Letter from the Director
The strategic initiatives that the Washington State University Agricultural Research Center has been pursuing for the past several years began to produce dramatic results in Fiscal Year 2008-09, in terms of grant success, research results, and impact.
Our grant success in the past year was unparalleled. Overall, ARC scientists were awarded more than $33.5 million in competitive grants and contracts. The awards came in a variety of areas, but perhaps most strongly where we have specifically worked to build capacity.
For example, understanding our strong and growing partnership with the specialty crops industry in the state - as well as Washington's unique position in that area - we began several years ago building our capacity for research regarding tree fruit, stone fruit, berries, hops and grapes. We hired excellent scientists with a background and passion in the area, and they have built strong teams involving WSU Extension educators to help translate cutting-edge research into real-world practices. As a result, WSU received $3.3 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Specialty Crop Research Initiative. We were among the most successful universities throughout the U.S. competing for those dollars.
Other major grant successes in FY 2008-09 reflect our growing capacity and expertise in the development of biofuels. WSU scientists expended $6.5 million over the past year to explore ways to better break down the structural components of biomass to make it easier to convert to fuel, breed plants able to produce higher quantities and quality oils, and to develop a biofuel alternative to aviation fuel. Drs. Shulin Chen, Norman Lewis, John Browse, Bill Pan, and others are leading these efforts.
The past year also was striking in research results and their impact.
WSU is now the international hub for mapping the Rosaceae genome, which includes tree fruit, stone fruit, some berries, and nuts. Professor Juming Tang gained FDA approval for a revolutionary new way to preserve food using microwave technology that leaves the processed meals better tasting and able to be stored for much longer periods of time.
ARC scientists and their Pullman-based USDA ARS colleagues again led the way in patents issued. Dr. Rodney Croteau earned two regarding his research on synthesizing the cancer treating drug, Taxol. Dr. Browse received a patent for his work on the biochemistry of oilseeds, and Dr. Linda Thomashow received one for her work on the genomics of biocontrol agents that suppress root pathogens in grain crops.
WSU and Pullman-based USDA-ARS plant breeders also had a strong year with the release of a new chickpea, two new lentils, and, thanks to the work of Dr. Kim Kidwell, six new wheat varieties.
WSU and the ARC have worked purposefully and strategically to build the infrastructure of knowledge and expertise necessary to conduct cutting-edge science that can be applied to some of the largest challenges of the day. Thank you for taking the time to review this report. I am available to answer your questions or comments at AgResearch@wsu.edu or 509.335.4563.