in luck: from 10 am to 2:30 pm at Ed’s Apples in the small town of Sultan, you will have the opportunity to learn about the different types of edible mushrooms that can be grown in this area and how you can start your own “fungi farm.”

To best convey the process of cultivating local mushrooms, the workshop will cover the different species that grow well in the Pacific Northwest climate and forests, along with a discussion of several growing media such as log, stump, and sawdust culture. You can also look forward to demonstrations on how to prepare and inoculate logs, harvest and care procedures to encourage optimum production, and expedited indoor production of oyster mushrooms using low-tech processing and cultivation with pasteurized wheat straw. In addition, you will receive a packet of shiitake plugs along with complete growing instructions.

Instructor Jim Gouin is a staff mycologist and consultant with Fungi Perfecti, an Olympia-based company that specializes in supplying home and commercial mushroom growers with everything needed for success. Jim also has a forestry background and teaches forest fungi cultivation workshops throughout North America.

The cost is $65 per person, which includes the workshop, handouts, a catered box lunch, and 100 shiitake plugs to take home. Space is limited, so your paid registration must be received by May 30 to ensure a spot. You have the option to register online at or download and complete the form at and mail it with your check. For registration information, contact Karie Christensen at 425-357-6039 or The address is 13420 339th Ave SE, Sultan, Washington.

For more information on the mushroom cultivation course, contact Andrew Corbin at or 425-357-6012. For more information on WSU Extension and other workshops, see

-Kate Halstead

Newly Updated Plant Disease, Weed, and Insect Management Handbooks Now Available

booktrioFor the latest research-based guidelines for managing plant diseases, weeds, and insect pests in the Pacific Northwest, look no further than the WSU Extension online store at

The three spring 2013 revisions of the comprehensive guides, which were developed by the Extension Services of Washington State University, Oregon State University, and the University of Idaho, are available in print for $60 each. Up to 50 specialists contributed to the handbooks, which were peer-reviewed and professionally edited.
The companion websites for all three guides include photos and links to related content. Users can print individual sections on specific plant diseases, weed management for included crops, and insect pests associated with both commercial and home settings.

Spring 2013 Improvements

Insect (MISC0047). This handbook has a renovated companion website featuring responsive design, making it easy to navigate on your smartphone or other mobile device. It also allows users to share content via social media, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Timely alerts, such as information about new pests or regulations, will be posted as needed throughout the year.

Plant Disease (MISC0048). Thirty new sections were added, including 12 new fungicides, and another 45 sections were rewritten. Check back for more updates in September.

Weed (MISC0049). New content was added for sections on cereal grain crops, forestry, orchards, vineyards, vegetables, pasture, and many more. Check back for updates in September and December.

-Dora Rollins