WSU researchers get $14 million to study specialty crops

By Kate Wilhite, College of Agricultural, Human & Natural Resource Sciences

specialty-cropsPULLMAN, Wash. – Researchers at Washington State University have been awarded more than $14 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture grants aimed at strengthening markets for specialty crops including wine grapes, hops, berries and tree fruit.

* Two projects will share $5.9 million awarded under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), which funds research and extension projects for specialty crop production.

Bioinformaticist Dorrie Main received $2.7 million in support of her genome database for rosaceae. The Web-based resource provides data mining tools and public access to genetic and breeding data for the rosaceae family of flowering plants, including almond, apple, cherry, peach, pear, raspberry and strawberry.

“Ultimately this research helps create better cultivars by helping breeders decide which parents to cross to get the optimal traits in the offspring,” said Main.

Doug Walsh received $3.2 million to develop strategies for pest and disease management in hops.

“We are working to meet the paradoxical market demands for damage-free hops grown with fewer chemicals,” he said. “Growers, brewers and consumers will benefit as we learn how to optimize pest control and plant nutrient inputs to maximize yields and the brewing qualities of hops.”

* WSU faculty received an additional $6.3 million in SCRI funds for projects conducted in collaboration with other institutions. Topics of this research include performance and adaptability of biodegradable plastic mulch for sustainable specialty crop production, marker-assisted breeding in rosaceae and management of marmorated stink bugs in orchards.

* In addition to the SCRI grants, WSU researchers received $1.8 million from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program administered by the state Department of Agriculture. The funds will support 12 research projects to benefit specialty crop producers within the next five years ranging from increasing watermelon yields to reducing disease in wine grapes to breeding healthier bees.

“The phenomenal success of WSU faculty speaks to the quality of their research programs, the strength of the partnership between the faculty and the commodities their programs support, as well as their leadership in the scientific community,” said James Moyer, associate dean of research for the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences.

To see the complete list of WSU research projects that received blocks grants, visit



Jim Moyer, WSU Agricultural Research Center, 509-335-4563,
Kate Wilhite, WSU CAHNRS Communications, 509-335-8164,