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Oregon State University is applying its land grant heritage to meeting 21st century needs for healthy food, clean water and a sustainable environment. University researchers and OSU Extension Service faculty work with family farmers, multinational firms and entrepreneurs to make responsible, beneficial and economical use of natural resources.
Breeding herbicide-tolerant, high-yield wheat
Oregon State University’s wheat breeding program has been at work for more than a century, producing dozens of varieties adapted to the diverse growing conditions of the Pacific Northwest.
One of the most successful varieties is ORCF-101, a soft white winter wheat launched in 2003 in cooperation with the German chemical company BASF. Marketed as Clearfield®, it contains a gene that tolerates applications of a BASF-developed herbicide.
Wheat varieties developed at Oregon State helped farmers produce a record-breaking $521 million crop in 2011. Clearfield wheat royalties to Oregon State topped $1 million in 2010, providing additional support for wheat research, particularly for disease-resistant varieties.
Clearly better: an optical method for monitoring water quality
Gary Klinkhammer’s 1997 expedition to measure carbon in the Arctic Ocean inspired a better way to analyze water quality — and launched a Corvallis-based technology company.
Klinkhammer, a professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, felt his Arctic research was limited by insufficient data. So he developed an optical method that can continuously monitor chlorophyll, algae and E. coli, as well as inorganic materials such as nitrate, chlorine and ammonia, in flowing water.
From his research — and with funding support from the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI) — Klinkhammer founded ZAPS Technologies and its product, the LiquID™ Station. The system provides real-time data online for more effective management of municipal water systems and wastewater treatment plants, as well as water reuse and other industrial applications. It can also protect public health by pinpointing the identity and source of disease-causing microbes and other pollutants in drinking water.
Corvallis was one of the first cities to install LiquID in 2011, and the instruments have since been installed in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
Using biotechnology to boost tree production
Research into tree biotechnology has gotten a boost through an agreement between Dow AgroSciences and Oregon State University. Steve Strauss, a distinguished professor of forest biotechnology in the College of Forestry, is using Dow’s EXZACT™ Precision Technology for targeted genome modification to aid production of tree crops for renewable energy, wood and paper products.
As part of the agreement, Strauss and his team will make modifications to essential genes for flowering and reproduction. Dow AgroSciences is providing its technology, as well as access to intellectual property, validated, high-quality zinc-finger reagents, and scientific expertise. Tree biotechnology and the potential for improved production offers an important opportunity for lumber and paper producers as well as emerging bioenergy companies.
Edible coatings make food longer lasting, possibly healthier
Fruits, berries and fish typically don’t stay fresh for long, but researchers at Oregon State University have developed edible coatings that not only protect food from spoiling, but can be fortified to boost their nutritional value.
Food technologist Yanyun Zhao and microbiologist Mark Daeschel combined chitosan, an ingredient in crab and shrimp shells, with lysozyme from egg white protein, both of which contain powerful natural antimicrobial agents. Food can be dipped or sprayed with the coating, which is so thin it doesn’t interfere with taste or texture. The coating can also be enriched with nutrients such as vitamin E and calcium. Zhao has also experimented with chitosan fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids to coat fish fillets.
Zhao’s research has received funding from the Oregon Innovation Council through the Community Seafood Initiative.