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Protecting fruit;aiding growers

After a quick calculation, Jim McFerson has the number. Fifty million dollars. Five percent of the annual value of Washington state’s billion-dollar apple crop.

McFerson, who manages the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, offered this estimation of the potential total value to Washington apple growers of Raynox, a patented spray-on product that protects apples from sunburn as they grow.

Raynox is just one of three fruit protection products recently developed at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee by Larry Schrader, professor of plant physiology.

Schrader’s work, McFerson said, has been of significant benefit to Washington’s orchardists: “Dr. Schrader has a unique ability to do great science and to find a way to create a great product. He can do the research, then develop the solution, then commercialize the product. This is an ideal example of what university research can do to benefit us all.”

Schrader’s three products add millions of dollars to the value of the state’s apple and cherry crops. Raynox, a sun-blocking film sprayed directly on the fruit, controls apple losses due to sunburn damage. RainGard, also a film sprayed onto the ripening fruit, reduces rain-caused splitting and cracking in sweet cherries.

The Fruit Surface Temperature (FST) sensor is an electronic sensing device that alerts apple growers when rising fruit temperatures require activation of evaporative cooling sprinklers. The FST system not only protects apples from sunburn, but also reduces water usage through precise monitoring.

Schrader developed all three products after he started working at the Wenatchee center in 1995. Before Wenatchee, he was in Pullman, serving as the dean of what was then the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.

“I decided to return to my first love — research,” Schrader said. “I started a second career in Wenatchee, and it was certainly the right choice for me.

“I like the challenge of formidable problems. Finding the solution to the serious problem of sunburn in apples was very rewarding. It was very gratifying to hear from growers that my work has been important to their business survival.”

For additional information on Raynox and Schrader’s research visit www.wsutoday.wsu.edu, then search the word “Raynox.”

 

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