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January 2011

Oregon's No. 1 nut gets better with new OSU varieties

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OSU's new hazelnuts are immune to the yield-reducing eastern filbert blight fungus

The hazelnut is Oregon's official nut. It's no surprise given that Oregon grows 99 percent of the U.S. crop. Oregon's approximately 600 growers produced $63 million of hazelnuts in 2012 harvested on 29,000 acres.

But more than 20 years ago, the future looked bleak. A disease called eastern filbert blight was threatening to devastate orchards.

So OSU researchers set to work, crossbreeding tree varieties for resistance to it. They've since released 17 cultivars that are immune. The latest contribution was in 2013 with Wepster, a high-yielding, blight-resistant hazelnut whose smaller size makes it ideal for the baking and chocolate industries.

Growers don't need to spray these new varieties with fungicides – and that helps their bottom line and the environment. The trees are taking root. A survey found that more than half of the 2,730 acres planted between 2009 and 2012 were Jefferson, a variety released by OSU in 2009. Unofficial estimates, however, say the number of new acres during that time was 11,000 to 12,000, with more than half being Jefferson.

Sources: Polly Owen, manager of the Hazelnut Marketing Board; USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service; OSU hazelnut breeder Shawn Mehlenbacher.

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New OSU-bred wheat varieties yield more, resist disease

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Cultivars also test well with millers and bakers

Oregon wheat growers depend on new cultivars to improve yields and fight crop diseases. So for more than a century, Oregon State University's wheat breeders have been at work. They've developed dozens of varieties adapted to Oregon's diverse growing conditions.

One of OSU's latest releases is Kaseberg, a soft white winter cultivar that thrives in many regional climates. It delivers higher yields than similar, widely planted wheat and is resistant to the yield-reducing stripe rust fungus. The variety was also bred to appeal to the baking industry; its fine flour particles are ideal for cookies and crackers.

In 2013 OSU released Ladd, one of the few cultivars with resistance to soilborne wheat mosaic virus, which farmers struggle to control in irrigated areas in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon's farmers produced $472 million of wheat in 2012.

Sources: OSU wheat breeder Bob Zemetra; USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

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OSU helps schools reduce pesticide use, comply with law

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New strategies save money and reduce children’s exposure to pesticides

Mandated by state law, the Oregon State University Extension Service has drawn up best practices for schools to implement to reduce their pesticide use. The plans use integrated pest management (IPM), which employs chemicals as a last resort and instead aims to eliminate the conditions that attract pests, some of which can trigger asthma – a condition that 10 percent of all Oregon children have.

As part of the law, each school district must designate an IPM coordinator. Extension provided IPM training to coordinators from 183 of Oregon's 197 school districts in 2012.

Backers say IPM will reduce costs. The Anne Arundel district in Maryland reduced its pest control budget from $46,000 to $14,000 after its first year of IPM. Schools in Montgomery County in Maryland reduced pesticide use from 5,000 applications in 1985 to none four years later, saving $1,800 per school and $30,000 at the food service warehouse. The Monroe County Community School Corp. in Indiana saves about $13,600 a year with IPM.

Sources: National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides; 2010 report by Oregon Asthma Program; Tim Stock, IPM education specialist with OSU Extension.

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OSU scientists help Oregon’s vineyards and wineries stay competitive

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The Oregon Wine Research Institute focuses industry collaboration in research and Extension

The process of making wine is complex and OSU research is helping improve the process from field to market. OSU vine expert Patty Skinkis has found that using a cover crop in a mature vineyard produces higher-quality grapes and a better bottom line. For Oregon's 870-plus vineyards, that bottom line was nearly $94 million in sales of grapes in 2012. That's in addition to the $253 million in cases that the state's 463 wineries sold.

Skinkis also found that grapes from vines with grass alleyways scored the highest in terms of phenolics, which affect how wine feels in the mouth, and anthocyanins, which are pigments that produce a more intense red—a desirable trait in Oregon’s famous Pinot noir and many other red wines. That increased quality could translate into higher prices for Oregon grapes and for the wine made from them.

Meanwhile, OSU researcher James Osborne is studying how yeast impact the aroma of Pinot noir. His goal is to help winemakers select strains that can produce the aromas and flavors they desire. Osborne and Skinkis are carrying on OSU's legacy of helping the wine industry. Past achievements of OSU scientists include isolating the first malolactic bacteria to grow at cold temperatures and low pHs; devising a lag growth phase crop estimation system that is now used universally; importing the Dijon clones and many varieties for the first time into the United States; and creating the first International Cool Climate Symposium for Viticulture and Enology in 1984.

Source: Southern Oregon University 2011 Oregon Winery Census Report; National Agricultural Statistics Service

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