New barley variety honors long-time plant breeder Steve Lyon
Senior Scientific Assistant Steve Lyon, shown with wheat plants maturing in a WSU Mount Vernon greenhouse, has been involved in WSU small grains research for more than 22 years.
(Photo by Kim Binczewski)
After more than 22 years of breeding wheat for Washington State University, Senior Scientific Assistant Steve Lyon never expected to make a name for himself in the barley field. But this spring’s release of the new “Lyon” variety of barley is one way his colleagues in Pullman have chosen to recognize his long-term contributions to small grains research.
“As a graduate student in Stephen Jones’ winter wheat program, I worked with Steve Lyon on a daily basis,” said WSU barley breeder Dr. Kevin Murphy, who developed and hence claimed naming rights to this new variety. “There is no way I would have survived the harsh rigors of grad school without Steve’s help. He was always very positive, always sure things would work out fine; and he was almost always right. This is the best way I can think of to honor and thank him.”
Lyon found out about his barley namesake from Murphy earlier this spring, when Murphy was leading a graduate student agriculture tour including classes at the WSU Mount Vernon research Center, where Lyon has been stationed for the past three years. Here, he’s more accustomed to working behind the scenes than in the spotlight of plant breeding research.
“My first reaction was shock and disbelief,” Lyon said. “Being a wheat breeder for so many years, I felt undeserving of having a barley variety named after me. I am extremely honored, yet it is very humbling because I feel there are others much more deserving of such a rare distinction.”
05WA-316.K, now known as Lyon barley, is a two-row, spring barley developed for its higher yield potential than other varieties grown in eastern Washington. Its plump, covered kernels and resistance to fungal disease make it ideal for use as a livestock feed.
(Photo by Kim Binczewski)
Lyon barley, formerly known as 05WA-316.K, is distinct in its higher yield potential than other varieties grown in eastern Washington, in its plump covered kernels, and in its resistance to stem rust, a disease caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis, which affects cereal crops such as wheat and barley. The fungus attacks the above-ground parts of the plant and within a few weeks of harvest can reduce an apparently healthy crop to a black tangle of broken stems and shriveled grains.
Although 2013 is the official year of release for the new barley variety, Foundation Seed will be available in spring 2014.
“Lyon is a (livestock) feed barley that is very high yielding across many dryland environments in Washington State,” explained Murphy. “It does especially well in areas prone to stem rust and in areas that receive 16 to 24 inches of rainfall. Lyon is particularly well adapted to the Palouse regions of Washington.”
The same could be said of Lyon, a former wheat farmer who raised his family in Colfax, just north of Pullman, before heading west of the Cascade mountains, where he and his wife are still searching for a permanent home in the Skagit Valley.
“I’ve worked with Steve since 1995,” noted Dr. Stephen Jones, Director of the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center and head of its Plant Breeding department. “He came into my program after time he spent with Ed Donaldson, a former WSU wheat breeder. Steve learned from one of the best; and when you add in his experience farming, it makes it possible for him to run a field program immediately. He was instrumental in the development of some of the most successful wheats in the state, such as Bruehl, the most widely grown club wheat in the United States.”
According to Jones, Lyon is the epitome of the variety-naming tradition. “It is a great honor to have a variety named after you,” he said. “Steve’s dedication to the grain growers in this state for nearly three decades is well worth this recognition.”
New Livestock-Dairy Extension Specialist advocates lifelong learning, stewardship
WSU Northwest Regional Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist Susan Kerr has an eye on online learning modules and local workshops as ways to introduce her new program to the community.
(Photo by Kim Binczewski)
Dr. Susan Kerr admits that pulling up stakes after nearly two decades in one small community can be daunting, but she’s counting on her adaptive nature to make a smooth transition from Klickitat County to the Skagit Valley as she settles into her new position here as WSU Northwest Livestock and Dairy Extension Specialist.
“It’s a little disorienting to uproot yourself after 17 years in one place and set up stakes in a new community,” said Kerr, who until May 1 was the long-time Extension Director for WSU-Klickitat County, which serves a population approximately five times smaller than that of Skagit County. “But I’ve heard and experienced nothing but good things in Mount Vernon so far. My goal is to help those involved in animal agriculture produce wholesome products while being informed, profitable and caring stewards of livestock.”
Kerr’s experience is a virtual toolbox for implementing goals. She grew up in a small dairy cattle community in upstate New York, near where her grandparents were involved in milk marketing and designing a cheese factory. She earned an undergraduate degree in animal science followed by a Degree of Veterinary Medicine from Cornell University, after which she spent most of her time as a veterinarian working on small-dairy herd health.
“I didn’t feel fulfilled in practice; I don’t think I was intended to have a job where I have to hand people a bill for helping them,” Kerr said. “I was more interested in educating people to help prevent problems, so I entered a doctoral program at Kansas State to study education.” After completing her doctorate in 1995, she moved to southwest Washington to accept the top job with WSU-Klickitat County Extension, where she also served as a 4-H educator.
Here at the WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center, she’s looking forward to focusing on the livestock Extension program, which she said is the heart of her education and interest. She expects this new position will directly benefit local livestock and dairy farmers.
“Livestock producers want to know how to raise healthy animals and produce high-quality products economically and with minimal negative environmental effects,” she said. “I anticipate this position will conduct educational outreach that translates animal science research results into practical applications of best practices that incorporate livestock production, animal welfare and sustainability issues.”
Kerr is planning Extension outreach to sheep, goat, swine, beef and dairy producers. “If people are receptive to it, I’d like to try a new approach to some aspects of future educational outreach and see how well it is received,” she said. That approach includes opportunities for people with similar interests to stay connected, learn from each and share information over the long term.
“I’d like to try to start some learning/discussion groups based on the various livestock species and have those continue over time,” Kerr said. “I think the meaningful communication, resource identification, critical thinking and encouragement of lifelong learning that will result will be just as important and rewarding as the actual information gained through such a process.”
According to Kerr, the learning process continues to evolve. “I consider myself a creative problem solver,” she said. “I like to listen to someone’s situation, identify what I can help them with and locate resources that can address their needs. In the past, I’ve done a lot of traveling to conduct in-person workshops on a variety of livestock-related topics, but to reach more people more efficiently I’ll be creating more online learning modules people can access at their convenience. Having lived in a rural area with limited connectivity, however, I’m not forgetting that some people have limited Internet access; so we’ll still do as many in-person workshops in the area as is reasonable.”
With regard to working alongside other WSU Mount Vernon researchers on behalf of commercial growers, Kerr said there are many possibilities. “Time will tell,” she said. “Due to rising feed costs, especially for organic livestock production, there is increasing interest in alternative crops; so perhaps aftermath grazing, cull vegetable use or alternative feeds are topics on which we could collaborate.”
Weed scientist continues “superfruit” study with berry breeders in Scotland May 14–23, 2013
WSU Mount Vernon weed scientist Tim Miller holds a few leaves of the broadleaf dock weed researchers suspect may be responsible for lower-quality raspberries.
(Photo by Tim Miller)
When WSU weed scientist Dr. Tim Miller first teamed up with fruit researchers in the United Kingdom last summer, he was hoping to learn how weeds affect the quality and nutritional value of raspberries. When he returns from a second year of berry trials this May 14–23 at the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie, Scotland, his findings may help growers produce a higher-quality “superfruit.”
Miller developed the series of trial projects in order to find out whether weeds, or the herbicides used to control them, produce berries with less of the vitamin C and other antioxidants and nutrients which make berries so healthful and appealing to consumers. His research complements that of UK researchers who have perfected the method for measuring the amount of many compounds in raspberry and black currant, two of the so-called “superfruits” which contain large amounts of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals that can impair the body”s immune system. Superfuits are believed to help fight off that damage by boosting the immune system, enabling the body to better ward off colds, flu, and other infections.
“Since we both grow berries, it was a natural thing for a Pacific Northwest weed scientist and the small fruit breeders in the United Kingdom to team up and see what some of the factors are that affect berry quality,” said Miller.
For raspberries, one common factor may be how weeds are managed. “Producers in the Pacific Northwest, as in Scotland, use herbicides to manage cane growth and control weeds,” Miller said. Their research may determine – for the first time – whether weed control also influences berry quality, sugar content, color, and antioxidant level.
According to Miller, last summer’s initial Scottish berry trial results linked the presence of some hard-to-control weeds like broadleaf dock, fireweed, and quackgrass to such negative impacts on berries as lower sugar and vitamin C content and reduced color and juice sweetness. He said this year’s trials will provide even more useful information for berry growers and consumers across the globe.
“A better understanding of the potential effects of management decisions will give growers one more tool to improve not only the yield of their fruit, but also how good those fruits are for consumers,” Miller said. “Whenever you test living plants in the real world, you can expect some variation in the results from year to year. If berry quality factors respond the same way two years in a row, it’s a good indication that you are looking at a true response rather than simply a response due to temperature or some other environmental factor.”
Dr. Lindsey du Toit has been promoted to Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist. Dr. du Toit was hired by WSU as assistant professor and vegetable seed pathologist in August 2000, and has been based at the Mount Vernon NWREC since that time. In 2006, Dr. du Toit was promoted to Associate Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist. The focus of her internationally-recognized program is the etiology, biology and management of diseases that affect vegetable seed crops grown in the Pacific Northwest.
Dr. Lindsey du Toit received the Syngenta Award from the American Phytopathological Society. This award is given by Syngenta Crop Protection to an APS member for an outstanding recent contribution to teaching, research, or extension in plant pathology.
Dr. Tim Miller received the Presidential Award of Merit from the Western Society of Weed Science for his demonstrated and continued distinguished service to the society.
Amy Salamone (PhD student with Dr. Debbie Inglis) has been selected to receive the prestigious Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Scholarship from the ARCS-Seattle Chapter. ARCS Foundation is an organization of 17 Chapters serving 53 of the nation's premier research universities. Nationally, over $82 million in financial support to more than 14,000 students has been awarded. The Seattle Chapter, founded in 1978, currently supports 121 PhD candidates at the University of Washington and Washington State University, and has contributed $13 million to 1000 talented scholars at these two research universities.
Charles Coslor, MSc student in the Entomology program, was selected to receive this year’s Louis W. Getzin Memorial Scholarship. Competition was fierce this semester for these endowment funds, which will support travel to the National Entomological Society of America meeting in Knoxville, TN, November 11–14, 2012. Charlie will present his research paper entitled Management of Drosophila suzukii through systemic activity of neonicotinoids on highbush blueberry. He will also present a poster entitled Systemic activity of neonicotinoids on Drosphila suzukii in blueberry for general submission at the national meeting.
Jeanne Burritt, Administrative Manager, received the 2012 Administrative Professional Contribution Award in recognition of exceptional contributions and service to WSU. Jeanne has worked for WSU for 31 years, 5 of those with WSU Mount Vernon NWREC. She was nominated by 5 different faculty and staff members.
WSU Mount Vernon Research Center is proud to announce that this spring four of our graduate students have been awarded scholarships and or Fellowships:
Karen Hills, PhD student in the wheat program was awarded a $1000 scholarship from the Roscoe and Frances Cox Scholarship Fund. Her research involves soil fertility issues affecting the quality of organic bread wheat grown in western Washington.
Caitlin Price, PhD student in the wheat program received the Alexander Smick Scholarship for Rural Community Service and Development. Caitlin is working on a PhD to study the bio-solids composting process, and application of bio-solids compost to crops in Skagit Valley.
Ziduan (Paul) Han, Masters student in the small fruit horticulture program earned a $2000 scholarship from WSU’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. He is focusing on root lesion nematode control in red raspberry.
Emily Gatch, PhD student in the vegetable seed pathology program has been awarded the 2012 Maguire International Seed Technology Fellowship from WSU. Emily’s PhD research project focuses on fusarium wilt management in an effort to enhance the viability of spinach seed production in the U.S.