Extension News from the West

Trip to D.C. inspires CAHNRS student

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 03/11/2015 - 12:52pm

Rodrigo Bonilla didn’t grow up with a positive outlook on agriculture.

“My parents made me work in the orchards at an early age,” said Bonilla, who will graduate from Washington State in May with degrees in agriculture food systems, economics, and Spanish. “I didn’t want to wake up at 4 a.m. to work, but my parents made sure to tell me that this was why I needed to stay in school.”

So Bonilla, who was born in Mexico but grew up in Prosser, had no desire to pursue a career in agriculture. At least, not until he took a horticulture class in high school and his teacher convinced him to join the Future Farmers of America.

“I learned how important agriculture is to society,” he said. “Now, my dream is to one day work for the USDA in their Foreign Agricultural Service division.”

Bonilla was able to meet first-hand with USDA officials last month as one of 20 undergraduate students from around the nation invited to the USDA’s Agriculture Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program in Washington, D.C.

At the forum, he had the opportunity to meet and speak with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and he came away inspired.

“It was eye-opening,” Bonilla said. “Secretary Vilsack emphasized the importance of food waste, which isn’t something I’ve ever thought about before. And it’s huge problem.”

Bonilla hopes to learn more about food waste and other agriculture challenges by going to graduate school next fall. He’s applied to eight different universities with the help and support of the McNair Achievement Program and has been accepted at four schools already.

“Working with other countries to develop their agriculture economics systems, to make them sustainable — that’s my dream,” Bonilla said. “Going to Washington only fueled that desire and made me more passionate.”

Gardening in Nevada classes discuss how to successfully grow vegetables

Cooperative Extension offers Successful Vegetable Gardening 6 — 8 p.m. March 24 and 31 at Washoe County’s Bartley Ranch Regional Park. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Kozsan, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

University teams up with Washoe Parks and Bartley Ranch

Gardening in Nevada can be challenging. Before digging in this spring, you can get some free advice from the experts — University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and their Certified Master Gardeners. Cooperative Extension has teamed up with Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space to offer "Gardening in Nevada: The Bartley Ranch Series." Classes are free and run 6 — 8 p.m. every Tuesday in March, at Bartley Ranch Regional Park, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road in Reno.

The classes are taught by Cooperative Extension horticulturists and experts, and Cooperative Extension’s certified Master Gardener volunteers. The next three classes are:

  • March 17: GMOs: Facts and Fallacies — Cooperative Extension Horticulture Specialist Heidi Kratsch teaches about genetic modification and the current GMO (genetically modified organism) crops on the market.
  • March 24: Successful Vegetable Gardening Part 1 — Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Randy Robison teaches soil preparation, composting and how crop success starts by feeding the soil.
  • March 31: Successful Vegetable Gardening Part 2 — Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Randy Robison teaches about how he produces abundant crops and shares tips on improving garden soil, crop rotation, companion planting and gardening in raised beds.

For more information on "Gardening in Nevada: The Bartley Ranch Series," or for general horticultural inquiries, contact University of Nevada Cooperative Extension at 775-784-4848 or mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu, or visit www.unce.unr.edu. Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance should call at least three days prior to the scheduled event.

Free gardening classes at Acacia Park

Ergonomic gardening tool

Master Gardeners conduct classes in April

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners—for the 10th year--will offer a series of free classes at Acacia Park in April. Classes are offered in partnership with the City of Henderson Parks and Recreation Department, and are published in “Henderson Happenings.” All classes will be taught by Cooperative Extension volunteer Master Gardener instructors and begin at 9 a.m.

April 4: Gardening with Physical Limitations. Gardening is a healthy habit for all ages but sometimes a physical condition can make it difficult. A Cooperative Extension Master Gardener will give you tips on modifying equipment/clothing and discuss techniques to prevent injury.

April 11: Beautiful Native Landscape Design. Want to transform your yard into a haven for butterflies, birds and other wildlife? Using native plants that are likely to survive will make your landscape less costly as well as beautiful. A Cooperative Extension Master Gardener will tell you what plants work and how to use them in your yard.

April 18: Growing Trees. Trees give structure to your landscape, provide shade and wildlife habitat, and they may also provide edible fruit. Join a Cooperative Extension Master Gardener to discuss which trees are recommended for our area, when to plant, irrigation, fertilization, pruning and problems.

April 25: Growing Herbs in Containers. Herbs are easy to grow and have many uses...cooking, crafts, gifts. Even if you live in a small space, you can have an herb garden by using plant pots.

Online, pre-registration is requested by the City of Henderson.

The Master Gardeners will have an “Ask a Master Gardener” table at the Park on class days. Acacia Park is located at 50 Casa Del Fuego (Intersection of 215 and 515) in Henderson, Nev. Master Gardener volunteers are also available to answer questions through the Home Gardening Help Line, 702-257-5555. The Help Line is staffed Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Cooperative Extension and College of Agriculture host grape-growing workshop

Class to teach how to grow grapes in Nevada’s diverse and stressful climate

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has teamed up with the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources to host a workshop to discuss practices needed for growing grapes in Nevada, 9 a.m. — 3 p.m., April 4.

The Growing Grapes in Nevada workshop is part of Cooperative Extension’s "Grow Your Own, Nevada!" spring series of workshops. Topics for this grape-growing workshop include:

  • site selection
  • vineyard establishment
  • pruning
  • disease control
  • best varieties
  • when to harvest

The University has been doing research on growing grapes in Nevada since establishing its own vineyard in 1995. Grant Cramer, a professor with the College of Agriculture, and Heidi Kratsch, a horticulture specialist with Cooperative Extension, will be presenting the April 4 workshop. Cramer has been doing research for over 30 years on helping plants grow in adverse conditions. His research focuses on growing plants that tolerate salt-water irrigation, drought and cold. He was named the College’s Researcher of the Year in 2006 and 2010.

Among other things, Kratsch specializes in urban horticulture and sustainable plant production. She established "Grow Your Own, Nevada!" in fall 2011 to teach Nevadans about growing their own food for more healthy, sustainable living. Classes focus on horticultural principles that apply to growing various plants, tried-and-true methods from experienced gardeners, and new and alternative methods developed for growing on a small scale. Over 3,800 people have been trained since the program began.

The grape-growing workshop will be at the Washoe County Cooperative Extension office in Reno, 4955 Energy Way. The cost is $40 per person, and an optional lunch is available for $10. To register, visit www.growyourownnevada.com, or contact Ashley Andrews at 775-784-4848. Space is limited. Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance should call at least three days prior to the scheduled event.

Nevada Naturalist 2015 Lecture Series continues

Cheat grass on left, red brome on right — two invasive grasses that become fire hazards when they dry out. Photo courtesy of Cooperative Extension.

Find out which weeds are becoming resistant to the methods used to control them

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Nevada Naturalist program presents Weeds: Why Worry? as part of the 2015 Lecture Series on March 24. The hour-long presentation begins at 7 p.m.

Join Associate Professor and Social Horticulture Specialist Angela O’Callaghan as she discusses the regulations governing invasive plants and the alarming rates at which weeds are becoming resistant to the methods used to control them.

The 2015 Lecture Series will be held at the Lifelong Learning Center located at 8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev. For more information, email or call Denise Parsons at 702-948-5906.

Nevada Naturalist, a Cooperative Extension program, focuses on giving a broad understanding of nature to participants interested in learning, volunteering, teaching and participating in conservation projects and issues. The program will also give participants the skills and confidence necessary to make a difference for environmental stewardship and conservation in southern Nevada.

Gardening in Nevada classes discuss GMOs and vegetables

University teams up with Washoe Parks and Bartley Ranch

Gardening in Nevada can be challenging. Before digging in this spring, you can get some free advice from the experts — University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and their Certified Master Gardeners. Cooperative Extension has teamed up with Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space to offer "Gardening in Nevada: The Bartley Ranch Series." Classes are free and run 6 — 8 p.m. every Tuesday in March at Bartley Ranch Regional Park, 6000 Bartley Ranch Road in Reno.

The classes are taught by Cooperative Extension horticulturists and experts, and Cooperative Extension’s certified Master Gardener volunteers. The next three classes are:

  • March 10: Paying it Forward Through Sustainable Gardening — Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Pamela Van Hoozer teaches how to plan a garden to provide sustenance and nourishment, as well as how to practice sustainable gardening to preserve the environment.
  • March 17: GMOs: Facts and Fallacies — Cooperative Extension Horticulture Specialist Heidi Kratsch teaches about genetic modification and the current GMO (genetically modified organism) crops on the market.
  • March 24: Successful Vegetable Gardening Part 1 — Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Randy Robison teaches soil preparation, composting and how crop success starts by feeding the soil.

For more information on "Gardening in Nevada: The Bartley Ranch Series," or for general horticultural inquiries, contact University of Nevada Cooperative Extension at 775-784-4848 or mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu, or visit www.unce.unr.edu. Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance should call at least three days prior to the scheduled event.

Master Gardener’s work awarded by City of Henderson

Councilwoman Debra March with Debra Jacobson (center) and Andrew Jacobson at the awards presentation in December. Photo courtesy of the City of Henderson.

Cinnamon Ridge Homeowners Association wins award

Master Gardener training and expertise paid off for the Cinnamon Ridge Homeowners Association with the “Premiere Community Award” presented by the City of Henderson. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Debra Jacobson brought her desert gardening knowledge and designed the desert-friendly landscaping. Acting as the Landscape Advisor for the Association, Jacobson assisted with this process.

“When I began this project a few years ago,” stated Jacobson, “there were holes from old landscape plants that were taken out and 15 year old trees and shrubs that were in bad shape.”

Jacobson used native desert plants*, contrasting rock and boulders and designed “pods” to serve as focal points throughout the one-quarter mile area along Burkholder Road. Inappropriate plants and shrubs were replaced with desert-hardy Agave, Yuccas, Ocotillo and Brittlebush, creating an award-winning landscape.

“The area just needed the right plant for the right place,” added Jacobson. One important irrigation issue was addressed—friction loss in irrigation lines. This was corrected by placing plants that need more water at the beginning of the irrigation line with the lower-water use plants towards the end. This not only made sense, it saved money.

Cinnamon Ridge Homeowners Association is located near Burkholder Road and Cloudcrest Drive in Henderson, Nev. Debra March, Councilwoman for the City of Henderson, presented the award to Debra and Andrew Jacobson at the Neighborhood Leadership Forum meeting in December. Mr. Jacobson is the president of the Cinnamon Ridge Homeowners Association.

Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program teaches community volunteers sustainable desert gardening techniques and design. If you would like more information on the program or have gardening questions, please email or call the Master Gardener Help Desk at 702-257-5555.

*Other desert-adapted plants incorporated in the landscape included: Red yucca - Hesperaloe parviflora; brittlebush - Encelia farinose; Agave Americana, A. palmeri, A. truncata, and A. Victoria; Desert spoon - Dasylirion wheeleri; Red and yellow bird of paradise -Caesalpinia pulcherrima & C. gilliesii; Ocotillo - Fouquieria splendens; Spanish bayonette - Yucca aliofolio; Spanish daggar - Yucca glorioso; Banana yucca - Yucca bacata; Giant sword - Hesperaloe funifera; Bottlebush ’little john’ - Callistemon ’little john’; and Juniper, buffalo - Juniperus sabina ’Buffalo’.

Understanding your irrigation workshop scheduled

Professor ML Robinson explaining irrigation during a workshop. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Ming

Join University of Nevada Cooperative Extension on Saturday, April 4, for a one-day workshop on Gardening in Small Places: understanding your irrigation. The class runs from 8 a.m. to noon. The workshop, taught by M.L. Robinson, Cooperative Extension’s environmental horticulturist, will cover different types of irrigation and how they are best used, so you can figure out what would work best in your landscape. 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.), call or email Elaine Fagin at 702-257-5573. Register online through Eventbrite.

Upcoming Gardening in Small Places workshop dates are May 9, what’s bugging your garden and June 13, organic gardening.

Reno Rocketry offers chance for students to build and launch 6-foot rocket

Reno Rocketry Group’s recent high-powered rocket launch. Photo courtesy of Reno Rocketry Group.

Reno Rocketry and Washoe County Cooperative Extension to teach STEM skills through rocketry

Eight Washoe County teens will have the opportunity to build a 6-foot rocket that can fly over one mile into the air. Reno Rocketry is partnering with 4-H, a youth development program of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, to help eight students design, fabricate and fly the rocket. Interested students must apply to be part of the program by March 20.

The finished rocket will reach speeds of over 400 mph and will be launched using a 38-millimeter-diameter motor, which is made of the same fuel as the Space Shuttle booster stage.

"This club will focus on the emerging engineering of autonomous vehicles," said Washoe County 4-H Program Coordinator Sarah Chvilicek. "Youth will learn first-hand about possible careers using these types of rockets, as well as other autonomous flight vehicles."

Those interested in applying for the program must be 13-19 years of age. Participants will need to be able to spend one to three hours per month on class homework and must be able to work as part of a team. For more information and meeting dates, and to submit an application, visit renorocketry.com/4h.

Cooperative Extension’s 4-H activities teach youth ages 5-19 leadership, citizenship and life skills, as well as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Fueled by university-backed curriculum and led by trained staff and dedicated volunteers, 4-H programs engage youth in experiential, or "hands-on," learning. Girls in 4-H are two times more likely to participate in science, engineering or computer technology programs as their peers. In addition, 4-H youth are two times more likely to plan to go to college than their peers. For more information, visit www.unce.unr.edu/4H/.

Montana nutrition conference, livestock forum set for April 28, 29 in Bozeman

Montana State University Extension News - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 1:00am
<p>BOZEMAN -- This year’s Montana Nutrition Conference and Livestock Forum will be held April 28 and 29 at the GranTree...

Level 2 Master Gardener Program for Gallatin County begins March 17

Montana State University Extension News - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 1:00am
<p>BOZEMAN – Montana State University Extension in Gallatin County will host the Level 2 Master Gardener class starting March 17,...

March Rose Society meeting scheduled

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the South Valley Rose Society are collaborating and offering educational meetings throughout the winter. Free and open to the public, March 26 meeting topic is Preparing for April 18, 2015 Las Vegas Rose Show.

Bring your roses to meeting and learn how to prepare them for the rose show: from understanding the rose show schedule, filling out the tags, preparing your roses and learning the tips and tricks of exhibiting. Presented by the American Rose Society Certified Horticulture Judges and Apprentice Judges.

All educational meetings are held at 7 p.m. at the Lifelong Learning Center located at 8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev. (I-215 and Windmill Lane). For more information, please email or call the Master Gardener Help Desk at 702-257-5555.

UI Extension Natural Resources Camp Continues 55-year Tradition

University of Idaho Extension News - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 10:08am
KETCHUM, Idaho – Feb. 26, 2015 -- Natural Resources Camp, a University of Idaho Extension tradition tucked away in some of the state’s grandest scenery, will again offer Idaho youth a unique opportunity to learn about and explore the environment June 22-27. The camp for 12- to 14-year olds will celebrate its 55th anniversary this year with a program that focuses on wildlife, rangeland...

March Master Gardener events

Variety of classes being offered by the Master Gardeners From walking tours to Ask A Master Gardener tables

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners have several educational opportunities scheduled in March. Participants can attend any or all of the events.

March 7 and 21, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Visit the “Ask a Master Gardener” information booth at Tivoli Village Farmers Market (440 S. Rampart Blvd, LV 89145). Gardening advice, horticulture publications, and seasonal displays will be available.

March 14, 10 a.m. — Garden Tour — “March Madness” by Master Gardeners. Springtime brings an abundance of plants at the garden shops, and sometimes we go a bit crazy trying to choose! Learn what plants do well in the desert and how to care for them to get blooms again next year. Free and open to the public. Meet in the courtyard at the Lifelong Learning Center (8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev).

March 21, 9 am. — “Getting Started as a Desert Gardener,” outdoor class by Master Gardeners at Acacia Park (50 Casa Del Fuego St, Henderson, Nev.) A Master Gardener will discuss the basics of irrigation, watering maintenance tips, soil preparation, caliche, pH and soil salts. Register online at the City of Henderson.

March 28, 9 a.m. — “Fruits and Veggies for Your Spring Garden” outdoor class by Master Gardeners at Acacia Park (50 Casa Del Fuego St, Henderson, Nev.) Do you wonder why some gardens flourish and others just get by? Learn which cool season veggies to plant now and get tips on how to care for them from a Master Gardener. Register online at the City of Henderson.

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon — Seasonal produce, mulch and compost available (fees) plus guided tours and gardening advice at Cooperative Extension’s Research Center and Demonstration Orchard, 4600 Horse Dr., NLV 89131.

And don’t forget, every Friday at 10 a.m. — Walking Tours of Demonstration Gardens through May. Meet in the Lobby at the Lifelong Learning Center, 8050 Paradise Rd., Las Vegas, Nev.

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

WSU’s Green Times – sheep, wheat, watermelon, mulch, and more – February 2015

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 1:34pm
Grazing among grains yields ecological, economic benefits White Dorper ewes graze alfalfa on Eric and Sheryl Zakarison’s wheat farm on the Palouse. (Photo by Jonathan Wachter, WSU)

You generally don’t find livestock among the hills in the Palouse region of eastern Washington where grain is grown. But wheat farmers Eric and Sheryl Zakarison are changing that – and making a profit.

On 100 of their 1,300 family-owned acres, they are experimenting with a rather unconventional scheme for the region – growing wheat, peas, perennial grasses like alfalfa and sheep in a tightly integrated system.

The Zakarisons’ integrated livestock operation also buffers them against market risks like an oversupply of grain. And in the absence of direct payments that were eliminated with the 2014 Farm Bill, it adds an income stream.“This year the dockworker slowdown brought the (alfalfa) hay export industry to its knees, and hay prices plummeted,” Eric Zakarison said. “It turned out to be a better year for lambs than alfalfa.”

But diversifying their income streams and boosting profitability isn’t their only motivation for converting to an integrated and organic farming system.

Ecosheep

The Zakarisons are collaborating with Jonathan Wachter, a soil science doctoral student at Washington State University, to demonstrate how integrated livestock farming in wheat country can contribute to sustainability goals. These include increasing and retaining soil nutrients, adding biodiversity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing soil erosion.

“They are the ones doing the research on their farm because they want to improve their soil,” Wachter said. “All I’m doing is putting their ideas into practice in a research context to generate the data that backs up some of (their ideas). They’re the real innovators.”Wachter has been working with the Zakarisons since 2012, when they established the five-year research project funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant.

It’s a soil thing Wheat farmers Sheryl, left, and Eric Zakarison with WSU soil science professor John Reganold and graduate student Jonathan Wachter. (Photo courtesy of Jonathan Wachter, WSU)


There’s no question that large-scale, monoculture grain production helps feed the world. But ecologically speaking, it takes a toll. Serious soil, water and air pollution problems can result from soil erosion caused by tilling and from the use of synthetic fertilizers and  pesticides.

“Grain farmers are always looking for ways to improve the soil,” said Eric Zakarison. “One of the best ways to increase biomass and organic matter is to grow perennial grass and legume crops like alfalfa. But then, we have to do something with the crop.”

Nutrient cyclers and weeders

He said it’s difficult to produce high quality hay on the Palouse, and a late summer rain can ruin a perfectly good

crop. But his 65 white Dorper mother ewes can eat lower quality hay and turn it into milk for lambs and meat for local markets while cycling nutrients through the soil system.

He explained that ewes with lambs serve as the delivery mechanism for calcium via their milk. Calcium, he said, is an important nutrient for grain that is expensive and otherwise hard to supply for crops.

Concerning weeds, organic farming often relies on light but frequent tillage; but on the erosion-prone hills of the Palouse, this is risky business. Cover crops – and grazing sheep – help control weeds.

By nibbling weeds very close to the ground, the sheep act as living weeders. They even prefer some weeds, like prickly lettuce, over grass or alfalfa.

A study in diversity

Of the 1 million-plus acres in the Palouse River drainage that are cultivated, only an estimated 500 acres are organic. Although they are starting small, the Zakarisons plan to eventually convert all of their land into an integrated livestock and organic production system.

Wachter’s study compares three different schemes. One treatment follows a conventional rotation of peas, winter wheat and spring wheat with minimum tillage and the use of herbicides and synthetic fertilizers.

In an organic treatment, livestock are allowed to graze after three years of growing pasture, supplying nitrogen for the next planting of grain crops. Finally, a hybrid treatment includes livestock plus fertilizer – and herbicides as needed. Austrian winter peas replace the conventional rotation of spring peas and, instead of harvesting a pea crop, sheep graze the crop to return nutrients to the soil.

Over the past three years, Wachter said, the organic treatment has been most profitable and shows carbon has increased in the soil (rather than as a greenhouse gas escaping into the air). The verdict is still out on the hybrid scheme.

Small, local, nimble

Though diversity provides ecological and economic stability to farming, it also requires a lot of work.
Neighboring wheat farmers don’t understand why the Zakarisons are doing this.

“They think it’s way too much work,” Eric Zakarison said. “You’re out there in blizzards, deep snow drifts, mud – and then lambing is going on when you’re getting ready to plant in spring. It takes that extra work and extra income to make it now.

“But we stay diverse, small and nimble,” he said. “We market locally and we make it.”

Find more information on integrated livestock farming at the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

- Sylvia Kantor

Grafting research could rescue state’s watermelon crop

The watermelon crop has declined dramatically in Washington because of disease. But Washington State University researchers are developing a solution that involves grafting watermelon plants onto squash and other vine plant rootstocks.

Watermelon vine shows Verticillium wilt when the fruits are nearly ready for harvest. (Photos courtesy of Carol Miles, WSU)

Today, there are about 550 acres of watermelon grown in Washington, with a value of approximately $5 million.“We’ve lost about a third of our state’s watermelon production over the last 10 years because of Verticillium wilt,” said Carol Miles, a professor of vegetable horticulture at the WSU Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon. “Growers have switched to other crops that are less susceptible.”

Miles said growers can lose 25-75 percent of their yield to the disease – but this loss does not occur until the very end of the growing season. That’s when the damage from Verticillium appears.

The fungus also affects tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and many other crops and plants.

Watermelon grafting used worldwide

Last fall, Miles received a $138,000 grant from the state agriculture department to look into grafting, a solution that doesn’t require fumigants. She is also working with a national team of researchers on a $3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. Her portion is $171,000 to look at grafting tomato and eggplant.

Grafting involves cutting a young seedling from its roots and attaching it to the roots of a related plant that is disease resistant. The grafted plant produces fruits that are equivalent or better in quality than those of nongrafted plants.

“Grafting is very old technology, going back over 1,500 years in China,” Miles said. “Farmers in Japan have used grafted watermelon since the 1920s. In the Mediterranean region, farmers have been using grafted watermelon, tomato and eggplant for almost 20 years.

A grafted tomato seedling requires binding with a delicate cast for a few days to make sure the graft takes. Carol Miles and her team are grafting watermelon, tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant, which are all susceptible to Verticillium wilt.

Testing rootstocks in the field“We just need to find out what works best for our region and we’ll solve the Verticillium wilt problem,” she said.

Testing rootstocks in the field

Her research involves testing which plants work best together under Washington growing conditions and which rootstocks are most resistant to Verticillium wilt.

The first goal is to increase the survival rate for newly grafted watermelon plants. If only 25 percent survive, the effort is not worth it, Miles said.

The second goal is to find successful plant combinations that are disease resistant and have equivalent fruit yield and quality, compared to nongrafted plants grown in healthy soil. Miles and her team are testing watermelon grafted to pumpkin, squash and bottle gourd because they are all resistant to Verticillium wilt.

This year will be the second of a two-year field study. While these studies actually started about five years ago under a previous grant, Miles and her team are applying new information that they have learned along the way. They will have two full years of testing in commercial fields by the end of the grants.

- Scott Weybright

Fruit quality the focus of new WSU biodegradable mulch research Lisa Wasko DeVetter will research the impacts of biodegradable mulches on fruit quality. (Photo by Kim Binczewski)

Biodegradable mulches provide eco-friendly benefits to the agriculture industry, but the effects on fruit quality of these weed-controlling, moisture-preserving products are largely unknown.

A recently awarded, two-year, $40,000 grant will fund a study about the migration of chemical constituents from deteriorating biodegradable mulches (BDMs) to developing fruits.

“We would like to help growers and mulch manufacturers gain confidence, validated through research, that growing crops with BDMs allows for the production of a delicious and safe product for consumers,” said Lisa Wasko DeVetter, lead scientist on the study.

“Additional questions remain about the application of these products in organic agriculture, which needs critical review,” said DeVetter, who leads the small fruit horticulture program at the WSU Northwestern Research and Extension Center in Mount Vernon.

Evaluation and migration

DeVetter will work with Carol Miles, WSU professor of horticulture in Mount Vernon, and Shyam Sablani, associate professor of biological systems engineering at WSU Pullman. Miles will assist with evaluation of the mulch treatments, while Sablani will measure chemical migration in strawberry fruits, the model crop used in this experiment.

“A master’s student will complete this project as part of his/her thesis research and will be advised by both Doctors Miles and Sablani,” DeVetter said.

History of research on biodegradable mulches

The grant is one of eight for “Emerging Research Issues” awarded by the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. The projects take innovative approaches to resolve significant issues – including social and economic factors – faced by the state’s agricultural industries.

The study builds on a history of research at WSU NWREC on biodegradable mulches in horticultural crop production conducted by Miles and vegetable pathologist Debra Inglis.

A new fact sheet Biodegradable Mulch Film for Organic Production Systems is now available.

- Cathy McKenzie

A little more about bees

Paul Stamets has had a life-long love affair with mushrooms, one that goes well beyond their culinary and psychedelic qualities. Wearing his signature hat — made from mushrooms — a turtle pendant and, always, a blue scarf, the nearly 60 year-old mycologist runs Fungi Perfecti, a family-owned farm and business in Shelton, Washington.> “Early last year, Stamets asked Washington State University entomologist Steve Sheppard to help confirm his hunches about bees and fungi. The two have since joined forces to explore the connections that, as far as they know, no one has ever made before.”

As promised last month, read the full Crosscut.com story about how mushrooms could help save the honeybee.

Resources you may need

New WSU Pub Series: Trends in Washington Organic Crop Production
The first WSU Extension publication in a series on Trends in Washington Organic Crop Production has been released. Trends in Washington State Organic Berry Production, Acreage and Crop Value was published with support from the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Two new must-have publications from the WSDA
Bridging the GAPs Farm Guide is the go-to guide for on-farm food safety. WSDA has produced this publication to help farmers implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP).

An updated, 7th edition of the Handbook for Small and Direct Marketing Farms: Regulations and Strategies for Farm Businesses in Washington State, otherwise known as “the Greenbook” is also now available.

Don’t forget to protect your poultry against avian flu!
Poultry owners: find the latest news and resources for protecting your birds at the WSDA Avian Health Program.

 

Green Times
If you are interested in WSU research and education about organic agriculture and sustainable food systems, check outGreen TimesSubscribe here.

On Solid Ground
On Solid Ground features news and information about ways WSU researchers, students, and alumni support Washington agriculture and natural resources. Subscribe here.

Voice of the Vine
Each issue of Voice of the Vine brings you stories about viticulture and enology and WSU researchers, students, and alumni working in Washington’s world-class wine industry. Subscribe here.

WSU’s On Solid Ground: Nature appeal, Tree fruit website, Apple testing video, Genetic mapping, Forestry major, New farmer grants, Women in Ag Conference

Washington State University Extension News - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 4:56pm

February 2015

 

Nature appeal: Palouse conservation buffers please the eye, protect the landscape Strips of wooded buffers intermingle with wheat fields in Washington’s Palouse landscape. (Photo courtesy www.AlisonMeyerPhotography.com)

Researchers know that adding natural buffers to the farm landscape can stop soil from vanishing.

Now, a scientist at Washington State University has found that more buffers can also please the eye.

Linda Klein, a recent doctoral graduate from WSU’s School of the Environment, worked with six other researchers at the university, plus one at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Moscow Forestry Sciences Laboratory, to explore the role that buffers—strips or clumps of shrubs, trees and natural vegetation—play in the landscape and in people’s visual preferences.

Klein chose four sites along the Palouse Scenic Byway, then used soil erosion modeling to measure how buffers stabilize stream banks, trap pollution and slow erosion. To gauge visual appeal, she used image simulation technology and mailed survey booklets to 1,200 rural and urban residents of Whitman County. Respondents were asked to rate landscape images, starting with a baseline of mostly monoculture grain fields, then gradually altered to show more and more buffers—first on stream banks, then adding hill slope drainages, and finally adding steep slope vegetation.

Klein found people preferred at least two buffers in the landscape. However, she found no statistically significant difference between their preference for landscapes with both stream and hill slope buffers—the second highest amount of natural vegetation—and those with a third type of buffer added to steep slopes. One implication of Klein’s findings is that visually appealing agricultural land may also be ecologically better. “By looking at a landscape and seeing these buffers, you could imply the landscape is healthier,” Klein said. She now plans to go deeper into the data, teasing out connections between demographics and scenic preference.

Read the full article about Klein’s study here.

—Seth Truscott

A tree fruit website that would make Willy Wonka proud Washington State University’s new tree fruit website, launching in March 2015, will be instrumental in communicating information to growers.

“What is that?” I asked, referring to the large, noisy mechanical machine into which the Rainier cherries were being whisked.

“Oh, that’s a camera,” my escort explained. Thousands of pictures were being taken every minute, multiple photos of each small fruit, to assess the qualities of millions of cherries headed to customers that afternoon. The truly “smart” feature of this camera allowed automated routing of each cherry to one of roughly a dozen conveyor belts, each carrying a different size or grade of cherry.

My perception of the tree fruit industry was rocked by my Willy-Wonka-like tour. The endless fields of fruit trees I saw on my way to Stemilt led me to imagine a romantic, old-world industry, but behind closed doors was a sophisticated, ultramodern operation.

Delivering the answers

My trip to Wenatchee, where I toured facilities and talked with growers about industry needs, was part of a discovery mission for a new, comprehensive website to support growing, distributing and consuming “world famous” cherries, apples, pears, and other types of stone fruit in Washington. The CAHNRS Communications web development team is working with WSU Extension leader and globally recognized horticulturist Desmond Layne to construct a new, comprehensive tree fruit website—the “world’s best” tree fruit website, as Dr. Layne characterized it.

What I didn’t know was that the camera that left me speechless was established technology, and there were new technologies, some mechanical and others biological, on the horizon. The Washington State Tree Fruit Commission had pledged $32 million to bolster WSU’s tree fruit research program. In addition to increasing research, part of those funds were to be used for technology transfer, and our tree fruit website was going to be instrumental in communicating information to growers.

With such amazing technologies proliferated throughout the industry, it’s fair to question the significance of a website to that industry. But as we learned, WSU researchers and extension specialists—and even third party websites—had mountains of important data to share with growers, and it was spread across the Internet like the apple orchards throughout central Washington. Furthermore, Dr. Layne had a reputation for making useful and compelling videos for growers and consumers alike, and this new website made for the ideal stage to present his work.

My visit to Stemilt was months ago, and now we are pleased to announce that this March WSU will launch treefruit.wsu.edu, the world’s best, most comprehensive website for tree fruit growers. Not only does the website catalog the thousands of online tree fruit resources and showcase videos by WSU scientists and researchers, it guides both the inexperienced and seasoned grower to produce world-famous fruit. The website features a robust search engine, topic-based articles, and is optimized for use on a mobile phone. In my mind, it still isn’t as cool as the cherry camera, or Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, but it is a great leap forward to supporting an industry that provides delicious and nutritious food for millions of people throughout the world.

—Joshua Paulsen

Video: Fruit testing at the WSU Apple Breeding Program Researchers at WSU’s Fruit Quality Evaluation Laboratory test apples for deliciousness.

In a new video, Dr. Kate Evans and her apple breeding team lead a tour of the Fruit Quality Evaluation Laboratory at the WSU Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center in Wenatchee, Washington.

Watch and learn how researchers test fruit qualities (maturity, firmness, crispness, acidity, soluble solids concentration, juiciness, sweetness, fruitiness) and use genetic markers to screen seedling materials for specific traits.

The apple breeding program is dedicated to creating new, high quality cultivars that have excellent qualities for eating, storing and growing.

Watch the video here.

 

Discovering the STEM in your apple: Genetic mapping helps orchards, environment A map of apple and peach genomes emerges in this illustration by Gerald Steffen, WSU.

Never before has such a vast amount of genetic information been available to tree fruit breeders. Today, Washington State University researchers know enough about the natural diversity within a species’ genetic code to enrich centuries-old tree fruit breeding techniques. Here in the Northwest, this means increasing tree fruit yields while leaving a smaller environmental footprint. For consumers, it means better tasting apples, cherries, peaches and other tree fruit.

At the heart of these improvements is genomics, the study and mapping of genetic material, or DNA. In 2010, WSU scientists unraveled the genetic code of apples and in 2013 the code of pears and cherries, in hopes of one day breeding better fruit. With this genomic wealth, “we can make more efficient decisions about which plant parents to combine to get the traits we’re after,” said WSU apple breeder Kate Evans. It greatly increases the odds that the desired traits will show up in the offspring seedlings, she said.

Read more about the science behind the apples we eat here.

—Sylvia Kantor

WSU re-establishes updated major in forestry WSU School of the Environment file photo

“We already are advising students interested in pursuing this degree,” said Keith Blatner, professor of forest economics and program leader for forestry in the School of the Environment. “We have revamped and refreshed the curriculum to give our students a strong foundation in science with an emphasis on forest ecosystems. Our graduates will be field ready with a strong background in forest measurements and sampling.”Washington State University will offer new, updated major in forestry this fall. The recently established WSU School of the Environment will provide the program to students at the Pullman campus.

The Washington Legislature instructed that the forestry major be re-established as part of WSU’s 2013-2015 biennial budget. The major was phased out in 2011 as part of institutional budget reductions.

Learn more about the program at soe.wsu.edu.

—Kathy Barnard

Federal grants available for new farmer, rancher programs

If you’re thinking about starting an agriculture-based business, talk to a university extension educator, tribal leader or nonprofit director about collaborating on a training program for like-minded entrepreneurs. The group effort could be eligible for up to $750,000 in grant funds over the next three years.

With the average age of U.S. farmers on the rise and an 8 percent projected decrease in the number of farmers and ranchers between 2008 and 2018, the National Institute of Agriculture sees a growing need to encourage and support the next generation of producers.

The Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, part of the Agriculture Act of 2014, will provide $20 million annually through 2018. Applications for 2015 are due by Friday, March 13. Grants are aimed at state, tribal, local, and regional networks of community organizations, higher education institutions, nonprofits and individuals.

To learn more, visit http://1.usa.gov/1DO90KS.

WSU conference brings Women in Agriculture together to network, learn

WSU Extension will offer the fourth annual Women in Agriculture Conference, Saturday, Feb. 21. The one-day gathering, broadcast to 28 locations in four states, helps women farmers learn, network and be inspired.

This year’s theme is “Making Sense of Marketing.” The keynote farmer, Emily Asmus of Welcome Table Farm in Walla Walla, will talk about how to keep a farm’s brand fresh to build customer interest and loyalty. Instructor Erica Mills of Claxon Marketing in Seattle will discuss how to create a marketing action plan.

Learn about the conference at womeninag.wsu.edu. Or, read more here.

On Solid Ground
On Solid Ground features news and information about ways WSU researchers, students, and alumni support Washington agriculture and natural resources. Subscribe here.

Green Times
If you are interested in WSU research and education about organic agriculture and sustainable food systems, check out Green Times. Subscribe here.

Voice of the Vine
Each issue of Voice of the Vine brings you stories about viticulture and enology and WSU researchers, students, and alumni working in Washington’s world-class wine industry. Subscribe here.

 

Cooperative Extension offers &#8217;Gardening Smarter as We Mature&#8217;

Raised beds, such as these, make gardening easier. The "Gardening Smarter as We Mature" series offered by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension this spring teaches how to garden more easily as the body ages.

Three free classes offered this spring in 11 Nevada locations

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is offering a series of three free classes at 11 locations statewide for maturing gardeners. The "Gardening Smarter as We Mature" series teaches how to garden more easily as the body changes and ages.

"Traditionally, about 65 percent of the American population participates in some form of gardening," said Cooperative Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly, who helped research the need for the classes and organized the series. "But this population is aging, and as they age, gardening becomes more difficult. These classes will show aging gardeners easier ways to continue doing what they love."

The classes are taught by Health, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology Specialist Anne Lindsay and Social Horticulture Specialist Angela O’Callaghan. They will focus on the biomechanics of the body, covering gross and fine motor skills, core strengthening, cardiovascular health, strength and endurance. Participants will learn practical gardening applications, such as simplifying gardening life, prioritizing tasks, using lower-maintenance plants and gardening in raised beds.

Classes run from 10 a.m. to noon, March 11, April 8 and May 14. Topics include:

  • March 11: Understanding the biomechanics of the body’s changes as we mature; improving cardiovascular health, strength and endurance
  • April 8: Using the maturing body properly, techniques and tools
  • May 14: Simplifying gardening life

Classes will be held at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Lifelong Learning Center in Las Vegas, 8050 Paradise Road, Suite A, 702-222-3130, and will be available via interactive video at the following locations:

  • Lincoln County Cooperative Extension, 360 Lincoln St., Caliente, 775-726-3109
  • Carson City Cooperative Extension, 2621 Northgate Lane, Room 12, 775-887-2252
  • Great Basin College, 1500 College Parkway, Griswold Hall, #31, Elko, 775-738-7291
  • White Pine County Cooperative Extension, 950 Campton St., Ely, 775-293-6599
  • Churchill County Cooperative Extension, 111 Scheckler Road, Fallon, 775-423-5121
  • Douglas County Cooperative Extension, 1325 Waterloo Lane, Gardnerville, 775-782-9960
  • East Clark County Cooperative Extension, 1897 N. Moapa Valley Blvd., Logandale, 702-397-2604
  • Pershing County Cooperative Extension, 810 Sixth St., Lovelock, 775-273-2923
  • Humboldt County Cooperative Extension, 1085 Fairgrounds Road, Winnemucca, 775-623-6304
  • Lyon County Cooperative Extension, 504 S. Main St., Yerington, 775-463-6541

Registration is required. If you have questions, contact Skelly, at 775-887-2252. To register, contact the location above where you plan to attend. Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance should call at least three days prior to the scheduled event.