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Oregon State University Agricultural Research updates.

Salmon, Clams Get Along Fine

An Oregon State University fisheries graduate student says growing salmon and clams in the same tank might boost aquaculture profits.

Reza Moosapanah’s research focused on using high-value Manila clams, grown in large quantities on the West Coast, to filter and clean water in salmon rearing tanks.

Salmon don’t consume all of the feed provided for them and a portion remains floating around in the water,” Moosapanah says. “This is a waste of some of the food resource. And the leftover food, plus fecal material from the fish, create a pollution problem in the holding facility water that must be cleaned before it can be pumped back into the sea.”

A key finding has been that nutrients in salmon tank waste water match the nutrient requirements of Manila clams. Manila clam production doesn’t meet demand, in part because it’s expensive and inefficient, according to Moosapanah.

The first nine months, until they reach 3 to 7 millimeters, Manila clams are grown in a land-based water tank and fed artificially produced microalgae, explains the researcher. Then they’re put in the ocean in a beach area for about three years, where there are losses to predators and adverse weather.

“My research shows that by growing the clams in the same tank or pond with salmon it is possible to produce a marketable clam in two years or less while cutting losses due to natural causes and cutting the cost of the microalgae, which in this case isn’t needed,” says Moosapanah.

Bill McNeil, professor emeritus in OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, is Moosapanah’s major graduate school advisor.

Experiment Links Hormone, Cancer

The hormone DHEA, which is being heralded by some as a powerful anti-aging compound, promoted and caused cancer in an Oregon State University study and should be used cautiously in experiments with humans, OSU food science researchers say.

Rainbow trout.

Rainbow trout at the OSU Toxicology Laboratory, part of OSU's Marine Freshwater Biomedical Research Center. Photo: OSU Extension and Experiment Station Communications

“It would seem prudent to reconsider some clinical trials” that include giving humans large doses of DHEA over prolonged periods until there is evidence that the mechanism that promoted and caused tumors in rainbow trout doesn’t apply to humans, the OSU researchers wrote in an article in the December 1995 issue of Carcinogenesis, an international scientific journal.

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is produced by the adrenal glands. It’s been referred to as “the mother hormone” because the body uses it to produce male and female sex steroids such as testosterone and estrogen.

The physiological role of DHEA in humans, other than as a precursor for sex steroids, is unknown. The DHEA level peaks in the body at about age 25 and then drops off steadily. An article in the November/December 1995 issue of Health magazine says “in animals the hormone seems to act like a magic nectar. Mice prone to obesity stay slim and lean—and live longer—when given daily doses of DHEA.”

DHEA is not cleared through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter sales. But pharmacies can prepare the compound for patients who have a prescription.

The Health magazine article claims “scores of maverick doctors across the country are doling them out (DHEA prescriptions) to patients with everything from flagging libido and joint pain to early Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.”

In the Oregon State study, DHEA promoted tumor development in rainbow trout that already had liver cancer and triggered tumor formation in fish that did not already have cancer.

“Significant enhancement (of tumors) was observed at 222 ppm (parts per million), which corresponds to a daily dosage one half of that previously administered to humans in clinical trials,” reported the OSU scientists.

Other scientists have reported that high doses of DHEA caused liver cancer in rats, according to Dave Williams, the food science professor who coordinated the OSU study. But the scientists suspected that it was linked to a process called peroxisome proliferation that occurs primarily in rodents.

However, the Oregon State researchers say that in their study with rainbow trout, cancer formation and promotion did not appear to be linked to peroxisome proliferation.

“The message we want to get out is that this may be a wonder drug, but people ought to proceed with caution until we know more about how it works. There may be a down side,” said Williams.

The research was conducted through the Marine/Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center in OSU’s Department of Food Science and Technology. Authors of the Carcinogenesis article were toxicology doctoral student Gayle Orner, Williams and professors Jerry Hendricks, Hillary Carpenter and George Bailey.

Forages Sprout on the Internet

In the old days, if you wanted to learn more about which forage species to plant in a new pasture, or how to make silage, or how to recognize forage pests, you visited a county extension agent. Or you went to the library or cornered a field representative or scientist.

Now, with a computer and modem you can explore the Forage Information System, or FIS, an electronic warehouse of forage information.

Forage Webpage.

A photograph of the initial page in OSU's Forage Information System on the World Wide Web. Photo: Bob Rost

FIS includes information on dozens of forage and pasture species, pasture establishment, fertilization, grazing systems, hay growing, silage, forage quality and testing, and livestock, wildlife and forage pests.

Oregon State University crop scientist David Hannaway is spearheading the international effort to make forage science available on the World Wide Web, the part of the Internet that holds millions of pieces of information, including documents, graphics, photos and sound.

To access the Forage Information System, you need a modem and browsing software such as Netscape. With the click of a computer mouse, you can call up a list of most of the forage extension specialists, instructors and researchers in the country.

Whether these experts are in Kansas or Alaska, click on any of their names and you’ll be transported instantly to that forage expert’s “home page.” There you can learn about that person’s expertise and interests.

The address for the Forage Information System home page: http://forages.oregonstate.edu/. Hannaway’s e-mail address is david.hannaway@oregonstate.edu, or you can call him at (541) 737-5863.

Videos Pore Over Watershed Issues

Watersheds are a high-profile topic in Oregon these days (see related article, Dangerous Liaisons). Several educational videos about watershed management and related topics are available from OSU’s Department of Extension and Experiment Station Communications:

* Strangers in Our Waterways (30 minutes) looks at how non-native plants and animals affect natural ecosystems.

Station Testing Smart Irrigation

Imagine having a robot that’ll irrigate your garden or lawn flawlessly no matter how hot it’s been or how often you’ve been away.

Clint Shock, superintendent at Oregon State University’s Malheur Experiment Station in Ontario, calls this “intelligent irrigation.”

Illustration of a robot.

Illustration: Tom Weeks

Shock and other researchers at the station have conducted laboratory and field trials with onion crops, using intelligent irrigation components made by various companies.

A sensor measures moisture and the data is fed into a box that records it electronically. The system then “decides,” based on soil dryness, whether to activate the valves for turning on the water supply.

Field experiments aren’t over yet. But Shock expects to see an increase in yield and grade of the onion crops irrigated “intelligently.”

The precision in watering with the new system keeps nitrogen fertilizer from leaching out of the soil, he explains, by preventing overwatering that can cause runoff and deep percolation into groundwater.

The researcher says home owners, parks and schools can achieve more savings than farmers by using this irrigation method because they use more expensive, treated water.

“In the summer, many will set their lawn sprinkler timer to water every so many days, then walk away, “ he says. “Water that has been treated to human drinking standards is being wasted. This is a waste of one of our most precious natural resources. It doesn’t have to happen anymore, with intelligent irrigation.

“We’re only one tiny, humble little spot in this area of research,” he says. “But we’re proceeding full throttle.”

Grass Looks Good for Rogue Valley

After nine years of tests with more than 70 varieties of forage grasses on the eastern foothills of southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley, Oregon State University researchers have selected Kovar sheep fescue and Palestine and Berber orchard grasses as the best candidates to turn dry, weedy hillsides into valuable, productive grazing land.

“There’s about 250,000 acres of land, much of it on the east side of the valley, that is covered with weeds such as starthistle, or short-lived annual grasses such as rip-gut brome and medusahead, that livestock generally won’t eat,” says Randy White, Jackson County agriculture agent with the OSU Extension Service.

Farmers gathered in a field.

Southern Oregon farmers at a presentation on grass variety testing. Photo: Bob Rost

Establishing perennial forage grasses on the land in place of weeds and annual grasses would give livestock forage during the summer months, when there isn’t much now. But it won’t be easy in all areas.

Many of the southwest-facing hillsides in the Rogue Valley have shallow, rocky soils that retain less moisture than deeper soils in the valley floor. This makes establishment of perennial grasses difficult in some areas,” White says.

The next step is to move the successful perennial forage varieties into broader plantings on hillside grazing lands. White notes that some area ranchers have expressed interest in trying perennial forage varieties on their grazing lands.

New Potato Frying High

After 10 years of testing in Oregon and other Northwest states, a new potato variety with potential for processing and the fresh market is almost ready for release.

Known simply as C0083008-1, this new potato outperforms the industry champion, the Russet Burbank, on several fronts, according to Al Mosley, a researcher with the Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station and potato specialist with the Extension Service.

“It has a lot more starch and less sugar and produces higher yields of top-quality potatoes,” said Mosley. “It has excellent characteristics for fresh, unprocessed market uses when grown in short-season areas such as central Oregon and eastern Idaho.”

Also, “C0083008-1 is excellent for processing into French fries and other products because it has a high starch and low sugar content,” added Mosley. “Higher starch means crisper, less oily fried products.”

In addition, “it has the best baked flavor I’ve ever tasted,” said Mosley.

C0083008-1 was originally bred in Colorado but selected for further development at a very early stage, more than a decade ago, by Oregon researchers.

“We’ll name it here at OSU and release it to growers in cooperation with other state agricultural experiment stations in Washington, Idaho and Colorado before the year’s out,” said Mosley.

He said researchers at branch experiment stations in several parts of Oregon are “cautiously optimistic” about the variety’s future. “There’s never a guarantee in this business, but we think it has a lot of potential,” said Mosley.

Mint Gets Its Own Software

About 89 percent of all the peppermint in the United States grown for oil production is in the Pacific Northwest. But growing peppermint is challenging. The plant is home to many insects and other invertebrates, both harmful and beneficial.

Tractor in a mint field.

Peppermint harvest on the Shumaker farm near Crabtree, Oregon. Photo: Lynn Ketchum

Now OSU entomologists Ralph Berry, Len Coop, Glenn Fisher and Marcos Kogan have developed a computerized support system for farmers.

The system, called the “Integrated Pest Management for Peppermint” (IPMP), is designed to help Northwest peppermint growers, field representatives, agents and consultants make informed decisions on how to manage insect, mite and soil arthropod pests.

The system includes five software disks that contain research and extension articles, sampling methods and identification keys for arthropods, complete with color photos. All are integrated in an interactive, Windows-based decision support system. A 36-page, illustrated booklet on pests and a 16-page software users manual accompany the software.

Any computer than runs Microsoft Windows 3.1 should work with IPMP, says Berry. Other computer requirements include: IBM 386/486 compatible; 4 megabytes RAM, a mouse, 3.5-inch 1.4 MB floppy drive; 18 MB hard disk space free (11 MB excluding the demonstration files); and a VGA video adapter (super VGA/256 colors required for best results).

IPMP (publication CS195) costs $29. To order a copy send a check, money order or purchase order payable to: Integrated Plant Protection Center, OSU, Cordley Hall 2040, Corvallis, OR 97331-2915. For more information, call (541) 737-3541. Or fax: (541) 737-3080.

They're Really Bugging Out

From crickets that live on melting glacial fields to lice that live in the noses of seals, Oregon State University entomologists are making a list of all the insect species ever found in Oregon.

The reason for compiling such a list may seem obscure. But OSU entomologists Jeff Miller and Gary Parsons say the list is crucial for conservation, agriculture, forestry and teaching purposes.

“You need to know what you have before you can see what you are losing or gaining,” says Miller. “A published list of the insects of Oregon will help scientists track trends in biodiversity, agricultural and forestry pests, and the spread of insects that transmit plant or animal diseases such as Dutch elm disease and malaria.

Man sitting in front of a butterfly display.

Entomologist Jeff Miller with insects he and colleague Gary Parsons are cataloging in their list of all the insects in Oregon. Photo: Bob Rost

“By having an accessible record of the insects already here, we can better tell if and when a new pest was introduced,” adds Miller. “We can jump right on the pest control problem.”

While about 15,000 to 20,000 species of insects in Oregon are known from scientific literature and collections, there are perhaps half again as many that are unnamed or undiscovered, according to the scientists.

“Entomologists are finding records of insect species new to Oregon all the time,” says Miller. “Right now there is no central place to record these species and look up existing records.”

Parsons and Miller are compiling the list in their “spare time,” working on nights and weekends and between teaching and applied research. It is a labor of love, says Parsons “that really needs to get done.”

Center to Hike Value of Crops

Oregon is lagging behind the national average in adding value to the more than $3 billion worth of raw agricultural products grown here each year. But the state may change that soon with help from a new facility.

Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station, cooperating with the state Department of Agriculture, plans to break ground early this fall on a 45,000-square-foot Food Innovation Center across Northwest Front Avenue from Albers Mill in downtown Portland.

The center will provide technical assistance to firms that manufacture, package and market food products, according to Thayne Dutson, dean of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the experiment station.

An example: Suppose someone comes up with an idea for a new food product they want to export to Pacific Rim countries. The center will determine which markets offer the best potential, and provide sensory evaluation (taste testing) and analysis of how to best package, store and transport the product.

According to Jim Cornelius of OSU’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, in 1995 the farm-gate value of Oregon crops was estimated to be $3.1 billion. Over the last 10 years processing has added about 60 percent to our crops’ farm-gate value. But nationwide, the average is 70 percent, he noted.

“In theory, that means that by coming up to the national average we would add 10 percent in value to the $3.1 billion worth of crops that pass through our farm gates. That’s $310 million a year,” he said.

The three-level building will cost about $5.4 million and will be funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and matching funds from State of Oregon bonds that will be retired over 30 years through operation of the center.

It's Not Pulp Fiction: Fungus May Help

Engineers at Oregon State University are studying a fungus that shows promise for reducing the offensive, dark brown color of pulp mill effluents.

The new Sagenomella striatispora fungus discovered and analyzed at OSU may be the best—and potentially the most economically feasible—treatment yet found for reducing effluent color, says Andrew Hashimoto, the head of the OSU Department of Bioresources Engineering.

We still need more work to develop and optimize a workable process,” Hashimoto says. “And it should cost less than previous approaches, but whether it will be inexpensive enough to be widely used is still a question.”

Billions of gallons of brown effluent, colored by the dissolution of lignin in wood chips, are released each year by the pulp and paper industry. In the past, researchers have studied another fungus that was able to attack the lignin and improve the coloration of the water.

“However, these previous approaches had drawbacks and because of those problems are rarely if ever used,” Hashimoto says. “They can’t function at ambient temperatures, need nutrient supplements and are too expensive.”

By comparison, the new fungus explored at OSU can reduce the brown coloring of the effluent by 65–75 percent. It can function at temperatures near normal outdoor levels, does not require extra nutrient supplementation and appears to naturally form “pellets.” This makes it easier to separate from the effluent and more practical for use in a real-world industrial process.

The fungus was discovered by Dawn Leslie, an OSU master’s degree student, and most recently characterized by Abdellatif Boussaid, a Fulbright scholar from Morocco studying at OSU for his doctoral degree.

Research to develop a workable bioprocess will continue, Hashimoto says.