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Oregon State University agricultural research updates

OSU helps defend America's favorite flower against voracious midge

Rose photo

Roses are one of the nation's top ornamental plants, so the rose midge could have significant economic impact beyond Portland. Photo: Lynn Ketchum.

A pinhead-size maggot with an appetite for roses is attacking Portland, Oregon, the Rose City.

Portland loves roses and celebrates them in its annual Rose Festival, its sports arena (the Rose Garden) and its International Rose Test Garden, where 10,000 rose bushes are on public display. But a few years ago, tiny rose midges began sucking the life out of Portland’s roses. In 2003, the garden lost half its rose blossoms by midsummer and three-quarters of its blossoms by the end of the season.

Last year, Portland Parks and Recreation Department sprayed insecticides to keep the midge at bay. This year, Oregon State University Extension horticulturist Robin Rosetta is helping the city find a way to control rose midges more effectively with less frequent and possibly less toxic means, consistent with Portland’s nationally recognized program of integrated pest management in city parks.

Roses are one of the nation’s top ornamental plants, so the rose midge could have significant economic impact beyond the Rose City, according to Rosetta. In the past few years, there has been an increase in the distribution and occurrence of the rose midge across the United States.

The millimeter-long white maggot is the larvae of an even smaller fly, a native insect of North America. It feeds on the soft growing tips of roses, and although it does not kill the bush, it leaves rose buds and stem tips withered, black or distorted.

The rose midge was first described as a pest to ornamental roses in New Jersey more than 100 years ago, when the most effective control was a tobacco mulch made from cigar-factory left-overs. Chemical pesticides developed since the 1950s were even more effective, but they killed good bugs as well as bad bugs and raised concerns about public health. Those chemical pesticides have since been banned or restricted, and Portland city park officials are committed to using controls that minimize risks to people and the environment. So Rosetta’s challenge is to find controls that are specific to the rose midge, effective and with minimum environmental side effects.

This winter, Rosetta planted her own rose test garden, 88 rose bushes at OSU’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, where she is able to test various methods of integrated pest management in very controlled conditions.

She’s replaced the old arsenal of banned pesticides with a wide array of treatments, including biological methods using beneficial bugs and fungi to counteract the midge; and chemical methods including pesticides called neonicotinyls, which are similar to the natural pesticide found in tobacco and the old-time mulch from cigar factories.

“When it comes to controlling pests, you’ve got to get ‘em while they’re down,” Rosetta laughs. “You identify the most vulnerable phase in the pest’s life cycle and find ways to attack it at that point.”

With the rose midge, the vulnerable phase occurs early in the season, when the overwintered larvae are emerging from the soil. Later in the season, when all life cycle phases are present, it’s more difficult to precisely target a control treatment.

“It’s complicated working on rose pests, because there are so many things that can infect roses, which makes evaluation more difficult,” Rosetta said

So far the rose midge is predominantly a problem in large display gardens, where it seems to spread to new sites through infested soil or movement of the adult midges. It is not yet a large problem in nurseries or backyard gardens, according to Rosetta. She and her OSU colleagues are working with researchers in other states to halt the outbreak of rose midges and nip this pest in the bud.

Learn more about the rose midge:

OSU releases new hazelnut variety resistant to filbert blight

Santiam hazelnut photo

New "Santiam" hazelnuts will help keep Oregon the nation's number one hazelnut producer. Photo: Becky McCluskey, OSU Horticulture Dept.

Hazelnut breeders at Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station have released a new hazelnut variety with complete resistance to eastern filbert blight, a destructive disease that has infected many of the state’s hazelnut orchards.

Besides its unprecedented disease-resistance, “Santiam” is an early-maturing hazelnut variety with high yield efficiency, according to Shawn Mehlenbacher, leader of OSU’s longstanding hazelnut breeding program.

Oregon is the top hazelnut producer in the nation, annually producing about 99 percent of the U.S. hazelnut crop. Last year’s Oregon hazelnut harvest earned over $30 million in farm gate sales.

Eastern filbert blight is a fungal disease that forms cankers that slowly girdle branches, limbs and tree trunks, eventually killing the tree. Spores of the disease spread from tree to tree and orchard to orchard. Willamette Valley hazelnut growers first noticed the blight in 1986, which eventually led to the removal of several hundred acres of diseased hazelnut orchards from production in recent years.

“The introduction of ‘Santiam’ is a major step in our efforts to support the state’s hazelnut industry,” said Mehlenbacher. “Santiam” has been released to the public with no restrictions, and hazelnut tree nurseries in the Willamette Valley are currently producing trees for commercial sale through micropropagation (tissue culture) and grafting.

"Seoul" food from Oregon seafood

Chef Philen in South Korea

Wayne Philen, former research chef at OSU, promoted Oregon seafood in South Korea. Photo: Howie Ruben

Last fall, a delegation of South Korean seafood buyers came to the Food Innovation Center in Portland on a mission: to taste Oregon seafood specialties made by Oregon State University chef Wayne Philen.

Philen served specially prepared dishes he developed for Korea’s fast food corporations using premier Oregon salmon, shrimp and crab. The Korean visitors liked what they tasted and returned home to consult with their country’s fast food industry. Continuing the international collaboration this spring, Philen and officials from Oregon’s Department of Agriculture traveled to South Korea to showcase Oregon food to potential Asian clients. From crab and shrimp-stuffed petroli sole to hazelnut marinara, Philen combined Oregon’s finest – including Dungeness crab, sardines, berries, and pears – with flavors of the region to create innovative “Seoul” food.

Visiting with the Koreans gave Philen insight into creating foods that reflect Korean’s taste preferences and lifestyles. Unlike many Americans’ super-sized burger-and-fries meal, Korea’s answer to fast food is cold noodle soup. Philen had to take local tastes and flavors into account when creating potential products.

“Flavors define a culture,” Philen said. “It’s important to travel to countries in order to see how items are flavored and prepared, so that you can develop products that fit into their cuisine.”

As a result of the international collaboration, Philen developed two new products (an Oregon seafood patty and a seafood-stuffed potato) for one of South Korea’s largest food companies. However, the enthusiastic demand for the products in Korea currently outstrips Oregon’s production capability.

“There are 47 million people in South Korea, in an area half the size of Oregon, so that’s a big market for Oregon products,” Philen said.

The opportunities are not only overseas, he stressed. Any food manufacturer, large or small, can contact the Food Innovation Center, a research partnership between Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

“Many restaurant groups are not large enough for their own research and development chefs,” said Philen. That’s where the Food Innovation Center comes in. Although Philen left his position as research chef this summer, the Food Innovation Center will be hiring a new chef soon.

Learn more about the Food Innovation Center:

OSU launches new drought information Web site


Oregon State University Extension Service has developed a new Web site to help people throughout Oregon prepare for drought. The Web site, “Drought in Oregon,” includes online publications and links to information to help Oregonians cope with water shortages at home, in the garden and on the farm.

From this site, Web users can learn how to assess the safety of their well water, what to do (and not do) for lawns and gardens and how to reduce the impact on livestock and land when pastures dry up.

You can access the drought information page by searching “Oregon State University Extension Service” on the Web or find it directly at:

DEET, mosquitoes and West Nile virus

As West Nile virus surfaces in Oregon, the last remaining continental state to encounter the disease, Oregonians may be tempted to douse themselves in DEET — a potent insect repellent — to protect against disease-carrying mosquitoes.

The product is generally safe if applied properly, but DEET can pose health risks if you fail to follow label instructions, says Daniel Sudakin, a toxicologist at Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station.

mosquito photo

Sudakin, who has a medical degree from Wayne State University, has spent the past several years reviewing available epidemiological data on human exposures and subsequent adverse reactions to DEET. Although each year millions of people safely use products containing DEET, hundreds of adverse reactions are reported, according to Sudakin. The majority of these reactions affect the skin and occur when DEET is overused or misused.

“It is very important not to apply DEET over cuts, wounds or irritated skin, which more easily absorb the chemical,” warned Sudakin. “You want DEET on the surface of exposed skin only.”

DEET should never be used underneath clothing, and when returning indoors, users should wash treated skin with soap and water — particularly if they applied a high-concentration product. He also cautions that young children should never apply DEET to themselves because they may be overexposed. And babies under two months of age should not be exposed to DEET at all.

“People think more is better when it comes to DEET,” Sudakin said. In fact, concentrations containing 10 percent appear to be as effective as 30 percent, and beyond 40 to 50 percent, there’s just not much additional protection.

DEET isn’t the only insect repellent on the market. Some alternative insect repellents registered by the EPA are made from botanical oils such as eucalyptus, soybean or citronella.

“People tend to consider these as inherently safe,” Sudakin said, “but they can cause allergic reactions as well.”

People with specific questions about DEET should contact the National Pesticide Information Center at (800) 858-7378 or online at www.npic.orst.edu

OSU economists examine hunger and food insecurity in Oregon

Low wage jobs, high unemployment and high housing costs combine to increase the risk of food insecurity for Oregonians, according to a recent study by Oregon State University researchers.

photo of child eating

Oregon households with children and two parents have hunger rates more than three times higher than the national average.

“Households are considered to be food insecure when they report that their food didn’t last to the end of the month, they didn’t have money to buy more food and they couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals,” explained Bruce Weber, an OSU Extension economist and professor of agricultural and resource economics. Weber co-authored the study with OSU health economist Stephanie Bernell and OSU sociologist Mark Edwards.

The study was prompted by national reports that ranked Oregon near the top of all the states in terms of food insecurity, yet in the middle in terms of poverty. The report follows a 2003 study on hunger and food insecurity that found that working Oregonians with two-income households have a hunger rate almost four times higher than those in the rest of the nation. And two-parent households with children have hunger rates more than three times higher than the national average.

Comparing Oregon statistics with national averages, the researchers found higher rates of food insecurity among many groups in Oregon, including households with two incomes (10.7 percent in Oregon as compared to 5.2 percent nationally) and households with at least one adult working full-time year round (14.0 percent in Oregon as compared to 7.6 percent nationally). Households with children and renter households had even higher rates of food insecurity.

The reports are based on surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau of 50,000 adults across the nation, including more than 750 in Oregon, and on the 2000 Oregon Population Survey of 4,700 households in Oregon.

“The surveys asked people about real decisions they had to make during the last year,” said Edwards. “It is surprising how many people who are working full time and supporting a family can’t make ends meet without cutting back on food. And yet that’s the reality for many Oregonians.”

The two reports can be viewed, along with the 2003 report and other information about food insecurity, at: http://arec.oregonstate.edu/ruralstudies/pub_society.htm.

OSU economist reviews compensation under Measure 37

for sale sign photo

Since the passage of Measure 37 in November 2004, government officials have been grappling with its implementation in cities and counties throughout the state. The ballot measure enables landowners to seek compensation when their property values are reduced by land-use regulations.

But how should that compensation be calculated?

“The text of the measure says that compensation should equal the reduction in the fair market value of the property,” said Andrew Plantinga, an economist at Oregon’s Agricultural Experiment Station. “This sounds simple enough. It isn’t.”

Measure 37 does not define how compensation will be calculated, leaving government officials with many possible ways to interpret the measure. To help sort out these differences, Plantinga has been named to a special Oregon Senate working group charged with clarifying compensation under Measure 37.

According to the measure, landowners can claim compensation for the reduction in fair market value, which equals the difference between the property’s value with and without the land-use regulation.

“We know the value with the regulation in place, because that’s the current market value,” Plantinga said. “But the value without regulation is hypothetical.” Estimating such hypothetical values poses many challenges, according to Plantinga. A fair market value is obtained in a competitive market with many sellers. An exclusive market with a single seller is not competitive, it’s monopolistic.

“Suppose we were to calculate the fair-market value for a parcel of land assuming it has no development restrictions,” Plantinga said. “Do we assume restrictions still apply to all other parcels? This treats one landowner like a monopolist with exclusive development rights and allows that landowner to receive higher compensation, because the restriction is still imposed on others.

“We should, instead, consider the landowner a participant in a competitive market,” Plantinga said. “In this case, we would calculate the value of the parcel assuming the land-use regulations do not apply anywhere.”

In the hypothetical world without regulations, that single parcel would be one of many that could be developed, according to Plantinga. Competition would drive down its value for development, and only unique advantages such as location would increase its value compared to many others on the market.

To calculate the actual competitive market value of the parcel of land, Plantinga suggests using the original purchase price before the regulation went into effect, adjusted to current dollar value.

Because Measure 37 provides compensation only to individuals who acquired their property before the land-use laws were enacted, the price they paid reflects a competitive market without regulations. The original purchase price of the land, separated from any other assets in the sale, could be adjusted to current dollar value by using the consumer price index. Then, the difference between the current value of the original price and the current market value would equal the reduction in fair market value.

This provides a way to calculate compensation based on observable, rather than hypothetical, values.

In whatever way compensation is eventually calculated under Measure 37, Plantinga points out that this process is fundamentally different from a taking, where compensation equals the full current fair-market value of the land.

“In a taking, the land is no longer owned by the landowner,” Plantinga said. “Under Measure 37, landowners still own their land and have full entitlement to earn income from all permitted uses,” he said.

The study, “Measuring Compensation under Measure 37: An Economist’s Perspective” by Andrew J. Plantinga, can be viewed at: