OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

college of agricultural sciences

OSU updates resources for protecting bees from pesticides

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As the worldwide population of honey bees continues to decline, the Oregon State University Extension Service and partners have updated a tool for Pacific Northwest growers and beekeepers to reduce the impacts of pesticides on bees.

The revision of OSU Extension's publication appears after an estimated 50,000 bumble bees died in a Wilsonville parking lot in June. The Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed in a June 21 statement that the bee deaths were directly related to a pesticide application on linden trees conducted to control aphids. The episode prompted the ODA to issue a six-month restriction on 18 insecticides containing the active ingredient dinotefuran.

OSU researchers are investigating the effects of broad-spectrum neonicotinoids, such as dinotefuran, on native bees. The work is in progress, according to Ramesh Sagili, an OSU honeybee specialist.

The newly revised publication "How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides" includes the latest research and regulations. Lead authors include Sagili and OSU toxicologist Louisa Hooven. Download the updated version for free online at http://bit.ly/OSU_ReduceBeePoisoning.

"More than 60,000 honey bee colonies pollinate about 50 different crops in Oregon, including blueberries, cherries, pear, apple, clover, meadowfoam and carrot seed," Sagili said. "Without honey bees, you lose an industry worth nearly $500 million from sales of the crops they commercially pollinate."

Nationally, honey bees pollinated about $11.68 billion worth of crops in 2009, according to a 2010 study on the economic value of insect pollinators by Cornell University.

Growers, commercial beekeepers and pesticide applicators in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California will find the publication useful, Sagili said. An expanded color-coded chart details active ingredients and trade names of more than 100 conventional and organic pesticides, including toxicity levels to bees and precautions for use.

The publication also describes residual toxicity periods for several pesticides that remain effective for extended periods after they are applied. Additionally, the guide explains how to investigate and report suspected bee poisonings.

Nationwide, honey bee colonies have been declining in recent years due to several factors, including mites, viruses transmitted by mites, malnutrition and improper use of pesticides, Sagili said. In Oregon, about 22 percent of commercial honey bee colonies were lost during the winter of 2012-13, Sagili said. There has been a gradual, sustained decline of managed honey bees since the peak of 5.9 million colonies in 1947, according to the Cornell study. The number of managed colonies reached a low of 2.3 million in 2008, although there were increases in 2009 and 2010, the study said.  

"Growers and beekeepers can work together with this practical document in hand," Sagili said of OSU Extension's publication. "It gives them informative choices."

For example, when commercial beekeeper Harry Vanderpool needed to advise a pear grower on whether an insecticide was acceptable to use around bees, he turned to OSU Extension's publication.  

"That manual has been a blessing," said Vanderpool, who keeps 400 hives in South Salem to pollinate dozens of crops for growers from California to central Oregon. "It's a tool that helps beekeepers and farmers work together in the right way with the right chemical rather than us telling farmers how to farm or farmers telling beekeepers how to keep bees."

You can also find OSU's publication by searching for PNW 591-E in OSU Extension's catalog at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog. The publication was produced in cooperation with OSU, Washington State University and the University of Idaho.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Ramesh Sagili, 541-737-5460; Louisa Hooven

Bumblebee GPS: Oregon State to track native bees with tiny attachable sensors

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will design miniature wireless sensors to attach to bumblebees that will provide real-time data on their intriguing behavior.

Many aspects of bumblebees' daily conduct are unknown because of their small size, rapid flight speeds, and hidden underground nests. OSU plans to build sensors that will reveal how these native pollinators search for pollen, nectar and nesting sites – information that will help researchers better understand how these insects assist in the production of crops that depend on pollination to produce fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, tomatoes and dozens of other staples of the Pacific Northwest agricultural economy.

Given recent losses of European honeybees to diseases, mites and colony collapse disorder, bumblebees are becoming increasingly important as agricultural pollinators, said Sujaya Rao, an entomologist in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.

"Lack of pollination is a risk to human food production,” said Rao, an expert on native bees. “With our sensors, we are searching for answers to basic questions, such as: Do all members of one colony go to pollinate the same field together? Do bumblebees communicate in the colony where food is located? Are bumblebees loyal as a group?"

"The more we can learn about bumblebees' customs of foraging, pollination and communication,” she added, “the better we can promote horticultural habitats that are friendly to bees in agricultural settings."

Landscaping tactics, such as planting flowers and hedgerows near crops, are believed to promote the presence and population of bumblebees, as well as increase yields.

This multidisciplinary design project will unite Rao with researchers in OSU's School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The three-year collaboration begins Oct. 1 and will be supported by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

OSU engineers will test small, lightweight electronic sensors that avoid affecting the bees' natural flight movements. At the same time, researchers will test how to best mount the sensors on the pollinators – likely on the thorax or abdomen.

Each sensor will consist of integrated circuits that broadcast wireless signals about the bee's location and movement. The sensors will be powered by wireless energy transfer instead of batteries, further reducing weight and size.

"New technologies allow us to build sensors with extremely small dimensions," said Arun Natarajan, principal investigator in OSU's High-Speed Integrated Circuits Lab and an assistant professor in EECS. "The concept of placing wireless sensors on insects is a relatively unexplored area, and we're hopeful that our research can have vast applications in the future.”

Once designed and built, OSU researchers first plan to use the sensors to study the six bumblebee species of the Willamette Valley, which vary in size, flight patterns and seasonal activity. These native bees also differ from bumblebees found in eastern Oregon, the East Coast and Europe.

Researchers also hope their sensor designs could be used for tracking other small organisms, such as invasive pests.

Patrick Chiang, an OSU engineering professor and an expert in low-power circuits, will assist in designing the sensors.

"This collaboration is truly unique - engineers and entomologists talk different languages and rarely cross paths," said Rao. "To be working with engineers for an agricultural research project is part of what makes this effort so exciting and distinct."

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Sujaya Rao, 541-737-9038;

Arun Natarajan, 541-737-0606

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OSU entomologist Sujaya Rao

OSU entomologist Sujaya Rao will attach small sensors to bumblebees to study the pollinators' habits in agricultural areas. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)


Bumblebee

Sensor data will eventually inform the design of horticultural landscapes that attract bumblebees to crops that depend on pollination to produce fruits and vegetables. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Native bee Bombus melanopygus

OSU researchers will first use the sensors to study the six species of bumblebees native to the Willamette Valley. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Art About Agriculture travels to Pendleton, Moro

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Art celebrating the Columbia Basin's heritage of dryland wheat farming will make special appearances in Pendleton and Moro over the next two months.

Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences is displaying 10 works of art from its Art About Agriculture permanent collection through Sept. 24 at the Sherman Junior/Senior High School Library in Moro. Ten additional works of art will join the traveling show when it moves to the Blue Mountain Community College's Betty Feves Memorial Gallery located in Pendleton. That show will be on display Sept. 25-Oct. 30.

"People going to the art show will be able to see how their work in agriculture is perceived by people who live in other parts of the state," said Shelley Curtis, curator for OSU's Art About Agriculture permanent collection. "It's very interesting to see that exchange between people who are agricultural producers and people who admire their work for aesthetic and creative reasons."

Many of the Eastern Oregon scenes embodied in the works of art are reflected in the nationally important research conducted by OSU's experiment stations in Pendleton and Moro.

The art show represents drawings, paintings, prints and photographs of grain storage, orchards, irrigation, livestock, shipping and transportation from OSU's permanent collection of fine art, which is supported by grants and donations.

The art exhibit’s visit to Moro will include a free reception from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at 65912 High School Loop in Moro.

For more information about the Art About Agriculture permanent collection through OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences, visit http://agsci.oregonstate.edu/art.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Shelley Curtis, 541-737-5534

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Robert Schlegel's "Grain Elevator" is painted with acrylic on board. The Art About Agriculture permanent collection acquired his work in 2005. (Photo by Peter Krupp.)

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Sally Finch's "Dryland Farming 3: Moro" depicts weather data inside abstract squares, done with graphite and acrylic ink on paper. (Photo by Sally Finch)

Growing populations of brown marmorated stink bug could harm late-season crops

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University researchers warn of an increased risk of damage to late-ripening crops this year after discovering record levels of the brown marmorated stink bug, a newly established invasive pest in Oregon.

The alert comes at a critical time with harvest looming for many crops, including blueberries, raspberries, apples, pears, hazelnuts, grapes, sweet corn, peppers, and edible beans. The pest has shown an appetite for more than 100 different crops.

Late-season feeding and contamination by adult stink bugs and nymphs can result in discoloration of fruit, vegetables and nuts – ultimately sullying the crops' value at the marketplace. While no economic damage from the pest has been documented thus far in Oregon, OSU researchers worry that could change after this summer.

"Even low levels of infestation can result in crop losses," said Vaughn Walton, an entomologist at OSU. "Stink bugs in commercial crops can lead to increased management costs, pesticide use and outbreaks of secondary pests. There's no question stink bugs could be an economic issue."

A native of southeast Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug arrived in the eastern United States in the late 1990s and has since spread to more than 30 states, reaching Oregon in 2004. The pest has damaged millions of dollars of crops on the East Coast.

OSU's statewide survey for the bug is ongoing and early returns this year show higher population densities in nearly every area of Oregon. While the stink bug been established in urban counties near Portland and the Willamette Valley for years – and in Hood River and Wasco County since 2012 – its range has recently expanded to more rural environments, including farms of all sizes. Most recently, the pest established a significant presence in the Columbia Gorge and southern Oregon.

Last year's mild winter in Oregon, coupled with this summer's heat, has driven the stink bug's population growth, said Nik Wiman, an OSU research entomologist. Populations are increasing faster than anticipated and tend to peak in late summer, he added.

"Pre-harvest is a time when stink bugs are more likely infest crops and lay eggs because late-stage crops are an attractive food source," said Wiman. "The adults and nymphs cause blemishes when they feed on ripening fruit, nuts and vegetables, rendering them unmarketable."

Farmers and growers are encouraged to look for the pest on their property or near crops as they ripen. The bugs are most easily found on indicator plants, like English holly, maples, lilacs or fruit trees.

If the pest is found, researchers recommend working with an OSU Extension Service entomologist or crop consultant to decide the best plan of action. For more information on managing the brown marmorated stink bug, Walton advises farmers and growers to use the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Handbook, which is available for free online at http://pnwhandbooks.org/insect.

OSU's latest information and research on the pest can be found at http://BMSB.hort.oregonstate.edu.

In the meantime, OSU researchers are testing specific insecticide controls for the brown marmorated stink bug, as none are registered for the insect. Herbicides and fungicides are not known to be effective.

The public can report sightings of the bug to bmsb@hort.oregonstate.edu to assist researchers in tracking its dispersal through the state. OSU Extension has published a free guide for distinguishing the brown marmorated stink bug from look-alike insects in both English and Spanish at http://horticulture.oregonstate.edu/content/biology-and-identification.

OSU is one of 11 institutions studying the brown marmorated stink bug in a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Additional supporting funds are from the Oregon Hazelnut Commission, as well as the Oregon Blackberry and Raspberry Commission.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

 Vaughn Walton, 541-740 4149;

Peter Shearer, 541-386-2030, ext. 215;

Nik Wiman 541-737-2534;

Silvia Rondon 541-567-8321, ext.108

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Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Oregon State University graduate student Chris Hedstrom is part of the OSU research team tracking the pest's spread through the state, while investigating new ways to suppress its impact on crops. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

 Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

A brown marmorated stink bug feeds on a red pepper plant in an Oregon State University lab in Corvallis. The pest feeds on more than 100 plants and has a particular appetite for late-ripening crops, such as hazelnuts, blueberries, raspberries and grapes. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Researchers use circulation models, genetics to track “lost years” of turtles

CORVALLIS, Ore. – When green turtles toddle out to the ocean after hatching from eggs at sandy beaches they more or less disappear from view and aren’t seen again for several years until they show up as juveniles at coastal foraging areas.

Researchers have long puzzled over what happens to the turtles during these “lost years,” as they were dubbed decades ago. Now a new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society outlines where they likely would be based on ocean currents.

It is the first quantitative estimate of juvenile turtle distribution across an entire ocean basin and experts say it is significant because it gives researchers in North America, South America, Europe and Africa an idea of where hatchlings that emerge on beaches will go next, and where the juveniles foraging along the coastlines most likely came from.

“Hatchling sea turtles are too small for transmitters and electronic tags, and their mortality rate is sufficiently high to make it cost-prohibitive anyway,” said Nathan F. Putman, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “Even if you could develop a perfect sensor, you would need tens of thousands of them because baby turtles get gobbled up at such a fast rate. So we decided to look at an indirect approach.”

Putman and his colleague, Eugenia Naro-Maciel of City University of New York, used sophisticated ocean circulation models to trace the likely route of baby green turtles from known nesting sites once they entered the water. They also identified known locations of foraging sites where the turtles reappeared as juveniles, and went backwards – tracing where they most likely arrived via currents.

“This is not a definitive survey of where turtles go – it is more a simplification of reality – but it is a starting point and a big and comprehensive starting point at that,” Putman pointed out. “Turtles have flippers and can swim, so they aren’t necessarily beholden to the currents. But what this study provides is an indication of the oceanic environment that young turtles encounter, and how this environment likely influences turtle distributions.

“When we compared the predictions of population connectivity from our ocean current model and estimates from a genetic model, we found that they correlate pretty well,” said Putman, a researcher in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. “Each approach, individually, has limitations but when you put them together the degree of uncertainty is substantially reduced.”

The researchers simulated the dispersal of turtles from each of 29 separate locations in the Atlantic and West Indian Ocean and identified “hot spots” throughout these basins where computer models suggest that virtual turtles would be densely aggregated. This includes portions of the southern Caribbean, the Sargasso Sea, and portions of the South Atlantic Ocean and the West Indian Ocean.

In contrast, they estimate that the fewest number of turtles would be located in the open ocean along the equator between South America and central Africa.

Based on the models, it appears that turtles from many populations would circumnavigate the Atlantic Ocean basin. “Backtracking” simulations revealed that numerous foraging grounds were predicted to have turtles arrive from the North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Southwest Indian oceans. Thus, a high degree of connectivity among populations appears likely based on circulation patterns at the ocean surface.

Putman said the next step in the research might be for turtle biologists throughout the Atlantic Ocean basin to “ground truth” the model by looking for young turtles in those hotspots. Knowing more about their early life history and migration routes could help in managing the population, he said.

“Perhaps the best part about this modeling is that it is a testable hypothesis,” Putman said. “People studying turtles throughout the Atlantic basin will have predictions of turtle distributions based on solid oceanographic data to help interpret what they are observing.

“Finding these little turtles is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack,” Putman added. “But at least we’ve helped researchers understand where that haystack most likely would be located.”

Putman also has a study coming out in Biology Letters using similar methodology to predict ocean distribution patterns for the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Nathan Putman, 205-218-5276; Nathan.putman@oregonstate.edu

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Hatchling green turtle

 

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Distribution of turtles
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OSU receives $1.2 million to expand fermentation science program

CORVALLIS, Ore. - In the closing days of the 2013 legislative session, Oregon lawmakers approved $1.2 million for Oregon State University to enhance the Agricultural Experiment Station’s fermentation sciences program.

Demonstrating broad bipartisan support, the legislation was sponsored by 41 Oregon lawmakers.

“It’s significant that a strong coalition of industry members and key legislators supported this initiative, given the challenging funding environment,” said Jim Bernau, founder of the Willamette Valley Vineyards. “This research effort will create more Oregon jobs in these growing industries.”

The funding will support university research in all aspects of the production of high value wine, beer, cheese, breads and distilled spirits, all products of fermentation.

Fermentation adds value to many of Oregon’s crops, according to Bill Boggess, an economist and interim director of the Oregon Wine Research Institute. For example, he said, artisan cheese increases the value of a gallon of milk ten-fold; high quality wine increases the value of Pinot noir grapes up to eight times; and craft beer increases the value of hops and barley as much as 30 times. In addition, distillation adds significant value to fruits and grains.

Among other enhancements to the existing program, the legislative funding will help establish a new research distillery at OSU, adding another key feature to its fermentation program.

The program began in 1995 when the Oregon legislature voted to match a $500,000 gift from Jim Bernau to establish the nation’s first endowed professorship in fermentation science. It quickly grew into a full suite of programs in brewing science, enology and viticulture, dairy, and breads.

With the additional investment from the 2013 legislature, OSU will be the first university in the nation with a working research winery, brewery and distillery, keeping pace with Oregon’s rapidly diversifying fermentation industries, according to Bob McGorrin, Jacobs-Root Professor and head of OSU’s Food Science and Technology Department.

“Oregon’s distilled spirits industry is relatively young and rapidly growing,” McGorrin said, “similar to where the Oregon wine and microbrew industries were 25 years ago.

In fact, all Oregon’s fermentation industries are advancing rapidly, bringing with them an increased demand for quality local ingredients, such as fruits, grains and milk, according to Dan Arp, Reub Long Professor and dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

“We need to advance our research in order to keep up with these industries and their needs for product innovation, food safety and sustainable production. It’s all part of assuring Oregon’s reputation for premium quality products,” Arp said.

Besides the establishment of a new distilling program, the legislative funding will expand OSU’s fermentation research in areas such as:

• new methods for assessing beer bitterness;

• molecular and microbial factors that affect wine quality;

• cheese fermentation methods for greater consistency and food safety.

Funding will also support research into the sustainable production of high quality ingredients used in fermentation, with emphasis on:

• wine grape research and innovative vineyard management;

• barley, hop and wheat breeding, creating new varieties for new products;

• milk production research and teaching at the OSU Dairy herd and student experience producing Beaver Classic cheese;

• anticipating agricultural challenges from emerging pests, disease, and climatic conditions.

Oregon is home to more than 460 wineries, 850 vineyards, and 170 microbreweries. The annual economic impact of Oregon’s wine and beer industries is approximately $5.5 billion, according to the Oregon Wine Board and the Oregon Brewers’ Guild.

In parallel with the growth of industries, student enrollment in the fermentation sciences program at OSU has grown 500 percent in the last 10 years, according to McGorrin.

OSU’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs build on certificate and associate degree programs at Chemeketa and Umpqua community colleges, partners in providing a strong workforce for Oregon’s fermentation industries, McGorrin said.

Representatives from those industries, in particular Sam Tannahill of A to Z Wineworks and Ed King of King Estate Winery, were instrumental in supporting funding for fermentation sciences at OSU.      

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Bob McGorrin, 541-737-8737;

Bill Boggess, 541-737-1395;

Dan Arp, 541-737-2331

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OSU's research brewery

Professors Tom Shellhammer (second from left) and Shaun Townsend (far right) test the taste and aroma of an experimental beer in Oregon State University's research brewery on campus. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

OSU hotline opens for food preservation questions

CORVALLIS, Ore. – As interest grows in preserving produce, the Oregon State University Extension Service is offering its summer food preservation and safety hotline for queries on testing pressure canner gauges, ensuring jam sets properly and preparing tomato salsa.

The hotline at 1-800-354-7319 runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from July 15 to Oct. 11.

Extension-certified Master Food Preserver volunteers from Lane and Douglas counties take the calls.

More young people ages 25-40 are becoming are interested in local food and taking OSU Extension's Master Food Preserver training, said Nellie Oehler, the master food preserver coordinator in Lane County.  

"There's a whole new generation coming up that wants to know how we did it in the old days and wants to go back to the land and back to the basics," she said.

Oehler emphasized that proper techniques must be used to ensure canned foods are high quality and safe to eat. The hotline is one of several resources, including publications and classes, which OSU Extension offers on food safety.

Master Food Preservers who staff the hotline must undergo 40 hours of training. They educate the public about safe food handling and preservation over the phone and at workshops and exhibits. Last year, 374 new and veteran master food preservers throughout the state contributed 23,150 volunteer hours.

Master Food Preservers answered 3,425 calls during the 2012 summer season. About 80 percent dealt with food safety questions, Oehler said.

For more information about the Master Food Preserver Program, go to http://bit.ly/OSU_FoodPreservation and http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-safety. OSU Extension's Ask an Expert service also takes online questions about food preservation at http://bit.ly/OSU_AskAnExpert. Additionally, Master Food Preservers run a holiday food safety hotline every November. 

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Nellie Oehler, 541-868-6897

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Michele Pryse, a master food preserver trained by the Oregon State University Extension Service, teaches food preservation techniques in the Medford area. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Aquaculture industry may benefit from water mold genome study

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An Oregon State University scientist and partners borrowed some technology from the Human Genome Project to more clearly identify the genes used by a type of water mold that attacks fish and causes millions of dollars in losses to the aquaculture industry each year.

Researchers compared the fish and plant pathogens to clearly identify the genes involved. By better understanding how these pathogens invade animals, the aquaculture industry can develop more effective control methods, such as improved vaccines and fungicides, researchers said.

The water mold belongs to a group of more than 500 species of fungus-like microorganisms called "oomycetes" that reproduce both sexually and asexually. Oomycetes, close relatives of seaweeds such as kelp, are serious pathogens of salmon and other fish. This is a particular problem in regions of the world where trout and salmon are raised, including the Pacific Northwest, Scotland and Chile.

Brett Tyler, professor and director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences, led a project that mapped the entire genome of an oomycete species known as Saprolegnia parasitica. This is the first time these methods have been applied to water mold pathogens of fish.

The pathogen causes a disease called saprolegniosis, characterized by visible grey or white patches of mycelium on skin and fins that can also transfer into the muscles and blood vessels of fish. The potato late blight pathogen that caused the great Irish famine of the 1840s is a relative of S. parasitica. While saprolegniosis can't affect humans, relatives of S. parasitica can.

People around the world now get more protein from fish than from beef, Tyler said. As natural fish stocks decline, farmed fish are more vital to fulfill increasing global demand. But farmed fish are also more prone to disease because of crowding, which can spread to wild fish.

"Developing new, environmentally sustainable ways to reduce fish disease will cut down on the use of chemicals on fish farms, while also protecting wild fish, such as salmon, found in the rivers of the Pacific Northwest," Tyler said.

Key findings of the research include:

  • S. parasitica can rapidly adapt to its environment through changes to its genes, allowing it to spread to new fish species or overcome fungicides.
  • S. parasitica contains an enzyme that can actively suppress a fish's initial immune response, leaving it less able to defend against initial stages of infection. 
  • Plant pathogens can change the physiology of their hosts by using special enzymes that suppress plant immunity, while animal oomycetes have developed different enzymes, proteins and toxins that enable infection of fish.
  • S. parasitica has more enzymes involved in adaptation than humans, allowing it to recognize and quickly adapt to a wide variety of environments.
  • S. parasitica is vulnerable to an antifungal agent called a chitin synthesis inhibitor, contrary to previous beliefs that animal-damaging oomycetes did not contain any chitin.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Genetics at http://bit.ly/101mVfd. Major research partners include the University of Aberdeen and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Brett Tyler, 541-737-3347

Oregon State University names Andrew Hulting to Hyslop Professorship

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University has selected a weed management specialist with the Extension Service for a major endowed professorship.

Andrew Hulting began July 1 as OSU's fourth Hyslop Professor. He will serve in the role for five years.  

Hulting will train graduate students to work on weed management projects, including in-depth studies of grass weed species, such as annual bluegrass and roughstalk bluegrass. He will train seed industry professionals to improve weed management practices. Additionally, he plans to work with undergraduate students on weed management research.

"The Hyslop Professorship is an extremely important position because it allows us to target funds to issues important to the industries related to seed production," Hulting said. "It's a great honor. I'm so thankful that the Hyslop family had the foresight to create this endowment. It's a rare opportunity to have this amount of time to develop important projects."   

George R. Hyslop's family and friends established a large endowment with the OSU Foundation that provides funds for several activities, including the Hyslop Professorship, within OSU's Crop and Soil Science Department. Hyslop was the first to head the Department of Farm Crops at Oregon Agricultural College in the early 1900s.

Hulting assumes the position as Oregon seed production charts a course toward a more prosperous future.

"We've come out of a huge downturn in grass seed production, and the market is looking more positive," Hulting said. "We've seen a lot of growth in clover seed production and in some other important seed crops. There's good demand for our products and we are starting to turn around and see a more positive outlook for all seed production."

Media Contact: 
Source: 

Andrew Hulting, 541-737-5098;

Russ Karow, 541-737-2821

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Oregon State University has named Andrew Hulting, weed management specialist for the OSU Extension Service, to its Hyslop professorship. (Photo by Emmalie Goodwin.)

OSU to test new tools to assess health risk from Superfund sites

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University aims to test new technologies for measuring the toxicity of environmental chemicals to determine their health risk and see if cleaning up hazardous waste sites generates even worse chemicals.

The work will be funded by a $15.4 million, five-year grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The long-term goal is to improve human health by reducing exposures to toxic chemicals.

"The focus is to improve technologies for identifying and measuring the levels and toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs] found at a large percentage of Superfund sites, including the Portland Harbor, and to better assess the impact of PAHs on human health," said OSU's Dave Williams, the lead scientist on the project.

The research could help local, state and federal agencies, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, better understand the risk posed by PAHs, he added.

PAHs are produced when coal, gas, oil and wood are burned and even when meat is smoked or grilled. Some can cause cancer, impede normal development or harm neurological and reproductive systems, Williams said.

OSU chemists Staci Simonich and Kim Anderson will collect PAHs in the sediment, soil and water from 13 locations, including several Superfund sites. Superfund sites are abandoned or uncontrolled parcels of land or water where hazardous waste was dumped and may harm the environment or people.

At several of the sites, OSU scientists will identify which PAHs in soil and sediment get converted into other chemical compounds as a result of cleanup efforts. These remediation methods may include heating the contaminated soil and sediment, exposing it to ultraviolet light, or adding chemicals, bacteria, fungi or charcoal to it to break it down, said Simonich, a professor in the colleges of science and agricultural sciences.

"We don't know what's being formed during remediation," Simonich said. "We're going to investigate that and figure out if it is bad for human health."

Anderson will test a new device with a silicone membrane that absorbs chemicals much like a person's skin cells would. Knowing which chemicals can be absorbed by a human body is key, she said. If they can't be absorbed, then it might be safer to leave the waste in place rather than dredging it up and possibly creating even more dangerous chemicals that can indeed enter the body, she said.

Robert Tanguay, a biochemist at OSU, will test the original PAHs as well as the derivatives that formed from cleanup efforts to see how toxic they are. He'll use zebrafish, the aquatic equivalent of lab rats. Scientists use the tiny fish because they’re transparent during development, mature rapidly and share about 80 percent of their genes with humans. This allows researchers to run many tests in a short time on a huge number of subjects.

Researchers will also see if chemicals become more or less toxic when mixed together versus when they're isolated.

"We are not exposed to one chemical at a time," said Anderson, a professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "We want to understand what the toxicity is of the mixture we're exposed to."

In partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, Williams will assess how humans absorb, metabolize and eliminate extremely small doses of PAHs. This data could later be used by regulatory agencies, including the EPA, to estimate risk from exposures to PAH mixtures. These agencies have had to rely on results from animal studies that involve high dosages, said Williams, a professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Interacting with communities impacted by nearby hazardous waste or exposure to PAHs is an important additional component of the university's research. So Anderson, in a partnership created by OSU public health scientist Anna Harding, will work with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon to address tribal concerns about environmental chemicals. Anderson will measure tribal members' exposure to PAHs from woodstoves in their homes using portable air samplers and by asking them to wear silicone wristbands that she developed to absorb atmospheric chemicals. Exposures to PAHs from eating smoked salmon will also be investigated by testing tribal members' urine to see how their bodies metabolized the PAHs. 

On Fidalgo Island in Washington, Anderson will carry out a study at the Swinomish Indian Reservation, where oil refinery waste was once disposed, and at the Samish Indian Lands. She'll measure PAHs from sediment and tissues of butter clams, which tribal members' eat.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a partner on the grant and an integral part of the research. Rick Corley, a toxicologist at the lab, will develop computational models to predict internal doses of biologically active PAHs in sensitive target organs of humans at different life stages – from the fetus through adulthood – under real-world exposure conditions. Katrina Waters, a computational biologist there, will provide bioinformatics support to determine linkages between exposure and disease.

In 2009, the NIEHS designated OSU as home to one of the nation’s 18 Superfund Research Programs. As part of that, it awarded the university $12.4 million to study the health risks from PAHs in the Pacific Northwest and China. More information on the program at OSU is at http://oregonstate.edu/superfund.

Since then, OSU scientists have studied fetal exposure to carcinogens and Chinese residents' cancer risk from electronic waste sites. They've also investigated the impact of air pollution on Beijing residents' health and tested the water and air along the Gulf Coast after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. To read stories about OSU's work with PAHs, go to http://extension.oregonstate.edu/news/polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbons.

In the latest grant, researchers will collect PAHs from the following locations:

  • McCormick and Baxter Creosoting Co. site (Portland, Ore.)
  • Portland Harbor (Oregon)
  • Lower Duwamish Waterway (Seattle, Wash.)
  • St. Maries Creosote site (St. Maries, Idaho)
  • Anniston PCB site (Alabama)
  • American Creosote Works site (Winnfield plant) (Louisiana)
  • Grasse River Study Area (New York)
  • Dewey Loeffel Landfill (Nassau, N.Y.)
  • Passaic River-Newark Bay Study Area (New Jersey)
  • Hudson River PCBs site (New York)
  • Swinomish Indian Reservation (Fidalgo Island, Wash.)
  • Samish Indian Lands (Fidalgo Island, Wash.)
  • Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (Oregon)
Media Contact: 
Source: 

Dave Williams, 541-737-3277

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Staci Simonich, OSU professor

Chemist Staci Simonich examines a vial containing air pollutants at her lab at Oregon State University. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

Robert Tanguay

Biochemist Robert Tanguay checks tanks of zebrafish at his lab at Oregon State University. He uses the fish to test the toxicity of certain chemicals. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)