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NWREC Newsletter Winter 2019

Randy Honcoop and Adam Enfield present an oversized check for $1.5 million to Andre Wright.
CAHNRS Dean André Wright with Randy Honcoop and Adam Enfield from the Washington Red Raspberry Commission. Notice Randy’s awesome WSU Mount Vernon NWREC hat!

Washington Red Raspberry Commission Commits to $1.5 Million Endowment for an Endowed Chair in Raspberry Industry Development

From CAHNRS News

Washington State University is proud to celebrate Washington’s red raspberry growers and processors, represented by the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, for their investment of $1.5 million dollars to create the Endowed Chair in Raspberry Industry Development.

Washington State is responsible for 52 percent of total US red raspberry production. Processing red raspberry into products like individually quick frozen fruits, juices, crumbs, and purees is a particular speciality in our state.

WSU’s new Endowed Chair in Raspberry Industry Development will advance cutting-edge technology and research to benefit Washington’s raspberry industry.

NWREC in the Media

A number of NWREC faculty and programs have been featured very prominently in the local and national media in the past few months. It’s a testament to great people, great ideas and great work happening at NWREC!

(Left) Steve Lyon reads from a notebook in a wheat field. (Right) Neils Brisbane stands in front of a cutting board in the kitchen.
Steve Lyon evaluating grain varieties in the field (at left). Niels Brisbane, Culinary Director (right).

The Bread Lab

  • The Bread Lab made Food Tank’s list of 119 Organizations Shaking Up the Food System in 2019; the Bread Lab is listed as #104 (alphabetical order).
  • The team from the Bread Lab was featured on a Seattle NPR affiliate KNKX Connects program in late January 2019 discussing breeding, baking, food and helping farmers.

Woman holding award plaque stands beside man and woman, all smiling.
Ken & Sue Christianson presenting Lindsey du Toit with the Alf Christianson Endowed Professorship.

Vegetable Seed Pathology

  • Professor Lindsey du Toit was interviewed on December 31, 2018 on KSVR, a radio station run out of Skagit Valley College.She discussed her program’s work with the vegetable seed industry in Skagit Valley. The interview originally aired on January 3, 2019 at 5:30 pm on 91.7 FM. The interview will be available on the station’s website (scroll “1-3-2018 Spinach Seeds in the Valley”)
  • Washington Grown – “Spinach”. Season 6 (Episode 3) of the Washington Grown TV series featured spinach in the Skagit Valley. The episode includes a segment with Professor Lindsey du Toit describing her program’s efforts to support the spinach seed growers in the area.
  • WSU CAHNRS produced a video featuring Professor Lindsey du Toit.

Woman holds up an open magazine.
Bri Ewing shows the article in Cidercraft Magazine.

Fermentation Science

Dr. Tim Miller speaks at a podium.
Tim Miller was honored for his career contributions in support of the berry industry at the Washington Small Fruit Conference in November 2018. As always, Tim was up to the task of expressing his gratitude!

Tim Miller Announces Retirement

NWREC Weed Scientist, Dr. Tim Miller, has announced his intention to retire in June of 2019. We’ll be hosting a retirement celebration at 5:00 pm on May 21, 2019. Tim will be giving his final “weed walk” weed identification tour at noon on the 21st as part of our Brown Bag Seminar Series. Please RSVP if you are able to join us to honor Tim.

(Left) Large group standing in a field. (Right) Woman holding a megaphone beside a poster board.

Save the date for the WSU Mount Vernon Annual Field Day

July 11, 2019, 3:00 – 6:00 pm

This year’s version of the Annual Field Day will include some formatting changes that you will definitely want to come out and see. We’ll still be serving a barbecue dinner and featuring the research of faculty and students. While we usually have a few guest leaders from the College, this year we’ve learned that nearly all of CAHNRS Leadership (Deans, Associate Deans, Department Chairs and School/REC Directors) will be on site for the event—so this is an excellent opportunity for farmers, industry, and members of the community to interact with the research and academic leadership of the College and remind them how important NWREC is to agriculture in Northwest Washington. Please take the opportunity to thank them for supporting the departmental faculty and students that are stationed at NWREC, and encourage them to continue supporting and investing in programs here.

Smiling woman kneels next to white bucket in the field.

Organic & Sustainable Ag Major Update

The CAHNRS Ag & Food Systems Degree Program is fully operational through WSU Everett. Community College students can transfer and enroll in the 3rd and 4th year of a B.S. program in Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Systems. Articulation agreements are available for Skagit Valley College and Everett Community College and others are under development.

Informal portrait of woman (left) and man (right).
Deidre Griffin LaHue (left) and Gabe LaHue (right).

With the recent Soil Science hires of Deirdre Griffin LaHue and Gabe LaHue, our teaching complement for the AFS degree program is complete! Additional majors are also under development. Please contact Nanette McGrath, AFS Coordinator ( or 425‑405‑1775) if you have students interested in the program or if you are interested in providing scholarship support for students.

Program Information

Young man stands at railing, river flanked by windmills and houses in background.
Alex Batson on the Zaan River in front of Zaanse Schans, a small village northwest of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Graduate Student Feature

By Alex Batson

Alex Batson is currently a M.S. student in the Department of Plant Pathology at Washington State University’s Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center. He is advised by Dr. Lindsey du Toit in the Vegetable Seed Pathology program. His thesis project, “Identification of effector genes for the spinach Fusarium wilt pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum forma specialis (f. sp.) spinaciae,” aims to understand what defines the fungus F. oxysporum f. sp. spinaciae genetically as a pathogen of spinach. Spinach Fusarium wilt is the greatest limitation to spinach seed production in the maritime Pacific Northwest (western Washington and Oregon), which is the only region in the United States that is suitable climatically for producing spinach seed. The maritime Pacific Northwest produces almost 100% of the spinach seed grown commercially in the United States and up to 20% of the global supply of spinach seed.

Alex visited the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands for six weeks during fall 2018 to analyze genomic data he generated from isolates of the spinach Fusarium wilt pathogen, as well as closely related isolates that are not pathogens of spinach. He worked under the guidance of Dr. Martijn Rep and Dr. Like Fokkens, two Fusarium oxysporum specialists, to assemble the genomes of these isolates and identify regions of DNA that are specific to the spinach pathogen. Through this collaboration, Alex found unique regions of the genome of the spinach pathogen, and he identified a list of candidate genes that may be important for enabling this fungus to cause disease on spinach. These findings will be helpful for developing strategies to detect the pathogen rapidly, as well as provide useful information to spinach breeders. Alex has applied to join a Ph.D. degree program at WSU in fall 2019 to continue working on this project.

The progress that Alex made during his six-week visit to the Netherlands was made possible by the generous support of the Richard and Marcia Morrison Seed Production Pathology and Seed Health Fellowship, the Robert MacDonald Graduate Fellowship in Vegetable Seed Science, and the WSU Graduate and Professional Student Association Travel Grant.

Screenshot of AgWeatherNet.

AgWeatherNet coming to Northwest Washington? Brown Bag seminar line-up for 2019.

NWREC hosts a series of Brown Bag seminars (usually at noon) during the spring and fall semesters. These seminars are an opportunity for faculty, staff, students, farmers and members of the community to learn about research or topical opportunities that are relevant to our work and community. These are open to the public and we encourage guests to bring a brown bag lunch and join us to learn.

In the first Brown Bag seminar of 2019…

The new Director of the WSU AgWeatherNet (AWN), Dr. David Brown, visited WSU NWREC and described his plans for increasing the support AWN provides to western Washington. This includes the development of a multi-tiered weather station system that will include the opportunity for grower and community-owned weather stations to be integrated into the AWN system and field-level forecasting for future weather (it will be called AWN Farm Weather!). He also announced plans to place one of the AWN’s Field Meteorologist staff members here in Northwest Washington to coordinate with the farming community. A search will commence soon.

Supporting WSU NWREC Faculty and Students

The faculty, staff and students at NWREC do extremely important work in support of our agricultural communities in the area, the state, and even around the world. NWREC is a special place, nested in a community that cares about farmland, farmers, food and community. Please consider partnering with us to continue investing in the great people and programs that make the WSU partnership with Northwest Washington so unique and special. At any time, you can make a gift to support our work. Our top priority at this time is an expansion of our plant growth facility (research greenhouse) where our faculty, staff and students are doing world class research on breeding and protection of the crops our farmers grow in the region. In addition, scholarships and fellowships for graduate students and undergraduates represent a great return on investment. Feel free to reach out to Chad Kruger ( or 360-416-5222) to discuss opportunities—or visit the WSU Foundation website and search for “WSU – Mt. Vernon Research & Extension Development Fund” or “WSU-NW Wash Research & Extension Center at Mount Vernon Revitalization Fund”.