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Biological sciences

Video: A new biofuel crop for Washington farmers?

Meet the WSU Researcher: Michael Neff

Part 2: A new biofuel crop for Washington farmers?

Washington State University botanist Michael Neff discusses how to transform camelina as a possible biofuel crop in Washington.

Neff’s lab works on camelina, an oilseed used for lamps from the Iron Age that can grow on marginal farmland and not compete with food crops.

Neff shows how his work uses transgenic seeds to make camelina a better fuel crop, complete with rose-colored glasses and green LEDs to see which seeds have been changed.

Read more about Neff’s work in “Seeing red (and far-red).”

Watch » More …

Video: What Plants See…Changes How They Grow

Meet the WSU Researcher: Michael Neff

Part 1: What Plants See…Changes How They Grow

Washington State University botanist Michael Neff studies the way plants sense light and plants around them, and change their growth patterns accordingly. Plants use photoreceptors sensitive to far-red light to determine their proximity to other plants. These photoreceptors are different from infrared receptors used for photosynthesis.

“What I’ve been interested in forever is how plants use light as a source of information,” says Neff. “Plants have photoreceptors that are completely independent of photosynthesis and chloroplasts, that read their environment and say, ‘I am in full sunlight, I’m in the shade of … » More …

Spring 2010

Laboratories for the new century

First, six months of planning. Then, over the summer, came the actual moving of laboratory equipment, chemicals, papers, and all the rest. Finally, faculty, students, and staff from four separate science buildings are now under one roof in a gorgeous new facility beside Stadium Way.

“Our unit is large, with over 150 students, faculty and staff,” says John Nilson, director of the School of Molecular Biosciences. Previously, the school was fragmented, with bits of space in Fulmer Hall, Abelson (old Science), Eastlick, and Heald. “Moving from four buildings to one has already allowed unprecedented social and intellectual interactions that form the root of … » More …

Spring 2010

Leave it to beavers

As we crunch through the snow in the hills above Winthrop, Steve Bondi ’02 and Ryan Anderson ’08 are eager to see evidence that their project to improve riparian habitat and provide late season water to the Methow Valley is working.

They’re building dams, but with the help of nature’s own unparalleled engineer—the beaver. The effort for a time seemed just a joke in the state capital—that of beavers building dams along rivers and streams in the Columbia River watershed to improve the hydrology of the region. “At the time, we couldn’t tell if they were laughing at us or with us,” says Anderson, watershed … » More …

Fall 2003

The benefits of mustard

Remember your first encounter with classic Chinese mustard? Your seared sinuses? Your cheeks washed with involuntary tears?

What you tasted was the indelicate reaction of the mustard plant’s chemical compounds, probably enhanced by the wetness of your mouth.

That same volatile reaction is being applied by Columbia Basin farmers to control pests and weeds, improve the productivity of their soils, reduce the use of chemicals, and improve air quality for downwind communities.

Mustard is becoming the crop of choice as a green manure grown in the rotations of many potato producers. Research is showing that in addition to improving the physical and chemical characteristics of … » More …