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Horticulture

Winter 2013

The Pear

Perhaps the most venerable of tree fruits, the pear is luscious,
but can be difficult.

Maybe, say some, the Washington pear needs some new blood.

Ray Schmitten ’85 and I stand on a grassy bench above the Wenatchee River Valley, a forest of Anjou pears at our back, as he points and talks about the interplay between his family and the landscape of the valley.

In 1897, his great-grandfather had a sawmill up Brender Canyon. He started out taking the mill to the timber.

“He moved up to that ridge and logged it out. Finally in 1921, he moved the mill … » More …

Spring 2013

How Washington tastes: The Apple meets Cougar Gold

Much of Carolyn Ross’s work involves training people to quantify their taste. The sensory evaluation panels that she and her graduate students organize assess taste attributes in fruit and other foods and beverages such as sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and astringency. And “mouth feel,” which contributes enormously to the taste experience.

But for these panels to arrive at a consensus of, say, how sweet a given apple is, or how tart, or how much it crunches in relation to other apples, everyone must agree on the intensity of those attributes.

Before the panel members can evaluate a given food, they will train for a number of … » More …

Matthew Whiting with UFO cherry orchard system
Fall 2012

Cherries in two dimensions

Two-year-old trees in the WSU Roza Experimental Orchards near Prosser are the first step in transforming a 100-year-old production system for sweet cherries. The trees’ unique branches, called upright fruiting offshoots (UFOs), form the core of a novel architecture suited for mechanized harvesters in sweet cherry orchards of the future.

Planted at an angle, young trees are trained to grow on a two-dimensional plane, putting more of their effort into developing a fruiting wall instead of the nonproductive wood in a traditional, three-dimensional canopy.

The UFO tree architecture is taking off around the world, says Matthew Whiting ’01 PhD, associate professor of horticulture at the … » More …

Raspberries. by Cathleen Abers-Kimball
Summer 2012

Raspberries

The cultivation of raspberries is, compared to that of other fruits, a relatively recent endeavor. Rubus idaeus, “the bramble bush of Ida,” purportedly grew on the slopes of Mount Ida and was enjoyed by the residents of the city of Troy. Ida, the nursemaid to the infant Zeus, pricked her finger while picking the originally snow-white berries, staining them red from that time forth. But it was not until the last four or five hundred years, writes D.L. Jennings in his Raspberries and Blackberries, that raspberries have been domesticated.

Today, nearly 60 percent of U.S. red raspberries are produced in Washington. Almost all of the … » More …

Fall 2010

The kinder, gentler orchard

The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 initiated the gradual phasing out of organophosphate pesticides. By 2012, the major chemical defense against wormy apples will no longer be available. But not to worry, thanks to a continuous refinement of Integrated Pest Management and collaboration amongst growers, industry fieldmen, and WSU researchers.

» More ...
Spring 2010

Finally, a Washington apple

A Washington apple? you say. You might respond, correctly, that Washington and apples are almost synonymous. After all, we produce more than half of the nation’s eating apples. Visit a market in Mexico, Thailand, Houston, or Saudi Arabia, and there, you will find Washington apples.

Still prominent among the selection is the iconic Red Delicious. Up through the 1980s, it represented more than three-quarters of Washington production. But now, other varieties, the sweet Gala, the tart Granny Smith, the intensely sweet-tart Pink Lady, are steadily usurping the Red’s status.

But neither in the era of the Red’s dominance nor in this new age of increasing … » More …

Summer 2006

Cherries—The sweet fruit of worry

In March, Don Olmstead Jr. (’70 Hort.) watches over his cherry trees night and day, ready to activate a heating system or switch on the wind machines to protect the tender buds from a killing frost. It’s a task he shares with his son and business partner, Don Olmstead III (’98 Hort.).

In April, the Olmsteads worry about pollination, which only works if pollen is on the blossoms and the weather is right for insect activity. Since most cherries can’t self-pollinate, there must be another variety close by and in bloom. To facilitate cross-pollination, the Olmsteads hire one beehive per acre, inviting a few million … » More …

Winter 2002

Columbia Valley wineries double

Arthur Linton, center, assistant dean and director of Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser, and Julie Tarara, a USDA research horticulturist, explain the effects of temperature on grape yields to Washington secretary of state Sam Reed during his visit in July. The IAREC is home to WSU’s Viticulture and Enology Program. During the past decade, the number of Columbia Valley wineries has doubled, making Washington the second largest wine-growing region in the nation behind California. Reed, who holds two WSU degrees (’63 Social Studies, ’68 M.A. Political Science), traveled to China on a trade mission in September 2001 to … » More …

Summer 2004

Gardening on the Palouse

The area known to practically every Washingtonian as “the Palouse” is one of six large grassland communities in North America. The Palouse stretches from just south of Spokane to the Snake River valley, near Moscow and Pullman. Today, it is a fertile farmland, covered in wheat and other grain crops. But prior to the 1870s and the arrival of “new-world” settlers, these rolling hills were blanketed in perennial bunchgrasses and forbs, which had dominated the landscape for five million years. Those native plants are now found only in tiny pockets around old cemeteries, along creeks, and in other unplowable places.

Some gardeners in the area … » More …