OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of agricultural sciences

Kids develop lifelong skills at OSU’s 4-H summer camps

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Traditionally at 4-H summer camps, kids sang around fires, cast fishing lines and wove leather into key chains. Now, they’re just as likely to build a robot or repair a hiking path.

“Kids do so many different things,” said Pamela Rose, the leader of the Oregon State University Extension Service’s 4-H program. “They may explore a different culture, learn about an ecosystem, do rock climbing or make robots.”

No matter the activity, she said, youth involved with OSU Extension’s 4-H camps come away with four things: belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

“From a development standpoint,” Rose said, “our most recent research tells us that when youth develop these traits, they have the ability to thrive.”

The camps are open to all kids, not just 4-H youth. They are held throughout the state, including at the Oregon 4-H Center in Salem. Cost varies by camp and scholarships are available.

Camp counselors create an atmosphere that fosters those attributes and give kids someone to look up to, she added.

“That’s really important to kids,” Rose said. “They think, ‘Wow, I’m pretty special.’ And they are.”

For many of the campers – 2,415 in Oregon last year – it’s the first time they’ve been away from home and the experience gives them a sense of independence and responsibility. They have to make decisions about everything from how they treat others to how to use their free time, Rose said.

 “Camps do so much in a short but intense period,” Rose said. “It’s 24/7, not just a one-hour class. It’s pretty memorable.”

Check out the list of 4-H overnight camps this summer:

Clackamas County, July 20-25, fourth through eighth grades. Includes environmental education, arts and other camping activities. Contact: 503-655-8635.

Clatsop County, 4-H Summer Slumber, July 9-11, fourth through seventh grades. Kids learn to make rockets and the life of honeybees, all in a traditional camping atmosphere. Contact: 503-325-8573.

Columbia County, June 14-17, fourth through seventh grades. Wildlife programs, nature hikes and field games are a few of the activities. Contact: 503-393-3462.

Coos and Douglas counties, National Park Road Trip, July 7-10, fourth through sixth grades. Explore the science and culture of the U.S. National Parks. Contact: Teresa Middleton at 541-672-4461.

Curry County, Lobster Creek Camp, Aug. 12-15, third through fifth grades. Arts and nutrition education are among the activities. Contact: 541-247-6672.

Gilliam, Morrow and Wheeler counties, 4-H Camp, June 18-21, fourth through sixth grades. Contacts: Gilliam County, Monica Mitchell, 541-384-2274; Wheeler County, Amy Derby, 541-763-4115; Morrow County, Ashley Jones, 541-676-9642.

Grant and Harney counties, Heroes, Superheroes and Villains Camp, July 13-17, fourth through sixth grades. Includes natural resources classes, skits and traditional camping activities. Contact: 541-573-2506.

Hood River, Sherman, and Wasco counties, Camp Morrow, July 17-20, fourth through sixth grades. Features traditional camping activities. Contact: 541-296-5494.

Linn, Benton, Lincoln and Tillamook counties, Myths, Legends and Fairytales Camp, June 28-July 3, fourth through eighth grades. Hands-on classes with a natural resources theme. Contact:  Linn County, 541-967-3871; Benton County, 541-766-6750; Lincoln County, 541-574-6534; Tillamook County, 541-842-3433.

Union, Baker and Wallowa counties, Eastern Oregon Tri-County Summer Camp, July 7-10, fourth through seventh grades. Includes natural resources activities. Contact: John Baggott at 541-963-1010.

Additional 4-H camps:

4-H Summer Conference, June 24 -27, Oregon State University campus, seventh to 12th grades. More than 80 classes, including visiting a logging site, dog agility, fly fishing, community service and educational speakers. Contact: Roberta Lundeberg, 541-737-9295.

4-H Wildlife Stewards Camp, July 28-Aug. 1, Oregon 4-H Center in Salem, third through sixth grades. Includes a hands-on restoration project, as well as wildlife tracking, bird watching, nature crafts, fishing and forestry. Contact: Maureen Hosty, 503-657-7385.

4-H International Summer Camps

Geared toward Latino students throughout the state. Participants will learn about Lego robotics, natural resources, engineering, math, science, technology and health. They also explore cultural identity, leadership and the benefits of attending college. For physical activities, they swim, canoe, play volleyball, basketball, soccer and practice archery. Takes place at Oregon 4-H Center in Salem.

-- Third through fifth grades, July 9-12

-- Sixth through eighth grades, Aug. 4-8

-- Sixth through eighth grades (includes not only Latino youth, but also kids from other ethnic backgrounds), Aug 11-15

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Pamela Rose, 541- 737-4628

Free fishing day set June 6 at Oregon Hatchery Research Center

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon Hatchery Research Center will offer a free fishing day and open house on Saturday, June 6, at the center, which is located just off Highway 34 about 13 miles west of the town of Alsea. The event will run from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A small pond for children ages 5 and under will be set up at the center and it will have access for the disabled. It will be stocked with rainbow trout and fishing gear, bait and assistance will be provided, if needed.

The free fishing day extends to nearby Thissel Pond, located approximately a half-mile from the center. A free shuttle will transport anglers to Thissel Pond, which is also stocked with trout, but does not have disability access.

The center will also be open for tours and exhibits. Concessions will be available on-site as a fund-raiser for the Alsea High School girls basketball team.

Free fishing day at the Oregon Hatchery Research Center coincides with the free fishing weekend established by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, thus no licenses are necessary.

To reach the center, travel about 13 miles past the town of Alsea on Highway 34 and turn north at milepost 27 onto East Fall Creek Road. Drive about 2.5 miles on that road to reach the center.

Hatchery managers caution visitors to drive carefully on the gravel road and obey the 25-mile-per-hour speed limit, and be aware of pedestrians – especially children – on or near the road.

The center is a collaborative project between ODFW and Oregon State University. The free fishing day is sponsored by ODFW, Siuslaw National Forest, and the Alsea Sportsman’s Association.

Media Contact: 
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Ryan Couture, 541-487-5510, ext. 100; ryan.b.couture@state.or.us

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OSU ranks 9th in agriculture and forestry among 200 universities globally

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has been recognized as a world-class center in agriculture and forestry, ranking ninth in an international survey.

The listing appeared in the QS World University Rankings of approximately 200 top institutions for agriculture and forestry worldwide in 2015.

“Our world ranking is a testament to the continued great work of our faculty and researchers,” said Dan Arp, dean of OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We’re excited about another top global ranking that recognizes the breadth and depth of our research and teaching, and our great partnership with the College of Agricultural Sciences,” said Thomas Maness, dean of OSU’s College of Forestry. “It’s very satisfying to see the excellence of our faculty and students recognized internationally.”

Published annually since 2011, the rankings take into account the number of citations for journal articles. They are also based on surveys sent to employers and academics, who are asked to list institutions they consider excellent for recruitment of graduates and research, respectively. Only eight other institutions in the world ranked above OSU, two of which tied for fifth.

Two of the universities on the list are international, thus OSU agriculture and forestry are ranked seventh in the U.S.

As the state's land-grant university, agricultural research and instruction are a vital component of OSU's mission. Its College of Agricultural Sciences is home to 13 departments, including animal and rangeland sciences, fisheries and wildlife, horticulture, crop and soil science, food science and technology, and environmental and molecular toxicology. Its faculty conduct agricultural research in Corvallis and at 15 other locations around the state, and they help Oregon's farmers and ranchers be successful.

During the 2013-14 academic year, 471 undergraduates and 100 graduate students received degrees from the college, said Penelope Diebel, assistant dean of academic programs.

Spread across three departments, OSU's College of Forestry offers seven undergraduate and four graduate degree programs, including forest engineering, renewable materials, wood science and engineering, natural resources, and recreation resource management. During the 2013-14 academic year, the college awarded more than 170 undergraduate and 50 graduate degrees. 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Dan Arp, 541-737-2331;

Thomas Maness, 541-737-1585

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QS ranking of 9th, 2015

Oregon State University's faculty are stationed around the state, including Maud Powell (second from right), an instructor in southern Oregon with OSU's small farms program. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.

Taste the latest local products June 2 at OSU's Food Innovation Center

PORTLAND, Ore. – Nearly 50 local food entrepreneurs will offer free tastings of their products to the public at an outdoor market at Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center in Portland on June 2.

The second annual Time to Market will feature live music and will take place from 4-7 p.m. Free samples will be available, including crème brûlée, gelato, pickles, peppers and gluten-free and vegan options. Shoppers will be able buy many of the items.

The vendors are graduates of the 14-week Getting Your Recipe to Market course, taught in part by OSU's Sarah Masoni, the center's product development manager. In the class, they turned their recipes into commercial-ready products, developed business and marketing plans, crafted elevator pitches, solved packaging and food safety issues, and met one-on-one with retail buyers. More than 200 people have completed the program since it started in 2006, Masoni said.

Just before the June 2 showcase, from 2:30-4 p.m., each exhibitor will make private sales pitches to investors, distributors and local retail buyers with the hopes that they can place their products in stores, restaurants, hospitals, college campuses and in the cafeterias of large companies.

The center plans to host a similar showcase indoors in December, said Masoni, who is also a food product development specialist with the OSU Extension Service.

The Food Innovation Center, a collaborative effort between OSU and the Oregon Department of Agriculture, is at 1207 N.W. Naito Parkway. For more information on the event, call 503-872-6680.

Getting Your Recipe to Market is a partnership between OSU, Portland Community College and grocer New Seasons Market. The hands-on program takes place biannually at PCC.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Sarah Masoni, 503-872-6655

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Food Innovation Center

Food entrepreneurs and the public gather in front of Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center at last year's Time to Market showcase. Photo by Stephen Ward.

Fracking may affect air quality and human health, OSU study finds

CORVALLIS, Ore. – People living or working near active natural gas wells may be exposed to certain pollutants at higher levels than the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for lifetime exposure, according to scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati.

The researchers found that hydraulic fracturing – a technique for releasing natural gas from below-ground rock formations – emits pollutants known as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), including some that are linked with increased risk of cancer and respiratory ailments.

“Air pollution from fracking operations may pose an under-recognized health hazard to people living near them,” said the study’s coauthor Kim Anderson, an environmental chemist with OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

The study, which appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology’s online edition, is part of a larger project co-led by the University of Cincinnati’s Erin Haynes, OSU’s Anderson, her graduate student Blair Paulik and Laurel Kincl, director of OSU’s Environmental Health Science Center.

Anderson and her colleagues collected air samples from sites near active natural gas wells in Carroll County, Ohio, over a three-week period last February. Carroll County sits on top of the Utica formation, a deep oil- and gas-rich reef of subterranean shale. The rural county is a hotspot of natural gas prospecting, with more than one active well site per square mile.

The study got its start when a group of citizens approached Haynes, who is a public health expert, wanting to know more about health risks from natural gas extraction.

Haynes got in touch with Anderson and Kincl, and together they designed the study to include citizen participation. They placed air samplers on the properties of 23 volunteers living or working at sites ranging from right next to a gas well to a little more than three miles away.

The samplers are aluminum T-shaped boxes containing specially treated polyethylene ribbons that absorb contaminants in a similar manner to biological cells. Volunteers were trained in proper handling of samplers and documenting of data.

After the study period, the volunteers packaged the samplers in airtight bags, labeled them and mailed them back to Anderson’s lab at OSU.

The samplers picked up high levels of PAHs across the study area. Levels were highest closest to the wells and decreased by about 30 percent with distance.

Even the lowest levels – detected on sites more than a mile away from a well – were higher than previous researchers had found in downtown Chicago and near a Belgian oil refinery. They were about 10 times higher than in a rural Michigan area with no natural gas wells.

By looking at the ratios of individual PAHs detected by the samplers, Anderson and her team were able to discern whether they came directly from the earth – a “petrogenic” source – or from “pyrogenic” sources like the burning of fossil fuels. The proportion of petrogenic PAHs in the mix was highest nearer the wells and decreased with distance.

The team also accounted for the influences of wood smoke and vehicle exhaust, common sources of airborne pyrogenic PAHs. Wood smoke was consistent across the sampling area, supporting the conclusion that the gas wells were contributing to the higher PAH levels.

The researchers then used a standard calculation to determine the additional cancer risk posed by airborne contaminants over a range of scenarios. For the worst-case scenario (exposure 24 hours a day over 25 years), they found that a person anywhere in the study area would be exposed at a risk level exceeding the threshold of what the EPA deems acceptable.

The highest-risk areas were those nearest the wells, Anderson said. Areas more than a mile away posed about 30 percent less risk.

Anderson cautioned that these numbers are worst-case estimates and can’t predict the risk to any particular individual. “Actual risk would depend heavily on exposure time, exposure frequency and proximity to a natural gas well,” she said.

“We made these calculations to put our findings in context with other, similar risk assessments and to compare the levels we found with the EPA’s acceptable risk level.”

The study has other caveats, Anderson said, the main one being the small number of non-random samples used. In addition, findings aren’t necessarily applicable to other gas-producing areas, because PAH emissions are influenced by extraction techniques and by underlying geology.

The researchers are affiliated with their respective universities’ Environmental Health Science Centers, funded by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences and devoted to addressing citizen concerns.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Kim A. Anderson, 541-737-8501

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Kim Anderson

Kim Anderson, environmental chemist at Oregon State University, measured air pollution near natural gas fracking wells in Carroll County, Ohio. Photo by Stephen Ward.

Blair Paulik

Blair Paulik, graduate student in environmental chemistry at Oregon State University, checks on an air-pollution sampler in Carroll County, Ohio. Photo by Kevin Hobbie.

OSU teaches Portland’s Hispanic community about healthy eating

GRESHAM, Ore. – A dozen women in black aprons clustered around a kitchen island chopping onions, shredding chicken and chatting in Spanish.

At a community center in Gresham, they were making chicken chili in a nutrition and exercise program for Hispanic families taught in Spanish by Oregon State University’s Extension Service. The free eight-week class helps participants with the fundamentals of healthy eating like choosing more vegetables over too many carbohydrates, baking instead of frying and substituting water for soda.

Extension offers the course every four months in nine communities in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. Since the nutrition education programs launched12 years ago, more than 6,300 adults and 9,000 children have taken classes, according to Lynn Steele, leader of OSU Extension’s Hispanic nutrition program in the metro area.

Hispanic immigrants often eat less nutritiously once they leave their traditional diets and lifestyles, said Steele. Health problems such as diabetes and high cholesterol spike as they begin eating the high-fat, high-sugar diets common in the United States.

“When they find out they are pre-diabetic or have another condition, they’re kind of in a panic,” Steele said. “They don’t want to go down that road. They come to the class to learn to prevent illness and how they can offer their families a variety of food for good health.”

Women in the course in Gresham heard about it from Extension’s volunteer community health promoters who work with churches, community centers and government social service agencies to identify people who might benefit from the program.

Lorena Caballero, who took the classes more than 10 years ago, is now one of the promoters.

“I’ve lost weight,” she said. “My kids are starting to read nutrition labels. They’ll read the potato chips and say, ‘Oh, I can only eat 12 potato chips.’”

Christina Ramirez, who has completed several courses, spoke through a translator about having diabetes on both sides of her family and a pre-diabetic husband.

“I learned I’m at high risk,” said Ramirez, who is sending her family in Mexico illustrated recipes that Extension published in Spanish and English. “So little by little we’ve reduced the amount of carbs that we eat. We’re making half of our plates vegetables. My husband is starting to take it more seriously.”

In addition to healthy eating, she has added an exercise regime that includes walking, Zumba, yoga and weightlifting. As a result, she has lost 24 pounds in 18 months.

When the women finished cooking and moved on to the exercise portion of the class, they marched in place swirling orange, pink and yellow scarves as their young children ate healthy snacks, drew pictures and played. Bonding between families is an added benefit.

“The group interaction is so important,” Steele said. “Their extended families are in Mexico or another Latin American country. They’re lonely. Depression is not uncommon.”

Candida de Jesus said she had been depressed.

“I didn’t dress well,” said the mother of five said in Spanish. “Now I’m losing weight, dressing better and feeling much better about myself. And I’m teaching my kids to eat vegetables and drink water instead of soda.”

Most of the women in this particular class started their journey in a Walk With Ease course offered by OSU Extension and designed for people with chronic problems such as arthritis. Participants walk for as long as they can, two to three times each week, and get familiar with the importance of exercise.

“They get so much from it,” said Steele. “We want them to develop habits around physical activity. Between that and the nutrition component, the classes change their lives.”

The Hispanic nutrition program is overseen by Extension’s Family and Community Health program in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Services. It is part of OSU Extension’s statewide nutrition education program for limited-income Oregonians, which is funded by Oregon’s Department of Human Services. A video on the Hispanic program can be found in English and Spanish.

Upcoming Hispanic nutrition classes start in October in Aloha, Beaverton, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Hillsboro, Portland, Sandy, Tigard and Troutdale. For days and times, contact the OSU Extension office in Portland at 503-254-5004 or in Washington County at 503-821-1134.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Lynn Steele, 503-254-5004

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Lucy Lores, an educator with the Oregon State University Extension Service, demonstrates a healthy recipe. Photo by Lynn Ketchum.

OSU scientists develop improved way to assess cancer risk of pollutants

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Scientists at Oregon State University have developed a faster, more accurate method to assess cancer risk from certain common environmental pollutants.

Researchers found that they could analyze the immediate genetic responses of the skin cells of exposed mice and apply statistical approaches to determine whether or not those cells would eventually become cancerous.

The study focused on an important class of pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, that commonly occur in the environment as mixtures such as diesel exhaust and cigarette smoke.

“After only 12 hours, we could predict the ability of certain PAH mixtures to cause cancer, rather than waiting 25 weeks for tumors to develop,” said Susan Tilton, an environmental toxicologist with OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

For at least some PAH mixtures, the new method is not only quicker but produces more accurate cancer-risk assessments than are currently possible, she said.

“Our work was intended as a proof of concept,” said Tilton, who is also affiliated with the OSU’s multidisciplinary Superfund Research Program, a center funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

“The method needs to be tested with a larger group of chemicals and mixtures. But we now have a model that we can use to develop larger-scale screening tests with human cells in a laboratory dish.”

Such a method will be particularly useful for screening PAHs, a large class of pollutants that result from combustion of organic matter and fossil fuels. PAHs are widespread contaminants of air, water and soil. There are hundreds of different kinds, and some are known carcinogens, but many have not been tested.

Humans are primarily exposed to PAHs in the environment as mixtures, which makes it harder to assess their cancer risk. The standard calculation, Tilton said, is to identify the risk of each element in the mix – if it’s known – and add them together.

But this method doesn’t work with most PAH mixes. It assumes the risk for each component is known, as well as which components are in a given mix. Often that information is not available.

This study examined three PAH mixtures that are common in the environment - coal tar, diesel exhaust and cigarette smoke – and various mixtures of them.

They found that each substance touched off a rapid and distinctive cascade of biological and metabolic changes in the skin cells of a mouse. The response amounted to a unique “fingerprint” of the genetic changes that occur as cells reacted to exposure to each chemical.

By matching patterns of genetic changes known to occur as cells become cancerous, they found that some of the cellular responses were early indicators of developing cancers. They also found that the standard method to calculate carcinogenic material underestimated the cancer risk of some mixtures and overestimated the combined risk of others.

“Our study is a first step in moving away from risk assessments based on individual components of these PAH mixtures and developing more accurate methods that look at the mixture as a whole,” Tilton said. “We’re hoping to bring the methodology to the point where we no longer need to use tumors as our endpoint.”

Tilton collaborated on the research with Katrina Waters of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and others. Their findings appeared in a recent edition of Toxicological Sciences.

The study was funded by NIEHS, which supports the Superfund Research Program, a multi-partner collaboration that includes OSU and PNNL.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Susan Tilton, 541-737-1740

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Susan Tilton

OSU environmental toxicologist Susan Tilton. Photo by Gail Wells.

Oregon State receives $1 million gift for research brewery

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University's fermentation science program has received a $1 million gift from Carlos Alvarez, the chairman and chief executive officer of The Gambrinus Company, a San Antonio-based beer company that owns BridgePort Brewing Company in Portland, Oregon; the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas; and the Trumer Brewery in Berkeley, California.

The gift from Alvarez will fund the purchase of a new research brewery to be housed in Oregon State's Wiegand Hall Pilot Plant Facility, where fermentation science students participate in each step of the brewing and packaging process.

"We are incredibly grateful and excited about building on this great relationship with BridgePort and Gambrinus," said Tom Shellhammer, OSU's Nor'Wester Professor of Fermentation Science. "At Oregon State we are very proud to offer students a 'grain-to-glass' education that covers every aspect of the beer-making process. Furthermore, we carry out cutting-edge, globally relevant brewing science research.

"This state-of-the-art facility will allow us to provide an experiential education that is truly world-class, while also enhancing research that benefits industry," Shellhammer added.

Oregon State's collaborative relationship with BridgePort spans more than 15 years. Most recently, Shellhammer, OSU fermentation science students, and BridgePort brewmaster and OSU alumnus Jeff Edgerton collaborated on a session brown ale that won a gold medal at the European Beer Star competition in Germany.

Alvarez is a graduate of the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Monterrey, Mexico, with a degree in biochemical engineering. After working as export manager for Grupo Modelo and taking Corona to the U.S., Alvarez founded The Gambrinus Company in 1986 and became U.S. importer for Corona and other Modelo brands for the next 20 years.

In 1989, he acquired and revitalized the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas, now the fourth largest craft brewery in the U.S. with Shiner Bock as its leading brand. Alvarez subsequently acquired BridgePort Brewing Company in 1995 and founded the Trumer Brewery in Berkeley, California, in 2004.

An ardent supporter of education, Alvarez has contributed to educational institutions across the U.S. with a particular focus on scholarship funding. Among other volunteer leadership roles, he served several years on the board of trustees for Davidson College in North Carolina.

"I am very pleased to support Oregon State's fermentation science program and its outstanding students, who represent so much promise as future craft brewers," Alvarez said. "I am particularly excited to be able to fund this project and give back to the industry that built my business."

Oregon State is one of only two universities in the nation offering undergraduate and graduate level degrees in fermentation science that lead to a career in the brewing industry. Housed within the Department of Food Science and Technology, one of the oldest and top-ranked food science programs in the U.S., the program attracts students from across the country and around the world who hope to enter the craft brewing market. Three out of four students in the department are fermentation science majors.

When construction is finished, the new research brewery funded by Alvarez's gift will be named in his honor.

 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Tom Shellhammer, 541-737-9308

OSU scientists invent rain-resistant coating that cuts cherry cracking in half

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- A tissue-thin, food-grade film developed at Oregon State University acts like a raincoat for sweet cherries, cutting rain-related cracking of the fruit in half and potentially saving a whole season’s crop.

The stretchy spray-on biofilm, patented as SureSeal, was developed by Clive Kaiser, an OSU horticulturist and Extension tree-fruit expert, and OSU pharmacist J. Mark Christensen. SureSeal is a proprietary mix of natural chemicals similar to those found in the outer skins of cherries and blueberries. Its main ingredients are cellulose, palm oil-based wax and calcium.

Growers spray it onto their trees twice per season in a water-based emulsion. Tiny droplets of the film cohere on the fruit and leaves, forming an edible, elastic, water-resistant bandage about 13 microns thick. The bandage stretches as the fruit grows, staying on through harvest to market and table.

Spring rainstorms – common in cherry-growing country – can crack cherries so badly they’re not worth picking, said OSU horticulturist Lynn Long. An Extension expert in tree fruits, Long conducted field trials of SureSeal in orchards in Oregon’s Wasco and Hood River counties from 2008 through 2014 and helped develop the final commercial formulation.

His field testing in 2007-08 showed that rainfall in late June and early July caused between 10 percent and 27 percent of cherries to crack. Spraying with the biofilm reduced the rate of cracking by at least 50 percent, and more in some cases.

Damage to cherries can vary widely from season to season, depending on how much it rains at critical points in the ripening.

“If rain damage exceeds 25 percent of the crop, you can’t harvest; the economics don’t support it,” said Long. “But if you can reduce cracking to 12 percent, you’ve got a chance to salvage a crop that would otherwise have been lost. That’s pretty significant.”

Long and Kaiser also conducted controlled tests in orchards in Norway, where cool seasons and rainy weather make cherries even more prone to cracking. In the 2008 season, almost one-quarter of the untreated cherries cracked from the rain, while 17 percent of the treated cherries cracked.

Norway’s climate, said Long, may explain why results there were less dramatic than in Oregon: Cherries will also crack when soils get saturated and water gets drawn into the fruit from inside. “Nothing you spray on a tree,” he said, “can protect cherries against that.”

In Norway, fruit cracking was reduced to 10 percent when the biofilm treatment was combined with plastic ground covers that drew rainwater away from trees’ roots.

Christensen holds a patent on a similar film-like coating that he invented to enable pulse-release dosages of oral medications. Kaiser had worked on food-grade biofilms in his native South Africa before coming to OSU in 2006.

“When I learned about Mark’s work,” said Kaiser, “I wandered over to (the College of) Pharmacy and asked him if we might produce a hydrophobic film for cherry trees. He said he thought we could give it a go.”

The product is completely safe to eat, said Christensen. Each ingredient is either on the Food and Drug Administration’s “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) list or the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of inert ingredients in registered pesticides.

He added that a 2013 trial in Washington found that SureSeal-sprayed fruit had higher residual levels of some insecticides and fungicides. However, these levels did not exceed the thresholds set by the EPA for U.S.-produced cherries, and the study concluded there was no additional risk to human health.

Oregon has about 12,500 acres of sweet cherries, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Oregon growers sold $78.4 million worth of sweet cherries in 2014.

Funds for the initial research that led to SureSeal came from a company that ultimately chose not to commercialize the product, said Berry Treat, director of OSU’s Office of Commercialization and Corporate Development. The university licensed the SureSeal technology to another company, Nevada-based Cultiva LLC, in 2013.

Cultiva manufactures SureSeal-based products and markets them under its own trade names. In 2014, the company released a formulation for blueberries, and is now working on a third for apples. The inventors and OSU share a 5 percent royalty on all revenue derived from SureSeal technology.

Parka, Cultiva’s product for cherries, is now in its third commercial season. The two recommended spring applications cost growers about $75 per acre each. Long estimated that the product could save $16,500 worth of cherries per acre in a rainy Oregon spring.

Cultiva expects to sell 29,000 gallons of product to about 300 cherry and blueberry growers in Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Georgia, said Sean Musser, the company’s vice president for business development. SureSeal-based products are also being marketed in Canada, Chile and Australia.

Media Contact: 
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Lynn Long, 541-296-5494;

Clive Kaiser, 541-938-5597

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Oregon sweet-cherry growers now have a rain-resistant coating to prevent fruit cracking. Photo by Betsy Hartley.

OSU uses unmanned aircraft to take temperatures up in the air

CORVALLIS, Ore. – For the first time, scientists at Oregon State University are measuring atmospheric temperatures with fiber optic thermometers suspended from unmanned aircraft—combining two emerging technologies to probe a poorly understood swath of Earth’s atmosphere.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, John Selker is buying two new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to loft sophisticated measuring instruments of his own design into an atmospheric zone that’s been hard to study until now.

“These two technologies together will add orders of magnitude to the precision and resolution of our atmospheric measurements,” said Selker, a hydrologist and professor in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “We’ll be able to take a continuous slice of data through space and time, getting information that no one has been able to capture before.”

The high-powered thermometers use a down-to-earth technology: fiber-optic cable, similar to that used for telephone and internet communication. By measuring tiny pulses of light zipping along spun-glass strands, the fiber cables capture thousands of temperature readings along their length, detecting differences as slight as 0.01 degree Celsius.

In early-morning test flights near Hermiston, Selker’s OSU colleagues Michael Wing and Chad Higgins suspended a 400-foot sensing cable—not much thicker than a kite string—from an OSU-owned quad copter. They flew the aircraft at 30 miles an hour, sending it high enough that the tip of the cable just touched the ground. The cable reported temperatures every 13 centimeters.

The researchers started their flights at sunrise because they wanted to see how the atmosphere develops in the boundary layer, the lowest portion of Earth’s atmosphere, as the sun’s heat begins to move the air.

The Earth’s surface and near atmosphere—up to about 1,000 meters above the ground—is a critical zone of feedbacks between air, water and earth, Selker said. “It’s where processes interact, where synergies occur. And temperature is a critical driver of these interactions.”

Until now, he said, scientists have had a hard time taking comprehensive measurements of the lower atmosphere.

“Typically, you’d have to take readings from a fixed point, a tower or a balloon,” Selker said. “Now, instead of measuring one or two or three points at a time, we can measure a million points.”

Such detailed measurements promise to shed light on how clouds and rainstorms develop, how air pollution gets diluted, how pollen moves across the landscape and other important atmospheric dynamics, he said.

Selker’s sensors have captured data from land and sea—an old-growth forest canopy, the Pacific Ocean floor, Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. Until now, there hasn’t been an easy way to deploy them in the air.

UAVs equipped with fiber-optic sensors represent “a fundamentally new way to look at the lower atmosphere,” Selker said. “It’s like living with 20-200 vision and then getting a good pair of glasses. You see a different universe.”

UAVs—popularly known as drones—are best known for their military uses, but they have found many civilian applications, including precision agriculture, traffic surveillance and wilderness rescue. They are a boon to environmental scientists, Selker said, because they can carry measuring instruments into places where it’s difficult or dangerous to send humans, or where other technology can’t easily reach.

Selker’s UAVs will join a growing suite of instruments and tools at the Center for Transformative Environmental Monitoring, or CTEMPs, an NSF-sponsored partnership between OSU and the University of Nevada-Reno. CTEMPs has a fleet of scientific instruments that it makes available, along with training, to environmental scientists throughout the United States.

Selker is a co-director of CTEMPs along with Scott Tyler of the University of Nevada. Wing is director of AirCTEMPs and directs UAV flights at OSU for agriculture, engineering, fish, wildlife and natural resource applications.

The $1.2 million NSF grant renewal will also fund CTEMPs’s purchase of other UAV-mountable instruments, including thermal imaging cameras and a small LIDAR, or laser-powered imaging tool, that captures three-dimensional measurements of landscape features.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

John Selker, 541-737-6304;

Michael Wing, 541-737-4009

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Multimedia: 

UAV with fiber optic cable

OSU scientist Michael Wing flies a UAV equipped with a fiber-optic temperature sensing cable over farm fields near Hermiston, Ore. Photo by Robert Predosa

 

UAV with fiber optic cable. Photo by Robert Predosa

UAV flies over clouds in eastern Oregon.