Skip to main content Skip to navigation

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 ]

Plant biologists welcome their robot overlords

Old-school areas of plant biology are getting tech upgrades that herald more detailed, faster data collection.

January 25, 2017 |by Heidi Ledford, Nature – International Weekly Journal of Science

drone flying over cropAt Washington State University in Pullman, biological engineer Sindhuja Sankaran’s lab is preparing to deploy drones carrying lidar, the laser equivalent of radar. The system will scan agricultural fields to gather data on plant height and the density of leaves and branches. Sankaran also uses sensors to measure the volatile chemicals that plants give off, particularly when they are under attack from insects or disease. She hopes eventually to mount the sensors on robots.

[ full article at Nature.com ]

Dr. Sankaran Presents at Inaugural Event

Dr. Sankaran presenting at SciTech NorthwestWednesday, November 9th, the inaugural SciTech Northwest event was held in Seattle. This was the region’s first science and technology expo highlighting the latest innovations and collaborations in cyber/data analytics, clean energy, and biotechnology from three premier Washington research institutions. Twenty one groups and five speakers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, University of Washington, and Washington State University showcased their cutting-edge technologies. The featured speaker was Matt McIlwain, Managing Director, Madrona Venture Group.

More at:

Xconomy –  Washington Scientists Forge Ahead Amid Uncertainty

GeekWire – Tech investor Matt McIlwain: Seattle with shape the future with a ‘three-layer cake’ of innovation

Drone captures vineyard irrigation data

NBC Right Now logo Growing wine grapes with less water: The study Khot is involved in is an effort to reduce the amount of irrigation water used to grow wine grapes by applying water directly to the roots of a vine in the ground, instead of dripping water on the ground near the trunk. The project is led by WSU professors Pete Jacoby and Sindhuja Sankaran, both affiliate faculty members of CPAAS. » More ...

Phenotyping in the field goes high-tech

Good Fruit Grower | Nov 25, 2015

WSU researcher is using thermal infrared cameras and other sensor technologies to study fruit traits.

Researchers have made strides in the study of fruit genomics in recent years, but less ground has been gained in the field of phenomics, the measurement of plant and fruit traits.

Genotyping and phenotyping go hand in hand; one must know if a specific fruit trait is present, and in what form, in order to tie the trait to a specific gene.

[more]

Roving cameras see the big picture for wheat breeding

Feb 2015 | WSU News, by Seth Truscott, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences

Tractor-drives-500-300x176PULLMAN, Wash. – Wheat breeders at Washington State University are sizing up experimental crops from a new perspective: cameras that see far better than the human eye.

Scientists deploy tractor- and cart-mounted multi-spectral cameras to see how new wheat varieties handle challenges like drought, heat and disease. Results will help breeders and growers choose the best varieties.

“For thousands of years, people have been looking at plants in a field and saying, ‘that one grows well,’” said WSU spring wheat breeder Mike Pumphrey. But there’s a lot our eyes can’t see that a new generation of cameras can.

[read full article]

Things that Fly in the Sky

Washington State Magazine | by Nichoas Deshais

A slight breeze comes from the north, but it’s not enough to stir the sun-faded windsock above the tarmac near Mann Lake in Lewiston, Idaho. The sudden and unexpected gusts of wind, however, do. It’s a brisk 48 degrees, but of more concern is the smeared cloud taking up the southwestern horizon, out of place among its more defined, cumulus neighbors mottling the blue canvas above.

“We have about ten minutes,” says Chris Chaney, who earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from WSU this year. “We’re going to have to time this right. This is probably one of the most dangerous flights we’ve done.”

[full article]