Washington State University Spending Wisely on Ag Research

WSU Dean André-Denis Wright at plant growth facility

Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences Dean André-Denis Wright poses by the college’s Plant Growth Facility. The school features a diverse portfolio of USDA-funded programs. Photo courtesy of WSU CAHNRS

For the second year in a row, Washington State University ranks No. 1 in USDA research and development expenditures. In the 2017 federal fiscal year, the latest period for which complete figures are available, WSU researchers spent $50.9 million of the USDA research and development funding committed to the university, leading more than 375 universities nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Higher Education Research and Development Survey. The expenditures also set a university record, increasing by $8 million over last year’s previous record.

The top USDA-funded, WSU-led projects include:

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  • A project to provide program management and technical services to the U.S. Agency for International Development and Tanzania’s Office of Economic Growth to support economic growth in Tanzania.
  • A National Institute of Food and Agriculture specialty crop initiative to reduce the impact of insect and disease problems in hops through the development of preventive and predictive strategies. Washington state’s Yakima Valley is home to one of the most fertile and productive hop-growing regions in the world.

Tracking the actual expenditure of USDA-sponsored research funds is considered the most consistent measure of externally-driven research support for a research university.
WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) expended nearly 76% of the USDA research dollars as reported by the NSF.

In fiscal year 2017, CAHNRS had a diverse portfolio of USDA-funded programs. The programs include providing testing and pathogen-free material to support the region’s multibillion dollar fruit tree, wine grape, and hops industries; the creation of the Genome Database for Rosaceae (GDR), which allows scientists to access and explore Rosaceae genetics, genomics, and breeding data through a suite of integrated data mining tools, speeding up research into better crops and stronger, healthier plants.

The USDA’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 WSU, unlike most research sites, USDA-ARS scientists work side by side with WSU faculty in labs on campus.