college of agricultural sciences

OSU helps schools reduce pesticide use, comply with law

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University is helping schools comply with a state law that requires them to have a plan in place by July 1 to reduce pesticide use.

As part of that mandate, the Oregon legislature charged the OSU Extension Service with drawing up at least one model plan for the state's public and private schools from kindergarten through 12th grade as well as its community colleges.

Two plans – one for large school districts and one for small districts – are now online at http://bit.ly/L7MJOc. Districts can customize the plans or use others as long as they comply with the state law.

OSU's plans assign responsibilities to teachers, custodians, cooks and grounds crews and describe how to watch for and report pests. They also include guidelines for keeping records of pesticide use and posting warning signs around areas where pesticides will be applied.

"I'm thankful that OSU is doing this. Had it not been for their assistance it would have been a burden for us in terms of drafting all the documentation to implement this program," said Jim Peterson, the facilities coordinator for the Hillsboro School District, which has adopted the plan for large districts.

Tim Stock, a pesticide educator in OSU’s Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC), created the plans after piloting programs in schools in Beaverton, Salem and Eugene to see what worked and to get feedback from staff.

"He has just been a wealth of information," said Ken Anderson, who is in charge of maintenance services for the Beaverton School District. "He and his staff came out, walked the sites, made recommendations and helped us put our plan together."

The plans use what's called integrated pest management (IPM), which employs chemicals only as a last resort. Instead, IPM focuses on eliminating the conditions – like a torn window screen or crumbs under a microwave – that attract or let in pests like mice or yellow jackets. The goal is to reduce pests, decrease the use of pesticides, cut costs for schools and create a healthier environment for students and staff, said Stock, a faculty member with the OSU Extension Service.

As part of the law, each school district must designate an IPM coordinator to oversee its pest prevention efforts. The law requires that person to spend six hours each year learning about IPM principles and the law itself. To help, Stock said that he and his assistant, entomologist Jennifer Snyder, have trained coordinators from 100 school districts at workshops in Portland, Eugene, Corvallis and other locations. They will offer trainings later this year in Pendleton, Grants Pass, Coos Bay and other places.

Don Barney completed the training earlier this year. He's the lead groundskeeper for the Crook County School District, which has adopted one of Stock's plans.

"You start out with information on IPM," Barney said of the training for IPM coordinators. "They tell you how to install door sweeps and caulk cracks, monitor and identify pests, and how to come up with a solution for getting rid of the pests with a low-impact product."

To help draw up his model plans, Stock surveyed Oregon's 197 school districts in 2010 and received responses from 184. Twenty-six said they already had adopted IPM plans. His survey found that 104 districts reported mice as one of their top three pests. That's problematic, Stock said, because mice can carry diseases and trigger asthma, which can cause students to miss class. Stock intends to survey districts again next year to measure their progress in implementing IPM and help refine his program’s outreach.

More information on the IPPC's integrated pest management program for schools is at http://bit.ly/KdXivM.

Media Contact: 

Tim Stock, 541-737-6279

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Tim Stock, a pesticide educator with Oregon State University, checks for insects and rodents under a sink in a classroom. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.


Tim Stock, a pesticide educator with Oregon State University, uses a magnifying glass at an OSU-sponsored workshop in Salem that taught schools facilities staff to identify insects. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.

Understanding complexities of taste, smell could lead to improved diet

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University have made some fundamental discoveries about how people taste, smell and detect flavor, and why they love some foods much more than others.

The findings could lead to the Holy Grail of nutrition – helping people learn to really LIKE vegetables.

As an evolutionary survival mechanism, humans are wired to prefer sweet-tasting foods and avoid bitter substances. In the distant past, that helped us avoid poison and find food that provided energy. Now, it just makes us fat.

In several publications, the most recent in the journal Chemical Senses, scientists have outlined exactly how humans use the nose and tongue to recognize the flavor of foods that are safe to eat. When odor and taste components of foods are congruent, like vanilla and sugar, they are perceived as one sensation which seems to come from the mouth.

“This is a trick that the brain plays on us,” said Juyun Lim, an OSU assistant professor of food science and technology. “Vanilla has no taste at all. It’s a smell, and the pleasant sensation is coming not from your mouth but from the nose, through the passage way between the back of the mouth and the back of the nose.”

When flavors are “incongruent” and not as commonly found together – like vanilla and salt – then people believe they are smelling the vanilla  from the nose rather than tasting it in the mouth.

“This was an amazing part of our experiments, we did not expect a result so compelling,” Lim said. “There has been confusion for centuries about exactly how our senses of taste and smell work. We’re finally starting to work this out.”

There are actually several senses that relate to the perceived “flavor” of a food, Lim said. These include taste, which resides solely in the tongue; smell, which is exclusively in the nose; and somesthesis, which includes things like touch, temperature, and the burn of hot peppers.  Even though the mouth and nose are pretty closely connected, taste and smell do not actually interact with each other there at all.

The real action happens in the brain. It decides what you are eating and whether it is safe or not.

In the brain, there’s a taste center, and a smell center, and lurking just behind your eyes is a third center called the orbital frontal cortex, where taste and smell sensations are integrated into the perception of a single flavor. That verdict gets relayed back to the tongue and gives the impression of flavor in the mouth.

If you don’t believe it, scientists say, there’s a simple experiment to demonstrate the point. Take a sip of your favorite drink while pinching your nose, and see what it tastes like. Don’t recognize it? Open your nose, and the familiar taste will reveal itself.

The mechanisms of flavor perception, including those that are both congruent and incongruent, probably evolved as a protective mechanism, Lim said. Foods that were sweet or salty were usually safe to eat and provided needed macronutrients, like carbohydrates and salt, and consequently those flavors came to be desired, she said. Sourness and bitterness, by comparison, often meant food was spoiled or contained toxins and were a warning sign not to eat it.

Those mechanisms served well to prevent a cave dweller from starving or getting poisoned, she said, but unfortunately they are still with us, and in today’s world lead straight to ice cream, soft drinks and obesity. But even so, Lim said, flavor perception is still largely a learned behavior.

And if it’s learned, she said, we should be able to teach it better, or find ways to work around these evolutionary instincts.

“Hardly anyone really likes the somewhat bitter taste of coffee the first time they drink it, but they like the caffeine,” Lim said. “Since the coffee makes them feel energized, they learn to like its flavor.”

As the understanding improves of how taste and smell actually work to control our perceptions of flavor, she said, it may be possible to use that knowledge to lead humans toward an improved diet. The research team is investigating whether people can learn to like vegetables and the potential mechanisms underlying that process.

“Many people say they don’t like the ‘taste’ of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower or brussel sprouts, for instance,” Lim said. “But what they are mainly reacting to is the smell of these vegetables, which includes a defensive compound that makes even other animals shy away from eating them. Find a way to help improve their smell, and you’ll find a way to make people enjoy eating them.”


Juyun Lim, 541-737-6507

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Taste testing

Taste testing

New OSU research center will assess impact of Farm Bill and other policies

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Increasing government scrutiny of farm support programs has prompted the creation of a new research center at Oregon State University.

The Partnership for Agricultural and Resource Policy Research, established through a $910,216 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a collaboration among economists at OSU and University of California, Davis. It will assess the impacts of the Farm Bill on agricultural economies, rural communities, the environment, and consumer access to healthy, affordable food and nutrition.

"There are significant challenges facing agriculture, the environment and rural communities that society must address," said Susan Capalbo, head of OSU's department of agricultural and resource economics and one of the principal scientists in the new program. "Our research will assess how revisions to the Farm Bill and other policies will affect a wide range of these issues, from rural poverty to global competition, climate change, and food safety."

The Farm Bill is omnibus legislation passed by the U.S. Congress every few years and addresses agricultural and food policy.

OSU and UC Davis are national leaders in policy research relating to agricultural and resource economics, according to OSU economist JunJie Wu, director of the Partnership. Two key investigators, John Antle of OSU and Daniel Sumner of UC, have served as senior staff economists on the U.S. president's Council of Economic Advisers and have testified before Congress.

Other key investigators tap interdisciplinary strengths across OSU, including the Rural Studies Program headed by Bruce Weber and the geospacial climatology group, Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model, headed by Chris Daly.

"The Partnership for Agricultural and Resource Policy Research will be the 'go to' place in the western United States for high-quality objective economic analysis of critical policy issues related to agricultural, resource and food systems," Wu said.

Media Contact: 

Susan Capalbo, 541-737-5639

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JunJie Wu is an economist at Oregon State University. (Photo by Tiffany Woods)

Washington County 4-H receives $25,000 memorial gift

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Generations of Washington County youth will continue to have access to programs teaching valuable leadership and life skills, thanks to a $25,000 memorial gift.

The gift, made in honor of Margaret P. Hesse from her family, increases the county's 4-H endowment by more than 40 percent, providing a perpetual stream of income to support 4-H programs. Hesse, who died in 2007, had a 30-year history of volunteer service to Washington County 4-H.

"She had a passion for sewing and teaching children and started her first 4-H sewing club soon after she married my dad, Louis F. Hesse, in 1951," said daughter Ann Hesse Gosch, a trustee of the Oregon 4-H Foundation.

Louis and Margaret had first met as Washington County 4-H'ers at a 4-H corn club banquet in 1942 and had their first date at 4-H Summer School (now called Summer Conference) in 1945. The two graduated from Hillsboro High School and then from Oregon State College (now Oregon State University) in 1950 and '52, respectively – he in agriculture and she in home economics.

"When I was old enough to join 4-H in 1964 my mom started another sewing club for my friends," Gosch said, "and later yet another club for a group of younger neighbor girls." Hesse also served as a county and state fair judge for many years.

In recent years Washington County 4-H has gained national recognition through programs such as Tech Wizards, an afterschool, small-group mentoring program for youth in grades 4 -12, which has been replicated in 22 states.

"Washington County has long been known as a leader of 4-H programming in the state of Oregon," said Roger Rennekamp, associate dean for outreach and engagement in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. "Private support like this allows 4-H to continue creating programs that make a lifelong impact on Oregon youth. We are grateful to the Hesse family for creating such a fitting tribute in honor of one of our treasured volunteers."

Oregon 4-H seeks to establish and strengthen endowments designed to expand the reach of 4-H within each of the state's 36 counties. This gift is part of The Campaign for OSU, the university's first comprehensive fundraising campaign. Guided by OSU's strategic plan, the campaign has raised more than $800 million to provide opportunities for students, strengthen Oregon communities, and conduct research that changes the world.


Media Contact: 

 Roger Rennekamp, 541-737-1737

Oregon tree names keep people guessing

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Many people are aware that despite its name, Douglas-fir is not a true fir. It's also not a pine, not a spruce and not a hemlock. Outside of the United States, it is often called Oregon pine, also a misnomer.

What is a Douglas-fir, then?

It's a unique species, in a class by itself, according to the newly revised Oregon State University publication, "Understanding Names of Oregon Trees," (EC 1502). The publication is available only online at http://bit.ly/OSUESec1502 .

"It's little wonder that people are confused by tree names," said author Scott Leavengood, director of the Oregon Wood Innovation Center at OSU. "Foresters often name trees by physical appearance, while the wood products industry may name trees based on characteristics of the wood. Botanists name trees based on anatomical characteristics and evolutionary relationships to other trees."

The publication outlines quirky naming devices. For example, you can usually distinguish a "true tree" if its names are not hyphenated or run together. For example Atlas cedar is a "true cedar" whereas western redcedar and Port-Orford-cedar are "false cedars."

Scientists use Latin names to avoid confusion. The first word in the scientific name refers to the genus and the second is the species. "Trees in the same genus are closely related and have similar characteristics," Leavengood said. Trees of the same species can be interbred.

"If you want to know if a tree is a fir, pine, cedar or other type of tree, check the genus name," Leavengood suggested. "For example, unless a tree is in the genus Abies, it is not a true fir, and unless a tree is in the genus Cedrus, it is not a true cedar."

Oregon does have six native, true firs: White fir, California red fir, Grand fir, Pacific silver fir, Noble fir and Subalpine fir.

Check out the OSU publication for more information on Oregon trees, such as cedars, western juniper, mountain-mahoganies, poplar and myrtlewood.

Also available from OSU is a full-color field guide, "Trees to Know in Oregon" (EC1450), in the OSU Extension online catalog: http://bit.ly/TreesToKnow . This 60th anniversary edition includes more than 70 new color photos and costs $18.


Scott Leavengood, 541-737-4212

OSU to host 2012 Hyslop Farm Field Day on May 30

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University Extension Service specialists and researchers from OSU's Department of Crop and Soil Science will host the annual Hyslop Research Farm Field Day on Wednesday, May 30. The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Field day topics will focus on cereal and seed crops, and will be presented in both morning and afternoon sessions. The public is invited, and people should plan to stay all day to hear presentations in all sessions. The OSU Crops Club will prepare no-cost lunch at noon sponsored by the Oregon Seed Council and the Oregon Wheat Growers League.

Cereal topics will include Pacific Northwest winter wheat varieties, presented by both public and private wheat breeders; management of wheat diseases, including stripe rust, in the Willamette Valley; and discussion on winter barley varieties available for a variety of end uses. Faculty from Linn Benton Community College will also be on hand to discuss their new biofuel crops program.

Seed crop topics will include advances in meadowfoam breeding; fiber flax planting date and weed management studies; the use of plant growth regulators in red clover seed production; updates on alternatives to the use of diuron in carbon-seeded perennial ryegrass; and updates on barley yellow dwarf virus in perennial ryegrass seed production.

Hyslop Farm is located six miles northeast of Corvallis on Granger Road, just off of Highway 20. Watch for signs.

For more information, contact Mike Flowers, OSU Extension cereals specialist, at 541-737-9940; or Andy Hulting, OSU Extension weed management specialist, at 541-737-5098. A detailed agenda of the field day and maps to Hyslop Farm can be found at: http://cropandsoil.oregonstate.edu/


Andy Hulting 541-737-5098

OSU names Dan Arp as dean of Agricultural Sciences

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Dan Arp, a longtime microbiology researcher and science educator who has led the University Honors College program at Oregon State University since May of 2008, has been appointed as the Reub Long Dean of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station at OSU.

Arp will assume the responsibilities of former dean Sonny Ramaswamy, who last month was named by President Obama to lead the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Washington, D.C. Arp’s initial appointment is expected to last for two years.

Arp’s studies have focused on agriculturally and environmentally relevant microorganisms, nitrification, the biology of bacteria and bioremediation. He is one of a handful of OSU faculty members to carry the prestigious title “distinguished professor,” and he is an affiliate of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing on campus.

Before taking on the role of dean in the University Honors College, Arp was named the L.L Stewart Professor of Gene Research in 2002, and two years later became chair of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Arp began his career at the University of Erlangen in West Germany, where he was research director and a NATO postdoctoral fellow. He also has been on the biochemistry faculty at the University of California-Riverside.

“President Ray and I are delighted that Dr. Arp has agreed to lead the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president. “Dan is well-known for his strong leadership, administrative ability and academic credibility. He will approach his new role with a combination of collaboration and innovation, looking to position the college as a transformative agriculture and natural resources enterprise for the future.

“Dan will work with faculty and stakeholders to ensure that the college continues to have a strong and positive impact on scientific research and outreach to agricultural industry in Oregon and beyond,” Randhawa added.

The College of Agricultural Sciences is Oregon’s principal source of knowledge relating to agricultural and food systems, and a major source of knowledge regarding environmental quality, natural resources, life sciences, and rural economies and communities worldwide. Agricultural programs at OSU represent an $85 million enterprise. The college includes 15 academic departments, an Agricultural Experiment Station with 11 branch stations around the state, and more than 1,600 students who pursue bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees.

The college’s research programs create knowledge to solve problems and to build a base for the future. It is a source of information and expertise in integrating and applying knowledge with benefits that are felt in domestic and international settings.

Randhawa noted that OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences has a long and rich history. As the state’s Land Grant university, Oregon State was created to serve the needs of the people. Beginning in 1870 as Corvallis College, agricultural and natural resources programs were offered and have been a vital component ever since.

Media Contact: 

Sabah Randhawa, 541-737-2111

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Dan Arp
Dan Arp

OSU annual Earth Day Hoo Haa is April 22 near Corvallis

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The public is invited to enjoy free food and live music at the 10th annual Earth Day Hoo Haa Sunday, April 22, from noon to 5 p.m. just east of Corvallis. The theme for this year's event is "Sunday Skool - Hoo Haa!"

The festivities, sponsored by Oregon State University's Organic Growers Club, will be on the grounds of the student-run organic farm on the outskirts of Corvallis. Attendees are welcome to bring a turning fork to help till the ground and plant beets, greens, lettuce and 10,000 onions.

Participants can tour the two-acre farm, view displays from local organizations and student groups, watch a bubble artist, learn about soil and see how chickens in mobile coops are used to till the earth. Face painting will be available for children of all ages.

A variety of local musical talent will be showcased, as well as readings by nationally renowned poet Michelle Anderson.

For dinner, vegetarian chili made largely from the club’s own produce will be served. People are encouraged to bring their own bowl and silverware.

Organizers also ask visitors to leave their dogs at home.

Starting at noon, free shuttle vans to the farm will depart from the OSU Beaver Store (formerly OSU Book Store) approximately every 15 minutes. It will stop along the way at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture, where other Earth-friendly activities will be featured.

To drive to the farm, take Highway 34 east after crossing the Willamette River, then turn left onto Electric Road just past the Trysting Tree Golf Club. Head north and turn right at the Peach Place, continue and turn right at the end of the road (south). Look for the circus tent on your left.

For more information, go to the OSU Organic Growers Club website or Facebook site.


James Cassidy, 541-737-6810

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Attendees of the 2009 Earth Day Hoo Haa transplant onions at Oregon State University's student-run organic farm. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

OSU network for minorities wins regional and national awards

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University student chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) has won the Region VI Outstanding Chapter Award for the seventh time and was one of the top three chapters in the country to continue in the competition.

The national second place award for Chapter of the Year was presented to the OSU chapter at the annual career fair and training conference in Atlanta, Ga.

In addition, three students received national research awards. Sarah Wright took third place in oral undergraduate research, Tiffany Harper took second place in oral undergraduate research, and Vananh Nguyen took second place oral graduate research.

Tiffany Harper was elected undergraduate vice president for Region VI.

"The national MANRRS mission is to promote academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources and related sciences,” said Wanda Crannell, the group's adviser. Membership is open to all students at all levels from high school to graduate school and who come from a variety of colleges and departments, although more than half are from the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences.

"Many students rate high academically but being in good standing is all that's required," Crannell said "A sense of belonging and working together on shared activities is important for the vast majority who are the first in their family to pursue higher education." Each student is mentored by upper classmen, professionals from industry or faculty members from OSU or the 70 college chapters across the country.

"The OSU MANRRS chapter is the most diverse and actively engaged in professional development, leadership and community service projects in the nation," Crannell said.

"We provide mentoring and networking opportunities, connect students to available resources, conduct workshops for professional development to help students define and achieve their goals, provide community service opportunities to promote active citizenship, and support the College of Agricultural Sciences in meeting its diversity related goals.”


Wanda Crannell, 541-737-2999

USGS/OSU study: Invasive barred owls interfere with spotted owls

CORVALLIS, Ore. – High densities of invasive barred owls appear to be outcompeting the threatened northern spotted owl for critical resources such as space, habitat, and food, according to a study released today by Oregon State University.

The three-year study – conducted in western Oregon through a research partnership including the U.S. Geological Survey and OSU – also confirms that barred owls not only use similar forest types and prey species as spotted owls, but also that a high density of barred owls can reduce the amount of those resources available to spotted owls. 

"Interactions between invasive and native species can be multifaceted and complex, with the stakes being even higher when the native species is already threatened with extinction," explained USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "Careful scientific observation and analysis can tease out the critical areas of conflict or competition, the first step in finding solutions." 

The northern spotted owl was designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. In recent years, the barred owl has expanded its range from eastern into western North America, where its geographic range now overlaps the entire range of the northern spotted owl. 

Barred owls also have become more common than spotted owls in the forest of western Oregon, according to David Wiens, the USGS author of the study, who conducted the research as part of his doctoral studies at OSU. Within the study area at least 82 pairs of barred owls were identified but only 15 pairs of spotted owls.  The probability that spotted owls survived from one year to the next was 81 percent compared to 92 percent for barred owls, and barred owls produced more than six times as many young as spotted owls.

The value of old forest habitat for spotted owls was further demonstrated by the study.  Both species frequently used patches of old conifer forest or stands of hardwood trees along streams while hunting for food and roosting, and both species survived better when there were greater amounts of old conifer forest within their territories. 

The study occurred in the central Coast Range of western Oregon where barred owl populations have steadily increased over the past two decades. Of all of the owls identified in the study area, Wiens captured a sample group and outfitted 29 spotted owls and 28 barred owls with radio transmitters. He monitored the interactions among the radio-marked owls and how the two species used resources.

The forested area where the study occurred included 52 sites that were formerly occupied by pairs of spotted owls. 

"Despite two decades of dedicated management efforts, northern spotted owl populations have continued to decline throughout much of their range," said Eric Forsman, a U.S. Forest Service researcher who also participated in the study. "This study suggests that conservation of old forest habitat is still a critical need for spotted owls, so we will continue to work with our research and management partners to collect information and explore options for management." 

This information is the result of a research partnership led by the U.S. Geological Survey.  In addition to OSU, the partnership included other agencies of the U.S. Department of the Interior – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management – as well as the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry, and Boise State University.

In February 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a draft Environmental Impact Statement that outlines options for experimental removal of barred owls from certain areas throughout the spotted owl's range to test the effect of such removal on spotted owl population trends. The agency is considering combinations of both lethal and non-lethal (capturing and relocating or placing in permanent captivity) methods for removing barred owls.

The full report, Competitive Interactions and Resource Partitioning between Northern Spotted Owls and Barred Owls in Western Oregon, is available as an Oregon State University doctoral dissertation.

Media Contact: 

David Wiens, 541-750-0961