WSU’s On Solid Ground – Tree Fruit, Spuds, Don’t Drift, Water Econ 101 – Feb. 13, 2013

WSU’s Big Ideas Campaign Continues to Flourish for Fruit

cherry-st-graphicCherry and stone fruit growers throughout the state have agreed to make a $5 million investment over the next eight years at WSU research and extension centers in Prosser and Wenatchee. This builds on a similar measure voted on by apple and pear growers in 2011 to galvanize cooperation between industry and WSU in response to the university’s historic fundraising effort launched in December 2010.

“The close partnership between Washington’s tree fruit industry and Washington State University continues to be transformational,” said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. “Working together for more than a century, we have helped to make Washington a world leader in tree fruit production. The assessment by cherry and stone fruit growers, in combination with the $27 million investment in WSU made by apple and pear growers in 2011, helps to ensure that our partnership in progress continues for an even brighter future for our state. We are extremely grateful for the industry’s confidence and investment in WSU.”

Washington State Department of Agriculture officials certified the election results Monday, Feb. 4. This substantial financial commitment comes at a time when the state’s $46 billion food and agriculture industry continues to increase its contribution to the state’s economy. Annually, the Washington tree fruit industry accounts for more than $7 billion of economic impact, with more than a third of that derived from exports.

Read the rest of the story by Brian Clark on the WSU ag news site: http://bit.ly/treefruit-wsu.

WSU Potato Sprout Inhibitor Discovery Goes Commercial

spudsConsumers will soon be able to leave potatoes in their pantries a good deal longer thanks to the development of technology discovered by WSU scientists in 2005 that is now approved by the FDA and registered with the EPA to keep tubers from sprouting. Canadian and European registrations have also been filed.

The agricultural products company American Vanguard Corporation licensed the patented application of organic compounds to postharvest potatoes from WSU and conducted seven years of testing via AMVAC Chemical Corporation. The commercial version of the sprout inhibitor is called SmartBlock, which the EPA classifies as a biopesticide.

SmartBlock represents a breakthrough approach in the treatment of postharvest potatoes because it offers safe, comprehensive, long-term storage control that growers and processors can easily apply using existing equipment. AMVAC will begin marketing SmartBlock in the United States immediately.

Rick Knowles, scientist and chair of the Department of Horticulture, and Lisa Knowles, assistant research professor of horticulture, are responsible for the research leading up to SmartBlock. They found that one application of a naturally-occurring food additive to potatoes after harvest inhibited sprouting from two to three months, and two to three applications lasted more than a year. Applications also left little residue.

Economic Impacts

About half of the 9.4 billion pounds of potatoes grown in Washington each year are stored to provide a continuing supply to fresh markets and processing plants. Most varieties begin to sprout about three months after harvest. Because the excess growth hastens deterioration and reduces overall quality, growers and processors in the Pacific Northwest spend an estimated $9 million annually to inhibit sprouting of stored potatoes, said Knowles.

The new technology provides an alternative to other compounds currently used for the same purpose, and is thus expected to facilitate expansion of fresh and processed product exports, particularly to markets with strict chemical residue limits.

WSU economists recently found that the Washington potato industry contributes $4.6 billion and 23,500 jobs to the state. Anson Fatland, director of WSU Intellectual Property, said “We are very pleased to have partnered with AMVAC on the SmartBlock technology. As a result of this very productive and collaborative research relationship, additional intellectual property was developed which resulted in worldwide patent protection.”

According to Dan Bernardo, WSU’s vice president for agriculture and extension and dean of CAHNRS, “This success exemplifies the high quality research being carried out by CAHNRS faculty that has significant impact on Washington potatoes.”

–Brian Clark

Avoid Herbicide Drift

Grape showing continued 2,4-D injury the year AFTER exposure. Vines can show injury for several years due to one exposure. Photo: Jay W. Pscheidt, Oregon State Univeristy, from the PNW Plant Disease Handbook, http://bit.ly/14ODQC9.
Grape showing continued 2,4-D injury the year AFTER exposure. Vines can show injury for several years due to one exposure. Photo: Jay W. Pscheidt, Oregon State Univeristy, from the PNW Plant Disease Handbook, http://bit.ly/14ODQC9.

Herbicide applicators are responsible for managing and controlling off-target drift. As spring–-and one of the two times of year when drift is most likely to occur-–approaches, WSU Extension educators are offering recommendations about how to avoid what can be critical damage to nearby crops, ornamental plants, humans, fish, wildlife, and water resources. Grapes, blueberries, caneberries, and nursery crops are especially sensitive to several herbicides used in agronomic crops, pasture, rangelands, forests, and rights-of-way.

WSU weed specialists advise that appropriate equipment setup, including the choice of droplet size and nozzle type, is necessary for safe and efficient application of herbicides. Other important considerations are weather conditions, cutoff dates, and formulations.

Read the rest of this story by WSU Extension weed scientist Drew Lyon and ag news writer Brian Clark at http://bit.ly/driftprevention. There you’ll also find a short audio clip available to use as a PSA.

Got Water?

irrigWSU Extension economists understand that water issues can be contentious in arid regions such as central Washington. That’s why our experts wrote Understanding the Relationship between Water Price, Value, and Cost, a factsheet to bring you up to speed on common-–yet frequently misunderstood-–terms used to talk about water management.

Clearly communicating about the economics of water is dependent on adequate explanation and distinction between key words such as price, value, and cost. These terms are typically used to differentiate concepts within public policy forums for water reallocation, but non-economists (including producers as well as consumers) tend to use them interchangeably. Confusion over meanings can generate arguments and create unnecessary misinterpretations. This WSU Extension factsheet explains the differences and connections between price, value, and cost in the context of water, and when each concept is relevant and when it is not. The discussion includes the relevance of water rights.

Download your free copy of FS110E at the WSU Extension Online Bookstore: http://bit.ly/water-econ.

How many varieties of wheat has WSU developed?

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Incorrect

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