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Agriculture

Plums
Fall 2017

Plums

Of all the fruit trees, it sometimes seems like the most common backyard resident is the plum. Whether you live in Lynden or Lind, if you don’t have a nearby plum tree, chances are you can find one. A neighbor might even give you a big bag of purple fruit.

Although apples, pears, and cherries dominate the commercial tree fruit of Washington, the state produces the second-most plums in the nation. To be fair, California commands that sector, with 97 percent of the plum market.

That doesn’t diminish the plum as a tasty addition to any homegrown suite of fruit. In fact, Washington … » More …

Palouse Ridge Golf Club in morning
Fall 2017

Game changer

A small, brownish dry spot is visible on the ninth fairway at Palouse Ridge Golf Club.

Superintendent Mike Bednar is unbothered, which might seem a bit surprising given the course’s enviable reputation among national golfing groups.

“This is designed to play hard and fast,” says Bednar ’92, ’04, explaining Palouse Ridge needs to be a bit on the dry side to deliver the kind of gameplay challenge that’s kept it atop national rankings ever since its 2008 opening. “We’ve got an irrigation system that lets us water only when and where it’s necessary.”

 

The design isn’t just about gameplay, though.

As water becomes … » More …

Fall 2017

Plant for the future

Somewhere in the dryland wilds of eastern Washington, Michael Neff and his wife stop the car.

“I’ve always wanted to hike these dunes,” he says to her. “I could not believe the grasses that were stabilizing those dunes!” Neff says later. He refuses to identify where, exactly, the dunes in question are located. “It’s those little pockets of diversity that we need to identify and preserve,” he explains, almost—but not quite—apologetic.

Trained as a botanist and now a professor of molecular biology at Washington State University, Neff expands on why this is important: “If we’re going to be resilient in the face of climate … » More …

White Willow. Wikimedia
Fall 2017

Medicinal plants

At least 10 percent of the 250 most essential modern medicines are derived from flowering plants.

Aspirin (genus Salix)  Known to the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians, Hippocrates in about 400 BCE mentions the use of salicylic tea as a fever reducer. Willow bark extracts have been a standard component of the European pharmacopoeia ever since. Modern aspirin was first synthesized in 1853.

Cinnamon bark (obtained from the inner bark of trees of the genus Cinnamomum)  While there is no scientific evidence of its efficacy (yet), cinnamon has been used medicinally for at least 4,000 years, especially in Ayurvedic medicine. The word derives from an ancient Phoenician one … » More …

First Words
Summer 2017

Left turns

I recently learned that drivers for UPS make 90 percent of their turns to the right. Since 2004, the package delivery company has had a policy to avoid left turns. They save millions of gallons of fuel and dollars each year because there’s less idling.

While I applaud the UPS effort to save gas and reduce emissions, there’s still something adventurous about the left turn, the unexpected veer in a new direction. We often refer to a left turn as a complete shift in our lives. Some of us even change our entire careers, such as Washington State University alumni Berenice Burdet, Richard Larsen, and … » More …

NASA plant habitat
Summer 2017

Space farming

Surviving the challenges of deep space exploration could rely as much on botany as astrophysics.

NASA sees plants not only as potential food sources aboard future spacecraft but as natural oxygen producers. The space agency is preparing for its first in-depth study of how growth and development of plants is affected by gravity, or more specifically the lack of it.

“The overall significance is what it could mean for space exploration,” says Norman G. Lewis, a Regents professor at Washington State University’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and principal investigator for the NASA-funded study. “Whether it’s colonizing planets, establishing a station, … » More …

cover of How Plants Work
Summer 2017

How Plants Work

Cover of How Plants Work

Linda Chalker-Scott

Timber Press: 2015

 

Anyone interested in how plants do what they do will enjoy How Plants Work. Washington State University associate professor of horticulture Linda Chalker-Scott has brought the essentials of plant science together and made them entertaining for gardeners and the otherwise curious.

Chalker-Scott digs into the science of plants while keeping the narrative rooted in successfully growing a garden. Along the way, she evaluates a variety … » More …

Fresh peas thumb by Gunenko Oksana
Summer 2017

Fresh Peas

It’s Friday night in the middle of summer, and Darren Wright and Janine Klingele have harvested everything they’ll take to the farmers market early Saturday morning—except peas. These they save for last—but not many peas are actually going to make it to market. The pair of farmers are standing in the light of the full moon eating the irresistible fresh sugar snap peas as fast as they can pick them.

“Peas are best just eating them fresh!” says Klingele. “A quick stir fry is great but they are so sweet fresh.”

Longtime farmer Wright and former Master Gardener Klingele grow about 20 different row … » More …

Peas
Summer 2017

Yes, peas!

Fun facts and a recipe for fresh peas

Kids love peas—as long as you don’t make them eat them. (Eating fresh peas out of the garden is different.) The tiny spheres are fun to push around on your plate, and push off your plate, onto the floor, where the dog, faithful friend, eats them happily, thus relieving you of that onerous chore. Peas are hard to get on your fork, again because they’re spheres, which is why you don’t often get them in restaurants. Your waiter doesn’t want to see you struggling with your peas.

Peas are just another fruit. That’s right, your favorite fresh … » More …