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Farmtastic event brings agriculture to Hermiston kids

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

HERMISTON, Ore. — When Lauren Smith pulled out a collection of spiders at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center July 17 she had an eager audience.

The children participating in the station’s first-ever Farmtastic event crowded closer to the Oregon State University graduate student, passing around the vials of specimens preserved in alcohol and commenting on the size of what was inside.

“Why are spiders beneficial?” she asked the group.

“Because they eat bugs!” a student piped up.

The lesson was part of a free day-long activity at HAREC for children interested in science and agriculture. Annette Teraberry, administrative assistant for the center, said the event was conceived and designed by the center’s graduate students as a way to introduce science to local youth.

The program was advertised through Hermiston’s Parks and Recreation department, and 20 spots were available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Sarah Light, a graduate student working on a dual master’s degree in soil science and plant pathology, said the group tried to come up with a curriculum that was a mixture of hands-on activities, games and informational lessons.

“The idea is to get kids excited about science in the context of agriculture,” Light said.

She said each of the program’s five graduate students have a different area of expertise, so the children were getting exposure to a wide range of elements of farming.

Before Smith’s lesson on beneficial bugs — which also included a demonstration on pollination using an armful of flowers and a collection of preserved bees — Light had been teaching the group about plant pathology.

“Plants can get sick, too,” she told the group, noting that plant diseases cost the United States about $8 billion annually.

Later in the day the group would learn about soil and creek ecosystems, take a tour of the experiment station and visit the pathology lab. The center’s staff hopes to make Farmtastic an annual event.

“It’s been going great,” Light said. “The kids seem really into it and we’re having a lot of fun.”

Arboretum exhibit shows benefits of turfgrass

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

Oregon grass seed farmers can feel right at home in Washington, D.C., this summer with the National Arboretum highlighting turfgrasses in a display titled The Grass Roots Exhibit.

Oregon growers, in fact, have a stake in the exhibit: The Oregon Seed Council donated $50,000 to help construct and maintain it.

Coming at a time when home lawns are under fire in California and other states, Roger Beyer, executive director of the council, said the council felt it was important to show the positive side of grass.

“We felt it was important that our story be told,” he said.

In the exhibit, signage identifies which grass species are planted in the different sections and provides glimpses into some of their environmental, aesthetic and recreational benefits. Signage also directs visitors to a website where they can obtain more information on the displays.

Now nearing one year old, the exhibit has been a popular draw among arboretum visitors, said Geoff Rinehart, the exhibit’s coordinator and a former turfgrass research technician at Washington State University.

Among the exhibit’s more popular elements, one displays an artificial grass sports field next to a sports field of Bermuda grass. “There is a lot of appeal there to compare and contrast when they are side by side,” Rinehart said. “People are pretty engaged with that.

“And of course everybody likes the golf exhibit,” he said. The golf exhibit includes bentgrass grown from seed produced in Oregon. “A lot of folks who have never been on a golf course are able to get an idea of what a golf putting green feels like.”

The exhibit also features a display of perennial ryegrass grown for seed. “We’ve let it grow to where we have the seed heads and we’ve got a sign out there that talks about the importance of growing grass for seed for turfgrass,” Rinehart said.

“The grass plants aren’t as big as they would be in the Willamette Valley,” Rinehart said. “But we have signage that says, ‘This is what a grass plant looks like when it is grown for grass seed.’

“We also have perennial ryegrass in our cool season lawn display, which we keep at typical lawn-grass height,” he said.

Other grass species displayed include tall fescue, fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass.

The exhibit also provides glimpses into agronomic benefits of grass plants in a display highlighting the use of cereal rye, wheat, oats and barley as cover crops.

“Our message is these crops are grasses, too, which is news to most people,” Rinehart said. “Especially in D.C., many people have never seen a wheat crop.”

The exhibit, located in an 8,000-square-foot field adjacent to the arboretum’s main entrance, is scheduled to run through 2017.

45th annual Great Oregon Steam-Up chugs into town

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

BROOKS, Ore. — The 45th Annual Great Oregon Steam-Up will take over Antique Powerland for the next two weekends, putting a spotlight on yesteryear’s finest mechanical marvels.

“You walk in, and pretty much the first thing you see is a tractor. And then the second thing you see is a tractor as well.”

That’s Pamela Vorachek speaking, the executive director of the Steam-Up.

She said the two-weekend festival is an amalgamation of three Ts: Trains, trolleys and, you guessed it, tractors.

At the Steam-Up, you can stroll past the ticket counter of a restored 1920s-era Southern Pacific depot and take a ride on a vintage trolley; watch chaff and wood chips fly as professionals operate a steam-powered sawmill and thresher; or even duck for cover as a World War II tank fires (blanks) to start each day’s tractor parade.

This year’s featured tractor — and there are about 40 of them — is the Minneapolis Moline.

Marketed as a “comfort tractor,” the Moline was the first of its kind to offer operators a fully-enclosed cab. Advertisements from the period promised farmers they could plow their fields, then drive it to church, according to Vorachek.

Before that, “by the time you got done plowing a field, well you took a bath, and you left as much mud in that bathtub as dirt was out in the field,” show manager Evan Burroughs said.

Back then, a thresher was an infernal, steam-powered contraption that sat in one place and cost a small fortune to own — maybe $5,000. Instead of a single combine practically flying over fields, 20 or 30 men might share the work, piling their crops to a single mound in front of the roving contractor’s thresher.

When you were ready to move the thresher, you needed a team of mules.

The job was dirty, hot, messy and loud, according to Burroughs.

“Take a modern combine, strip out the mobility components, and the guts of the thing are virtually the same as the 1880 to 1920s threshing machine,” Burroughs explained. “The technology changes, but it’s nice to know if everything goes gunny bag with the computer, we can back up a step and do it mechanically.”

The Steam-Up is hosted on the grounds of Antique Powerland, a 62-acre park in Brooks, Ore., that features 12 permanent mechanical and agricultural museums.

The event offers plenty of food. The Knights of Columbus will sell sesame garlic chicken and mashed potatoes, while the Kiwanis will serve burgers. Other fare includes German sausage, pie, Reuben sandwiches, root beer floats and biscuits and gravy.

Fan-favorite featured artist Wayne Richards and Southern Nights will also return for another year.

45th Annual Great Oregon Steam-Up

When: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 25 and 26, and Aug. 1 and 2

Tickets: Adult tickets are $12, $20 for a weekend pass or $30 for a one-day family pass. All children under 12 are admitted free; Oregon National Guard members and their families are admitted free with valid military ID on the second weekend.

Website: http://www.antiquepowerland.com/html/steam-up.html

Diamond Foods opens its new innovation center

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

SALEM — The science of snacking was the subject as Diamond Foods Inc. dedicated its new corporate innovation center at the company’s Kettle potato chip plant in Salem.

The 7,000-square-foot product-testing and research-and-development laboratory is the company’s first formal brand development facility. The center, which employs 18 people, will also work on new products for the company’s other lines of snacks, nuts and popcorn.

In addition to food scientists and sensory specialists, marketing, packaging and regulatory experts will work there.

Innovation was the buzzword as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown delivered a brief speech at a July 15 ceremony, praising Diamond’s commitment to the state.

“...In this state, we make things. Innovative, useful, marketable — and in this case, delicious — things,” she said.

In the consumer polling area of the innovation center, the governor issued a ringing endorsement of the company’s Emerald Nuts brand raspberry-glazed almonds — “Can we eat the rest of them?” she asked — before donning a hair net and touring the center’s prototype kitchen.

In the “nosh pitch,” a creatively named conference room, employees exhibited the peppers and kimchi that became the inspiration for Kettle’s new pepperoncini-favored chips.

“We don’t adulterate the base (potato chip). Everything you taste is from the seasoning that we put on after,” food scientist Rebecca Andersen said.

Andersen said the company tests about 10 different flavors — including such candidates as churro and strawberry cream — for every successful flavor that makes it to market.

Closing out the tour, the governor pondered the regional differences in tastes.

“My family members tend to like — I will describe it as blander things. Midwest foods,” she said.

Diamond Foods, which acquired microwave popcorn brand Pop Secret in 2008, became a publicly traded company in 2005. Its other lines include Emerald brand snack nuts and Diamond of California culinary nuts.

Due to drought, Oregon curtails fishing for some species

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon officials have prohibited fishing or curtailed fishing hours on most rivers in the state to avoid additional stress on wild fish suffering from drought-related high water temperatures and low stream flows.

The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife says angling for trout, salmon, steelhead and sturgeon will be prohibited at all times in the Willamette River downstream of Willamette Falls, on a section of the Clackamas River and several sections of the John Day River.

Officials said those rivers with a complete ban have the highest temperatures, the lowest flows, and have already experienced fish die-offs. The Willamette River saw scores of dead salmon in June. And earlier this month, state biologists examined about 50 dead sockeye salmon in the mouth of the Deschutes River.

And fishing won’t be allowed on most rivers from 2 p.m. to one hour before sunrise, during the hottest part of the day when temperatures are at the highest levels. The closures and restrictions are effective Saturday, until further notice.

“We have extremely low water levels in all these streams, not a good snow back, not a lot of rain,” said Mike Gauvin, ODFW’s recreation fisheries manager. “We’re trying to do whatever we can to protect our native fish.”

Fishing hours will remain unchanged at a few spots, such as on sections of the Wallowa, Malheur and Klamath rivers, which are less prone to high water temperatures.

Officials said fishing for warm water species, such as bass and walleye, isn’t affected by closures, nor is lake and reservoir fishing or ocean fishing. And, they said, most of the rivers are still open in the morning, when fishing is best.

Officials will also discuss curtailment of recreational catch-and-release sturgeon fishing upstream of Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

In addition to fishing restrictions, the state’s trout stocking schedules and locations have been adjusted and some hatchery fish have been released early as a result of high water temperatures.

A survey released earlier this month of the lower reaches of 54 rivers in Oregon, California and Washington by the conservation group Wild Fish Conservancy showed nearly three-quarters had temperatures higher than 70 degrees, considered potentially deadly for salmon and trout.

Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Association said her group understands and supports the restrictions. But, she said, when temperatures get too warm, fish go off the bite, and anglers quit fishing anyway. And fishing restrictions, she said, won’t fix the high temperatures in the rivers.

“This is more of a well-meaning gesture,” said Hamilton. “But if a few fish are saved, that’s a good thing.”

The hope, Hamilton said, is that the drought will spur deeper changes that can help fish, such as improving riparian cover, reviewing how reservoir levels are managed during years of low snow packs, or even adding temperature regulating towers at dams.

Oregon timber harvest again tops 4 billion board feet

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s timber harvest decreased slightly last year, ending a four-year run of gains that began after the Great Recession, the state Department of Forestry said Wednesday.

The 4.13 billion board feet harvested in 2014 represents a 1.7 percent decline from the year before. It was, however, the second consecutive year of more than 4 billion board feet, a total Oregon had not seen since 2006.

The state hit a recession low of 2.7 billion board feet in 2009. It takes 10,000 board feet to build a roughly 1,800-square-foot house.

The Forestry Department said in its annual harvest report it doesn’t expect a big change in 2015. Brandon Kaetzel, a top economist at the department, said several issues will likely keep the harvest from rising, including reduced port access, a challenging export market and housing starts not reaching the levels some expected.

Sixty percent of Oregon’s forest land is federal. Industrial and family owned lands comprise another 34 percent and the rest is divided between entities such as the state, counties and tribes.

Percentage-wise, the largest harvest spikes in 2014 were on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands west of the Cascades, boosted by salvage logging from the Douglas Complex fire, and on U.S. Forest Service lands east of the Cascades.

The private industry harvest declined 5 percent, the report states, and the harvest on Native American forestland dropped 14 percent — from 66 million board feet to 57 million board feet.

Douglas County, in the southwestern part of the state, replaced neighboring Lane County as the state’s top producer in timber volume. Both topped more than 600 million board feet.

Klamath County harvested the most timber east of the Cascade Range, with 103 million board feet.

Though Oregon’s harvest has increased since the recession, it’s far less than what it was before environmental issues such as the spotted owl prompted sharp cutbacks in logging on federal lands

Oregon’s largest timber harvest was 9.74 billion board feet in 1972. It has not exceeded 5 billion since 1993.

Scientists in Oregon develop bacon-flavored seaweed

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — What grows quickly, is packed with protein, has twice the nutritional value of kale and tastes like bacon?

The answer, according to scientists at Oregon State University, is a new strain of seaweed they recently patented.

Dulse is a form of edible seaweed that grows wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. It’s harvested and commonly used by people in dried form as a cooking ingredient or nutritional supplement.

But OSU researchers say the variety they’ve developed can be farmed and eaten fresh, with the potential for a new industry for Oregon.

Scientists have been trying to develop a new strain of the seaweed for more than 15 years. Their original goal was to create a super food for commercially grown abalone, a mollusk prized in Asia.

The strain of dulse they came up with, which looks like translucent red lettuce, is a great source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, not to mention protein. The abalone grew exceedingly quickly when fed the dulse and an abalone operation in Hawaii is now using the seaweed on a commercial scale.

But after a product development team at OSU’s Food Innovation Center created new foods with the dulse, researchers began to think humans might benefit a lot more.

Among the most promising foods created were a dulse-based rice cracker and salad dressing. And bacon-tasting strips, which are fried like regular bacon to bring out the flavor.

The research team received a grant from the Oregon Department of Agriculture to explore dulse as a “specialty crop” — the first time seaweed had made the list, officials said. The team brought on a culinary research chef to further refine recipes and products.

Several Portland-area chefs are now testing the sea “vegetable” in its raw or cooked form. And MBA students at OSU are preparing a marketing plan for a new line of dulse-based specialty foods and exploring the potential for a new aquaculture industry.

There are no commercial operations that grow dulse for human consumption in the U.S. and chefs say fresh, high-quality seaweed is hard to come by.

“The dulse grows using a water recirculation system,” said OSU researcher Chris Langdon, who developed the strain. “Theoretically, you could create an industry in eastern Oregon almost as easily as you could along the coast with a bit of supplementation. You just need a modest amount of seawater and some sunshine.”

Local GMO control initiative faces setback

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

A proposed ballot initiative to overturn statewide pre-emption laws for biotech crops and pesticides in Oregon has been dealt a legal setback.

Under the “Right to Local, Community Self-Government” initiative, counties and cities would be immune from Oregon’s pre-emption statutes, allowing them to regulate issues currently under the state’s sole jurisdiction.

Proponents have gathered more than 1,000 signatures in favor of the initiative, which was enough to begin the ballot title drafting process for the 2016 general election.

However, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office recently rejected the initiative for making overly broad revisions to the Oregon Constitution.

Specifically, the initiative would “effectuate fundamental constitutional changes to the structure and division of powers of state and local governments” and alter the power of the legislative and executive branches, according to state attorneys. Such a sweeping “revision” can’t be accomplished with a ballot initiative, they said.

A revision of the Oregon Constitution must instead be approved by two-thirds of both legislative chambers before a referral to voters, said Paul Diller, a law professor at Willamette University.

The initiative was also rejected for making multiple changes to the Oregon Constitution that weren’t closely related.

Proponents now have the choice of challenging those findings in court or attempting to write a new initiative that overcomes the hurdles identified by the state’s attorneys.

Mary Geddry, a chief petitioner for the initiative, said that proponents haven’t yet decided on a course of action but disagree with the government’s conclusions.

“It does not mean everybody is just going to roll over,” she said. “We believe it’s a worthy cause and we’ll try to get it done one way or another.”

Apart from genetically modified organisms and pesticides, the initiative would allow local governments to regulate “fracking” in oil and gas developments, coal exports and other activities that affect air and water quality, Geddry said.

“We’re talking about fundamental rights,” she said. “Communities don’t have the right to say ‘no’ under the current system.”

Oregonians for Food and Shelter, an agribusiness group, worries that the ballot initiative would preclude any statewide regulations, resulting in a patchwork of rules from county to county, said Scott Dahlman, its policy director.

“Anything that keeps it off the ballot, we are excited to see,” he said.

The Secretary of State’s determination is a “substantial” reversal for initiative proponents, since they now face the prospect of a legal battle or an overhaul of their proposal, Dahlman said.

“Either way, they’ve got a significant process ahead of them,” he said.

Revising the initiative to pass constitutional muster would be very difficult, Dahlman said. “It looks like a pretty fatal blow to this effort.”

Diller of Willamette University said there’s little case law dealing with how far-reaching constitutional changes must be to qualify as a “revision,” so the proponents face an uncertain legal landscape.

“It’s a bit of an open question whether they might achieve success by appealing this decision to the courts,” he said.

Even if proponents do ultimately obtain approval to circulate their petition for signatures, the initiative still faces a steep obstacle to getting on the ballot.

Constitutional measures such as this initiative must receive more than 117,500 valid signatures, about one-third more than initiatives that alter Oregon statutes.

Wandering wolf unlikely to return to Malheur County

Capital Press Agriculture News Oregon -

ADRIAN, Ore. — A wandering wolf that hung out in Malheur County for more than five weeks has apparently found a new home and is unlikely to return.

“I would be absolutely, drop-dead surprised if” he returned to the county, said Greg Rimbach, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s acting assistant wolf program manager.

Malheur is Oregon’s largest cattle-producing county and ranchers here were happy to hear the lone wolf was gone.

The male wolf, known as OR22 by Oregon wolf biologists, has spent the last three weeks hanging out in forest area northeast of the city of John Day, Rimbach said.

“It’s just kind of hanging out there by itself,” he said. “It’s found something it likes.”

OR22 is a castoff from a Northwest Oregon pack that began “wandering around in a dispersing pattern” after separating from the Umatilla River Pack around Feb. 13, according to Philip Milburn, a district wildlife biologist in the ODFW’s Ontario office.

The wolf, which has a tracking collar, entered Malheur County April 10 and hung out mostly in sagebrush country south of Vale and west of Adrian, an area that is not considered suitable habitat for wolves.

During its stay, OR22 made a brief foray into farm country and was seen napping in a wheat field by several farmers and even swimming across a canal by ditch workers.

Before OR22’s stay here, no other wolf was known to have been in the county for more than a brief period, Milburn said.

Once wolf biologists discovered and removed two cow carcasses the wolf had been feeding off of, it left the county in mid-May and started heading toward John Day country, Rimbach said.

Wolf biologists said the cows were dead before OR22 found them.

One of the big lessons biologists and cattlemen learned during OR22’s stay in Malheur County is to ensure that cow carcasses are removed quickly, Rimbach said.

“The only reason he stayed in Malheur County was because he had a free meal,” he said. Once the carcasses were removed, “it only took a few days before he was moving on.”


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