Extension News from the West
Here’s a crazy story about a teen who was arrested and expelled after a science project displeased authorities. Something to think about. Do we set ground rules, e.g., no blowing stuff up? Or do we try to create a freer zone with authorities aware that we may produce smoke, weird smells, etc… but nothing harmful or hazardous?
Good point. Liability/safety can definitely be something to ask people about who have put these on before, too.
Location? Ensminger? Think bigger…? Smith Gym? A place with easy access for carrying equipment, parking, space for food, people to take a nap haha, etc.
Jolie Kaytes, landscape architecture – has experience at the intersection of science and design. See, for example: http://youtu.be/9MTmqlBJfmk
Mike Walcott and perhaps others with the sustainable design institute — for thinking about biofuels, green building, much more
Amit Dhingra – extensive STEM outreach experience. Ask him about Tina, the Pullman High science teacher.
Science Hack Day is a free, 48-hour overnight event to create, build, and get excited about science. Together, with our diverse WSU colleges, Palouse Discovery Science Center, neighbors at U of I, K-12 schools, and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, the Palouse is a hub of scientific knowledge and learning—a perfect place to host a Science Hack Day. Using our unique position as CAHNRS, we can engage the community and share our mission of experiential, hands-on learning—and see some cool projects and discoveries as a result.
September 28-29, the California Academy of Science hosts the San Francisco Science Hack Day. We would like to send Rachel Webber to represent, with the goal of returning with tools needed to host a Science Hack Day at WSU. The two-day event itself is free (not including travel) and equips ambassadors with information including, how to set-up an online Wiki forum for brainstorming project ideas, how to recruit, build sponsorship, organize registration, and get an overall feel of the event. Past examples of projects include extracting strawberry DNA and turning it into a DNAquiri, an alarm clock that wakes you up with motion instead of sound, videogames that change difficulty level based on your brainwaves, and elementary students testing space suit material on teddy bears and sending them to space in a helium balloon.
This will be an opportunity to do something that has never been done before. Big ideas are always coming out of WSU, so it will be exciting to see what happens when students, scientists, engineers, artists, writers, developers, teachers, and anyone with a passion for science come together in the same place to collaborate.
Rachel’s relevant event planning/organization experience:
- 2012 Seattle Science Festival Ambassador
- Fort Nisqually Living History Museum event & education intern
- Community Action Center marketing/gardening volunteer
- Youthworks! On-Site Youth Volunteer Coordinator
As any child can tell you, the Mesozoic Era ends with the extinction of the dinosaurs. Most geologists think the cause of that extinction was the impact of an enormous meteorite that hit the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. As the theory goes, the impact was so large it led to global changes in the composition of the atmosphere. Smoke and dust raised by the collision blocked the sun’s light for a time, making temperatures drop and plants die off. Many species of both plants and animals didn’t live through the crisis, as parts of the food web simply fell apart. As it happens, the dinos were one group that gave up the ghost and slipped into extinction.
The extinction that carried off the dinosaurs is one of five mass extinctions in the geologic record during the last three eras of geologic time – the time marked by animals of sharply increasing complexity first in the seas and then on land. Because the dinosaurs are famous the world around, the extinction that killed them is often discussed in public circles. But the causes of the other four mass extinctions are just as interesting to scientists.
Recently new evidence has been brought to light about the mass extinction that occurred during, rather than at the end, of the Mesozoic Era. The time in question stands at the boundary between the Triassic Period and the Jurassic Period (think of the movie Jurassic Park if you want a little help with these names). The extinction at issue saw the end of three quarters of the species then living in the seas and on land. The massive die off helped clear the ground for the dominance of the dinosaurs for more than the next 100 million years.
In the early Mesozoic what is now North America was united with Europe as part of a supercontinent called Pangaea. Pangaea broke up into separate continents as geologic time unfolded. Volcanic rocks of the same type and age are found along the East Coast and in Morocco, areas that were next to each other in the Triassic. The rocks resulted from a giant rift in the crust of the Earth, one that ultimately grew to become the Atlantic Ocean.
The massive eruptions that occurred in the late Triassic Period created what’s called the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province or CAMP. Along with volcanic rock, the eruptions would have added carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere, potentially triggering strong climate change.
The new evidence about CAMP published in the journal Science relates to the age of the volcanic rocks in question. Sophisticated dating techniques now indicate the whole CAMP province of volcanic rocks was formed during a period of only 40,000 years. Geologically speaking, that’s nearly instantaneous. Such a massive outpouring of lava in such a short time could well have rapidly changed the atmosphere and thus climate.
The more we learn about major extinctions, the more respect we must have for the ferocity of Mother Nature. Let’s hope we don’t live long enough to see her bear her volcanic claws once more.
Nevada and Utah State Extensions team up to offer workshops in Reno, Las Vegas and rural Nevada
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and Utah State University Cooperative Extension have teamed up to co-sponsor a workshop for growers and small food processors, "Farm Products to Food Products: Increased Sales and Season Extension through Value-Added Products." The workshop will be held 8:30 a.m. — 5 p.m. on May 13 in Las Vegas and on May 14 in Reno. It will also be available via compressed video to those who want to participate in Elko, Caliente and Tonopah.
The workshop is intended to provide growers and small processors with information and strategies for developing and marketing valued-added products through direct and wholesale outlets. Workshop topics take a start-to-finish perspective, ranging from idea conceptualizing to business planning, ingredient testing and labeling, processing, and sales and marketing strategies. The workshop is taught by Extension personnel from the two universities, local growers and industry representatives.
According to Kynda Curtis, USU Extension agricultural marketing specialist and the workshop organizer, the workshop "will provide farmers and others looking to develop food products for sale with an overview of the product development, processing and market planning steps that need to be considered."
Holly Gatzke, Extension Educator in Nevada’s Lincoln County, said the collaborative effort between Nevada and Utah State Extension brings in expertise that focuses on creating food products.
"We need to bring in expertise where we don’t have it, and Utah State has it for this topic," she said. Attendees will get an understanding of how to create a great product because this can be a very complex business. After they attend this conference, they will have some key pieces of how they can take on creating a new food product."
The registration fee is $40 per person and includes breaks, lunch and program materials. To register for the Las Vegas workshop, go to http://www.lasvegasfarmtofood.eventbrite.com. To register for the Reno workshop, go to http://www.renofarmtofoodproducts.eventbrite.com. The Las Vegas workshop will be held at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Clark County Building, 8050 Paradise Road, Suite 100. The Reno workshop will be held at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, 2500 E. Second St.
For additional information or to participate via compressed video, contact Curtis, firstname.lastname@example.org or 435-797-0444. Program partners include USDA Risk Management Agency, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and Utah State University Food Quality and Entrepreneurship Program.
ARLINGTON, Wash. – Educators interested in learning how to incorporate environmental education into their curriculums should attend the Project Learning Tree training May 18, 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Community Room, Arlington Boys and Girls Club, 18513 59th Ave NE, Arlington.
The workshop will use the acclaimed Project Learning Tree curriculum to give participants access to hundreds of simple activities for integrating environmental education in a classroom, club, or after-school program. These activities address the four Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) for science, with an emphasis on experiential learning and getting kids outside to learn about science and nature.
Registration for the training is $35 before May 1, $50 May 1 or later, and includes the Project Learning Tree Environmental Education Activity Guide, lunch, and 6 clock hours. Additional information is available at http://bit.ly/156vXpW or by calling 425-357-6023.
The training is offered through a partnership between Washington State University Extension and the Stillaguamish Tribe.
PULLMAN, Wash. – A pandemic is destroying orange groves in Florida. The disease, called citrus greening, is also spreading to citrus groves in Texas and California, threatening a more than $3 billion per year industry. If left unaddressed, the entire U.S. citrus industry could be wiped out and, as Florida Sen. Bill Nelson said, “We’ll end up paying $5 for an orange – and it’ll have to be one imported from someplace else.”
Citrus greening disease is spread by bacteria that block trees’ nutrient and water channels and prevent fruit from ripening.
“It’s like choking the tree from the inside out,” said David Gang, a Washington State University molecular biologist and biochemist who is collaborating with a large, interdisciplinary team to combat the disease.
The bacteria are hosted and spread by an insect related to aphids and whiteflies called the Asian citrus psyllid (pronounced sill-id). The disease is thought to have spread from China in the early 2000s. Citrus greening has already destroyed the citrus industry in Jamaica.
The invasive psyllids pierce the citrus trees with a needle-like mouthpiece, similar to the way a malaria-transmitting mosquito infects its victims. As it feeds on the tree’s water and nutrients, the psyllid injects the disease-causing bacteria, which then spread through the rest of the plant.
To combat this aggressive disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has funded a multifaceted, multi-institutional initiative involving more than 40 researchers located in several states. Scientists are looking at the disease’s ecological consequences, the biology of citrus trees, the insects and the mechanism by which the insect transmits the bacteria.
Pesticides have been of some use in controlling the psyllids but researchers are concerned the insects will develop resistance. And biocontrols – siccing good bugs to prey on the bad ones – have proven ineffective because the psyllids simply outbreed their predators.
That’s where David Gang enters the scene.Altering the insect
Gang’s lab in the WSU Institute of Biological Chemistry focuses on using new technologies like genomics and proteomics to study plant defense mechanisms, particularly the chemical compounds that help plants survive and combat pathogens and pests. In the USDA-funded project, Gang and his colleagues isolate and sequence the genes being expressed in the psyllids as they feed on citrus plants.
“Getting good quality data from this kind of approach is actually quite challenging to figure out,” Gang said. “But once you learn how to do it, you can do it relatively routinely; because of that, we were invited to be part of this project.”
Once Gang and his colleagues obtain gene expression data, they make it available in a database for their collaborators to use.
“We hope this data can be used to develop a ‘nupsyllid’ (as in ‘new-psyllid’) that will be unable to transmit or harbor the citrus greening bacteria,” Gang said.
The researchers are also turning to genetic engineering as a last resort weapon against citrus greening: “We can shut off genes that are involved in transmission of the bacterium,” said Gang. Since citrus plants have no inherent defense and in view of the fact that consumers reject genetically engineered food, the research team is focused on modifying the disease-transmitting pest.
Because citrus greening disease infects and weakens its insect host, Gang said that “nupsyllids” are expected to outcompete and eventually replace the disease-spreading psyllids.Potential damage devastating
Insuring the economic and horticultural health and sustainability of the U.S. citrus industry is the goal of the USDA-funded five-year project.
“The investment the USDA is putting into this project is really very small compared to the economic damage already caused by this disease and is trivial compared to the potential damage that could be caused down the road,” Gang said. “It’s one of those things where we don’t really have a choice. If we don’t do something, all of the citrus trees in the U.S. will likely be dead within 10-20 years.”
That’s why he and his colleagues are seeking a workable genetic solution to the citrus greening challenge, Gang said: “We’re kind of proud of the fact that it’s difficult to do and we’re good at it.”
-Chelsea Pickett, science writing intern
The remains of wine grapes picked and pressed typically return to fields as fertilizers, but scientists are also finding ways to recycle those edible remains into healthy foods.
Take Gena McKahan’s gluten-free, merlot grape-seed flour granola bar, for example. As a food science undergraduate at Washington State University, McKahan was curious how different amounts of merlot grape-seed flour would change a granola bar’s antioxidant content when baked with other ingredients. About half the antioxidants in grapes are found in the pomace—the pulpy pile of skins, seeds, and stems leftover from winemaking—and have been shown to help prevent some cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
McKahan made granola bars using a variety of percentages of grape-pomace flour and, overall, her data analysis showed an increase in antioxidant content as the amount of grape-seed flour increased.
“I worked in health care for seven years as an ER tech, so I have seen a lot of people with diabetes and Celiac disease,” McKahan said. She believes developing functional foods (foods with added nutritional value) can help an increasingly gluten-sensitive and diabetic population more easily and accessibly meet their dietary needs.
“Gluten-free products and antioxidants are also part of the health trend,” McKahan said. “The population is looking at labels.”
Even if a granola or snack bar is nutritious, whether or not consumers will eat it depends largely on taste—an especially pertinent concern since wine flours tend to be more astringent, or bitter, McKahan said. In addition to grape-seed flour, the granola bar included buckwheat, rice, teff seed, and potato starch flavor. Overall, a consumer panel of 60 people said they preferred the granola bars containing 0 and 5% grape pomace flour in comparison to bars with 10 and 15%.
The research also confirms WSU sensory analyst Carolyn Ross and researcher Maria Rosales’ previous study, published in the Journal of Sensory Sciences, which suggested a granola bar with less grape-seed flour still had higher than zero antioxidant content and could be marketable. In their recipe, Ross and Rosales included sunflower seeds, another rich source of antioxidants. McKahan omitted sunflower seeds in her analysis confirming grape-seed flour on its own provides a supply of antioxidants when baked.
Eric Leber, co-owner and president of AprèsVin (French for “After Wine”) donated merlot flour for the experiments. He’s an advocate of using the whole grape. After a winemaker is done with the grapes, the seeds can be pressed for oil and then ground into flour. Leber expresses gratitude for the partnership with WSU researchers and says those in the grape-seed flour industry can use the information to inform their customers about how to best use the flours when baking.
“Using grape pomace is all about sustainability which is important in developing a viable wine industry from both a business and environmental standpoint,” he said. “It’s just a win-win-win.”
And with 8 million tons of grape pomace produced annually worldwide, there’s plenty of research material to go around.
Learn more about research in the School of Food Science at sfs.wsu.edu.
-Rachel WebberWhat’s Science Got to Do with the Wine in Your Glass?
In a single glass of wine you may discover hints of peach, citrus, mineral, melon, smoke, or spice. But you may not notice that the same glass holds a complex blend of geology, biology, chemistry, microbiology, and meteorology, with a touch of technology. Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program, told over 120 wine enthusiasts about the science embodied in glass of wine, at the April WSU Innovators Lecture in Seattle.
Henick-Kling described the skyrocketing growth of Washington’s wine industry in the last two decades and the pivotal role that science plays in the success of this $8.6 billion industry. Washington is now the second largest producer of premium wines in the United States. He touched on a broad array of research projects conducted at WSU, all of which contribute to wines that display regional and grape varietal flavors.Wine Science Begins with the Landscape
Each of Washington’s 13 distinct viticultural areas (AVAs) produces wines that express the unique terroir of the area. Terroir is the complex and synergistic effect of soil, climate, and topography, as well as grape cultivars and vineyard management style on a wine. Basalt bedrock, Missoula-flood sand and gravel, wind-deposited loess – all contribute to the individuality of grapes grown in regions such as Red Mountain, Ancient Lakes, or Horse Heaven Hills. To the trained palette, the flavors and results of terroir are apparent.
Climate conditions vary throughout the wine growing regions of Washington and are monitored closely by the WSU AgWeatherNet system. With 144 weather stations located throughout the state, AgWeatherNet provides vineyard managers with region-specific information that helps them know when to turn on wind machines to protect buds during cold snaps and when to best employ disease and pest interventions.
Researchers at WSU are modeling grapevine development to understand the relationship of irrigation timing and water quantity and their effects on grape flavors and cold hardiness. They’re developing sensor-based decision tools for precision canopy and water management. Plant pathologists are learning how plants infected with leafroll virus produce less ripe fruit, which affects wine quality. They’re discovering how restoring native habitat supports biological pest controls in vineyards.Beyond the Vineyard
Wine science and the quest for regional flavor extend well beyond the vineyard. “I’ve never found wine in the vineyard,” said Henick-Kling. “Wine flavor begins with the grape and is modified by the microorganisms that are allowed to prosper during fermentation.” Henick-Kling, a microbiologist and fermentation specialist, explores the multiple personalities of these microbes. “Each yeast strain has its own character that lends to the taste of wine. Only about 100 strains have been explored for their unique qualities so far. We’re characterizing new strains to identify undiscovered flavors and aromas,” he said.
Enologists are exploring the detailed chemistry of compounds that impart specific flavors, aromas, color, and texture; how they’re affected by heat; and how they can be extracted during winemaking. Sensory and consumer scientists are conducting sensory evaluations and using analytical chemistry techniques to identify and describe wine flavors and aromas to better understand precisely what consumers mean when they say, “I like this wine.”World-Class Wine Science Center
In the vineyard, the winery, and the lab, wine science must be tied to the local conditions that impart the unique characteristics of a wine. Ted Baseler, CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and WSU Regent, spoke about the campaign to build a new WSU Wine Science Center to be located at WSU Tri-Cities – in the heart of Washington’s wine country.
“With $17.5 million raised by industry, private, and public donors, we’re just $4.5 million from establishing a world-class research and teaching center that is a steeple of excellence,” Baseler said. Ste. Michelle recently hired two graduates from the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program. “They were turnkey — they knew exactly what to do. WSU is producing scientifically well-trained candidates for employment in the industry.”
WSU offers the only Bachelor’s program in wine science in Pacific Northwest, in addition to graduate studies and certificate programs.
Learn more about wine science research and educational opportunities by visiting wine.wsu.edu.
-Sylvia KantorSpring issue of Viticulture and Enology Extension News now available
The new issue of VEEN is ready for you to download. This issue has articles about using native plants for biocontrol, understanding the biophysics of water and its relationship to grape fruit quality, a new graft-transmissible grape disease, the new electronic “tongue” in the WSU wine sensory lab, and a winemaking article on tannin extraction and astringency.
Download your copy here: http://bit.ly/11F5Wfq.
DAVENPORT, Wash. – Farmers need to decide by June 3 whether or not to participate in the federal ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election) farm subsidy program for 2013. Below are some information and suggestions from Washington State University Extension for farmers to consider before deciding.
A fact sheet from the U.S. Farm Service Agency (FSA) that explains the program and includes a worksheet for evaluating an individual farm’s situation can be found at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dcp; select the fact sheet called 2013 Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program Fact Sheet.
For an Excel spreadsheet template to evaluate ACRE, contact the WSU Extension office in Davenport at 509-725-4171 or email@example.com (email requests should have ACRE Template in the subject line). There is a $5 charge for the template. Please include complete contact information so you can be sent an update after FSA’s monthly price projections are made in mid-May.
The template saves a lot of pencil pushing in evaluation of projected price and yield and whether or not ACRE is likely to make a payment for the 2013 crop.Supplemental insurance
ACRE is designed to give added protection to farmers against statewide revenue loss for program crops; that is, when statewide revenue drops below a guarantee determined by the previous years’ crop yields and prices.
In order for a farm to qualify for a revenue loss payment, it must also suffer a revenue loss on the same crop. But the amount of loss payment is based solely on the statewide loss, not on the actual loss on a particular farm.
ACRE will not cover losses on an individual farm if statewide revenue losses do not occur. Consequently, it is not meant to replace traditional crop insurance. Rather, it is meant to supplement it. Federal crop insurance should be the first line of protection.
In evaluating ACRE, farmers need to address questions similar to the ones they address regarding other insurance:
- “What kind of loss does this insurance cover?”
- “What is the likelihood that these losses will occur?”
- “Do I need added protection from these losses?”
- “Is the protection worth the cost?”
At this time, there is no long-term decline in farm revenue that makes the ACRE program look necessary or promising. Could this outlook change between now and the June 3 deadline? Yes, if spring precipitation drops well below normal and grain prices continue their downward trend.
A WSU Extension model of dryland farms in Whitman, Lincoln and Adams counties showed it would take an 18 percent reduction in 2013 wheat revenue (farm and state) for a farm to recoup its ACRE premium and for ACRE to begin to cover additional losses if revenue slid further.
A model of an irrigated Grant County farm showed a 26 percent reduction would be needed in 2013 corn revenue for the farm to recoup its ACRE premium and for ACRE to begin to cover additional revenue losses. Over the last five years, the greatest annual, countywide corn yield loss was only 10 percent below the five year average of 207 bushels in Grant County. Consequently, it appears that, for irrigated corn, price is a more likely a driver than yield in triggering ACRE payments.
Readers are cautioned that the percentage of revenue loss required to recoup ACRE premiums and protect from further revenue loss differs somewhat from farm to farm, because the premium is based on a farm’s mix of farm program base acres, which also varies from farm to farm. Therefore, the losses cited above should be considered ballpark figures only.
The bottom line is: If you are concerned about 2013 crop revenues dropping 15-20 percent below 2012, evaluate the ACRE program carefully. If not, forget about it.
WSU will lead a $16.2 million international effort to develop wheat varieties that can tolerate the high temperatures found in most of the world’s growing regions—temperatures that are likely to increase with global warming. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR) to support the research, which is part of the US government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future.
Researchers aim to have their first set of “climate-resilient” wheat varieties in five years. The research will focus on the North Indian River Plain, which is home to nearly one billion people that must deal with limited water and rising temperatures, said Kulvinder Gill, project director and the Vogel Endowed Chair for Wheat Breeding and Genetics. “The Climate Resilient Wheat project will benefit all wheat-growing regions of the world,” he said, “as heat during certain stages of the plant’s development has been a pervasive issue.”
The researchers will combine conventional and newly developed breeding tools to identify genes or sets of genes associated with heat tolerance, a rarely studied trait that significantly impacts yields. A wheat plant’s productivity falls off dramatically when temperatures rise above 82 degrees Fahrenheit and the effects are particularly dramatic in the flowering stage when the plant sets the seed that is ultimately harvested and milled for food.
Every rise of just a couple of degrees above 82 in the flowering stage cuts yields by 3 to 4 percent. Some parts of the North Indian River Plain can reach 95 degrees during flowering, said Gill, who worked in the withering heat of his family’s area farm as a child.
The project will continue efforts by Gill and colleagues to help wheat plants deal with environmental stresses. He is currently in the latter stages of a three-year $1.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation and the Gates Foundation to develop drought-tolerant “desert wheat.”
Support from USAID will leverage more than $11 million from other partners for research at WSU and project-related activities in India by researchers from both public and private institutions in the United States and India. As many as 35 Ph.D. students and 30 post-doctoral or research fellows will also be involved.
For more information about the research goals of Gilll and his collaborators, including their quest to understand the wheat genome and how to manipulate it for crop improvement, please visit http://vogelchair.wsu.edu/.WSU Research Cultivates Seeds of Opportunity for PNW Farmers
The grain-like seed crop quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is expanding in popularity and very likely will soon be grown more widely in the Pacific Northwest thanks to a $1.6 million USDA grant recently awarded to a team of WSU researchers.
The tiny seeds of Chenopodium quinoa (a relative to beets and Swiss chard) are in high demand as a nutritious, protein-rich, gluten-free alternative to rice and other grains. Dr. Kevin Murphy, lead scientist and plant breeder for the WSU research project, said that current and growing demand in the United States outweighs production from traditional quinoa-producing countries like Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. “Demand is driving distributors, wholesalers, and retailers to seek out domestic, reliable sources of quinoa, and this spells opportunity for Pacific Northwest farmers,” Murphy said.
Organic farmers and quinoa distributors and retailers alike are expected to benefit from the research. “Consumers want organic and local sources of quinoa,” Murphy said. The project aims to identify the best varieties suited for organic production in the region, develop best management practices for production, and assess market demand and future marketing options for quinoa growers and sellers.
The research project ties into a larger global focus on the potential of this nutritious crop. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. According to International Year of Quinoa website, the goal of the campaign is to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa´s biodiversity and nutritional value plays in providing food security and nutrition and the eradication of poverty.”Expanding Quinoa’s Rewards
The research project ties into a larger global focus on the potential of this nutritious crop. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. According to the website dedicated to spreading the word about quinoa, the goal is to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa´s biodiversity and nutritional value plays in providing food security, nutrition, and the eradication of poverty.”
Quinoa’s potential both to increase options for regional farmers and locavores as well as address global food security lies in its adaptability to marginal growing conditions. “Compared to other crops, quinoa has excellent drought and salinity tolerance,” explained Murphy. “Quinoa can adapt to many environmental and climatic conditions. It thrives in a wide range of soil pH, and tolerates light frost and late rains.” One area that needs improvement is developing varieties with greater heat tolerance. So far, Murphy’s variety trials indicate that varieties bred from Chilean germplasm are best adapted to high maximum temperatures of the region.
WSU will host an International Quinoa Research Symposium August 12-14 as part of the International Year of Quinoa marketing effort. Researchers from around the world will gather in Pullman to learn about current research, including from demonstrations of variety and breeding field trials.
For more information about the upcoming International Quinoa Research Symposium hosted by WSU, please visithttp://bit.ly/XRsMCM.Undergrad Researcher Earns Trip to National Conference
When he found out his undergraduate research qualified him for the Emerging Researchers National (ERN) Conference in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), WSU food science undergraduate Pablo Corredor submitted a poster in hopes of sharing his research on the Bartlett pear. His hopes were exceeded when the poster was not only chosen to compete at the national conference, but he also earned a travel award to attend the conference from February 29 to March 3 in Washington, DC. Corredor’s poster was chosen to compete at the national conference and he earned a travel award to attend the conference in Washington, D.C.
An unexpected element of the experience was the personal growth and inspiration that came with the trip. “Thanks to this conference, I was able to make national and international connections with other students and professors,” Corredor said. “Personally, the most important part of this conference was the inspiration and motivation I gained to continue working on doing research in STEM.”
Corredor’s research project focused on establishing biotechnological tools and strategies for the long-term improvement of the European (Bartlett) pear. The pear market in the United States is economically stagnant and faces challenges to its long-term growth and stability. Corredor’s work on deployment of micropropagation aims to confront those challenges. Micropropagation involves growing plant cells in a tissue culturing medium to produce large numbers of disease-free plants. He is using this process to develop tools to improve biotechnological techniques.
Corredor’s research was done through WSU’s Department of Horticulture under the direction of Associate Professor and horticulture scientist Amit Dhingra. Dhingra is a genomicist who works to improve Washington fruit crops. Corredor also worked closely with Christopher Handrickson, who is a graduate research assistant in Dhingra’s lab, as well as Nathan Tarlyn, horticultural biotechnology manager. Because he was the only WSU student in attendance at the 2013 ERN conference, Corredor set a goal to bring as many students as possible from WSU to next year’s meeting in Chicago. “I would like to encourage anyone who is doing undergraduate or graduate research to apply to the annual ERN conference. This experience inspired me to continue working hard on my undergraduate research project and bring more people to participate in events like this.”
-Angela LenssenOnline Training Shows Orchardists How to Propagate Dessert and Cider Apples with Chip Bud Grafting
Many orchardists use grafting to optimize their apple quantities and varieties. To help growers of dessert and cider apples successfully propagate trees, WSU has produced an online training that demonstrates the process of chip bud grafting. This propagation method is relatively fast and mechanically easy, but does require proper materials and techniques. Tom Thornton, an orchardist with more than 30 years of experience, helped craft the comprehensive training.
- It was A) written by a vegetable production scientist who trains Master Gardeners and has 20 years of experience growing vegetables in Washington, B) peer reviewed, and C) professionally edited and designed.
- It provides growing instructions for more than 70 vegetables.
- It clarifies which vegetables you should prioritize growing if you want to experience significantly superior quality and value compared to the typical grocery store fare.
- It includes color maps that distinguish Washington growing zones by temperature and date.
- It’s free!
Grab your copy from the WSU Extension Online Bookstore: http://bit.ly/10kQ0oE.
When I was young my family ate a lot of Red Delicious apples. Some came out of my trusty lunchbox at school, some were straight from the refrigerator at home. The apples were big and eye-catching, but in my opinion they left something to be desired in their eating qualities. Still, they gave us a reasonably economical and convenient fruit choice, and we were glad to have them.
These days there are lots of options in the stores when it comes to apples, from the traditional varieties like Red Delicious, Jonathan and McIntosh to newer varieties like Honeycrisp and Jazz. Depending on how sweet or tart you like your eating apples, and how firm or how crisp you prefer them, there are a range of options available in many grocery stores.
Where do all these varieties come from? The answer is that there are horticulturalists always at work doing the labor necessary to breed better apples that span a wide gamut of qualities. These days that means scientific breeding done at agricultural research and extension centers.
Recently I met with Prof. Kate Evans of Washington State University. Evans breeds apples for the growing conditions of central Washington State, a powerhouse region of the country for apple production. She very kindly brought samples of one of her new apples, currently known by its patent name as “WA-38.”
Naturally I jumped right in by taking a bite of the new apple. I would describe WA-38 as juicy, firm and crisp. It’s tarter than Honeycrisp, which in my world is a good thing. Its texture is different, too.
“It stays crisp in the mouth longer than Honeycrisp,” Evans said. “Texture is a tough quality to describe, but that’s one way of putting it.”
The WA-38 apple is the result of traditional breeding.
“We did use some DNA-informed selection,” Evans said, “but it’s not a GM product.”
The apple resulted from crossing Honeycrisp with an apple called Enterprise. The first step was taken in 1997 when researchers collected pollen from Honeycrisp and pollinated flowers of Enterprise. During that growing season, the flowers ultimately became fruit with seeds embedded in them.
“All the seeds are like siblings in terms of the degree of relatedness they have,” Evans said. “So there is variation in the genetics from seed to seed, and therefore in the properties of the tree and fruit those seeds will ultimately yield.”
Researchers like Evans take seeds, chill them to imitate winter conditions, and then germinate them in the greenhouse. Young seedlings then grow up.
“Right now I have 24,000 seedlings growing in the orchard,” said Evans. “We keep an eye on them all, taking samples from the ones that catch the eye.”
Breeding apples is partly a matter of generating variation and then selecting the best plants at each stage of the cycle.
“It takes 5-6 years to go from the first seed of a new variety to having fruit-bearing trees of that type,” Evans told me. “In total, it takes around 18 years for the full variety development due to the several rounds of testing required before release.”
Horticulturalists can take a bud of the new apple tree and graft it onto a rootstock. That technique is called vegetative propagation and it dates back to ancient times. It allows growers to combine the best qualities of the rootstock variety, in terms of roots and trunk, with another apple, in terms of fruit actually yielded.
To be worth the effort of breeding, an apple has to have many good qualities. These days those include good storage properties because the apple industry wants fruit that it can sell 12 months per year. The apples also need to resist bruising, Evans told me.
Today, 16 years after the original cross of Honeycrisp and Enterprise, WSU is ready to move forward with the next step of ultimately bringing WA-38 to market. The university is looking for a licensee to manage the process of taking the variety to the industry and then to consumers.
Along the way a name for the new variety will be dreamed up.
It will be catchy, something that will appeal to consumers in the grocery store,” Evans said.
Just for fun, I’m trying to think of suggestions. If you dream up something good, feel free to send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll pass it along to the right folks.