college of agricultural sciences

New OSU wheat resists stripe rust, bakes well

CORVALLIS, Ore. – With the baking industry in mind, Oregon State University has developed a higher-yielding soft white winter wheat that's also resistant to the disease stripe rust.

The new cultivar is known as Kaseberg and is ideal for rain-fed and irrigated areas. In field trials, the variety thrived in a number of Pacific Northwest regions, including eastern and western Oregon, southern Idaho and south central Washington.

During two years of testing in Oregon, Kaseberg averaged 136 bushels an acre on land with high rainfall or irrigation – compared with 122 bushels for similar Oregon variety Stephens and 106 for the more recent release Tubbs 06. Under low rainfall conditions, Kaseberg averaged 91 bushels per acre versus 85 for Stephens and 81 for Tubbs 06.

The new variety also resists stripe rust, a fungal disease that can cut yields in half, said Bob Zemetra, OSU's wheat breeder.

"Stripe rust resistance was fairly stable from the 1970s to 1990s,” he said. “Now the disease is changing more frequently, so breeders have to be upgrading resistance constantly."

Kaseberg is also mildly resistant to the disease Septoria, but the cultivar shows susceptibility to strawbreaker footrot, soilborne wheat mosaic virus and crown rot.

OSU researchers developed Kaseberg to appeal to millers and bakers. For cookies and crackers, it's superior to Tubbs 06, Stephens and Madsen because it has weaker gluten and finer flour particles when milled.

"New releases need to equal and surpass the performance of previous varieties,” Zemetra said. “The bar is set higher each time. In breeding we deal with three customers: the farmer, the miller and the baker. We aim to fit the needs of all three."

The new cultivar is named after the Kaseberg family, longtime eastern Oregon wheat growers who have been major contributors to the Oregon wheat industry, held leadership roles in the Agricultural Research Foundation and the Oregon Wheat League, and have allowed OSU to use their land to develop varieties for many years. 

This year, OSU is also releasing another new cultivar known as Ladd. The new soft white winter wheat cultivar is the first produced in the Pacific Northwest resistant to soilborne wheat mosaic virus.

The variety is targeted toward irrigated areas in Oregon and central Washington where the virus has recently been found to thrive. Ladd is also resistant to strawbreaker foot rot and is moderately resistant to stripe rust.

The variety is named for Sheldon Ladd, the head of OSU's Department of Crop and Soil Science from 1985 to 2000.

Creating a new variety of wheat can take more than a decade. Even after that, breeders need an additional three years to generate enough seed for farmers.

Both new varieties are open cultivar releases from Oregon State University and the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. Registered seed of both varieties and a small amount of certified seed of Kaseberg will be available this fall.

More than 980,000 acres of wheat were harvested in Oregon in 2011, with gross sales exceeding $520 million, according to a report by OSU Extension.


 Bob Zemetra, 541-737-4278

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Kaseberg - new OSU soft white winter wheat

Oregon State University's new wheat called Kaseberg resists stripe rust, a fungal disease that can cut yields in half. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

OSU study: Salmon may use magnetic field as a navigational aid

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The mystery of how salmon navigate across thousands of miles of open ocean to locate their river of origin before journeying upstream to spawn has intrigued biologists for decades, and now a new study may offer a clue to the fishes’ homing strategy.

In the study, scientists examined 56 years of fisheries data documenting the return of sockeye salmon to the Fraser River in British Columbia – and the route they chose around Vancouver Island showed a correlation with changes in the intensity of the geomagnetic field.

Results of the study, which was supported by Oregon Sea Grant and the National Science Foundation, were published this week in the journal Current Biology.

“What we think happens is that when salmon leave the river system as juveniles and enter the ocean, they imprint the magnetic field – logging it in as a waypoint,” said Nathan Putman, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “It serves as a proxy for geographic location when they return as adults. It gets them close to their river system and then other, finer cues may take over.”

Earth has a predictable, consistent geomagnetic field that weakens as you move from the poles toward the equator. The magnetic North Pole has an intensity gradient of roughly 58 microtesla, while the equator is about 24 microtesla.

Salmon originating from Oregon that have spent two to four years in the northern Pacific Ocean off Canada or Alaska would return as adults, the scientists speculate, journeying southward off the coast until they reached a magnetic field intensity similar to that of their youth.

“That should get them to within 50 to 100 kilometers of their own river system and then olfactory cues or some other sense kicks on,” said Putman, who conducts research in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Vancouver Island provides a natural laboratory for the study of salmon, the researchers point out. Salmon returning to the Fraser River must detour around the massive island to reach the mouth of the river, choosing a southern or northern route. In their study, the scientists found that the “drift” of the geomagnetic field correlated with which route the salmon chose.

When the normal intensity level for the Fraser River shifted to the north, the sockeye were more likely to choose a northern route for their return. When the field shifted slightly south, they chose a southern route.

This “field drift” accounted for about 16 percent of the variation in the migration route, Putman said, while variations in sea surface temperatures accounted for 22 percent. The interactive effect between these two variables accounted for an additional 28 percent of the variation in the migration route.

“Salmon are a cold-water fish, and all things being equal, they prefer cold water,” said Putman, who earned his Ph.D.  in biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “But the fact that they also demonstrate geomagnetic fidelity in choosing a route shows that this could be a major instrument in their biological toolbox to guide their way home.”

Putman said that his previous studies of the Columbia River have shown that the magnetic intensity shifts less than 30 kilometers in either direction over a period of three years, which is about the length of time many salmon spend in the ocean.

“Salmon have to get it right because they only have one chance to make it back to their home river,” Putman said, “so it makes sense that they may have more than one way to get there. The magnetic field is amazingly consistent, so that is a strategy that can withstand the test of time. But they may also use the sun as a compass, track waves breaking on the beach through infrasound, and use smell.”

Putman and OSU fisheries biologist David Noakes plan to follow through with experiments on varying the magnetic field for salmon in a laboratory setting, using the Oregon Hatchery Research Center in Oregon’s Alsea River basin.

Other authors on the study include Kenneth Lohmann, University of North Carolina; Emily Putman, an independent researcher; Thomas Quinn, University of Washington; A. Peter Klimley, University of California, Davis; and David Noakes, Oregon State University.

Media Contact: 

Nathan Putman, 205-218-5276

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Vancouver Island

OSU creates small-kerneled hazelnut for confection market

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has developed a new high-yielding, blight-resistant hazelnut for the baking and chocolate industries.  

Known as Wepster, or OSU 894.030, it was bred to be shelled, blanched and sold as kernels as an alternative to the OSU-bred varieties called Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea and Yamhill, said OSU's hazelnut breeder, Shawn Mehlenbacher. He announced the release today in Portland at the annual meeting of the Nut Growers Society of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

OSU plans to license Wepster to nurseries that agree to pay a royalty of 50 cents per tree. Mehlenbacher expects nurseries to start selling a limited quantity of trees to growers this spring and a larger amount next winter. 

Wepster produces small, round kernels, making it ideal for the chocolate industry, which prefers kernels with a diameter of 11-13 millimeters, Mehlenbacher said.

The result of a cross made in 1997, the variety is named after the Wepster family in honor of their contributions to the Oregon hazelnut industry and OSU's hazelnut breeding program. The family also helped create the Oregon Hazelnut Industry Endowed Professorship, which Mehlenbacher holds.

Wepster has several advantages over its peers, Mehlenbacher said. At 15 feet, it's taller than Yamhill, whose shorter stature makes it harder for machinery to get under its canopy and sweep up and collect the nuts, he said. Wepster doesn't require much pruning or training, he added.

The tree also has a high level of resistance to eastern filbert blight, which is present throughout the Willamette Valley where 99 percent of the U.S. hazelnut crop is grown. The fungal disease produces cankers that girdle branches, and it can significantly decrease yields. The tree is also immune to big bud mites, which feed on the flower buds and cause them to swell and die. 

Wepster's yields are consistently high, Mehlenbacher said. It came out on top in one trial comparing nine different cultivars planted in 2006. It produced 57 pounds of nuts (including the shells) per tree over five years versus 43 pounds for Yamhill. In another trial, Wepster yielded 43 pounds, or about the same as OSU's Jefferson, Yamhill and Santiam varieties. Additionally, few moldy kernels were observed in Wepster in contrast to Yamhill and especially Santiam.

In trials, about 95 percent of Wepster's nuts lost their husks at maturity. They fell to the ground about a week before the variety known as Barcelona did, allowing them to be collected before the start of the rainy season.

When weighed in one analysis, about 47 percent of the nut's total weight was from its kernel, about the same as Yamhill and higher than Barcelona's 43 percent. In another trial, however, Wepster came in at 44 percent compared with Yamhill's 46 percent. Mehlenbacher noted that in 2011, when hazelnut trees were heavily loaded with nuts, Yamhill's shells didn't have much kernel in them, making them unmarketable. In contrast, Wepster's kernels sufficiently filled up the shells that year.

Wepster also beats out Yamhill in another area, Mehlenbacher said. During blanching, only half of Yamhill's inner skin, or pellicle, comes off. In contrast, Wepster's moderately fibrous inside layer is easily removed from the kernels with dry heat.

Given that hazelnut trees can't be pollinated by ones that are genetically identical, recommended pollinizers for Webster are OSU's York, Gamma and the university's yet-to-be-released selection known as OSU 880.027.

Oregon orchardists sold $44 million of hazelnuts in 2011, making the nut the state's 24th most important agricultural commodity, according to a report by the OSU Extension Service. Also known as a filbert, the hazelnut is Oregon's official nut.

Media Contact: 

Shawn Mehlenbacher, 541-737-5467

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Hazelnuts are harvested at an orchard in Oregon, which produces 99 percent of the U.S. hazelnut crop. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)


Oregon State University's new hazelnut, Wepster, produces small, round kernels, making it ideal for the chocolate industry. Its moderately fibrous inside layer is easily removed from the kernels with dry heat. (Photo by Becky McCluskey.)

OSU study: Cows fed flaxseed produce more nutritious dairy products

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Dairy cows that are fed flaxseed produce more nutritious milk, according to a new study by Oregon State University.

Their milk contained more omega-3 fatty acids and less saturated fat, the study found. Diets high in saturated fat can increase cholesterol and cause heart disease, while those rich in omega-3 and other polyunsaturated fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease, studies have shown.

Traditional cattle feed mixtures of corn, grains, alfalfa hay and grass silage result in dairy products with low concentrations of omega-3 and other polyunsaturated fats, according to Gerd Bobe, the lead scientist on the study, which has been published online in the Journal of Dairy Science.

Ten pregnant cows at OSU's dairy were fed different amounts of flaxseed – up to seven percent of their daily diet. Researchers attempted to pinpoint the amount of flaxseed that would maximize the amount of omega-3 in milk and dairy products without negatively affecting their production and texture.

"We were looking for a sweet spot,” said Bobe, an expert in human and animal nutrition. “Too much of a good thing can be bad, especially when trying to maintain consistency with dairy products.”

Collaborators in OSU's food science and technology department assisted in turning milk into butter and fresh cheese, which were then tested for texture and nutritional composition.

The study found that feeding cows up to six pounds of extruded flaxseed improved the fat profile without negatively affecting the production and texture of the milk and other dairy products. Extrusion presses raw ground flaxseed into pellets with heat.

At six pounds per day, saturated fatty acids in whole milk fat dropped 18 percent, poly-unsaturated fatty acids increased 82 percent, and omega-3 levels rose 70 percent compared to feeding no flaxseed. Similar improvements were observed in butter and cheese.

Still, saturated fat accounted for more than half of the fatty acids in the dairy products while the increase in polyunsaturated fats compromised no more than nearly nine percent of the total.

Researchers also noted that the refrigerated butter was softer and less adhesive thanks to fewer saturated fatty acids. Also, the cows produced the same amount of milk while eating flaxseed.

Although flaxseed costs more than traditional cattle feeds, Bobe hopes that it still could be an affordable feed supplement for cows because products enriched with omega-3 can sell for a premium at the grocery store.

"Many consumers already show a willingness to pay extra for value-added foods, like omega-3 enriched milk," he said.

One thing is for sure, he said: Dairy farmers will have no trouble convincing cows to eat flaxseed.

"They loved it. They ate it like candy," he said.


Gerd Bobe, 541-737-1898

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Adrian Gombart

OSU researcher Gerd Bobe led a study that fed flaxseed to dairy cows and examined the effects to milk, cheese and butter. Photo by Hannah O'Leary.

Garden smarter, not harder if you have disabilities

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Pat Patterson, a Master Gardener trained by the Oregon State University Extension Service, does not let a bad back or an artificial knee keep her from her garden. 

The enthusiastic 74-year-old maintains a 2,000-square-foot vegetable garden, a four-acre wildlife area and a Japanese garden at her property between Noti and Cheshire with the help of three friends and her husband.

"I would be at a loss if I couldn't garden," Patterson said. "I would have planted at least sprouts in a pot or African violets on my windowsill, but I really wanted to grow food, and lots of it."

What allowed her the freedom? A concept called "adaptive gardening" involves making small modifications to accommodate a gardener's physical injuries or disabilities. In her case, she has built high raised beds that make access easier. She also uses an extensive trellis system. Favorite tools include an Asian plow-hoe, a garden knife and an aluminum trowel with finger indentations for a better grip.  

"We call it gardening smarter, not harder," said Patterson, who has been sharing her knowledge with the public as a Master Gardener volunteer since 1976.

Patterson chairs the adaptive gardening committee of the Master Gardeners' Association of Lane County. Anywhere from two to 20 committee members give talks and help such institutions as assisted living centers make gardening more accessible to everyone. One occasional committee volunteer is legally deaf and partially sighted.

The OSU Extension Service offers gardening advice for the visually impaired in a publication at http://bit.ly/XGP99l. Here are a few of the tips:

  • Mark changes in the direction of path segments with shrubs or with different textures of the path material.
  • Make flower borders and planted beds no more than three feet across so the gardener can reach the plants while kneeling and working with short-handled tools.
  • Install wind chimes, moving water and scented plants to help the gardener find special parts of the garden.
  • Arrange bedded plants in groups of three to five in straight rows to make them easier to locate.

Another Extension guide offers advice for adapting gardening tools for people with physical challenges at http://bit.ly/113x6lZ.  It recommends the following:

  • Use plastic handle extenders to improve leverage and keep you from having to bend over too. Or use long-handled tools, which are available in many hardware stores.
  • Garden from a chair to add comfort if you have knee problems.
  • Build raised beds or containers whenever possible to minimize bending.

You can see such examples of adaptive gardening techniques like whiskey barrel planters, accessible table-top beds and extra-tall raised beds at various demonstration gardens maintained by Master Gardeners, including those in Benton, Douglas, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion and Washington counties.


Pat Patterson, 541-998-6920

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The OSU Extension Service's demonstration garden in Salem features adaptive gardening techniques that make it more accessible to people with physical disabilities. (Photo by Neil Bell.)

Tiny wasp could be stink bug's foe

CORVALLIS Ore. – As the brown marmorated stink bug spreads across the state, Oregon State University is studying how to use bug-on-bug warfare to stop this crop-damaging pest.

The insect arrived in the eastern United States in the late 1990s and has since spread to more than 30 states. The non-native bug was found in Portland in 2004 and has since shown up in 13 Oregon counties, including all of the Willamette Valley.

But populations in Oregon are still relatively low in most areas, according to OSU estimates. Although the pest has caused major commercial crop damage in many eastern states, so far it has had minimal impact on Northwest crops.

To keep it that way, OSU researchers are looking to a non-pesticide solution: a tiny wasp imported from China. Smaller than a pinhead, the wasp, known as Trissolcus halyomorphae, lays its eggs in the brown marmorated stink bug's eggs. A video OSU made showing this process can be viewed at bit.ly/YbMuLh.

The potential release of the wasp in the field could still be years away as researchers need to first test its behavior in quarantine to determine if it discriminates between the brown marmorated stink bug's eggs and those of other species. Canada and Mexico must also agree to the wasp's introduction.  

"The problem with the introduction of biological control organisms is that bugs don't recognize borders like we do - we don’t want to release something that causes more harm than good," said entomologist Peter Shearer, who's leading OSU's stink bug research. "We want to do this right because rarely do we have an ample opportunity to deal with a problem that has the potential to be this bad."

Oregon farmers fear the insect could severely affect crops if its numbers continue to swell. It has already been spotted near some large agricultural operations in Oregon. The bug isn't a picky eater, having shown a taste for more than 100 types of crops, including corn, wine grapes, hazelnuts, pears, apples and sweet cherries.

It leaves behind discolored patches on the food, which is still safe to eat, but the cosmetic blemishes make the products largely worthless in the marketplace.

"It's more of a list of what it doesn't eat than what it does feed on," said Vaughn Walton, an entomologist at OSU. "Identifying where the bug is found is an ongoing effort. Unfortunately, it has been detected in many of Oregon’s major agricultural areas and the populations are increasing. It looks like it could be a problem soon in some areas based on populations we found in 2012."

OSU researchers are using this field data to plot an even more aggressive tracking strategy for 2013. In the meantime, Oregonians can assist the effort by reporting sightings to bmsb@hort.oregonstate.edu.

"A lot of the finds we’ve made the past few seasons are because of the public chipping in,” said Nik Wiman, a postdoctoral scientist at OSU's research center in Hermiston, who is studying the insect. “Without it, we would not have as good a picture of how the bug has distributed through the state.”

In the winter, the brown marmorated stink bug seeks shelter indoors, often in attics, garages and dark, moist places. It can be confused with other insects, so the OSU Extension Service has published a two-page guide for the public on how to distinguish it from look-alikes at bit.ly/102dyIw. The document is also in Spanish at bit.ly/S9oHbB.  More information on the bug is at bit.ly/Va0m7N.

OSU is one of 11 institutions researching the brown marmorated stink bug in an effort funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Hazelnut Commission and the Oregon Wine Board. OSU graduate student Chris Hedstrom has also contributed to the project.


Silvia Rondon, 541-567-8321 

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Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB)

Adult brown marmorated stink bugs seek shelter indoors during cold weather and are often found in attics and garages. (Photo by Chris Hedstrom.)

Imported wasp Trissolcus halyomorphae

A tiny wasp known as Trissolcus halyomorphae attacks the eggs of a brown marmorated stink bug. (Photo by Chris Hedstrom.)

OSU's nutrition campaign makes kids 'Food Heroes'

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Starting this month, grade-school students across Oregon will learn about healthy eating, thanks to a program from Oregon State University's Extension Service.

It's part of OSU Extension's Food Hero campaign, which encourages Oregonians to eat more fruits and vegetables using inexpensive, easy-to-make recipes from its website at www.foodhero.org. The site also offers tips on topics including food safety, meal planning and eating on a budget.

For the next five months, nutrition educators with Extension will hold events at 58 elementary schools in 27 of the state's 36 counties as part of the initiative. Wearing Food Hero aprons and superhero capes, they'll demonstrate how to make dishes from the website and will serve samples in cafeterias, hallways and classrooms.

The educators also will give students cookbooks, calendars and Food Hero hand stamps saying "Ask Me What I Tried" so their parents can learn about the website and get advice for nutritious eating, too.

"Food Hero is a 24/7 resource," said Lauren Tobey, the coordinator for the website and the OSU Extension Service's nutrition education program. “It's a great option for busy parents to find healthy recipes that are easy and taste good, as well as tips on healthy eating.”

Stephanie Russell, an Extension nutrition educator who works with schools in Jefferson and Crook counties, said Extension will offer table displays and tasting samples of Food Hero recipes at "family nights" at up to seven elementary schools in Prineville and Madras.

"Kids love the Food Hero recipes,” Russell said. “We’ve been using many of them in hands-on nutrition cooking classes in local middle schools and high schools. One favorite is the Popeye smoothie. Students are always saying they can’t believe how good a smoothie can be that has spinach in it. One student told me she liked it so much she shared it with her grandmother in Mexico.

“The students often report they've taken the recipes home and asked Mom to make them, or they've made them on their own," Russell added.

Oregonians will find Food Hero advertising over the next several months on grocery store shopping carts, billboards and radio stations. Twenty-seven Grocery Outlet locations will display ads and recipe cards on shelves and check-out counters, and announce healthy eating tips on their public address systems. Depending on the county, Extension nutrition educators may also offer cooking demonstrations to teach Food Hero recipes at grocery stores, parent nights at schools and at Boys and Girls Clubs.

Within the last year, Extension has added about 50 new recipes to the Food Hero website. It has also made the website easier to use, and it's now accessible by mobile devices. Additionally, it now offers its electronic publication in Vietnamese. Known as Food Hero Monthly, it's emailed to thousands of subscribers and will continue to be offered in English and Spanish as well. People can sign up for it at www.foodhero.org/monthly-magazine.

Parents can also follow Food Hero on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/VsARez, Twitter at https://twitter.com/BeAFoodHero and Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/foodhero.

Food Hero was developed by the OSU Extension Service and is funded by Extension, the Oregon Department of Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Lauren Tobey, 541-737-1017

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The Oregon State University Extension Service's Food Hero website includes this recipe for a barley summer salad at http://bit.ly/VOJx0M. (Photo by Laura LaMotte.)

New and seasoned farmers to swap stories at OSU conference

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Experienced and newer farmers will share their wisdom at the Oregon Small Farms Conference at Oregon State University on March 2.

Based on the theme "Greenhorns and Grayhorns," the 13th annual conference will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at The LaSells Stewart Center on campus.

A similar conference last year attracted a record 800 farmers and ranchers and this year’s event is on track to match that number, said Garry Stephenson, the coordinator for the OSU Extension Service's small farms program.

The keynote session at 9:30 a.m. will spotlight four new farmers whose essays were featured in the book, "Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmer Movement." Speakers are Sarahlee Lawrence of Rainshadow Organics in Terrebonne; Josh Volk of Slow Hand Farm in Portland; Cory Carmen of Carman Ranch in Wallowa; and Teresa Retzlaff of 46 North Farm in Olney.

Organic seed grower and "grayhorn" Frank Morton, of Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, will moderate the panel.

"The OSU Extension Service's small farms program is engaging the young farmer movement," Stephenson said. "There's a resurgence of young farmers in the United States now. As we brainstormed sessions and possible keynotes, we came up with the idea to give experienced and new farmers a place to interact."

Young and experienced farmers will have several opportunities to mingle throughout the conference.

Participants can choose from 21 concurrent sessions in three time slots. Topics will include how to make artisan cheese, sell farm products online, start a farmer network, and find, lease and buy agricultural land. Farmers and OSU Extension faculty will lead most sessions.

The conference costs $50 per person or $90 for two people from the same farm or organization through Feb. 15. After that, the cost increases to $60 per person or $110 for two. The fee includes refreshments and a lunch featuring products from local farms and ranches.

Register online at http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfc.

The day before the conference, participants can also attend the Oregon Agritourism Summit Part 2, co-sponsored by the OSU Extension Service and held on campus. Learn more at http://bit.ly/WU5jMi.


Garry Stephenson, 541-737-5833

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Frank Morton covers lettuce seed plants at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath with a special fabric to protect them from rain. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)


Lisbeth Goddik, the dairy processing specialist with Oregon State University's Extension Service, works with students in her cheese making class. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Residents near Chinese e-waste site face greater cancer risk

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Residents living near an e-waste recycling site in China face elevated risks of lung cancer, according to a recent study co-authored by Oregon State University researchers.

Electronic trash, such as cell phones, computers and TVs, is often collected in dumps in developing countries and crudely incinerated to recover precious metals, including silver, gold, palladium and copper. The process is often primitive, releasing fumes with a range of toxic substances, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, a group of more than 100 chemicals.

PAHs, many of which are recognized as carcinogenic and linked to lung cancer when inhaled, were the focus of the study. Over the course of a year, researchers collected air samples from two rooftops in two areas in China. One was in a rural village in the southern province of Guangdong less than a mile from an active e-waste burning site and not surrounded by any industry. The other was Guangzhou, a city heavily polluted by industry, vehicles and power plants but not e-waste.

The scientists concluded that those living in the e-waste village are 1.6 times more likely to develop cancer from inhalation than their urban-dwelling peers.

“In the village, people were recycling waste in their yards and homes, using utensils and pots to melt down circuit boards and reclaim metals,” said Staci Simonich, a co-author of the study and a professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at OSU. "There was likely exposure through breathing, skin and food – including an intimate connection between e-waste and the growing of vegetables, raising of chickens and catching of fish."

The researchers estimated that of each million people in the e-waste area, 15 to 1,200 would develop lung cancer on account of PAHs over their lifetimes, while the likelihood in the city is slightly lower at 9 to 737 per million. These approximations do not include lung cancer caused by smoking.

The study also found that the level of airborne carcinogenic PAHs exceeded China’s air quality standards 98 percent of the time in the e-waste area and 93 percent of the time in the city.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The OSU Superfund Research Program provided assistance for the study. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided funding for the study.

Eight researchers collaborated on the project, including OSU graduate student Leah Gonzales and scientists from China.


Staci Simonich, 541-737-9194

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Staci Simonich

Chemist Staci Simonich examines a vial containing air pollutants at her lab at Oregon State University. She co-authored a study that found that residents in an rural Chinese village near an electronic waste dump are 1.6 times more likely to develop lung cancer than their peers in the heavily polluted Chinese city of Guangzhou. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

Georgia turf expert heads to OSU for greener grass

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Alec Kowalewski, Oregon State University's new turf specialist, jokes that two requirements for the job were to have a Polish-sounding last name and to be a graduate of Michigan State University.

That's because he replaces fellow MSU alumnus Rob Golembiewski, who left in March to work for Bayer Environmental Science after coming to OSU in 2008.

Kowalewski, formerly an assistant professor of turf management at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Georgia, began work at OSU on Dec. 31.

He'll divide his time between teaching, researching and working as a specialist with OSU's Extension Service to help the turf grass industry. As the N.B. and Jacqueline Giustina Professor in Turf Management, he is funded in part by an endowment created by the family of OSU alumnus Nat Giustina.

He'll carry out his research on the plots and putting greens at OSU's Lewis-Brown Farm and the Trysting Tree Golf Club near campus. He'll be aided by OSU's Brian McDonald, a research assistant who maintained the turf program after Golembiewski's departure. With golf courses, schools and city park departments tightening their belts, Kowalewski plans to conduct experiments that aim to help them maintain acceptable turf conditions on a budget.

At the same time, he intends for his research to also help them reduce their impact on the environment. For example, he's thinking of testing different varieties of grass that require less irrigation and fertilizer to see which performs the best. Or he might take a look at how naturally derived products like corn gluten meal or soybean meal work as alternatives to pesticides, he said.

"Turf management is really entering what I'd call an environmentally conscious era," he said. "There are a lot of concerns about available resources and the effect management is having on the environment."

Kowalewski (pronounced cove-a-less-key) will also oversee graduate students' research, including a project to control Microdochium patch without chemicals. Caused by a fungus, the disease is associated with rainy, cool conditions and forms spots of discolored, damaged grass.

"Microdochium is a very big problem throughout the Pacific Northwest about eight months out of the year," he said. "Golf course superintendents often lose their jobs over problems like this. It's like being a doctor that can't take care of a patient properly."

The disease is costly to golf courses because they have to buy fungicides and replant the grass. But pesticide regulations are expected to become increasingly restrictive, Kowalewski said, so other options are necessary. As a result, graduate student Clint Mattox will explore a variety of treatment methods, which Kowalewski said could include acidifying the soil, drying the turf with a blower, flattening it with a roller, or applying bicarbonates, sodium borate or mineral oil.

Over the next few months, Kowalewski plans to meet with superintendents, athletic turf managers, landscapers and Extension's Master Gardeners to identify other turf problems in the Pacific Northwest they'd like OSU to address.

Kowalewski brings to the position experience as a professor and researcher. In Georgia, he taught during the school year and conducted field trials in the summer. He tested new cultivars of bermudagrass to see how they grew with limited water, infrequent mowing and minimal fertilizer. He also studied how grasses stood up to heavy foot traffic on athletic fields.

In 2007 and 2008, his job took him to Beijing, China, where he literally watched the grass grow for almost five months. He was serving as an adviser to the company that built the portable athletic field used in the Bird's Nest stadium for the track and field events and the men's soccer final during the Olympics. In a parking lot a few miles from the stadium, a crew grew grass on 4-foot by 4-foot trays filled with 8 inches of soil. Every morning at 6 a.m., he inspected the grass for disease and made sure it had the right amounts of fertilizer and water. Then in August after the opening ceremony, his work paid off when the panels were trucked to the stadium and assembled like a jigsaw puzzle.

As for his own grassy yard at his former home in Georgia, Kowalewski wasn't as attentive.

"It's the worst one on the block. I mowed it probably three to four times a year," he said, assuring that it's no reflection on his professional life. "I think of it as trying to leave work at work."

That, and the fact he's also a busy guy. He hasn't even hit the links in about two years, an irony for someone dedicated to helping the golf industry.

"Two years ago I was at 10 courses visiting interns in the Hilton Head area of South Carolina and didn't get a chance to golf because I was so busy," he said. "People ask me what my hobby is. I say, 'I have a 2 ½-year-old daughter. That's my hobby.' It's hard to go golfing when you spend so much time at work and then to convince the wife that you want to go golfing on Saturday. That's usually not an argument you win."

Actually, turf sports aren't Kowalewski's forte. The Michigan native spent his college years locking opponents in half nelsons on a wrestling mat at MSU. Initially pursuing and later earning an undergraduate degree in studio art, it wasn't until he got a summer job at MSU's turfgrass research center that he decided there were greener pastures outside the studio. He went on to earn a doctorate at MSU in crop and soil sciences with an emphasis on turf management.

"Turf management is a great career," he said. "Young people think of college degrees as business and psychology, but you can make a great living taking care of golf courses, athletic fields, city parks or the grounds on a campus. One of my objectives is to get to high school students and tell them this is a great career to go into."

Information on OSU's turf management program is at BeaverTurf.com.

Media Contact: 

Alec Kowalewski, 541-737-5449

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Alec Kowalewski, Oregon State University's new turf specialist, reaches for a pot of creeping bentgrass at a greenhouse on campus. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)