Crop and Soil Sciences

The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University serves the Land Grant tradition by offering nationally competitive undergraduate and graduate education programs, conducting fundamental and applied plant and soil research, and extending the science of our disciplines to serve the public.

CSS News & Updates

Meet Ryan, WSU’s Elite New Wheat for the Noodle Market

Ryan, the newest spring wheat variety from Washington State University, is winning over Northwest farmers and grain buyers across the Pacific, thanks to its surprising ability to create an outstanding fresh noodle.

“Ryan has hit harder and generated way more interest than anything I’ve done before,” said Mike Pumphrey, WSU’s O.A. Vogel Endowed Chair of Spring Wheat Breeding and Genetics. “What sets Ryan apart is its quite remarkable noodle quality.”

New Irrigation System Can Cut Vineyard Water Usage by 35 Percent

PULLMAN, Wash. – WSU Professor of Crops and Soil Sciences Pete Jacoby has invented and developed a subsurface irrigation system that could be game-changing for Washington’s wine-grape industry.

Launched in 2015, Jacoby’s Direct Root-Zone irrigation (DRZ) system differs from existing micro-irrigation models in significant ways. Whereas common drip irrigation systems deliver water in horizontally buried lines, the DRZ system feeds water into vertical tubes buried 1– 4 feet directly into the root-zone soil. Not only does the DRZ supply water to vines much more efficiently than traditional micro-irrigation systems, its vertical structure is less susceptible to damage from clogs, burrowing rodents, or curious wildlife.

Rich Koenig Named Permanent Chair of WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences

Leading Washington State University’s efforts to improve understanding of the agricultural crops and soil that feed the world and fuel our economy, Professor Rich Koenig has been named permanent chair of the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences.

One of the largest departments at WSU, Crop and Soil Sciences is the biggest unit in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), with more than 30 faculty members and more than 50 adjunct or affiliate faculty.

New WSU Barley Breeder Gets His ‘Dream Job’

Washington State University’s new barley breeder says that job has been his “dream position” ever since he got a Ph.D at the school in 2009.

Currently a barley geneticist at North Dakota State University, Robert Brueggeman will take over as WSU’s R.A. Nilan Endowed Chair in Barley Research and Education in mid-August.

Brueggeman worked in WSU’s barley molecular genetics lab under Andris Kleinhofs. He developed a barley genetics research lab at NDSU, where he has worked for nine years.

Ian Burke to Lead WSU Wheat Conservation Research as Newest Cook Endowed Chair

Ian Burke, weed scientist with Washington State University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, will lead conservation research benefiting Washington’s $800 million wheat industry as the new R. James Cook Endowed Chair in Wheat Research.

Named for one of WSU’s most renowned scientists, the Cook Endowed Chair was established in 1997 by the then-Washington Wheat Commission, now the Washington Grain Commission, to deliver innovative research and teaching that benefits the state’s wheat growers.

Images from Space Could Help Farmers Grow Better Wheat Varieties

A team of researchers at Washington State University is putting satellites and drones to work in the hunt for better wheat varieties to help feed a growing world more sustainably.

WSU scientists launched a new project this spring, developing techniques that let satellites and flying drones identify and study wheat varieties from overhead. The research is funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Their effort could speed up research into better, more productive wheat varieties and could give growers powerful new tools to improve farming.

How Soil Microbiology Might Help your PB&J

If you’ve ever packed fruit snacks in a lunch, enjoyed a glass of grape juice, or made a PB&J, chances are the grapes used in those products were grown in Washington’s Yakima Valley. That’s because household brands like Welch’s Smucker’s, and Tree Top get most of their grapes from Washington state, the largest producer of Concord grapes in the nation.

Researchers at Washington State University are working hard to keep it that way by helping grape growers fight iron chlorosis, a pervasive and destructive disease that threatens Concord grapevines throughout the state.

2019 Field Day Abstracts

The 2019 Field Day Abstracts: Highlights of Research Progress is now available to download on the Field Day Abstracts page.

New WSU Soft White Spring Wheat Ryan in High Demand

Seed for a high-yielding new soft white spring wheat variety is in short supply this year, dealers say.

Geoff Schulz, seed operations manager for HighLine Grain Growers in Reardan, Wash., said he’s been sold out of Washington State University’s new soft white spring wheat Ryan for six weeks. He gets calls every day from farmers and other seed companies looking for Ryan and another WSU soft white spring, Seahawk.

Many of the calls come from irrigated farmers who usually plant dark northern spring wheat, he said.

“I could have sold four times as much Ryan as what I had out there, and I thought I was swimming in it,” he said.

WSU’s spring wheat breeder, Mike Pumphrey, pointed to Ryan as the highest-yielding soft white spring wheat in intermediate or high rainfall zone trials in recent years.

Northwest Scientists Defend Lentils from Root-Rotting Disease

In our snacks, salads and soups, lentils add a high-fiber, protein- and nutrient-packed punch. In Pacific Northwest farmers’ fields, lentils are a valuable crop that conserves water and replenishes the soil, making Washington the third-ranked lentil region in the U.S.

But the Northwest’s prized ‘superfood’ is threatened by root rot, a disease that stunts and discolors lentil roots, stems and leaves, shrinking harvests.

To protect lentils from this costly disease, scientists at Washington State University are hunting down the chief cause of root rot and developing resistant varieties as part of a multi-national, $3.4 million research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“In bad years, lentil farmers can lose their entire crop to root rot,” said Rebecca McGee, co-project leader, research geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service and a WSU Crop and Soils Sciences and Horticulture adjunct scientist.

Scientist’s Involvement Helps Sensors Send Water to Crops, Right when they Need it

Helping farmers grow food using less water, Pete Jacoby, plant ecologist in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, is advancing water-sensing research in his new role with the American Society of Agronomy.

Jacoby was recently named vice leader of the Society’s Sensor-based Water Management Community, which explores and shares research on water sensors, sensor-based irrigation, and how plants and the soil are affected by water and drought.

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WSU Ag Programs Highly Ranked in the World

US News and World Report places WSU at #36 for Best Global Universities for Agriculture Sciences. For more information, go to the US News list. QS World University Rankings for Agriculture and Forestry places WSU at #45 worldwide. For more information, go to the CS Worldwide list.