Dr. Henry Quesada
Dr. Henry Quesada

Quesada, Smith, and Chen awarded funding for “Eliminating marketing barriers to support the transition from methyl bromide fumigation to vacuum and steam treatment technology: The Case for Export Logs.” 

Thursday Fanfare! Congrats to SBIO’s Drs. Henry Quesada, Bob Smith and Zhangjing Chen who have been awarded funding from the USDA FSMIP program towards a new proposal they had submitted! This proposal was for a project entitled “Eliminating marketing barriers to support the transition from methyl bromide fumigation to vacuum and steam treatment technology: The Case for Export Logs.”

This project supports previous research conducted by SBIO’s Drs. Mark White and Zhangjing Chen on developing a non-chemical alternative to methyl bromide to treat export logs and potentially other agricultural products. The transition from chemical treatments to more environmentally conscious treatments is a tremendous step towards the reduction and mitigation of human activities impacting climate change.

The USDA FSMIP program described the project’s main goal as supporting “the transition from methyl bromide (MB) fumigation to non-chemical phytosanitary treatment methods for the treatment of export logs (which valued $1.2 billion in 2020) and other agricultural products.” They go on to explain that “over the last 10 years, the U.S. has started to focus on the gradual elimination of ozone-depleting chemicals like MB for phytosanitary treatment. A Virginia Tech (VT) team previously developed an effective alternative to MB using vacuum and steam technology.”

“Today, that solution has been brought to the market and is available for commercial use. And, this research team will conduct a study to identify the most feasible location for a vacuum and steam treatment facility in Virginia. This location will also serve West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The team will visit log importers and phytosanitary authorities in China and Japan to learn about the barriers and drivers of this new technology from their perspective. These countries represent 86% of the U.S. export log market.”

Everyone believes that “the outputs of this project will be highly beneficial not only to the export log industry but to other agricultural commodities that can be treated using steam and vacuum such as fruits, vegetables, cotton, rice, straw, and seeds. In addition, using environmentally friendly treatment technologies will help gain market penetration in alternative markets such as the European Union.”

So, in short, what comes next? Quesada and his team will work with current log exporters, the Office of Economic Development at Virginia Tech, and state agencies to find an ideal location in Virginia to build a new facility to treat our export logs using vacuum and steam, which is the new technology developed by Drs. White and Chen. In addition, they will travel to China, Japan, and Canada to capture their industries’ perceptions on this new treatment method and how to implement it here in the US.

The official announcement from the USDA: https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/FSMIPFY21DescriptionofFundedProjects.pdf