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Grant supports improving cider industry—‘Apple to Glass’

A new group, led by WSU researchers, will work with orchardists and cider makers to develop the best apples for cider.

Hard apple cider is growing in popularity around the country, and craft ciders from small cideries are the fastest growing segment of that market.

Equipped with a grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a new group, led by Washington State University researchers, will work with orchardists and cider makers to develop the best apples to make the tasty libation.

The $500,000 grant, called “Apple to Glass: Improving orchard profitability through developing regional craft ciders” covers three years of funding.

Marcia Ostrom.

“We want to make sure our orchards and cider makers benefit from this new market,” said Marica Ostrom, a professor in WSU’s School of the Environment and the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. “We’re aiming to help family-scale orchards and cideries, with the idea being to provide benefits to both groups.”

WSU scientists will work with colleagues in Michigan, Vermont and Wisconsin on the grant. They will conduct needs assessments with orchardists to find out what barriers exist for producing cider apples. They also will host focus groups with cider makers to see what they’re looking for when selecting cider apples.

In addition, researchers will conduct research with consumers to try and understand how to communicate cider features produced in a particular place, much like the concept of “terroir” in wines.

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WSU Insider
Fruit Growers News

WSU researcher looks to find solution to fish mortality

A single source is not yet determined, but car tires may be partially to blame.

A WSU researcher is studying how urban stormwater runoff affects fish health.

Jennifer McIntyre.
Jennifer McIntyre

Jenifer McIntyre, assistant professor at the Washington Stormwater Center in Puyallup, Washington, is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

Recent findings show specific fish species react differently to urban runoff, which is a problem for certain fish but not others. Researchers are trying to see how many coho and chum salmon survive to spawn.

Once coho salmon are exposed to urban runoff, they die in a few hours, but chum salmon do not get sick or die. Researchers are not sure why this discrepancy occurs.

“Coho are at risk where we build cities,” McIntyre said.

This is because coho live in lowland areas and do not spawn very far upstream, she said. There are high mortality rates for coho salmon due to urban stormwater runoff because they commonly spawn in creeks near cities.

If coho salmon are not surviving to spawn, there are fewer salmon eggs, McIntyre said. That means fewer salmon are born, which could affect the food chain. This includes the Puget Sound orcas, which commonly feed on coho.

So far, the research has been in the Puget Sound Basin, but researchers plan to do studies outside of the area because the problem has been happening north and south of the their study sites as well.

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America’s Lakes Are Losing Their Blue Hue as Waters Shift to Murky Greenish-Brown

Over a five-year period, the country’s number of blue lakes declined by 18 percent, while murky lakes increased by 12 percent.

In 2007, blue lakes represented 46 percent of the freshwater bodies included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Lakes Assessment (NLA). By 2012, this figure had dropped to 28 percent; at the other end of the spectrum, the percentage of murky lakes skyrocketed from 24 percent to 35.4 percent.

Stephanie Hampton.

Researchers from the EPA, Virginia’s Longwood University, and Washington State University relied on NLA data to evaluate the current state of America’s lakes and, according to a press release, assess encroaching murkiness’ “potential negative consequences for water quality and aquatic life.” The team, which includes WSU environmental studies professor Stephanie Hampton, recently released their findings in Limnology and Oceanography.

Color can reveal information about a lake’s nutrient load, algal growth, water quality and surrounding landscape.

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Smithsonian Magazine

Dr. Universe: How did people in ancient times filter water from rain?

Every day people around the world get their water in different ways. Some get water from a well, others turn on a tap, go to the store, and some walk many miles to a river. But no matter how we get our drinking water, it almost always starts with rain.

Julie Padowski.

Rainwater is really clean, said my friend Julie Padowski. She’s a scientist at the State of Washington Water Research Center at Washington State University and an affiliated faculty member in the School of the Environment.

In ancient times, some people harvested rain in big containers, but many more people used water that had collected naturally in streams, rivers, and in the ground.

They could find groundwater rushing by in rivers, or bubbling up from underground through a spring. They could also dig deep into the earth to find water.

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Ask Dr. Universe

$483,000 grant helps WSU Tri-Cities researcher reveal how bacteria, grasses fix nitrogen

Sarah Roley.

Reducing synthetic fertilizer use, pollution, and farming costs, while freeing up nitrogen, mark possible benefits of a research project by Sarah Roley, assistant professor with the School of the Environment, Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Roley and her two colleagues, recently landed a $483,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation, to pursue a more detailed understanding of how bacteria work with perennial grasses to fix nitrogen.

Every living organism requires nitrogen to survive, and nitrogen fixation is a critical step in biology. Fixation is the conversion of nitrogen in the atmosphere to ammonia, a form of nitrogen that can be used by plants and microbes, and subsequently move up the food web.

“Nitrogen goes into our protein and DNA,” Roley said. “From bacteria, to plants, to humans, we all need it, and we need a lot of it.”

Little is known, however, about nitrogen fixation in perennial grasses, Roley said. By better identifying how that process occurs, significant progress may be made in reducing the amount of synthetic nitrogen needed for fertilizing crops, as well as the amount of pollution that stems from the creation and use of synthetic fertilizers.

Roley’s research will focus on switchgrass. But, study findings may apply to other perennial grasses—ryegrass, bluegrass, and fescues. The research may potentially lead to discoveries about a variety of other plants and how nitrogen fixation occurs within them.

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Daily Sun