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

For more information, please visit http://bit.ly/postharv.

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 rockdoc.wsu.edu. 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.

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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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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

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Organic agriculture more profitable to farmers

A comprehensive study finds organic agriculture is more profitable for farmers than conventional agriculture. The results show that there’s room for organic agriculture to expand and, with its environmental benefits, to contribute a larger share in feeding the world sustainably. - Edit Item
Colorful carrots grown by Full Circle Farm sold at the Ballard Farmers Market in Seattle. Photo: Michael Porter.

Plastic a valuable option for farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets wanting to increase purchases by customers should consider accepting more than just cash or checks as payment, according to Washington State University researchers. - Edit Item
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Vineyard natural habitats assist with butterfly comeback

Washington wine grape vineyards experimenting with sustainable pest management systems are seeing an unexpected benefit: an increase in butterflies. - Edit Item
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Cutting manure emissions earns WSU student kudos in poster contest

Dairy cows produce lots of manure. A WSU student’s research on cutting the environmental impact of all that waste won him second place in a poster competition at Seattle’s annual Waste to Worth conference. - Edit Item
Farmers use cover crops like hairy vetch mixed with triticale or rye grass to supply organic matter to soil and make nitrogen available to plants. (Photos by Sylvia Kantor, WSU)

Study puts a price on help nature provides agriculture

A team of international scientists has shown that assigning a dollar value to the benefits nature provides agriculture improves the bottom line for farmers while protecting the environment. The study confirms that organic farming systems do a better job of capitalizing on nature’s services. - Edit Item

CAHNRS Office of Research

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Pullman, WA 99164-6240
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agresearch@wsu.edu






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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

The WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) Office of Alumni & Friends is a service unit dedicated to promoting philanthropic support for the college’s research, teaching, and extension programs.

CAHNRS seeks $190 million through the Campaign for WSU. This unprecedented fundraising goal is managed through the CAHNRS Office of Alumni and Friends. If you would like to learn more about the CAHNRS’s fundraising priorities, please explore our website or meet the team.

Funding Priorities

Through the Campaign for Washington State University, CAHNRS and WSU Extension will play a major role in defining answers to complex issues through truly big ideas—feeding the world, powering the planet, and ensuring the health and well-being of children, families, and communities. See below to learn more about how we are addressing these issues in our strategic and on-going  initiatives and development of world-class students.

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CAHNRS Alumni & Friends
PO Box 646228
Pullman, WA 99164-6228
PH: 509-335-2243
alumni.friends@wsu.edu

 



Faculty & Staff

Important Dates and Deadlines

April 6, 2015

  • Signed Faculty and AP Annual Reviews
September 10, 2015
  • Fall Festival

 

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Contact Dean’s Office:
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PO Box 646242
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PO Box 646242
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