Extension News from the West

Rose Society begins fall meetings

How to prepare your garden for fall blooms

Pink Rose from our Demonstration Rose Garden

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the South Valley Rose Society are collaborating and offering educational meetings throughout the fall. On Thursday, Sept. 22 find out how to prepare your rose garden for fall blooms at this free, open to the public, workshop.

As temperatures start to cool, it’s time to adjust our rose care schedules and for fall. Review important fertilization, irrigation and pruning techniques to ensure this year’s final rose "flush" in late Oct. will be the best one yet.

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.

Upcoming Rose Society meetings are Thursday, Oct. 27: Planting bare root roses; Nov. 17: Container planting; and Dec. 15: topic to be determined.

MSU Extension in Gallatin County to offer food preservation seminars

Montana State University Extension News - Wed, 08/10/2016 - 12:00am
<p>BOZEMAN Montana State University <a href="http://www.msuextension.org/">Extension</a>in Gallatin County is offering a series of canning and food preservation workshops for...

MSU Extension releases new MontGuide factsheets on forage analysis

Montana State University Extension News - Wed, 08/10/2016 - 12:00am
<p>BOZEMAN Montana State University <a href="http://www.msuextension.org/">Extension</a>specialists have released two new <a href="http://store.msuextension.org/">MontGuide</a>factsheets on forage analysis.</p> <p>A new four-page MontGuide, <a href="http://store.msuextension.org/Products/Forage-Analysis-Interpretation__MT201609AG.aspx">Forage...


Okay, we’re hip deep in the summer heat and your lawn might be looking a little worse for wear. So what are you going to do about it? Well, that’s what I’ll be talking about this month but first I’ll discuss grasses in general.

There are three grasses that are usually used in hot climates: fescue, Bermuda and ryegrass. The odds are that you have either fescue or Bermuda because they are the most popular.

Bermuda grass is considered a warm season grass and you’ll know that you have it when your lawn turns brown in the winter. Bermuda grass is spread by rhizomes (root-like structures that run horizontally underground) so it can fill in damaged areas without reseeding. Unfortunately, those rhizomes also make Bermuda grass a bit troubling. Bermuda grass, because it can spread unseen, usually infests areas where you don’t want it to be and it’s virtually impossible to control.

Fescue, a higher water-use grass, is considered a cool season grass. It can suffer a little in our heat and thin out over time but it can remain green year round. It is a clumping grass so it will not spread to fill in damaged spots but it won’t spread uncontrollably either—any damage can be fixed by a light reseeding every 2-3 years.

Ryegrass is usually used in combination with Bermuda grass. Ryegrass will stay green in winter and go dormant just as the Bermuda grass starts to turn green in the spring.

Now here are a few easy steps to keeping your lawn looking great.

First, mow properly. Fescue should be mowed to a height of 2 ½ - 3 ½ inches while Bermuda will fare better if you cut it a little shorter — about 1- 1½ inches.

Next, water properly. Water your lawn between 4 and 7 a.m. This will prevent excess evaporation and also deter the wet conditions that can lead to fungal growth. Make sure that the sprinklers are all working properly and cover all parts of your lawn equally—excess runoff waters the sidewalk, not your lawn.

And finally, set your sprinklers to go on at intervals. Three to 4 minutes a day is a good place to start and split the time into two parts. So if you’re watering for 4 minutes a day, have your sprinklers go on for 2 minutes, then wait an hour and have them go on for another 2 minutes. This allows the water to soak into the ground. Your soil should be saturated to a depth of about 6 inches. If your lawn is growing quickly but begins to turn yellow, you’re probably overwatering. If it has a grey or brown appearance, you’re probably under watering.

So that’s it for now. I’ll discuss other things that can plague your lawn in another article.

Have other gardening questions? You can call the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Help Desk at 702-257-5555, Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The service is free.

Pat Warren is a certified Cooperative Extension Master Gardener. She started her training because of the frustration she felt trying to get something, anything, to grow in Nevada.

Cooperative Extension Receives 2016 Green Award

Demonstration and Test Gardens exemplify innovation

Demonstration Garden photo collage

For the past nine years, the Las Vegas Business Press has awarded local businesses for their best efforts in achieving eco-friendly sustainability. They are called the Green Awards and among the winners—University of Nevada Cooperative Extension for Innovation of the Year for the Demonstration and Test Gardens.

This award is open to businesses, nonprofits or public agencies for a project that demonstrates genuine innovation in the pursuit of improved environmental performance. According to social horticultural specialist and associate professor Angela O’Callaghan, Cooperative Extension’s Demonstration and Test Gardens exemplifies exactly that.

“There’s no place like it. There really isn’t. There are botanical gardens in many places. There are educational facilities all over but this is different because it’s got such diversity in a very small area,” said O’Callaghan.

The Demonstration and Test Gardens may only span for 3 acres behind the Clark County Lifelong Learning Center in Henderson but it is home to over 1,000 species of native and desert-appropriate plants. Specialty areas include the Rose, Herb, Children’s, Cactus, Vegetable and Palm gardens.

Each innovative and sustainable area has placards noting the Latin and common names of all of the plants so visitors can identify them even without the assistance of one of 250 Master Gardener volunteers. However for O’Callaghan, it is the volunteers who inspire innovation in the gardens.

“We have projects that have been developed and worked on by volunteers. For instance, we have 25 different types of milkweeds,” explained O’Callaghan. “That was one master gardener who said, ‘you know, wouldn’t that be interesting.’”

Perhaps one of the most remarkable features to note in the garden is its native wash.

“We knew from the time we moved in that there is a natural wash running through the back. So [Cooperative Extension’s] professor M.L. Robinson worked to make sure that was cleared out and now that’s our water catchment. There are things growing in there and the only irrigation that those plants in that wash get is from the sky,” she said.

So what’s the secret to maintaining a garden full of innovation?

“There’s a master gardener program in every state,” explained O’Callaghan “each with its own different requirement. Here, everyone has to commit at least 50 hours each year in one of many volunteer projects. Our average number is 125 hours a year. People are wildly committed here.”

“We couldn’t do it without the hundreds of volunteers who are highly trained,” she added.

As for future projects, O’Callaghan mentions one she has her eyes set on.

“I’d really like to take a patch here and develop an American Native demonstration garden.” She added “This is an educational facility. We want to make sure that everybody knows that we are here to teach, to show and to demonstrate.”

In the meantime, visitors can walk around the track and take a stroll in the award-winning Demonstration Gardens to learn about what works and what doesn’t in our particular desert climate. In the Gardens visitors will find:

  1. Orchard—Houses several varieties of stone fruit and apple and pear trees to demonstrate which types are more drought and heat tolerant
  2. Compost—Showcases the many types of compost containers that are in use for recycling of plant waste
  3. Mulch—Visitors can learn about the different uses for ground covers such as stone, bark and rocks
  4. Native Wash—Perhaps one of the most innovative areas in the gardens is a natural water catchment. Plant materials can thrive in the wash even without supplemental irrigation
  5. Children’s garden—Elementary school children learn about the sources for their food, flowers and clothing
  6. Roses—Home to a variety of beautiful roses that are able to survive the challenging desert climate
  7. Cactus garden —Visitors can stroll through the cactus garden to view several varieties of cacti
  8. Milkweeds—Plantings of 26 species of milkweed to support the Monarch butterfly are located throughout the garden
  9. Herbs—View the “farm” or the formal herb gardens (located in the Courtyard)

The Gardens are located at 8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev. and are open to the public for self-guided tours Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. Master Gardener’s also lead weekly tours for the public. For more information email or call the Master Gardener Help Desk at 702-257-5555.

Explore Spokane’s urban forest at breakfast talk, tour

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 08/05/2016 - 3:23pm
See how the urban forest helps cities stay healthy and livable at an upcoming breakfast and walk (WSU photo).

Learn about the benefits that Spokane’s urban forest provides in a breakfast discussion and walking tour, “Wood, Water, Wildlife and Waffles,” hosted by Washington State University Extension Forestry.

The event is 8 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 16, at the Scoop, 1001 W 25th Ave. in Spokane, Wash.

“Research has shown that trees help us be healthier, safer and more productive. Yet many take urban forests for granted,” said Steve McConnell, regional forestry specialist with WSU Extension. “Join us for breakfast, and you will learn how to support the urban forest that supports and sustains all of us.”

Presenters include City of Spokane Urban Forester Angel Spell, Urban Horticulture Coordinator Tim Kohlhauff, and Spokane Audubon Society member Gary Blevins.

Spell will discuss Spokane’s urban tree program, emphasizing how trees provide valuable ecosystem services, storing stormwater and cleaning the air. Blevins will speak on the importance of urban forests in wildlife habitat.

A walking tour follows, exploring dozens of different tree species, and the habitat, benefits and potential concerns they bring to the city.

“The urban forest is our ‘green infrastructure,’ adding to our quality of life and helping us feel at home in the midst of city life,” said McConnell. “It’s there for us because of the care we give to sustain it.”

Cost for breakfast is $20. Learn more and register online here. Or, contact McConnell at (509) 477-2175 or by email at steven.mcconnell@wsu.edu.

The Scoop is located at 1001 W. 25th Avenue, Spokane, Wash.

Agricontrol: a global look at ag robots, automation

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 08/05/2016 - 1:53pm
WSU Assistant Professor Manoj Karkee, above working with an apple-picking robot, is organizing the 2016 Agricontrol conference.

From robots that pick apples to drones that scout pests over cherry orchards, technology is changing agriculture. Advances like these, and many more, will be shared at an upcoming international conference organized by Washington State University scientists.

Agricontrol 2016, the fifth biannual International Federation of Automatic Control Conference on Sensing, Control and Automation for Agriculture, is August 14 to 17 at the DoubleTree Hotel at SeaTac, Wash.

The conference brings together more than 130 agricultural engineers, computer scientists, growers and students from 25 countries to discuss the future of precision and automated agriculture. Events include a reception, agricultural tours, and presentations of more than 90 technical papers.

“Agricontrol gives us a way to learn from each other,” said Manoj Karkee, associate professor in the WSU Department of Biological Systems Engineering, who is organizing the 2016 conference with fellow WSU researchers.

“It provides a really multidisciplinary environment, where we can look at past achievements, current discoveries, and what we can do for the future,” Karkee said. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Researchers and growers see the full spectrum of research and development happening around the world. It shows us a wider horizon of possibilities.”

Automated agriculture has come a long way in recent years, said Karkee.

“In the past, it wasn’t possible due to limited computational power,” he said. “Machines weren’t fast enough. Now, a lot of the component technologies have come together.”

Automation and robotics will help solve farming challenges in labor, worker safety, efficiency and productivity.

WSU professor Lav Khot prepares to fly an 8-bladed octo-copter UAV. UAVs are among discoveries to be discussed at Agricontrol.

With unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, for example, farmers could safely and frequently scout their crops for disease or damage. UAVs can hover closer to crops than manned aircraft, cover more ground than farmers on foot, and zero in on potential trouble spots.

“We can quickly see the difference between a healthy crop, and a crop with problems,” said Karkee. “Instead of going over hundreds of thousands of plants, we can do more specific tests in smaller areas.”

Technology like Karkee’s WSU-pioneered apple-picking robot, or his colleague Lav Khot’s agricultural drones, could become commercially affordable and widespread in less than a decade, says Karkee. He sees the potential for world-changing impact.

“If we can produce fruits and vegetables more sustainably and cost-effectively, we can continue to provide high quality produce to many people at a reasonable cost,” Karkee said. “As a researcher, it feels good to make that kind of impact on the industry and public.”

To register or learn more about Agricontrol 2016, visit http://ifac.cahnrs.wsu.edu/.

Contact: Manoj Karkee, Associate Professor, Biological Systems Engineering, 509-786-9208, manoj.karkee@wsu.edu

Society honors Animal Sciences teacher John McNamara

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 08/03/2016 - 10:49am
John McNamara, recipient of the American Society of Animal Science Fellow Award for teaching.

John McNamara, emeritus professor of Animal Sciences at Washington State University, received national recognition for his more than 30 years of training future animal scientists last month.

McNamara earned the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) Fellow Award, in the teaching category, at its annual meeting July 21 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“It’s a very nice recognition after a 43-year career,” said McNamara, who has worked at WSU since 1983 and retired this year.

McNamara is one of a small group of scientists who has been awarded fellow status by both the American Dairy Sciences Association and the ASAS.

While officially retired, he continues to train teachers in agriculture, pets and the food supply, and is a board member of the Washington Science Teachers Association. He also continues to publish articles on dairy biology, and works on ‘electronic cows’—mathematical dairy cattle models.

As a teacher, McNamara says he aims to inspire students to obtain basic technical knowledge and become scientifically literate learners. He also helps students learn to balance facts, emotions, and the political, social and economic issues surrounding people and animals.

McNamara thanks his early mentors at the University of Illinois, faculty members Dale Bauman, Carl Davis and Jimmy Clark.

“Not only did they teach me to be a scientist, but also a faculty member,” he said.

During the 1980s, Emeritus Professor Jim Carlson, a former department chair and associate dean, encouraged and helped McNamara and other young professors to do their best for society and industry.

Another mentor, WSU Emeritus Professor Joe Hillers, “taught me to take students as they were and help them achieve their potential,” McNamara said.

Jane Parker, a nationally recognized advising professional who retired in 2012 following 36 years at WSU,  helped him become a caring and effective student advisor. Last spring, McNamara was the inaugural recipient of the Jane Parker Award for Service to the WSU Advising Community, presented by the WSU Academic Advising Association.

McNamara was also one of the first recipients of excellence in research and advising awards from the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences and an early member of the WSU Teaching Academy.

Using native and desert adapted plants in the landscape

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offers workshop Sept. 10

Lantana’s bloom at Cooperative Extension’s Demonstration Gardens

Join University of Nevada Cooperative Extension on Saturday, Sept. 10 for a workshop on Gardening in Small Places: using native and desert adapted plants in the landscape from 8 a.m. to noon.

How about using plants that will do well in our soil, will do well with our weather and do well with our water? You can have a lush landscape while saving, energy, water and money! I’m talking about native and desert adapted plants, of course. When you think of native desert plants, do only cacti come to mind? Well, there are so many more native and desert adapted plants that will do well in your yard, giving your landscape color and interest.

If you are interested in finding out how you can have a lush landscape using these plants, please come join ML Robinson, environmental horticulturist, and discover how to use these wonderful plants in your landscape. Homeowners and other interested parties are welcome to attend.

Class space is limited and pre-registration is required. To register for the workshop held at the Lifelong Learning Center (8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev., I-215 and Windmill Lane), email Elaine Fagin or call 702-257-5573. Register online through Eventbrite.com.

The next Gardening in Small Places workshop dates are Oct. 22, Roses (new class); and Nov. 19, Growing fruit at home.

Have a safe picnic: Extension food safety expert shares tips

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 07/29/2016 - 10:39am

As an avid camper, Stephanie Smith, WSU Extension food safety specialist, knows a thing or two about keeping food safe at a picnic.

“Any food is safe, as long as it’s handled properly,” says Smith, who educates Washington residents on safely preparing foods. “The most important thing: Keep it hot or keep it cold.”

When dining outdoors, she follows the two-hour rule: Perishables such as salads containing dairy or eggs, or meat can be in the danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for no more than two hours. Longer than that, and bacteria can grow, risking foodborne illness.

“If it’s been out for two hours, it needs to be tossed,” said Smith.

Stephanie Smith

Cook food fully

“I go camping a lot—that’s the ultimate picnic,” said Smith, who makes sure her picnic foods are safe by packing smart, keeping raw foods separate from ready-to-eat items, and then cooking fully.

“When I’m camping, I like to keep it as simple as possible,” Smith said. “If I’m going on a day trip and eating outside, I prepare everything at home, package it, and store it in a cooler with an ice pack. That way, there is no prep work going on outside, where it’s hard to keep clean.”

For one of her favorite camping foods, fajitas, “I cut the bell pepper and onion, then slice the meat, and put them in separate bags,” Smith said. “The meat goes in a different cooler than the veggies. I’ll bring two coolers, one for raw ingredients, one for food that’s ready to eat.

Avoid partial cooking

It’s best to avoid partially cooking or precooking foods ahead of time.

“If you partially cook a burger or a piece of chicken, you haven’t killed every germ that might be in that meat,” Smith said. “Even if it’s in a cooler, even if it’s cold, germs are still there, and you can cross-contaminate other foods. If you’re going to bring something like that, fully cook it ahead of time, or cook it at your destination.”

“If I’m doing burgers, I buy frozen, pre-made patties and put them in their own cooler with plenty of ice,” Smith said.

She advises checking ice bags to make sure there aren’t any air pockets that will prevent food from getting cold.

“In your cooler, keep raw meats away from anything you’re going to eat as-is,” Smith said. “Make sure you’re not touching raw meat and then something else, like chips or bread, without doing a thorough cleaning in between.”

Cleanliness counts

“If you’re outdoors, hiking, playing, or doing other activities, your hands might be covered with germs, which could get into your food,” she said. “Scrub your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before handling food.

“If you can’t do that, your next best option is hand sanitizer and wipes. The alcohol in the sanitizer will kill bacteria, and wipes are good for physically removing it.”

Learn more about ways to keep your food safe with resources and training from the WSU Extension Food Safety program.





Scientist develops gene therapy for muscle wasting

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 07/27/2016 - 4:34pm
Dan Rodgers, professor at Washington State University, has helped to create a new gene therapy that could help end muscle wasting disease.

A discovery by Washington State University scientist Dan Rodgers and collaborator Paul Gregorevic could save millions of people suffering from muscle wasting disease.

The result of the team’s four-year project is a novel gene therapeutic approach. The work was published (http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/8/348/348ra98) July 20 in Science Translational Medicine, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Chronic disease affects more than half of the world’s population,” said Rodgers, professor of animal sciences (https://ansci.wsu.edu/people/faculty/dan-rodgers/) and director of the Washington Center for Muscle Biology (http://wcmb.wsu.edu/). “Most of those diseases are accompanied by muscle wasting.

“It occurs with chronic infection, muscular dystrophy, malnutrition and old age,” he said. “About half the people who die from cancer are actually dying from muscle wasting and there’s not one single therapy out there that addresses it.

Family history inspires search for treatment

“I have a strong motivation to do something about this, to do more than simply publish results,” said Rodgers, who teamed with Gregorevic of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia (https://www.bakeridi.edu.au/). “My father died from cachexia,” the wasting disease caused by cancer, “and my nephew has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, an incurable, fatal disease that could claim his life in his teens.

“Others have tried and failed to develop treatments for muscle wasting,” Rodgers said, “and some drugs have even caused serious safety problems. Our targeted approach only affects muscle and completely avoids these problems, which is why we think we have a solution.”

In the paper, lead author Catherine Winbanks, a postdoctoral fellow of Gregorevic, details how researchers built muscle in healthy mice and prevented the loss of skeletal and heart muscle in mice with tumors.

Hormone’s muscle-wasting effect blocked

In cachexia, tumors secrete hormones that cause muscle deterioration; in effect, the body eats its own muscles, causing weakness, frailty and fatigue.

“What kills a lot of people isn’t the loss of skeletal muscle but heart muscle,” said Rodgers. “The heart literally shrinks, causing heart failure.”

Researchers have long sought to stop this process, but failed to find a safe way. That’s because the hormones that cause wasting – in particular, a naturally occurring hormone called myostatin – play important roles elsewhere in the body.

Paul Gregorevic, a scientist at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia, collaborated on the new therapy.

Rodgers and Gregorevic needed a way to stop myostatin, but only in muscles. Their solution: an adeno-associated virus – a benign virus that specifically targets heart and skeletal muscle.

The virus delivers a small piece of DNA – a signaling protein called Smad7 – into muscle cells. Smad7 then blocks two signaling proteins called Smad2 and Smad3, which are activated by myostatin and other muscle-wasting hormones. By blocking those signals, Smad7 stops the breakdown of muscles.

“Smad7 is the body’s natural break and, by inhibiting the inhibitor, you build muscle,” Rodgers said.

For cachexia patients, such a therapy could massively increase their chances of survival.

“Instead of having one year to fight cancer, you’d have 10 or 15,” Rodgers said.

Startup works to develop commercial drug

In 2015, Rodgers launched AAVogen, a company that will develop this discovery into a commercial drug, AVGN7.

He has been working with Norman Ong, a technology licensing associate at WSU’s Office of Commercialization, on patents, startup funding and recruitment for AAVogen. Using the funds from WSU’s commercial gap fund award, Rodgers’ lab will determine the minimum effective dose for AVGN7.

“We want to turn WSU discoveries into real-world uses that benefit the public,” said Ong. “Dan is a very busy scientist, so we’re proud to help him and AAVogen connect with the right people.”

“I formed this company for one purpose: to move the science into society, to see it applied,” Rodgers said. “WSU’s Office of Commercialization has been instrumental and invaluable to this endeavor.

“Now we have a company with the potential to save a lot of lives,” he said.

How long are grizzly bear claws?

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 2:13pm

Long enough to be all-purpose tools!

Claws: like Swiss Army knives for grizzlies.

Grizzly bears’ long claws are as useful as Swiss Army knives – enabling them to swipe salmon from rivers, dig through ground for rodents, rip apart old tree stumps for insects and scoop out hard terrain to construct large dens.

Not only that, but Washington State University researchers occasionally observe grizzlies at the Bear Research, Education and Conservation Center using a single claw like a key to try to open locks.

These adaptable appendages can grow up to four inches long and are fairly straight, which helps grizzly bears with all the digging and uprooting they do. Conversely, lions’ claws are curved, which helps them capture and hold on to prey. Also, while lion claws mostly retract when not in use, grizzly claws are always extended. If you’ve ever seen grizzly bear tracks, you probably know this by the imprints left by the claws.

Like humans, grizzlies walk by placing their entire sole and heel on the ground, a stance known as plantigrade.

Because black bears walk the same way, how to tell their tracks from those left by grizzly bears? Generally speaking, black bears have shorter claws. Also, their five toe pads are slightly separated from each other, compared to the toes of a grizzly which are close together

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Hang Liu

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 9:58am

We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series.

Hang Liu

Today we’re showcasing Hang Liu, assistant professor in Apparel, Merchandising, Design & Textiles. Here are her answers to a few questions:

How did you pick this as a career?

It just came naturally for me to pick being a professor as my career. My friends always say that it would be a surprise if I did not become a professor. I love doing research to satisfy my curiosity and teaching to pass my knowledge along to students.

What is your favorite thing about teaching college students?

I teach textiles, a subject that most students (or most people) tie it to clothing only. My favorite thing about teaching is to open my students’ eyes/mind up and wow them with how broad and how important the role of textiles play in the world.  

Why do you love what you do?

For teaching, it is very rewarding when students tell me how interesting my class is and how much they’ve learned from me.

If you could provide any tips or advice for your students, or WSU students in general, what would they be?

In college students receive a vast amount of information of the field of their study and the world is changing rapidly. So being open minded and being receptive is very important. Do not frame yourself in what you think you like and what you think you will be.

Any other words of wisdom you’d like to pass along?

Study hard, work hard, and play hard! (Remember study hard is in first place.)

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: John Reganold

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 9:41am

We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series.

Today we’re showcasing John Reganold, regents professor of soil science & agroecology in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Here are his answers to a few questions:

John Reganold

How did you pick this as a career?

I was interested in agriculture and the environment and learned at the University of California at Berkeley when I was getting my Bachelors degree that soil science was critical for food production and at the crest of the environmental wave. So I decided to apply to graduate school and got my M.S. in soil science at Cal followed later by a Ph.D. at UC Davis in soil science. Before coming to WSU in 1983, I worked for the Natural Resource Conservation Service mapping soils, and then as a reclamation engineer for Utah International Inc., a global mining company. I knew I wanted to teach and do research at the college level and was so fortunate to land my position at Washington State University.

What is your favorite thing about teaching college students?

I love the exchange of ideas with my students in classes. I like being challenged with questions that make me think and give the whole class important information about a topic. Often these exchanges are times when students and I both learn.

Why do you love what you do?

I think that I’m so fortunate to be able to come up with topics and ideas that I think are important to teach in my courses and to motivate student learning.

If you could provide any tips or advice for your students, or WSU students in general, what would they be?

I think the distraction possibilities for students today are many. My advice is for students to have set periods of time when they limit or avoid distractions and focus on studying the material for a particular class. This takes great concentration and a strong work ethic.

Any other words of wisdom you’d like to pass along?

Students should not be shy in going to a teacher’s office hours to talk about specific topics in the course, or simply to find out how they are doing in the course.

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Amit Dhingra

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 9:22am

We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series.

Today we’re showcasing Amit Dhingra, associate professor in the Department of Horticulture. Here are his answers to a few questions:

How did you pick this as a career?

Amit Dhingra

Both of my parents were medical doctors in India and I was supposed to become one too. In defiance of the laws of social inheritance, I fell in love with plants in the 8th grade when I first learned about photosynthesis – the reason life exists on this planet. This was the ’80s, when there were food shortages in India and in several other countries. Rather than solving health issues, solving the food shortage seemed to be a bigger challenge. I am grateful for all the right opportunities that came along that led to a research and teaching career at WSU, a land grant university. I get to pursue my passion with my lab group members and address the issue of food shortage, which is now an even bigger challenge as we aim to support a burgeoning population. I particularly treasure the opportunity to work with undergraduate students in the lab and share the latest developments in the field of plant physiology, genomics and biotechnology with a new group of undergraduate and graduate students every year in the class room in two of the classes that I get to teach.

What is your favorite thing about teaching college students?

College students are the immediate future of our nation and each one of them has the potential to solve global problems we face today. I like to share with them the various issues faced by our discipline and how the knowledge they are learning can empower them to excel at their future jobs or advance the scientific field or counter the scientific ignorance rampant today.  

Why do you love what you do?

My personal passion is ‘service unto others’ and research, teaching and outreach are a conduit of contributing meaningfully to the society. The concept of service aligns very well with the Land Grant mission. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to be a part of these activities. Each day I get to follow my passion and the love part happens naturally. 

If you could provide any tips or advice for your students, or WSU students in general, what would they be?

You are the immediate future and the world is getting more complex. Focus on excellence in everything and anything you do and success will follow sooner or later. 

Any other words of wisdom you’d like to pass along?

A college education is way more than just grades.  Think big, have fun and always remain a student.

“Once you stop learning, you start dying” ~ Albert Einstein

Liquid nitrogen freezing is key to bee conservation

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 1:42pm

Going through customs can be frustrating for many travelers. Imagine going through with a container filled with frozen bee sperm collected from Kazakhstan or Slovenia.

“It’s certainly a challenge,” said Brandon Hopkins, Washington State University entomology research associate and lab manager of the WSU Apiary Program. “Most customs agents aren’t used to seeing that, so it takes a lot of explaining.”

WSU researcher Brandon Hopkins lifts frozen honey bee germplasm out of the tank of liquid nitrogen, where the material is stored.

It’s complicated by the fact that WSU has the only permit issued by the USDA to import honey bee semen into the U.S.

Honey bees are not native to North or South America, and importing into the U.S. has been tightly restricted since the 1920s. As a result, current U.S. honey bees have limited genetic diversity.

“We’re importing germplasm from Old World populations around Europe to increase genetic diversity here,” Hopkins said. “The goal is to improve commercial breeding for bees, so they can better fight off diseases and parasites.”

Hopkins and other WSU entomologists have collected genetic material in Italy, Slovenia, the Republic of Georgia and Kazakhstan since they received a USDA permit to import honey bee semen in 2008.

Freezing bee semen

WSU scientists still transport fresh germplasm, but its shelf life is only about two weeks. Hopkins developed a method for freezing the material as part of his master’s degree at Eastern Washington University, and he refined it further when he came to WSU to earn his Ph.D.

“Cryogenic freezing has been used to preserve germplasm from animals like cattle for decades,” Hopkins said. “I adapted it for honey bees. Right now we are the only repository for bee germplasm in the world.”

The importation process starts with a trip to collect material overseas. Once they arrive in a country, they work with local beekeepers or government agencies equivalent to the USDA to visit a variety of hives.

They collect mature male bees, called drones, and then extract semen. Each male produces about one microliter. For comparison, a single drop of water is approximately 100 microliters.

Hopkins talks about the cryogenic freezing program in the current WSU honey bee lab.

“We try to collect hundreds of microliters of sperm every day we’re there, so those are long days,” Hopkins said.

The collected semen is frozen in the origin country because freezing fresh material yields the best results. A special substance is added to the collected semen to avoid damaging the cells during freezing. Once back at WSU, the samples are stored at -196°C (-320°F) in a tank of liquid nitrogen.

Theoretically, it can stay viable at that temperature for 10,000 years or more, Hopkins said. It can then be thawed out and used to breed honey bees here.

Ensuring genetic improvement

Unfortunately, the breeding process is not as simple as inseminating one queen and then providing the second generation of bees to breeders. Second generation queens contain only 50 percent of the imported European DNA.

If those queens are released, the imported genes would quickly become diluted as they breed with U.S. bees. To prevent genetic dilution, Hopkins and WSU researchers inseminate second generation queens with imported material as well, ensuring that third generation bees have 75 percent imported DNA. Then that generation of bees is inseminated as well. The iterative process results in dozens of queens with more than 85 percent imported genetic material.

These multiple rounds of insemination are where the frozen semen is most helpful.

“Without frozen semen, this process would require trips back to Europe every year, or multiple times per year,” Hopkins said. “With frozen semen, we simply thaw the semen to use for each generation.”

The collected semen is submerged in liquid nitrogen in a small tank first, before being placed in the larger tank for long-term storage.

The genetically diverse bees can then be provided to U.S. bee breeders to breed future generations that are adapted for certain geographic regions.

“We want to improve the genetic background of honey bees so they can fight off diseases and be more likely to survive in their climates,” Hopkins said. “Everything we do in this effort is to ensure bees survive to pollinate our food sources forever.”

Honey bee conservation

Beyond increasing disease resistance, the cryogenic program also has a conservation component. A few countries and regions are interested in preserving the genetic material of their distinct bee varieties.

“You can’t put a fence around bees,” Hopkins said. “So in Italy and France and other locations, they’re trying to conserve their unique sub-species. Freezing semen conserves those specific genetic lines or entire sub-species inexpensively  for a long time.”

Hopkins said the WSU bee program has worked with researchers from around the world to create more honey bee genetic repositories, like the one at WSU. With a potential new Honey Bee & Pollinator Research Facility at WSU, he thinks they’ll be able to do even more research to diversify the gene pool for U.S. honey bees.

“We’re still really early in studying this,” Hopkins said. “But we’re learning more every day, and that center will be a huge boost to our program and the body of knowledge about saving the honey bees here.”

To learn more and to donate to the WSU bee program, visit http://bees.wsu.edu/.

Are you flippin&#8217; out for gardening?

Attend a Junior Master Gardener Open House and enter to win FLIPnOUT passes

Junior Master Gardeners preparing the garden for planting!

Searching for fun, educational outdoor gardening activities for your children this fall? Visit one of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Junior Master Gardener™ program’s Open Houses and enter to win one of two family 4-packs to FLIPnOUT. If you register your child for the gardening series at the Open House, score a second entry!

At each open house, you will view projects and collect programmatic information on the upcoming fall sessions which begin in September. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., speak with Junior Master Gardener Ambassadors and experience a make-and-take project and free tours of the children’s demonstration gardens. The Junior Master Gardener program offers your child leadership skills, safety with tools, community service and more!

The first Open House will be held in the north part of the valley on August 20 at the Research Center and Demonstration Orchard’s Children’s Garden located at 4600 Horse Road, North Las Vegas, Nev.

The second Open House will be held in the south part of the valley on August 27 at the Lifelong Learning Center located at 8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev. Snacks and drinks will be offered at both locations.

Registration for the fall sessions will be available at the Open Houses. The Junior Master Gardener program is open to all children ages 7-12. The 8-session per semester class fee is $20. Classes are held twice monthly on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For more information, email or call Karyn Johnson at 702-257-5523. Visit the nation-wide JMG Program for more information.

Grizzly bears use tools?

Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 3:28pm

Study demonstrates remarkable bear smarts

Grizzly bears may not carry a hammer or a screwdriver but that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to use tools. A study done by researchers at WSU’s Bear Research, Education and Conservation Center has revealed a clever brain behind all that burliness.

While the center’s scientists often see evidence of bears manipulating objects to get what they want— including using a single claw in a key-like manner to try to open locks— this is the first formal study of grizzly bears’ ability to use tools.

Researchers placed a sawed-off tree stump below a glazed donut hanging from a wire to see if the grizzlies would stand on the stump to reach the treat. (Donuts are not part of the bears’ regular diet so are considered a true indulgence.)  Then researchers rolled the stump away and things got really challenging.  Each bear had to move the stump back underneath the dangling donut, flip over the stump, climb onto it and reach for the pastry.

Though six out of eight bears accomplished this feat, a 9-year-old female named Kio became the star of the show by sailing through each of the phases faster than the other bears.

This sort of primitive tool use demonstrates that grizzlies possess creative problem-solving and cognitive-thinking skills, WSU’s researchers concluded. A better understanding of how grizzlies think can help reduce encounters that could turn deadly for bears and humans alike.


Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 07/21/2016 - 8:56am

By Dennis Farrell, Student Writer

Washington State University Viticulture & Enology representatives showcased their research and won several awards at the 2016 American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) National Conference last month in Monterey, Calif.

Professor of Horticulture Michelle Moyer (left) and graduate student Katherine East (right) pose next to East’s poster presentation at the ASEV National Conference in Monterey, Calif.

WSU graduate student Eric Gale won Best Student Viticulture presentation for his talk on the “Cold Hardiness of Vitis Vinifera Roots” and Zachary M. Cartwright won Best Student Enology Poster for his analysis of penetration depths of the Brettanomyces bruxellensis yeast in varying types of oak barrel staves.

WSU professor Markus Keller and assistant professor Tom Collins gave presentations on water stress responses from grapes and sulfur compounds in winemaking, respectively.

Keller, Collins and associate professor Jim Harbertson serve on the board of directors for the ASEV.

Harbertson said WSU was integral in organizing the event and that he, Collins and Keller were part of the selection committee that decided which of the submitted abstracts were accepted for presentation at the conference.

According to Harbertson, 500 people attended the conference, primarily industry members but also a number of students and faculty from V&E programs around the country.

ASEV gave out $100,000 in scholarship funding this year, more than any previous year, he added.

ASEV holds the national conference every year, allowing enologists and viticulturists from around the world to come together for awards, research forums, student presentations and industry seminars.

WSU Oral Presentations:

Markus Keller – “Berry Responses to Water Stress”
Tom Collins – “Sulfur Compounds in Winemaking: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
Caroline Merrell – “Impact of Cabernet Sauvignon Berry Maturity on Wine Anthocyanin, Tannin, and Polymeric Pigment Content over Time”
Yun Zhang – “Grape Berry Transpiration and its Impacts on Ripening and Weight Loss”
Yun Zhang – “Irrigation Strategies for White Winegrape Production”
Eric Gale - “Cold Hardiness of Vitis vinifera Roots”

WSU Poster Presentations:

Jesse Aplin – Evaluation of Native Non-Saccharomyces Yeasts for Reducing Ethanol Production in Wine by Sugar Respiration
Zachary M. Cartwright – Analysis of Brettanomyces bruxellensis Penetration Depths in Different Types of Oak Barrel Staves
Bhaskar Bondada – Sunburn in Grape Berries: Varietal Differences in Composition, Structure, and Physiology
Katherine East – Rootstocks for Management of Meloidogyne hapla in Washington State Vineyards
Pete Jacoby – Influence of Direct Root-Zone Micro-Irrigation on Production of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Pacific Northwest

WSU ASEV Scholarship Recipients:

Jesse Aplin
Zachary M. Cartwright
Caroline Merrell
McKinley Dixon
Carina Ocampo
Megan Wade

WSU ASEV Board Members:
James Harbertson – Second Vice President/Interim Technical Program Director
Tom Collins – Secretary/Treasurer
Markus Keller – AJEV Science Editor

Cooperative Extension&#8217;s Grow Your Own, Nevada! classes return in September

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension will present a workshop on “Pressure Canning,” 6 to 8 p.m., Sept. 6 as part of Grow Your Own, Nevada!. Photo courtesy of Joy Paterson, Lyon County Cooperative Extension.

Eight classes offered statewide to teach high-desert gardeners about growing and preserving food

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s fall Grow Your Own, Nevada! Program presents eight classes statewide to help Nevadans get on the path to more sustainable, local, healthy living by growing and preserving more of their own food.

The series features back-to-basics information for backyard or small-acreage edible gardening.

“Many Nevadans are interested in getting back to their roots,” said Cooperative Extension Horticulture Specialist Heidi Kratsch. “We’re offering these courses to help Nevada growers turn their backyards into sustainable, edible gardens.”

The program runs 6 — 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, Aug. 30 to Sept. 22. Classes will be held live at the Washoe County Cooperative Extension office, 4955 Energy Way in Reno, and via interactive video at several Cooperative Extension offices throughout the state.

Along with Kratsch, presenters include Cooperative Extension Certified Master Gardener Volunteers Earstin Whitten and Michael Janik, Horticulturist Wendy Hanson Mazet, Urban Integrated Pest Management Program Coordinator Melody Hefner, Extension Educator Joy Paterson, and Native American Programs Coordinator Randy Emm.

“I think it’s satisfying to be able to grow things and consume them yourself,” said Whitten. “You can’t get any closer to farm-to-table than growing stuff in your own backyard and eating it at your own table. Take these classes, and walk away with more confidence of having success.”

Workshop topics include:

  • Aug. 30: Raised Beds
  • Sept. 1: Garlic Selection
  • Sept. 6: Pressure Canning
  • Sept. 8: Freezing, Drying and Storing
  • Sept. 13: Fruit Tree Selection and Storage
  • Sept. 15: What the Tribes are Doing With Hoop Houses
  • Sept. 20: Preemptive Pest Control
  • Sept. 22: Cover Crops

To register for any or all of the upcoming Grow Your Own, Nevada! classes, visit http://www.growyourownnevada.com/. The class fee for those attending at the Washoe County office is $15 per class or $60 for all eight classes. The cost covers class supplies, materials and refreshments. Reno participants attending all eight classes will also receive a USB flash drive containing gardening resources. K-12 teachers and Master Gardeners in Reno receive a discount on registration cost. Class fees in other locations vary. Residents should contact their local Cooperative Extension office for information on attending the workshops in those locations. Persons in need of special accommodations or assistance should call at least three days prior to the scheduled event.

For more information about Grow Your Own, Nevada!, visit https://youtu.be/Fmi_BjsA6Rg. For more information about the benefits of the Grow Your Own, Nevada! Program, visit https://youtu.be/ohoi8F04B-A.