OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

agriculture and food

Tracking potato famine pathogen to its home may aid $6 billion global fight

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The cause of potato late blight and the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s has been tracked to a pretty, alpine valley in central Mexico, which is ringed by mountains and now known to be the ancestral home of one of the most costly and deadly plant diseases in human history.

Research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by researchers from Oregon State University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service and five other institutions, concludes that Phytophthora infestans originated in this valley and co-evolved with potatoes over hundreds or maybe a few thousand years, and later spread repeatedly to much of the world.

Knowing the origin of the pathogen does more than just fill in a few facts in agricultural history, the scientists say. It provides new avenues to discover resistance genes, and helps explain the mechanisms of repeated emergence of this disease, which to this day is still the most costly potato pathogen in the world.

Potato late blight continues to be a major threat to global food security and at least $6 billion a year is spent to combat it, mostly due to the cost of fungicides and substantial yield losses. But P. infestans is now one of the few plant pathogens in the world with a well-characterized center of origin.

“This is immensely important,” said Niklaus Grunwald, who is a courtesy professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University, a researcher with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and lead author on the study.

“This is just a textbook example of a center of origin for a pathogen, and it’s a real treat,” Grunwald said. “I can’t think of another system so well understood. This should allow us to make significant headway in finding additional genes that provide resistance to P. infestans.”

Finding ways to genetically resist the potato late blight, scientists say, could help reduce the use of fungicides, and the expense and environmental concerns associated with them.

There had been competing theories about where P. infestans may have evolved, with the leading candidates being the Toluca Valley near Mexico City, or areas in South America where the potato itself actually evolved thousands of years ago.

Gene sequencing technology used by this research group helped pin down the Toluca Valley as the ancestral hot spot. The P. infestans pathogen co-evolved there hundreds of years ago with plants that were distant cousins of modern potatoes, which produced tubers but were more often thought of as a weed than a vegetable crop.

Today, the newly-confirmed home of this pathogen awaits researchers almost as a huge, natural laboratory, Grunwald said. Since different potato varieties, plants and pathogens have been co-evolving there for hundreds of years, it offers some of the best hope to discover genes that provide some type of resistance.

Along with other staple foods such as corn, rice and wheat, the potato forms a substantial portion of the modern human diet. A recent United Nations report indicated that every person on Earth eats, on average, more than 70 pounds of potatoes a year. Potatoes contain a range of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and – for hungry populations – needed calories.

It’s believed that the potato was first domesticated more than 7,000 years ago in parts of what are now Peru and Bolivia, and it was brought to Europe by Spanish explorers in the late 1500s. A cheap and plentiful crop that can grow in many locations, the ability to increase food production with the potato eventually aided a European population boom in the 1800s.

But what the New World provided, it also took away - in the form of a potato late blight attack that originated from Mexico, caused multiple crop failures and led, among other things, to the Irish potato famine that began in 1845. Before it was over, 1 million people had died and another 1 million emigrated, many to the U.S.

That famine was exacerbated by lack of potato diversity, as some of the varieties most vulnerable to P. infestans were also the varieties most widely cultivated.

Collaborators on the research were from the University of Florida, the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, the University of the Andes in Colombia, Cornell University, and the International Potato Center in Beijing. It was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Scottish government.

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Niklaus Grunwald, 541-738-4049

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OSU scientists part of national APLU report outlining research challenges

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The national Association of Public and Land-grant Universities released a report today outlining six “grand challenges” facing the United States over the next decade in the areas of sustainability water, climate change, agriculture, energy and education.

The APLU project was co-chaired by W. Daniel Edge, head of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. The report is available online at: http://bit.ly/1ksH2ud

The “Science, Education, and Outreach Roadmap for Natural Resources” is the first comprehensive, nationwide report on research, education and outreach needs for natural resources the country’s university community has ever attempted, Edge said.

“The report identifies critical natural resources issues that interdisciplinary research programs need to focus on over the next 5-10 years in order to address emerging challenges,” Edge noted. “We hope that policy-makers and federal agencies will adopt recommendations in the roadmap when developing near-term research priorities and strategies.”

The six grand challenges addressed in the report are: 

  • Sustainability: The need to conserve and manage natural landscapes and maintain environmental quality while optimizing renewable resource productivity to meet increasing human demands for natural resources, particularly with respect to increasing water, food, and energy demands.
  • Water: The need to restore, protect and conserve watersheds for biodiversity, water resources, pollution reduction and water security.
  • Climate Change: The need to understand the impacts of climate change on our environment, including such aspects as disease transmission, air quality, water supply, ecosystems, fire, species survival, and pest risk. Further, a comprehensive strategy is needed for managing natural resources to adapt to climate change.
  • Agriculture: The need to develop a sustainable, profitable, and environmentally responsible agriculture industry.
  • Energy: The need to identify new and alternative renewable energy sources and improve the efficiency of existing renewable resource-based energy to meet increasing energy demands while reducing the ecological footprint of energy production and consumption.
  • Education: The need to maintain and strengthen natural resources education at our schools at all levels in order to have the informed citizenry, civic leaders, and practicing professionals needed to sustain the natural resources of the United States.

 

Three other OSU researchers were co-authors on the report, including Hal Salwasser, a professor and former dean of the College of Forestry; JunJie Wu, the Emery N. Castle Endowed Chair in Resource and Rural Economics; and George Boehlert, former director of OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center.

Wu played a key role in the climate change chapter in identifying the need to better understand the tradeoffs between investing now in climate change adaptation measures versus the long-term risk of not adopting new policies.

Edge and Boehlert contributed to the energy chapter, which focuses primarily on renewable energy.

“The natural resources issues with traditional sources of energy already are well-understood,” Boehlert said, “with the possible exception of fracking. As the country moves more into renewable energy areas, there are many more uncertainties with respect to natural resources that need to be understood and addressed. There are no energy sources that do not have some environmental issues.”

Salwasser was an author on the sustainability chapter that identifies many issues associated with natural resource use, including rangelands, forestry, fisheries and wildlife and biodiversity. The authors contend the challenge is to use these resources in a sustainable manner meeting both human and ecosystem needs.

The project was sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Oregon State University, which partnered with APLU and authors from numerous institutions.

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Dan Edge, 541-737-2810; Daniel.edge@oregonstate.edu

Study finds only trace levels of radiation from Fukushima in albacore

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Albacore tuna caught off the Oregon shore after the Fukushima Daiichi power station in Japan was destroyed in a 2011 earthquake had slightly elevated levels of radioactivity but the increase has been minute, according to a newly published study.

In fact, you would have to consume more than 700,000 pounds of the fish with the highest radioactive level – just to match the amount of radiation the average person is annually exposed to in everyday life through cosmic rays, the air, the ground, X-rays and other sources, the authors say.

Results of the study are being published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

“You can’t say there is absolutely zero risk because any radiation is assumed to carry at least some small risk,” said Delvan Neville, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “But these trace levels are too small to be a realistic concern.

“A year of eating albacore with these cesium traces is about the same dose of radiation as you get from spending 23 seconds in a stuffy basement from radon gas, or sleeping next to your spouse for 40 nights from the natural potassium-40 in their body,” he added. “It’s just not much at all.”

In their study, the researchers examined a total of 26 Pacific albacore caught off the coast between 2008 and 2012 to give them a comparison between pre-Fuskushima and post-Fukushima radiation levels. They discovered that levels of specific radioactive isotopes did increase, but at the most extreme level, they only tripled – a measurement that is only 0.1 percent of the radiocesium level set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for concern and intervention.

The researchers tested samples of the albacore from their loins, carcass and guts and found varying levels – all barely detectable. The findings are still important, however, since this is one of the first studies to look at different parts of the fish.

“The loins, or muscle, is what people eat and the bioaccumulation was about the same there as in the carcass,” said Jason Phillips, a research associate in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and co-author on the study.

The researchers next began looking at the radionuclide levels in different aged fish and found they were somewhat higher in 4-year-old albacore than in the younger fish. This suggests that the 3-year-old albacore may have only made one trans-Pacific migration, whereas the 4-year-old fish may have migrated through the Fukushima plume twice.

The majority of the 3-year-old fish had no traces of Fukushima at all.

Although it is possible that additional exposures to the plume could further increase radiation levels in the albacore, it would still be at a low level, the researchers pointed out. Additionally, as albacore mature at around age 5, they stop migrating long distances and move south to subtropical waters in the Central and West Pacific – and do not return to the West Coast of the United States.

“The presence of these radioactive isotopes is actually helping us in an odd way – giving us information that will allow us to estimate how albacore tuna migrate between our West Coast and Japan,” Neville said.

Little is known about the migration patterns of young albacore before they enter the U.S. fishery at about three years of age, Phillips said.

“That’s kind of surprising, considering what a valuable food source they are,” Phillips said. “Fukushima provides the only known source for a specific isotope that shows up in the albacore, so it gives us an unexpected fingerprint that allows us to learn more about the migration.”

Other authors were Richard Brodeur of NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center, and Kathryn Higley, of the OSU Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics. The study was supported by Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with continued support from Oregon Sea Grant.

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Delvan Neville,541-602-8005, dnevill@gmail.com; Jason Phillips, 541-231-5021, ajasonphillips@gmail.com

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Efforts to curb climate change require greater emphasis on livestock

CORVALLIS, Ore. – While climate change negotiators struggle to agree on ways to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, they have paid inadequate attention to other greenhouse gases associated with livestock, according to an analysis by an international research team.

A reduction in non-CO2 greenhouse gases will be required to abate climate change, the researchers said. Cutting releases of methane and nitrous oxide, two gases that pound-for-pound trap more heat than does CO2, should be considered alongside the challenge of reducing fossil fuel use.

The researchers’ analysis, “Ruminants, Climate Change, and Climate Policy,” is being published today as an opinion commentary in Nature Climate Change, a professional journal.

William Ripple, a professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, and co-authors from Scotland, Austria, Australia and the United States, reached their conclusions on the basis of a synthesis of scientific knowledge on greenhouse gases, climate change and food and environmental issues. They drew from a variety of sources including the Food and Agricultural Organization, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and recent peer-reviewed publications.

“Because the Earth’s climate may be near a tipping point to major climate change, multiple approaches are needed for mitigation,” said Ripple. “We clearly need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to cut CO2 emissions. But that addresses only part of the problem. We also need to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases to lessen the likelihood of us crossing this climatic threshold.”

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas, and a recent report estimated that in the United States methane releases from all sources could be much higher than previously thought. Among the largest human-related sources of methane are ruminant animals (cattle, sheep, goats, and buffalo) and fossil fuel extraction and combustion.

One of the most effective ways to cut methane, the researchers wrote, is to reduce global populations of ruminant livestock, especially cattle. Ruminants are estimated to comprise the largest single human-related source of methane. By reflecting the latest estimates of greenhouse gas emissions on the basis of a life-cycle or a “farm to fork” analysis, the researchers observed that greenhouse gas emissions from cattle and sheep production are 19 to 48 times higher (on the basis of pounds of food produced) than they are from producing protein-rich plant foods such as beans, grains, or soy products.

Unlike non-ruminant animals such as pigs and poultry, ruminants produce copious amounts of methane in their digestive systems. Although CO2 is the most abundant greenhouse gas, the international community could achieve a more rapid reduction in the causes of global warming by lowering methane emissions through a reduction in the number of ruminants, the authors said, than by cutting CO2 alone.

The authors also observed that, on a global basis, ruminant livestock production is having a growing impact on the environment:

  • Globally, the number of ruminant livestock has increased by 50 percent in the last 50 years, and there are now about 3.6 billion ruminant livestock on the planet.
  • About a quarter of the Earth’s land area is dedicated to grazing, mostly for cattle, sheep and goats.
  • A third of all arable land is used to grow feed crops for livestock.

In addition to reducing direct methane emissions from ruminants, cutting ruminant numbers would deliver a significant reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of feed crops for livestock, they added.

“Reducing demand for ruminant products could help to achieve substantial greenhouse gas reductions in the near-term,” said co-author Helmut Haberl of the Institute of Social Ecology in Austria, “but implementation of demand changes represent a considerable political challenge.”

Among agricultural approaches to climate change, reducing demand for meat from ruminants offers greater greenhouse gas reduction potential than do other steps such as increasing livestock feeding efficiency or crop yields per acre. Nevertheless, they wrote, policies to achieve both types of reductions “have the best chance of providing rapid and lasting climate benefits.”

Such steps could have other benefits as well, said co-author Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. "Cutting the number of ruminant livestock could have additional benefits for food security, human health and environmental conservation involving water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity,” he explained. 

Agricultural researchers are also studying methane reduction through improved animal genetics and methods to inhibit production of the gas during digestion.

International climate negotiations such as the UNFCCC have not given “adequate attention” to greenhouse gas reductions from ruminants, they added. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, does not target ruminant emissions from developing countries, which are among the fastest-growing ruminant producers.

In addition to Smith and Haberl, co-authors include Stephen A. Montzka of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Clive McAlpine of the University of Queensland in Australia and Douglas Boucher of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington D.C.

 

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Bill Ripple, 541-737-3056

History of hops and brewing chronicled on new OSU archive

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon is at the epicenter of a thriving craft-brew industry, and Oregon State University is helping shape the movement – from creating new barley varieties, to offering courses for home brewers, to its growing fermentation science program, which has a Pilot Plant Brewhouse where student brewers create new beers.

Now, the university is going a step further as it actively preserves the rich history of hops and craft brewing.

Recognizing the need to document the intertwined story of hop production and the craft brewing movement in Oregon, the Special Collections & Archives Research Center at OSU Libraries & Press established the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives in summer 2013. This month, the official launch of the online archives will be celebrated in appropriate style with “Tap into History” on March 28 at the McMenamins Mission Theater in Portland.

The archive’s goal is to collect and provide access to records related to hops production and the craft brewing industries in Oregon. The first archive in the United States dedicated to hops and beer, it will bring together a wealth of materials in hardcopy and digital formats enabling people to study and appreciate these movements. The work melds the social and economic aspects of brewing in Oregon with the hard science behind the beer research being done at OSU.

The university already has strong collections related to the history of hops, barley, and fermentation research at OSU, but scholars are gathering resources from beyond the campus as well.

“There are valuable items in historical societies, in the boxes of marketing materials in a brewer’s garage, in the computer records of operations at hop farms, on beer blogs, in social media communities, and in the stories that haven’t been recorded,” said Tiah Edmunson-Morton, archivist for the collection.

“While we are interested in adding new items to build the archive, we also want to be a portal to collections through the state, partnering with people in heritage and history communities, state agencies, hops farmers, craft brewers, home brewers, and the general community to think collectively about how to preserve and provide access to this history.”

The free "Tap into History" event at the Mission Theater, which begins at 7 p.m., includes a panel on brewing history in Oregon. Among the topics:

  • Edmunson-Morton will talk about the project and its impact.
  • Peter Kopp, an agricultural historian, will talk about his use of archival materials and the relevance for researchers.
  • John Foyston, an Oregonian writer since 1987 and noted beer columnist, will talk about his work documenting the Oregon beer scene.
  • Irene Firmat, CEO and co-founder of Full Sail Brewing Company, will talk about her work as a female brewing pioneer.
  • Daniel Sharp, a Ph.D. student in the OSU College of Agriculture's Fermentation Science program, will talk about his research and the program.

The event concludes with screenings from "Hopstories," a collection of short videos showcasing breweries in Oregon, and OPB's Beervana, a documentary about the history of beer and the rise of craft brewing in Oregon. The McMenamins Mission Theater is located at 1624 N.W. Glisan St., Portland.

For more information: https://www.facebook.com/brewingarchives

 

 

 

 

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Tiah Edmunson-Morton, 541-737-7387

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House committee OKs exemption allowing OSU Experiment Station flexibility to relocate

HERMISTON, Ore. – Oregon State University’s Hermiston Agricultural Research & Extension Center, which is mostly located within the city limits, is one step closer to gaining the flexibility to relocate when necessitated by population growth, following legislation approved this week by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee.

The OSU research and extension center is subject to an obscure federal rule, known as a “reverter,” which would be triggered if changes of use and/or location of the facility were enacted. This rule would lead to ownership of the land and infrastructure reverting back to the federal government.

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee approved an exclusion to this federal reversionary clause – exempting the OSU facility from the requirement – and forwarded it to the floor of the House for its consideration. Full House consideration has not yet been scheduled.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., led the push to gain the exemption, with support from community stakeholders, local elected officials, OSU agricultural leaders and OSU President Edward J. Ray.

“The growth of Hermiston and the expanding scope of the center will make it desirable to move the center to a more appropriate location in the future,” said Philip B. Hamm, director of the OSU facility. “The move has had the support of city and regional leaders, as well as the agricultural industry that the center supports. Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Walden and his staff, we are now a step closer to resolving this problem.”

The Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center is one of 12 OSU Agricultural Experiment Stations located throughout the state. It has supported agriculture in the Columbia River basin for more than a century. The region is a highly diversified agricultural region where more than 200 different crops are grown.

With its state-of-the-art laboratories, irrigation technology capabilities, research programs and extension efforts, the center supports crops on nearly 500,000 acres of high-value irrigated land, much of it in Morrow and Umatilla counties. In recent years, the center’s research and outreach helped local growers diversify production and convert 30,000 acres of traditional commodity crops to different, high-value crops – resulting in more than $50 million in annual economic returns.

“While the station has no immediate plans to move in the near future, the removal of this reversionary clause will allow OSU to sell the property when development in Hermiston reaches the center’s border,” Hamm said. “It will allow the center to purchase new land, erect laboratories, and install irrigation infrastructure to continue supporting agriculture with new research based on information – as it has for the past 104 years.”

H.R. 3366 provides for “the release of the property interests retained by the United States in certain land conveyed in 1954 by the United States, acting through the Director of the Bureau of Land Management, to the State of Oregon for the establishment of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center of Oregon State University in Hermiston, Oregon.”

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Philip Hamm, 541-567-6337; philip.b.hamm@oregonstate.edu

China honors Oregon State researcher for decade of scientific collaboration

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Major advances against some of the world’s most devastating plant diseases are starting to emerge from more than a decade of international scientific collaboration led by Brett Tyler, director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing at Oregon State University. Tyler has fostered collaborative research in China, the United States and Europe on a group of organisms that cause diseases such as late blight in potatoes and soybean root rot. Both diseases cost millions of dollars in annual crop losses worldwide.

The joint research activities have advanced food production by understanding how plants such as potatoes and soybeans resist disease and how the genes responsible for resistance can be incorporated into new varieties. Potatoes developed by European researchers that incorporate these findings are just starting to hit commercial markets, and research is continuing on soybean diseases in the U.S. and China.

The People’s Republic of China recognized Tyler on Sept. 29 for his achievements with its highest civic award for non-Chinese scientists. Tyler, who is also a professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, received the Friendship Award of China for a decade of technical assistance and scientific collaboration with researchers at Nanjing Agricultural University and other Chinese institutions.

“It’s a wonderful bridge across the Pacific with the joint objective of increasing food security,” Tyler said.

Tyler, holder of the Stewart Chair in Gene Research, coordinates a worldwide research program on plant pathogens known to scientists as oomycetes. He and his colleagues have identified plant genes that confer long-term resistance to these pathogens. Scientists have focused on plant and pathogen genetics because the diseases can be so devastating, and pesticides tend to be rapidly evaded by these adaptable organisms.

“I have been working with an expanding circle of collaborators in China,” said Tyler, who has traveled to China 13 times. “We have published papers in top journals and established a growing collaborative research program.” In addition to his collaboration with researchers in Nanjing, he has worked with scientists at the Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University, Tsinghua University, the Beijing Genome Institute, Shandong Agricultural University and Yangzhou University.

Tyler’s Chinese partners — especially Yuanchao Wang at Nanjing and Weixing Shan at the NW Agricultural and Forestry University — have formed a consortium in China to apply the results of their disease resistance work in soybean and potato breeding. At the same time, Tyler has developed a similar network involving 19 institutions in the United States. With funding from the U.S. and Chinese governments, labs on both sides of the Pacific have hosted exchange students, jointly planned experiments and shared data.

“During our ten years of cooperation, Brett has helped to guide our research,” said Wang. “Research on the molecular genetics of oomycetes in China started from our cooperation. Brett helped us set up a great platform of genetic transformation and bioinformatics in Nanjing, and many other groups in China learned how to do this research from my group.”

The Chinese government has invested heavily in research in the last decade, added Tyler. “Our colleagues in China now have research facilities that are equal to or surpass what we have available in the United States,” he said.

Genes that provide long-term resistance to oomycete diseases are just starting to emerge in commercially available crops. “Resistance genes have been used in breeding for a long time, but many of them have been quickly defeated by the pathogens,” said Tyler. “We’ve uncovered why that happens. The pathogen produces a group of proteins that the plant has learned to detect. Unfortunately, these are proteins that the pathogen can quickly change. Now we have started to identify proteins the pathogen cannot change.”

In 2011, the USDA awarded $9.3 million to Tyler and his colleagues to apply their research to the U.S. soybean crop. Tyler’s Chinese collaborators are also contributing to that project. Soybean root rot causes major crop losses in China.

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Brett Tyler, 541-737-3686

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Soil parasite costs Northwest wheat growers $51 million in lost revenue, says OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A microscopic parasitic roundworm is costing Pacific Northwest wheat growers $51 million in lost revenue each year because it's cutting grain yields by an average of about 5 percent, according to estimates by Oregon State University researchers.

Called the root-lesion nematode, the transparent, eel-shaped roundworm lives in the soil and feeds on the roots of wheat, barley, oats and many other crops. This limits the crops' ability to take up nutrients and water, leaving plants with smaller heads and yellowed leaves.

"The presence of nematodes is usually confused with root rot, viruses or lack of nutrition because the effect on crops looks the same," said Dick Smiley, a plant pathologist at OSU's Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Center in Pendleton. “But nematodes often go undetected because they're not well-known, and they're transparent and thinner than a human hair.”

Researchers have detected the root-lesion nematode in about 90 percent of fields sampled in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, according to Smiley, who has studied the pest since 1999. Population densities of nematodes high enough to reduce yields have been detected in 60 percent of fields sampled in Oregon and Washington. The roundworm wreaks the most havoc in drier areas where wheat and barley grow.

Most nematodes are beneficial to agriculture by helping decompose organic matter. Some, however, are parasitic to plants or animals. They spread easily, hitchhiking to new locations via the wind, animals, farm equipment and boots. It's nearly impossible to eradicate them once they're established.

Another harmful roundworm, the cereal cyst nematode, is also damaging wheat, barley and oats in the Pacific Northwest. First identified in western Oregon in 1974, it is now found in eight western states.

Wheat farmers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington are estimated to lose $3.4 million in revenue each year to cereal cyst nematodes, according to OSU calculations. Researchers arrived at the figure by considering a range of factors, including the percentage of fields infested with damaging densities of nematodes, as well as the yields and farmgate value for crops in these infested areas.

OSU scientists are studying crop management strategies to mitigate the worms' impact. The most effective tactic they've found is a three-year crop rotation where farmers skip two years between wheat plantings.

Rotations vary depending upon which nematode is causing problems. Root-lesion nematodes are well-managed by planting winter wheat the first year and spring barley the second year and then letting the field go fallow the third year. Cereal cyst nematodes are best-managed by rotating wheat or barley with broadleaf crops.

Crop damage can also be alleviated to a limited extent by applying extra fertilizer and water. There are no chemicals legally available for wheat and barley growers to kill the two types of nematodes.

OSU researchers have also tested more than 20 wheat, barley and oat cultivars to determine how badly yields are reduced. Most Pacific Northwest wheat varieties don't resist harmful nematodes.

In OSU's tests, nearly every variety suffered severe root injury. Only the hard red spring wheat WB-Rockland prevented cereal cyst nematodes from reproducing while also maintaining consistent yields. UI Stone, a soft white spring wheat, and Buck Pronto, a hard red spring wheat, allowed nematode populations to thrive but still produced a steady crop.

Additionally, University of Idaho, Washington State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and commercial wheat breeders are crossing sources of resistance with a number of wheat varieties to create new cultivars that can potentially stand up to the cereal cyst and root-lesion nematodes.

OSU researchers recommend growers have their soil tested for nematodes. Addresses for testing labs, as well as information about management strategies for farmers, are available in two OSU Extension factsheets at http://bit.ly/OSU_ExtBulletin3 and http://bit.ly/OSU_ExtBulletin2.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington State University and the University of Idaho are collaborators with OSU on its cereal cyst nematode research.

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Richard Smiley, 541-278-4397

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OSU nematode expert Richard Smiley

Dick Smiley, a plant pathologist at Oregon State University, examines the roots of young wheat plants. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Generic OSU

About Oregon State University: OSU is one of only two U.S. universities designated a land-, sea-, space- and sun-grant institution. OSU is also Oregon’s only university to hold both the Carnegie Foundation’s top designation for research institutions and its prestigious Community Engagement classification. Its more than 26,000 students come from all 50 states and more than 90 nations. OSU programs touch every county within Oregon, and its faculty teach and conduct research on issues of national and global importance.