Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station

OSU agricultural research is where food begins in Oregon and beyond.

Urban and rural communities find common ground in shared food systems.

  • During the 1990s, Oregon coastal communities lost significant employment with the collapse of the coastal salmon fishery and closure of traditional seafood canneries. But while traditionally targeted species were growing scarce, some of the more abundant species were considered unappealing to consumers and therefore not marketable in the U.S.

    The OSU Seafoods Laboratory, part of the Agricultural Experiment Station, worked with the seafood industry to demonstrate that an Oregon shore-based surimi industry could produce and market quality Pacific whiting as surimi. Today, the Pacific whiting industry is one of Oregon's largest fisheries, contributing $15-20 million annually to the Oregon economy. The Seafoods Lab conducts annual surimi schools in Oregon, Asia and Europe, showing industry representatives from around the world how to use this Oregon product to make better surimi products.

  • OSU's fermentation science has come of age as Oregon bubbles to the top of the microbrew industry. With the nation's first endowed professorship in fermentation science, and one of only two university-based brew houses, OSU's Food Science and Technology provide research and testing for new beer varieties. Graduates from the CAS program are in high demand throughout the industry.
  • The Willamette Valley produces 98 percent of the nation's hazelnuts. However, in the 1970s, a fungal disease was killing trees and contaminating entire orchards, threatening the entire industry. Twenty years of CAS research and extension has developed disease-resistant varieties and helped to save the industry, today worth more than $65 million.
  • OSU's vegetable breeding program has provided generations of Oregonians with the best possible vegetables. Vegetable breeding has been a part of OSU's Agricultural Experiment Station for generations, resulting in 90 percent of the commercial green bean varieties and 75 percent of the commercial potato varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest. CAS vegetable breeders have developed healthier tomatoes with added phytonutrients and several hardy varieties for the booming organic vegetable market.
  • As a partner in the Community Seafood Initiative, AES research helps seafood-based businesses gain a competitive edge, which helps coastal communities throughout Oregon. Applied research has resulted in documenting the lower mercury levels in local albacore tuna; measuring the high Omega-3 content in locally caught sardines; and tracking salmon and tuna from sea to market, and thus adding value to locally caught seafood.

 

OSU's innovations in improving human health increase the quality of life for Oregonians now and into the future.

Using various models for human health-from rainbow trout to mustard plants- faculty in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences faculty have made critical discoveries leading to improved human health.

  • Scientists at OSU studying the relationship between diet and cancer were among the first to isolate the toxins responsible for the plague of liver cancer in developing countries. That same research has now led to the discovery of a simple, inexpensive compound that can block the ability of those toxins to cause cancer in thousands of people around the world. Studies of rainbow trout helped CAS researcher George Bailey and colleagues confirm the anti-cancer properties of chlorophyllin, a derivative of one of the most common substances on earth.
  • The source of the various colors of berries, apples and cherries are called fruit pigments, and researchers at Oregon State University have revealed their value as dietary antioxidants. Researchers from OSU's Food Science and Technology Department, under the leadership of internationally recognized food scientist Ron Wrolstad, isolated and concentrated the anthocyanin pigments and polyphenolic compounds found in pigments that pack the most vitamin value. This was a crucial first step toward identifying and extracting the active health components of blueberries, cherries, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables.Their research has yielded benefits for both fruit consumers and Oregon fruit producers.
  • Manmade nanoparticles are specifically designed in laboratories to have commercially useful properties, but it is important to determine whether these useful properties produce adverse responses in animals or humans before they are commercialized. For more than a decade, Robert Tanguay, a researcher in OSU's Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology and in the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute has used zebrafish-a small aquarium fish-to examine the effects of environmental contaminants and pharmaceuticals on early embryonic development. His work makes it possible to test these new technologies and determine their safety before they enter the marketplace.
  • The National Pesticide Medical Monitoring Program is an OSU-EPA collaboration that provides information for those assessing human exposures to pesticides. Physician and OSU medical toxicologist Daniel Sudakin and staff answer thousands of inquiries each year about exposures to toxic substances, from the EPA, from the public, from pesticide applicators, from state and federal agencies and from physicians.
  • In cell wars, it's microRNA calling the shots. James Carrington, a plant biologist and director of OSU's CGRB, has uncovered the role of little known and under-appreciated genetic material in the war against invading viruses. Using a type of mustard plant, he has found how viruses move through host plants, how plants respond to viruses, and how viruses counter-respond to the plant's defenses.
  • A team of OSU researchers began studying the cancer-fighting properties of hops in the 1990s, focusing on a flavonoid compound called xanthohumol. Since then, they and others around the world have found that xanthohumol is one of the more significant compounds for everything from hormone replacement therapy for women to combating prostate, breast, and colon cancer. Xanthohumol appears to be an antioxidant even more powerful than vitamin E and can reduce the oxidation of LDL, or bad cholesterol, according to Donald Buhler, a biochemical toxicologist in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences and part of the OSU team studying the hops flavonoid. Fred Stevens leads the current research in OSU's Linus Pauling Institute.

OSU research has practical and significant applications for sustaining Oregon's environment.

Decision-makers rely on on-the-ground research expertise by CAS scientists to help address Oregon's thorniest environmental conflicts.

  • CAS research and extension has helped Willamette Valley grass-seed growers change the course of their industry by reducing field burning by 90 percent. Researchers from OSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed new grass-seed varieties that do not require burning and new methods to use straw residue to fertilize fields (which saved $40 to $60 an acre in fertilizer). As a result, despite burning restrictions, the grass seed industry today continues to grow and is valued at more than $500 million.
  • In 1999, sudden oak death spread to Oregon, killing oaks, infecting other plants, and threatening Oregon's billion-dollar nursery industry. Rapid response from OSU scientists has helped to contain the spread of sudden oak death in Oregon.
  • Whale researcher Bruce Mate and colleagues at OSU's Marine Mammal Institute have pioneered the use of satellites to track tagged whales. More than two decades of research has yielded information for the first time about the animals' migration and behavior as they move between feeding and calving areas. The work shows how whales migrate in close proximity to human activities and how their feeding areas have changed in recent years in response to warming in the Bering Sea
  • Seven years after a devastating drought split the community, Klamath Basin residents are working out a solution and the OSU research and Extension faculty are in the thick of the action. OSU faculty function as catalyst and facilitator, based on credibility as a neutral party to provide credible scientific information and keep the channels of communication open.
  • In a five-year study for the National Park Service, CAS researchers and colleagues documented contamination in the world's most remote places. They measured toxic metals and other contaminants in snow, soil, air, water, fish, and vegetation in places once thought to be among the most pristine areas in the planet. And they found that some of these contaminants have a very long commute, crossing the Pacific Ocean on atmospheric currents from as far away as Asia and eastern Europe.
  • The top of the Portland Building opens onto a rooftop meadow and one of Oregon State University's latest agricultural experiments. OSU's green roof research program is testing these hard-working landscapes on the Portland skyline, which help to mitigate storm water run-off and temperature extremes in an otherwise asphalt landscape.
  • The Pacific Northwest Ecosystem Research Consortium, led by fisheries and wildlife scientist Stan Gregory, helped residents in Oregon's most populated region plot their shared future. The scientific team mapped the river basin as it would look 50 years from now under three different scenarios: if current land management continued; if more development was encouraged; and if more conservation was encouraged. They used the past as a compass and engaged people in the basin to plot alternative paths into their future.
  • OSU fish pathologists have been at the forefront of fish disease research for over 30 years, beginning with the pioneering efforts of John Fryer. Faculty at OSU have trained many of the nation's professional fish pathologists and fish health researchers, have identified the causes of several important diseases afflicting fishes in the Pacific Northwest, and developed vaccines and diagnostic tests that are routinely used for cultured and wild stocks of fish. In addition, they have provided a wealth of knowledge on the pathogenic mechanisms and epidemiology of most of the serious diseases of salmonids and other fish. Since inception of the fish disease program, the fish species under investigation have broadened to include wild marine fishes, ornamental species, and fish used as research models. Nevertheless, diseases of salmonid fishes remain a primary research focus.

OSU agricultural research is leading Oregon in more sustainable ways to manage water.

Water is a critical-and limited- resource in Oregon and the world.

  • Re-using water from food processing to irrigate crops not only recycles water but also recycles nutrients that can nourish crops rather than fouling groundwater. Don Horneck, OSU Extension horticulturist at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center, is connecting irrigators and industries in the Columbia Basin to develop options for water reuse.
  • Twenty years of negotiations among tribes and irrigators have created a plan to sustain both salmon and crops in the Umatilla Basin. OSU students from the Umatilla tribe mentored by OSU researchers have made it happen.
  • Years of OSU research has documented the spread of western juniper and the associated loss of groundwater throughout the intermountain west. Western juniper covers 10 times more land than it did in the 1880s. An innovative experiment in Central Oregon tapped an unexpected source of water when invasive juniper was cut from a wooded watershed.