College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences

On Solid Ground – February 2015

February 2015


Nature appeal: Palouse conservation buffers please the eye, protect the landscape

Strips of wooded buffers intermingle with wheat fields in Washington’s Palouse landscape. (Photo courtesy
Strips of wooded buffers intermingle with wheat fields in Washington’s Palouse landscape. (Photo courtesy

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 can also please the eye.

Linda Klein, a recent doctoral graduate from 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 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 chose four sites along the Palouse Scenic Byway, then used soil erosion modeling to measure how buffers stabilize stream banks, trap pollution and slow erosion. To gauge visual appeal, she used image simulation technology and mailed survey booklets to 1,200 rural and urban residents of Whitman County. Respondents were asked to rate landscape images, starting with a baseline of mostly monoculture grain fields, then gradually altered to show more and more buffers—first on stream banks, then adding hill slope drainages, and finally adding steep slope vegetation.

Klein found people preferred at least two buffers in the landscape. However, she found no statistically significant difference between their preference for landscapes with both stream and hill slope buffers—the second highest amount of natural vegetation—and those with a third type of buffer added to steep slopes. One implication of Klein’s findings is that visually appealing agricultural land may also be ecologically better. “By looking at a landscape and seeing these buffers, you could imply the landscape is healthier,” Klein said. She now plans to go deeper into the data, teasing out connections between demographics and scenic preference.

Read the full article about Klein’s study here.

—Seth Truscott

A tree fruit website that would make Willy Wonka proud

Washington State University’s new tree fruit website, launching in March 2015, will be instrumental in communicating information to growers.
Washington State University’s new tree fruit website, launching in March 2015, will be instrumental in communicating information to growers.

“What is that?” I asked, referring to the large, noisy mechanical machine into which the Rainier cherries were being whisked.

“Oh, that’s a camera,” my escort explained. Thousands of pictures were being taken every minute, multiple photos of each small fruit, to assess the qualities of millions of cherries headed to customers that afternoon. The truly “smart” feature of this camera allowed automated routing of each cherry to one of roughly a dozen conveyor belts, each carrying a different size or grade of cherry.

My perception of the tree fruit industry was rocked by my Willy-Wonka-like tour. The endless fields of fruit trees I saw on my way to Stemilt led me to imagine a romantic, old-world industry, but behind closed doors was a sophisticated, ultramodern operation.

Delivering the answers

My trip to Wenatchee, where I toured facilities and talked with growers about industry needs, was part of a discovery mission for a new, comprehensive website to support growing, distributing and consuming “world famous” cherries, apples, pears, and other types of stone fruit in Washington. The CAHNRS Communications web development team is working with WSU Extension leader and globally recognized horticulturist Desmond Layne to construct a new, comprehensive tree fruit website—the “world’s best” tree fruit website, as Dr. Layne characterized it.

What I didn’t know was that the camera that left me speechless was established technology, and there were new technologies, some mechanical and others biological, on the horizon. The Washington State Tree Fruit Commission had pledged $32 million to bolster WSU’s tree fruit research program. In addition to increasing research, part of those funds were to be used for technology transfer, and our tree fruit website was going to be instrumental in communicating information to growers.

With such amazing technologies proliferated throughout the industry, it’s fair to question the significance of a website to that industry. But as we learned, WSU researchers and extension specialists—and even third party websites—had mountains of important data to share with growers, and it was spread across the Internet like the apple orchards throughout central Washington. Furthermore, Dr. Layne had a reputation for making useful and compelling videos for growers and consumers alike, and this new website made for the ideal stage to present his work.

My visit to Stemilt was months ago, and now we are pleased to announce that this March WSU will launch, the world’s best, most comprehensive website for tree fruit growers. Not only does the website catalog the thousands of online tree fruit resources and showcase videos by WSU scientists and researchers, it guides both the inexperienced and seasoned grower to produce world-famous fruit. The website features a robust search engine, topic-based articles, and is optimized for use on a mobile phone. In my mind, it still isn’t as cool as the cherry camera, or Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, but it is a great leap forward to supporting an industry that provides delicious and nutritious food for millions of people throughout the world.

—Joshua Paulsen

Video: Fruit testing at the WSU Apple Breeding Program

Researchers at WSU’s Fruit Quality Evaluation Laboratory test apples for deliciousness. Take a virtual tour here
Researchers at WSU’s Fruit Quality Evaluation Laboratory test apples for deliciousness.

In a new video, Dr. Kate Evans and her apple breeding team lead a tour of the Fruit Quality Evaluation Laboratory at the WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center in Wenatchee, Washington.

Watch and learn how researchers test fruit qualities (maturity, firmness, crispness, acidity, soluble solids concentration, juiciness, sweetness, fruitiness) and use genetic markers to screen seedling materials for specific traits.

The apple breeding program is dedicated to creating new, high quality cultivars that have excellent qualities for eating, storing and growing.

Watch the video here.


Discovering the STEM in your apple: Genetic mapping helps orchards, environment

Scientists at WSU are unraveling the DNA codes of several tree fruit species. A map of apple and peach genomes emerges in this illustration by Gerald Steffen, WSU.
A map of apple and peach genomes emerges in this illustration by Gerald Steffen, WSU.

Never before has such a vast amount of genetic information been available to tree fruit breeders. Today, Washington State University researchers know enough about the natural diversity within a species’ genetic code to enrich centuries-old tree fruit breeding techniques. Here in the Northwest, this means increasing tree fruit yields while leaving a smaller environmental footprint. For consumers, it means better tasting apples, cherries, peaches and other tree fruit.

At the heart of these improvements is genomics, the study and mapping of genetic material, or DNA. In 2010, WSU scientists unraveled the genetic code of apples and in 2013 the code of pears and cherries, in hopes of one day breeding better fruit. With this genomic wealth, “we can make more efficient decisions about which plant parents to combine to get the traits we’re after,” said WSU apple breeder Kate Evans. It greatly increases the odds that the desired traits will show up in the offspring seedlings, she said.

Read more about the science behind the apples we eat here.

—Sylvia Kantor

WSU re-establishes updated major in forestry

WSU School of the Environment file photo

“We already are advising students interested in pursuing this degree,” said Keith Blatner, professor of forest economics and program leader for forestry in the School of the Environment. “We have revamped and refreshed the curriculum to give our students a strong foundation in science with an emphasis on forest ecosystems. Our graduates will be field ready with a strong background in forest measurements and sampling.”Washington State University will offer new, updated major in forestry this fall. The recently established WSU School of the Environment will provide the program to students at the Pullman campus.

The Washington Legislature instructed that the forestry major be re-established as part of WSU’s 2013-2015 biennial budget. The major was phased out in 2011 as part of institutional budget reductions.

Learn more about the program at

—Kathy Barnard

Federal grants available for new farmer, rancher programs

If you’re thinking about starting an agriculture-based business, talk to a university extension educator, tribal leader or nonprofit director about collaborating on a training program for like-minded entrepreneurs. The group effort could be eligible for up to $750,000 in grant funds over the next three years.

With the average age of U.S. farmers on the rise and an 8 percent projected decrease in the number of farmers and ranchers between 2008 and 2018, the National Institute of Agriculture sees a growing need to encourage and support the next generation of producers.

The Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, part of the Agriculture Act of 2014, will provide $20 million annually through 2018. Applications for 2015 are due by Friday, March 13. Grants are aimed at state, tribal, local, and regional networks of community organizations, higher education institutions, nonprofits and individuals.

To learn more, visit

WSU conference brings Women in Agriculture together to network, learn

WSU Extension will offer the fourth annual Women in Agriculture Conference, Saturday, Feb. 21. The one-day gathering, broadcast to 28 locations in four states, helps women farmers learn, network and be inspired.

This year’s theme is “Making Sense of Marketing.” The keynote farmer, Emily Asmus of Welcome Table Farm in Walla Walla, will talk about how to keep a farm’s brand fresh to build customer interest and loyalty. Instructor Erica Mills of Claxon Marketing in Seattle will discuss how to create a marketing action plan.

Learn about the conference at Or, read more here.

On Solid Ground
On Solid Ground features news and information about ways WSU researchers, students, and alumni support Washington agriculture and natural resources. Subscribe here.

Green Times
If you are interested in WSU research and education about organic agriculture and sustainable food systems, check out Green Times. Subscribe here.

Voice of the Vine
Each issue of Voice of the Vine brings you stories about viticulture and enology and WSU researchers, students, and alumni working in Washington’s world-class wine industry. Subscribe here.


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.

Featured Event

Illustration of a woman holding wine near a music band. Text over the image reads: The Auction of Washington Wines Wine and Music Festival, WSU Tri-Cities Campus, June 10, Saturday 6 pm. Learn More. Support Wine.



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


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.

Job Opportunities

4-H Youth Development Program Associate Director (pdf)
Position # 124955

CAHNRS Academic Programs

Fall undergradsUndergraduate Studies

Check out what our academic departments and programs have to offer, from Interior Design to Agriculture to Wildlife Ecology. We have 13 departments and schools to prepare you for your chosen career.

Grad student dogGraduate Studies

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.

CTLLCenter for
Learning & Leadership

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.

Research Update

Washington State University’s screening continues to find no evidence of glyphosate herbicide resistance in Pacific Northwest wheat varieties

In each of the last three years (2014, 2015 and 2016), the field screening process has involved over 80 varieties, 2,000 advanced breeding lines and more than 35,000 individual plots from WSU cereal breeding and variety evaluation programs. Collectively, varieties included in these trials represent over 95 percent of the wheat acreage planted in Washington.

Featured Research

Want fries with that? Stealth potato virus threatens industry

Newly emerged viruses threaten the U.S. potato industry, including potatoes grown in Washington. Several newly evolved strains of the disease known as potato virus Y, or PVY, can render potatoes unmarketable and reduce crop yield. What’s worse is the new viruses are particularly difficult to detect with the naked eye.

Horned larks undeterred by efforts to protect canola seedlings

Horned larks are turning up in droves near Lind, Wash. and decimating newly planted winter and spring canola fields despite multiple efforts to deter them.

In search of the perfect steak

Imagine taking your first bite of a $40 rib-eye steak—only to chew on beef that’s as tough as shoe leather. Talk about disappointment! “A tough steak is not a pleasant experience,” says Frank Hendrix, a WSU Extension Educator and animal scientist.

Workshops to discuss changing water forecast for Columbia Basin

How changing water availability in the Columbia River Basin could affect people, farms and fish is the focus of a series of free public workshops in June. Scheduled for June 21, 22 and 23 in Richland, Wenatchee and Spokane, the workshops give a first look at the 2016 Columbia River Basin Long-Term Water Supply and Demand Forecast.

After landslide, communities rewarded for resilience

Two years after the deadly landslide that devastated the Oso, Wash., area, the towns of Darrington and Arlington were announced April 27 as finalists in the America’s Best Communities (ABC) competition.

$11M funds food safety tech transfer to markets

WSU aims to meet growing demand for safe, high quality, additive-free packaged foods thanks to two recent investments in innovative food processing technology based on microwave energy.

Alumni & Friends

Welcome to alumni, friends, and supporters of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS). You are a core part of our CAHNRS Coug family and have made major impacts in our college, communities, and throughout the world. We recognize only a handful of them here.

More than 9,000 alumni and friends contributed to our Campaign for WSU, the most ambitious fundraising effort in university history. The campaign concluded in 2015 with $215 million and endless amounts of impact. Here is a glimpse of what transpired in the Campaign.

Although the campaign concluded, momentum continues to make a difference in our land-grant mission and education. On-going investment in time and resources from our alumni and friends helps to advance our best programs, attract the most talented faculty, and support our brightest students.

There are so many ways to stay involved with CAHNRS. Share your news in the college’s magazine ReConnect. Get involved with student success or support our college as whole by making a gift to the CAHNRS Excellence Fund.


Contact Us

CAHNRS Alumni & Development
PO Box 646228
Pullman, WA 99164-6228
PH: 509-335-2243

Faculty & Staff

Important Dates and Deadlines


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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