college of agricultural sciences

British chemist and whiskey expert to head OSU’s new distilled-spirits program

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has hired a whiskey expert from Great Britain to lead its new research and teaching program in distilled spirits.

Chemist Paul Hughes, who spent the past 10 years teaching and conducting research in brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, joined OSU in October. He will develop and teach classes and conduct research on producing, aging, packaging and marketing of whisky, brandy, gin, vodka and other distilled spirits. He’ll also teach the laws and rules governing the making and selling of liquor.

Distilling is the newest option in OSU’s popular fermentation sciences undergraduate program, housed in the Food Science and Technology department.

“We have well-established fermentation courses in wine, beer and cheese,” said Robert McGorrin, head of the department. “With distilled spirits, we’ve filled a key niche in our overall program.”

A big part of Hughes’s job will be to forge ties with Oregon’s growing distilling industry. He hopes to partner with Oregon distilling companies on research and internship opportunities for faculty and students. “My intent is to get around to all of Oregon’s distilleries by next June,” said Hughes.

Oregon’s approximately 80 distilling companies produced more than 400 products in 2015 and generated $69 million in gross sales, almost 13 percent of Oregon’s total liquor revenue, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

The teaching program, still being formed, will include undergraduate courses in chemistry, microbiology and other fermentation-related topics, similar to those that are already part of the curriculum, McGorrin said.

It will likely also include courses from the agricultural sciences and engineering, Hughes said.

“There’s a lot of commonality around the fermenting techniques used in brewing, winemaking and distilled spirits production,” he said, “but distilling requires additional steps. So there will be need for additional courses about those techniques.”

He also stressed the importance of business knowledge, especially in an up-and-coming craft industry like distilling. “Making distilled spirits is costly,” he said. “It’s important for someone starting out in the field to have a good awareness of the business aspects – raising capital, procuring raw materials, process control, marketing, regulations, those kinds of things.”

Hughes will also acquire modern equipment for OSU’s pilot distilling lab, including instruments to monitor the distillation progress and gauge the quality and purity of the final product. OSU’s distilling pilot plant now consists of a new copper brandy still donated by King Estate Winery.

He sees an opportunity to lend a regional flavor to Oregon-made distilled spirits by using home-grown ingredients.

“For example, most fruit-flavored spirits, raspberry vodka and the like, often get their flavor from syrups added in afterward,” he said. “But there are techniques you can use to distill the flavors right into the product.”

He also noted OSU’s strengths in flavor chemistry and sensory analysis. “I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in Food Science and Technology to do some fantastic flavor work, enhancing the subtlety and complexity of some of these distilled spirits,” he said.

Hughes was raised in England, receiving bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in chemistry from the University of London, a master’s in business administration from the University of Surrey and a diploma in brewing from London’s Institute of Brewing and Distilling. He has published more than 60 papers on chemistry, flavor science, brewing, distilling and hops. He is coauthor of the 2014 book “The Science and Commerce of Whisky.”

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OSU researchers join WSU, UI on $2.7 million grant to combat potato disease

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers at Oregon State University are teaming with colleagues in Washington and Idaho to help farmers combat an insect-transmitted disease that could devastate the Pacific Northwest’s $9 billion potato crop.

Silvia Rondon, an OSU Extension entomologist, and Oregon State colleagues Stuart Reitz and Molly Engle, are collaborating with Northwest university and industry partners on a five-year, $2.7 million study of zebra chip disease, which discolors the flesh of potatoes and makes them unmarketable.

The disease is caused by a bacterium carried by a tiny flying insect called the potato psyllid. It has caused serious problems in the southwestern United States, severely damaging the potato crop and causing millions of dollars in losses, according to Washington State University entomologist Bill Snyder, the study’s co-leader.

For the new study, Rondon’s team will step up ongoing trapping and monitoring of potato psyllids and coordinate these efforts in all three states. Others on the study will probe the DNA of the psyllids and the bacteria they carry.

The researchers will map in detail where each genetic variety of psyllid is coming from, which strain of the zebra chip bacterium the insects are carrying, how they are moving across the landscape, and how their activity is affected by weather, topography and presence of alternate host plants.

From this information they will develop predictive models and integrated pest management (IPM) guidelines, delivered through a mobile-friendly website that will enable farmers to evaluate their disease risk and spray only when and where they need to.

Zebra chip disease was unknown in the Northwest until 2011, when a surprise outbreak sent tremors through growers of the Northwest’s most valuable vegetable crop.

“It was in only a handful of fields in 2011,” said Rondon, a College of Agricultural Sciences researcher based at OSU’s Hermiston Agricultural Research and Experiment Station, “but it was severe enough to cause significant economic damage.”

The following year the disease spread widely through the potato-growing areas of northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington.

Psyllid adults and immature nymphs land on potato leaves and feed on them, transmitting the bacterium into the leaves through their mouthparts. The infection makes its way down into the developing tuber and interferes with its processing of sugars. An early-season infestation can kill the plant; a mid- to late-season one can ruin the crop.

Potatoes affected by zebra chip disease are safe to eat, Rondon said, but they’re unappetizing – the flesh is mottled with brown streaks that caramelize and turn bitter-tasting when the potatoes are fried – so they can’t be used for chips or French fries, two of the highest-value potato products.

To protect their crop, growers typically spray insecticides weekly from June through harvest, even if they don’t know whether the psyllids are present or are carrying the disease.

“These sprays are not only expensive, but they run the risk of inducing pesticide resistance,” said Rondon.  “But right now they feel they have no choice. We want to develop effective integrated pest management programs, and to do that, we have to be able to predict how the disease spreads.”

After the 2011 outbreak, Rondon, Reitz, and others began intensively monitoring potato psyllids across the inland Northwest, trapping the bugs in and around potato fields and tracking where they were coming from and how they moved.

Researchers have so far identified five genetically distinct types of potato psyllids, Rondon said. One, the northwestern type, lives year-round in the region. It overwinters in bittersweet nightshade, a weed that grows around potato fields planted near canals and ditches. The insect may also take refuge in other wild plants such as bindweed, or in piles of culled potatoes.

Another psyllid type, the western type, probably comes in from California in late winter, Rondon said. All psyllid biotypes can carry the zebra chip bacterium. All appear to travel over long distances, possibly carried by the wind or hitching a ride on transported plants.

The study is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Collaborators besides OSU are Washington State University, University of Idaho and the Potato Research Consortium, which is composed of industry representatives from each Northwest state.

Media Contact: 

Silvia Rondon, 541-567-8321 ext. 108, silvia.rondon@oregonstate.edu

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Zebra chip disease discolors the flesh of potatoes, often making them unmarketable. Photo by Silvia Rondon.

Zebra chip disease

OSU study: Silicone breast implants may absorb harmful pollutants from body tissues

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Silicone breast implants may absorb environmental pollutants from surrounding tissues and possibly reduce their concentrations within the body, according to a new study by Oregon State University.

OSU environmental chemist Kim Anderson and her colleagues found that silicone implants are a “sink” for environmental chemicals that build up in the fatty tissues of humans and animals. Over time they can become a long-term record of a person’s exposure to environmental toxins.

The study, which appeared in the journal Environmental International, was partly inspired by recent studies showing that silicone implants may reduce risk of breast cancer by as much as 50 percent, Anderson said. “That research piqued our interest in looking at implants as a potential sink for contaminants,” she said. She cautioned that her findings don’t prove that breast implants protect against cancer or any other disease.

In a two-part experiment, Anderson, a professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, and her colleagues screened eight discarded silicone breast implants—surgically removed from women for medical or personal reasons—for some 1,400 environmental chemicals. For controls, they also screened unused silicone “sizers,” used in fitting breast implants or prostheses.

The implants contained 14 common compounds used in foods and personal-care products, commercial and industrial products, and pesticides. The most common one detected was caffeine, found in all eight samples. Next was p,p’-DDE, a suspected cancer-causing agent that results from the breakdown of the now-banned insecticide DDT. It was found in five of the samples.

Nine of the chemicals showed up in only one sample. That was not surprising, said Anderson, because individual exposure to environmental chemicals varies widely depending on where a person lives and what kind of work he or she does. “People are exposed to different chemicals in Burns, Oregon, than in Portland,” she said, “and there are differences even between neighborhoods in Portland.”

In the second phase of the study, to determine how silicone implants respond to a known chemical exposure, the researchers surgically implanted tiny silicone disks into anesthetized laboratory mice. The mice received as much silicone, in proportion to their body mass, as would be used in a range of typical human breast implants or reconstructions.

The mice then were given injections of two compounds: p,p’-DDE and also PCB 118, which belongs to a class of once widely used industrial chemicals and is also a probable carcinogen. These two substances are known to accumulate in fatty tissues. A group of control mice received surgical implants but no chemicals; another control group received chemicals and surgery but no implants.

After nine days, the researchers analyzed the silicone that had been implanted in the mice along with the surrounding fatty tissue. They found that the silicon and the tissue contained both chemicals. This, said Anderson, indicated that the chemicals had passed from the tissue into the silicone until the concentrations may have reached a balance.

Silicone is known to absorb organic-based pollutants in much the same way human cells do. “Silicone is lipophilic—meaning it loves fat,” Anderson explained. “Our bodies’ cells are also lipophilic. In order for a chemical to do us harm, it has to cross our cell barriers. So silicone is a good surrogate for an organism’s cell.”

Anderson’s lab pioneered the use of silicone wristbands as passive samplers of environmental pollution in air and water. “However, those environments are hydrophilic—water-loving—which is the opposite of lipophilic,” she said. “We wanted to demonstrate that silicone would also pull contaminants out of a fat-rich environment.”

Anderson added that discarded breast implants could be a gold mine for public-health researchers. “Tens of thousands of implants are removed from women every year, and they’re typically burned as waste,” she said. “Instead, they could be an important resource for quantifying the types and amounts of environmental chemicals absorbed by the human body and for assessing long-term toxic exposure.”

The research was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and OSU's Food Safety and Environmental Stewardship Program.

Media Contact: 

Kim Anderson, 541-737-8501, kim.anderson@oregonstate.edu

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Silicone breast implants may pick up chemical pollution from the body's tissues. Researcher Kim Anderson, environmental chemist at Oregon State University, wears a silicone pollution-sampling wristband. Photo by Stephen Ward.

Kim Anderson

OSU to lead $1.2 million food safety center to help farmers, processors

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will administer a new $1.2 million center that aims to help small and midsized farms and food processors in 13 western states prevent foodborne illnesses.

The initiative was announced today by the federal government as part of an effort to help growers and processors of fruits, vegetables and nuts comply with requirements established under the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The center, which is not an actual building, is one of four new regional hubs across the country.

"It is critical that we provide relevant training and assistance to farmers, processors and wholesalers, especially to those who may struggle to meet the requirements,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which awarded the $1.2 million.

OSU and its partners will use the funding – a third of which will go to OSU – to develop trainers to teach others how to conduct workshops for small and midsized farms, beginning farmers, small-scale food processors and wholesale produce vendors.

“Small farms and food processors have limited technical and financial means to comply with the FSMA rules, unlike large farming operations and food manufacturers," said Robert McGorrin, the center's lead director and head of OSU's Food Science and Technology Department. “This center will provide a large number of trainers across the region with the technical assistance to help them comply with the new rules.

The center will also leverage existing food safety training programs with Extension, community-based organizations and food hubs and cooperatives, he added.

The trainings can be customized to fit a specific crop whether it's hazelnuts, tree fruits, potatoes or onions, McGorrin noted. "Unlike large-scale commodity crops such as wheat and corn, crops grown at small and medium-scale farms often have their own unique production, harvesting and processing needs,” he said.

OSU and its partners will work with The Produce Safety Alliance and the Food Safety Preventive Control Alliance to develop trainers. The aim is to have at least two dozen lead trainers and about 200 other people as certified trainers, McGorrin said. He added that the trainers could include representatives from regulatory agencies, nongovernmental organizations and commodity group associations.

The center is a partnership with land-grant universities in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Guam as well as American Samoa Community College.

OSU already has a robust educational outreach program for food safety. OSU food microbiologist Mark Daeschel fields calls and emails from Oregonians wanting to make and sell thermally processed acidified foods. He said he evaluated more than 500 products in 2014 to make sure they were processed properly. Also, the OSU Extension Service has published a 24-page guide for processors and regulators called Ensuring Food Safety in Specialty Foods Production, and its faculty helped create the Northwest Specialty Food Network website.

OSU faculty members also teach an annual class for businesses that produce acidified and low-acid foods. The government requires these companies to have a supervisor on site who completed such a course. Additionally, OSU conducts a workshop each year for food processors to help them comply with federal requirements for hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP).

The creation of the center, which was supported by U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer and Greg Walden, comes after a 2011 outbreak of E. coli was caused by deer droppings on an Oregon strawberry farm. Seven people were hospitalized and one person died. That same year, eight people in the Midwest were infected with E. coli after eating hazelnuts, and a multistate Listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupe was traced to a Colorado farm; it sickened 147 people and killed 33.

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year in the U.S., foodborne diseases sicken roughly one in six people and kill 3,000.

Media Contact: 

Robert McGorrin, 541-737-8737, robert.mcgorrin@oregonstate.edu

OSU-led team lands $2.5 million grant to probe how diseases become epidemics

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An Oregon State University scientist is heading a multinational team studying how to anticipate and curb the next disease outbreak before it blows up into a global epidemic.

Funded by a new $2.5 million grant, OSU plant pathologist Christopher Mundt and his team are probing infectious diseases of humans, animals and plants that have a distinctive trait in common:  the capability of the pathogen – whether virus, fungus or bacterium – to transmit itself over long distances. This pattern, he said, characterizes diseases like avian flu, which have produced continental-scale epidemics.

“Our goal is to develop rules of thumb for identifying and controlling diseases that have this long-distance dispersal capability,” said Mundt. “We don’t have the scientific manpower to create detailed models of every potential epidemic. So a generalized set of control strategies would be vital in policy planning during the early stages of an outbreak.”

Mundt, a professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is partnering with scientists from Kansas State University, North Carolina State University and two universities in England on the five-year project, which is being funded by several organizations.

As people and pathogens move freely around a warming world, pandemic diseases increasingly threaten public health and global economies, according to the National Science Foundation, one of the project’s funding agencies. The World Health Organization calls infectious-disease epidemics “contemporary health catastrophes.”

For 15 years Mundt and his OSU colleagues have been studying stripe rust, a fast-spreading fungal disease that damages wheat, in experiments on commercial farms in central Oregon’s Jefferson County.

The new study will incorporate findings from this ongoing work. Mundt and his team will also analyze data from two real-life 2001 epidemics: foot-and-mouth disease in Britain, caused by a virus; and sudden oak death, which started in California and spread to southern Oregon. That disease is transmitted by a water mold called Phytophthora ramorum.

The researchers will also study historical outbreaks of animal and human viral diseases spread by insects, such as West Nile, Rift Valley fever and Japanese encephalitis. Finally, they will use modeling and field experiments to test strategies for controlling epidemics, including vaccination, drug therapy, quarantines, and eradicating of host organisms around centers of infection.

Pathogens that can disperse over long distances are dubbed “fat-tailed” organisms, said Mundt – a reference to the shape of their spread pattern on a graph. A fat-tailed curve, he explained, looks like a hill with a long tapering slope off to the right. The taper represents the rapid movement of the disease “front” through space over time.

In contrast, the curve of a slower disease, like measles, looks more like a hill without the tapering slope. The downhill plunge represents the disease’s decline with distance at a constant, linear rate.

It’s been assumed, Mundt said, that most epidemics follow the same linear pattern as measles. “But that wasn’t what I was seeing in my stripe-rust experiments.” Instead, the outbreaks accelerated as they pushed out from the epicenter, and the larger the initial infection site, the faster the acceleration rate.

Mundt and his OSU team have also experimented with control techniques to curb the spread of stripe rust, including ring culling – eradicating the host organism (in this case, the wheat) in a ring around the infection to halt its spread.

“There’s been a lot of interest in how big that ring should be,” Mundt said. “Our field studies and modeling are both suggesting that what matters more is how quickly you get on it. That’s because of that accelerating disease front.”

The foot-and-mouth epidemic in Britain was halted by ring culling, he said, but it was a drastic and controversial measure, resulting in the slaughter of some 4 million head of livestock. Foresters in southern Oregon also used ring culling to slow the spread of sudden oak death, cutting and burning trees and shrubs around centers of infection.

“If what we’re seeing is correct,” Mundt said, “it tells us we will need to put more effort into initial surveillance and containment of these fat-tailed organisms, so we can perhaps avoid drastic measures later.”

The research is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture in collaboration with the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the U.K.’s Biotechnology and Biological Services Research Council.

Media Contact: 

Christopher C. Mundt, 541-737-5256, mundtc@science.oregonstate.edu

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Chris Mundt, a plant pathologist at Oregon State University, shows off a diseased leaf of wheat at a field day at OSU's Hyslop Farm. Photo by Tiffany Woods

Chris Mundt

Researchers plan to conduct first analysis of the complete beaver genome

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Filbert, a four-year-old beaver born and raised at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, will be the first of his species to have his complete genome sequenced.

Researchers at Oregon State University, whose mascot is the beaver, are planning to analyze a complete set of Filbert’s DNA in order to improve their understanding of how the continent’s largest rodent fills its role as an ecosystem engineer.

Filbert’s genetic material will be retrieved from a blood sample that was taken during a routine annual physical in August. While determining the actual structure of the DNA will take only a few days, researchers will spend months analyzing the chemical building blocks, known as base pairs, which comprise all genes and other parts of the genome.

By understanding what genes are present and how they function, scientists will gain insight into beaver populations, disease and where the animal sits on the tree of life. The oldest evidence of beaver in North America is a pair of teeth, estimated to be 7 million years old, found in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon.

“Sequencing all of the beaver’s DNA will improve our understanding of the entire beaver species, including their amazing engineering and dietary feats and their contributions to stream and forest ecosystems,” said Brett Tyler, director of Oregon State’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, which will conduct the study.

Brent Kronmiller, a faculty research assistant in the center and member of the research team, noted that sequencing the beaver will help scientists address deep questions about the animal. “What are their closest relatives?” he said. “What is the population structure of Northwest beavers? How are they able to digest wood?”

Beavers are distinctive for their orange teeth that enable them to relentlessly chew on trees and for their dam-building activities that shape habitats across the continent. Scientists have estimated that as many as 200 million beavers ranged across North America before European settlement. By the mid-19th century, the animals had been removed from many areas. Some populations have rebounded, and it’s estimated that North America is now home to 10 to 15 million beavers.

The Beaver Genome Project also aims to make Oregon State the first Pac-12 Conference university to sequence its school mascot.

The project is the subject of a crowdfunding campaign managed by the OSU Foundation. To contribute toward the $30,000 goal, see create.osufoundation.org/seqthebeav. The campaign is scheduled to run from September 16 to October 30.

More than 120 Oregon State researchers are affiliated with the center, which performs genome sequencing and analysis for studies of human health, plant biology, microbiology and other purposes. On a daily basis, the center can sequence as many as 200 billion genetic building blocks known as base pairs.

Media Contact: 

Jeannine Cropley, 541-737-3678

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A beaver on exhibit at the Oregon Zoo. ©Oregon Zoo/Photo by Deidre Lantz

Oregon State research reaches record, exceeds $308 million

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon State University research funding reached $308.9 million, its highest level ever, in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. A near doubling of revenues from licensing patented technologies and an 8.5 percent increase in competitive federal funding fueled OSU research on a range of projects including advanced ocean-going research vessels, the health impacts of pollution and sustainable materials for high-speed computing.

“This is a phenomenal achievement. I've seen how OSU research is solving global problems and providing innovations that mean economic growth for Oregon and the nation,” said Cynthia Sagers, OSU’s vice president for research who undertook her duties on August 31. “OSU’s research performance in the last year is amazing, given that federal funds are so restricted right now.”

The overall economic and societal impact of OSU’s research enterprise exceeds $670 million, based on an analysis of OSU’s research contributions to the state and global economy that followed a recent economic study of OSU’s fiscal impact conducted by ECONorthwest.

Technology licensing almost doubled in the last year alone, from just under $6 million in 2014 to more than $10 million this year. Leading investments from business and industry were patented Oregon State innovations in agriculture, advanced materials and nuclear technologies.

OSU researchers exceeded the previous record of $288 million, which the university achieved in 2010. Although federal agencies provided the bulk of funding, most of the growth in OSU research revenues over the past five years stems from nonprofit organizations and industry.

Since 2010, total private-sector funding from sponsored contracts, research cooperatives and other sources has risen 60 percent — from $25 million to more than $40 million in 2015. Oregon State conducts research with multinationals such as HP, Nike and Boeing as well as with local firms such as Benchmade Knife of Oregon City, Sheldon Manufacturing of Cornelius and NuScale Power of Corvallis.

By contrast, federal research grants in 2015 were only 0.2 percent higher than those received in 2010, a year in which American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds gave university research a one-time shot in the arm across the country. According to the National Science Foundation, federal agency obligations for research have dropped from a high of $36 billion in 2009 to $29 billion in 2013, the last year for which cumulative figures are available. The Department of Health and Human Services accounted for more than half of that spending.

“We’ve worked hard to diversify our research portfolio,” said Ron Adams, who retired as interim vice president for research at the end of August. “But it’s remarkable that our researchers have succeeded in competing for an increase in federal funding. This speaks to the success of our strategic initiatives and our focus on clusters of excellence.”

Economic impact stems in part from new businesses launched this year through the Oregon State University Advantage program. Among them are:

  •  OnBoard Dynamics, a Bend company designing a natural-gas powered vehicle engine that can be fueled from home
  •  Valliscor, a Corvallis company that manufactures ultra-pure chemicals
  • eChemion, a Corvallis company that develops and markets technology to extend battery life

Altogether, 15 new companies have received mentoring assistance from Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator program, part of the state-funded Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network, or RAIN. Six new companies are working with the Advantage program this fall.

Additional economic impact stems from the employment of students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty. According to the OSU Research Office, about a quarter of OSU undergraduates participate in research projects, many with stipends paid by grant funds. In addition, grants support a total of 843 graduate research positions and 165 post-doctoral researchers.

The College of Agricultural Sciences received the largest share of research grants at Oregon State with $49.4 million last year, followed by the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at $39 million and the College of Engineering at $37 million. The College of Science saw a 170 percent increase in research funding to $26.7 million, its largest total ever and the biggest rise among OSU colleges. Among the largest grants received in FY15 were:

  •  $8 million from the NSF to the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry (College of Science) for new high-speed information technologies
  •  $4 million from the Department of Energy to reduce barriers to the deployment of ocean energy systems (College of Engineering)
  •  $4 million from US Agency for International Development to the AquaFish Innovation Lab (College of Agricultural Sciences) for global food security
  •  $3.5 million from the USDA for experiential learning to reduce obesity (College of Public Health and Human Sciences)
  •  $2.3 million from the NSF for the ocean observing initiative (College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences)
  •  $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Education for school readiness in early childhood (OSU Cascades)


Editor’s Note: FY15 research totals for OSU colleges and OSU-Cascades are posted online.

College of Agricultural Sciences: http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/story/osu%E2%80%99s-college-agricultural-sciences-receives-494-million-research-grants 

College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences: http://ceoas.oregonstate.edu/features/funding/

College of Education: http://education.oregonstate.edu/research-and-outreach 

College of Engineering:  http://engineering.oregonstate.edu/fy15-research-funding-highlights

College of Forestry: http://www.forestry.oregonstate.edu/research/college-forestry-receives-near-record-grant-awards-fy-2015

College of Liberal Arts: http://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/cla-research/2015-research-summary

College of Pharmacy: http://pharmacy.oregonstate.edu/grant_information

College of Public Health and Human Sciences: http://health.oregonstate.edu/research 

College of Science: http://impact.oregonstate.edu/2015/08/record-year-for-research-funding/

College of Veterinary Medicine: http://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/research-highlights

OSU-Cascades: http://osucascades.edu/research-and-scholarship 

Media Contact: 

Cynthia Sagers, vice president for research, 541-737-0664; Rich Holdren on OSU research trends, 541-737-8390; Brian Wall on business spinoffs and commercialization, 541-737-9058

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Surface chemistry research

Masters students at OSU worked to improve the performance of thin-film transistors used in liquid crystal displays. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)

OOI mooring

The Oregon shelf surface mooring is lowered to the water using the R/V Oceanus ship's crane. (photo courtesy of Oregon State University). Wave Energy

The Ocean Sentinel, a wave energy testing device, rides gentle swells near Newport, Ore. (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University) Hernandez3-2

An undergraduate student at the Autonomous Juarez University of Tabasco, Mexico, is working with cage culture of cichlids in an educational partnership with the AquaFish collaborative Support Program. (Photo: Tiffany Woods)

OSU’s new barley varieties appeal to brewers, bakers and bovines

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A versatile new barley variety just released by Oregon State University could lend subtle malt flavors to Northwest craft brews and also give consumers more choice in fiber-rich barley foods.

A second new OSU variety looks like a good choice for high-quality forage production in areas where water is increasingly scarce, said Patrick Hayes, head of OSU’s barley breeding program. 

The first new variety, Buck, is a high-yielding winter barley that performs well in a variety of Pacific Northwest conditions, said Hayes, a professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.  Buck (so named because the kernel is “naked,” lacking an adhering seed hull) stems from a 2003 cross between a hulled feed barley developed at OSU (Strider) and a naked barley from Virginia (Doyce).

In 13 trials conducted at dryland, irrigated and high-rainfall test sites, Buck had an average yield of 5,791 pounds per acre and an average test weight of 60.3 pounds per bushel, making 96 bushels to the acre. Buck is comparable in maturity measures to the feed variety Alba. It is highly resistant to barley stripe rust and stem rust and moderately resistant to scald. It’s also resistant to leaf rust in the limited number of test sites where this disease occurs. 

Buck has a soft kernel texture (42.6 SKCS units, a measure of grain hardness), modest grain Beta glucan (4.0 percent) and a grain protein content of 10.6 percent. Slightly more than half an ounce of steamed grain or 1.5 ounces of bread made with 40-percent Buck barley flour would provide the recommended FDA daily fiber allowance.

Buck could also make a novel malt for special beer styles, Hayes said. Most beer is made from barley with hulls, but a naked barley like Buck can have much higher malt extract – a key malting characteristic – than a hulled variety, he said. In three malting-quality tests, Buck had an average malt extract of 86 percent and an enzymatic profile comparable to varieties that meet the specifications of craft maltsters and brewers.  

According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, about three-fourths of the U.S. barley crop – 177 million bushels in 2014 – went into beer. The explosion of craft brewing over the past decade has spiked demand for locally sourced barley and hops, Hayes said, and today’s boutique brewers like the subtle flavor notes lent by malt from different barley varieties.

“These brewers like to present a palette of flavors for discriminating consumers,” he said. “Imagine an all-barley Hefeweizen.”

The second new variety, BSR-27, is a spring-habit hooded barley stemming from the cross of two stripe rust-resistant varieties released by OSU in the early 2000s: Tango, for livestock feed, and Sara, for forage.

Results of 2014 trials on four test sites (two each in the Willamette Valley and the Sacramento Valley) show that BSR-27 produced high yields of both seed and forage. BSR-27 had a higher relative feed value (101) than the Haybet, Lavina and Stockford varieties, but lower than the Hays variety (108). BSR-27 is resistant to stripe rust, leaf rust and scald, and tolerant of mildew.

Development of BSR-27 and Buck was funded by OSU’s Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, the Oregon Wheat Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Corvallis Feed and Seed, OreGro Seeds and Tri-State Seed supported field trials of BSR-27.

The variety release documents for Buck and BSR-27 are available online at http://barleyworld.org/osu-varieties. OSU invites expressions of interest in licensing these varieties through the Office of Commercialization and Corporate Development. Please contact Denis Sather at 541-737-8806 (denis.d.sather@oregonstate.edu).

Media Contact: 

Patrick M. Hayes, 541-737-5878, patrick.m.hayes@oregonstate.edu


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Oregon State University barley breeder Patrick Hayes

Pat Hayes

4-H kids to display their sewing skills in fashion show at Oregon State Fair

SALEM, Ore. – More than 40 youth from 4-H sewing clubs around the state will show off their fashion creations on the main stage of the Oregon State Fair on Aug. 30.

Participants in the event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., earned the right to the spotlight after taking home top honors at county competitions this summer.

Kyra Forester, a 17-year-old graduate of West Albany High School, will be one of those on the stage, making it her third year at the state fair. At the Benton County Fashion Review this summer, she went home with the champion award for her ready-to-wear outfit and was judge’s choice for the black wool, fully-lined jacket she spent 40 hours making.

Forester joined a 4-H sewing club nine years ago. After college she wants to work for the 4-H youth development program, which is run by Oregon State University's Extension Service.

“I fell in love with 4-H way back when I started in sewing,” she said. “It made me the person I am. I’ve become a leader. I know how to work with people of varying groups and backgrounds. I have a general knowledge of how life works because of 4-H.”

Jake Nordyke is another 4-H'er who will take the stage in Salem. He has been in a 4-H sewing club for three years. At the Benton County contest this year, he won judge’s choice for his meticulously matched, button-up plaid shirt, which qualified him for the state fair.

“I chose something hard,” said the 14-year-old. “I didn’t have enough fabric on the placket (button opening). I made a mistake on the first one and had to make another. That takes a lot of patience. And you have to know measurements and fractions.”

Joining Jake at the state fair will be Callie Horning, 13, who likes the challenge of sewing and competing. At the Benton County Fair, she won a reserve champion award in ready to wear and judge’s choice for her dress with zipper, darts and difficult-to-sew striped jersey fabric.

“Oh, there were lots of hard parts,” she said. “I had to redo things, but things are not always going to go the way you want. In the end, it was worth it.”

Confidence-building is a big part of the 4-H fashion show experience, said Betty Collins, the coordinator for the show in Benton County and a 4-H leader for 11 years.

“Sewing and then modeling a garment seems so far out of the box to them,” Collins said, “but when they accomplish it, they think, ‘Oh, I can do that, so I can do anything.’ It’s a great lesson for life.”

During the show in Corvallis, 42 kids answered questions and strode across the stage for judges Megan Collins and Olivia Echols, both graduates of OSU's apparel design program and now employees at Nike. While participants modeled, others read descriptions the students wrote about their garments entered in two categories: sewn or otherwise constructed outfits, and ready-to-wear ensembles put together for less than $25. 

Hannah Hicks, 10, who modeled her pajama pants decorated with monkeys, developed persistence as she moved through her 4-H project.

“I learned that you have to sew in a straight line or else you have to take it all out,” she said. “I had to do that a few times.”

Sewing clubs are just one aspect of the 4-H program, which reached more than 94,000 youths in Oregon via a network of 10,410 volunteers in the 2013-14 school year, said its statewide leader, Pamela Rose. Activities focus on areas like healthy living, civic engagement and science. Clubs teach students everything from how to train horses to how to make robots out of Legos.



Media Contact: 

Pamela Rose, 541-737-4628

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4-H Fashion Review

Hannah Hicks won a blue ribbon in OSU Extension’s 4-H fashion show in Benton County for the pajama pants she made in her 4-H sewing club. (Photo by Stephen Ward.)

4-H Fashion Review

Jake Nordyke will compete in the 2015 Oregon State Fair 4-H Fashion Review in the plaid shirt he made in his 4-H sewing club. (Photo by Stephen Ward.)

Common chemicals may act together to increase cancer risk, study finds

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Common environmental chemicals assumed to be safe at low doses may act separately or together to disrupt human tissues in ways that eventually lead to cancer, according to a task force of nearly 200 scientists from 28 countries, including one from Oregon State University.

In a nearly three-year investigation of the state of knowledge about environmentally influenced cancers, the scientists studied low-dose effects of 85 common chemicals not considered to be carcinogenic to humans.

The researchers reviewed the actions of these chemicals against a long list of mechanisms that are important for cancer development. Drawing on hundreds of laboratory studies, large databases of cancer information, and models that predict cancer development, they compared the chemicals’ biological activity patterns to 11 known cancer “hallmarks” – distinctive patterns of cellular and genetic disruption associated with early development of tumors.

The chemicals included bisphenol A (BPA), used in plastic food and beverage containers; rotenone, a broad-spectrum insecticide; paraquat, an agricultural herbicide; and triclosan, an antibacterial agent used in soaps and cosmetics.

In their survey, the researchers learned that 50 of the 85 chemicals had been shown to disrupt functioning of cells in ways that correlated with known early patterns of cancer, even at the low, presumably benign levels at which most people are exposed.

For 13 of them, the researchers found evidence of a dose-response threshold – a level of exposure at which a chemical is considered toxic by regulators. For 22, there was no toxicity information at all.

“Our findings also suggest these molecules may be acting in synergy to increase cancer activity,” said William Bisson, an assistant professor and cancer researcher at OSU and a team leader on the study. For example, EDTA, a metal-ion-binding compound used in manufacturing and medicine, interferes with the body’s repair of damaged genes.

“EDTA doesn’t cause genetic mutations itself,” said Bisson, “but if you’re exposed to it along with some substance that is mutagenic, it enhances the effect because it disrupts DNA repair, a key layer of cancer defense.”

Bisson said the main purpose of this study was to highlight gaps in knowledge of environmentally influenced cancers and to set forth a research agenda for the next few years. He added that more research is still necessary to assess early exposure and to understand early stages of cancer development.

The study is part of the Halifax Project, sponsored by the Canadian nonprofit organization Getting to Know Cancer. The organization’s mission is to advance scientific knowledge about cancer linked to environmental exposures. The team’s findings are published in a series of papers in a special issue of the journal Carcinogenesis.

Bisson is an expert on computational chemical genomics – the modeling of biochemical molecular interactions in cancer processes – in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. For this study, he worked on the teams that investigated how cancers overpower the host’s immune system, trigger chronic inflammatory processes, and interact with the adjacent microenvironment.

He also led the project’s cross-validation effort, which combed the cancer literature for evidence that a chemical’s activity within one hallmark might promote carcinogenic activity in others.

Traditional risk assessment, Bisson said, has historically focused on a quest for single chemicals and single modes of action – approaches that may underestimate cancer risk. This study takes a different tack, examining the interplay over time of independent molecular processes triggered by low-dose exposures to chemicals.

“Cancer is a disease of diseases,” said Bisson. “It follows multi-step development patterns, and in most cases it has a long latency period. It has to be tackled from an angle that considers the complexity of these patterns.

“A better understanding of what’s driving things to the point where they get uncontrollable will be key for the development of effective strategies for prevention and early detection.”

Media Contact: 

William Bisson, office 541-737-5735, mobile 541-207-5395

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William Bisson, OSU cancer researcher and expert on computational chemical genomics, shows a simulation of a protein. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.