college of agricultural sciences

Christmas cactus care doesn't take a holiday

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Even though it's summer, it's not too early to start thinking about Christmas cacti.

Now is the time to reduce your watering. You should add water only if the soil is almost dry when you stick your finger in it, says Ross Penhallegon, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service. The reduced water will slightly stress the plant to get better blooms in late fall and winter, he says.

Fertilizing during August and early September is not necessary, he adds.

Placing the cactus outdoors in a semi-shady area in the summer is also a good idea to help with bud development, according to Penhallegon. Avoid direct sun; it can damage the leaves.

From mid-September onward, you can resume normal care of your cactus – fertilizing once a month and watering about once a week to keep the soil constantly moist.

As the season progresses, the longer nights will stimulate the development of blossoms in late autumn. Buds will not form unless the plants have a long period of uninterrupted darkness.

If all goes well, your summer work will pay off with beautiful flowers in the winter.

Media Contact: 

Ross Penhallegon, 541-344-1709

Relocated tansy-eating moth evolves to survive in mountains, says study

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A moth that scientists released into the wild in Oregon mountains to control a poisonous invasive weed has unexpectedly evolved to survive the cooler climate, according to a new study.

The cinnabar moth was introduced in the Cascade and Coast ranges 23 years ago to keep tansy ragwort from overtaking clear-cuts. The insect, which in the caterpillar stage has a voracious appetite for tansy leaves and flowers, was originally used only at lower elevations to control the bright yellow weed, which is toxic to horses and cattle.

Researchers were surprised by how quickly the insect evolved to thrive in the cooler, higher elevations and shortened growing season. They found that through natural selection, its life cycle was altered so that now the insect develops from egg to the overwintering pupa more quickly than its cousins in the warmer Willamette Valley.

"It was commonly assumed that if mobile organisms found themselves in unsuitable environments, they would move rather than stay put and evolve," said one of the study's co-authors, Peter McEvoy, an ecologist at Oregon State University who has studied the moth for 35 years.

The findings have relevance in terms of global climate change, said McEvoy, adding that studies show that species naturally shift to higher latitudes and higher elevations as climates warm.

The results are also significant because the cinnabar moth is just one of more than 70 living organisms – most of them insects – used to control more than 30 types of invasive plants in Oregon. If it's changing, others might, too. But that might have negative effects on the environment, McEvoy said. For example, a previously innocuous insect might evolve into an invader that feeds on valuable crops or native plants in its new setting, he said.

However, he added, after more than two decades of close study, researchers have not detected any negative effects from the cinnabar moth on native plants in mountainous environments.

"Harnessing the potential of insects to provide effective control is a great tool in fighting invasive species," McEvoy said. "And whether an organism must evolve to be effective or whether its evolution could threaten desirable plants are two sides of the same coin and warrant careful study.”

McEvoy hopes that one day researchers will be able to predict how an insect might evolve. And if they are able to do that, regulators should take into account any potential changes in insects before they approve them for use in controlling undesirable plants, he said.

The study, published in the July issue of Evolutionary Applications, is online at http://hdl.handle.net/1957/31356.


Peter McEvoy, 541-737-5507

Multimedia Downloads

cinnabar moth

Cinnabar moth caterpillars feeding on the tansy ragwort, a member of the sunflower family. Cinnabar moths were introduced as a biocontrol of the invasive plant species. (photo by Lynn Ketchum, Oregon State University)


Cinnabar moths are known for their distinctive scarlet-marked wings. (Photo by Peter McEvoy)

Fight fire with plants? You bet.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – With summer and wildfire season upon us, it's a good time to look at your yard and see if it's a fire hazard. One way to reduce the risk of a fire engulfing your house is by surrounding it with fire-resistant plants.

Such plants do not readily ignite. They may be damaged or even killed by fire, but their foliage and stems do not significantly contribute to a fire's intensity, said Amy Jo Detweiler, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

In essence, they can create a living wall that reduces and blocks intense heat. Detweiler emphasized, however, that fire-resistant plants will burn if not watered and pruned.

Plants that are fire-resistant have moist, supple leaves and tend not to accumulate dry, dead material within the plant. Their sap is water-like without a strong odor. Most deciduous trees and shrubs are fire-resistant. Annuals and lawns also can be part of a fire-resistant landscape if sufficiently watered and maintained.

Plants that are highly flammable generally have fine, dry or dead leaves or needles within the plant. Their leaves, twigs and stems contain volatile waxes or oils and the leaves have a strong odor when crushed. Their sap is gummy, resinous and also has a strong smell. Some have loose or papery bark. One highly flammable shrub is juniper, said Detweiler, adding that bark mulch can also easily ignite. Use gravel or decorative rock instead, she advised.

Detweiler said that conifers and other large trees that are next to your house should be pruned on the first 15-20 feet of their trunks (or to just above the lower roofline) to keep fire from reaching the house or tree tops.

She recommends selecting the following fire-resistant plants in the Pacific Northwest and other western states. Check with your local Extension office or a nursery, however, to find out which plants are suitable for your area and to avoid planting invasive ones.

The plants, accompanied by color photos, are described in a 48-page guide, Fire-Resistant Plants for Home Landscapes (PNW 590), published by the OSU Extension Service. The guide is available free online at http://bit.ly/LvLkjA, or purchase a printed copy from the Extension catalog at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/abstract.php?seriesno=PNW+590.

Carpet bugleweed, pink pussytoes, kinnikinnick, rock cress, mahala mat, snow-in-summer, dianthus, garden carnation or pinks, yellow iceplant, purple iceplant, wild strawberry, dead nettle, Japanese pachysandra, creeping phlox, sedum or stonecrops, hens and chicks, creeping thyme and speedwell.

Yarrow, chives, columbine Sea thrift, basket of gold, heartleaf bergenia, sedges, trumpet vine, tickseed, delphinium, coneflower (Echinacea), fire weed, blanket flower, grayleaf cranesbill, sun rose, daylily, corabells, hosta lily, iris, torchlily (red hot poker), lavender, blue flax, honeysuckle, lupine, evening primrose, oriental poppy, beardtongue, prairie coneflower (Mexican hat), salvia (sage), lambs ear, yucca.

Shrubs: Broadleaf Evergreen
Point reyes ceanothus, orchid rockrose, Carol Mackie daphne, cranberry cotoneaster, Oregon grapeholly, creeping holly, salal, Oregon boxwood, Pacific rhododendron.

Shrubs: Deciduous
Vine maple, serviceberry, rocky mountain maple, blue mist spirea, redosier dogwood, dwarf burning bush, oceanspray, mockorange, Russian sage, tall hedge, western sandcherry, fernleaf buckthorn, western azalea, sumac, flowering currant, hardy shrub rose, wood's rose, willow, bumald spirea, snowberry, western spirea, lilac, compact American cranberry.

Conifer trees
Western larch, ponderosa pine.

Deciduous trees
Amur maple, bigleaf maple, red maple, horse chestnut, mountain alder, red alder, birch, Western catalpa, common hackberry, eastern redbud, flowering dogwood, Hawthorn (not European Hawthorn), green ash, European beech, white ash, thornless honeylocust, Kentucky coffee tree, walnut, American sweetgum, crabapple, quaking aspen, Western or California sycamore, chokecherry, Oregon white oak, Canada red chokecherry, pin oak, purple robe locust, red oak, mountain ash.


Amy Jo Detweiler, 541-548-6088 ext. 7951

West Linn volunteer creates $1.2 million gift for OSU Master Gardener program

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University's Master Gardener program has received a commitment for a $1.2 million estate gift to endow the director’s position – the largest gift in the program’s 36-year history.

As part of the OSU Extension Service, the program offers courses on gardening throughout the state and online. Graduates, known as Master Gardeners, are then expected to spread their new knowledge to others by volunteering to answer questions or teach at Extension offices, farmers markets, workshops and community gardens.

Since 2005 Sherry Sheng of West Linn has been one of the program’s most active volunteers, donating more than 1,000 hours of service in 2011. Extending her impact on the program, she has made arrangements through her estate to establish an endowed professorship. The Y. Sherry Sheng and Spike Wadsworth Endowment Fund will provide a stable stream of income to support the Master Gardener director in perpetuity.

"This planned gift represents a huge investment in the future," said Gail Langellotto, coordinator of the Master Gardener program. "It virtually guarantees our program’s continued growth and development. Oregon State is already a step up in that most Master Gardener state programs don’t have a full-time coordinator. But having an endowed professorship will position OSU as one of the premier urban and community horticulture extension programs in the nation."

Over the last decade Sheng has seen enormous growth in community interest in gardening. The Master Gardener program, she said, is in the right position to meet that need.

"Eating healthily and eating local are constantly in the news and that leads people to the idea of growing edibles in their backyard," she said. "The challenge is that you may have the motivation and enthusiasm but not know how, and learning by trial and error can be really frustrating."

Sheng helped to develop the Master Gardener’s 10-Minute University program (http://bit.ly/NeeLd9), which reached more than 1,800 people last year.

"We offer very practical information people can use right away," she said. "Classes and handouts are based on current science, delivered in bite-size pieces."

She hopes that her estate gift will provide a solid financial foundation that allows the Master Gardener program to continue to attract leaders who are excellent educators and administrators as well as scientists.

The gift is especially welcome considering the financial stresses OSU Extension programs have faced in recent years – at the same time demand for services is increasing, said Scott Reed, OSU vice provost for Outreach and Engagement and director of OSU Extension.

"We have Master Gardener programs in 30 Oregon counties, and everywhere we’re seeing a spike in interest," Reed said. "More people want to be volunteers but it’s hard to fund the staff positions that keep the program going. We’re deeply grateful to Sherry and Spike for ensuring that we’ll always have strong leadership at the statewide level."

Last year Master Gardener volunteers in Oregon made more than 200,000 public contacts via plant clinics, public gardening classes, demonstration days and other activities, Langellotto said. Their donated hours were the equivalent of more than 85 full-time staff, she said. They also contributed more than 10,000 pounds of fresh produce, harvested from Master Gardener-managed community and demonstration gardens, to local food banks and food pantries, she added.

Friends of the Master Gardener program will celebrate the planned gift at the program’s 29th annual Mini College at Willamette University in Salem July 25-28 (http://bit.ly/NjbeJ7).

The commitment 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 $840 million of its $1 billion goal to provide opportunities for students, strengthen Oregon communities and conduct research that changes the world.

More information on the Master Gardener program is at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/mg.

Media Contact: 

Gail Langellotto, 541-737-5175

Multimedia Downloads


Sherry Sheng and her husband, Spike Wadsworth, enjoy their garden at their home in West Linn along the Willamette River. (Photo by Jan Sonnenmair.)

OSU Extension Association recognizes 'cooperator' volunteers and 4-H Leaders of the Year

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Eleven "cooperator" volunteers received awards and three 4-H Leaders of the Year were recognized at the Oregon State University Extension Association recognition banquet May 2 at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center in Corvallis. Three businesses and organizations also were honored.

"For more than 30 years, the OSU Extension Association has recognized volunteers for the significant contributions they have made to Extension programs," said Associate Provost Deborah Maddy.

"More than 14,000 volunteers helped Extension deliver educational programs across Oregon during 2011," she said. "Extension gets results and builds communities with the help of volunteers, who last year contributed more than a million hours of service – the equivalent of about 567 FTE."

 Following are:

Cooperator volunteer awardees, listed by county

Three 4-H Leaders of the year

Three business and organization awardees

 Benton County

Don and Debbie Lauer

After retiring, Don and Debbie Lauer joined the Master Gardeners in 2006 and became involved in many projects in the Benton County Master Gardener program. They focused on outreach to the public on sustainable gardening practices, furthering the mission of the program. Don recognized the need for a volunteer to organize plant clinics and increased the number of clinics at community events. He possesses the patience and skill to work with large groups of volunteers and increased Master Gardener presence by reaching over 1,000 people in the community.

Debbie organized a mentor program and increased retention of new Master Gardeners. She worked with a team to make the plant clinic at the desk in the Extension office a positive experience. Don and Debbie have each donated more than 2,000 hours to the program. Their involvement as volunteers extends to other organizations, and they truly exemplify what it means to be a Master Gardener.


Clackamas County

Patti Jarrett

Jarrett, best described as an Extension Volunteer "extraordinaire," became involved in Extension’s programs in Clackamas County when she retired and began to manage, with her husband Paul, their 60-acre farm, just south of Oregon City.

Jarrett wanted to learn how to grow her own food, preserve fruits and vegetables and manage the property. She has always been one to take charge, provide leadership and make things happen. She trained as a Master Food Preserver in 2006 and still coordinates outreach activities for her volunteer partners. Jarrett's most significant contribution to Extension is her leadership in the local Extension Advisory Council. As the chair, Jarrett challenged the council to find a new way to fund Extension locally. A two-year effort led to creation of the Extension and 4-H Service District, which has one of the largest county Extension budgets in the U.S.


Clatsop County

Cyndi Mudge

Mudge is Executive Director for Astoria Sunday Market, President Elect of Astoria Rotary and a member of the Art & Cultural Committee for Astoria’s Downtown Historic District Association. She has worked for non-profit organizations for more than twenty years and in 2005 received the Oregon Governor’s Volunteer Award.

A job and skills fair she produced in Seattle, Teen Workforce '97, inspired the Young Entrepreneur Project, which was launched in partnership with the Clatsop County 4-H Club. Mudge continues her mission to provide young people with opportunities to develop strong work ethics, job skills and passion to pursue career goals. The Youth Entrepreneur Project gives youth the opportunity to design, develop and market a product and the opportunity to apply for a small grant. It has been beneficial for building confidence, communication and perseverance among the youth who participate. Mudge has made success happen for youth and is committed to making a positive contribution to the community.


Coos County

Jon Souder

Souder has had a long-term interest in the environment, from his undergraduate days through his numerous career experiences working for the federal government, Peace Corps in Nepal, Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service and as a professor of Forest Policy at Northern Arizona University. Souder joined the Coos Watershed Association in 2000 as executive director, and several Oregon Sea Grant Extension faculty have worked with him on projects, including invasive species, watershed education programs for high school students, collaboration on funding requests and research projects. Jon’s scientific and organizational contributions have impacted individuals across Coos County and Oregon. His drive and energy have been instrumental in procuring needed funding for research and rehabilitation projects. His work as Executive Director of the Coos Watershed Association has been a model for watershed groups across Oregon. He continues to be a valuable partner for OSU Extension.


Jackson County

Michele Pryse

Pryse represents the best of Extension innovation as she models how tradition can be enhanced and delivered in an innovative and beckoning manner. She has integrated her Master Food Preserver and Master Gardener expertise into her own life and the community’s life since her first training in 1999. She led Jackson County’s Master Food Preserver/Family Food Education Volunteers organization to a statewide record of 62 certified master food preservers.

Pryse has been instrumental in developing a suite of fee-based Extension classes; she participates in the Extension Advisory Council and was named the first-ever, Extension-affiliated “Queen of the Jackson County Fair” in 2010. She appears on Scott’s Garden, a television gardening show. She is responsible for initiating a partnership with the Jackson County Historical Society to provide training using historical agriculture food preservation techniques. She is the kind of volunteer that personifies the future of Extension — at its best.


Lake County

John Marcus

Marcus is a Lakeview area rancher and active member of the 4-H Leaders Association in Lake County. He has been working to reenergize the association. His dedication and contributions to Extension through 4-H programs is extensive. He helped resurrect and reorganize the Big Sage Beef 4-H Club and collaborated with community partners to provide a welding club in which 4-H members have gained lifelong skills.

Marcus has facilitated the start of a free annual 4-H supporters breakfast, staffed and funded by 4-H clubs, as a thank you to previous supporters of 4-H/FFA. He also serves as a member of a local 4-H College Scholarship Committee. Marcus is a strong leader and mentor of junior 4-H leaders. Many alumni of his clubs continue to be strong supporters and volunteers of the 4-H Development Program. One of John’s biggest supporters is his wife, Deborah, who shares in many of these endeavors.

Lane County

Patty Driscoll

Driscoll has been an OSU Master Gardener volunteer since 1993, and a Master Food Preserver since 2006. She has been a training mentor, served as president and treasurer on the Lane County Master Gardener Association Board and as chair of the Oregon Master Gardener Association Board and received the Oregon Master Gardener of the Year Award.

Driscoll teaches classes as part of the Pruning Specialist program and is chair for the Compost Specialist program. She has used her outstanding leadership skills with the Save Lane Extension Programs group, seeking stable funding to save Lane County Extension Service in its entirety. She worked tirelessly to bring volunteers together, pass out signs and get the word out. When the election failed, Driscoll worked to reinstate the Master Food Preserver program. Because of creative fund raising, partnership building and volunteers like Driscoll, Lane County Extension Services continue.

 Lincoln County

Alan Pazar

Pazar is a commercial fisherman and small business owner who lives and works on the Oregon Coast. Al has been involved in OSU Extension programs for more than 20 years. He took trainings and workshops and used resources and publications that were available from Oregon Sea Grant at the Lincoln County Extension Office in Newport.

Pazar's involvement went from customer to collaborator and he has been involved in major Sea Grant Extension programs. Through the Extension program SAFE(Scientist and Fishermen Exchange), Al has engaged with researchers and has spearheaded many collaborative research efforts. At his suggestion, temperature sensors were attached to crab pots, and a nationally recognized research program was started. Al is a partner in two other west coast collaborative research Extension programs, the Port Liaison Project and the Collaborative Research on Oregon Ocean Salmon. Marine reserves and wave energy research have benefited from Al’s cooperative approach.

Polk County

Carol Harris

In the beginning, Harris had no horse experience. She started in the Polk County 4-H horse program over 20 years ago when her daughter wanted a horse and joined 4-H. Harris became a club parent and never missed a meeting!

Now Harris is a leader, chair of the horse committee and fair superintendent. Her commitment to volunteering, working with kids and her organizational and people skills became very apparent early on. She puts 4-H and education above competition and is involved beyond the county level as a member of the State Horse Development Committee. She supports local horse rescue programs and is a board member of Keizer Art Association. Carol’s husband, Keith, says, "I was really a naïve husband, I thought she would quit after our daughter graduated. I had to join in just so I could see my wife."

Yamhill County

Verna O'Laughlin

O'Loughlin has been involved with 4-H since she was a child and is currently the leader of the Thundering Hooves 4-H Club, in which she has volunteered for 14 years. She has had many major responsibilities during this time: County Fair 4-H Cloverbuds superintendent, coordinator for 4-H Master Showmanship competition, 4-H horse show coordinator, 4-H horse superintendent, Northwest Region 4-H apprentice horse judge, Yamhill County 4-H State Fair horse chaperone, 4-H Leaders Association board member, 4-H Leaders Association president, and 4-H Advisory council member. As a 4-H leader, O'Loughlin shares her love of riding and ability to teach even the most novice rider. She sponsors county 4-H Horse Awards. Verna has received the 4-H Horse Leader of the Year, Clete Drader Outstanding Service Award, 4-H Distinguished Service Award and the 4-H Outstanding Alumni Award. Verna has a "can do" spirit, puts kids first and serves as a role model for other volunteers.


Yamhill County

Bob and Barbara Grossmann

Since 1966, Bob and Barbara Grossman have been involved with OSU Extension in Yamhill County and statewide. After retiring, they both enrolled in the OSU Master Gardener training. Soon Barbara took over the lead for the OSU Master Gardener Library, and created a cataloging and acquisition system. She continues to volunteer when she can on other projects.

Bob brought his lifelong interest in entomology to the Master Gardeners. He formed an Insect Committee, which studies sample insects from clients and provides information to them. The committee has produced many educational displays, including the spinning wheel "Good Bug/Bad Bug" about beneficial insects, which was popular at the 2011 Oregon State Fair. He has taught the highly praised Advanced Insect Training as well as other insect-related classes at Master Gardener Mini-College. Bob writes a popular column, "Buggy Bits," for the OSU program newsletter, Grapevine.


2012 4-H Leaders of the Year

 Debbie Pratt, Benton County

Pratt is deeply committed to 4-H. She is humble and "behind the scenes," but knows that her 4-H volunteer work has a huge impact on young people and the overall program.

For 16 years, Pratt has been an active member of the 4-H Leaders Council helping to establish budgets, coordinate fund-raising efforts, handle donations, manage scholarships and distribute project funds. In addition to applying her skills effectively as Benton County Association treasurer, she assists teens and volunteer leaders develop life skills in leadership and master skills in the 4-H dog project.

Pratt doesn’t just volunteer for the Benton County 4-H Program, she promotes 4-H at Hewlett-Packard, where she works, and has donated funds to 4-H for many years. The Oregon 4-H Leaders Association is proud to honor Pratt as an Oregon 4-H Leader of the Year.

Karen Rinehart, Wallowa County

Rinehart is a "super-volunteer" in Wallowa County. She has the energy to accept and complete major challenges that have a huge impact on the Wallowa County 4-H program. Karen lives her values through community service with 4-H members and through her own efforts. Examples include the County Jr. Leader Project, called “Ride for Life” in which participants raise funds for cancer research when riding a horse for a 24-hour period.

Rinehart also managed a $20,000 renovation project on the County Fairgrounds to benefit 4-H youth project learning. And she has impacted public health by coordinating a clinic to inform the community about why and how to vaccinate dogs against rabies. Rinehart's energy is contagious! The youth in the Wallowa 4-H program feel great about what they are learning because of her enthusiastic support. The Oregon 4-H Leaders Association is happy to honor Rinehart as a valued 4-H volunteer and a 2012 Oregon 4-H Leader of the Year.


Margaret Santee, Clatsop County

The Clatsop County 4-H Program is lucky to have Margaret Santee as a 4-H leader. Margaret teaches workshops for all 4-H members and volunteers in the county, takes photographs, coordinates judging events, and then becomes the "right hand" of the OSU Extension 4-H staff.

Santee is calm and professional. She stays one step ahead of challenges to help ensure quality 4-H programming in Clatsop County. She is always a positive role model for youth and adults alike. The Oregon 4-H Leaders’ Association is pleased to join the Clatsop County 4-H Program in acknowledging Margaret Santee as an Oregon 4-H Leader of the Year.


Business and organization awardees

Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods

Lori and David Sobelson

Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods' emphasis on health and better living has led to support and mutual partnership with the OSU Extension Service. Based in Milwaukie, the company has had numerous interactions with the Clackamas County office since the 1980s. Bob’s Red Mill has been especially supportive of 4-H and nutrition programs.

Annual donations to the 4-H program support educational workshops and county fair awards. Bob’s Red Mill was named a Clackamas County Friend of 4-H in 2002. Bob’s has been a supporter of the nonprofit Clackamas County Friends of Extension, donating auction items and even hosting a fundraising event. Bob Moore, the company’s founder, has been recognized by OSU with a Weatherford Award and as a major donor. The reputation of Bob's Red Mill extends beyond the borders of Oregon: Extension publications and web sites nationwide list Bob's Red Mill as a resource.


Lane Community College

James Lindly, Shirl Meads, Diane Pigg

A strong working partnership with Lane Community College is important for the survival of the Lane County OSU Extension Service Horticulture Program. Extension faculty and the Community College’s Small Business Development Center have developed a successful working relationship that includes joint educational efforts to conserve resources and benefit students.

With funding received through a grant, LCC and OSU work together to provide outreach and assistance for new and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. LCC started sponsoring OSU programs six years ago, offering classes and trainings through the Small Business Development Center. They have provided assistance to Extension training programs, including grant funding, facilities, staff and technical support and marketing. LCC has supplied political support to raise awareness, and facilitate understanding and communication around local funding for the OSU Extension service. Always community-oriented, LCC’s Small Business Development Center takes to heart public need and the sound use of financial resources.


Strong Women Volunteers

Sue Rode, Jane Schlacht, Yolanda Gentile (Jackson County), Jackie Dwyer, Nancy Fenton and Kathy Szewc (Josephine County)

The Strong Women Volunteers offer one-hour classes at Extension sites in Jackson and Josephine counties to almost three hundred women (and a few men). These program leaders are committed to improving the strength, endurance, flexibility and balance of pre-menopausal women, and have been since 2003. These volunteers are independently in charge of all aspects of the training, with faculty oversight. Enrollment focuses on older adult women with limited financial resources. Participants have generally never heard of Extension until they enrolled in the Strong Women sessions. These Strong Women actively participated in developing the physical fitness and exercise module for the web-based Mastery of Aging Well series, and participated in providing training in hospitals and clinic venues. Participants state they have experienced increases in self-confidence and verbalize a "greater ability to sleep well" and "a reduction in the tendency to be depressed."


Deborah Maddy, 541-737-2713

The questions keep coming for OSU's Ask An Expert program

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Extension Service is being inundated with questions – electronically, that is. Since its debut on the OSU Extension website in March of 2011, Ask An Expert has fielded 3,425 questions from across the state and country and even from overseas.

"That's a lot of questions, and the number is growing every day," said coordinator Jeff Hino. "Answers come within two working days from OSU's 131 faculty experts and more than 30 Extension-trained Master Gardener volunteers."

Although OSU's Ask An Expert began only about a year ago, it is already the fourth busiest in the national program for that time period. Ask an Expert was orchestrated by Cooperative Extension System, a partnership of 74 universities in the United States.

What questions do people ask?

"Just about everything you can think of," Hino said, although the majority relate to gardening. "More than half of the questions are about horticulture, a quarter about agriculture and everything else from 4-H to forestry."

All questions are answered anonymously, and often contain references to additional materials. "Ask an Expert answers have science inside," Hino said. "We view it as a first step in lifelong learning. It's just-in-time information that can lead to new knowledge."

 The Extension website also features Questions of the Week, chosen for their relevance, interest and quality of the answer. Among some recent queries:


  • "How can I get rid of moles in my backyard?"
  • "Are Twinkies good for me?"
  • "I am interested in starting and working a small farm with seven other people. Insight or suggestions on where to start would be most appreciated."
  • What is the life span of a hummingbird?

Some of the answers can be reassuring. One expert agreed with a housing association that its decision to pull out 500 azaleas infested with the azalea lace bug was both financially prudent and sensitive to the environment.

"This expert joins others in his field by giving immediate answers supported by science research and not just reference to a link," Hino said. "And, if you ask a question, you can feel secure that the answer you get will be credible."

See more Ask an Expert questions and their answers at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/extension-ask-an-expert/archive



Jeff Hino, 541-737-0803

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

Multimedia Downloads


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

Multimedia Downloads

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

Multimedia Downloads


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