Grain and Fruit Tree Breeding
Washington State has a diverse agricultural industry (~300 different commercial crops) and is the main producer of many of these, including apples, cherries, pears, raspberries, peas, and wheat. To stay competitive, our agricultural industry requires improved varieties of these region-specific crops as well as varieties of other crops that are adapted to our unique climatic and soil conditions. WSU breeding programs are aimed at improving water and nutrient use efficiency, pest resistance, resilience in variable environments, and generating unique quality traits for specific markets. Production of elite varieties requires collaborative efforts from plant pathologists, entomologists, physiologists, and biochemists. WSU plant breeders and their bioinformatic cooperators also conduct research on computational genomics breeding methodology to improve the speed and ability to recognize superior genotypes from large numbers of lines or individual plants. High throughput phenomics platforms are also developed to identify plants with superior traits using techniques like hyperspectral imaging and developmental analyses with controlled environmental heterogeneity. Because of our success in developing improved varieties and their impact on Pacific Northwest agriculture, WSU enjoys an unusually high level of support from the industry and federal grant programs and has developed close working relationships with US Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers who are located on campus and hold academic appointments. This has enabled WSU to develop one of the most diverse and impactful crop improvement programs in the world.