Food Safety and Security
Colleges: CAHNRS, CVM, VCEA
Ensuring a secure supply of safe food, both globally and regionally, is central to WSU’s land grant mission. Plant and animal diseases cause a significant security risk and evolution of new pathogenic strains causes uncertainty. A major emphasis in the Global Animal Health program is learning to slow the evolution of antibiotic resistance in animal and human pathogens and mitigating the effects of resistant strains. Similarly, weed and insect pests and pre- and postharvest pathogens of Washington’s many crops continue to evolve to forms that are resistant to herbicides, pesticides, and genetic resistances and these are continuously monitored and characterized. Research into alternative non-chemical pest management strategies is a major emphasis for managing herbicide resistant weeds and pests for integrated control with a reduced reliance on chemical inputs. Crop and animal improvement (breeding) programs focus on genetic methods for preventing losses from biotic and abiotic stresses, adaptation to changing weather patterns, and combatting other problems such as fertility. Increasing food production with minimal but optimized inputs—like water, fuel, and fertilizer—is a major focus of our cropping systems research so that we can conserve natural resources and increase profitability. This includes development of strategies to adapt irrigated agriculture to years with low snowpack volume, such as occurred during the 2015 drought. The Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems (CPAAS) group conducts activities to promote advances in imaging, machine learning, and robotic technology for the development of automating processes in our most labor-intensive agricultural systems like tree fruit and wine grapes. Research efforts to reduce food wastes include novel methods for food preservation, quality, and packaging. Sustainable and secure production of food is an area where the missions of WSU and the US Department of Agriculture align very well. WSU provides a unique environment to support interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research and entrepreneurial opportunities across the full range of food production and handling. Over the last three years, WSU has received more funding from USDA for plant and animal research than any other university in the country.