college of agricultural sciences

Worried about your Thanksgiving meal? Call OSU's food safety hotline.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – How do you quickly thaw a big turkey? Should you stuff it or not? How do you make turkey giblet gravy like your grandma's?

As Thanksgiving approaches, you can get answers to questions like these by calling the Oregon State University Extension Service's holiday food safety hotline at 1-800-354-7319.

The statewide hotline runs from Nov. 13-16 and 19-21 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It's staffed by Extension-trained Master Food Preserver volunteers.

The Extension Service has offered the hotline for more than 20 years. Every November, volunteers with the OSU Extension Service in Douglas and Lane counties field an average of 200 calls from throughout the state, said Nellie Oehler, a retired family community health educator with OSU Extension.

Additional food safety information from OSU Extension is at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-safety.

Media Contact: 

Nellie Oehler, (541) 757-3937

OSU to host agritourism conference Nov. 30

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon farmers increasingly are seeking to diversify their income to remain profitable and some are turning to a strategy that has been successful in Europe – agritourism.

To help these farmers, Oregon State University is holding its inaugural Oregon Agritourism Summit, set for Nov. 30 on campus. Registration is now open for the event.

Organizers say the conference aims to inspire farmers and ranchers to diversify their income by inviting visitors to their operations. These revenue-generating agritourism opportunities include overnight stays, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, U-pick fruits and vegetables, horseback riding and hay rides.

The summit is organized by the OSU Extension Service and is open to the public.

The idea for it emerged from a partnership between Melissa Fery, a small farms instructor for OSU Extension, and Scottie Jones, owner of Leaping Lamb Farmstay in Alsea.

"Scottie and I were working together and we realized that Oregon has not had a collaborative effort to help agritourism business owners get the information they need and to bring all the partners together to address some of the barriers that face agritourism businesses," Fery said.

Sessions will address topics that include:

  • agritourism activities;
  • marketing;
  • regulations;
  • liability;
  • challenges in starting up agritourism businesses and ways to overcome them;
  • policy changes that support agritourism.

Speakers will include Bob Crouse with Fort Vannoy Farms of Grants Pass and Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard.

The cost, which includes lunch, is $25 per person. Register by Nov. 26 at http://bit.ly/WAYk14

or call 541-766-3556. The conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the LaSells Stewart Center on campus.


Melissa Fery, 541-766-6750

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Tulips bloom at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn. Every year, the farm invites the public to view its flowers, which is a type of agritourism. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.



Picking blueberries is a popular agritourism activity. Oregon State University will host an agritourism conference Nov. 30. Photo by Lynn Ketchum

Study: High stream temperatures, low flow creating extreme conditions

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A newly published study by researchers at Oregon State University and two federal agencies concludes that high temperatures coupled with lower flows in many Northwest streams is creating increasingly extreme conditions that could negatively affect fish and other organisms.

The study, published in the professional journal Hydrobiologia, was funded and coordinated by the U.S. Geological Survey and the research branch of the U.S. Forest Service. It points to climate change as the primary reason for the extreme conditions.

“The highest temperatures for streams generally occur in August, while lowest flows take place in the early fall,” said Ivan Arismendi, a research professor in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “Each period is important because it is a time of potentially high stress on the organisms that live in the stream. If they occur closer in time – or together – they could create double trouble that may be greater than their combined singular effects.”

Arismendi, who was lead author on the paper, said climate change appears to play a role as snowpack levels lessen and snow begins melting earlier in the spring. Peak stream flows are coming earlier in the year, stretching out the amount of time when river flows are low.

“What results is that low flows are moving closer and closer to the time of the year when stream temperatures are highest,” Arismendi said, “and that is not good.”

The study looked at 22 “minimally human-influenced” streams from the period of 1950 to 2010, located in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Montana and Idaho. The researchers found the hydrology of the streams was complex and differed among streams; while weather extremes affected all of the streams, the impact seems to be mediated by the influence of groundwater.

“Other studies have shown that high temperatures in streams lead to less oxygen and more thermal stress,” said co-author Jason Dunham, an aquatic ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “Low flows reduce the amount of suitable habitat and may lead to high density and overcrowding, more predation, changes in predator-prey relationships, and more competition – at least, among salmonids.”

This study focused on the physical processes on the streams, Arismendi emphasized, and needs to be followed by biological studies.

“Coupling of low flow with high temperatures can have significant hydrologic implications in maintaining stream water quality,” said Mohammad Safeeq, an OSU post-doctoral researcher in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and a co-author on the paper.

Arismendi said that over the years, weather and stream flow can be influenced by climate drivers like El Nino, La Nina, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and other phenomena. But over the 60-year time frame covered by the study, the climate warmed appreciably, leading to lower flows and earlier peak flows.

“These streams have high natural variability,” Arismendi said, “but the general pattern holds true.”

Interestingly, Arismendi said that stream temperatures are not always higher on an annual scale despite a regional trend that has shown warming air temperatures. This could be because of increased snowmelt, he pointed out, or complex hydrological cycles.

“Even though our studies are showing that stream processes are much more complex than initially thought we are able to identify trends toward increasing synchrony in timing of low flows and high temperatures,” Arismendi said.

Media Contact: 

Ivan Arismendi, 541-750-7443

OSU launches sale of Beaver Classic cheese

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is this week launching sales of a new artisan-style cheese produced in an on-campus creamery by students in the Department of Food Science & Technology.

Beaver Classic cheese is an alpine-style product, which Oregon State students make using milk from the university’s dairy herd, according to Lisbeth Goddik, an OSU Extension specialist who works with food entrepreneurs around the world on artisan cheeses.

“The cheese is in the tradition of alpine cheeses made in Switzerland, Italy and France,” Goddik said. “It has a subtle, nutty taste with creamy, buttery and caramelized flavors.”

The cheese can be ordered online at: http://oregonstate.edu/main/cheese

Goddik, Marc Bates and Bob McGorrin comprise a faculty management and production team that helped coordinate the launch of the student-made product. This is the university’s first venture into branded sales of student-made food products, said McGorrin, Jacobs-Root Professor and head of the Department of Food Science & Technology.

“This new venture will help provide opportunities for our students to obtain real-world educational experience that translates into future jobs in the industry creating dairy products,” McGorrin said. “Our students work in the creamery in all stages of the cheese’s production, from quality control to sales. They start from milk, take it through the curd process, and age the cheese for six months.”

“The tagline on the student-designed product label is ‘Savor Education,’ which reflects the ability to enjoy the end result of a successfully designed, produced and aged dairy product,” McGorrin added.

Bates is a new faculty member at OSU who is assisting with production start-up. He previously oversaw the student-run cheese manufacturing program at Washington State University.

In addition to online sales, Beaver Classic cheese will be available at OSU home football games.

Media Contact: 

Bob McGorrin, 541-737-8737

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Beaver Classic Cheese One


Beaver Classic Cheese Two

OSU demystifies how oat fungus kills plants

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University may have discovered why some grains are susceptible to a yield-reducing fungus.

They've mapped out the battle that takes place inside a cell when the fungus Cochliobolus victoriaeinfects Arabidopsis thaliana, a small plant in the mustard family that's used as a research model. They suspect that a similar process occurs in oats, barley, rice, beans and Brachypodium grasses because they are believed to share a similar gene.

Their findings, published today in the online version of the journal Science, could eventually help plant breeders develop varieties of grains and beans that resist certain diseases, said Tom Wolpert, an OSU plant pathologist and co-author of the paper, "Tricking the Guard: Exploiting Plant Defense for Disease Susceptibility."

Wolpert and others at OSU discovered that victorin, a toxin produced by the fungus, attacks Arabidopsis by binding to a protein called TRX-h5. This protein, however, has a guard watching over it called LOV1. When something tries to mess with the protein, the guard causes the cells to "commit suicide" in defense.

"The plant is doing what it thinks it should do and is turning on a defense," Wolpert said.

That strategy works for the plant when it's fighting fungi that need their hosts to be living cells in order to survive. Such fungi are called biotrophs and collect nutrients from the living cells. What the plant doesn't know, however, it that Cochliobolus victoriae is a type of fungus called a necrotroph that feeds on dead cells instead.

"The fungus is tricking the plant to kill its cells so it can eat them," said OSU plant pathologist Jennifer Lorang, the lead author of the study.

Cochliobolus victoriae causes a disease called Victoria blight, which in the 1940s severely reduced U.S. yields of oats that were descended from a variety named Victoria. The fungus damages leaves, kills seedlings, causes seeds to ripen prematurely, and weakens stems so that the plant falls over.

A gene called Vb in the Victoria-type oats made them susceptible to the fungus, but that same gene is believed to protect them from another fungus called crown rust. Cochliobolus victoriae is no longer a problem in oats because new varieties have been developed that don't have the Vb gene.

Last year, U.S. farmers produced $2.6 billion of rice, $827 million of dry, edible beans, $822 million of barley and $186 million of oats, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Media Contact: 

Tom Wolpert, 541-737-5293

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Jennifer Lorang and Tom Wolpert examine oats growing in a greenhouse at Oregon State University. The OSU plant pathologists have figured out how a fungus that infects oats tricks plant cells into committing suicide. Photo by Tiffany Woods.

OSU researcher receives top fisheries prize

CORVALLIS, Ore. – David Noakes, a professor of fisheries at Oregon State University, has been selected to receive the Award of Excellence from the American Fisheries Society. It is the top award given by this national organization.

Noakes is senior scientist at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center - a joint venture between OSU and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The center, located some 13 miles west of the town of Alsea on Hwy. 34, studies similarities and differences between native fish and hatchery-raised fish, focusing on salmon and steelhead.

Noakes was honored for his lifetime research and academic accomplishments. He is the fifth OSU scientist to have received the prestigious award; no other institution has had more than one recipient. Past recipients from OSU include Carl Bond, Peter Doudoroff, John Fryer and Carl Schreck.

The society also honored Hiram Li, an emeritus professor in the OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, with the Emmeline Moore Prize for his career in mentoring and advancing minorities in fisheries.

Schreck received the International Congress of Fish Biology’s Award of Excellence for his contributions to fish physiology.


Media Contact: 

David Noakes, 541-737-1953

New facility expands research and teaching of animal sciences at OSU

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will dedicate a new teaching and research facility for animal sciences Oct. 19 to serve increased student enrollment in the field and to delve into new research.

With more than 500 undergraduates, enrollment in animal and rangeland sciences at OSU is at an all-time high and is nearly four times what it was in the 1990s, said John Killefer, the head of OSU's animal and rangeland sciences department.

"The new facility, built with contributions from generous donors, reflects a greater focus on student learning and opportunities for hands-on teaching with livestock in OSU's living laboratories," Killefer said.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the James E. Oldfield Animal Teaching Facility, located at the intersection of Southwest Campus Way and Southwest 35th Street, will start at 3 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

The facility is named for James Edmund Oldfield, an OSU animal nutrition scientist who discovered the role of selenium in eliminating white muscle disease, a degenerative disease of cardiac and skeletal muscles in sheep and other ruminants.

The teaching facility is one of several changes within the animal sciences department that began with its merger with rangeland ecology and management to form OSU's new department of animal and rangeland sciences. The merger is part of a long-range plan to focus OSU's animal sciences teaching and to address budget cuts to the Agricultural Experiment Station, said Larry Curtis, associate dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Groundbreaking will begin this fall for three additional buildings associated with the Oldfield teaching facility, including facilities for metabolism research, agricultural education, and agricultural laboratories support technology, as well as space for the university's data center.

These new investments in student learning are being made as OSU's research farms are being restructured to address a 30 percent reduction in state support for agricultural research, Curtis said.

For example, OSU is upgrading its dairy center and pastures to focus research on dairy management using grass- and forage-fed Jerseys. It has sold its mature milking cows and curtailed milking during construction. Milking will resume in mid-2013.

Other changes include a reduction in the number of ewes at the OSU Sheep Center to better align with teaching and research needs. Activities at the OSU Horse Center will concentrate on the academic areas of equine science and management. Additionally, infrastructure improvements at OSU's beef research ranches will allow a greater opportunity for teaching and increased involvement from stakeholders.

"Reducing the number of animals in our research herds will save overhead costs without eliminating opportunities for teaching and research," Killefer said.

OSU continues to have the greatest variety of livestock research farms of any animal sciences department in the West, Curtis said.

New teaching facilities, restructured research facilities and new incoming faculty are part of the college's long-range planning that is being implemented to provide learning opportunities to students in animal and rangeland sciences, Killefer said.

To address growing enrollment and a new direction in research, the animal and rangeland sciences department is hiring six new tenure-track faculty in the areas of dairy production and management, range/riparian ecology, meat science and muscle biology, forage livestock production, reproductive physiology and the human–animal bond.

"As OSU celebrates the 150th anniversary of legislation that established land-grant institutions across the nation, new facilities and new faculty reinforce our dedication to the land-grant mission," Curtis said.

OSU is Oregon's only land-grant university, making it part of a national higher education system established during Abraham Lincoln's presidency.

Media Contact: 

John Killefer, 541-737-1891

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Oregon State University will dedicate a new teaching and research facility for animal sciences Oct. 19. The James E. Oldfield Animal Teaching Facility is at the intersection of Southwest Campus Way and Southwest 35th Street. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.

That’s no primate: It’s a fish!

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A seven million-year-old South American fossil from a species known as Arrhinolemur scalabrinii – which translates literally to “Scalabrini’s lemur without a nose” – has long been a curiosity because there is only one specimen in existence and it is unlike most other primates.

There is a reason for that, scientists have discovered. The lemur without a nose is actually a fish.

Classified as a mammal since it was first described in 1898, Arrhinolemur scalabrinii will at last take its rightful place among its piscatorial brethren following a detailed analysis by scientists from Argentina, Oregon State University and the Smithsonian Institution. Results of their analysis have just been published in the professional journal, Neotropical Ichthyology.

“The name given to the fossil back in 1898 should have given a clue that something was wrong,” said Brian Sidlauskas, a fisheries expert in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and co-author of the study. “It isn’t unusual to see a species reassigned to a different genus, but you don’t often see one moved to an entirely different class.”

Here is the unusual tale of Arrhinolemur scalabrinii, or the lemur without a nose…

In 1898, a fossil collector named Pedro Scalabrini provided a small fossil encased in rock to Florentino Ameghino. In a cursory examination of the fossil, Ameghino assigned it to the primate family Lemuridae, and wrote of its differences compared to other mammals. He proposed that it be recognized in Arrhinolemuroidea – a new order of bizarre fossil mammals.

And thus the lone example of Arrhinolemur scalabrinii was on record. About a half-century later, a scientist named George Gaylord Simpson briefly reviewed the entry and proposed that the specimen was not actually a mammal, but an unidentified species of fish. In 1986, Alvaro Mones took the suggestion a step further and offered that Arrhinolemur scalabrinii could be related to Characidae, a family of freshwater tropical and subtropical fish.

Finally, two years ago Argentinian scientists Sergio Bogan of the Maimónides University, Natural History Foundation Félix de Azara, and Federico Agnolin, Argentinian Museum of Natural Sciences Bernadino Rivadavia, decided to put the issue to rest. They hooked up with Sidlauskas, who had written a monograph on South American fishes as part of his doctoral work at the University of Chicago, and Richard Vari, an ichthyologist at the Smithsonian. Together, they examined photos and drawings, and made a complete analysis – from the teeth and jaws to the parietal bones of the skull.

Their conclusion: The lemur without a nose is a fish of the genus Leporinus, family Anostomidae (Characiformes).

“It is the head of a small fish, only a couple of inches long, but it’s difficult to tell what it may have grown to,” Sidlauskas said. “Fish in that family can be two inches long or two feet long, and there are 150 to 200 species in the family – all indigenous to South America.”

So why does it matter that Arrhinolemur scalabrinii has found its rightful place among other fish?

“Clarifying the fossil record helps scientists to calibrate trees of life and better understand the biodiversity of the planet in the past and compare it to biodiversity today,” said Sidlauskas, who curates the Oregon State Ichthyology Collection.

“It also helps us analyze evolutionary transitions – we can look at in the past and compare them to similar fish today to see what features have changed over time and try to understand why.”

After 114 years, Arrhinolemur scalabrinii can at last take its rightful place among the fishes.

Media Contact: 

Brian Sidlauskas, 541-737-1939

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Lemur without a nose

OSU to study what goes on inside the cells of corn and rice

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been named a partner on a $10 million grant that aims to further the understanding of the molecular interactions and genes in crops that include rice and corn.

Over the course of the next five years, OSU will receive about $2.9 million of the grant, which was awarded by the National Science Foundation.

OSU will develop an online database, called a plant reactome, with information about the molecular and genetic interactions in the cells of corn, rice and Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant that's used as a research model. It will also gather scientific literature on the three plants and add it to the database. The university will also study the role of growth hormones in the three plants.

Additionally, OSU researchers will seek to better understand the genes that regulate photosynthesis in the plants as well as the yields in corn and rice when they're stressed by mineral deficiencies, drought and salt.

Three plants were selected because their reference genomes have been sequenced completely and share many similar genes with major commercial crops, said Pankaj Jaiswal, a plant biologist who is overseeing OSU's part in the project. For example, rice and corn are related to wheat and barley. Likewise, Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family, is similar to canola and sunflowers.

The database that OSU puts together will become part of a larger online database known as Gramene, which is accessible to anyone at http://www.gramene.org. The research portal contains genetic information about various crops such as foxtail millet, grapes, poplar trees, sorghum, soybeans and tomatoes.

As part of the $10 million grant, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York and other collaborators will add more genetic information about these crops to the Gramene database. With annotated and curated data online in one place, Gramene's goal is to make it easier for plant breeders and other scientists to conduct their own research and gather support for their hypotheses.

As a community outreach component of the project, OSU will organize workshops and webinars to teach scientists and students how to use Gramene.

Jaiswal hopes that the research and sharing of knowledge will contribute toward the development of crops that yield more and resist diseases better. These improvements, he said, would ultimately benefit farmers and help feed the world's growing population.

Other partners in the grant include the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the European Bioinformatics Institute, and the American Society of Plant Biologists.

More information on the grant is at http://1.usa.gov/PGKq5i and http://bit.ly/Q7AWR0.

Media Contact: 

Pankaj Jaiswal, 541-737-8471

OSU finds Oregon's first honeybee infected by 'zombie' fly

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A researcher at Oregon State University has reported Oregon's first documented case of a "zombie" fly infecting a honeybee, but he doubts that the parasite at the moment poses a threat to the already beleaguered bee, which is a vital pollinator of some of the state's key crops.

Ramesh Sagili, a honeybee specialist with the OSU Extension Service, stumbled upon a belly-up bee on a sidewalk under a street light on campus in Corvallis one morning in late July. He placed it in a vial in his lab, and four days later seven maggots crawled out of the bee's neck. Almost three weeks after that, one matured into an Apocephalus borealis fly, commonly called a zombie fly because of the disoriented behavior it is suspected of causing the bees to exhibit at night.

The finding comes amid rising concern about the health of honeybees, which have been hit by a mysterious phenomenon called colony collapse disorder in which adult honeybees disappear from a hive, either entirely or in large numbers. It came to light in late 2006 when beekeepers on the East Coast began to see their honeybee colonies dwindle. The disorder has since spread to other states. A cause has not been determined, but suspects include mites, viruses, malnutrition, pesticides, a lack of genetic diversity, and stress that results from commercial hives being trucked around the country to pollinate crops.

Sagili doubts that the fly is playing a role in the widespread die-off of honeybees, which are crucial pollinators for various Oregon crops, including blueberries, pears, cherries, apples, clover, cranberries and vegetable seeds.

"It's a stretch to say the fly is correlated to colony collapse disorder," he said. "At this point, I don't think it's a threat. I don't think it's at the level where it can depopulate hives in large numbers."

Earlier this year in a journal article, researchers in California became the first to document that the fly attacks honeybees. They discovered the parasite in honeybees in California and South Dakota, the only states besides Oregon where fly-infected honeybees, or ZomBees, have been reported.

The fly is known to parasitize bumblebees but little is known about its impact on them in Oregon, said Sujaya Rao, an entomologist at OSU who studies them.

Sagili hypothesizes that the fly is just now being found in honeybees because it may be trying to branch out from its other hosts when they're not available. He added that although honeybees are widely studied, it's possible that scientists just never saw the parasite because they usually preserve their collected bees in alcohol, which would kill the larvae and keep them from popping out.

The brownish-red fly, which lays eggs inside the bees and is smaller than a fruit fly, is native to North America and has been found in Canada and various states that include Alaska, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico and New York, said Brian Brown, the curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and an expert on the parasitic fly.

Brown said the fly has been in Oregon for thousands of years but has just never been found in a honeybee in the state until now. In 1993, he identified a fly from Oregon as being an Apocephalus borealis. He doesn't know, however, when it was actually found because it was part of a museum's collection he borrowed. In 1934, a collector found the fly just south of Oregon in Gasquet, Calif., near Crescent City.

Oregon was home to 56,200 commercial honeybee hives last year, according to a report from the OSU Extension Service. About two dozen beekeepers owned 90 percent of them, Sagili said. Every year, Sagili and retired entomologist Dewey Caron survey the state's commercial beekeepers to find out how their hives are faring. Between October 2010 and April 2011, they lost 17 percent of their combined hives versus the same period a year earlier, Sagili said. In 2009-10, they lost about 25 percent, he said.

To find out if the parasitic fly is playing a role in the losses, Sagili has placed traps by hives at two locations on campus and is encouraging commercial and hobby beekeepers to do the same near their colonies. Instructions on making traps can be found at www.zombeewatch.org/tutorial.

People who don't raise bees can also become ZomBee hunters just by collecting dead or dying honeybees they might find under porch or street lights. Sagili recommends placing the bees in a jar with multiple layers of cheesecloth secured over the top with a rubber band to let in air. Collectors should watch for the possible emergence of maggots. If they do find the parasite in the bees, Sagili encourages them to email him at sagilir@hort.oregonstate.edu. They can also submit their findings to www.ZomBeeWatch.org so the fly's whereabouts can be posted on an online map.

Media Contact: 

Ramesh Sagili, 541-737-5460

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This is the parasitic "zombie" fly that developed from a maggot that crawled out of the dead honeybee that professor Ramesh Sagili found on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis. Photo by Oregon State Arthropod Collection. Corvallis, OR; Specimen#0000445045, some rights reserved.



A honeybee collects pollen on a blackberry blossom. Honeybees are crucial pollinators for various Oregon crops, including blueberries, pears, cherries, apples, clover, cranberries and vegetable seeds. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.