college of agricultural sciences

New facility expands research and teaching of animal sciences at OSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story By: 

John Killefer, 541-737-1891

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

That’s no primate: It’s a fish!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story By: 

Brian Sidlauskas, 541-737-1939

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Lemur without a nose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pankaj Jaiswal, 541-737-8471

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ramesh Sagili, 541-737-5460

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



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

Don't let fungi sour your grapes

CORVALLIS, Ore. – After carefully nurturing homegrown grape vines, don't let fungi sour your grapes.

So be on the lookout for powdery mildew and bunch rot during the summer, advises Ross Penhallegon, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Powdery mildew attacks all parts of the vine, leaves, stems and fruit. It's usually worse on vines in areas where air circulation is poor or in places that remain damp during the early warm part of the day. Water on the foliage may also cause mildew.

In its early stages, powdery mildew appears as whitish or grayish patches on the leaves. Affected fruit may also appear gray or white at first. Later, the skin of the grapes becomes brown and roughly mottled. Infected fruit may shrivel, fail to mature and, often around the first of September, crack.

To control powdery mildew, Penhallegon recommends pruning the grape plant to allow air to circulate and sunlight to penetrate through the vine. Then, using a sprayer, apply wettable sulfur to the vine and leaves. Several sprays – both conventional and organic – will work. Follow directions on the label. Spray all foliage and fruit, covering tops and bottoms of all plants. Apply once a week until the fruit begins to change color.

Bunch rot (Botrytis) will sometimes show up when it rains at harvest time or when fruit is hit with overhead sprinklers. Symptoms include rotted fruit with tufts of gray fungi growing on the surface of the grapes. For control, gardeners can use captan fungicide, Stylet-Oil or products containing copper. It also helps to cut out badly infected bunches of grapes and to prune to provide better air ventilation through the vines.

The Pacific Northwest Plant Disease Management Handbook offers more information on powdery mildew in grapes at http://bit.ly/O2Txy7 and on Botrytis at http://bit.ly/PDlnOy.

To learn more about growing table grapes, check out the following publication from the OSU Extension Service at http://bit.ly/PDmQVk.


Ross Penhallegon, 541-344-1709

OSU honors 28 Master Gardeners for their volunteer work

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon's Master Gardener program has given two Douglas County residents its highest statewide awards this year in recognition of their volunteer work.

Additionally, program leaders handed out county-level awards to 26 individuals for their service to their communities and the program.

The annual awards are sponsored by the Oregon State University Extension Service's Master Gardener program and the Oregon Master Gardener Association, a nonprofit that supports the program.

The Master Gardener program offers courses on home horticulture in 30 of Oregon's 36 counties as well as online. Graduates, known as Master Gardeners, are then expected to share their new knowledge with others by volunteering to answer questions or teach at Extension offices, farmers markets, workshops and community gardens.

Last year, the more than 4,000 active Master Gardeners in Oregon had 204,000 interactions with the public, said Gail Langellotto, who heads the program. Their 181,000 hours of volunteer service were the equivalent of 87 full-time staff, she added. Master Gardeners also gave food banks more than 10,000 pounds of fresh produce harvested from community and demonstration gardens that they manage, she said.

Below are the recipients of this year's awards:

Larry Sutton from Umpqua is the 2012 Oregon Master Gardener of the Year. Sutton has been a Master Gardener for eight years and has worked on nearly every project or program offered by the Master Gardeners in Douglas County. His contributions include working in Douglas County’s Discovery Garden and Horticultural Learning Center, presenting classes, serving on his local and state Master Gardener boards of directors, and creating a mentoring program for new Master Gardeners.

Leo Grass of Roseburg received the Behind the Scenes statewide award for quiet and unselfish volunteer work that supports the Master Gardener program and his community. Grass has amassed more than 2,000 hours of volunteer service during 11 years. He has answered gardening questions in the Master Gardener help center in Douglas County nearly every week for nine consecutive years. While working in the center, Grass recognized the importance of soil testing for people who want to garden effectively and sustainably. Because most individuals did not want to pay $40 for a soil test at a commercial lab, he developed a testing lab at the Extension office in Douglas County. With the new lab in place, Master Gardeners are now able to provide people with accurate information about their soil pH and nutrient needs for only $15. Each year, he trains new Master Gardeners to help in the soil lab, and teaches each new class how to interpret the results of a soil test.

The county-level Master Gardeners of the Year are:

Baker County: Mindy Sherrieb is the backbone behind the Master Gardener trainings in Baker City. She communicates with instructors, helps set up the room, advertises events in the local community and encourages those in attendance to volunteer their time as a Master Gardener. 

Benton County: Steve Naberhuis of Corvallis has been a Master Gardener for five years, during which he has volunteered more than 1,000 hours. He helps prepare new Master Gardeners to answer the public’s gardening questions and helps prepare the Insights into Gardening seminar and Gearing Up for Gardening lectures. He has been treasurer and secretary to the Benton County Master Gardener Association.

Central Gorge (Hood River County): Eric and Shari Bosler of White Salmon have been Master Gardeners for four years and seven years, respectively. Eric was president of the Central Gorge Master Gardener Association; Shari has been Hood River County’s representative to the Oregon Master Gardener Association. Together, they have co-chaired the Central Gorge Garden Tour, mentored new Master Gardeners and answered the public’s gardening questions in the local help center.

Central Oregon (Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties): Toni Stephan of Redmond has been a Master Gardener for 15 years. Stephan has been a tireless and conscientious educator in her community, giving talks to schools, garden clubs and community groups. Before the annual Weed Pull at Eagle Crest Resort, she gives talks on weed identification and management. She initiated the Growing Kids program at the Boys & Girls Club of Redmond, the Tumalo Community School and the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden, where she helped to develop and deliver a curriculum that teaches kids to create a vegetable garden and to give back to the community by sharing their harvest with the local food bank.

Clackamas County: Paul Miken of West Linn has been a Master Gardener for 29 years. He helped develop the Master Gardener program in Clackamas County in the 1980s and was instrumental in starting an endowed scholarship program at Clackamas Community College. Since its inception, this Master Gardener-sponsored endowment has helped send 30 students to school. As chair of the hospitality committee, Miken helps to welcome new Master Gardeners to the program. He has also served as treasurer of the Clackamas County Master Gardener Association and representative to the Oregon Master Gardener Association.

Clatsop County: Debbie Haugsten of Ocean Park has been a Master Gardener for four years. In 2011, she volunteered for 246 hours and donated more than 300 plants to support her local Master Gardener association. She has co-chaired the Spring into Gardening seminar and the Master Gardeners' local plant sale. She coordinates the statewide event in which Master Gardener groups from around the state develop and present displays that share the story of their programs.

Columbia County: Andy Thayer of Rainer has been a Master Gardener for three years. A talented carpenter, he has devoted his time and talents to improving the Master Gardeners' demonstration gardens in the county. 

Coos County: Sandra Stafford of Coquille has been a Master Gardener for two years. She has served as editor of the local Master Gardener newsletter, taught a class at the Fertilize Your Mind seminar, and created a website for the Coquille Community Garden. She also helps teach new Master Gardeners how to use computers more effectively to answer the public’s gardening questions. 

Curry County: John Caldwell of Gold Beach has been a Master Gardener since 2009. A science teacher by trade, Caldwell teaches new Master Gardeners as well as students at Kalmiopsis and Riley Creek elementary schools. He was instrumental in developing Little Bear Patch Garden at Kalmiopsis Elementary, where he secured the fencing, helped build raised beds and put in the drip irrigation system. During the school year, he conducts garden-based science projects with the children to help grow a future crop of gardeners. He has also supported the Coastal Garden and Art Tour by opening his own garden on the tour and helping others prepare their gardens for the tour.

Douglas County: Mik Carlson of Roseburg has been a Master Gardener for seven years. She has given more than 1,300 hours of service to her community and Master Gardener program. For the past two years, she has co-chaired the Victory Garden, which grows produce for the Umpqua Community Action Network food bank distribution center. Last year, the garden produced 2,733 pounds of food. Carlson added another 506 pounds by collecting donations from local Master Gardeners. She worked with the food bank's manager, Tom Kelley, to grow what was most needed.

Jackson County: Jane Moyer has been a Master Gardener for eight years. She chaired the greenhouse program for more than a year and combined the greenhouse practicum with the Gramma’s Garden practicum to create a more efficient and effective training experience for Jackson County’s Master Gardeners. She coordinates the local Master Gardener evening and weekend classes, and she has chaired the Winter Dreams, Summer Garden seminar. She practiced a 100-mile diet for one year and wrote about her experience in the newsletter for Jackson County's Master Gardeners.

Josephine County: Lilly Pattee of Grants Pass has been a Master Gardener for three years. A retired sixth-grade teacher, Pattee was instrumental in starting a K-12 outreach program that used hands-on experiences in the garden to teach children about basic science concepts and their local food system. She and her Master Gardener colleagues developed curricula, provided instruction and made connections with local schools. Today, Pattee and her team teach garden-based lessons in 14 schools.

Klamath County: Mala Quatman of Klamath Falls has been a Master Gardener for two years. She is co-manager of the Klamath Falls Community Garden where she shares her strong organizational skills and enthusiasm for creating a network of garden-loving Master Gardener volunteers and community garden participants. She has served as president of the Klamath County Master Gardener Association and has mentored Master Gardeners in the 2012 training class.

Lane County: Cindy Wise of Springfield has been a Master Gardener for 16 years. She helped start the adaptive gardening committee to teach those with physical injuries or disabilities how small modifications can make gardening easier. As chair of the Lane County Master Gardener Compost Committee, she instigated classroom presentations to teach children about compost and worms and organized monthly composting demonstrations at community gardens. She also organized a coffee ground pick up that annually diverts more than 50,000 pounds of coffee grounds from landfills to local gardens. She similarly organized vegetable waste pick-ups at local markets. 

Lincoln County: Cathi Block of South Beach has been a Master Gardener for four years. She has served as coordinator for the Master Gardener demonstration garden at Oregon Coast Community College in South Beach. Although the garden began as a bare and weedy field, it now hosts numerous raised beds, a greenhouse and many demonstration projects that teach gardeners on the central Coast about plant varieties and gardening practices that stand up to salt spray, steady winds and cloudy days.

Linn County: Betty Goergen of Lebanon has been a Master Gardener for six years. In addition to working full time at Nichol’s Nursery, she owns and runs an organic berry and seed farm. She has served as vice president of the Linn County Master Gardener Association and has organized the annual Master Gardener tour in the county.

Marion County: Tobie Habeck of Woodburn has been a Master Gardener for five years. She organizes the monthly Master Gardener meetings in Marion County and has brought in popular speakers. As a result of her leadership, attendance has increased from about half a dozen people per meeting to around 30 and even reached 56 on one occasion. Habeck has managed the deer-resistive plot at the Marion Garden for four years and has managed the lily garden for three years. She also helped to design and plant the annual plot at the demonstration garden in Salem.

Multnomah County: Beven Peters and Marcia McIntyre have been Master Gardeners for 12 and six years, respectively. This past year, they helped to coordinate the efforts of more than 100 volunteers in association with the group’s Incredible Edibles plant sale.

Polk County: Dolores May of Dallas has been a Master Gardener for 11 years. She was an initiating force behind the Fall Fling Gardening Workshop and regularly writes articles for the Master Gardener newsletter in Polk County. She fields gardening questions from the general public at the plant clinic desk in the OSU Extension office and is a mentor to new and veteran Master Gardeners. Last year, she volunteered more than 800 hours to the Master Gardener program.

Tillamook County: Laura Owens of Rockaway Beach has been a Master Gardener for four years. She has served as vice president and president of the Tillamook County Master Gardener Association. She has been the co-chair for the garden tour and for outreach activities at the Tillamook farmers market.

Umatilla County: Bill Dochnahl of Pendleton completed his Master Gardener training in 2012.  His impact was immediate. He worked with the Umatilla County Courthouse to redesign their landscape as a demonstration garden. In addition to regularly answering the public’s gardening question out of the local Extension office, he wrote a regular gardening column for the East Oregonian newspaper and the county employee newsletter.

Wasco County: Sheri Esquivias of The Dalles has been a Master Gardener since 2008. From the very beginning, she took a leadership role in helping the Master Gardeners in Wasco County establish a youth program with the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility. The facility initially asked the Master Gardeners to help them learn how to grow plants in a new greenhouse there. Esquivias saw an opportunity to also provide Master Gardener mentors for the youth who were incarcerated there.

Washington County: Tim Lanfri of Beaverton has been a Master Gardener for five years. A lifelong food gardener and an avid fisherman, he grows vegetables all winter without a greenhouse. He founded the Community Garden Creators, a nonprofit that helps local landowners create and sustain community gardens.

Yamhill County: Linda Coakley of Newberg has been a Master Gardener for five years. She has mentored new Master Gardeners as well as students at Newberg High School. She has also worked on beautification projects throughout Newberg.


Gail Langellotto, 541-737-5175

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.


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

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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.

Story By: 

Gail Langellotto, 541-737-5175

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