Washington State University researcher teams have been awarded more than $15 million in grants through the federal Specialty Crop Research Initiative. That’s more than a third of the $47.3 million awarded in total.
About $10 million will support the following research projects focusing largely on tree fruits and grapes:
• A total systems approach to developing a sustainable, stem-free sweet cherry production, processing, and marketing system, $3.8 million. WSU researchers involved include plant physiologist Matthew Whiting (leader), cherry breeder Nnadozie Oraguzie, biological systems engineer Qin Zhang, genomicist Amit Dhingra, food scientist Carolyn Ross, and Fran Pierce, director of WSU’s Center for Precision Agriculture Systems.
• RosBREED: Enabling marker-assisted breeding in Rosaceae crops, $2.1 million.This project will correlate quality traits in fruits, such as apples, pears, and berries, with DNA-based genetic markers in order to improve the speed and accuracy of breeding. WSU scientists involved include geneticist Cameron Peace (leader), bioinformatician Donnie Main, apple breeder Kate Evans, Oraguzie, sociologist Ray Jussaume, and economists Vickie McCracken, Mykel Taylor, and Karina Gallardo.
• Genomic database for Rosaceae: Translating genomics into advances in horticulture, $2 million. Scientists include Main (leader), Peace, Evans, and Oraguzie.
• Precision management of specialty crops through sensor-based decision making, $1.5 million. Scientists include Pierce (leader), Zhang, biological systems engineer Troy Peters, and soil scientist Joan Davenport.
• An invasive mealybug pest and emerging viral disease: A dangerous mix for West Coast vineyards, $531,000. Scientists include plant pathologist Naidu Rayapati (leader) and entomologist Doug Walsh.
• Placing fruit canopy management automation technology in the field, $50,000. Scientists include biological systems engineer Marvin Pitts (leader), horticulturists Carter Clary and Tom Walters, and Whiting.
• Development of a smart targeted spray application technology roadmap for specialty crops, $50,000. Scientists include Extension educator Gwen Hoheisel, entomologist Jay Brunner, Zhang, and Pitts.
The USDA launched the Specialty Crop Research Initiative in 2008. WSU received $3.3 million from the program last year, or about 12 percent of the total.