Sharing great work

Close up of ripe royal gala apples on a branch with green leaves.
The implementation of “click pruning” increases fruit yield by 20 bins per acre.

The tree fruit endowed chairs provided research updates last week. The group did a great job talking about their work and its benefits to the industry, as well as their future plans. A couple of the chairs are hitting their 10-year mark! Programs have expanded considerably.

Stefano Musacchi shared a slide that I cannot help but pass along. Stefano has worked with growers to increase adoption of “click pruning.” Based on research, Stefano estimates that the technique’s implementation increases fruit yield by 20 bins per acre. A bin of apples yields apple growers somewhere between $400 and $600. You can do the math to see how valuable this work is for 7,000 newly planted acres that use click pruning. Even better, it’s an annual benefit for each year of the orchard’s life!

Soon, CAHNRS will appoint a new Clif Bar & King Arthur Flour Endowed Chair for Organic Grain Breeding & Innovation from among our current faculty. Current Chair Stephen Jones and the WSU Breadlab team have served their stakeholders well. Take a look at just one of the outcomes. Environmental impacts are as important as economic gains; ideally, one is not sacrificed for the other. I am excited to see what comes next from the Endowed Chair and WSU Breadlab!

Last week, Vicki McCracken sent me a file of impact statements submitted to the Activity Insight database over the last couple of months. I opted to spend time outside this weekend rather than reading through the file, but as soon as I do, I will share more impact statements with you.

One impact statement I saw in my annual review materials came from Chad Kruger. Chad reports that Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources work supported the passage and implementation of the Sustainable Farms and Fields program.

In 2023, the program led to $1.8 million in investments toward climate-friendly farming for more than 650 producers farming an estimated 188,000 acres. Project investments provided an estimated 5,873 metric tons of CO2e in climate benefits during the first year. The program has since received an additional $30 million, expanding its scope to include anaerobic digesters that promote climate-friendly manure management, and research on, or demonstration of, projects with greenhouse gas reduction benefits.

One last impact statement to share comes from David Crowder, who leads the WSU Decision Aid System (DAS). DAS uses weather data from the WSU AgWeatherNet and other sources as inputs for more than 50 models in tree fruit and potato systems. DAS models predict key events in agricultural systems based on weather, including timing of bloom; timing of insect pest outbreaks; risk from pathogens; risk from abiotic stressors (i.e., sunburn); and population dynamics of pollinators and natural enemies.

David and team recently completed a survey of growers and learned that users of tree fruit DAS collectively manage more than 95% of acreage in the state (175,000 acres) and users of potato DAS collectively manage more than 98% of acreage in the state (150,000 acres). Tree fruit DAS users reported an average savings of $75 per acre. This represents more than $13 million in savings per year from reduced pesticide and labor costs. Potato DAS users report an average savings of $55 per acre, representing more than $8 million in savings per year from reduced pesticide and labor costs. The DAS has environmental benefits, too, with 98% of users reporting that DAS aids them in improving the timing of their pesticide sprays so that they achieve maximum efficacy. Furthermore, 90% of users said that DAS aids them in selecting the most effective pesticides.

I recognize this is a long post, but I could not resist sharing this great work with you!