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Collaboration with Northwest Agriculture & Forestry University in China

Biological Systems Engineering faculty members, Dr. Troy Peters, Dr. Bin Yang, and Dr. Lav Khot, recently traveled to China to collaborate with faculty, students, and scientists at the Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Yangling, China.  This is part of an international cooperation partnership that the Department of Biological Systems Engineering Department has with this university.  The primary objectives of this visit were to strengthen international exchange and cooperation with this university and encourage additional Chinese Scholarship Exchange students to come do research with WSU in the future.  They met with the Dean of the College of Mechanical and Electronic Engineering, Dr. Shaojin Wang, toured the college and gave presentations to almost 200 students and faculty there.  Dr. Peters gave a presentation titled “Irrigation Issues and Advances in the Pacific Northwestern United States,” Dr. Khot gave a presentation titled “Precision Agriculture of Specialty Crops,” and Dr. Yang gave a presentation titled “Overcoming the Challenges of the Next Generation of Biofuels and Bioproducts Production.” In addition, each faculty member met individually with researchers from their specific areas to discuss plans for future collaboration and exchange of ideas.

On the way home, Dr. Peters and Dr. Khot also visited Hebei University in Baoding (hosted by Dr. Yongsheng Si). They similarly met scientists and engineers there, gave presentations and discussed plans for cooperation and collaboration for future grant proposals and research.

IFT Program of the Month

Oct 2017  | IFT Food Engineering Division Newsletter

The department highlighted this month is the Department of Biological Systems Engineering (BSE), in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at the Washington State University located in Pullman, WA. BSE offers the Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Biological and Agricultural Engineering with four areas of emphasis, including Food Engineering. As of Fall 2017, 25 graduate students are enrolled in the Ph.D. degree and 2 in M. S. degree programs with an emphasis in Food Engineering. Under the supervision of three core faculty members, these students conduct cutting-edge research in advanced thermal and nonthermal food technologies as well as polymeric packaging technologies to help the food industry address challenges of increasing consumer demand for safe, nutritious, and high-quality food products. These students are often involved in multi-institutional programs supported by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture CAPS projects, USDA National Needs Program; their dissertation committee members represent from different disciplines, including Food Science, Electric Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Veterinary Sciences.  In addition, students are members of a very active Food Engineering Club which organizes various activities to enhance their professional and social experiences.  Students participate in summer internships at food processing and polymer companies and actively support faculty members in technology transfer boot camps, among other professional development activities. Our past graduates are working in major US and international universities, federal government agencies and global food companies.

WSU secures more than $1.5 million for specialty crop research

Oct 2017  | CAHNRS NEWS

Seven research teams at Washington State University will enhance the competitiveness of Northwest crops by fighting devastating diseases and advancing sustainable agriculture, thanks to more than $1.5 million in Specialty Crop Block Grant funds from the Washington State and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture.

To support Washington’s $3 billion apple and pear industry, its $734 million potato industry, and other important crops like fresh strawberries, cut peonies and cider apples, WSU crop scientists, engineers, plant pathologists, economists and other specialists will join forces.

BSYSE Faculty
Dr. Pius Ndegwa

Enhanced nutrients for sustainable farming

Specialty crop farmers commonly use manure to fertilize their soils. But manure can be bulky, costly to transport, and may also bring pathogens, weed seeds and a poor balance of nutrients for some crops.

Pius Ndegwa, associate professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, and WSU researchers will investigate the economic, agronomic and food safety benefits of concentrating manure and compost. Pelleting and blending manure with other products, such as canola or fish meals, could concentrate nutrients, kill pathogens and weed seeds, and make transport easier.

 

BSYSE Faculty
Dr. Sindhuja Sankaran
BSYSE Faculty
Dr. Lav R. Khot

New tech to stop potato storage losses

Washington is a major potato producer, yet storage losses after harvest can ruin up to 6 percent of the annual crop.

Researchers Sindhuja Sankaran and Lav Khot, both in the WSU Department of Biological Systems Engineering, partnering with Brenda Schroeder of the University of Idaho Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, will research new ion mobile spectrometry and nanofiber chemical sensor technologies to detect storage diseases like pythium and soft rot at early stages. Growers will be able to better manage bulk storage and reduce losses through early processing. The technology could also be adapted for other specialty crops, like onions.

 

[ full article in CAHNRS NEWS ]

Cellulosic Revelation

Sept 2017  | BIOFUELS JOURNAL

Snippet of Biofuels Journal cover, Second Quarter 2017Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington have discovered that newly combined spectroscopy processes can reveal the differences between the inside and the outside of the molecular structure of cellulosic biomass.

view pdf of article in Biofuels Journal]

view digital magazine – requires Flash ]

 

CSANR, BSE researchers seek sites to grow tomorrow’s produce

Chad Kruger, director of CSANR; Claudio Stöckle, Biological Systems Engineering professor; and Kirti Rajagopalan, assistant research professor with CSANR,Thanks to a changing climate, production of fruits and vegetables may be more challenging in some regions of the country in the future.

To help ensure tomorrow’s fruits and vegetables, researchers with the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR) and Department of Biological Systems Engineering are on a four-year, $3.4 million research project to find more places to grow produce, led by the University of Florida.

At WSU, Chad Kruger, director of CSANR; Claudio Stöckle, Biological Systems Engineering professor; and Kirti Rajagopalan, assistant research professor with CSANR, received more than $490,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“The fruit and vegetable industries make very significant investments in infrastructure and logistics to produce, process, pack and distribute products,” said Kruger. “Having better information to understand future risks to these investments is critical to the sustainability of fruit and vegetable production in the U.S.”

“The Pacific Northwest has growing advantages and opportunities that we want to explore,” added Rajagopalan. “We’re excited to help chart new strategies to sustain the fruit and vegetable value chain, while maintaining our nutritious, reliable and environmentally-sound food supply.”

WSU Faculty, Dr. Lav Khot, Presents at 2017 APS Annual Meeting in San Antonio

Dr. Lav R. Khot
State-of-the-art on Sensing Technologies for Plant Disease Detection

Lav Khot, Assistant Professor,
Department of Biological Systems Engineering
IAREC, Washington State University

APS Annual Meeting 2017 website headerBrief description: Site-specific disease detection is one of the key aspects of effective crop (loss) management. Recent advances in detectors (optical, chemical) have improved feasibility of development and use of rapid non-contact/nondestructive sensing techniques in plant diseases detection. Advances in versatile ground-, aerial-platforms, and internet of things (IOT)-enabled data acquisition, in-field onboard processing, and near-real-time delivery techniques have also helped in easing logical concerns, about time and labor, of field level crop scouting. This talk will thus focus on state-of-the art in the field of chemical and optical sensors, platforms (e.g. small and mid-sized unmanned aerial systems), and IOT based technologies that could be an aid in rapid disease detection. Through case studies in specialty crops, the talk will discuss the feasibility of the technology in field level disease detection as well as challenges that need further research before its commercial use.

[ more information about the Annual Meeting ]

 

Biological Systems Engineering supports international meeting

50 graduate students and faculty members representing the Department of Biological Systems Engineering in SpokaneNearly 50 graduate students and faculty members represented the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at the Annual International Meeting (AIM) of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), held July 16-19 in Spokane.

Thirty-four BSE graduate students volunteered at the meeting, which was coordinated by Jonathan Lomber, BSE Scientific Laboratory Manager.

Attended by more than 1,700 students and professionals, the meeting helps expand awareness of current industry trends, promote and acknowledge innovations in design and technology, and provide opportunities for professional development.

Qin Zhang, BSE professor and director of the Center for Precision & Automated Agricultural Systems (CPAAS), received the John Deere Gold Medal Award in recognition of his engineering contributions. Two BSE graduate students were recognized for excellence in conduct and presentation of agricultural and biological engineering research, receiving the Boyd-Scott Graduate Research Awards. The competition includes a written competition and an oral presentation for the top three finalists in the masters and doctoral categories.

Abhisesh Silwal, advised by Manoj Karkee, received second place in the doctoral student category for his presentation, “Design, Integration, and Field Evaluation of a Robotic Apple Harvester.” Chongyuan Zhang, advised by Sindhuja Sankaran, received third place in the master’s student category for his presentation, “Development of Automated High-throughput Phenotyping System for Controlled Environment Studies.”

BSE leads workshops on graduate education, collaborations

Prior to the ASABE Annual International Meeting, BSE led a workshop to promote graduate education and research. Chairs of peer departments from Iowa State University, Purdue University, Cornell University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Illinois participated in this brainstorming workshop. Representatives from ASABE and USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) program leaders also took part.

Following the ASABE conference, BSE hosted a forum to highlight its ongoing advanced research and encourage international collaborations. In addition to USDA-NIFA program leader, Hongda Chen, research experts from China, Spain, Ireland, Brazil, and Mexico, took part.

BSysE 512 – Poster Competition Awards

On behalf of Dr. Wu and Dr. Tang, we would like to congratulate the winners of the BSysE 512 – Poster Competition.

1st Place: Yaqoob Majeed – “Mechanical/Automatic Solution for Labor Intensive Branch Training in Trellis Trained Apple Trees”

2nd Place: Momtanu Chakraborty – “Evaluation of Vineyard Growth Using NIR and Thermal Images under Different Irrigation Treatments”

3rd Place: Santosh Bhusal – “Bird Deterrence in Fruit Crops Using Unmanned Aerial Systems(UAS)” and Evan Terrell – “Primary Reactions in Pyrolysis of Milled Wood Lignin: The Effect of Vacuum on Product Distributions”

Honorable Mentions: Kapil Khanal – “Red Raspberry Cane Identification Using Spectral Signature” and Lin Chen – “A Prototype of Leveling System for Weeding Robot”

WSU Research Gets Closer to Cost-Effective BioFuels

June 5, 2017 | ENVIRONMENTAL MOLECULAR SCIENCES LABORATORY  [ full article ]

June 6, 2017 | PHYS.ORG [ full article ]

Molecular-level understanding of cellulose structure reveals why it resists degradation and could lead to cost-effective biofuels.

A major bottleneck hindering cost-effective production of biofuels and many valuable chemicals is the difficulty of breaking down cellulose—an important structural component of plant cell walls. A recent study addressed this problem by characterizing molecular features that make cellulose resistant to degradation.