Supplying food, energy, and water for future generations
By the year 2050, the world population will hit a staggering 9 billion people—2 billion higher than the current count. Between now and then, farmers will need to grow more food than has been produced in the previous 10,000-year history of agriculture. People will need fresh water for farming, as well as drinking and other uses. They will also need more energy.
In order to provide sufficient high-quality food and fresh water for future generations, our society must create renewable energy systems that safeguard the environment. Most current energy production systems release greenhouse gases that intensify climatic changes. The shifting climate threatens the ability to grow food and access water.
Reliable production, storage, and transmission of clean energy will be fundamental to sustaining the way of life that you—and everyone around you—has come to expect.
WSU’s role in the solution
When it comes to tackling the nation’s looming natural resource issues, Washington State University has a unique advantage: location. From vantage points in every county in the state, WSU scholars use the natural environment as their laboratory. They leverage the region’s diversity of renewable resources to optimize practices for agriculture, water management, and energy production.
The University has exceptional expertise in the following areas:
- Fundamental genetics
- Pathology of plant and animal systems
- Next generation energy production and storage technologies
- Renewable energy materials development and process management
- Water science, management, and utilization
To ensure a secure energy future, WSU scientists have pioneered programs in biologically inspired storage strategies, advanced battery materials, and alternative fuels. Discoveries and innovations of WSU scientists help communities in Washington and around the world live more sustainably.
Within this Grand Challenge, scholars address several research themes, touching on issues like these:
- Food production
- Water: Safety and sustainability
- Energy: Meeting needs while protecting the environment
- Perspectives and policy
- Optimized agricultural practices
- Available and affordable food
- Nutritious and safe foods
Innovation for Washington’s signature industry
WSU created a brand new apple variety called Cosmic Crisp™, known for its excellent flavor, good texture, and superior storage. Cosmic Crisp™ is a cross between Enterprise and Honeycrisp.
More … » More …Read Story
Conserving water, improving Washington’s white wine
WSU researchers inform irrigation strategies
Washington is a leading producer of Riesling and Chardonnay wine grapes. In fact, these two grapes account for 75 percent of the white wine grape … » More …Read Story
Water: Safety and sustainability
- Safe and abundant water supply
- Effective water management
- Water use and healthy environments
- Aquatic ecosystems
Supplying food, energy, and water for future generations
Helping the Columbia Basin withstand climate change
In Washington’s Columbia River basin, climate change has diminished snow storage, a significant source of summer water for the region. At the same time, population growth is … » More …Read Story
Managing reservoirs for the health of the environment
Water bodies produce more methane than landfills
Reservoirs dot the Pacific Northwest, providing water for irrigation, fish conservation, hydropower and recreation. Yet these freshwater bodies also contribute to climate change … » More …Read Story
Energy: Meeting needs while protecting the environment
- Efficient and sustainable energy production
- Available and affordable energy
- Development of renewable sources of energy
- Healthy environments and energy production
Multimillion dollar grant to support nuclear waste cleanup
Research probes how radiation changes nuclear waste over time
Safe management of nuclear waste is vital to national security and a primary mission of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). … » More …Read Story
Wood-based biofuel powers cross-country flight
WSU-led coalition partners with Alaska Airlines for the world’s first commercial flight using fuel made from forest residuals.
In November 2016 a commercial airplane powered by jet fuel made from … » More …Read Story
Perspectives and policy
- Political engagement and public policy development
- Effective communication and education
- Production incentives and stewardship
- Rational economic approaches to sustainability
Growing cyberforests to predict the impacts of climate change
Realistic 3-D simulation helps forest managers anticipate disturbances
Drought, heat, and other irregular conditions spawned by climate change take a toll on tree ecosystems. How, exactly, will those stressors affect … » More …Read Story
Organic farming: A fruitful alternative
Study compares profitability of organic and conventional agriculture
To be sustainable, organic agriculture must be profitable. How lucrative is organic farming relative to conventional methods? The answer may surprise you.
… » More …Read Story
The University collaborates with top-level scientists nationwide to advance food, energy, and water research initiatives. In addition, WSU forges strong relationships with public and private organizations to support studies related to resource sustainability.
A sampling of WSU’s valued partners at the federal level includes:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- National Science Foundation
- U.S. Department of Energy
- U.S. Agency for International Development
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Federal Aviation Administration
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture
WSU also partners extensively with the state of Washington. Among the University’s many state-level collaborators are the Department of Agriculture, the state’s Commodity Commissions, and the Department of Ecology.
The utility giant teams with WSU’s Energy Systems Innovation Center to advance Smart Grid technology.
The Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and the Environment is co-led by Washington State University and MIT.
The State of Washington Water Resource Center, a member of the NIWR, conducts and facilitates applied water-related research, educates future water professionals, and disseminates research results to water managers and the public. WSU faculty collaborate with the Center’s experts in water science and management.
University energy researchers accelerate discovery through collaboration with scientists at PNNL and utility companies throughout the region.
One of the nation’s largest concentrations of USDA ARS scientists is headquartered on the Pullman campus. These experts serve as an integral part of the WSU faculty.
The program seeks out and tests plants and plant technologies that restore and sustain healthy natural ecosystems, conserve and enhance critical wildlife habitat, mitigate diverse environmental and natural resource concerns, provide economic and socially acceptable solutions, and support a safer human environment.
Affiliated institutes, centers, and programs
Investigating biofuels, biochemical, biomaterials, and bioprocesses, working jointly with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)
Promoting industry-wide acceptance of bioplastics and increase the use of sustainable materials
Academic and industry leaders applying innovative technologies and management tools to the challenges of global climate change and environmental sustainability
Exploring new methods in nonthermal food processing (processing methods that do not use heat)
Providing opportunities for reproductive biologists across the Pacific Northwest to collaborate and learn from one another
Conducting research and providing education on critical issues facing agriculture, such as climate change, energy and water security, and ways to make agricultural production systems more sustainable
Develops new building materials from recycled and virgin resources, as well as innovative structural systems
Uniting research faculty, business leaders, and governmental organizations to address the demand for clean, reliable energy, including using Smart Grid technology to make the power system more efficient, responsive, and secure
Addressing economic, social, political, and technical problems that affect the competitiveness of Washington’s agricultural and related sectors
Pursuing fundamental research in the molecular biology and biochemistry of plants
Focusing on solving problems for industry and government agencies in areas that include energy, national security, advanced materials, and sensors applications
Uniting faculty, students, design professionals, manufacturers, and suppliers to solve societal problems of sustainability
Communicating the latest in crop protection and sustainable pest management tactics to our state’s agricultural producers, pest control operators, landscape professionals, educators, and homeowners
Focusing on innovative developments in irrigated agriculture, which accounts for an estimated two-thirds of agricultural production in the state
Conducting air quality research, emphasizing biosphere/atmosphere interactions and regional air quality measurements and modeling
Conducting small-crop and weed research, looking for specific benefits to local small and mid-sized farms
The only research reactor in the state of Washington
Experts in infectious disease research whose extensive global health outreach safeguards animal health (with an emphasis on livestock), protects food supplies, creates more economically secure families and communities, and advances public health across continents
Housing the University’s avian (bird) health and food safety laboratories and a plant and insect diagnostic lab
Addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by Pacific Northwest grape growers and winemakers
A research leader in developing, testing, and using catalysts (which accelerate chemical reactions) to increase energy efficiency and pursue a sustainable energy future
Conducting and facilitating applied water-related research, educating future water professionals, and connecting the academic community, water resource managers, and water stakeholders
Supporting public affairs education, engaging students in public service, and supporting academic research on public policy and democratic institutions
Housing the F. L. Overley Laboratory (horticulture, plant physiology, soil sciences, entomology, and plant pathology) and the USDA Tree Fruit Research Laboratory, among other laboratories and facilities, on 200 acres
Developing innovative, economical, and reliable technologies for highway and airport pavements
A collaboration between WSU and the University of Washington to provide tools for stormwater management and world-class stormwater research, including an extensive low-impact development research facility
Providing energy services, products, education, and information to advance environmental and economic well-being
Providing public education in gardening and environmental stewardship
Conducting research to sustain crop health and Washington growers’ productivity
Find out more about the University’s research pertaining to sustainable resources.
Sustainable Resources (pdf)