Extension News from the West

State-of-the-art Wine Science Center supports industry

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 10:19am

Through research and education, the newly opened Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center supports Washington’s expanding wine industry.

Washington has over 850 wineries, 50,000 acres of wine grapes and 24,000 acres of juice grapes. The state is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States, generating more than $4.8 billion annually.

To continue solving problems and improving this important industry, the Wine Science Center opened Thursday, June 4, 2015, on the Washington State University Tri-Cities campus in Richland. The center gives wine professionals the technical know-how to meet industry needs with a research and teaching winery, laboratories, classrooms and meeting spaces.

Refining grapes and minds

ALSC Architects designed the 40,000-square-foot Wine Science Center following a “rough-to-refined” concept that is evident throughout the building. The facility concept represents raw, or “rough,” grapes entering the research winery and transforming into premium Washington wine. It also represents the refining of students’ minds as they learn and gain experience through the Viticulture and Enology Program.

Julie Pittsinger, WSU enology certificate alumna and owner of KARMA Vineyards in Chelan, and winemaker Craig Mitrakul pouring their commemorative Wine Science Center grand opening sparking wines. Available in Brut and Brut Rosé, you can purchase these limited edition wines at the Brelsford Visitors Center in Pullman or by contacting Debbie Schwenson at 509-372-7224.

Julie Pittsinger, who earned an enology certificate from WSU and now operates KARMA Vineyards in Chelan, Wash., helped celebrate the center’s grand opening with two commemorative sparkling wines. She poured them with KARMA winemaker Craig Mitrakul, who studied with WSU Viticulture and Enology Director Thomas Henick-Kling when he led the wine science program at Cornell University in New York. These limited-edition Brut and Brut Rosé sparkling wines can be purchased at the Brelsford WSU Visitors Center in Pullman or by contacting Debbie Schwenson at 509-372-7224.

The rough-to-refined concept is repeated in the Columbia Center Rotary Charity Garden behind the center. The plants are arranged roughly, resembling a wild landscape, transitioning to deliberately like a manicured garden, representing WSU’s pioneering contributions to Washington agriculture and the wine industry.

Horticulture instructor Gretchen Graber, along with Henick-Kling, Bruce Schwan with SCM Engineering and Gamache Landscaping designed this two-acre garden with sustainability in mind. Of the 600 plants featured, 80 percent are native to the Columbia Basin’s natural shrub-steppe habitat, providing an example of the ingredients—climate, soil, plants and insects—that make up southeastern Washington’s unique landscape and premium wine. (View photos of the Columbia Center Charity Garden planting party held April 11, 2015.)

Fundraising fruition

“I look around, and I see the fruits of a long journey,” said Casey Fox, director of development for wine sciences in the Viticulture and Enology Program, at the grand opening.

The state’s Wine Commission and wine industry, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and dozens of private donors helped bring the Wine Science Center to fruition over a 15-year period.

“The industry has been extremely receptive to this project,” Fox said. “They understand the research that has been done, and the possibilities of what can be achieved with state-of-the-art facilities. They get a direct benefit from the research that will go on here.”

To date, $21.5 million has been fundraised for the center’s construction. About $1.5 million is still needed.

“The building is done,” Fox said. “The rest is equipment. We’re still working, and we have some great partners. By the end of summer, we’re hopeful we will be done.”

Deborah Barnard with her glass art installation recognizing donors who helped make the WSU Wine Science Center a reality.

Donors to the center are recognized in a unique glass art installation by Deborah Barnard, owner of Db Studio at Barnard Griffin Winery. The glass panels etched with donor names are hung in the center’s atrium, which has a curved wall with metal beams to resemble a wine barrel.

The donor wall also presents views a wine scientist might see under a microscope, such as yeast cells, molds, crystals or bacteria. The microscope “slides,” infused with reactive glasses to create shading and depth, are overlaid with clear glass framed in oak with donors’ names embossed in black glass powder. All materials used were made in the Pacific Northwest.

Limitless potential

For Jim Harbertson, associate professor of enology, the potential of a new research laboratories at the Wine Science Center is limitless.

Touring the Ron and Ann Morford Wine Chemistry Instrument Room with its namesake donors during the center’s grand opening, Harbertson explained the sophisticated wine chemistry and spectrometry that will soon happen here.

The Wine Chemistry Instrument Room has a split-bench design for easy access to maintain the equipment, and gas canisters are stored safely in hallway closets.

Once it’s stocked with equipment, he’ll share the lab with other researchers and PhD students. They plan to get right to work exploring ways to improve Washington wine.

“We want to make the best science in collaboration,” Harbertson said. “As long as we have good instruments, and keep the people coming and the projects going, the sky’s the limit.”

The Morfords live on Bainbridge Island, and were among hundreds of supporters who donated to build the new center.

“We love wine, and we wanted to give back to WSU,” said Ron Morford.

“We’re Cougs,” added Ann. “We want to see WSU succeed in ways no other school has.”

As Viticulture and Enology Program faculty, students and staff settle into the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, they look forward to expanding their research, teaching and collaboration with national and international institutions.

The center has capacity for seven faculty, 14 post-doctoral students or visiting scientists, 24 graduate students, two administrative support staff, and 10 technical support staff for the research winery and laboratories.

Wine at WSU Program Director Thomas Henick-Kling explains to Rep. Dan Newhouse how students partner with commercial vineyards and wineries to craft their Blended Learning wines.

WSU offers the region’s only four-year degrees in viticulture and enology or wine business management, preparing future leaders for the industry in state and out. Its scientists conduct research on everything from tannins and grape leaf-roll virus to yeast viability and deficit irrigation in vineyards.

WSU hired Thomas Henick-Kling, one of the world’s premier wine scientists, to lead its program using an endowment supported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and the Washington wine industry. He has spent time visiting with industry representatives in every wine-growing area of the state and led the planning of the new center and changes in the teaching program.

WSU is the sole state institution supporting agricultural industries in Washington through research, technology transfer or “extension” and the awarding of bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees. The WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences is academic home to over 30 faculty working on wine-related issues, who are stationed across the state at research and extension centers (Mt. Vernon, Prosser and Wenatchee) and two campuses (Pullman and Tri-Cities). The college maintains these research centers, several agronomy farms and extension offices in every county in the state.

- Erika Holmes, Seth Truscott

Director of U.S. agriculture department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to visit MSU in July

Montana State University Extension News - Wed, 06/17/2015 - 12:00am
<p>Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the <a href="http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome">U.S. Department of Agriculture</a>’s (USDA) <a href="http://nifa.usda.gov/">National Institute of Food and Agriculture</a> (NIFA), will visit...

Seeking a better tortilla via the Bread Lab

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/16/2015 - 5:06pm

Chipotle Mexican Grill wants to make fast food healthier, 1 million tortillas at a time. The restaurant chain looks to the WSU Bread Lab to find a tortilla recipe of just whole wheat flour, water, oil and salt that will hold up to industrial production. Read the full story reported in the New York Times.

Job Opportunity: Extension Educator in Horticulture

University of Idaho Extension News - Mon, 06/15/2015 - 11:38am
The Extension Educator in Horticulture will provide overall leadership and organization for multi-county horticulture programs and provide technical support for the 4-H/Youth Development program in Canyon and surrounding counties. For more information and to apply, click here.

Insecticide now available to fight wheat stem sawfly in Montana

Montana State University Extension News - Mon, 06/15/2015 - 12:00am
<p> BOZEMAN – Montanans who battle wheat stem sawfly now have a new weapon to consider using.</p> <p>Over the next four years...

UI Research Tours to Help Growers Weather Weed, Insect and Disease Issues

University of Idaho Extension News - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 3:28pm
KIMBERLY, Idaho – An explosion of weeds sparked by recent downpours across Idaho make this year’s University of Idaho Snake River Pest Management Research Tours in Kimberly and Aberdeen timely for farmers and others, said UI Extension weed scientist Don Morishita. The Kimberly and Aberdeen Research and Extension Centers will host the tours Tuesday and Wednesday, June 23-24. “It...

WSU’s Green Times – May 2015

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 1:41pm
Events & more JUNE FARM WALKS Cover cropping on a diversified vegetable farm, Let Us Farm

June 1, Oakville, WA

Building soil tilth: Grazing sheep on cover crop, Zakarison Partnership

June 8, Pullman WA

Both walks are presented by Tilth Producers and WSU Small Farms Program. Register.

Poplar for Biofuels Field Tour

June 30, Hayden, ID
Learn more.

NEW! Extension Drought Website

Find timely updates and a wealth of water conservation information to help with a dry year.
drought.wsu.edu


Vineyard natural habitats assist with butterfly comeback

Washington wine grape vineyards experimenting with sustainable pest management systems are seeing an unexpected benefit: an increase in butterflies.

Over the years, loss in natural habitat has seen the decline in numbers of around 50 species of butterflies in eastern Washington. But in a recent Washington State University study published in the June issue of the Journal of Insect Conservation, researchers found that vineyards that create nearby natural habitats have three times the number of butterfly species and four times more butterflies than conventional vineyards.

WSU researchers recorded 29 separate species in “habitat-enhanced” vineyards, compared to nine species in conventional vineyards. In terms of raw numbers, they counted on average 20 butterflies in habitat-enhanced vineyards compared to five in conventional areas.

A fluttery side effect

David James, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology, wrote the paper with colleagues. He said butterfly increase was not the goal of the return of natural habitats. Instead, growers want to reduce pesticide usage.

Native plants grown alongside a Walla Walla vineyard attract and sustain butterflies as well as natural enemies of pests.

To help control pests, they plant native sage-steppe shrubbery in and around their vineyards. These native plants, such as desert buckwheat shrubs, attract “good” insects like parasitic wasps, James said.

Wasps feed on mealybugs and other “bad” insects that can be harmful to the vineyards. But as a side benefit, these vineyards are seeing the return of other inhabitants that had declined when natural habitat was removed.

“Conservation of butterflies is becoming an issue because all species are declining,” James said. “The habitat has been taken away by agriculture. This is a way of giving back. We’re showing that an agricultural industry can live alongside the natural ecology and help preserve and conserve it.”

This method of conservation may be exclusive to Washington, since vineyards in this state already face fewer pests and use fewer chemicals than vineyards in states like California.

“We’re fortunate here to have the perfect place to be able to have this sustainable option,” James said.

Why butterflies?

The increase in butterfly numbers isn’t directly beneficial to vineyards. Butterflies don’t eat any pests or have any direct economic benefit. But they naturally live on the returned native plants, both as caterpillars and as adult butterflies. They also have immense aesthetic appeal to people, are important pollinators and are an important part of healthy ecosystems.

A caterpillar of a monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed in a WSU Prosser vineyard in June 2014.

James said the viticulture industry is unusual in agriculture because many vineyards and wineries invite people onto the property to enjoy the product.

“To have butterflies flying around could be part of a tourism drive and an attraction for visitors,” he said. “In these days of organic production and not wanting pesticides on food, butterflies can be a symbol of that. To show butterflies flying around vineyards has great aesthetic and commercial appeal.”

Career coming full circle

James has been working on pest management in grapes and other crops for several decades. But his interest in entomology started with butterflies. He’s written a few books on butterflies, including “Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies” (http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/book/life-histories-of-cascadia-butterflies) about species that live in Washington. But he’s rarely been able to study them professionally because they don’t have a large economic impact.

“It’s very rare to get a job that involves butterflies. They weren’t even under threat when I started my career,” said James, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation 30 years ago about the monarch butterfly. “But to now combine practical pest management work with butterflies is remarkable. And I think it will only grow as we continue to see the benefits of natural pest management around the world. Nature conservation and agriculture will be intimately linked in the future. The Washington wine grape industry is a pioneer of this movement.”

Funding for the work came from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, the Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research, and the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.

Is organic fruit growth on the horizon?

Consumer demand for organic foods is on the rise and expected to continue. In Washington, organic tree fruit production is expanding. Will demand and supply keep pace with each other?

Read the full story by WSU scientists David Granatstein and Elizabeth Kirby published in Good Fruit Grower

Plastic a valuable option for farmers’ markets

Farmers’ markets wanting to increase purchases by customers should consider accepting more than just cash or checks as payment, according to Washington State University researchers.

“Customers are willing to buy more if they have other payment options,” said Karina Gallardo, a WSU associate professor and extension specialist in the School of Economic Sciences. “They may not necessarily pay more, but they’ll buy more.”

That’s one of the results of a study recently published in the International Food and Agribusiness Management Review.

Gallardo and her colleagues worked with 12 farmers’ markets around Washington, providing them with electronic payment machines that could accept credit or debit cards and electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards.

They then surveyed 12 managers, 48 vendors and 96 customers from the markets.

The surveys showed that customers at farmers’ markets care primarily about having local vendors and high-quality produce. The surveys didn’t show that electronic payment options would draw in more people, but that running out of cash would limit purchases.

In the study, farmers’ market managers received a machine paid for by a Washington State Department of Agriculture specialty crop block grant. Instead of customers using their credit cards at each vendor booth, they purchased tokens from the manager by credit, debit or EBT card. The vendors accepted the tokens and cashed them in with the manager at the end of the day.

“Cash is fast, which is why vendors like it,” Gallardo said. “And if the technology goes down, it really slows down their business. But if the manager has the machine, then it doesn’t affect the farmer as much if it’s not working.”

For managers, the survey showed they liked offering another service for customers that also benefited vendors. The managers want lower fees and reliable, high quality technology in the machines. The survey showed they were willing to pay a little more for that reliability.

“Most of the time, it was the managers themselves running the machines,” Gallardo said. “They didn’t want to deal with faulty equipment.”

The study, published in February, is based on data collected in 2011. Gallardo hopes to start new surveys to see if technological advances in electronic payments, using devices like the Square credit card reader or smartphone apps, have changed how vendors and customers interact.

“Making purchases easier for customers is helpful, but it still comes down to high-quality, local produce,” Gallardo said. “At the end of the day, that’s the biggest draw for farmers’ markets.”

Washington drought: Severe=orange. Moderate=beige. Abnormally dry=yellow. El Nino bad for Washington drought, good for California

Despite recent rains, the drought settling over Washington state that spurred the governor to declare an emergency last week is likely to grow worse – driven by a strengthening El Nino weather pattern from the Pacific Ocean.

El Nino may be renewing hope for relief in drought-stricken California, but it’s more likely to bring more heat and dryness to the Northwest, said a Washington State University climate scientist who’s monitoring the state’s dry-off conditions. Read the full story.

Insecticide now available to fight wheat stem sawfly in Montana

Montana State University Extension News - Wed, 06/10/2015 - 12:00am
<p>BOZEMAN – Montanans who battle wheat stem sawfly now have a new weapon to consider using.</p> <p>Over the next four years...

WSU opens new Ste. Michelle Wine Science Center

Washington State University Extension News - Mon, 06/08/2015 - 10:20am
The sign atop the new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center is unveiled.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University dedicated its new wine science center Thursday, June 4, and announced that the center will bear the name of its top supporter.

“For more than 25 years, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has supported the WSU wine program with their own contributions as well as shepherding support from others,” said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. “In recognition of their outstanding commitment and contributions, I am pleased to announce the center will be named the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.”

Theodor (Ted) Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates who also served as chair of WSU’s Wine Campaign, said the company understands the direct correlation between the most successful wine regions of the world and proximity to higher education institutions conducting wine science.

CAHNRS Dean Ron Mittlehammer speaks to the crowd at the Wine Science Center opening June 4.

“We have always recognized the importance of a vibrant wine industry in the Pacific Northwest, and quality education is a key component,” he said. Over the past several years, the company has established an endowed professorship in viticulture, supported the endowed chair of the director of the Viticulture and Enology Program, and raised more than $40,000 per year for student scholarships.

“Our support will continue,” Baseler added. “Ste. Michelle Wine Estates is pledging an additional gift of $500,000 to directly support the Wine Science Center.” The gift completed the fundraising for the construction of the building.

He also noted that the Wine Science Center, which is located on the WSU Tri-Cities campus, is a culmination of industry support that reached broadly across the Washington wine community. “This industry made an early statement by initiating a $7.4 million gift through the Washington State Wine Commission.”

Provost Dan Bernardo, center, pops a celebratory cork with WSU Regent Mike Worthy. At right is Regent Lura Powell.

Steve Warner, president of the Washington State Wine Commission, agreed. “Through the Washington State Wine Commission, every grower and winemaker in the state is contributing to the Wine Science Center—a true vote of confidence in the future of research and education at WSU.”

In addition to private support, the $23-million Wine Science Center project was funded with $4.95 million from the state and a $2.06-million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. It is built on land donated by the Port of Benton in Richland.

Ron Mittelhammer, dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, emphasized the importance of the institution’s close partnership with the wine industry. “Our goal is to continue building a program that is informed by and mirrors the excellence of the Washington wine industry,” he said.

Keith Moo-Young, chancellor at WSU Tri-Cities, noted the strategic location of the new center and its benefits to the state’s economy.

Associate Professor of Enology Jim Harbertson shows new equipment to visitors at the new Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.

“The Wine Science Center is a boon to our campus, community and the Washington wine industry,” he said. “This center supports a critical industry in our state, and to have it strategically located here in the heart of wine country further demonstrates our role—as a land-grant university—to foster economic prosperity.”

The new teaching and research facility, considered one of the most technologically advanced wine science centers in the world, features research laboratories and classrooms, a research and teaching winery, a two-acre vineyard, and greenhouses to train technical personnel to support Washington’s large and expanding wine industry. It includes meeting and event space with a large atrium, Washington wine library and conference rooms. Industry members, students and researchers from around the globe are invited to use the center as a gathering place to spark innovation, fuel economic development and support local, regional, national and international collaboration and provide a catalyst for research breakthroughs.

Washington is the second largest premium wine producer in the United States.

>>View the WSU Tri-Cities Flickr album of  Wine Science Center grand opening photos.

>>Learn more about the Viticulture and Enology Program at WSU.

- Matt Haugen, Erika Holmes, Seth Truscott

Gardening in Small Places: the dirt on soil

Join University of Nevada Cooperative Extension on Saturday, July 11 for a workshop on Gardening in Small Places: the dirt on soil from 8 a.m. to noon. If you’ve gardened in other parts of the country and then tried to garden here, you’ve noticed that the soil is different. Our Mojave soils are infertile, salty and alkaline — fine for desert natives — but not good for much else. If you’re curious about the soil in your yard, let Dr. Angela O’Callaghan teach you about it. For this hands-on class all participants are asked to bring a bag of soil from their yard to test. Due to the hands-on nature of this class, class size is limited. Homeowners and other interested parties are welcome to attend.

Class space is limited to 15 and pre-registration is required. There is a $25 fee which includes class materials.

To register for the workshop held at the Lifelong Learning Center (8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev., I-215 and Windmill Lane), email or call Elaine Fagin at fagine@unce.unr.edu.

The next Gardening in Small Places workshop dates are August 22, Landscape design; September 19, Native plants; October 3, Tree selection; and November 21, Growing fruit at home.

Organic agriculture more profitable to farmers

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 3:46pm

A comprehensive study finds organic agriculture is more profitable for farmers than conventional agriculture.

In spite of lower yields, the global study shows that the profit margins for organic agriculture were significantly greater than for conventional agriculture. The results show that there’s room for organic agriculture to expand and, with its environmental benefits, to contribute a larger share in feeding the world sustainably. Organic agriculture currently accounts for only one percent of agriculture globally.

The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was authored by Washington State University scientists David Crowder and John Reganold.

To be sustainable, organic agriculture must be profitable. That motivated Crowder and Reganold to analyze dozens of studies comparing the financial performance of organic and conventional farming.

“The reason we wanted to look at the economics,” said Crowder, an entomologist who studies organic systems, “is that more than anything, that is what really drives the expansion and contraction of organic farming—whether or not farmers can make money. It was kind of surprising that no one had looked at this in a broad sense.”

Entomologist David Crowder

Organic price premiums give farmers an incentive to adopt more sustainable farming practices. The authors suggest that government policies could further boost adoption of organic farming practices and ease the transition for conventional farmers.

Room to grow

The actual premiums paid to organic farmers ranged from 29 to 32 percent above conventional prices. Even with organic crop yields as much as 18 percent lower than conventional, the breakeven point for organic agriculture was 5 to 7 percent.

“That was a big surprise to me,” said Reganold, a soil scientist and organic agriculture specialist. “It means that organic agriculture has room to grow; there’s room for premiums to go down over time. But what we’ve found is that the premiums have held pretty steady over the 40 years represented in the study.”

Out of 129 initial studies, 44 met Crowder and Reganold’s criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis of costs, gross returns, benefit/cost ratios and net present values – a measure that accounts for inflation. The analysis represented 55 crops in 14 countries on five continents. The published article provides the criteria used to select the studies as well as a list of studies that were rejected.

John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science & Agroecology

“This is the first large-scale synthesis of economic sustainability of organic farming compared to conventional that we know of,” Crowder said. The authors consulted with three agricultural economists to confirm their findings.

To be sure, past performance is not an indicator of future outcomes, particularly if there is a major shift to organic production, which could result in lower prices due to increased supply. The study did not attempt to forecast future scenarios.

Unique to the analysis was inclusion of yield and economic data for crops grown as part of a rotational system, in addition to data for single crops. The study included profit data for multiple crops grown over several seasons, a more accurate reflection of how farmers profit from agriculture.

None of the comparison studies accounted for the environmental costs and benefits of farming. Environmental costs tend to be lower and benefits higher in organic agriculture. But for consumers who believe that organic farming is more environmentally friendly, organic premiums may serve as a stand-in for the monetary value of such costs and benefits.

Incentive to change

Organic premiums offer a strong incentive for farmers to transition from conventional to organic farming.

“Most growers that we work with, and probably in the United States in particular, do a little bit of organic and lot of conventional,” Crowder said. “If they make a little bit of money on that organic acreage they might convert more of their farm.”

But farmers converting to organic are in a vulnerable position. The transition period for organic certification exposes farmers to financial risk when their yields drop but they are not yet receiving premiums.

“The challenge facing policymakers,” the authors write, “is to develop government policies that support conventional farmers converting to organic and other sustainable systems, especially during the transition period, often the first three years.”

As long as environmental degradation, population growth and climate change remain challenges, farming practices that are profitable to farmers while offering additional benefits of sustainability are needed, they said

Citation: Crowder, D. and J. Reganold. 2015. Financial competitiveness of organic agriculture on a global scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. June 1, 2015, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1423674

Dryland roots: Lind station looks back on century

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 2:38pm
Agronomist O. A. Vogel speaks to farm visitors at a Lind field day in 1942 (Manuscripts, Archives & Special Collections, WSU Libraries)

The Washington State University Dryland Research Station will celebrate its 100th anniversary at the annual Lind Field Day on Thursday, June 11.

With six faculty and staff, the Lind station is small. But as the driest state or federal dryland agriculture research facility in the United States – it averages 9.52 inches of annual precipitation – it has made many contributions to dryland farming in its first century.

Station’s roots established
Wheat farming began in the drylands of Washington in the early 1880s. Immigrants arrived from America’s Midwest, northern and central Europe, and Russia – notably Volga Germans leaving the czar’s empire with hopes of better lives in the United States.

Claiming 160 acres per adult under the Homestead Act, pioneers had much to learn about farming in the semiarid inland Pacific Northwest. Settlers found little rain in summer and soil prone to wind erosion.

“Some back-to-back drought years in the early 1900s were particularly tough,” said Bill Schillinger, WSU professor and director of the Lind station. “Crops were poor and zero-visibility dust storms were regularly reported in regional newspaper accounts.”

Superintendent Walter Nelson uses a nursery combine to cut a row of wheat at the Dryland Experiment Station in 1958. (MASC, WSU Libraries)

Farmers and landlords wanted research-based knowledge about how to survive in such a dry, harsh climate. An agriculture experimental station had been founded at State College of Washington in Pullman, but the need was clear for research in areas receiving less than 12 inches of annual precipitation.

When Adams County stepped up, deeding 320 acres to the college, the Lind Dryland Research Station was launched on April 1, 1915.

Research addresses problems
Over the century, WSU researchers have worked with farmers to solve the challenges of the drylands. Yield numbers tell the story of success.

In 1915, the average winter wheat yield after a year of fallow in Adams County was 10 bushels per acre. Today, it is 50 bushels. The increase is due to breeding, machinery, soil and residue management, fertilizer and weed and disease control practices – all driven by research.

“This region is truly unique. Farmers plant winter wheat deeper than anywhere else in the world,” said Schillinger, whose research program focuses on soil and residue management, wheat physiology and alternative crops. WSU wheat breeders developed varieties that can push through five inches of soil to make a healthy start.

Lind researchers addressed wind erosion with conservation tillage methods that result in equal or greater grain yields than traditional practices.

Students examine wheat at the Lind station in 1964. (Photo by Leonard Young/MASC, WSU Libraries)

“The key is to leave ample year-round residue cover on the soil and do as little tillage as feasible during fallow periods,” said Schillinger.

Reality check
Farmers and Lind researchers have remained staunch allies as they promote priorities in the field, at WSU and in the legislative capitals of Olympia, Wash., and Washington, DC.

“There are wheat varieties that look great at Pullman and pretty good at Dusty,” said Mark Schoesler, state senator and dryland wheat farmer. “But if you bring it to Lind, and it doesn’t die, you probably have a winner.

“Lind is the real-world test,” he said. “It’s a reality check.”

Schoesler’s family has farmed wheat in the Ritzville, Wash., area since the 1880s. Family members are strong supporters of the station and put up seed money in 1996 to create the Lind Dryland Research Station Endowment that permanently funds the center.

Attending Lind Field Day has always been part of being a dryland farmer, said Schoesler.

Lind today: John Jacobsen, agricultural research technician, checks for emergence in an experiment at WSU’s Dryland Research Station. (WSU photo)

“We’ve survived for 100 years with local and state support,” he said. “That we’ve persevered is a real tribute to the wheat industry and WSU.”

Only volcano canceled field day
The Lind Field Day has been held every year since 1916 with one exception: 1980, following the Mount St. Helens eruption on May 18 that covered the area with 5 inches of heavy ash.

The 2015 field day will begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, June 11, at the station, 781 E. Experiment Station Rd., Lind, Wash. Tours, presentations and lunch are included. Learn more at https://news.wsu.edu/2015/05/13/wsu-research-station-centennial-to-be-celebrated-at-june-11-lind-field-day/#.VWS1t1VViko.

Visit http://lindstation for more information, including downloads of major publications from research conducted at Lind and in farmers’ fields during the past 100 years.

Fulbright winner will improve rice by decontaminating soil

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/02/2015 - 1:50pm
Fulbright grant winner and Crops and Soil Sciences Ph.D. student Patrick Freeze goes to Thailand in August to reduce toxic cadmium contamination.

Patrick Freeze, a doctoral student at WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, has earned a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to study ways to improve rice by decontaminating soil.
Freeze will spend 10 months in Thailand to study reducing toxic cadmium contamination and plant uptake in rural rice paddy soils, with a goal to improve the quality of the grain as a safe food source as well as an export product.
Cadmium contamination is a “devastating problem,” says Freeze. The metallic chemical element is released into the environment during zinc mining and can impact kidney and bone health.
Learn more about Freeze’s work here.

Annual Schedule of Grapes workshop

The Annual Schedule of Grapes workshop will be held at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Research Center and Demonstration Orchard on Saturday, June 20 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Master Gardeners Yotuka Nomura and Tom Grimm will show you how and when to prune, fertilize, and care for grape vines. Nomura and Grimm both keep their table and wine grapes in great shape for optimal production quality and have years of experience producing some fabulous wines.

The Research Center is located at 4600 Horse Drive, North Las Vegas, Nev. For more information, email or call Tamara Wynne at 702-786-4361.

Voice of the Vine: vineyards & butterflies, wine ed bill passes, France tour, Wine Library submissions, Cheers! (May 2015)

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 05/29/2015 - 1:14pm
Vineyard natural habitats assist with butterfly comeback

Washington wine grape vineyards experimenting with sustainable pest management systems are seeing an unexpected benefit: an increase in butterflies.

Over the years, loss in natural habitat has seen the decline in numbers of around 50 species of butterflies in eastern Washington. But in a recent Washington State University study published in the June issue of the Journal of Insect Conservation, researchers found that vineyards that create nearby natural habitats have three times the number of butterfly species and four times more butterflies than conventional vineyards.

WSU researchers recorded 29 separate species in “habitat-enhanced” vineyards, compared to nine species in conventional vineyards. In terms of raw numbers, they counted on average 20 butterflies in habitat-enhanced vineyards compared to five in conventional areas.

A fluttery side effect

David James, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology, wrote the paper with colleagues. He said butterfly increase was not the goal of the return of natural habitats. Instead, growers want to reduce pesticide usage.

Native plants grown alongside a Walla Walla vineyard attract and sustain butterflies as well as natural enemies of pests.

To help control pests, they plant native sage-steppe shrubbery in and around their vineyards. These native plants, such as desert buckwheat shrubs, attract “good” insects like parasitic wasps, James said.

Wasps feed on mealybugs and other “bad” insects that can be harmful to the vineyards. But as a side benefit, these vineyards are seeing the return of other inhabitants that had declined when natural habitat was removed.

“Conservation of butterflies is becoming an issue because all species are declining,” James said. “The habitat has been taken away by agriculture. This is a way of giving back. We’re showing that an agricultural industry can live alongside the natural ecology and help preserve and conserve it.”

This method of conservation may be exclusive to Washington, since vineyards in this state already face fewer pests and use fewer chemicals than vineyards in states like California.

“We’re fortunate here to have the perfect place to be able to have this sustainable option,” James said.

Why butterflies?

The increase in butterfly numbers isn’t directly beneficial to vineyards. Butterflies don’t eat any pests or have any direct economic benefit. But they naturally live on the returned native plants, both as caterpillars and as adult butterflies. They also have immense aesthetic appeal to people, are important pollinators and are an important part of healthy ecosystems.

A caterpillar of a monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed in a WSU Prosser vineyard in June 2014.

James said the viticulture industry is unusual in agriculture because many vineyards and wineries invite people onto the property to enjoy the product.

“To have butterflies flying around could be part of a tourism drive and an attraction for visitors,” he said. “In these days of organic production and not wanting pesticides on food, butterflies can be a symbol of that. To show butterflies flying around vineyards has great aesthetic and commercial appeal.”

Career coming full circle

James has been working on pest management in grapes and other crops for several decades. But his interest in entomology started with butterflies. He’s written a few books on butterflies, including “Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies” about species that live in Washington. But he’s rarely been able to study them professionally because they don’t have a large economic impact.

“It’s very rare to get a job that involves butterflies. They weren’t even under threat when I started my career,” said James, who wrote his Ph.D. dissertation 30 years ago about the monarch butterfly. “But to now combine practical pest management work with butterflies is remarkable. And I think it will only grow as we continue to see the benefits of natural pest management around the world. Nature conservation and agriculture will be intimately linked in the future. The Washington wine grape industry is a pioneer of this movement.”

Funding for the work came from Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, the Northwest Center for Small Fruits Research, and the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.

- Scott Weybright

Bill for enology, viticulture programs signed into law Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill No. 1004, April 23, 2015, allowing students in four-year viticulture and enology programs to taste and spit wine in class.

Governor Inslee signed House Bill 1004 into law April 23, 2015, allowing students under 21 enrolled in enology and viticulture programs at four-year universities to taste — but not consume – wine as part of their instruction. The bill previously passed in the Senate with a vote of 38-6, and it passed through the House with a vote of 94-4.

All students in the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program will now have the ability to smell, taste and spit wines to hone their sensory skills, which is an integral part of wine education curriculum. All students, regardless of age, may not swallow wine tasted during class.

Similar legislation was passed in 2013 that authorized community and technical colleges to apply for special tasting permits for students enrolled in wine-related programs. HB 1004 simply amends current law to provide the same authorization for regional and state universities.

Since 2010, WSU Viticulture and Enology Program Director Thomas Henick-Kling, Sensory Science Professor Carolyn Ross, and the WSU Attorney’s Office helped to shape this bill and have supported it as it made its way through the legislature. Previously, underage students would taste something that replicated the sometimes harsh mouthfeel of red wine, like grape juice with a dash of hot sauce.

Travel journal: Southern France winery & vineyard tour

This article details the highlights of an international winery and vineyard tour in Southern France from April 19 to 30, 2015, that was organized by the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program. Read on for information about joining us for the next trip!

An April tour was the perfect way to experience Provence, an area well known for its wine, incredible food and cultural offerings. Our group of 26 travelers gathered at the Hotel Roi Rene in the beautiful and historic city of Aix-en-Provence, which served well as the hub for the 12-day tour.

A gift of WSU viticulture and enology student-made Blended Learning Riesling for the host at Chateau La Coste.

Washington State University collaborated with the Institute of American Universities (IAU) College in Provence to plan and produce the trip. IAU faculty and staff, including Wine Studies Professor Amy Mumma and college President Carl Jubran, warmly greeted our group by hosting a welcoming evening featuring Provençal wines and hors d’oerves. It was a very tasty hint of many wonderful wines and times to follow.

In wine production, Provence usually evokes images of lovely dry Rosés, but the area also produces some stunning red wines. In addition to tasting wine and visiting with winemakers about their production techniques, we learned about the different regulations of each Appellation d’Origine Controlee. For instance, the red wines that come from the coastal appellation of Bandol are mandated to be at least 51 percent Mourevedre, with some wines being closer to 90 to 95 percent Mourevedre. In the mountain appellation of Luberon, we tasted wonderful blends of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The wines in this region must be blends of several grapes. The wines in Chateauneuf du Pape also are blends only, while in Hermitage the only red variety allowed is Syrah.

The trip also included a number of cultural opportunities, such as strolling the medieval streets and avenues of Avignon and Arles and learning about their histories. We also visited the exciting coastal cities of Marseilles and Monaco.

>>View the Southern France Winery and Vineyard Tour photo album on the WSU Viticulture & Enology Program Facebook page.

Sign up to join future regional and international tours

Since 2010, the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program has been sponsoring an annual tour to various important wine regions of the world. These trips provide industry-involved people the opportunity to travel together for continuing education as well as enjoyment. Thus far, we have taken groups to New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, Italy, Australia, and France.

If this interests you, consider joining us for our spring 2016 trip to northern Spain and Portugal – Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, and more. We will again be partnering with an educational institution that leads wine tours. And we also offer three-day regional tours. This fall, we will be visiting winemakers in Paso Robles, California, Dec. 2 to 4.

If you are affiliated with the wine or grape industry, or plan to be affiliated, and would like to receive information about these educational tours, please contact Theresa Beaver, tbeaver@wsu.edu, to have your name put on the email list.

-Theresa Beaver, WSU V&E Certificate Program Coordinator

Submit wines to the WSU Wine Science Center Library

The Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities will open next month and make history as a world-class research facility. The Washington State Wine Commission would like to invite all Washington vineyards and wineries to be a part of this monumental achievement for our industry.

Washington vineyards and wineries are invited to submit two wines for display in the Wine Library at the Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities.

Because this world-class facility is the result of an industry-supported initiative, and funded by the industry, we are requesting help creating a Washington State wine display in the Wine Library. We are requesting a maximum of two different bottles from every winery or vineyard in the state.

The Wine Science Center will accept bottles until June 2. The wines will be on display for visitors and students alike in the beautiful Wine Library. This opportunity is open to all vineyards and wineries, and there is no cost to submit your wines. To be displayed, wines should meet the following criteria:

  • Historical significance, one of the primary purposes of the Wine Library is historical reference and display.
  • Unique and tell a story, such as a commemorative bottle signed by the current winemaker or one that displays handwritten tasting notes on the bottle.

Wine must be submitted online and arrive at the Wine Science Center no later than June 2. Registration and shipping information is available here. If you have any questions regarding submission for the Wine Science Center, please contact Stephanie Lyon at slyon@washingtonwine.org.

- Stephanie Lyon, Communications Coordinator, Washington State Wine

Cheers! Highlighting WSU V&E student, faculty and alumni achievements

Sarah Hedges Goedhart, who graduated with a Certificate in Enology from WSU in 2010, was promoted to head winemaker at Hedges Family Estates.

The following Viticulture and Enology students showed their work in the Undergraduate Research Symposium at WSU Tri-Cities on May 5:

  • David Balsz, Nick Mackay, Joe Sperry, and Ryan Strom with “Qualitative Analysis of Volatile Compounds between Oak Alternatives and Barrel Wine using Gas Chromatography”
  • Justin Blake, Suzanne Kaye, Brooke Kietzmann, and Thomas Spotteck with “Evaluating 2,4,6-Trichloroanisole (TCA) in Wine Cork by Solid-Phase Microextraction & Gas Chromatography-Electron Capture Detection”
  • Colin Hickey, Daniel Hottell, Maxx McGoff, and Jarrod Pack with “Analysis of Wine for Brettanomyces by Solid Phase Extraction and GC-MS”

>> View the WSU Tri-Cities Flickr photo album of the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Do you know a WSU student, faculty member or alumnus who deserves a cheer? Submit their achievements to Voice of the Vine Editor Erika Holmes at erika.holmes@wsu.edu!

MSU Extension expert to offer heritage apple talk June 2

Montana State University Extension News - Fri, 05/29/2015 - 12:00am
<p>BOZEMAN – The Museum of the Rockies will offer a June 2 seminar on heritage fruit trees in Montana on...

Q&A: Grad helps Malawi farmers test green methods

Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 10:52am
Dan TerAvest, right, leads a field day in Malawi, explaining conservation agriculture results to dozens of farmers.

WSU researcher Dan TerAvest helped farmers find ways to sustainably feed a growing world during a three-year sojourn in Africa.

TerAvest, who graduated in May with a doctorate from Washington State University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, worked with farmers in the southeast African nation of Malawi from 2011 to 2014 to find out how sustainable techniques like crop rotation and conservation tillage affected maize, their underperforming staple crop.

Below, TerAvest answers questions about his Malawi experience:

What challenges do Malawi’s farmers face?

Malawi is a small country of 16 million people, and is one of the poorest countries on the planet. Agriculture is mostly subsistence farming. Land holdings are small. Most land on smallholder farms is planted with maize, the staple crop. But maize yields are low, five times less than the U.S. average.

Traditional land preparation is very difficult. Everything is hand labor; even animal traction is limited. Malawi’s subtropical climate makes for highly weathered soils. There is little use of fertilizer, compost or manure, so soils are depleted of nutrients.

What were you trying to do in Malawi?

My objective was to increase food production without putting too much pressure on the environment. I worked with Total LandCare, a non-governmental agency that helps rural communities improve agricultural production and sustainability. I evaluated the sustainability of three systems: Continuous no-till maize, which is the current model of conservation agriculture that’s most widely promoted in Malawi; conservation agriculture rotation, a very diverse system of rotation and intercropping; and conventional tillage with crop rotations.

What is conservation agriculture?

Conservation agriculture is defined by reduction or elimination of tillage; year-round soil cover using crop residues or mulch; and crop rotation. It has a lot of potential benefits: increasing moisture retention, improving soil fertility and quality, reducing erosion and suppressing weeds. It can save a lot of labor; you remove that intensive practice of hand-hoeing these big ridges, and it allows farmers to plant earlier in the growing season. With new crops, you can break up disease cycles and improve soil fertility.

You made a point of working alongside farmers. Why?

Too often, farmers are told that they ‘don’t know anything, they must listen to anything a field officer says.’ In fact, they know more about their land and their conditions than anybody else on the planet. Farmers may have better ideas about what will really work on their ground. There needs to be a conversation where farmers and those who are trying to help them adapt and meet in the middle.

I would go in the field with farmers; we all worked together. If you are just the supervisor sitting under the tree, you’re not going to get the same level of respect, and it’s not going to be as easy to work with farmers. Roll up your sleeves, go out and sweat as much as everybody else. You’re not coming to make them work, you’re coming to work with them.”

Which conservation practice had the greatest effect?

Rotation was the most dramatic practice. Most farmers would grow maize, maize, maize. A three-year rotation, planting different crops every year, was something they’d never done.

We used different rotational crops: cassava, pigeonpea, cowpea, and soybean in low-lying Nkhotakota province, sweet potato, pigeon pea and beans in higher Dowa province. My questions were: ‘Are these ideas feasible? Can farmers make enough money to do it?’ There answer was a big yes for increasing maize yields. The final year, we got 5 to 6 tons per hectare, three times the national average. The farmers had never gotten anything close to yields like that. They really saw the advantage of extensive rotations.

Did any results surprise you?

I wanted to look at conservation agriculture under different agro-ecologies. Everybody says it is the best thing – for soil moisture retention, infiltration, climate adaptation.

I found that in one district, the lower, wetter Nkhotakota district, this was true – it improved the capture and efficiency of rainwater. But in the higher, dryer Dowa district, we got no benefits. That’s counterintuitive. Most research on conservation agriculture says that the dryer you get, the more effective it is. But the wet area acted dryer.

My take-home lesson was that if you want to really be successful, you’ve got to be site-specific. Pay attention to individual situations and smaller regions. Ask what works and what doesn’t.

Why is this work important?

Malawi is a small country with a growing population. Globally, we are facing the same issues: How do we feed an ever-growing population without significant environmental degradation? Sustainable intensification is critical to both achieving food security and also reducing environmental damage, especially reducing the deforestation that results from expanding agricultural production onto lands currently under forest.

What are you working on now?

I am exploring uses for a handheld plant-monitoring device in a joint project between Michigan State University and WSU. I’m working with contacts in Malawi to see how this device can improve research and agricultural productivity in developing countries. It’s trying to take a big-data approach – if we can get a ton of data, farmers can get real-time feedback, for example, suggesting the best place to apply fertilizer. It lets farmers, development organizations, and governments better target limited resources.

• Learn more about the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at WSU: http://css.wsu.edu/

Workshop on direct marketing for farm and food products

Designed for growers and small food producers looking to expand or diversify

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension will host “A Direct Marketing Opportunity for Farm and Food Products” workshop on June 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The workshop is designed for growers and small food producers looking to expand or diversify their direct marketing activities by taking advantage of the growing consumer demand for local foods and food-based experiences. Workshop topics will focus on farm shop development and value-added product sales through tourism outlets. Educators, Cooperative Extension, agency, government and industry representatives looking to assist growers and small food producers should also attend. Workshop speakers will include a variety of academic and industry professionals.

Workshop topics include: Farm Shops: A Market Alternative; Assessing Profitability: Business and Financial Plans; Marketing: Customer Types and Promotional Strategies; Realities: Products, Sourcing, and Pricing; Financing: Federal Grant and Loan Programs and Private Financing Options; Value-Added Products: Cottage Foods, Processing and Labeling Requirements; Business Ownership: Issues, Regulations, and Permits.

The workshop will be held Cooperative Extension’s Lifelong Learning Center located at 8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev. The cost of the workshop is $30 and includes all materials as well as breaks and lunch. Online registration is available. For more information, contact Carol Bishop at 702-397-2604.

Cooperative Extension offers certification for meat slaughter and processing

Cattle roundup in Northern Nevada. Photo courtesy of Staci Emm.

Certification classes hosted at Wolf Pack Meats in June and July

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Herds and Harvest Program is offering certification classes this June and July for those who want to learn about meat harvesting and processing. Basics 1 and 2 are hands-on classes, taught in partnership with the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, that teach skills in sanitation and food safety, and provide insight into the processing and retail sales of meat in Nevada.

"This program is for beginning farmers and ranchers, agriculture producers involved in the meat industry, or others interested in where their meat comes from," said Extension Educator Staci Emm, who helped coordinate the classes.

Basics 1 covers the basics of meat harvest (slaughter) during the first session on June 11, and meat processing (cutting) during the second session, June 23. Classes cover how to keep meat safe and sanitary for consumers, while maximizing the meat’s use and profit. Each session has its own certification, and though taking both is recommended, it is not required for certification. Both sessions are 6:30 a.m. — 1 p.m. at Wolf Pack Meats, 5895 Clean Water Way in Reno. Register for the first session at secondwolfpackmeatsslaughterclass.eventbrite.com, and for the second session at secondwolfpackmeatsprocessingclass.eventbrite.com.

"Basics 2 takes education one-step further, starting with the live animal, the ultrasound of the animal to identify cuts, and following that animal through the slaughter and processing process and finally being able to evaluate those cuts," Emm said. "This three-day process is geared toward Nevada livestock producers."

The Basics 2 sessions are July 1 — 3, also at Wolf pack Meats.

"This series is especially for small livestock producers to get them more familiar with the process of how to get their meat directly to the market," said Extension Educator Steve Foster, who is teaching the series. "It’s for producers who want to know about processing and what the meat packers are looking for."

Register online at wolfpackmeatsbasics2.eventbrite.com. Sessions are:

  • July 1, 8:30 a.m. — noon, Understanding the USDA Grade & Yield System. Topics include how packers make their money, livestock evaluation, grade and yield, and a live evaluation of cattle and ultrasound evaluation of cattle.
  • July 2, 6:30 a.m. — 1 p.m., Slaughter at Wolf Pack Meats. Participants will be harvesting the cattle evaluated in session one.
  • July 3, 6:30 a.m. — 1 p.m. Processing at Wolf Pack Meats. Participants will be grading and yielding carcasses and evaluating the cuts from session two.

All classes are limited to 10 students, due to the size of the Wolf Pack Meats facility. Each Basics 1 session costs $135. The Basics 2 series costs $135 for all three sessions.

Those attending are encouraged to preregister at the websites given above to ensure ample space and educational materials are available. Or, register by contacting Kaley Sproul, 775-945-3444, ext.12 or sproulk@unce.unr.edu. Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance should call at least three days prior to the trainings they intend to attend.

Cooperative Extension began offering the courses in spring 2014. Since then, more than 60 producers have been certified, and demand for the trainings remains high.

The workshops are part of Cooperative Extension’s Herds and Harvest Program that helps farmers and ranchers across the state develop agricultural entrepreneurship, implement sustainable agricultural marketing strategies and improve profitability. The program is supported by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency and the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Idaho FFA Career Development Events June 2-5

University of Idaho Extension News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 10:15am
The Blue Jackets are coming. Over 900 Idaho FFA members, advisors, parents and guests will descend on campus June 2-5 for the Idaho FFA Career Development Events. Idaho FFA members will compete in events including; Livestock Judging, Forestry, Ag. Communications, Food Science, Dairy Foods, Marketing Plan, Dairy Judging, Meats Judging, Environmental and Natural Resources, Agronomy, Veterinary Scie...