Skip to main content Skip to navigation

March 14, 2014

Submit news items here.

Welcome to our CAHNRS colleagues

60-Q15-kalcsitsThe Department of Horticulture is pleased to welcome Lee Kalcsits to its faculty. Kalcsits began his position as Assistant Professor in Tree Fruit Physiology at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee on March 1. Prior to joining the Department, he worked at the Centre for Forest Biology at the University of Victoria exploring the interactions between nitrogen source preference and temperature in tree seedlings. He is looking forward to introducing and developing new approaches for addressing physiological problems associated with tree fruit production.

59-Q15-WaskoDeVetter_smWe are also pleased to welcome Lisa Wasko DeVetter to our faculty. Wasko DeVetter began her position as Assistant Professor and Berry Specialist at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon on March 1. Wasko Devetter will provide leadership for the raspberry, blueberry and strawberry research and extension program in western Washington, with a focus on understanding crop physiology and enhancing sustainable production. She is also interested in floral development and fruit quality.

 

CAHNRS Coug leads with Agriculture Future of America

Jenica HaglerJenica Hagler, a WSU sophomore in Agricultural Business and Economics, has been selected to serve on the Student Advisory Team for the Agriculture Future of America.

“AFA embodies a strong commitment to agriculture that I see every day at WSU in CAHNRS agriculture students. I look forward to serving as a liaison for not only WSU, but for all areas of the United States,” Hagler said. “It is such an exciting time to see future agricultural leaders coming together in AFA to share our passion for the industry.”

Hagler is one of the nine Student Advisory Team members who will serve in 2014-2015. Her leadership responsibilities include planning the AFA Leaders Conference to be held Nov. 6-9 in Kansas City, Mo., as well as visiting potential and existing partners from across the nation to discuss opportunities for future agriculturalists. Additionally, she will represent WSU and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences as an AFA Campus Ambassador.

“There’s a special excitement created when you bring 26 of our nation’s top collegiate agriculture leaders together to help move AFA’s mission and vision forward,” said Derek Mulhern, AFA program coordinator.

AFA is confident that Hagler’s combination of talent, commitment and academic excellence will “identify, encourage and support outstanding college men and women preparing for careers in agriculture and the food industry” through cultivated partnerships.

Learn more about programs and upcoming opportunities for CAHNRS students at http://facebook.com/cahnrs

Funding for Extension professional development available

Applications are now being accepted for SARE Professional Development Program (PDP) mini-grants for hosting ($800 max) or attending ($500 max) professional development events. For hosted events, the primary audience must be Extension educators or other agriculture professionals. For more information about the SARE PDP program and application instructions, visit http://csanr.wsu.edu/csanr-grants/sare-pdp. Applications will be screened Apr. 15 and Aug. 15, or until funds are exhausted.

Get ready for Pulse! 2014 Mom’s Weekend Fashion Show

Friday, April 11, is the 31st Annual Mom’s Weekend Fashion Show: Pulse. More than 120 original designs by Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles students will come down the runway during this exciting and fast-paced event. Mini-collections by seniors, as well as sustainable designs made from materials such as yoga mats, balloons and cardboard, are expected to be show favorites. Tickets are available now through the Beasley Coliseum Ticket Office and Ticketswest.com for $12; the price at the door will be $16. Ticket raffles will be held at http://facebook.com/cahnrs.

Opportunities to celebrate the Extension centennial still open

PrintIn 2014, WSU and fellow land-grant universities are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the federal Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service. As part of the year-long celebration, WSU Extension is asking students, faculty, staff, alumni, volunteers and friends to share their experiences of how Extension programs, services and people have enriched their lives. The goal is to collect 100 stories. To share yours, visit www.cahnrs.wsu.edu/extensionstories.

For more information, visit http://www.extension100years.net. Connect for updates on Extension celebrations at CAHNRS Facebook or Extension 100 Years on Facebook.

Kudos

José L. García-Pabón wrote an article titled “Strengthening Latino Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs in Washington” that was recently published in Rural Connections, a biannual publication from the Western Rural Development Center. Read more.

2014WRDCWashington StateTen WSU students participated in the ninth annual Western Regional Dairy Challenge in Tulare, California on February 27-March 1, 2014. Traveling to the event were: Kevin Gavin, Helen Floren, Caitlin Quesenberry, Kelby Stadt, Landon Macy, Joseph Britt, Chris Newhouse, Jessica Levy, Megan Cihak and Hannah Symonds. They were coached by Dr. Larry Fox. Three teams were ranked as Platinum and three as Gold-level. Macy, Quesenberry and Gavin were on a Platinum-ranked team. Levy, Cihak and Symonds were on a Gold-level team.

Gavin, Floren, Levy and Symonds have been selected to represent WSU at the North American Dairy Challenge April 3–5, 2014, in Fort Wayne, Ind. Read more in Dairy Herd Management.

Dr. Ken Eastwell, Plant Pathologist and Director of the National Clean Plant Network at WSU Prosser, was selected to receive the Excellence in Regulatory Affairs and Crop Security Award from the American Phytopathological Society. According to the notification letter from Dr. George Abawi, APS President, this prestigious award recognizes outstanding contributions to regulatory plant pathology, crop security and trade enhancement efforts by APS members. Eastwell was selected for helping with the development of methods to detect and eliminate virus and virus-like agents that cause diseases of perennial specialty crops such as fruit trees, hops and grapevines. He will be honored at this year’s Annual APS Meeting being held August 9-13 in Minneapolis, Minn.

Kudos to those dedicated souls that despite all our pressures have maintained at least 6 if not more required safety meetings for their department or R&E Center: the Creamery, Institute of Biological Chemistry, Natural Resource Sciences, Prosser R&E Center and the Wenatchee R&E Center. Thanks for leading the way. Don’t forget when you do have your safety meetings to send a copy of the minutes to Jeff Battaglia of EH&S (1172 or jeff-battaglia@wsu.edu) and Sheila Brooks (6240 or sbrooks@wsu.edu) in ARC.

Des Layne, WSU Tree Fruit Extension Program Leader, wrote a column for the March issue of Growing Produce on the history and investing in the future of the Washington tree fruit industry. Read more.

Norman Lewis was elected as a Fellow of the American Society of Plant Biology for the 2014 class.

Events

March 20: 2014 Western Washington Wine and Grapes Workshop. To be held at the South Seattle Community College Teaching Winery, the workshop will cover must amelioration, color and fermentation management, vineyard nutrient and pest management, and pairing of winemaking styles with western Washington grape varieties. More info.

March 27-28: Academic Showcase and SURCA. Events include the Distinguished Faculty Address, Thursday afternoon; Academic Showcase, Friday morning; the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA), Friday afternoon; and Celebrating Excellence, an awards program and banquet honoring faculty and staff, on Friday evening. Academic Showcase and SURCA are your opportunities to view original research projects and visit with the scientists and scholars who are discovering new knowledge and making a difference in the world. The Distinguished Faculty Address is presented annually by a faculty member whose achievements in research, scholarship and teaching have been extraordinary. The Celebrating Excellence recognition banquet honors recipients of the University’s highest awards, as well as newly tenured and promoted faculty. Schedule of events.

March 29: Food Science Quiz Bowl. Teams of students from seven universities will come together at the WSU/UI School of Food Science on March 29, 2014, to compete in a food science quiz bowl. The event will coincide with the annual Institute of Food Technologists Student Association Pacific West area meeting. The Food Science College Bowl will be held at the WSU Food Science and Human Nutrition building in room T101 starting at 3:00 p.m. Two teams will be quizzed at a time on their food science knowledge in a “Jeopardy” style trivia competition. The participating Pacific West region schools are Washington State University, the University of Idaho, Oregon State University, University of California Davis, San Jose State, Fresno State, and the University of British Columbia. The team that takes first place will have the opportunity to compete in the national competition at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting in New Orleans in June.

April 28-30: Northwest Wood-Based Biofuels+Co-Products Conference. WSU Extension and USDA are primary sponsors of the first-of-its-kind event to be held in Seattle. See https://www.nararenewables.org/2014conference for the conference website and http://nararenewables.org/feature/newsletter-13#story2 for background information. The conference features a packed agenda with first-rate speakers, including Peter Goldmark, Washington State Director of Public Lands.

June 18-July 16: WSU’s Full Immersion Spanish Institute. Anyone wanting to learn or sharpen their Spanish skills and better understand Hispanic culture will benefit from the program, offered through Chelan County Extension. More information is available here.

In eNewsletters

Get the latest research news from CAHNRS. Subscribe here

March 11 – WSU’s On Solid Ground – Stink Bug Invasion, Unpalatable Poplars, Ag Forum. This edition features a story about the brown marmorated stink bug, deterring pests among poplars with Jeff Kallestad, and women in agriculture.

Feb. 27 – WSU’s Voice of the Vine – Red Debut, Terroir, Greenhouse. This edition features a look at the latest addition to the Blended Learning wine label, plus a discussion of terroir with Thomas Henick-Kling and an update on the WSU Wine Science Center.

Feb. 19 – WSU’s Green Times – Bioasphalt, Fungi, Soil. This edition features stories about paving roads with fryer oil and exploring environmentally-friendly veggie grafting with Carol Miles, while CSANR’s Chad Kruger talks soil quality.

Connect with CSANR on Facebook

Facebook

Check out The Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSNAR) page for event announcements, new publications and blog entries from Perspectives on Sustainability. 

 

 

WSU’s On Solid Ground: Stink Bug Invasion, Unpalatable Poplars, Ag Forum

Scientist SWAT team combats stink bug invasion

The stink bug is topped with a marbled shield, hence the name “marmorated.” (Photo by Bob Hubner, WSU)
The stink bug is topped with a marbled shield, hence the name “marmorated.” (Photo by Bob Hubner, WSU)

An alien pest that smells like dirty socks and devours crops may become Washington state agriculture’s Public Enemy No. 1 in less than five years, government and university researchers are warning.

To avoid this fate, the scientists are ramping up the fight against the mounting threat to the region’s fruit crop industry.

Washington State University is one of 10 institutions across the nation whose researchers are working to head off an invasion of the brown marmorated stink bug.

Tracy Leskey is an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who’s leading this scientist SWAT team. “One of the most disturbing things about this bug is its scope,” she said from her office in Kearneysville, W. Va. “In a relatively short period, they’ve spread to 40 states; and they’ve made it look so easy.”

Bugs gone wild

Since the brown marmorated stink bug, or Halyomorpha halys, was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1998, the shield-shaped insect from Asia has advanced down the east coast and spread west nationwide – gorging on everything from peaches and grapes to soybeans and corn. In a single year, it took a $37 million bite out of the mid-Atlantic’s apple crop.

Now that this voracious bug has landed in Washington and elsewhere in the Northwest, “researchers are trying to learn everything they can about this insect to prevent big crop losses as it establishes itself here,” said WSU entomologist Richard Zack.

“Because they’re nonnative to this country, we have no natural enemies to keep their numbers down,” he said. “They keep expanding their geographical reach and they keep multiplying.”

What’s more, the effectiveness of chemicals for pest control remains iffy: “So far, they’re not as susceptible to insecticides as we would hope,” said Zack.

‘We’ll see more’

Right now, brown marmorated stink bugs are overwintering inside people’s homes, sheds and attics and under wood piles. Some are even being stowed away to new locations in vehicles driven by unsuspecting accomplices.

But come May and June, they’ll emerge to mate, lay eggs and find food, said USDA’s Pete Landolt, research leader of the Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory in Wapato, Wash.

“I expect that, in 2014, we’ll see more brown marmorated stink bugs and we’ll see them in more places in Washington,” he said. “Based on what we’ve seen happen in the eastern United States, unless we can figure out a viable strategy to control them, we could see severe crop injuries in less than five years.”

Unlike most insects, these bugs are “generalist feeders,” meaning they eat many plant species, said Landolt. They plunge needle-like mouthparts into crops and then suck out the juice or sap. Fruits, in particular, are vulnerable to damage. Given that Washington is the nation’s leading producer of apples, pears and sweet cherries, the implications are far-reaching. Wine grapes are another major crop in Washington, where more premium wines are produced than any state except California.

“The insect’s expanding presence here has got growers nervous,” Landolt said, “not to mention the researchers who are tracking population levels and working on ways to keep those levels from soaring.”

So far, the bugs are most concentrated in Clark and Skamania counties, just across the Columbia River from infestations in Oregon, said Landolt. Sporadic numbers are appearing in areas such as Klickitat County, the Yakima Valley, Walla Walla and Chelan County. All are fertile agricultural areas where orchards and vineyards stretch across landscapes for miles.

Grape growers on alert

A brown marmorated stink bug circles an apple held by WSU entomologist Richard Zack. (Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU)
A brown marmorated stink bug circles an apple held by WSU entomologist Richard Zack. (Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU)

No brown marmorated stink bugs have turned up yet in Washington’s vineyards, said WSU entomologist Jay Brunner, regional leader of the research team. But scientists from Oregon State University, which is also a member of the scientific group, have trapped them at three vineyards.

“It does attack grapes, including wine grapes,” said Brunner. In addition to puncture wounds, another concern is the potential tainting of aroma and flavor if the bugs find their way into lugs, or crates, during harvest, he said.

This could be a problem considering that “dirty socks,” “spoiled cilantro” and “skunky” are terms used to describe the scent emitted by stink bugs when threatened or crushed.

Interstate travel, innocent bystanders

These bugs can fly, but vehicles best explain how, in Oregon and Washington, they’ve settled in areas off the I-5 interstate and highways.

“They are the most amazing hitchhikers,” said entomologist Michael Bush of WSU’s Yakima County Extension. They catch rides in boxes and crates packed in cars, trucks and trailers or even in a groove between seats, he said.

Bush works with other WSU Extension scientists to teach master gardeners, field workers and the public how to tell brown marmorated stink bugs from similar-looking native stink bugs.

“Several of our native stink bug species are beneficial because they feed on other insects that damage crops,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to know the difference and not kill them all.”

He tells people that the easiest way to ID the brown marmorated variety is by the thin white bands on its antennae. Verification questions can be addressed by WSU entomologists, local county extension specialists and related professionals.

Bring in the wasps?

Back home in Asia, the stink bug’s mortal enemy is a parasitic wasp that lays eggs inside stink bug eggs, destroying them. This tiny terrorist – the size of a gnat – could be released on U.S. soil to serve as a natural pest controller, said project leader Leskey of the USDA.

But first, scientists must do “rigorous screening” to make sure it’s safe to introduce in this country, she said.

Chemicals that lure stink bugs into traps and light intensity levels that attract them are also being looked into, she said.

For more information, go to the Stop the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug national research team’s website at http://www.stopbmsb.org/.

Find the original version of this story at WSU News: http://bit.ly/1lwRhlf.

Linda Weiford

Detecting unpalatable poplars

Poplar stems, some damaged by voles. (Photo by Jeff Kallestad, WSU)
Poplar stems, some damaged by voles. (Photo by Jeff Kallestad, WSU)

Imagine you’re a poplar breeder trying to improve poplar varieties for biofuel feedstock. You want them to grow fast and have high levels of defensive compounds in their leaves and bark to keep pests like insects, voles and deer at bay. You’ve carefully planted 100 seedlings in the field and tended them for a full growing season. But now you must select only ten plants with the traits you want for a second round of testing. The rest get sent to the compost heap. How do you choose which offspring hold the best potential to deter pests?

Jeff Kallestad, a member of the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest research team who is located at the WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center, is developing screening tools to help poplar breeders answer this question.

“If we can breed for plants that are less tasty and more toxic for pests, then poplar growers can apply fewer pesticides to their tree farms,” said Kallestad. “We call it low impact pest control.”

Cost control

Low impact and cost effectiveness are the name of the game given that you need up to 100,000 acres to supply poplar feedstock for a decent-sized biofuel plant. You can’t put a deer fence around an area that large and insect and vole populations can explode in a monoculture, but you can breed for trees that pests find off-putting. However, to measure the defensive compounds in poplar leaves and bark requires specialized skills, chemistry equipment, time, and a lot of money.

Jeff Kallestad with the NIR spectrometer. (Photo by Jen Vittetoe, WSU)
Jeff Kallestad with the NIR spectrometer. (Photo by Jen Vittetoe, WSU)

A cheaper and faster alternative is to use a near infrared, or NIR, spectrometer, which uses light waves on the spectrum invisible to the human eye, to measure properties of chemical compounds at a molecular level. Kallestad is using NIR spectrometry to measure the abundance of condensed tannins and phenolic glycosides, which are chemical defense compounds. He uses complex statistical methods to calibrate the tool for each specific defense compound found in samples from hybrid poplars.

“The NIR spectrometer can be used to measure hundreds of leaf samples in a relatively short period of time, and for relatively little money. That’s where the payback comes,” Kallestad said. He is also developing criteria to determine whether pest resistance in the trees is associated with the concentration of a particular defensive chemical compound.

In the first two years of the AHB study, Kallestad focused on discovering the abundance and diversity of unpalatable compounds in a wide range of poplars. After collecting hundreds of leaf and bark samples for testing, he successfully created NIR spectroscopic calibrations for most of the phenolic compounds. He also experimented with methods to help poplar breeders determine the optimal leaf age, position on the plant, and season for harvesting the test samples

Feeding preferences 

So far, studies have affirmed that deer and voles prefer to feed on certain groups of poplar and even on particular clones within a group. However, these studies also showed that deer and voles were not particularly averse to poplars with the most abundant phenolic glycosides or condensed tannins. In other words, the animals avoided certain varieties but not necessarily because of these particular compounds.

Even though feeding preference was not associated with a particular set of known compounds, the NIR spectrometer remains a useful tool for poplar breeders concerned about vole damage. Based on what he learned from the NIR spectrometry study results, Kallestad was able to develop a model for predicting the amount of poplar bark that voles will likely consume among different clonal varieties, which would allow breeders to select varieties that would be less likely to be eaten by voles.

This year is the third in the five-year AHB project. Kallestad is focusing on determining whether poplar resistance to insect damage is associated with any of the specific phenolic compounds that can be measured using NIR spectroscopy. Similarly, he plans to see if fungal diseases are associated with the defensive plant compounds. Working with Dr. Posy Busby of the University of Washington, he will also use NIR spectrometry to determine whether inoculating trees with endophytes, microbes that live within plant tissues, increases the defense compounds.

Ultimately, the NIR spectrometry methods Kallestad is developing will result in inexpensive and reliable tools that poplar breeders can use to determine which seedlings show the most promise for low impact pest control to help ensure a high-yielding source of feedstock for biofuel production.

-Sylvia Kantor

The changing face of agriculture

Keiko Tuttle believes the biggest challenge agriculture will face in the next five years centers around a food source that makes up 70 percent of the human diet: cereal grains.

Keiko Tuttle in the small grain plant growth facility at WSU in Pullman. (Photo by Rachel Webber, WSU). View on Facebook.
Keiko Tuttle in the small grain plant growth facility at WSU in Pullman. (Photo by Rachel Webber, WSU). View on Facebook.

“I always ask people, ‘Do you like cookies?’” the WSU doctoral candidate in Plant Molecular Sciences explains lightheartedly, inviting people into a discussion about the influence of cereal grains on the food system and the need to feed a world population some project to near 11 billion by 2050.

Tuttle is researching seed dormancy in wheat – that is, seeds that don’t germinate when planted. Understanding more about the genes and proteins that influence the process of dormancy and how the mechanism is released may provide solutions to other problems growers have in the field.

Because dormancy is related to degradation of the important starch found in cereals, the factors involved can decrease the end-use quality of the grain. Preventing these problems can potentially eliminate economic losses to growers, millers and bakers. This is especially critical in the Pacific Northwest, which provides the nation with about 95 percent of its soft white winter wheat. That is worth a gross $1 billion to the state of Washington, Tuttle said.

Taking answers to D.C.

Tuttle is one of 10 graduate students in the United States whose essay on imminent agricultural challenges earned a trip to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum on the Changing Face of Agriculture.

“I was fascinated with the opportunity to travel to D.C. to meet important members of the USDA, better understand their specific missions and speak to these leaders about agriculture today and agriculture for the future,” she said.

In her winning essay, Tuttle points out that “students may be some of the best liaisons to bridge the gap (between the public, scientists and) policy makers. As students we continue to grow in our understanding of basic research and apply our novel findings for agricultural improvement.”

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak echoed Tuttle’s confidence in students pursuing higher education in agriculture in a recent USDA announcement. “The future of agriculture and rural America depends on the upcoming generation of leaders in farming, ranching and conservation,” he said. “And the students selected to attend the Agricultural Outlook Forum are among the best young leaders our country has to offer.”

The forum at the end of February provided Tuttle and fellow students with an opportunity to learn, share, and discuss current issues in agriculture, including the Farm Bill, national and international trade, diversifying land-use, and the demographics of farmers in the U.S.—most current farmers are between the ages of 55 and 65, or older. Tuttle also shared a story about meeting a 72-year-old Texas farmer who grows winter wheat for cattle grazing.

“…A farmer at heart, Jerry also confessed that he was a huge Mike Leach fan. Needless to say, our conversation swayed drastically after he realized I attend Washington State University,” Tuttle said. “USDA and external agricultural industry partners understand that baby boomers are retiring now, which creates a substantial outflow of agricultural leaders and employees. Even Jerry from Texas shared with me his concerns about who will be growing, farming, harvesting for our future.”

Tuttle plans to continue her research as part of the biotech industry or USDA, where she will pursue change through policy work.

View this original story online, here.

-Rachel Webber

Calling all women in ag

Making baskets at one of the early Farm Women's camp held at WSU in Pullman. This year's Women in Ag Conference will focus on change. (Photo courtesy of WSU Libraries).
Making baskets at one of the early Farm Women’s camp held at WSU in Pullman. This year’s Women in Ag Conference will focus on change. (Photo courtesy of WSU Libraries).

There are just a few days left to register and attend the 2014 WSU Women in Agriculture Conference. Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, March 15, women at all levels of agriculture and from all around the Pacific Northwest will gather at 28 locations throughout Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. Regardless of the time you’ve spent farming or the size of your operation, WIA has something for you.

The day-long event features knowledgeable speakers that will share inspiring stories and practical advices on how to improve your farm management skills. Learn more at http://womeninag.wsu.edu/.

 

Air pollution knows no borders

We’ve all seen globes in classrooms. They represent the Earth well — better than flat maps can do. But all the globes I’ve seen in schools have national boundaries on them, usually indicated by having nations in different colors. The U.S. is yellow, Canada is light green, Mexico is pink, and so on. When I was a child my big brother owned a globe like that, and I got to pore over it sometimes. (more…)

Termites and better biofuels

Every time I fill my gas tank, I see the notice on the pump that explains part of the fuel I’m buying is ethanol. Ethanol is alcohol, a type of biofuel rather than fossil fuel. While biofuels can be good to promote national energy independence and possibly help with greenhouse gas emissions, the ethanol in our gasoline is made from corn. (The starch in the corn is broken down into sugars that are then fermented into alcohol.) With corn ethanol, we are essentially putting food into our gas tanks, a fact that some people take exception to because it drives up food prices and deprives people of basic foodstuffs. (more…)

CAHNRS News – Feb. 27, 2014

Submit news items here.

 

Celebrate 100 years of Extension: Share your story

PrintIn 2014, WSU and fellow land-grant universities are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the federal Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service. As part of the year-long celebration, WSU Extension is asking students, faculty, staff, alumni, volunteers and friends to share their experiences of how Extension programs, services and people have enriched their lives. The goal is to collect 100 stories. To share yours, visit www.cahnrs.wsu.edu/extensionstories.

For more information, visit http://www.extension100years.net. Connect for updates on Extension celebrations at CAHNRS Facebook or Extension 100 Years on Facebook.

Dick Dougherty retires after 23 years of service at WSU

For 23 years, Dick Dougherty has been the “go-to guy” for food safety issues in the state of Washington. In January, Dr. Dougherty retired as Professor Emeritus from WSU’s School of Food Science.

His years of service as a professor and Extension specialist will be remembered for the invaluable help he provided to people and companies in the food industry. A retirement celebration was held for Dr. Dougherty in February, when faculty, staff, students and family joined to reflect on his time with the school.

Students release second wine from Blended Learning

Studentwine-200x300The second wine from the WSU Blended Learning student-made wine series made its debut this month. The new red blend is a combination of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc that was produced by students in the WSU Viticulture and Enology program in partnership with Wine Boss from Horse Heaven Hills grapes. The new tradition of blended learning is bringing together students, alumni, winemakers, growers and wine enthusiasts to “uncork the possibilities.” The students made 200 cases of the wine and it is now available at the WSU Brelsford Visitor Center in Pullman and WSU Connections in Seattle.

To complement the latest Blended Learning wine release, a new seasonal Cougar cheese is recommended. Rainbow Pepper, also now available at the Brelsford Center, is described by the WSU Creamery as a “mélange of white, green, pink and black peppercorns.” What better pairing for the new red blend?

For more information about wine education opportunities at WSU, visit wine.wsu.edu.

Juming Tang named ASABE Fellow

Juming_Tang (2)Food engineer Juming Tang has been named a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, an award granted to just 2 percent of members worldwide. The highest honor awarded by ASABE (http://www.asabe.org/) is reserved for outstanding qualifications and experience in agricultural engineering and at least 20 years of membership in ASABE.

Tang is the distinguished chair of food engineering and associate chair of biological systems engineering at WSU, where he has taught and conducted research for 19 years. A pioneer in food engineering, he has led development of two novel technologies commonly referred to as “microwave-assisted thermal sterilization” (http://www.microwaveheating.wsu.edu/) and “microwave-assisted pasteurization” (http://microwavepasteurization.wsu.edu/). Read more.

Remembering Broderick Gant

broderickBroderick Gant, 45, of Kennewick, Wash., passed away Feb. 20, 2014. He was born Nov. 4, 1968, the son of Wanda Faye Harris in Baton Rouge, La. Broderick graduated from Baker High School in 1987. He completed his master’s degree in reproductive physiology from WSU in 1996.

Broderick served as the recruiter for CAHNRS and advisor for the CAHNRS Student Ambassadors from 1998 to 2008. He married Keeley (Duft) Gant from Pullman, where they lived with son Ashton until 2008. He moved to Kennewick to work at Yakima Valley Community College before becoming a natural resource specialist with the U.S. Forest Service in Walla Walla. Broderick found his dream job with the city of Kennewick as the parks and maintenance coordinator, which allowed him to develop true leadership by positively motivating his employees and colleagues. Broderick will be missed for his kindness and warm, infectious smile. Read more.

Connect with CAHNRS on Facebook

Facebook

We’re giving away some Ghost Pepper Cheese this weekend on CAHNRS Facebook! Enter to win.

Have a Facebook page you’d like to feature in CAHNRS News? Submit it here. Check out the latest updates on the CAHNRS Facebook page: http://facebook.com/cahnrs.

Kudos

Masters student Zachary Cartwright (major advisor Charlie Edwards) won first place in the graduate division of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers (WAWGG) research poster competition. The title of his poster was “Brettanomyces bruxellensis Survival in grape pomace at various temperatures.” Ph.D. candidate Allison Baker (major advisor Carolyn Ross) took second place in the same division. The title of her poster was “Sensory evaluation of the impact of wine matrix on red wine finish.”

Ting Chi, a professor in the department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles, has been granted tenure and a promotion. His research includes strategic and supply chain management in changing business environments, sustainability and corporate social responsibility, international trade, outsourcing and exporting issues, and statistical modeling and analysis.

Ron Mittelhammer will receive the 2014 Eminent Faculty Award during the Celebrating Excellence Recognition Banquet at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 28, as part of the annual WSU Showcase celebration of faculty, staff and student excellence. Showcase reservations will be accepted at http://showcase.wsu.edu through Wednesday, March 19. The prestigious award was created in 2000 to honor career-long excellence within the WSU academic community. Mittelhammer is the 14th recipient of this highest honor the university bestows on a faculty member.

Angela Lenssen, Communications Consultant in the School of Food Science, won multiple awards in the Spokane Ag Expo’s recent photography contest. Her photo of her young son in a wheat field with her husband Dwayne in a combine out in the distance took first place, while her photo of her brother Mark cleaning off the combine at dusk received an honorable mention. You can see the photos here. Photos by her 10-year-old daughter Allison took second place and honorable mention in the youth division. (See Allison’s photos here.)

Dennis Gonsalves, creator of genetically-modified papaya that saved the papaya industry in Hawaii, spoke to an Agricultural and Food Systems class on Feb. 27. He  joined by Skype from Hawaii and explained the story behind the development and eventual commercialization of GM papaya, which is resistant to the destructive papaya ring spot virus. The ag production system in Hawaii is unique in that it has conventional, organic, and GM papaya cultivation — all meeting different market segments and consumer demands for domestic consumption and export. The AFS 201 class, Systems Skills Development for Agricultural and Food Systems, is designed to support students in developing a science-based understanding of issues related to integrated agricultural and food systems, while acquiring interpersonal communication skills that allow them to have well-informed, effective discussions with diverse stakeholder groups about complex issues. Dr. Hanu Pappu, Sam Smith Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and one of the instructors (along with Drs. Larry Fox and Kevin Murphy) of the course, arranged the conversation with Dr. Gonsalves.

Nineteen students from the School of Food Science took their annual Portland trip in January, which included visits to 13 different food companies. Funded by the Food Science Club, the trip gives future food scientists a chance to learn about potential employers and careers. This year, the companies they visited provided a strong cross-sectional view of food companies in the industry.

Desmond Layne, Department of Horticulture, was an invited guest speaker last week at the 2014 Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Niagara Falls. The title of his presentation was “The Future of Peach Production – Staying Ahead of the Curve.”

Events

March 1: Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation (WWFRF) Winter Field Day. Taking their cue from honey bees, volunteers at WSU Mount Vernon’s public orchard and display gardens are doing anything but hibernating this time of year. At the annual Winter Field Day, the six-acre orchard will buzz with members of the WWFRF giving hands-on lessons in grafting, pruning and other fruit-growing topics. The event is free for WWFRF members, $15 for individual non-members, and $30 for non-member families. Please visit www.nwfruit.org for more information.

March 3 & 7: The WSU/UI School of Food Science invites you to a Baked Potato Taste Panel in the Food Science and Nutrition Building, Room 146, between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The taste test will take about 15 minutes. Panelists who complete the test will receive a Ferdinand’s gift certificate, so bring your friends!

March 8: A Winemakers Dinner with Sparkman Cellars, one of the top 100 wineries in the world, will be held at the Black Cypress restaurant in downtown Pullman.

March 12-13: E. Paul Catts Memorial Lecture. Dr. H. Frederik Nijhou will present “The developmental physiology of body size: Studies with Manduca sexta” on March 12 at 12:10 p.m. in FSHN 354. On March 13, he will speak on “The biology of butterfly color patterns” from 4:10 to 5:00 p.m. in CUE 203. A reception will follow from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in CUE 518.

March 20: 2014 Western Washington Wine and Grapes Workshop. To be held at the South Seattle Community College Teaching Winery, the workshop will cover must amelioration, color and fermentation management, vineyard nutrient and pest management, and pairing of winemaking styles with western Washington grape varieties. More info.

June 18-July 16: WSU’s Full Immersion Spanish Institute. Anyone wanting to learn or sharpen their Spanish skills and better understand Hispanic culture will benefit from the program, offered through Chelan County Extension. More information is available here.

In eNewsletters

Get the latest research news from CAHNRS. Subscribe here

Feb. 27 – WSU’s Voice of the Vine – Red Debut, Terroir, Greenhouse. This edition features a look at the latest addition to the Blended Learning wine label, plus a discussion of terroir and an update on the WSU Wine Science Center.

Feb. 19 – WSU’s Green Times – Bioasphalt, Fungi, Soil. This edition features stories about paving roads with fryer oil and exploring environmentally-friendly veggie grafting with Carol Miles, while CSANR’s Chad Kruger talks soil quality.

Feb. 11 – WSU’s On Solid Ground – Good Fungi, New Food Tech. This edition features a story about Tarah Sullivan and her work with fungi in agriculture and a profile of new technology developed by Juming Tang that increases food product quality while reducing the chances of contaminated chilled or frozen meals being sold in retail markets.

WSU’s Voice of the Vine- Red Debut, Terroir, Greenhouse

Introducing the Red Blend

Student-winemakers are featured on the bottle.
Student-winemakers are featured on the bottle.

The second wine from the WSU Blended Learning student-made wine series made its debut this month. The new red blend is a combination of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and was made in partnership with students in the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program and Horse Heaven Hills. The new tradition of blended learning is bringing together students, alumni, winemakers, growers and wine enthusiasts to “uncork the possibilities.” The students made 200 cases of the wine and it is now available at the WSU Brelsford Visitor’s Center in Pullman and at WSU Connections in Seattle.

A seasonal Cougar Cheese, Rainbow Pepper, is also now available at the WSU Brelsford Visitor’s Center as well as at the WSU Creamery on campus. The WSU Creamery has taken their Viking cheese and infused it with a mélange of white, green, pink and black peppercorns–what better to then pair with the WSU student-made wine than classic Cougar Cheese?

Listen here for more on the student winemaking program. For more information about wine education opportunities at WSU, visit wine.wsu.edu

-Rachel Webber

At the center of Washington wine

The Wine Science Center at WSU will be housed in a 39,900 square-foot LEED-certified facility at the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Rendering by Lydig Construction/ALSC Architects.
The Wine Science Center at WSU will be housed in a 39,900 square-foot LEED-certified facility at the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Rendering by Lydig Construction/ALSC Architects.

You don’t have to travel very far in the world of wine before you encounter the term “terroir.” It’s a French word with a complicated meaning that seeks to explain some of the mystery in every bottle of good wine. “It is a concept almost untranslatable, combining soil, weather, region and notions of authenticity, of genuineness and particularity—of roots, and home,” wrote Steven Erlanger in his recent New York Times article “Vive le Terroir.”

Terroir most commonly describes the combination of factors provided by Mother Nature that give a wine its character. It’s firmly rooted in the embodiment of a place. While these factors certainly play a big role in the development of a wine’s flavors and aromas, there is a more recent, local ingredient helping Washington winemakers create distinctive wines: science.

“Terroir does not just happen,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the WSU Viticulture and Enology program. “Some people think you just find this special place, plant some grapevines, harvest the grapes, crush them, and you get great wine.” The best vineyard sites won’t produce great wine without the knowledge of expert growers, winemakers, and researchers, according to Henick-Kling.

Read more in the latest ReConnect e-magazine>>

-Kate Wilhite

Mercer Greenhouse to support wine research

The greenhouse will include two 18-foot by 20-foot greenhouses attached to a headhouse located adjacent to the Wine Science Center.
The greenhouse will include two 18-foot by 20-foot greenhouses attached to a headhouse located adjacent to the Wine Science Center.

Patsy J. Mercer, the Mercer Family and Mercer Canyons Inc. announced a combined donation of $250,000 this month that will go toward the Wine Science Center under construction at Washington State University Tri-Cities, in Richland.

The family’s $250,000 gift will establish the Bud Mercer Greenhouse, in memory of Milton “Bud” Mercer, Jr., for his pioneering role in Washington agriculture. The gift was announced at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers Conference held at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.

“Bud was a great leader, businessman, husband and family man,” said Patsy Mercer, his wife. “He invested his time, effort and resources to support people, ideas and opportunities he believed would make a difference to the industry and to our community.

“The Wine Science Center will play a vital role in the Pacific Northwest as a center for research and education,” she added. “It is a fitting tribute to honor Bud’s memory by ensuring that the facility has a research greenhouse to support the needs of the Washington wine industry.”

Prior to his passing in 2010, Bud and Patsy lived in Prosser and in the Horse Heaven Hills, where he became a leader in the farming business over the course of his life. In 1959, the family founded Mercer Ranches, Inc., which now operates as Mercer Canyons under son Rob Mercer’s leadership. Rob and Bud, together with Mike Hogue and Ron Harle, founded Mercer Estates Winery. Bud also was instrumental in the creation of the Walter Clore Wine & Culinary Center in Prosser.

Bud Mercer working out in the potato fields.
Bud Mercer working out in the potato fields.

The research greenhouse, proposed to be named in Bud’s honor, will service the Washington State University Viticulture & Enology program, based at WSU Tri-Cities. The greenhouse will include two 18-by-22-foot greenhouses attached to a headhouse located adjacent to the Wine Science Center.

Construction started in fall 2013 on the Wine Science Center, a 39,300-square-foot, LEED Silver facility in the heart of Washington wine country. The $23 million facility now is about 15 percent complete. When it opens in early 2015, it will be the most technologically advanced wine research and education center in the world. Designed to attract world-class researchers and students, its research and educational efforts will focus on the challenges and opportunities faced by Pacific Northwest grape growers and winemakers. More details on the project and its unique partnerships are at tricity.wsu.edu/wsc.

WSU has been involved in wine-related research since the 1930s, and is the only university in the Pacific Northwest offering bachelor’s and graduate degrees in viticulture and enology, plus a wine business management program and a distance education program to earn a professional certificate. Henick-Kling joined WSU in 2009 as director of the Viticulture and Enology program, which has more than 30 faculty members in the Tri-Cities, Prosser, and Pullman.

Learn more about the dynamic educational experiences available at WSU Tri-Cities at tricity.wsu.edu.  

-Melissa O’Neil Perdue

 

 

 

A step forward in predicting volcanic eruptions

There are two main things most people would like to know about particular volcanoes: when is the next eruption and how big will that eruption be? Scientists in Iceland have taken another step forward in monitoring volcanoes to best predict when they will erupt and even warn people of the size of the coming eruption. (more…)

WSU’s Green Times- Bioasphalt, Fungi, Soil

Paving the way with fryer oil

The heat, the petroleum fumes…  No one likes to be stuck behind an asphalt paving truck on a sweltering summer day. But, for the last 100 years, asphalt has played an integral role in building a strong American economy, keeping us all connected via our sprawling, easily accessible web of national roadways. So, imagine the relief and celebration if hot asphalt instead served up the aroma of French fries or deep-fried shrimp, won tons, or corndogs.

Asphalt is going green. In the near future, Washington motorists may be the first in the nation to drive on streets and highways paved with waste cooking oil-based asphalt. A scientist at Washington State University has developed the technology to substitute restaurant cooking oil for crude oil in the production of a sustainable “bioasphalt” that looks and handles just like its petroleum-based predecessor.

Professor Haifang Wen shows a can of his cooking oil-based bioasphalt.
Professor Haifang Wen shows a can of his cooking oil-based bioasphalt.

“We are shooting for summer 2014 to construct a trial road—probably at least a quarter mile long,” says Haifang Wen, assistant professor in the WSU Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Faced with rising petroleum prices, new environmental regulations, and changes to the crude oil refining process, asphalt has become a scarce and costly commodity. Made from the residue left behind after production of gasoline, plastics, and other materials, lowly asphalt still commands $700-800 per ton, or half the price of gasoline at $1500 per ton, estimates Wen.

Haifang Wen in his laboratory holding a small can of cooking oil-based bioasphalt and a sample of the final hot mix asphalt (HMA).
Haifang Wen in his laboratory holding a small can of cooking oil-based bioasphalt and a sample of the final hot mix asphalt (HMA).

“Every year in the U.S., we use about 30 million tons of asphalt binder for roads,” he says. “More if you include roofing shingles. It’s easily a multi-billion dollar business.” But, it’s an old-school business that hasn’t done much sustainable thinking, Wen adds. “Only in the last decade has the green asphalt industry started coming together.

It’s slowly picking up—more slowly than I wish.” In Iowa, for example, scientists are making a corn-based bioasphalt from residue left after the production of ethanol. In North Carolina, swine manure is being incorporated as a paving substitute.

“Building roads is a big expenditure of taxpayer money,” says Wen. “In general, a one-mile road in a rural area costs at least a million dollars to build. With the waste cooking oil technology, we can reduce the cost of asphalt binder to under $200 per ton, making road building much cheaper.”

Laboratory compression test for Haifang Wen's cooking oil-based bioasphalt. "Can it take the pressure?"
Laboratory compression test for Haifang Wen’s cooking oil-based bioasphalt. “Can it take the pressure?”

Asphalt binder, the sticky “glue” that holds crushed stone and sand together to form pavement, only accounts for about five percent of the final hot mix asphalt (HMA) that is steamrolled into glossy new lanes and boulevards.

HMA has to be tough and reliable, able to withstand the ravages of heavy trucks as well as the extremes of Mother Nature. In Wen’s lab, each component of his bioasphalt is subjected to a series of rigorous stress tests such as intense heat, freezing temperatures, compression, and loading.

After four years of working with a chemist and “adjusting the recipe,” Wen is confident that his green, sustainable asphalt “is as good as the old-school petroleum asphalt.
I am very excited to have patented a solid technology,” he says.

All of which has the undivided attention of both federal and state highway agencies. Wen has been collaborating with both and says the industry is “very interested and eagerly awaiting the roll out of (his) product.”

Nationwide, it’s an industry that supports more than 300,000 Americans in about 4,000 asphalt plants — one in every congressional district, according to the National Asphalt Pavement Association.

Wen’s waste cooking oil asphalt study also fits with President Obama’s 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) — where Congress is addressing the need for sustainability in the national infrastructure system, including surface transportation.

-Becky Phillips

Exploring environmentally-friendly veggie grafting

A team of Washington State University vegetable horticulture researchers travels to China next month to present their research findings as part of a global effort to increase environmentally friendly vegetable production through grafting. Their efforts may stimulate a new market for vegetable production in Western Washington.

WSU vegetable horticulture scientist Carol Miles (left) and graduate student Jesse Wimer (right) will share the results of their latests research in China next month. Photo by Kim Binczewski, WSU.
WSU vegetable horticulture scientist Carol Miles (left) and graduate student Jesse Wimer (right) will share the results of their latest research in China next month. Photo by Kim Binczewski, WSU.

WSU Mount Vernon’s Vegetable Horticulture Program Leader Carol Miles and graduate student Jesse Wimer will give presentations in Wuhan, China, at the International Symposium on Vegetable Grafting, March 17-21, sponsored by the International Society for Horticultural Science.

Miles and Wimer are among the 200 guests–including researchers, company managers, and growers–who were invited to this inaugural event being held at Huazhong Agricultural University to promote communication and cooperation among vegetable grafting professionals around the world.

“Attending this symposium gives us the opportunity to share our Washington results with the international vegetable grafting science community and to learn from scientists and professionals where vegetable grafting has been practiced for decades,” said Miles, who is a faculty member at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center and also serves as advisor to Wimer, an M.S. student in the vegetable horticulture program there.

The theme of this inaugural symposium is environmentally-friendly production of vegetables via grafting. The five-day event includes such topics as grafted seedling production, rootstock breeding, grafting and stresses, rootstock-soil interactions, and rootstock-mediated effects on yield and fruit quality. Read more.

-Carol Miles

Growing interest in soil quality spurs discussion

Interest in “soil quality,” or soil health, has grown rapidly over the past decade, regardless of agricultural production system or geographical region. While there have been focused efforts on soil conservation in the past, there seems to be a growing consensus that agriculture at large has historically undervalued the important role that soils can play in improving sustainability. Some of these roles or functions include disease suppression, nutrient cycling, and water management.

In Washington State, numerous educational workshops, research experiments and publications have been popping up that have some relevancy to the larger questions of defining and managing for improved soil quality. The interest has been so high that many of these workshops have been at capacity or standing-room-only events.

The Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) at Washington State University is no stranger to many of these activities and discussions – and our Advisory Committee has long advocated for more research investment focused on soil quality – which we are doing. In fact, we prioritized soil quality in the FY14 BIOAg Grant Program: “Special consideration will be given for proposals in FY14 related to valuation (such as, economic, ecosystem services, etc.), increasing understanding, and management for soil quality.” We will be funding several research proposals in this area.

Chad Kruger, CSNAR Director
Chad Kruger, CSANR Director

The challenge that we’ve faced thus far, though, is how to prioritize our fairly limited investment power in an area as broad as soil quality to maximize the impact we can have for agriculture in our region. With that question in mind, we convened the CSANR Advisory Committee in January to provide guidance into how we prioritize soil quality research.

The Advisory Committee (AC) proposed nearly 100 different possible soil quality topics that could be categorized into about 15 themes. The AC further winnowed these lists through discussion and ranking, and presented their top three research priorities. In spite of the distribution of agricultural system perspectives across groups, a few key priority areas did emerge. Across all four groups there was universal agreement on two priorities:

  1. The role of soil biology and disease management. (To be fair, while disease suppression seemed to be the most easily identified function, there was general agreement that this priority should be about more than “just disease suppression”.)
  2. The economics of farming for improved soil quality.

More than one group also identified the following priorities:

  1. Understanding the role of soils in water management (both supply and quality).
  2. Developing soil quality indicators that farmers can use as a management tool.

Obviously, these are still relatively broad areas of inquiry, but they do provide a useful lens through which to evaluate and prioritize future research investments. The good news is that some of the current research underway does address these priorities and will help kick-start our efforts. I will be charging a task force of faculty and Advisory Committee members to further explore this topic and help us refine our research investment strategies for the next five years.

If you have any specific ideas or research questions that you think would be interesting to add to this discussion, please leave them in the comments field via the link below and the task force will take them into consideration.

This article was originally posted on the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural resources blog and can be viewed along with other posts and comments, here.

-Chad Kruger

Can good fungi restore bad soil?

Tarah Sullivan is fascinated by fungi, especially the ones in agricultural soils that offer hope for mitigating toxicity issues by transforming harmful metals.

Tarah Sullivan and Geoff Gadd. Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU.
Tarah Sullivan and Geoff Gadd. Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU.

As a new assistant professor of soil microbiology in the WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Sullivan is busy setting up her laboratory to study how soil microbes can transform toxic metals like lead, aluminum, and cadmium into less toxic forms, and how they can help plants more effectively take up essential micronutrients like iron, zinc and copper.

“One idea that gets people excited is the possibility that beneficial fungi could help address the increasing soil acidification and aluminum toxicity problems found in the Palouse,” Sullivan said.

In the last 50 years, soil acidity has increased due to the use of nitrogen fertilizers. The bad news is that soil acidity can cause dramatic decreases in yields– in many locations up to 50 percent or more for sensitive crops, such as garbanzos, lentils, wheat, and barley, according to Sullivan. Soil acidity transforms naturally occurring aluminum into a soluble form that is more available to plants, but which damages their roots. A common, though costly, solution to aluminum toxicity is to reduce soil acidity by applying lime to the soil. But the effects are often short lived.

The good news is that fungi are plentiful and tolerant of acidic soils, and many are even well-suited for remediation of metals. According to Sullivan, as soils become more acidic, fungi can comprise more than 75 percent of soil microbes by mass– and most are the “good guys.”

“There are hundreds of billions of microbes in one gram of soil. An extremely small proportion of them are pathogens. The vast majority of soil microbes are beneficial and we don’t fully understand those,” Sullivan said.

Many species of fungi associated with plant roots, called mycorrhizal fungi, have been shown to decrease aluminum toxicity in plants. Sullivan wants to know how we can enhance these beneficial soil fungi populations in the field and how we can promote their metal-detoxifying activities.

Fungi on the surface of lead shot transform lead minerals into a less toxic form. Photo by Geoff Gadd.
Fungi on the surface of lead shot transform lead minerals into a less toxic form. Photo by Geoff Gadd.

Sullivan hopes to identify specific fungi that have the aluminum buffering qualities, and then see if it’s possible to inoculate the soil with them to extend the benefits of liming. She also hopes to discover whether it’s possible to create soil conditions that favor the beneficial fungi by adding soil amendments such as compost or straw.

Ultimately, Sullivan believes her research will contribute to a sustainable approach to mitigating soil acidification problems in the Palouse, providing a more environmentally friendly and economically viable long-term strategy.

Sullivan holds a doctorate in soil microbiology from Cornell University and comes to WSU following postdoctoral research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where she focused on soil fungal communities in a lead-contaminated military site. She recently hosted a WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences seminar presented by Geoffrey Michael Gadd, an internationally known geomycologist from the University of Dundee in Scotland who studies how fungi transform the chemical composition of rocks and minerals.

Learn more about mycology and crop and soil sciences at http://css.wsu.edu

-Sylvia Kantor

 

Designing better asphalt

Dr. Haifang Wen grew up in a rural area of Shandong province, in eastern China. In his youth there were not many paved highways in the Chinese countryside.

“Lots of the roads were gravel,” he told me recently. “They were muddy when it rained. I remember riding a cow on them, or going along in a wagon pulled by a donkey.” (more…)

CAHNRS News — Feb. 14, 2014

Submit news items here.

Student identifies key issues for national ag forum

keikotuttleKeiko Tuttle believes the biggest challenge agriculture will face in the next five years centers around a food source that makes up 70 percent of the human diet: cereal grains.

“I always ask people, ‘Do you like cookies?’” the doctoral candidate at Washington State University explains lightheartedly, inviting people into a discussion about the influence of cereal grains in our food system and the need to feed a world population that some project to near 11 billion by 2050.

Tuttle is researching seed dormancy in wheat – that is, seeds that don’t germinate when planted. Understanding more about the genes and proteins that influence the process of dormancy and how the mechanism is released may provide solutions to problems growers have in the field.

Some of these problems degrade the important starch found in cereals and ultimately decrease the end-use quality of the grain. Preventing these problems can potentially eliminate economic losses to growers, millers and bakers.

This is especially critical in the Pacific Northwest, which provides the nation with about 95 percent of its soft white winter wheat. That is worth a $1 billion to the state of Washington, Tuttle said.

Tuttle is one of 10 graduate students in the United States whose essay on challenges in agriculture earned a trip to the USDA’s 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum on the Changing Face of Agriculture, to be held Feb. 20-21 in Arlington, Va. Read the full story in WSU News.

Microwave pasteurization improves food safety, flavor

Working to keep frozen and child foods safe, Tang and colleagues use a pilot-scale microwave-assisted pasteurization system developed at WSU.
Working to keep frozen and chilled foods safe, Tang and colleagues use a pilot-scale microwave-assisted pasteurization system developed at WSU.

A new technology available to food companies increases product quality while reducing the chance of contaminated chilled or frozen meals being sold in retail markets.

A group of engineers led by Juming Tang, distinguished chair of food engineering and associate chair of biological systems engineering at Washington State University, has developed a novel microwave-assisted pasteurization system that can semi-continuously process 8- to 20-oz. pre-packaged chilled meals. This marks an important milestone in a research program funded by a $5 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant awarded in 2011 to WSU and partners across the country.

WSU has established “pilot-scale capacity” whereby Tang and his colleagues can work with food companies to adapt the technology to a producer’s needs and then manufacture production equipment via a third party, making the system “scalable for industrial production,” said Tang. WSU anticipates licensing this technology to its start-up, Food Chain Safety, for commercialization in the coming months. Read more.

Remembering friend and colleague Dr. Jeff Smith

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 12.52.46 PMDr. Jeff Smith, colleague and friend within our scientific community, passed away on January 25, 2014, in Pullman, Washington.

Jeff obtained MS and PhD degrees in Soil Science from WSU, and was employed as a research specialist at the University of California, Berkeley, before joining the USDA-ARS in 1986 with the Land Management and Water Conservation Research Unit in Pullman. He published extensively on carbon and nutrient cycling and trace gas emissions in soils. His most widely cited work concerned the prediction of nitrogen mineralization rates in soils.

Jeff was a talented scientist and a great advisor and mentor. As an adjunct faculty member in the WSU Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, he actively mentored dozens of young scientists and graduate students. He served on the USDA-ARS National Program Staff in 1999 and led efforts for GRACEnet, a nationwide network of sites monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, during the past decade. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate. Jeff was serving as the Program Manager of the Ecological Society of America, Regional Editor of Soil Biology & Biochemistry, and on the Editorial Board of Biology and Fertility of Soils at the time of his passing. He was a member of the Soil Ecology Society, Soil Science Society of America, Ecological Society of America, American Geophysical Union, and International Society of Microbial Ecology.

Outside the laboratory, Jeff was a decorated veteran of the U.S. Army who served in Vietnam. He was an active supporter of the local Humane Society.  Jeff liked to travel to international meetings and tropical getaways. He enjoyed water skiing, boating, and riding his motorcycle. Jeff is survived by his wife, son, and new grandson.

Connect with CAHNRS on Facebook

Facebook

Have a Facebook page you’d like to feature in CAHNRS News? Submit it here. Check out the latest updates on the CAHNRS Facebook page: http://facebook.com/cahnrs.

Be sure to connect with the new WSU Wine Science Center page here.

Kudos

Debra Inglis, professor of plant pathology at WSU Mount Vernon NWREC, earned the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Leadership. Read the full story in WSU News.

WSU Snohomish County Extension Horticulture and IPM specialist Sharon Collman received the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association’s (WSNLA) Pioneer Award for enduring contributions to the green industry. Collman has been involved with WSNLA for 35 years, providing a variety of educational resources and programs.

WSU Horticulture Department spin-off company Phytelligence, Inc. and its main founder, Associate Professor Amit Dhingra, were featured in the latest issue of The Capital Press. Dhingra, along with five of his lab members, established Phytelligence in 2012 to assist the Washington horticulture industry.

Dhingra was also featured in the January issue of Good Fruit Grower for his work on the identification of fruit ripening compounds that have the potential to help consistently ripen fruit.

The work of Eliane Bodah, a graduate student in Horticulture working in Dhingra’s lab, was featured in the Daily Evergreen. Bodah’s graduate project focuses on the study of Fusarium solani, a fungus that attacks local potato and pea plants and destroys their roots. It is a major problem for farmers.

Congratulations to the following CAHNRS faculty and staff who won awards in the Professional category for their poster presentations at the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers annual meeting February 5 – 7 in Kennewick. 1) Michelle Moyer, Jensena Newhouse, Maurisio Garcia, and Gary Grove, for “Managing Powdery Mildew: How Specific Product Use Can Change the Timing of the ‘Critical Period’ for Intervention” (1st Place Professional Poster); 2) Michelle Moyer, Gary Ballard, and Ken Eastwell, for “How Clean is ‘Clean’?” (2nd Place Professional Poster); and 3) Jensena Newhouse, Gary Grove, and Michelle Moyer, for “Effectiveness of Biopesticide-Based Programs on Grape Powdery Mildew” (3rd Place Professional Poster).

Megan Skinner won the Jody Conner Student Award for best student paper at the most recent North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) meeting (San Diego, Nov 2013). Her paper was titled “Feeding Ecology of a Mixed Cold-and Warm-Water Fish Community Following Hypolimnetic Oxygenation in Mesotrophic Twin Lakes, WA.” She won an honorable mention for the associated poster presentation.

The current issue of Washington State Magazine (pp. 28-35) about the Columbia River basalt, the GeoAnalytical lab, and the history of WSU geological investigations of the Columbia Plateau features John Wolf, Associate Director of the School of the Environment.

Events

Feb. 18: Special Presentation: Opportunities in the Food Industry in Sri Lanka—Recovery After Conflict Tuesday, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in FSHN 354. University of Idaho Professor Gleyn Bledsoe, Program Director for the Sri Lanka Food Processor’s Association, will provide a status report on the industry with an emphasis on building the food processing and fishing sectors. Professional opportunities for students and new graduates will be discussed. Please RSVP to Rasco@wsu.edu so we can plan for refreshments.

Feb. 26: Forest Health Conference: “State of the States”
Insects, diseases, fire and climate play critical roles in contributing to the health of forests in the Pacific Northwest, so region-wide forest health assessments help to determine the extent and intensity of the influence of these factors across all forests. This daylong workshop will summarize and forecast forest health issues affecting Pacific Northwest forests. Experts on insects, diseases and fire will discuss current conditions as they relate to forest health and climate. Participants can expect to walk away with an understanding of the most accurate context to assess health issues that affect their forests. Get more event information at www.westernforestry.org.

Feb 27: Hands-On Vegetable Grafting Workshop
Presented by WSU Mount Vernon. More detailed information at http://tilthproducers.org/.

Feb. 28: Spring 2014 Transformational Leadership Symposium for Women
We all serve as leaders in some capacity in our work places, in our communities and in our homes. CAHNRS invites you to engage in an exploration of how to improve our ability to be successful leaders as women in our professional and personal lives. Feb. 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Ensminger Pavilion, on the WSU Pullman campus. $10 students, $25 non-students (lunch included). Register here.

March 1: Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation (WWFRF) Winter Field Day
Saturday, March 1, 2014, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Washington State University Northwest Washington Research and Extension Center (WSU-NWREC), 16650 State Route 536, Mount Vernon. Hosted in cooperation with WSU-NWREC, this year’s event will include grafting and mason bee workshops; pruning demonstrations; and presentations on red flesh apple varieties, the best apples to grow in western Washington, growing fruit for a healthy diet, and fruit varieties from around the world. Rootstock and scion wood will be available for sale. Tours of the six-acre Fruit Display Garden, containing one of the largest and most varied collections of antique apple trees in western Washington, will be provided. Free to members of WWFRF; Non-members: $15 Single or $30 Family. Go to www.nwfruit.org for more information.

March 12-13: E. Paul Catts Memorial Lecture Events
Dr. H. Frederik Nijhou will present “The Developmental Physiology of Body Size: Studies with Manduca sexta” on March 12 at 12:10 p.m. in FSHN 354. On March 13 he will speak on “The Biology of Butterfly Color Patterns” from 4:10 to 5:00 p.m. in CUE 203. A reception will follow from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in CUE 518.

March 20: 2014 Western Washington Wine and Grapes Workshop
To be held at the South Seattle Community College Teaching Winery. This workshop will feature information on must amelioration, color and fermentation management, vineyard nutrient and pest management, and pairing of winemaking styles with western Washington grape varieties. More info.

In eNewsletters

Get the latest research news from CAHNRS. Subscribe here

Feb. 11 – WSU’s On Solid Ground- Good Fungi, New Food Tech This edition features a story about Tarah Sullivan and her work with fungi in agriculture and a profile of new technology developed by Juming Tang that increases product quality while reducing the chance of contaminated chilled or frozen meals being sold in retail markets.

Jan. 29 – Voice of the Vine- What’s That Smell, Leafroll, Wine Center This edition features a look inside the Sensory Evaluation Lab with Carolyn Ross, plus new information about grapevine leafroll disease from Naidu Rayapati. 

Jan. 23 – Green Times- Grains in a Glass, Humanure, Fighting Bugs This edition features stories about the emerging western Washington grain economy and WSU researcher Stephen Jones, investigation of human waste as compost from PhD student Caitlin Price-Youngquist, and research by Bill Snyder into what long-established organic farms can teach us about natural pest control.