College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

Resistance Management, Water

WSU Scientist Advocates Fungicide Stewardship

Chang-Lin Xiao. Photo by Brian Charles Clark
Chang-Lin Xiao. Photo by Brian Charles Clark

It’s every doctor’s worst nightmare. Whether a healthcare practitioner for people, animals or plants, discovering that a disease (pathogen) has evolved resistance to your front-line defense is bad news. We’ve heard about it with a form of Staphylococcus that is resistant to multiple antibiotics, making it tough for doctors to treat. The same sort of process can happen with fungal infections in plants. That’s why WSU plant pathologist Chang-Lin Xiao is urging tree fruit industry professionals to rotate their use of key fungicides.

“In order to maintain our market share for Washington-grown tree fruits,” Xiao said, “we must be able to control pathogens. That means being on the alert for the development of resistance in pathogens.”

Xiao pointed out that fungicide manufacturers naturally want their product to be used year after year – that’s how they make the most money. But there’s been a change in that attitude based on the advocacy of Xiao and others. For control of postharvest rots of tree fruits, manufacturers and other industry professionals now understand that in order to maintain a product’s efficacy it must be used in rotation with other products –- even if rotation means that another manufacturer’s fungicide gets a piece of the market. “We have effective tools, but must use them judiciously,” Xiao said.

But Xiao is not relying solely on a defensive posture to ensure the future efficacy of fungicides. He’s taking an aggressive stance toward detecting resistance in the fungi themselves. “We are using molecular biological techniques to look for resistance in pathogenic fungi,” he said. “We are monitoring both orchards and packing houses, looking for strains of resistant fungi. We study the biological and ecological characteristics of fungicide-resistant strains and use what we learn to make application recommendations to growers and packing houses.”

Xiao and his colleagues also host annual WSU Fruit School meetings. There, they pass on new information to industry professionals in a timely manner.  The results have been positive, with manufacturers now recommending rotating fungicides. “This is a progressive agricultural industry,” Xiao said. “The various parts of the industry” — growers, packers, and chemical manufacturers — “work together to make it both profitable and sustainable. It’s gratifying to work with such a forward-looking group of people to provide science-based solutions to the issues they face.”

by Brian Clark

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Water, Water, Not Quite Everywhere

Wheel line irrigation system (courtesy USDA)
Wheel line irrigation system (courtesy USDA)

When I was a kid I was “born again,” a process that involved being fully and totally immersed in water. Much more recently I was on the home stretch of an 8-mile walk in the hot sun when the minister I was walking with kindly poured her drinking water on my hot little head.

Seldom does water feel so good as when splashed on an overheating noggin in the summertime. As soon as my hair was sopping wet, I felt born anew, able to complete the walk with at least a tiny smidgen of spring in my step. Just a cup or two of water, supplied at the crucial time and applied to best advantage, made all the difference in the world.

What would you imagine is the largest use of water in the U.S.? We all can guess it’s not drinking water itself, nor wetting the heads of aging geologists. Would it be what goes on everyday in kitchens for meal preparation? Or the weekly washing of laundry? Bathrooms and what we do in them? Perhaps commercial car washes use more water than your home?

Actually, irrigation makes up the most significant use of freshwater in the U.S. In a nutshell, some farmers use a lot of water to grow crops on semi-arid or marginal land.

Techniques range from flooding fields to using pressurized sprinklers to anoint crops with much needed artificial rain.

There are some significant drawbacks to irrigation. Freshwater is a precious resource, and using so much of it for farming can be criticized as profligate. Beyond that, irrigation can degrade soil, making it saltier over time as water evaporates repeatedly in hot and dry regions where irrigation is commonly practiced.

But there are two major ideas to keep in mind when it comes to irrigation. The first is that around the world irrigation truly helps us produce food for the seven billion mouths we now have to feed on the planet.

In various parts of the U.S. we irrigate to grow everything from vegetables to wheat and rice. Almost all states in the Union have some measure of irrigated agriculture within them. And, as most of us vaguely know but we don’t often articulate, American farmers feed us well and also produce enough for many millions of others around the world to whom our harvests are exported.

All those facts came to mind recently when I read of a University of Wisconsin study about irrigation on a global scale. The bottom line of the study was that global irrigation patterns increase farming output substantially. In fact, that increase is almost as great as all of U.S. farming output rolled into one sum –- and we grow a lot of food in this country, so that ain’t nothing to sneeze at.

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard.

Agricultural productivity and irrigation aren’t the same everywhere because a little bit of water in a dry field can increase yields much more than a lot of water in a wetter region. Interestingly, the Wisconsin researchers believe irrigation around the world is used close to maximum efficiency.

In some ways the efficiency of global irrigation is good news -– we humans are not being wasteful with respect to a very large chunk of our freshwater resources. But it also means that as the population continues to increase, we can’t feed more mouths just by upping our irrigation efficiency.

One reason scientists and engineers are studying matters like irrigation is that people have become interested in all forms of carbon uptake from the air. If you grow plants, they “mine” carbon dioxide out of the air to build their carbon-rich little selves. A tree locks up this carbon for years or even centuries to come. By comparison, a crop plant like wheat only temporarily stores carbon.

Freshwater is one resource that, like energy, goes into all sorts of our products and activities. It’s so much cheaper than gasoline, we normally don’t think of it as we go about our daily lives. But it’s a limited resource the use of which has significant environmental impact. What we want to do with it is something we could well afford to think about more clearly.

One thing is evident to me: I want us to always have enough water to pour over the heads of old ladies taking long walks on hot summer mornings.

by Dr. E. Kirsten Peters

If you aren’t already reading the Rock Doc in your local paper, ask for her — or check out Dr. Peter’s weekly column online at Follow her on Twitter @RockDocWSU.

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CAHNRS is more than agriculture. With 24 majors, 19 minors, and 27 graduate level programs, we are one of the largest, most diverse colleges at WSU. CAHNRS Cougs are making a difference in the wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities, improving ecological and economic systems, and advancing agricultural sciences.



CAHNRS students are awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships annually.


CAHNRS leads in discovery through its high-quality research programs. In 2014, CAHNRS received research funding exceeding $81.5M. This accounts for nearly 40% of all research funding received by WSU.  


CAHNRS has 39 student clubs and organizations to enhance student experiences and opportunities.


With 24 majors, 19 minors, and 27 graduate level programs, CAHNRS is one of the largest, most diverse colleges at WSU.


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Check out every department and program CAHNRS has to offer, from Interior Design to Agriculture to Wildlife Ecology. We have 13 departments and schools to prepare you for your chosen career.

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Students have a variety of options to pursue masters and doctoral degrees. Many of these have very specific background requirements, so we suggest exploring the individual programs for academic guidelines.

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The CTLL is a student, faculty, alumni and industry partner collaboration for high quality learning and leadership beyond the classroom.


Inspiring Teamwork - Arron Carter pic

Inspiring Teamwork – Arron Carter

It started with a car, a ’69 Corvette Stingray to be exact.

When Arron Carter, the director of the Washington State University Winter Wheat Breeding Program, was in high school his agricultural teacher had a ’69 Corvette Stingray. Every year this teacher would let his favorite senior take the car to senior prom. Carter had never taken an agriculture class before, but he knew he wanted to drive that car.

“Well, if I’m going to be the favorite senior,” Carter said to himself, “I’d better start taking some ag classes.”…

Read More: Inspiring Teamwork – Arron Carter


CAHNRS Office of Research

Agricultural Research Center

Mission Statement

The goal of the Washington State University CAHNRS Office of Research is to promote research beneficial to the citizens of Washington. The Office of Research recognizes its unique land-grant research mission to the people of Washington and their increasing global connections. The CAHNRS Office of Research provides leadership in discovering and applying knowledge through high-quality research that contributes to a safe and abundant food, fiber, and energy supply while enhancing the sustainability of agricultural and natural resource systems.

Featured Research

sliced pear

Research for specialty crops boosted by $1.7 million

More than $1.7 million was awarded to Washington State University for specialty crop research including berries, potatoes, grapes, tree fruit, onions, carrots and Christmas trees.
Western bluebird with cricket. Photo by flickr user Kevin Cole.

Weighing the benefits, risks of wild birds on organic farms

Washington State University researchers will help organic growers protect human health by assessing the risks and benefits of wild birds on organic farms. Researchers received nearly $2 million from the USDA Organic Research and Extension Initiative to conduct the study.
Moyer Testimony 9.29.15

VIDEO: Jim Moyer testifies on specialty crop research before House Agriculture Committee

Jim Moyer, associate dean of research for CAHNRS and director of the Agricultural Research Center at WSU, presented specialty crop research innovations in Washington, D.C. this fall.
Winter Wheat May 2014 by McFarland

‘A quiet crisis’: The rise of acidic soil in Washington

Gary Wegner first noticed the problem in 1991, when a field on his family’s farm west of Spokane produced one-fourth the usual amount of wheat. Lab tests revealed a surprising result: the soil had become acidic.

Study: Small railroads important but costly to upgrade

More than half of Washington’s short-line rail miles aren’t up to modern standards, according to a recent study by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Washington State University Freight Policy Transportation Institute.
A grizzly bear with her cubs at the WSU bear center.

Single hair shows researchers what a bear has been eating

By looking at a single hair, U.S. and Canadian researchers can get a good idea of a grizzly bear’s diet over several months.


With 39 locations throughout the state, WSU Extension is the front door to the University. Extension builds the capacity of individual, organization, businesses and communities, empowering them to find solutions for local issues and to improve their quality of life. Extension collaborates with communities to create a culture of life-long learning and is recognized for its accessible, learner-centered, relevant, high-quality, unbiased educational programs.

MudflatImpact: Burrowing Shrimp and Invasive Eelgrass

Shellfish production in Washington is a $60 million a year industry. Several major pests plague this industry, resulting in major crop loss. One of the most important pests is subterranean burrowing shrimp. These shrimp bioturbate (stir up) the sediment, causing the oysters to sink and die. For the past 60 years the industry has been using the insecticide Sevin to control this pest, but due to lawsuits its use was phased out in 2012. Without alternative control for shrimp, tens of millions of dollars in annual crop revenue will be lost and the industry will quickly lose its economic viability in southwestern Washington.

PoultryFarmImpact: The National Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center

The Environmental Protection Agency has identified agriculture as the leading contributor of pollutants to the nation’s rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs. These reports often do not separate animal agriculture from other agricultural enterprises, but they do note that pathogens, nutrients, and oxygen-depleting substances associated with manure are three of the top five pollutants. Some emerging issues related to manure management include: endocrine disruptors (hormones), pharmaceuticals (antimicrobials), and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Adopting farm practices that minimize the environmental impact is important for food safety.

BiosolidsImpact: Biosolids and Compost

Biosolids are the solids produced during municipal wastewater treatment. Composts are made from a variety of organic materials, including both urban and agriculture sources such as yard trimmings, biosolids, storm debris, food waste or manure, and food processing residues. While these materials have traditionally been viewed as waste, they can play a valuable role as soil amendments in urban and agricultural settings. They provide nutrients and organic matter and they sequester carbon, thereby conserving resources, restoring soils, and combating climate change.

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Alumni & Friends

What are you thankful for?

This holiday season, we know who we are thankful for—YOU!
Our family, friends, supporters, and alumni are so important to CAHNRS.
We have created a video that helps explain why.

You were an integral part in helping us complete the successful
Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas.
Over 9,700 donors contributed more than $250 million to CAHNRS,
a quarter of the WSU Campaign goal of $1 billion.
Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today. And for that, we thank you.

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PO Box 646228
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Faculty & Staff

Important Dates and Deadlines

August 24, 2015

  • Tenure and Promotion Documents need to be submitted to the Dean’s Office

September 10, 2015

  • Fall Festival


A-Z Index of Faculty and Staff Resources:

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Contact Dean’s Office:
Hulbert 421
PO Box 646242
Pullman WA 99164-6242

Lisa Johnson:
Assistant to the Dean
Hulbert 421C
PO Box 646242
Pullman WA 99164-6242

How many varieties of wheat has WSU developed?



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