USDA specialty crop grants awarded in Washington

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CAPITAL PRESS – DON JENKINS – Washington State University researchers will use a $249,751 grant from the USDA to study controlling Varroa mites and viruses that harm honeybees. The grant is one of 25 Specialty Crop Block Grants awarded to applicants in Washington.

The USDA has awarded a total of $4.6 million in specialty crop grants to recipients in Washington, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

The USDA distributes money annually to support the fruit, vegetable and nursery industries.

The grants this year went for scientific research, promotion and to campaign for tariff reductions.

The timeline to apply for a grant in 2019 has changed from previous years. Brief proposals are due Nov. 2. WSDA reviews the proposals and asks some applicants to submit full proposals. More information is available online at

Here are the 2018 grant recipients:

  • Kirti Rajagopalan, Washington State University, $249,971, to help tree fruit and grape industries adjust production methods to warmer weather.
  • Walter S. Sheppard, WSU, $249,751, to develop biological controls of Varroa mites and treatments for viruses that infect honeybees.
  • Lisa DeVetter, WSU, $249,569, to study using biodegradable plastic and non-degradable polyethylene mulches for raspberries.
  • Kiwamu Tanaka, WSU, $249,414, to develop a method to detect potato pathogens in seeds and soil or spread by insects. The project will be primarily conducted by the Molecular Plant Pathology Lab in Pullman.
  • Meijun Zhu, WSU, $249,344, to identify a non-pathogenic surrogate to predict how a pathogenic bacteria will react during the processing of apples. The knowledge gained will be distributed to apple packers.
  • Lisa Neven, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, $243,449, to work with the Washington State Department of Agriculture to protect tree fruit from insects in solid waste from British Columbia brought to landfills in Washington.
  • Girish Ganjyal, WSU, $243,247, to increase the market for dry peas, particularly in protein products.
  • The Center for Produce Safety, $228,260, to study the survival of the bacteria Listeria monocytogen on apples in storage. The project will be in partnership with Michigan State University.
  • Hanu Pappu of WSU, $216,351, to study controlling the spread of Iris yellow spot virus to onions by onion thrips, an insect.
  • Rodney Cooper, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, $215,538, to study which plants disperse potato psyllids into potato fields. Psyllids carry zebra chip disease. USDA researchers in Wapato, Wash., will lead the project. Washington State University, Oregon State University and University of Idaho researchers will participate.
  • Tobin Peever, WSU, $207,709, to study controlling Botrytis graymold, a disease that threatens berries. The disease has widespread resistance to some fungicides used in Washington berry production.
  • Washington Blueberry Commission, $205,500, to campaign for tariff reduction in India. The project will include a study to promote the benefit to India’s economy, traveling to India to rally support and petitioning the government.
  • Manoj Karkee, WSU, $195,232, to develop mechanical thinning of vineyards to reduce the demand for labor.
  • Faith Critzer, WSU, $194,017, to evaluate ways to treat irrigation water to comply with the Produce Safety Rule.
  • Lisa DeVetter, WSU, $178,328, for research on mechanically harvesting blueberries for the fresh market to reduce the demand for labor. WSU and Oregon State University jointly submitted the proposal.
  • Theresa Pitts-Singer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, $153,893, to study using the blue orchard bee as an alternative to honeybees to pollinate pears and cherries. The USDA-ARS Pollinating Insects Research Unit in Logan, Utah, and the WSU research center in Prosser will collaborate.
  • Bernardita Sallato-Carmona, WSU, $152,937, to promote early root growth in apples and cherries to increase the absorption of calcium. Calium deficiency harms the quality of fruit.
  • Sustainable Connections, $151,273, to help farmers in Skagit and Whatcom counties sell produce to wholesale buyers.
  • Steven Seefeldt, WSU, $137,128, to study controlling wild buckwheat, prostrate knotweed, pale smartweed and ladysthumb smartweed among blueberries, potatoes and cucurbit crops.
  • Washington State Department of Agriculture, $108,040, for a three-year project to translate its organic program’s documents into Spanish and to host events to reach Spanish speakers, particularly in the tree fruit industry.
  • Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, $107,858, for a digital media campaign to promote farmer and food markets in Seattle and “translate likes and shares into specialty crop farm sales.”
  • Washington State Department of Agriculture, $99,600, for a two-year project to promote organic specialty crops at farmers’ markets.
  • Washington Asparagus Commission, $82,932, to develop an organic asparagus industry by controlling weeds and European asparagus aphids.
  • Beverly Gerdeman, WSU, $72,012, to investigate how insecticides used on cabbage seed crops affect bees.

Posted by: Don Jenkins, Capital Press, September 25, 2018 9:23AM


Picture: USDA