Extension News from the West

Noxious Weed Awareness Week in Montana begins June 9

Montana State University Extension News - Fri, 06/06/2014 - 12:00am
<p>BOZEMAN &ndash; During Montana&rsquo;s second annual Noxious Weed Awareness Week, June 9-13, weed professionals around the state will hold events...

Chef praises WSU wheat breeder in New York Times bestseller

Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 06/05/2014 - 4:25pm

SEATTLE – If Dan Barber had his way, there would be a wheat breeder like Stephen Jones in every corner of every state. Jones features prominently in the new New York Times bestseller, “The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food,” written by Barber, chef and owner of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns Food and Agriculture Center in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

“Let me just say this, there are no wheat breeders like Steve in the country,” Barber said recently.

Chefs adapt eating to local resources

Two chapters of the book are devoted to the work Jones does breeding grain and testing new varieties at the bread lab at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center.

Dan Barber, left, and Stephen Jones in the greenhouse at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in New York in 2011. (Photo by Hannelore Sudermann, WSU)

The author said he believes chefs have a responsibility to shift “patterns of eating” to reflect local ecology and the needs of farmers, rather than the other way around. This transformation will be driven by an appreciation for flavor and will require more plant breeders like Jones and his graduate students who breed with flavor, nutrition, soil health and the bottom line for farmers in mind.

“There are other breeders who have a similar sort of fascination with food and flavor and nutrition and ecological resilience and economic return for the farmer,” Barber said. “But unbelievably, (even with more than) 56 milllion acres of wheat grown in this country, there are no Steve Joneses. You have him here, in your neighborhood.”

An appreciative, largely urban audience erupted in applause after Barber made the comment during a recent book-tour stop in Seattle.

Land-grant universities revitalize local economies

Barber is not only a big fan of Jones, but also of the land-grant university system, which the author describes as “an instrument for public good,” and which supports Jones’ work to revitalize a regional grain economy.

Barber gave a brief lesson on the history of the land-grant college system established by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 to offer education throughout the nation in practical topics like agriculture and engineering.

“Your tax dollars go to support a land-grant college in every state in the country,” the author explained. “The land-grant university system is the envy of the world.”

Yet it’s challenging to write about because, as Barber puts it, it’s not sexy. He was disappointed that a more in-depth section he wrote about the topic was cut from the final version of his book.

Watch this video to learn more about the WSU Bread Lab in Mt Vernon.

Gardening in small places series continues

Join Cooperative Extension on Saturday, June 28, for a one-day workshop on Gardening in Small Places: organic gardening. The class runs from 8 a.m. to noon. There is a lot of talk about organic gardening, yet people have different ideas about what this means. Some think it means using no pesticides at all, while others think it means using non-GMO seeds. If you are interested in finding out what organic gardening really is and how you can apply these principles to your home garden, this is the class for you. Dr. Angela O’Callaghan will teach you the principles of organic gardening and how they apply to the home gardener. Homeowners and other interested parties are welcome to attend.

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

To register for this class, held at the Lifelong Learning Center(8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev.), email Elaine Fagin or call 702-257-5573.

The next Gardening in Small Places workshop dates are July 19, The dirt on soil and August 9, Landscape design.

UI Horticultural Explorer Stephen Love’s Discoveries Featured in Field Days June 12 and 13

University of Idaho Extension News - Wed, 06/04/2014 - 5:49pm
ABERDEEN, Idaho – June 3, 2014 – Tucked in among research plots of grains, potatoes and other crops at the University of Idaho’s Aberdeen Research and Extension Center are research plots of native wildflowers and plants to test their garden and landscape appeal. A Native Plant Field Day, the center’s sixth, is planned June 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. to give native plant lovers, n...

Wine science, ag students complete studies at WSU

Washington State University Extension News - Mon, 06/02/2014 - 4:04pm

There’s a growing demand for graduates in agriculture, and students who invest two years at Walla Walla Community College or Yakima Valley Community College can transfer to several ag degree programs at Washington State University.

The latest collaboration builds a bridge from Walla Walla’s enology and viticulture program or Yakima’s vineyard technology program to the viticulture and enology program at WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Pullman. The partnership provides a geographic advantage for students seeking hands-on experience in the heart of southeast Washington wine country.

“This agreement creates an ideal framework for students to transition seamlessly into WSU’s viticulture and enology program,” said Ted Baseler, president and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates near Seattle and a member of the WSU Board of Regents.

“The Washington wine industry contributes $8 billion to the state’s economy,” he said, “and a vital component for sustaining this success is the graduates who are trained to support our grape and wine industries.”

Learning at Wine Science Center

Students who begin at YVCC or WWCC and transfer to WSU in the next several years will be some of the first to experience their education at the WSU Wine Science Center. Research and teaching at the center will be specific to the challenges and opportunities faced by grape-growers and wine-makers in the Pacific Northwest.

When the center opens in early 2015, it will be the most technologically advanced wine research and education center in the world.

“This provides a great educational opportunity for students in agriculture and viticulture and enology and the educated workforce the industry needs,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the WSU viticulture and enology program. “I am excited about our partnership with WWCC and YVCC and the articulation agreements signed.”

Students gain research, industry perspectives

Additional ag-related transfer agreements from Walla Walla Community College to WSU include:
• Water resources technology to ag technology and production management
• Agricultural business to ag and food business economics
• Ag science and technology and plant and soil science to field crop management
• Turf management to turfgrass management.

“Students who start their educational career at WWCC are taking advantage of our unique hands-on teaching approach and learning from instructors with a diverse perspective on industry,” said Jessica Gilmore, dean of WWCC.

“The partnership with WSU provides students the opportunity to learn from both practitioners and researchers in their field while gaining the necessary skills to qualify for high demand, high paying jobs.”

Partnerships with YVCC, Wenatchee Valley College, Columbia Basin College and South Seattle Community College are also underway.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is expected to employ approximately 42,000 people in agricultural and food science fields by 2022.

Learn more about Yakima Valley Community College athttp://www.yvcc.edu/Pages/default.aspx. Learn more about Walla Walla Community College at http://www.wwcc.edu/CMS/. Learn more about the WSU College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences athttp://www.cahnrs.wsu.edu.

A tale of two stoves

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 05/30/2014 - 1:31pm

My elderly aunt in Canada recently came into some money. She decided — very generously — to send part of it to each of her nieces and nephews. This gave me the rather wonderful task of deciding how I wanted to spend $1,000 that I had not anticipated receiving. After a bit I decided on a new range for my kitchen. I wouldn’t otherwise buy a new appliance, and by spending the money on a range I will be able to remember my aunt and bless her name each night as I cook supper.

My old range was electric. The oven was a bit slow, but otherwise baked things OK. The burners, however, were constantly problematic. I had replaced them all but still had to suffer with unpredictable and inconsistent heating.

I grew up with a natural gas cook stove and so decided to buy something similar for my house. I like gas because you can see when it’s on, because it cuts off instantly when you turn off the flame, and because I think of natural gas as a pretty clean fuel we can get from domestic sources.

No sooner had I made up my mind about what to do with the unexpected money than my brother Nils explained he plans to change from a gas range to an electric one. (Leave it to siblings to always disagree?)

Nils thinks a lot about climate change and his family’s use of energy. Some of his ideas are at odds with mine, but I’m (mostly) OK with that.

My brother is truly concerned about humankind’s production of greenhouse gases and the climate change we may bring about during the remainder of this century. He wants to eliminate his own household’s greenhouse gas pollution and he’s willing to do some real work to meet that goal. While I’m more concerned about other political issues, I respect Nils’ earnestness and his willingness to think and spend differently because of climate change concerns. He sees the matter as a moral one, and he’s committed to doing what he can to help bring about changes in both his household and his community.

One step for my brother is to switch his appliances from natural gas to electricity. His idea is that if he uses natural gas to do things like cook supper, he’s making carbon dioxide that adds to what’s building up in the global atmosphere. If he uses electricity to do those same tasks, he can — at least in principle — not create greenhouse gases. While he waits to purchase solar panels, for pays the power company extra each month to purchase electricity from wind.

I like to say to my brother that not all his power can come from windmills or solar panels. After all, he uses electricity on calm winter nights when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. In short, we all need what the utility people call “base load power.” Across the country, that kind of power comes from several different things, but part of it is from natural gas power plants. So, from my perspective, we all of us are “sinners” when it comes to greenhouse gas production, including people who only own electric appliances.

Nils counters that our need for base load power is not a rationale to continue business as usual, it’s just another challenge to be met by conservation or energy storage. In the meanwhile, he is working hard constructing a new building on his property. It’s the size of a small house and will be used as a commercial kitchen. The building is super-insulated, and it has a solar air heater and a solar water preheater. Nils is putting in LED lighting (more efficient than compact fluorescents). The heat is electric, but because of the clever designs my brother is using, very few kilowatt-hours are needed to keep the place warm. Nils plans to use what he’s learning as he builds the kitchen to retrofit two other buildings on his property to reduce their carbon footprints.

I’ve got to respect parts of my brother’s thinking. And I really applaud his building efforts. Not many of us put our money where we say our values are.

 

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

 

 

June 2014

Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 11:32am

 

WSU announces name for stellar new apple

The newest WSU apple, initially identified as WA 38, is one step closer to hitting supermarkets with announcement of its brand name, Cosmic Crisp. The name was chosen after an extensive process led by Carolyn Ross, associate professor in the WSU School of Food Science. “It was quite a process,” she said.

“I think people didn’t realize how much names can influence their purchasing behavior until they started talking about them.” Read more.

Putting local barley, flavor on the horizon

Using traditional breeding techniques, scientists at WSU are developing new barley varieties for the microbrewing and distilling industries.

Brewers and distillers like Emerson Lamb of Westland Distillery and Charles Finkel of the Pike Brewing Company can’t wait to get locally grown, custom malted barley into their mash tuns. Watch the video to learn all about it.

From farm to cup: Economics of coffee in Rwanda

Throughout May 2014, an elite team of students from the University of Rwanda, Washington State University and Michigan State University worked together to answer pressing questions in Rwanda’s Coffee sector.

You can find photos and updates from Randy Fortenberry, Corbin Poppe, Brandon Nickels, and Hayley Homan at the CAHNRS Global Storify website. The team was also featured on the CAHNRS Facebook #WhereAreTheyWednesday.

CAHNRS, community colleges working together

There’s a growing demand for graduates in agriculture, and students who invest two years at Walla Walla Community College or Yakima Valley Community College can transfer to several ag degree programs at Washington State University.

The latest collaboration builds a bridge from Walla Walla’s enology and viticulture program or Yakima’s vineyard technology program to the viticulture and enology program at WSU Tri-Cities and WSU Pullman. The partnership provides a geographic advantage for students seeking hands-on experience in the heart of southeast Washington wine country. Read more.

AMDT takes Los Angeles

Thirteen students traveled to Los Angeles for an apparel industry study tour May 19-22. Organized by AMDT chair Joan Ellis, the students experienced an alumni meet-and-greet, the rollout of Speedo’s spring 2015 line, concept-to-delivery product development for Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (NYDJ), and tours of Blue River, New Fashion Products, Nasty Gal, and the Guess global corporate headquarters. Connect with AMDT on Facebook or LinkedIn.

2014 Revelry delights wine tasters, winemakers

On Sunday, May 25, 2014, 30 people joined Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the Viticulture & Enology Program, for a Walking Vineyard Tour and tastings on Red Mountain, Benton City. The tour started at Kiona Vineyards and Winery with owner Scott Williams (’80) giving a history of the AVA and wine grape growing in the area. His father, John Williams, and Ciel du Cheval Vineyard’s owner, Jim Holmes, both engineers and scientists, planted the first vineyard on Red Mountain.

The tour continued with a look at the diverse vineyard plantings, varieties, and architectures where vineyard manager Dick Boushey showcased the uppermost reach of Red Mountain. Jim Holmes then led the group on a 1 mile walking tour from the upper vineyards down through Red Mountain to his vineyards, Ciel du Cheval. After a fantastic lunch, Tim and Kelly Hightower of Hightowers Cellars treated the group to a delicious wine tasting and a look at their estate vineyards. The final stop, Hedges Family Estate, featured Pete Hedges discussing their spectacular wines and distinctive winemaking techniques. This was the second year the vineyard tour was offered through the Auction of Washington Wines Revelry on Red Mountain, and it proved once again to be a great example of how the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program supports Washington’s wine industry.

Take your Cougar Pride on the road this summer. Print and cut-out Tag-A-Long Butch and snap a pic for a chance to win awesome prizes all summer long through the WSU Alumni Association. The photo above was taken at Revelry by Robert Duval (’77). 

Kudos

Funded through the WSU NSF ADVANCE Program, the first Annual Horticultural Women Faculty Retreat was held in Prosser on May 12. The retreat brought together tenured and tenure track women faculty from the Department of Horticulture to help create an environment and support network conducive to success in academia.

Vicki McCrakenNnadozie Oraguzie R. and Karina Gallardo led a study on developing new cherry cultivars  that culminated in the article “An Evaluation of U.S. Tart and Sweet Cherry Producers Trait Prioritization—Evidence from Audience Surveys. The research focused on making breeders aware of existing and emerging needs throughout the supply chain, from producer to consumer.

Drew Betz highlights the 100th Anniversary of WSU Extension and serving families in Whatcom County in a recent Bellingham Herald column.

The AgWeatherNet team organized the DSSAT 2014 training workshop on crop modeling and decision support systems at the University of Georgia. The 6-day workshop, which Vakhtang Shelia helped teach, attracted participants from 22 countries.

In a recent post on “Growing Produce,” Des Layne talks about breeding tree fruit for disease resistance and finding solutions in genes.

Brad Gaolach of Extension Community and Economic Development coauthored the recently published Community Development article “FEEST on this: youth engagement for community change in the King County Food and Fitness Initiative.”

Mark Nelson, Department of Animal Sciences, has earned the 2014 Distinguished Teacher Award from the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS). He will receive his award in San Angelo at the Western Section meetings next month.

Martin Maquivar, Department of Animal Sciences, was selected as the Exceptional Professor in C AHNRS by the WSU Associated Students Senate.

Kristen Johnson, Department of Animal Sciences, was recognized with a spring 2014 Graduate and Professional Student Association advisor award for outstanding performance and lasting contributions.

recent paper published in the journal Phytopathology by plant pathology graduate student Phuong Dinh, Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology Axel Elling, and Associate Professor of Plant Cell Biology Michael Knoblauch was selected as the Editor’s Pick and highlighted in Spanish and Chinese by the American Phytopathological Society.

The WSU Organic Farm is starting its 10th season offering a Community Supported Agriculture program! The shares will continue through late October. The farm also sells produce and organic plants on the Glen Terrell Mall every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Pullman Farmers Market every Wednesday from 3:30 to 6 p.m., and Fridays at the Tukey Orchard from 3 to 6 p.m. Come by and get some fresh veggies and plants for your garden.

Events

It’s Field Day Season! Check out the list of Field Days around the Pacific Northwest at the Agriculture Research Center website.

June 4: Beer Taste Panel
From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or until samples run out)
Food Science and Nutrition Building, Room 146. We need 150 participants to evaluate sensory qualities of beer. You must be 21 years of age to participate—bring your ID. The panel wil require about 10 minutes of your time. Receive a Ferdinand’s Gift Certificate for participating. Questions? E-mail Allison Baker.

June 16, 23, 30: Join us for a glimpse into the realm of Tree Fruit with Ute Chambers, manager of the Decision Aid System, as she walks us through the process of Orchard Management! You will see the varieties of fruit grown in Washington State, learn the differences between organic and conventional practices, and better understand the importance of pesticides. June 16, noon; June 23, 6 p.m.; June 30, 6 p.m. Register here.

July 9, 17: Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest invites you to join AHB researchers for a day in the field at the project’s Poplar for Biofuels Demonstration Sites! Hayden Demonstration Site near Hayden, ID – July 9, 4-6 p.m. Pilchuck Demonstration Site near Stanwood, WA – July 17, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.  Learn more.

View more upcoming events on the CAHNRS Events calendar.

WSU’s Green Times- OFoot, Barley, 10 years

Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 10:23am
Putting local barley, flavor on the horizon

Using traditional breeding techniques, scientists at WSU are developing new barley varieties for the microbrewing and distilling industries. Brewers and distillers like Emerson Lamb of Westland Distillery and Charles Finkel of The Pike Brewing Company can’t wait to get locally grown, custom malted barley into their mash tuns.

Click to watch the story of western Washington’s barley renaissance. Video by Sylvia Kantor and Darrell Kilgore, WSU.

They’re excited about the possibilities for imparting local flavor in beer and whiskey with barley grown and malted in western Washington, with specific qualities that they can choose.

As a small distiller, Lamb has the flexibility to produce single batch, single varietal, or even single farm whiskeys and it’s important to him that his product reflect its place of origin.

“That’s why we’re really excited about locally grown and custom malted barley. We can be hyper-local with flavor,” he said.

Lamb is glad to find his own spirit of experimentation shared at the WSU Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center.

Measure the impact of organic farms with OFoot

A team of Washington State University scientists will soon make it easier for organic farmers to calculate and reduce their carbon footprints.

OFoot is a user-friendly, interactive tool that combines plant and soil modeling information with energy analysis of farm equipment to create a more complete picture of a farm’s carbon footprint. The tool is part of a larger research project that may one day help scientists accurately model various environmental impacts, from water and soil toxicity to air pollution. OFoot is scheduled for public release in September 2014.

Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, associate professor, Crop and Soil Sciences.

Soil scientist, Lynne Carpenter-Boggs and her research team have been working on a multistep process that applies the results from studies of carbon and nitrogen emissions done in the laboratory to the field.

“Mitigation of GHG emissions…must start with the identification of the most significant carbon footprint and GHG sources or hotspots in agricultural production systems,” said Cornelius Adewale, a graduate student working on the OFoot project.

In addition to the more obvious sources of greenhouse gases like cars and trucks burning fossil fuels, hotspots can include farm materials, which is why OFoot includes a life-cycle assessment (LCA) tool that looks at farm inputs such as electricity and farm equipment as well as outputs.

Usama Zaher, assistant research professor in biological systems engineering at WSU and co-principal investigator on the project, explained that the LCA looks at “all the footprints of the supplies” including fuel, equipment, and others. Fuel is burned on-site, for example, but is generally produced and transported from elsewhere, which requires more energy. Similarly, farm equipment has what Carpenter-Boggs calls “embedded energy” because it is made of metal, which takes energy to mine and produce. OFoot’s LCA even distinguishes between various makes and models of equipment by their weight and calculates the embodied energy in each. “It is, as much as possible, a cradle-to-grave assessment,” Carpenter-Boggs said.

OFoot expands CropSyst, adding 10 crops to the existing list and asking questions about crop sequence. The soon to be released OFoot website has a clean and minimalist design; the intuitive interface allows the user to simply choose a category, select from a number of options, and then input the amount used for each option (acres farmed, pounds of fertilizer used, etc.). OFoot’s input-output evaluation makes it invaluable, according to Zaher. “We can take a global LCA database and scale it to…wherever our study is and add system-specific components.”

OFoot’s carbon footprint dashboard.

Right now, OFoot’s main impact may be seen among organic farmers, but most farmers should find that OFoot fits their operations. Having an easy-to-use, accurate, comprehensive system in place means that it should be fairly simple for farmers to estimate and report their farms’ carbon footprints to buyers, said Zaher. This may also enable grocery stores and corporations such as Walmart to adhere to commitments to purchasing organic, local, and low-carbon-footprint foods and products.

Zaher said that in the future, OFoot research may expand to include analysis of pesticide usage and other environmental consequences such as eutrophication (the overgrowth of algae stimulated by high nitrogen from runoff, often resulting in oxygen-starved dead zones in bodies of water). Ultimately, the OFoot tool is designed to evaluate the impacts of organic farming methods on climate change.

For more information, visit http://csanr.wsu.edu/organic-farming-footprints/.

OFoot is funded through an Organic Agriculture Research and Education Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. In addition to Carpenter-Boggs and Zaher, co-PIs include David Granatstein, Claudio Stockle, David Huggins, Stewart Higgins, Roger Nelson, Steve Verhey, and the late Jeff Smith. Graduate students Cornelius Adewale and Marina Heppenstall are also involved in the project, as is researcher and web designer Bryan Carlson. More information can be found at csanr.wsu.edu/organic-farming-footprints.

You can also friend us on Facebook at the WSU Organic Farm page, here.

-Sabrina Zearott

New Online Master’s Degree for the Ag Industry

Washington State University is launching a new online degree program to meet the growing need for highly skilled field practitioners and managers for today’s technologically advanced agricultural industry. The Master of Science in agriculture with an emphasis in plant health management (PHM) couples WSU’s plant science and plant protection programs with business management courses. The result is a new degree that gives students the ability to go from field to lab to executive boardroom without breaking stride.

The program is accepting applications now for its first cohort this fall and is offering online information sessions for prospective students wishing to learn more.

Decade of organic farming research for long-term solutions

If you’re starting a new organic farm and you want to boost organic matter in your soil, you’ll want to invest in as much compost as you can. That’s just one finding from over a decade of research on organic farming systems by WSU soil scientists in Puyallup.

Designed to help farmers improve their profitability and sustainability, the work sheds light on how different soil amendments, tillage practices and cover cropping systems impact soil quality, crop yield, nutrients and profitability with crops like lettuce, spinach, snap beans, broccoli, winter squash and wheat.

Andy Bary (left) and Doug Collins (right) take soil measurements in lettuce plots at the WSU research farm in Puyallup. Photo by Craig Cogger, WSU.

Evaluating soil changes in complex management systems requires multiple years, multiple rotation cycles, and multiple grants over the long haul.

“This year marks 11 growing seasons and with current funding, the research program will complete 13 growing seasons,” said soil scientist Craig Cogger. “That gets you a pretty mature system.”

Cogger and fellow soil scientist Andy Bary developed the long-term research program with extensive input from organic growers west of the Cascade Mountains.

“We wanted to help growers figure out which inputs will make organic systems more sustainable and profitable – which work better than others,” Bary said.

Cogger and Bary started the research program in 2003 on six acres of certified organic research land at the WSU Research and Extension Center in Puyallup, Washington.  It is one of a handful of long-term research programs in the country focused on organic farming.

Here are a few highlights from the research:

Organic matter matters

Carbon is a major factor in overall soil health. Experiments showed that adding compost with a high-carbon content came out ahead compared to adding compost derived from chicken manure and bedding that was higher in nitrogen but lower in carbon. Adding high-carbon compost resulted in higher organic matter levels, lower soil compaction, and faster water infiltration, in addition to higher soil pH, more microbial biomass, and a larger bank of nitrogen in the soil organic matter – all of which add up to plants having a better chance of getting the nutrition they need.

Tillage tools, frequency and depth

A more surprising result noted by soil scientist Doug Collins was that tilling soil with a rotary spader, which turns the soil gently, did not result in less disturbance to soil life, compared to tilling with conventional equipment like a rototiller, plow or disc. “From the soil biology perspective, tillage was tillage,” Collins said. However, in a pasture-based system where tillage was less frequent, the array of organisms living in the soil, that is, the soil food web, was more diverse.

Where plots were tilled with the deeper reaching spader, soil compaction was reduced, making a better environment for plant roots. Cogger believes this may have contributed to higher vegetable crop yields in the spader-tilled plots in some years.

Suitable cover cropping

Growing a cover crop generally improves soil quality. But comparing three different cover crop systems revealed differences that can help growers choose the right system for their needs and, ultimately, improve their bottom line.

For growers who have enough land and want to raise livestock along with vegetables that don’t demand a lot of fertilizer like lettuce and squash, a pasture-based system could work well. A three-year rotation — grazing sheep and raising chickens on pasture planted with a grass and clover mix — required less tillage, reduced the need for added amendments, and resulted in higher soil microbial activity and a more diverse soil food web.

Planting cover crops between rows during the growing season – known as relay planting or interseeding – reduced the need for tillage compared with post-harvest cover crops. Relay cover crops are best suited for rotations where they don’t compete with crops such as fall lettuce or carrots that are harvested too late in the season to establish a post-harvest cover crop.

The bottom line

As long as adequate nutrients are provided, a variety of systems can produce good yields. Except for crops that demand a lot of nitrogen in the pasture system, yields were similar across all experiments.

Winter squash grown organically at the WSU research farm in Puyallup. Photo by Andy Bary, WSU.

Net returns were greater than production costs most years in all of the systems. However, no one size fits all. For broccoli, a high input system that included relay cover cropping, tilling with a spader, and high-carbon compost was most profitable. For winter squash, the pasture system with spader tillage was most profitable.

The path forward

The long-term organic farming research has inspired new research projects. Collins has started a reduced-tillage in organic agriculture experiment. Food safety specialist, Karen Killinger, is taking a closer look at tracking pathogens in the farming system to ensure safe foods. And research on greenhouse gas emissions in organic systems is underway.

As he prepares several publications summing up this long-term research, Cogger looks down the road and wonders, “What does it take to maintain a system that has been built up with soil amendments? How long can we sustain these systems with lower inputs if we invest a lot up front?”

Cogger, who has been with WSU Extension for 30 years, expects to retire next year. He leaves a legacy of organic farming research and new questions to colleagues like Doug Collins who will take up the mantle to lead the next ten years of organic farming research.

-Sylvia Kantor

 

A decade of organic farming research for long-term solutions

Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 10:00am

PUYALLUP, Wash. – If you’re starting a new organic farm and you want to boost organic matter in your soil, you’ll want to invest in as much compost as you can. That’s just one finding from over a decade of research on organic farming systems by WSU soil scientists in Puyallup.

Winter squash grown organically at the WSU research farm in Puyallup. Photo by Andy Bary, WSU.

Designed to help farmers improve their profitability and sustainability, the work sheds light on how different soil amendments, tillage practices and cover cropping systems impact soil quality, crop yield, nutrients and profitability with crops like lettuce, spinach, snap beans, broccoli, winter squash and wheat.
Evaluating soil changes in complex management systems requires multiple years, multiple rotation cycles, and multiple grants over the long haul.

“This year marks 11 growing seasons and with current funding, the research program will complete 13 growing seasons,” said soil scientist Craig Cogger. “That gets you a pretty mature system.”

Cogger and fellow soil scientist Andy Bary developed the long-term research program with extensive input from organic growers west of the Cascade Mountains.

“We wanted to help growers figure out which inputs will make organic systems more sustainable and profitable – which work better than others,” Bary said.

Cogger and Bary started the research program in 2003 on six acres of certified organic research land at the WSU Research and Extension Center in Puyallup, Washington. It is one of a handful of long-term research programs in the country focused on organic farming.

Here are a few highlights from the research:

Organic matter matters

Carbon is a major factor in overall soil health. Experiments showed that adding compost with a high-carbon content came out ahead compared to adding compost derived from chicken manure and bedding that was higher in nitrogen but lower in carbon. Adding high-carbon compost resulted in higher organic matter levels, lower soil compaction, and faster water infiltration, in addition to higher soil pH, more microbial biomass, and a larger bank of nitrogen in the soil organic matter – all of which add up to plants having a better chance of getting the nutrition they need.

Tillage tools, frequency and depth

A more surprising result noted by soil scientist Doug Collins was that tilling soil with a rotary spader, which turns the soil gently, did not result in less disturbance to soil life, compared to tilling with conventional equipment like a rototiller, plow or disc.

Blades of a rotary spader help protect soil structure. Photo by Doug Collins, WSU.

“From the soil biology perspective, tillage was tillage,” Collins said. However, in a pasture-based system where tillage was less frequent, the array of organisms living in the soil, or soil food web, was more diverse.

Where plots were tilled with the deeper reaching spader, soil compaction was reduced, making a better environment for plant roots. Cogger believes this may have contributed to higher vegetable crop yields in the spader-tilled plots in some years.

Suitable cover cropping

Growing a cover crop generally improves soil quality. But comparing three different cover crop systems revealed differences that can help growers choose the right system for their needs and, ultimately, increase their bottom line.

For growers who have enough land and want to raise livestock along with vegetables that don’t demand a lot of fertilizer like lettuce and squash, a pasture-based system could work well. A three-year rotation — grazing sheep and raising chickens on pasture planted with a grass and clover mix — required less tillage, reduced the need for added amendments, and resulted in higher soil microbial activity and a more diverse soil food web.

Planting cover crops between rows during the growing season – known as relay planting or interseeding – reduced the need for tillage compared with post-harvest cover crops. Relay cover crops are best suited for rotations where they don’t compete with crops such as fall lettuce or carrots that are harvested too late in the season to establish a post-harvest cover crop.

The bottom line

As long as adequate nutrients are provided, a variety of systems can produce good yields.

Andy Bary (left) and Doug Collins (right) take soil measurements in lettuce plots at the WSU research farm in Puyallup. Photo by Craig Cogger, WSU.

Except for crops the demand a lot of nitrogen in the pasture system, yields were similar across all experiments.

Net returns were greater than production costs most years in all of the systems. However, no one-size-fits-all. For broccoli, a high input system that included relay cover cropping, tilling with a spader, and high-carbon compost was most profitable. For winter squash, the pasture system with spader tillage was most profitable.

The path forward

The long-term organic farming research has inspired new research projects. Collins has started a reduced-tillage in organic agriculture experiment. Food safety specialist, Karen Killinger, is taking a closer look at tracking pathogens in the farming system to ensure safe foods. And research on greenhouse gas emissions in organic systems is underway.

As he prepares several publications summing up this long-term research, Cogger looks down the road and wonders,

Craig Cogger measures soil compaction. Photo by Doug Collins, WSU.

“What does it take to maintain a system that has been built up with soil amendments? How long can we sustain these systems with lower inputs if we invest a lot up front?”

Cogger, who has been with WSU Extension for 30 years, expects to retire next year. He leaves a legacy of organic farming research and new questions to those, like Doug Collins, who will take up the mantle to lead the next ten years of organic farming research.

University nutritionist honored at 2014 Salute to Women of Achievement

The Nevada Women’s Fund will honor Madeleine Sigman-Grant, maternal child nutrition specialist for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, for her work advocating for women and infants’ health and nutrition at the 2014 Salute to Women of Achievement awards luncheon Thursday, May 29.

Madeleine Sigman-Grant honored Thursday for educating women and medical practitioners in Nevada

The Nevada Women’s Fund annually honors women who demonstrate significant contribution to the Nevada community and achievement in their field. This year, the Nevada Women’s Fund will honor Madeleine Sigman-Grant, for her work providing women information about health and nutrition specifically in regards to the importance of breastfeeding. She will be honored along with other women in the community at the 2014 Salute to Women of Achievement awards luncheon Thursday, May 29.

"I was stunned and thrilled to receive the award," Sigman-Grant said. "I feel very honored."

Sigman-Grant is a maternal child nutrition specialist for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. During her 17 years at the University, she has worked to educate new mothers and medical professionals in Nevada about the importance of breastfeeding.

According to Sigman-Grant, Nevada ranks in the lowest 25 percent of states with breastfeeding supportive practices and a high percentage of low-income women use infant formula shortly after birth. Her goal is to provide information about the benefits of breastfeeding for both the mothers and their children.

"The great thing about working with Cooperative Extension is that all the information can be shared with the public online and is just a click away," Sigman-Grant said.

She has worked with the University and the Nevada Health Department to conduct research on breastfeeding practices in Nevada’s hospitals. She uses this research to inform mothers and health professionals through fact sheets that are available online at the Cooperative Extension website.

Throughout the course of her work, she has started to see improvements and awareness across Nevada. The Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center in northern Nevada and St. Rose Dominican Hospital, San Martin campus in southern Nevada both recently achieved baby-friendly hospital initiative status. This status is earned by hospitals that follow a strict set of guidelines and offer a high level of care for infant feeding. There are only 175 hospitals in the United States that have achieved this status.

Sigman-Grant also focuses on childhood obesity with the "All 4 Kids" Program, which was honored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2012. She was also named Nevada Dietician of the Year in 2011.

Sigman-Grant will be honored at the 2014 Salute to Women of Achievement luncheon held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Thursday, May 29, at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in the Rose Ballroom.

WSU announces the name for its stellar new apple

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 1:43pm

PULLMAN, Wash.— The newest Washington State University apple, designated WA 38, is one step closer to hitting supermarkets with announcement of its brand name, Cosmic Crisp.

The name was chosen after an extensive process led by Carolyn Ross, associate professor in the WSU School of Food Science.

“It was quite a process,” she said. “I think people didn’t realize how much names can influence their purchasing behavior until they started talking about them.”

Ross hosted several focus groups in Washington locations including Pullman, Yakima and Seattle. Participants were presented with a list of potential names to discuss.

During the process a theme emerged due to the pattern on the rosy cheeks of the apple.

“One of the striking things about the apple is that it’s got lenticels, little spots that look like starbursts,” said Ross, “so people were interested in pursuing names related to outer space and the cosmos.”

Participants also preferred names that hinted at the sensory properties of the apple.

“They liked having that little bit of information in the name so that when you are in the apple section trying to decide which apple to purchase you have some idea of what to expect,” Ross said. One of the outstanding attributes of this apple is its crisp texture. “Crisp” also links the WSU apple to its parent, Honeycrisp.

In addition to the focus groups, Proprietary Variety Management (PVM), a Yakima-based company specializing in the management of proprietary varieties, surveyed shoppers in retail locations. PVM is assisting WSU with branding, licensing and collecting royalties for the apple.

Cosmic Crisp apples will not be widely available to consumers until 2019. WSU is working with a number of Northwest Nursery Improvement Institute-affiliated nurseries and other producers to increase WA 38 planting stock.

The university is holding a drawing to assign the limited number of trees available to Washington growers for planting in 2017. The drawing, which has received more than 260 applications, closes May 31, 2014. To enter the WA 38 drawing, visithttp://WA38.wsu.edu.

PVM will work with WSU and the Washington apple industry to develop a logo and graphics to support the brand launch before the fruit goes to market.

Cosmic Crisp was developed by crossing Enterprise and Honeycrisp in 1997.

The tree is upright and spreading with moderately low vigor, so it won’t grow rampantly or oversized. It is precocious, meaning it will start producing fruit at a younger age, with spur development beginning on 2-year-old wood.

Yield is within the range of other locally grown apple cultivars. The fruit ripens in late September, is large and round/conical with 90 to 100 percent of the surface covered with a rich red-purple color over a green-yellow background.

It has been highly rated for its sweet, tangy flavor and has exceptional storability.

For more information visit http://cosmiccrisp.wsu.edu.

Discover more stories about WSU innovations at http://wsudiscovery.tumblr.com.

 

Contacts:

James Moyer, WSU CAHNRS Agricultural Research Center, 509-335-4563, j.moyer@wsu.edu

Kate Evans, WSU apple breeding program, 509-663-8181 Ext. 245, kate_evans@wsu.edu

Cristy Warnock, Proprietary Variety Management (PVM), 509-307-1947,cristy@provarmanagement.com

Kate Wilhite, WSU CAHNRS communications, 509-335-8164, kate.wilhite@wsu.edu

Training microbes to make biofuel

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 05/27/2014 - 8:44am

When you fill your tank, you likely see a little sticker on the pump saying part of the fuel is ethanol. Ethanol is a biofuel, which means it comes from plants like corn, rather than from fossil fuel — ancient carbon that’s been buried within the Earth for millions of years.

Producing more biofuels is on the agendas of governments and private industry alike. Biofuels can potentially help nations become more energy independent. If a country can grow plants and produce biofuels from them, that nation could potentially import less crude oil. Biofuels, if done right, also could reduce the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced in the transportation sector.

But there are drawbacks, at least with corn-based ethanol. For one thing, using ethanol in our vehicles means we are essentially burning food as we tootle down the road. Food is pretty precious stuff in a hungry world, so a number of people are worried about corn-ethanol. It also takes considerable petroleum-based fuel to grow corn, harvest it, and process it into ethanol. So researchers around the world are on the lookout for better ways to make biofuels.

Biodiesel is another biofuel that you’ve likely heard something about. It’s blended into petroleum-based diesel to power trucks and diesel-fueled cars. Biodiesel is quite simple to make from vegetable oil. In freshman classes, I’ve led students to make it in small batches. But if biodiesel is made from oils we eat, it has some of the same drawbacks as corn-based ethanol.

Recently there was an interesting report about an advance made by scientists researching a new approach to making biodiesel. A team of researchers used genetically modified E. coli bacteria to convert sugar into a material very similar to petroleum-based diesel fuel. The fuel produced is so much like petroleum diesel, it can be used at full strength in engines.

Professor John Love, a synthetic biologist at the University of Exeter, was one of the scientists involved in the work. Talking with a reporter from BBC News, he said, “What we’ve done is produced fuels that are exactly the chain length required for the modern engine and exactly the composition that is required.”

Some people fear bioengineering when it comes to the food we eat, but there might be less resistance to the approach if it is used to produce fuel rather than vittles.

But there is more work to be done. E. coli doesn’t produce a lot of fuel. According to the BBC news report, it would take over 100 quarts of E. coli to produce a teaspoon of diesel fuel.

“Our challenge is to increase the yield before we can go into any form of industrial production,” Love said. “We’ve got a timeframe of about three to five years to do that and see if it is worth going ahead with it.”

The devil is in the details when it comes to biofuels developed so far. But don’t count researchers out – there are many good ideas being pursued all the world around.

 

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

 

Cooperative Extension offers Farm and Food Tourism workshop

Classes teach ways to expand business by catering to travelers

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Herds and Harvest Program, with cosponsor Utah State University, will hold a Farm and Food Tourism workshop 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 2-3, at the Clark County Cooperative Extension office, 8050 Paradise Road, Suite 100 in Las Vegas.

The workshop is designed for growers, small food producers and tourism operators looking to expand their agritourism or food tourism operations by taking advantage of the growing tourist demand for farm and local food experiences.

"There is an increasing demand for local foods, especially among travelers," Kynda Curtis, agricultural marketing specialist for Utah State Cooperative Extension, said. "The National Restaurant Association’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast reported that seven out of 10 consumers were more likely to visit a restaurant offering locally produced items."

Workshop topics include:

  • agriculture and food tourism product and service options
  • value-added food issues and considerations
  • cottage food production and local regulations
  • assessing the economic feasibility of agriculture/food tourism enterprises
  • farm-to-fork events
  • accessing and serving the tourism market
  • agritourism enterprise development and considerations
  • marketing value-added products
  • agriculture and food tourism as a diversification strategy

"The number of small farms growing local and fresh farm products is increasing in Nevada," said Staci Emm, director of Herds and Harvest. "This Herds and Harvest educational program expands on marketing strategies in creating specialized farm products and the ultimate farm experience."

Cost for the workshop is $40 and includes all materials, continental breakfast and lunch each day, and the agritourism tour on Tuesday.

Register online at https://farmfoodtourismlv.eventbrite.com/. For more information, contact Curtis at 435-797-0444 or kynda.curtis@usu.edu.

The Herds and Harvest Program helps farmers and ranchers develop agricultural entrepreneurship, implement sustainable agricultural marketing strategies and improve profitability. Since 2011, the program has reached several hundred farmers and ranchers across the state. Two-thirds of the participants reported they would make changes in their business practices because of what they learned through the program.

MSU Extension helps local governments, voters with government review measures

Montana State University Extension News - Fri, 05/23/2014 - 12:00am
<p>BOZEMAN &ndash; For Montana&rsquo;s upcoming June 3 primary election, ballots contain a question asking voters to approve, or reject, a...

WSU’s Voice of the Vine- Wine Map, Revelry, 2+2

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 05/21/2014 - 10:43am
Putting Washington wine on the map

From Woodinville to Walla Walla, explore Washington’s wine country with a new, interactive map from the Washington Wine Commission, the Washington State University Viticulture and Enology program, and WSU AgWeatherNet: http://trade.washingtonwine.org/ava-map.

Click to view the interactive map powered by WSU’s AgWeatherNet.

The map highlights Washington’s wine industry, with 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), and an ever-expanding list of wineries, and vineyards. In the early 1980s, Washington state was home to 19 wineries, but the growth of the industry has put more than 780 wineries on the map, and over time established Washington state as the second largest wine producer in the U.S

The map also includes weather data including rainfall, wind speed, and soil temperatures powered by WSU AgWeatherNet, and data from a project developed with support from the WSU Viticulture and Enology team, including Joan Davenport, Gerrit Hoogenboom, Thomas Henick-Kling, and Michelle Moyer. AgWeatherNet (AWN) provides access to current and historical weather data from Washington State University’s automated weather station network along with a range of models and decision aids. For more information visit: http://weather.wsu.edu.

Learn more about wine science at WSU: http://wine.wsu.edu/campaign/

It’ll only take a minute

WSU research scientist Carolyn Ross and her team’s research on fruity flavors finishing first in model white wines were recently featured in Scientific American’s 60-Seconds Science. You can listen to the broadcast from Christopher Intagliata, here.

Get ready for Revelry this Memorial Day weekend

If you’re ready to get out of the tasting room and into the terroir, pack your bags and follow Auction of Washington Wines to the best Memorial Day weekend event in the state.

Saturday, May 24, is the main event, Revelry on Red Mountain, hosted at Col Solare. Attendees can make a weekend of it and get insider’s access during the Vineyard Tour and Lunch, rounding out the weekend with one of the Winemaker Dinners on Sunday, May 25. There are only a handful of spots left and tickets will sell out. The Vineyard Tour is a wonderful opportunity to learn all about your favorite wines, starting at the source.

Scott Williams will share his extensive knowledge of the unique Red Mountain AVA and walk you through his vineyard. Then, taste the final product as you sample Kiona Winery’s current releases.

Next, head over to the famed Ciel du Cheval Vineyards and unlock the mysteries of the Red Mountain soil, weather and vines with one of Eastern Washington’s most successful grape growers, Jim Holmes. Jim was one of the first growers to plant grape vines on Red Mountain in 1975. Participants will take a break for a catered lunch in the vineyard and taste some of Jim’s favorite wines featuring his very own grapes.

During the second half of the tour, walk through the Hightower estate “Out of Line” vineyard. Learn more about this vineyard’s unique vine orientation and consider the importance of microclimates and sun exposure on the grapes. Sample the results at Hightower Cellars with Jackie Hightower.

Finish the day at Hedges Family Estate and learn more about the 2014 Honorary Vintners Tom and Anne-Marie Hedges. Join their daughter Sarah Goedhart for a tour of the estate vineyards, get an exclusive peek at the beautiful European-inspired gardens and finish your tour with tastings from Hedges Family Estate’s current releases and delicious hors d’oeuvres.

This exclusive tour is only available to Revelry on Red Mountain guests. Buy your tickets today to reserve your spot!

To register for the vineyard tour and lunch please contact:
Melissa Pederson, Auction of Washington Wines
P: (206) 326-5770
mpederson@washingtonwine.org

2+2 equals success for students pursuing wine science, agriculture

With a growing demand for graduates in the field of agriculture, Washington State University is offering second-year students at Walla Walla and Yakima Valley Community Colleges an opportunity to seamlessly transfer into a variety of four-year degree programs.

A Viticulture and Enology student prunes vines in the greenhouse at WSU Pullman.

The unique partnership between the community colleges and WSU establishes a streamlined pathway for students interested in pursuing a four-year degree in agriculture-related fields, including viticulture and enology, after two years of community college classes.

The latest collaboration has built a bridge connecting both the Enology and Viticulture program at WWCC and the Vineyard Technology program at YVCC to the Viticulture and Enology program at WSU. The partnership also provides a geographic advantage for students seeking an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the heart of southeast Washington’s wine country.

“This agreement creates an ideal framework for students to transition seamlessly into the WSU Viticulture and Enology program,” said Ted Baseler, President and CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and a member of the WSU Board of Regents. “The Washington wine industry now contributes $8 billion to the state’s economy, and a vital component for sustaining this success is the graduates who are trained to support our grape and wine industries.”

Students who begin their education at YVCC or WWCC and transfer to WSU in the next several years will be some of the first to experience their education at the new WSU Wine Science Center under construction in Richland.

“It provides a great opportunity for students in agriculture and viticulture and enology and the educated workforce the industry needs,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the WSU Viticulture and Enology program. “I am excited about our partnership with WWCC and YVCC and the articulation agreements signed.”

The research and teaching conducted at the Wine Science Center will be specific to the challenges and opportunities faced by grape growers and winemakers in the Pacific Northwest. When the center opens in early 2015, it will be the most technologically advanced wine research and education center in the world.

“The partnership with WSU provides students the opportunity to learn from both practitioners and researchers in their field while taking advantage of our unique hands-on teaching approach and gaining the necessary skills to qualify for high demand, high paying jobs,” said Jessica Gilmore, Dean of Business, Entrepreneurial Programs, and Extended Learning at Walla Walla Community College.

Learn more about Yakima Valley Community College at http://www.yvcc.edu/Pages/default.aspx. Learn more about Walla Walla Community College at http://www.wwcc.edu/CMS/. Learn more about the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at WSU http://www.cahnrs.wsu.edu.

New Online Master’s Degree for the Ag Industry

Washington State University is launching a new online degree program to meet the growing need for highly skilled field practitioners and managers in today’s technologically advanced agricultural industry. The Master of Science in Agriculture with emphasis in plant health management (PHM) couples WSU’s plant sciences and plant protection programs with business management courses. The result is a new degree that gives students the ability to go from field to lab to executive boardroom without breaking stride.

The program is accepting applications now for its first cohort this fall and is offering online information sessions for prospective students wishing to learn more.

 

 

High technology meets fields of wheat

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 05/20/2014 - 9:50am

As my friends and relatives know, I’m quite a dinosaur in several respects. I get a lot of my news the old fashioned way from hardcopy newspapers. I still pay my bills with paper checks sent through the mail. And nothing pleases me more when I get home at night than to find I have a “snail mail” letter from an old friend who took the time to put down ideas on paper with a pen.  

But even I own a smart phone. The ability to keep up with work-related email, as well as messages from friends and family, is one fantastic benefit of the modern cell phone.  I do, indeed, value the technological revolution through which we all are living.

Arron Carter and Mike Pumphrey are two research scientists at Washington State University who are doing work in dusty wheat fields that is being transformed by technology.

“It used to be that weighing the bag (of grain) was the only way we had to evaluate a variety of wheat,” Pumphrey said to me. “Yield is still the bottom line, but technology gives us tools for earlier identification of what will be fruitful lines of wheat.”

Some of that technology is pretty cool. Plant breeders now have tiny, unmanned helicopters they use to look at crops in the field. These drones are just a couple of feet in diameter and are operated by remote control. Special cameras on the helicopters record more than what the human eye can perceive.

Researchers can fly the helicopters 100 yards above a field to take a broad picture, or fly them 5 yards off the ground to measure properties in a test plot.

“The cameras tell us information about photosynthesis and the water use of the plants,” Carter said. “They can even take the temperature of the plants.”

These copters cost a few thousand dollars. The real money is in the cameras and sensors, which may cost up to $50,000.

Cameras on satellites high in the sky can also help characterize plants growing in a field. But it can be many days before a satellite makes a pass over a particular location. With smaller devices that the researchers can control, more measurements can be taken at the most opportune time.

“It’s best for us to work on sunny days with little wind,” Pumphrey said. “If a cloud comes over the sun, the plants change how they are photosynthesizing and that’s picked up by our sensors.”

In addition to sending small aerial devices over fields of wheat, the pair of researchers uses a special GPS-guided tractor that has a variety of high-tech sensors on it.

“Instruments that are too bulky for the helicopters are on the tractor,” Pumphrey said.

The instruments on the copter and the tractor are looking at what’s called “phenomics.” That’s a term that includes everything about the plant from growth rates to photosynthetic efficiency to the temperature in the canopy of the plants.

Work like what Carter and Pumphrey do requires interaction with a variety of specialists. Engineers, for instance, are an important resource for the wheat breeders.

“There’s a lot of diversity in our work,” Carter said. “We have to do a little bit of everything, from studying diseases in the wheat, to soil properties, to engineering. So, for example, we might pull in an engineer to help us develop a particular sensor, then apply that to what’s growing in the field.”

Pumphrey grew up in the number one wheat-producing county in Oklahoma. As a young kid, he didn’t even know you could grow anything but wheat. He later got into his line of work for pretty idealistic reasons.

“I had a love of plants, but I also wanted to do good. In this field we work to produce more food using less resources and to help the farmers have a lower environmental impact,” Pumphrey said. “We really affect many lives.”

If you like to eat bread and other foodstuffs made from wheat, you’ve got to wish modern wheat breeders well as they embrace technology to improve varieties of wheat on which farmers — and the rest of us — depend.

 

Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

 

 

Growing herbs workshop

Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Helen Brown will teach a one hour class titled “Growing Herbs Inside and Out!” at University Medical Center’s Family Resource Center (1120 Shadow Lane) on Monday, June 16 at 10 a.m.

Brown, a Master Gardener since 1997, has contributed over 2500 volunteer hours and is an expert in growing veggies and herbs. Now is the perfect time to start an herb garden—whether it’s inside the house or outside in your garden.

To reserve a space at the workshop, contact Amy Runge at the Family Resource Center at 702-383-2229.

Brown, along with over 300 active Master Gardeners, is a University-trained community volunteer who shares her knowledge and desert gardening skills via community projects. Master Gardeners are experienced in successfully growing plants in the harsh (hot, dry, windy) climate of the Mojave Desert. This is an environment unfamiliar to many newcomers. By teaching what to plant and how to properly care for their landscapes or gardens, the Master Gardeners save people money—on water, soil amendments, plant materials, etc.

Since 1992 over 1,200 community members have taken the Master Gardener horticulture training course with the understanding that they are not to keep this information to themselves—that they will become the University’s unpaid ambassadors and share the science of good desert gardening with others.

For gardening questions, email or call the Master Gardener Help Desk at 702-257-5555.

Top soil available at Research Center

In September 2013, the northwest area of the Las Vegas Valley and the Carpenter One Fire scar area were impacted by a severe rainstorm producing intense rainfall and heavy runoff which washed a large amount of soil and debris into the City of North Las Vegas’ detention basin located at Sand Stone Ridge Park.

As a result of the storm, over 26,000 cubic yards of soil coated the basin floor. The deposited soil was tested and it was determined to be highly enriched soils and was perfect for use as topsoil.

Public Works staff members worked with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the Bureau of Land Management to enable the soil to be used by the Research Center and Demonstration Orchard in North Las Vegas. This great partnership saved the City, Regional Flood Control District, and taxpayers an estimated $156,000.

The soil is now available for pick-up from the Research Center on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday mornings. The soil is free if loaded by the individual and only $1 per tractor scoop loaded. The Center is located at 4600 Horse Drive, North Las Vegas, Nev. For more information, please contact Jon Chodacki, research center technician, at 702-466-4267.