A panel presentation sponsored by the ACES Office of International Programs featured three recent recipients of Borlaug Global Food Security graduate research grants. The three panel members, all graduate students in the College of ACES, shared their experiences and advice for applying for these coveted fellowships.
The panel included: Liana Acevedo-Siaca (Crop Sciences); Anna Fairbairn (Agricultural and Consumer Economics); and Alex Park (Crop Sciences).
The U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security graduate research grant program supports exceptional graduate students who are interested in developing a component of their graduate research in a developing country setting and in collaboration with a mentor from an International Agricultural Research Center (IARC), or a qualifying National Agricultural Research System (NARS) unit. The grants have a maximum value of $15,000 for students applying for 6-month long international research stays; $20,000 for 1-year long international research stays; and $40,000 for 2-year long international research stays. Currently this program is only open to U.S. citizens.
Visit the application website for more information on how to apply: http://www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/food/borlaugfellows/research-fellowship/index.php
The three awardees offered valuable advice for applying for these fellowships:
- Allow 2-4 months to prepare your application, and especially allow time to identify an onsite mentor. The annual deadline generally falls in mid-April.
- Do your homework to find ongoing Feed-the-Future projects in the country you have identified. Ideally align your proposed project to these existing projects.
Be strategic about your onsite mentor (required for application).
- Use your contacts at Illinois to help identify onsite mentors.
- Make sure your project aligns with the potential mentor’s existing work.
- Look for a higher ranking mentor to help you work through bureaucracy.
- Strongly consider first applying for the Summer Food Security Institute: http://www.purdue.edu/discoverypark/food/borlaugfellows/summer-institute/. Many of the students who attend the institute end up being awarded graduate research grants. The application deadline for each summer is generally Feb. 1.
- Speak with Purdue, who administers the program, early on in your application process if you have any questions. They are very transparent and helpful.
- Know that you can break up your visits and research. For example, a one-year grant can be planned for two visits that are six months each.
Work out your budget early in the application process. Examples of items the Borlaug support is generally used for include:
- Airline tickets
- Research and residence permits
- Health insurance
- Travel for advisor
- Lodging and accommodations
- In-country travel expenses
In total, six ACES graduate students, including the three who participated in the panel, were named as 2015 U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security. Their projects were previously summarized here:
International Summer Immersion Program completes seventh year
Twelve students from China’s Zhejiang University successfully completed the 2016 International Summer Immersion Program (ISIP) on August 12.
The six-week ISIP program coordinated by the ACES Office of International Programs included a research apprenticeship with an ACES faculty member as well as a series of educational seminars and cultural field trips. The program culminated with a poster session, where the students had the opportunity to showcase a research project, and a celebratory luncheon and certificate presentation.
The students, many of whom hope to return to the University of Illinois for graduate study, left with new skills, fond memories, and strong friendships.
Fangying Qui, a participant, said, “The ISIP program will benefit my future educational and career prospects. I worked with Prof. Margarita Teran-Garcia to study childhood obesity and the difference in recommended dietary guidelines in China compared to America. I both my academic communication and professional skills.”
Yuefan Wu, who worked with Dr. Yilan Xu, said, “The program not only taught me how to think critically but also educated me how about research can make changes possible.”
In addition to the research work, the students enjoyed an active social program that included cultural activities in Springfield, Chicago, St. Louis, and on campus.
In the past seven years, more than 130 students have graduated from this unique program. Its quality and value have been repeatedly recognized by faculty and students at our key partner universities. At Zhejiang University, the program has repeatedly received the “Best Summer Group Program” award.
OIP is thankful for our ACES faculty mentors and their graduate students without whom this program would not be possible:
Crop Sciences: Dr. Matthew Hudson, Dr. Gustavo Caetano-Anolles, and Dr. Alexander Lipka
Agricultural & Consumer Economics: Dr. Yilan Xu
Agricultural & Biological Engineering: Dr. Xinlei Wang and Dr. Luis Rodriguez
Animal Sciences: Dr. Megan Dailey
Food Science and Human Nutrition: Dr. Hannah Holscher, Dr. Margarita Teran-Garcia, Dr. Hao Feng, Dr. Keith Cadwallader, Dr. Yong-Su Jin
The College of ACES’ longstanding relationship with Zhejiang University dates back to 2002 when an ACES delegation first visited the University. Currently ACES have several ongoing collaborations with Zhejiang, and this program continues to facilitate strategic partnerships with this university and other universities. Past programs have included students from South Korea’s Chungnam National University, and next year’s program may expand to include students from Mexico and Ghana.
For more information about the ISIP, visit: http://intlprograms.aces.illinois.edu/content/international-summer-immersion-program.
Too early to sell the 2017 soybean crop?
URBANA, Ill. – Soybean prices during the last five months of the 2015-16 marketing year averaged much higher than during the first seven months of the year. According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, the average daily bid price at central Illinois locations was $8.67 during the first seven months and $10.28 during the last five months of the year. Those daily prices ranged from $8.40 on March 1, 2016 to $11.58 on June 30, 2016.
“Through the first half of the 2015-16 marketing year, the soybean market traded on the basis of prospective year-ending stocks of U.S soybeans of 450 to 460 million bushels,” says Darrel Good. “The 2015 U.S crop was very large, following an equally large crop in 2014; the 2016 South American crop was expected to be record large; U.S. exports were expected to be 150 million bushels smaller than in the previous year; and U.S. producers were expected to expand planted acreage in 2016 following the weather-induced decline in 2015.”
As it turned out, Good says the South American crop was 225 million bushels smaller and U.S. exports were 250 million bushels larger than projected in March, U.S. producers increased soybean plantings less than expected, and the USDA’s Sept. 1 Grain Stocks report to be released on Sept. 30 is expected to show marketing-year-ending stocks of only195 million bushels. If confirmed, year-ending stocks will have been below 200 million bushels for two consecutive years following early year expectations for stocks to exceed 450 million bushels. Ending stocks have exceeded 200 million bushels only once since 2008.
“Soybean prices have now receded from the summer highs, with central Illinois bid prices currently averaging about $9.30, still about 75 cents higher than prices a year earlier,” Good says. “Prices have declined as new-crop soybeans have become available and have alleviated some of the tightness in old-crop supplies, resulting in a much weaker basis than experienced earlier in the month. In addition, early yield reports tend to confirm USDA’s forecast of a record-high U.S. average yield this year, with some potential that the yield will exceed the current forecast of 50.6 bushels per acre.”
With consumption during the 2016-17 marketing year already projected to be record large, Good says an increase in the average yield forecast (without an unexpected decline in the estimate of harvested acreage) would likely result in an increase in the current projection of year-ending stocks of 365 million bushels.
According to Good, two additional factors point to the potential for additional weakness in soybean prices as the 2016-17 marketing year unfolds. First, is the likely rebound in South American production in 2017.
“The USDA expects a modest increase in soybean acreage for harvest in South America next year,” Good says. “Although an increase of only 1.5 percent is currently projected (mostly in Brazil), normal yield levels result in a projected 3.5 percent (220 million bushels) year-over-year increase in South American production. If that large crop materializes, the pace of U.S. exports would be expected to experience the normal sharp seasonal decline beginning in the spring of 2017.
“A second factor that could contribute to lower soybean prices is an increase in soybean acreage in the U.S. in 2017,” Good says. “Although it is too early to form solid expectations about U.S. acreage, low prices of other commodities relative to soybeans would be expected to result in some switch away from those crops to soybeans. In particular, the large increase in corn acreage in 2016, prospects for relatively large year-ending corn inventories, and the relatively high cost of producing corn would be expected to result in fewer corn acres in 2017.”
Futures prices for the 2017 corn and wheat crops are higher than prices for the 2016 crop, but those prices are still low relative to prices for the 2017 soybean crop. The USDA’s Winter Wheat Seedings report released in the second week of January 2017 will provide the first indication of acreage response to current price levels.
Good says the size of the 2017 soybean crop will still largely hinge on the average yield. “It will be interesting to observe if three consecutive years of above trend U.S. average soybean yields will alter early expectations for the average yield in 2017.”
Although the potential for larger South American and U.S. soybean crops in 2017 are widely recognized, prices for the 2017 crop remain well supported. November 2017 futures are currently trading only about 3 cents below November 2016 futures and July 2018 futures are 19 cents below July 2017 futures. Bids for 2017 harvest delivery in central Illinois are near $9.15.
“With so much production uncertainty over the next 10 months, a strong pace of Chinese buying, and the recent history of smaller than expected year-ending stocks, it is not completely surprising that the market is not yet reflecting the potential for a growing surplus of soybeans during the 2017-18 marketing year,” Good says. “The question for producers is whether or not current prices offer a pricing opportunity for a portion of the 2017 crop. The answer is more likely to be yes for those who intend to increase soybean acreage in response to current price relationships.”
"Digital Wellness and Food Security: The role of the media in safeguarding/endangering the integrity of information"
Lucy Ellis Lounge of the Foreign Languages Building
Sponsored by the Center for African Studies.
Ms. Rachel Fischer and a number of master level library students from the University of Pretoria in South Africa will speak on the topic of “Digital Wellness and Food Security: The role of the media in safeguarding/endangering the integrity of information.”
Our speakers note that “while not all industries are focused on food security, most industries and individuals do make use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). By allowing for cross-discipline interaction, we are able to have continuous dialogues on matter impacting on our digital and real-life wellbeing.”
As always, our guests will invite your questions and participation after the talk. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday!
Farming with forests
- In the race to feed a growing population, it is important to consider sustainability.
- University of Illinois researchers are promoting the practice of agroforestry—the intentional planting of trees and shrubs with crops or livestock—to achieve sustainability goals.
- A number of practical and policy challenges have prevented adoption of agroforestry practices on a large scale in the U.S.
- If adopted more widely, agroforestry could benefit wildlife, soil and water quality, and the global climate.
URBANA, Ill. – Feeding the world’s burgeoning population is a major challenge for agricultural scientists and agribusinesses, who are busy developing higher-yielding crop varieties. Yet University of Illinois researchers stress that we should not overlook sustainability in the frenzy to achieve production goals.
More than a third of the global land area is currently in food production. This figure is likely to expand, leading to deforestation, habitat loss, and weakening of essential ecosystem services, according to U of I agroecologist Sarah Taylor Lovell and graduate student Matt Wilson. To address these and other problems, they are promoting an unconventional solution: agroforestry.
Agroforestry is the intentional combination of trees and shrubs with crops or livestock. Or, as Wilson simply puts it, “You stick trees or shrubs in other stuff.”
The researchers describe five agroforestry practices:
- Alley cropping: field crops planted between rows of trees.
- Silvopasture: trees added to pasture systems.
- Riparian buffers: trees planted between field edges and river edges.
- Windbreaks: trees planted adjacent to planted fields and perpendicular to the prevailing wind pattern.
- Forest farming: harvest or cultivation of products—such as mushrooms, ginseng, or ornamental wood—in established forests.
Each of the five practices can benefit conventional and organic agroecosystems in similar ways. Woody plants can provide habitat for beneficial wildlife, prevent soil erosion, sequester atmospheric carbon, and absorb nutrient runoff while providing farmers with additional streams of income in the form of lumber or specialty products like nuts or berries. Each specific practice also provides unique benefits. For example, trees added to pasture landscapes provide shade to grazing livestock.
Farmers might be concerned about the trees casting too much shade on crops, but it is simply a matter of choosing the right complement of species. For example, the combination of winter wheat and walnut trees in an alley cropping system works well.
“Winter wheat grows in the late winter or early spring, but the walnut doesn’t leaf out until late spring,” Wilson explains. “So, when you mix the two together, you’ve got the benefit of having two crops growing in different parts of the year.”
Lovell adds, “The grain crop growing near the trees can actually force the trees to grow deeper roots. This can benefit individual trees because the root zone they’re forced to occupy gives them greater access to water.”
European farmers are ahead of their U.S. counterparts in terms of their adoption of agroforestry practices. “It’s very common in Europe. A lot of farmers are already doing hedgerows, which are similar to windbreaks, as part of their agroforestry systems, and even more integrated systems are fairly common,” Lovell says.
Wilson suggests that there are cultural barriers to adopting agroforestry practices in the U.S. “We’ve had some farmers share sentiments like, ‘why should I plant trees? My grandpa spent his whole life tearing trees out so he could put crops in.’ There’s definitely some perception that trees are not good in a farm landscape. Trying to overcome that has been a challenge,” he says.
Another obstacle in the U.S. is a policy mindset that treats production and conservation as completely separate functions of the land. For example, farmers are prohibited from harvesting or selling products from land designated for conservation, as in the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program. There are USDA programs that support certain agroforestry practices such as wind breaks, but government support for more integrated practices is generally lacking. That’s why Lovell’s team is advocating for farmers to utilize marginal land.
“We are working with farmers to identify lands that are less productive, sensitive, or marginal, and suggesting those as the places to start transitioning,” Lovell explains. Or, she suggests, farmers could plant young “edibles” (trees and shrubs bearing fruit or nuts) in a CRP easement. By the time the CRP lease expires in 10 to 15 years, the trees would be mature, bearing edible—and potentially profitable—products.
The long timeframe needed for trees to establish and mature may discourage some farmers, but the researchers offer a strategy for the transition period. In an alley cropping system with hazelnut and chestnut trees, for example, they suggest growing edible shrubs and pasture between rows. Farmers can expect to start harvesting and selling hay almost immediately, and will start seeing fruit production from the shrubs within a couple of years. Eight to ten years after establishment, trees will begin producing nuts.
“We’re looking at economic strategies to maximize profit from the very beginning,” Lovell says.
Despite the challenges, the researchers insist the environmental benefits are worth the trouble. “If you have trees in a system, you’re holding soil, preventing runoff, and ameliorating greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, you are getting a harvestable product. This combination of environmental services and agricultural production makes agroforestry an exciting opportunity to both feed the world and save the planet,” Wilson says.
The article, “Agroforestry—The next step in sustainable and resilient agriculture,” is published in Sustainability. The research was supported by the Jonathan Baldwin Turner Fellowship though the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. The full text of the article is freely available at the journal’s website.
Land-grant universities create animal feed database
URBANA, Ill. – Twenty-one land-grant institutions, including the University of Illinois, as well as partner organizations are collaborating to provide researchers, Extension professionals, regulators, feed industries, and producers with up-to-date, research-based information on the nutrient needs of agricultural animals.
Since forming in 2010, the National Animal Nutrition Program has created a database of animal feed ingredients. The database is a vital tool to inform cost-effective production decisions, animal welfare policies and procedures, and to guarantee the safety and nutritional value of consumers’ food.
Ryan Dilger, an associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at University of Illinois serves on the project committee.
Activities conducted by the program aid in the development of feeding strategies and research to enhance animal health, which allows for better productivity and lowered costs. Consumers will also benefit from safer, more nutritious meat, dairy, and eggs.
So far, the program has collected and sorted 1.5 million feed ingredient records to create a reliable database that is used by organizations in over 30 countries, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
The National Animal Nutrition Program is a National Research Support Project supported by the Agricultural Experiment Stations with funds administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The feed database is only one of many accomplishments of the NANP since its inception in 2010.
For a list of the participating land-grant universities and to read more about the database, go to http://agisamerica.org/twenty-one-land-grant-universities-create-animal-feed-database/. For more information about the NANP, visit https://nanp-nrsp-9.org/.
Adapted from a press release from Agriculture Is America.
Webinar by Extension Forester Christopher Evans
Register for Webinar: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/registration/?RegistrationID=15245
Jumping worms are exotic earthworms that were first found in Illinois in 2015. These invaders have the potential to drastically alter the soil and plant communities, impacting both natural ecosystems and residential landscaping. In 2016, reports of new populations have been coming in from across the state.
Join Extension Forester Chris Evans for an in-depth update on jumping worms in Illinois. This one-hour webinar will provide an update on the distribution of jumping worms in Illinois, discuss new research on their impacts to natural and managed lands, remind everyone how to identify jumping worms, and provide information on reporting new populations.
Jumping Worms Update—Illinois
Webinar - October 4, 2-3pm
For more information:
Chris Evans— firstname.lastname@example.org, 618-695-3383