Washington's asparagus growers will pay WSU scientists $12,000 this year to figure out how to prevent asparagus spears from softening during canning. Pea and lentil growers will spend about $50,000 on researching soil conservation. And the tiny cranberry industry has contracted with university researchers to find ways to keep weeds from invading cranberry bogs.
But apple growers spend much more on
research than any of Washington's other two dozen agricultural
groups. Apples account for about 85 percent of the state's tree
fruits, and will bring in a projected $1 billion this year - more
than any other agricultural product.
fruit industry's support for research mirrors its position on top
of the agricultural heap. This year, orchardists will contribute $2
million to research - nearly half of it to Washington State
University. This figure is proportionally higher than that given by
the dairy and wheat growers, the second and third largest
agricultural groups in the state, respectively. The dairy industry,
which generates about $650 million annually, will contribute about
$250,000 to research this year. The wheat industry, with revenues
of about $500 million, will give scientists about
Tree fruit growers are quadrupling
support for research. In 1991, they gave less than $1 million; next
year, they will distribute about $3.4 million.
Much of the growers' eagerness to support
research because the number of pesticides for apples is
"The growers I work with are all
extremely concerned with environmental issues," says Peter
Sanderson, a plant pathologist who works for the Washington Tree
Fruit Research Commission. "They really do think of themselves as
stewards of the land. They don't like to be hounded by regulators,
so most people want to keep their operations clean."
Finding alternatives to pesticides is not the
only way that scientists help growers. They're developing ways to
increase productivity, decrease fertilizer use and breed new
strains of apples.
Doyle Fleming, who grows
apples in Orondo, says Washington apples need to compete in foreign
markets against fruit from Chile, South Africa and Europe. "Our
industry's success is tied up with research, because we're not
going to produce for less than these other countries," he says. "So
we have to do it better or cheaper. As an industry it's pretty much
agreed upon that research is our only hope."