A unique research partnership

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) funds more than 800 research projects annually at nearly 100 research locations, many of them jointly operated by universities.

At Washington State University, unlike most research sites, USDA-ARS scientists work side-by-side with WSU faculty in labs on campus. It’s a fruitful partnership, and you’re probably munching those fruits on a regular basis.

The Western Wheat Quality Laboratory does what may be the most delicious research in the world: they bake batches of cookies daily to evaluate the milling and baking quality of wheat. Researchers in this lab ensure the economic vitality of the wheat industry in seven western states by optimizing wheat cultivars for commercial productivity and for the baking qualities desired by consumers.

WSU researchers have also developed some of the Northwest’s most productive commercial wheat varieties. A $5 million gift from the Washington Grain Commission will provide WSU and USDA-ARS scientists with 20,000 square feet of new greenhouse and lab space to make sure the innovation continues.

The Grain Legume Genetics Physiology Research Unit developed Essex, a high-yielding new variety of lentil. The lab also seeks to develop commercial crops that provide erosion control and works on mapping the genes in legumes to identify disease resistance and quantify traits such as time to maturity, resistance to environmental stress, and seed size.

The Animal Disease Research Unit searches for solutions to infectious diseases that inflict devastating livestock losses worldwide. Vector-borne diseases are one of the lab’s specialties; they’re currently developing new methods to prevent the spread of diseases carried by ticks.