Christmas Tree Research Grant Aims to Solve Major Problems for Industry
One of the biggest problems for Christmas tree growers is Phytophthora root rot, a fungus disease that can shrink plantation yields up to 75 percent. A related issue (though a little less consequential) for consumers of live Christmas trees is the mess in their homes from fallen needles. Researchers at Washington State University and other universities hope to battle both of these problems with the support of a five-year, $1.3 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“The Christmas tree industry has some big challenges,” said WSU Christmas tree researcher Gary Chastagner, “and we hope that this national project will bring together scientific expertise and techniques to address these two issues.” Focusing on true firs, the researchers will leverage the genomics groups at North Carolina State University and the University of California, Davis, to find genetic markers for Phytophthora resistance and needle retention.
“Phytophthora root rot plagues all regions where firs are grown as Christmas trees,” said John Frampton, Christmas tree geneticist at NCSU and a collaborator on the project. There is no effective control for Phytophthora, so the best way to tackle the problem is to find resistant tree species. Chastagner’s graduate student, Katie McKeever, is collecting isolates of Phytophthora in various growing areas. By sequencing these samples and conducting pathogenicity trials, McKeever will contribute critical information to the team’s search for mechanisms of resistance in trees. Once the researchers find the relevant genetic markers, they can screen adult trees and select the most promising as seed sources for viable Christmas tree plantations.
The team will use similar techniques to resolve the matter of needle shedding. Chastagner’s multi-decade cataloging of Christmas trees with varying degrees of postharvest needle retention will give this part of the project a jump-start. By using these and other trees, scientists will be able to quickly identify needle-retentive gene sources so that growers can produce desirable Christmas trees.
Translating the Research to the Market
But even if growers have trees that don’t suffer root rot or needle loss, how can they be sure that consumers will flock to buy their new and improved products? After all, the number of live Christmas trees sold in the United States has remained relatively static for decades. Any increase in the Christmas tree market is absorbed by the number of artificial trees sold each year.
To address the stalled market growth for live Christmas trees, Jeff Joireman, WSU associate professor of marketing, will research specific consumer preferences with a nationally-representative survey followed by focus groups. Rick Dungey of the National Christmas Tree Association expects the data to expand the types of trees offered at commercial lots and U-cut farms across the country.
“Some people want an old-fashioned tree like grandma had,” Dungey said, referring to a live tree with a more open structure, in contrast to the closely-sheared, densely branched trees crafted by today’s Christmas tree industry. Dungey also noted the availability of live tree rentals in some areas, as well as narrow “condo” or “loft” trees in New York City, favored by those with insufficient space for the traditionally broad Christmas tree. “Consumers want more types and styles of trees,” Dungey said. “The marketing part of this project will examine the Christmas tree industry from the end user’s perspective, and allow the industry to respond to those desires.”
Learn more about WSU research on Christmas trees and other ornamental plants by visiting http://bit.ly/16Bs1r.
Insect Flight Mills Video Now Available
You may remember the article about entomology graduate student Teah Smith’s insect flight mills research project in the October 10 issue of On Solid Ground (at http://bit.ly/flightmills). Now you can watch a video at http://bit.ly/VvisLq featuring Smith explaining her work and how it applies to growing tree fruit.
Michael Neff, WSU associate professor of crop biotechnology, teaches the graduate-level Plant Molecular Genetics–and also writes catchy songs. Check out the short video at http://bit.ly/X13lKK in which he combines his talents in the song “1-800-DNA,” performed for his class on the last day of lectures. Enjoy!
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.
The release of a new winter wheat variety named “Jasper” honors the legacy of the wheat breeding program at WSU started by William Jasper Spillman in 1894. The first variety developed by the university was released in 1905. Jasper marks the 100th.
The Rock Doc is a nationally syndicated newspaper column written by Dr. Kirsten Peters, covering many scientific and research related topics in a upbeat and entertaining fashion. Dr. Peter’s humor and anecdotes help to bring these stories to a public audience by showing how they affect everyday life. The most recent articles are linked below.
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.
Being a CAHNRS Coug is about having a life-changing experience and having fun along the way. With an endless array of subjects to study, students can explore a variety of topics until they focus on that area that truly excites them. We include ample opportunities to learn outside the classroom, because we not only believe it’s a better way to learn, it makes for a more meaningful and enjoyable college experience.
The Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership makes it possible for students to secure that job-landing internship, experience another culture in the southern hemisphere, unlock their leadership potential through seminars and workshops, and find a mentor to coach them through their academic experience.
CAHNRS knows how to throw a party, and there is not greater time to celebrate than when our students return to campus. Free food (including Ferdinand’s Ice Cream), swag from each of our student clubs, activities, and a drawing for $1,000 scholarships—its all part of our annual Fall Festival. And we just don’t limit the event to our CAHNRS majors, we welcome everyone across campus to learn more about what our college offers.
CAHNRS Office of Research
Agricultural Research Center
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.
Pullman, Wash. – You generally don’t find livestock among the hills of the Palouse region of eastern Washington where grain is grown. But wheat farmers Eric and Sheryl Zakarison are changing that – and making a profit.
On 100 of their 1,300 family owned acres, they are experimenting with a rather unconventional scheme for the region – growing wheat, peas, perennial grasses like alfalfa and sheep in a tightly integrated system. MORE
The watermelon crop has declined dramatically in Washington because of disease. But Washington State University researchers are developing a solution that involves grafting watermelon plants onto squash and other vine plant rootstocks.
“We’ve lost about a third of our state’s watermelon production over the last 10 years because of Verticillium wilt,” said Carol Miles, a professor of vegetable horticulture at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. “Growers have switched to other crops that are less susceptible.” MORE
Gender and personality matter in how people cope with physical and mental illness, according to a paper by a Washington State University scientist and colleagues at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.
Men are less affected by a single-symptom illness than women, but are more affected when more than one symptom is present. The number of symptoms doesn’t change how women are affected, according to Robert Rosenman, WSU professor in the Department of Economic Sciences. MORE
PULLMAN, Wash. – Researchers know that adding natural buffers to the farm landscape can stop soil from vanishing. Now a scientist at Washington State University has found that more buffers are better, both for pleasing the eye and slowing erosion.
Linda Klein, a recent doctoral graduate in WSU’s School of the Environment, worked with six other researchers at the university, plus one at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Moscow (Idaho) Forestry Sciences Laboratory, to explore the role that buffers – strips or clumps of shrubs, trees and natural vegetation – play in the landscape and in people’s visual preferences.
Klein surveyed Whitman County residents to see if conservation features made for more scenic fields and valleys. She found that Palouse residents prefer more nature with their wheat fields.MORE
By Sylvia Kantor, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences
In the world’s driest rainfed wheat region, Washington State University researchers have identified summer fallow management practices that can make all the difference for farmers, water and soil conservation, and air quality.
Wheat growers in the Horse Heaven Hills of south-central Washington farm with an average of 6-8 inches of rain a year. Wind erosion has caused blowing dust that exceeded federal air quality standards 20 times in the past 10 years. MORE
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.