WSU Mount Vernon Small Fruit Horticulture Professor Lisa Wasko DeVetter inspects her program’s newly planted blueberry test plot. (Photo by Kim Binczewski)
Pollination, plant pathogens, and pesticide alternatives are a recurring theme in the 2015 WSU Mount Vernon NWREC Annual Field Day, which includes a lengthy walking field tour, research project updates, and an agricultural community barbecue here July 9.
The Annual Field Day, which began in the 1940s, is free and open to the public. It starts at 3:30 p.m. with a walking field tour of some of the nearly 150 acres of the Center’s active research plots. A tractor-driven wagon ride will service non-walkers, and Spanish language translation services will available throughout the tour from Kate Selting, Latino Farmer Outreach Educator with the WSU Small Farms Program/Skagit County Extension.
Faculty members and graduate students representing the Center’s current Research and Extension programs will talk about their projects and how their work impacts the region’s growers, consumers, agricultural businesses and local economies.
“This annual event is a great opportunity to share with the community some highlights of what we do to help the region,” said WSU Mount Vernon Research Center Interim Director Debbie Inglis. “It is also a way we show our appreciation to the many people and groups, such as the Port of Skagit County, the Northwest Agricultural Research Foundation, and all the growers and industry representatives who fuel our research and contribute to our mission.”
WSU Mount Vernon’s mission is to serve the agricultural, horticultural, and natural resource science interests of the state through research and extension activities that are enhanced by the unique conditions of northwestern Washington: its mild, marine climate, rich alluvial soils, diverse small and mid-sized farming enterprises, and unique rural-urban interface.
This year’s Field Day presentations highlight all of the Center’s research programs: plant breeding, small fruit horticulture, berry pathology, entomology, vegetable seed pathology, vegetable horticulture, vegetable pathology, weed science, and dairy/livestock.
Three of the represented research programs are working on projects to help growers productively respond to issues involving pollination, plant pathogens, and pesticide alternatives.
Included among the presenters are Small Fruit Horticulture Program Leader Lisa Wasko DeVetter and her Ph.D students, Rachel Rudolph and Matt Arrington, who are respectively studying new options to promote the sustainable production of raspberries and blueberries.
“Rachel and I are investigating alternative pre-plant treatments for soil-borne disease/pest management in continuous red raspberry systems that may be suitable alternatives to chemical soil fumigation,” DeVetter said. “Rachel is also looking at several species of cover crops that may be able to suppress soil-borne disease and pests while promoting soil quality.”
Arrington’s research project involves enhancing pollination and fruit set in blueberry.
“Matt has been building on some of my earlier work to understand factors that limit fruit set and yield of blueberry in western Washington,” said DeVetter. “We have confirmed that visitation rates of honeybee (Apis mellifera) is very low in western Washington, which is likely due to unfavorable weather conditions. We have also observed that visitation rates are greater in organic fields.
“My program is developing recommendations on ways to promote and optimize honeybee activity and overall pollination for blueberry,” she added.
The Vegetable Seed Pathology team will provide updates on its ongoing research, including the impacts of bacterial pathogens in table beet and Swiss chard seed crops and fungal pathogens of plants in the cabbage family, according to program leader Lindsey du Toit.
M.S.students Shannon Carmody and John Weber will provide information about their respective work with brassica species and sunflower seed production.
“Shannon’s research project involves evaluating how readily certain fungi that infect brassica plants can be seed transmitted in brassica species and whether seed treatments (organic and conventional fungicides) being used by growers and seed companies around the world will help prevent seed transmission of these fungi,” said du Toit.
“John will discuss his project working with sunflower seed growers to improve their management practices for white mold, caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, which has emerged as the main disease affecting the burgeoning sunflower seed production industry in Washington,” she said.
Weeds impact all crops, and Weed Science Program Leader Tim Miller and his Ph.D student, Yushan “Sherry” Duan, will be on hand to discuss some results of that program’s new product testing and research which has yielded new techniques for weed management.
“I’ll be discussing weed control – including in three types of crops: seeds crops, berries, and ornamentals,” Miller said. “Seed crops include the vegetable crops (primarily table beets, spinach, and cabbage) that are grown in northwest Washington and a new potential crop (quinoa) for the state.
“I’ll be testing various herbicide combinations on first-year berries and will have some plots with ‘living mulch’ plants growing under newly planted blueberry,” he added. “I’ll also be looking at various ornamental crops, including tulip, daffodil, iris, gladiola, caladium, peony, and dahlia. “Sherry will talk about her current research involving cover crops in tulip production.”
The Center’s Annual Field Day will wind down at approximately 6 p.m. with a barbecue on the grounds near the Center’s Tree House meeting space, where visitors can enjoy a locally prepared meal and connect with others in the agricultural community. More information about this year’s event is available from Field Day Coordinator Susan Kerr, 360-848-6151, firstname.lastname@example.org . Links to specific program research are available on the WSU Mount Vernon website, http://mtvernon.wsu.edu/.