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Groundcover and leafhopper management for X disease

Last week, WSU invited Professor Emeritus Alexander Purcell from UC Berkeley, an entomologist who was a key component for the California X disease abatement program in the 1980’s, to tour orchards in Wenatchee and Yakima and meet with researchers and representatives of the Washington cherry industry.   After joint discussions, we think leafhoppers are moving into orchards while feeding on orchard broadleaf weeds in the groundcover before moving onto cherry or stone fruit trees. Indeed, last week we did find leafhopper vectors while sweep net sampling orchard groundcover weeds. Therefore, groundcover is likely an important part of X disease transmission. There is a wide range of potential methods to combat this problem, and we encourage you to treat the problem of the groundcover as a source of leafhoppers within the philosophy of your orchard management program. Any herbicide treatments to remove ground cover weeds should be paired with insecticide treatments to kill leafhoppers that are stimulated to move from the groundcover to trees.

As a reminder, X disease infects trees for the life of the tree, so all orchard blocks should be treated for leafhoppers, including non-bearing blocks. Sampling can be conducted with yellow sticky cards to monitor effectiveness of treatments.



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Don Llewellyn to Share Extension Advances as Journal Editor

Curating and sharing information that helps Extension agents across the nation improve their communities, Don Llewellyn, associate professor with the WSU Department of Animal Sciences and Livestock Extension Specialist with WSU Extension, has been named editor of the Journal of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA).

A scientist who helps eastern Washington producers improve nutrition and management for their herds, Llewellyn will assume editorship for the December 2019 issue.

Read full article

Don Llewellyn helping a 4-H youth at fair.

Pressure Gauge Testing

The long winter is finally gone, temperatures are rising, and the garden has been planted.  Now is the perfect time to ensure your pressure canner is working properly, before harvesting begins!

The USDA recommends pressure canners with dial gauges be tested annually.  Why?  Testing the gauge tells you whether your gauge is working properly.  An accurate gauge is necessary to make sure your home canned foods are safe.  Only dial gauges need annual testing.  Weighted gauges stay accurate unless they are damaged.

Pressure canning is the only recommended method for canning meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables. The risk associated with these low-acid foods is botulism poisoning, if they are not processed properly.  Only pressure canning will allow food to be heated to and held for a specified time at 240 degrees Fahrenheit which is hot enough to destroy the bacterial spores that emit toxins.

Dial Gauge

Dial gauges like this one need to be tested every year to ensure accuracy.

Weighted Gauge

Weighted gauges like this one do not need tested.

Free Gauge Testing

WSU Benton County Extension offers free testing of dial gauge pressure canners.

Please call to make an appointment: (509) 735-3551 or email

Check out our Food Preservation page for resources to help you preserve safely.

Spring 2019 Tree Fruit Spray Update

  • Apple and Pear Trees:
    Codling Moth eggs will start hatching May 9th (385 DD), first sprays should be applied by May 12th. (Mother’s Day)
  • Cherry Trees:
    Western Cherry Fruit Fly sprays should start May 19th (1100 DD)
  • Spinosad insecticide is recommended for control of both Codling Moth larvae and Western Cherry Fruit Fly.
  • Continued sprays should be applied per label until all fruit is removed from tree.

Visit the Horticultural Pest & Disease page for additional information.

Home Depot Donates to the Demonstration Garden

The Demonstration Garden located at Grange Park behind the Mid-Columbia Libraries Kennewick Branch is a community asset of beauty and inspiration. An ongoing project of the Master Gardeners of Benton and Franklin Counties, the garden was developed to demonstrate, test, and teach gardening in its many forms in our unique climate and soils. The garden is supported by Master Gardener volunteers and is funded entirely by donations from individuals, organizations, and local businesses.

Visitors to the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden can explore more than two dozen distinctive and ever changing theme gardens. The gardens currently feature over 50 trees, 800 roses, 100 shrubs, and even a children’s garden at the serene 2 1/2-acre site. This past year over 7,000 pounds of fresh produce was donated to the Tri-City Food Bank from the vegetable garden.

Home Depot (East Kennewick Store) recently replaced six raised beds in the Entry Way Garden. It was exciting to see the Home Depot orange shirts arriving with materials, equipment and many workers. They immediately went to work and in five hours six beds were removed and replaced. Home Depot has continued to support the Demonstration Garden for many years. It is great to see such support from the community that allows the Demonstration Garden to continue to be a great place to visit and learn.

Thank you to Home Depot and all of our volunteers!

Six raised beds were built by volunteers

Photos by Dennis Fife.

Volunteers and donations from Home Depot helped build six new raised beds

New WSU publications released

The WSU Extension online bookstore has released new publications that are free to download on their website.

  • An Economic Analysis of Three Soil Improvement Practices in the Columbia Basin, Washington State
    Peter Tozer , Suzette Galinato , Andy McGuire , David Granatstein
    FREE online PDF download.
    Compost, cover crops, or no-till/min-till? Get a cost and benefits comparison of all three in this publication.
  • Vineyard Nutrient Management in Washington State (Replaces PNW622 Publication)
    Michelle Moyer , Stacy D. Singer , Joan Davenport , Gwen-Alyn Hoheisel
    FREE online PDF download.
    Understanding the nutrient requirements of perennial fruit crops is paramount to the longevity and sustainability of a commercial operation. This guide provides basic information on grape plant nutritional requirements, and how those nutrients become available for use. It also provides specific information relating to vineyards; how site, soil, and viticulture practices influence nutrient uptake. Information on how to soil and tissue test for vine nutrient status is described, as well as specific recommendations for correcting nutrient deficiencies, broken down by the key macro and micronutrients required by grapevines.
  • 2018 Pest Management Guide for Grapes in Washington
    FREE online PDF download.  Hard copies may be purchased at our Prosser Extension office.
    Guide to control of diseases, insects, weeds, and vertebrate pests on commercial grapes. Weed controls – both soil-active and foliage-applied herbicides – are outlined for new and established plantings. Disease and insect controls are coordinated to pest and crop stage.

Here are a few other recent publications that may interest you.

  • Protecting Your Identity
    Chris Koehler
    FREE online PDF download.
    Identity theft is one of the fastest growing white collar crimes. Regardless of the form it takes, identity thieves need to have at least some of your personally identifiable information. This publication cautions against providing opportunities for thieves to access this information and provides tips and tactics to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
  • Lady Beetles: Should We Buy Them For Our Gardens? (Home Garden Series)
    Linda Chalker-Scott , Michael R. Bush
    FREE online PDF download.
    Lady beetles are a popular biocontrol method for aphids in home gardens and landscapes. Many gardeners purchase these insects at nurseries, garden centers, and online. This publication discusses the drawbacks to using purchased lady beetles and suggests some alternatives for attracting and retaining local species.
  • Washington Bumble Bees in Home Yards and Gardens
    Dave Pehling , Jenny Glass
    FREE online PDF download.
    To better conserve and protect bumble bees in home landscapes in the Pacific Northwest, this publication aims to develop public awareness and appreciation of bumble bees and their role in pollination. It will also help readers recognize bumble bees, understand their general life cycle, and suggest things homeowners and the general public can do to encourage these fascinating and beneficial insects.
  • Raised Beds – Deciding if the Benefit Your Vegetable Garden (Home Garden Series), revised 6/2017
    Craig Cogger
    FREE online PDF download.
    Many vegetable gardeners use raised beds, but other gardeners successfully grow fruit and vegetables directly in native soil. Which system is best for you? This fact sheet will describe the uses of raised beds, and weigh their benefits and disadvantages, giving you information to decide if they are a worthwhile investment in your garden. The fact sheet also includes some basic tips on raised bed soil preparation and management.

You can find more online publications at the WSU Extension Learning Library or the Extension Online Store




Extension scientist Steve Norberg leads search for genetic key to better alfalfa

Harvester working in a Washington alfalfa field
Alfalfa is harvested in the Northwest. WSU Extension scientists are studying genes to help develop more digestible varieties.


Forage scientist Steve Norberg will lead a two-year, $250,000 effort to discover the genes behind better alfalfa, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

“Our state is known for its alfalfa,” said Norberg, Washington State University Extension Specialist in animal feeds and forage. “We’re aiming to make Washington’s excellent alfalfa even better.”

An important part of the state’s $539 million hay industry, alfalfa is grown on more than 400,000 acres throughout Washington. Produced most intensively in the irrigated Columbia River Basin, alfalfa is exported around the world, notably to China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where demand has been rising steadily in recent years.

Picture of Steve Norberg
Steve Norberg, WSU Forage Extension Specialist

Grown for three to five years at a time without tillage, alfalfa improves the soil, adding nutrients, organic matter and structure while eliminating disease. A nutritious feed that is high in protein, alfalfa improves the soil and provides habitat for wildlife.

Dairies are major customers of alfalfa hay, and dairy cows consume large quantities of alfalfa-fortified feed.

“We’re looking for genes that can be bred into traditional alfalfa varieties, making them more digestible,” said Norberg. “”Dairy cows need to eat a lot to produce milk, and less fiber means more nutrition and less waste.”

Using the university’s germplasm repository, scientists are studying 150 alfalfa varieties from around the world, along with 50 from local commercial varieties.

Researchers will plant them next spring at Prosser, Wash., La Grande, Ore., and Twin Falls, Idaho. Next summer, they’ll sample plants and hay for genetic markers that denote lower fiber and better digestibility.

“Once we find promising gene markers, we’ll share that with commercial breeders, so they can start selecting for those traits,” Norberg said. “Our discoveries will speed up improvement in alfalfa seed programs, worldwide.”

Joining in the project are WSU faculty members Don Llewellyn and Steven Fransen; USDA Agricultural Research Service scientist Long-Xi Yu; University of Idaho specialist Glenn Shewmaker; Oregon State University forage specialist Guojie Wang; and University of Wisconsin scientist Dave Combs.

  • Learn more about forage research at Washington State University here.

Have you met our new 4-H Coordinator?

Meet the newest member of our team, Lauren Jones Romney!

Lauren was recently hired as the Benton-Franklin 4-H Extension Coordinator. She moved to Pasco in May of 2017 soon after her graduation from Utah State University where she graduated with a degree in Animal Science. She was born and raised in Chihuahua, Mexico and grew up working on her family’s cattle ranch. Lauren will be taking over management of the 4-H program and offering more countywide 4-H project development opportunities. Lauren can be reached by email at

Steve Norberg receives $40,000 Alfalfa Checkoff grant from NAFA

Picture of Steve Norberg, Regional Forage Specialist, Washington State University Extension
Steve Norberg, Regional Forage Specialist, Washington State University Extension

Our own Regional Forage Specialist, Steve Norberg, was successful in receiving a $40,000 grant in the first ever alfalfa checkoff with a grant entitled “Developing Practical Phosphorus and Potassium Tissue Test Recommendations and Utilizing Struvite in Modern Alfalfa Systems”.

This work will better enable producers to know when to fertilize their alfalfa with phosphorus and potassium and how to use a processed dairy manure fertilizer called struvite which is a dry granular material for the Columbia Basin alfalfa.

Co-Investigators on the grant include: Steve Fransen, Don Lewellyn, Joe Harrison and Liz Whitefield.

For more information visit

First Diagnosed Case of Porcine Delta Coronavirus Detected in Washington State

First Diagnosed Case of Porcine Delta Coronavirus Detected in Washington State

The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL) received confirmation of a new (to Washington) enteric disease in pigs from a farm in eastern Washington that was having a large mortality in baby pigs.  WADDL sent the samples to a Midwestern lab for DNA testing which determined the virus was  porcine delta coronavirus (PDCoV).  This virus is relatively new to the United States and is related to Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus, Transmissible Gastroenteritis (TGE) and Swine Enteric Coronavirus (SECoV).

An ongoing investigation by the Washington Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian’s Office will try to determine how the disease may have entered the state.  The mortalities have stopped now that the sows have developed a natural immunity to the disease.

Please contact WSDA State Veterinarian’s office (360-902-1881) or WADDL for any follow up questions.

Dr. Brian Joseph, DVM, WSDA State Veterinarian


Porcine Delta Coronavirus Facts

As noted above by Dr. Brian Joseph, DVM, WSDA State Veterinarian, Porcine Delta Coronavirus (PDCoV) was detected in a herd of pigs in Washington State in mid-May.  PDCoV is a coronavirus that causes diarrhea and vomiting in all ages groups and mortality in nursing piglets.  PDCoV was first detected in pigs in Hong Kong in 2012, and was first detected in the US in February 2014 on the heels of the severe outbreak or Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV is different type of coronavirus) that started in May of 2013 in the US. Mortality rates vary widely on pigs infected with PDCoV, however mortality rates have been much lower than those experienced with the PEDv outbreak of 2013/2014; highest mortality rate is in nursing piglets under 14 days of age where there is no colostrum immunity to protect the piglets.  There is no vaccine for PDCoV, however biosecurity at the farm and with transportation vehicles can help prevent the spread of PDCoV and other swine dieses.  Humans and other animals cannot get infected with PDCoV and it is safe to eat pork as there is no risk to food safety or human health from PDCoV.

An informative website outlining PDCoV is:  Also, the Pork Information Gateway,, has excellent resources about Cornavirus Diseases and biosecurity for both commercial producers and youth producers.  It is important to remind youth showing pigs or transporting pigs for pre-weigh/tag events to help do their part to protect not only their pigs from diseases but other pigs back in their area.  The Pork Information Gateway has an excellent video for youth on biosecurity practices for their pigs and equipment involved with raising pigs at .  This specific disease outbreak has not been associated with any fairs or show pigs, however as show season starts up and more pigs are transported it is good to remind our younger and new producers about good biosecurity practices when raising pigs.

By Sarah M. Smith, WSU Extension


Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) Detected in Washington Swine Herd

“Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus was recently (late May) diagnosed in a small, swine farm in Washington by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory.  Please contact your veterinarian concerning implementing vaccination and management measures to reduce the potential incidence of and mitigate the effects of this disease syndrome,”  Dr. Brian Joseph, DVM, Washington State Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian.

PRRS was first recognized in the US in the mid-1980’s and was called “mystery swine disease”.  A study by the National Pork Board (NPB) in 2011 reported that PRRS Cost the industry $664 million annually.  Improved understanding of the disease, pig production, animal health care and management have been able to control the incidences, severity, and impact this disease has had on pig farms.  Because Washington state has a small swine industry compared to the Midwest, and the fact that most of our swine herds are isolated from one another, we have not had the incidences/experiences with many of these diseases.  This is both good and bad—because of isolation we have been able to keep the disease out, but we also lack experience of dealing with these diseases when they present themselves (which can lead to panic).  We have many new and small producers raising pigs and we have many more pigs being transported to Washington state than in previous years—especially this time of year with show pigs moving around to shows and pre-weigh/tag events.  So with these new reported diseases in the state, this is good reminders for both experienced and new swine farmers to implement effective herd health programs, that also involve strict biosecurity plans.

“PRRS exist in two distinct forms, reproductive and respiratory, and infected farms may experience one or both.  A variety of factors, including swine genetics, the specific PRRS virus variant in the herd, health status of the herd, ages of the animals involved, and pregnancy status, may influence the signs.  As a consequence of mutation and recombination, new genetic variants of the PRRS virus appear frequently.  Constant genetic change in PRRS virus may explain: 1) the wide variation in clinical disease observed in the field; 2)why  prior exposure to one PRRS virus variant may not provide protective immunity against other variants; and 3) why certain vaccines may not be protective in some hers or under certain circumstances.”  The Pork Information Gateway, has excellent factsheets about PRRS and PRRS Control/Elimination.  In addition, “The Pig Site” has a good outline of PRRS and symptoms at .

Again, we often talk about the importance of a good biosecurity plan, however for it to be effective, it must be strictly followed.  As stated above, in Washington we have been fortunate to not only have low exposure to many of the swine diseases, but isolation (great diseases between swine herds) has helped decreases ability of exposure and spread for diseases like PRRS, PEDv, and Delta Coronavirus.  With these diseases (PRRS and Delta Coronavirus) being diagnosed in Washington swine herds recently and with many more pigs being transported within and across state lines, it is critical that we implement effective biosecurity practices and herd health plans to keep Washington swine herds healthy.  The Pork Information Gateway also has excellent biosecurity factsheets for farms of all sizes and youth raising pigs,

By Sarah M. Smith, WSU Extension


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