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WSU researchers create gel to keep fields healthy during drought

WSU researchers create gel to keep fields healthy during drought

Washington State University researchers have created a product that could help farmers keep their fields moist during a drought.

Led by Associate Professor Jinwen Zhang, the group created hydrogel pellets similar to the super absorbent material used in diapers. The main difference is what they're made of. While diapers rely on petrolium based gel, WSU researchers have created one out of soy protein.

The pellets swell to hold 250 times their weight in water, and because they are made of biodegradable agricultural material instead of chemicals they leave no residue behind when they disintegrate in the ground. In fact, the soy protein can actually act as a source of nitrogen to help plants grow.

A soy-based product would also lessen dependence on foreign oil imports, and boos the local economy since the U.S. Produces half of the world supply of soy beans.

Washington sees largest growth in population since 2008

Washington sees largest growth in population since 2008

Is your neighborhood beginning to feel a little crowded? According to the Washington office of Financial Management, the state population has increased dramatically in the past year by an estimated 1.5 percent. That's 85,500 people!

Washington's population has been growing at an increasing rate, mostly due to migration. In 2013 the state saw a net gain of 49,200 people moving into the state, more than double the 21,600 from 2012.

Net migration accounts for 57 percent of the state's population growth this year, with natural increase (births minus deaths) responsible for the other 43 percent.

Seventy-five percent of the state's total population growth occurred in the five largest metropolitan counties: Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish and Spokane who's economic activity continues to attract migrants.  

Moscow releases 2013 water quality report

Moscow releases 2013 water quality report

The city of Moscow Water Department has released their annual water quality report for 2013. It can be viewed at City Hall, the Paul Mann Building and the City of Moscow Water Department, or online here.

The report covers all testing completed from January 1 through December 31, 2013 and important information on substances that could be in the water, well maintenance and water distribution along with the testing results and whether any violations are present.

Currently Moscow's drinking water is pulled from wells located within the Palouse Basin.

Wildfire fighters train for the season

Wildfire fighters train for the season

Wildfire season is underway but what does it take to brave the front lines and fight those fires?

Stepping up to fight wildfires is a bold move.

"You pretty much dedicated your summer if you decide to do this," said Veronica Naccarato, wildfire fighter.

Not to mention the danger. Veronica Naccarato has been fighting fires for five seasons.

Friday she helped train more than 30 new firefighters.

"I started what's called a practice fire, just kind of gets them prepared for going out in a real life fire," said Naccarato.

The live burn exercise is the last part to a week long intensive training program.

Veteran firefighters say it is the most important test of the week.

"Live fire exercises at these guard schools are extremely important because once they leave here training is over and as soon as tomorrow they could be on an actual wildfire," said Josh Tellessen, wildfire fighter.

The trainees are from agencies throughout the area. Their ages range from 18 to 60, some are college students and others are just passionate about the environment, but now they all have the same goal.

Health Department begins West Nile testing

Health Department begins West Nile testing

From the Washington State Department of Health:


The Department of Health is again monitoring for West Nile virus through mosquito testing and collecting reports of certain types of dead birds. The virus is now well-established in some areas of the state. West Nile virus typically becomes active in the spring and summer during mosquito season when the insects feed on infected birds.

New York chef praises WSU wheat breeding

New York chef praises WSU wheat breeding

From WSU News:


If Dan Barber had his way, there would be a wheat breeder like Stephen Jones in every corner of every state. Jones features prominently in the new New York Times bestseller, “The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food,” written by Barber, chef and owner of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns Food and Agriculture Center in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

 

Fungus, pests afflict Northwest's ponderosa pines

Foresters say pests and fungal infections are afflicting the region's ponderosa pines, and while they seldom kill the trees, they do worry landowners.

The Spokesman-Review reports that the unsightly appearance of the trees is being caused by fungal infections and tiny insects called pine scale that thrive during cool, moist conditions. Pine scale can look like paint spatters, while fungi are identified by black or brown splotches on the needles.

Steve McConnell, a Washington State University Extension forester in Spokane, says he's getting two to three calls per day from panicky landowners. But he says that if trees are otherwise healthy, they should recover no problem.

State Department of Natural Resources officer Guy Gifford says the outbreaks are typically not so widespread. This year, he's seeing acres of affected trees, and he says that is unusual.