College of ACES
College News

I-BELIEF grant will train Illinois leaders in beef cattle nutrition

Published April 20, 2018
students with beef cattle

URBANA, Ill. – A new grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will provide over a quarter million dollars to train 20 undergraduate students in beef cattle nutrition research over the next four years. The unique program, known as the Illinois Beef Experiential Learning and Industry Exposure Fellowship (I-BELIEF), pulls underrepresented students from four public agricultural universities across the state to leverage the research resources available within the University of Illinois system.

“One of the things we’re excited about is strengthening the relationship with our partner institutions: Illinois State University, Western Illinois University, and Southern Illinois University. Illinois is unique in having four public institutions with programs in animal science and beef cattle,” says Josh McCann, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I, and co-principal investigator on the grant.  

Dan Shike, associate professor in the department and co-principal investigator on the grant, adds that they’re hoping the program will diversify beef cattle industry leadership in the long term. “For example, we have a huge population of female undergraduates in the department, but there are very, very few female faculty members in beef nutrition and a pretty small number of female scientists in industry. We’re lucky to have female mentors in the program, but that trend has to change.”

The program will admit five rising juniors and seniors each year, two from U of I and one each from the other three universities. The heart of the program is a 10-week summer research experience at the Urbana Beef and Sheep Research Field Laboratory, Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, or Orr Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center. But McCann says the students will actively participate in the program throughout the year.

“The students are spread out across the state, but we’ll bring them together on the U of I campus multiple times each year. In May, they’ll come together for our launch program, which includes research training, team building, and leadership development activities to start getting them prepared for their summer,” he says. “During their summer research experience, they’ll go to the Illinois Beef Association summer conference as a group, which will give them some good industry exposure. At the end of the summer, they’ll come back together to recap the summer, but we’ll also bring in alumni that are industry experts to help students figure out a career action plan.”

Students will develop a research abstract and present their work at the Midwest Animal Science meeting the following spring. “I think the intensity of the summer and getting to a point where a student can present data publicly will require them to grow and stretch in ways they haven’t before,” McCann says.

The result, according to Shike and McCann, will be well-prepared graduates ready to launch into graduate school or a career in beef nutrition. “I think we’ve created a pretty elite undergraduate research experience that can really prepare them to be successful in anything they choose,” McCann says.

Shike adds, “I think a student who successfully completes this fellowship would be well positioned to be accepted as a grad student in a top-tier research institution.”

Students have been accepted to the program for 2018, but interested students can contact McCann, Shike, or faculty at the partner institutions to learn how to apply for the summer of 2019. Collaborating mentors include Keela Trennepohl of Western Illinois University; Rebecca Atkinson of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; Justin Rickard of Illinois State University; Travis Meteer and Teresa Steckler with Illinois Extension; and Frank Ireland, Wes Chapple, Miles Redden, at U of I.

Study provides video evidence of parental infanticide in a grassland bird species

Published April 19, 2018
Dickcissel singing

URBANA, Ill. – Baby birds go missing from their nests all the time. Usually, the disappearances are chalked up to predation, but in extremely rare cases, parents have been observed removing their own chicks from their nests. In a new study from the University of Illinois, the mysterious and fatal behavior is documented in dickcissels for the first time.

“In the early days, chicks can’t survive outside the nest. They can’t regulate their temperature,” says Jaime Coon, lead author of the paper and graduate student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at U of I.

The researchers didn’t go looking for birds committing parental infanticide. They had been monitoring dickcissel nests as part of a larger ongoing study examining the effects of fire, grazing, and herbicide application on the grassland-dwelling species. The team trained high-definition video cameras on the nests to monitor diet and feeding behavior.

Coon says these cameras are a huge leap forward for nest monitoring because they provide much greater resolution than traditional monitoring tools. The downside? The batteries only last a few hours. The fact that they caught this rare behavior in such a short timeframe is what makes the discovery so surprising.

In the video, which can be viewed online at, the mother bird can be seen grasping a chick by the leg and carrying it out of the nest. “It’s kind of brutal,” Coon says.

“Parental infanticide has been suspected in other birds, but it’s hard to confirm,” she adds. “Dickcissels have identifiable markings, so we were able to confirm it was the female parent that committed the infanticide. We saw her badge – a throat marking – and said, ‘that’s her nestling.’”

Coon can’t definitively explain the behavior, but she says the observation leads to interesting ecological and evolutionary questions and some possible explanations.

“It leads us to wonder why a mother bird would kill her own nestling – it doesn’t make sense,” she says. “It was five days old, so she had already put in a lot of investment. Why would she get rid of it?

“She could have been stressed, or might not have been able to find enough food. And it’s possible it could have been a reaction to being filmed.”

Because it was a one-time observation and not the goal of the original study, the researchers can’t prove their hypotheses. But the discovery leaves open the possibility that parental infanticide is happening more often than previously thought. And if so, Coon says, ecologists should be taking the phenomenon into account.

“In most nest-monitoring studies, the researchers come back and visit every one to three days. If you lose a nestling in between, you think maybe a snake stopped by and grabbed just one. Predators will do that sometimes,” she says. “But if you’re assuming it’s predation and using that in your analyses, that may be incorrect. It could be parental infanticide.”

The article, “An observation of parental infanticide in Dickcissels (Spiza americana): video evidence and potential mechanisms,” is published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology [DOI: 10.1676/16-202.1]. Coon’s co-authors include Scott Nelson, Iris Bradley, and James Miller, all from U of I. Additional co-author Amy West is affiliated with U of I and the University of South Dakota.

The work was supported by the Louis Agassiz Fuertes Grant from the Wilson Ornithological Society and the Frances M. Peacock Scholarship for Native Bird Habitat from The Garden Club of America. Partial funding for this project was also provided by the Competitive State Wildlife Grants program grant U-D F14AP00012 in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program; and by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project [875-918].

News Source:

Jaime Coon, 616-403-0856

University of Illinois joins national initiative to demonstrate impact of agricultural research

Published April 18, 2018

URBANA, Ill.—A new effort to boost federal investment in agricultural research—FedByScience—launched in Washington, D.C., bringing together the University of Illinois with 15 other public and private universities.

The initiative, timed with the release of the 2018 House Farm Bill, focuses on demonstrating to the public and policymakers the many ways that USDA-funded universities and researchers are creating a safer, healthier, and more productive food system.

“Food matters to everyone. Research investments in food and agriculture keep us ahead of critical problems and ahead of our competition in the fast-changing food and agricultural landscape. Federal investment is a vital component of the total food and ag research picture, effectively complementing private, state, and local investments at Illinois and in our research universities across the country,” said Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois.

FedByScience launched with two briefings for Senate and House of Representatives staff. The effort tells stories in which scientific discoveries and innovations have improved the way food is produced and distributed.

One of U of I’s contributions highlights the work of Kaiyu Guan, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, housed in the College of ACES. Guan’s USDA-funded research uses cutting-edge computational tools and advanced satellite technology to improve our understanding of how a changing climate has impacted and will impact crop production.

Guan commented, "We've reached a point that supercomputers and rich satellite data are needed to revolutionize agricultural research. In my program, by intimately working with computer scientists and engineers, we are developing technology to see every field in the U.S. Corn Belt every day, knowing the crop growing conditions and crop water demands, forecasting crop yield, and providing optimal management suggestions to farmers."

FedByScience co-chair and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green, said, “U.S. farmers are confronted by turbulent commodity markets, extreme weather, and an uneven economy. A stronger investment in agricultural research can provide the science and innovation that farmers need to navigate these obstacles. Universities are now joining together to ensure that our stories about the value of food and ag research are heard.”

Another U of I success story is from Dan Shike, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, housed in the College of ACES. Shike’s research improves beef cow and calf nutrition, leading to more efficient and sustainable beef production. In a recent USDA-funded study, Shike worked with breed associations to improve feed efficiency testing, reduce feed waste, and improve producers’ bottom line. 

“We, as a cattle industry, have gotten very good at tracking our outputs,” Shike said. “We know how they grow, what their carcass characteristics are, and we can predict those very well in the next generation. But we don’t have a good handle on the input; really just a handful of feed intake records existed prior to this project.”

Thomas Grumbly, President of the SoAR Foundation, which organizes FedByScience, said, “There is so much that federally funded food and agriculture research has accomplished, but these stories need a broader audience. We are delighted to collaborate with our university partners to make this initiative a reality.”

Participating universities include Colorado State University, Cornell University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, University of California at Davis, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Washington University in St. Louis.

News Source:

Dan Klotz, 301-280-5756

IBRL hosts Cochran Fellows to advance biofuels in Ecuador

Published April 17, 2018
Cochran fellows and hosts

URBANA, Ill. – As part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Cochran Fellowship Program, the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory (IBRL) is hosting eight agricultural professionals from Ecuador for two weeks of training focused on the U.S. biofuel industry.

“The progress and innovations in the U.S. biofuel industry can be applied to the sugarcane-based biofuel industry that is prevalent in South America and Ecuador,” explained Vijay Singh, Director of the IBRL and Distinguished Professor of Bioprocessing in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

IBRL has coordinated an intensive program for the Fellows that highlights the advancements within the U.S. biofuel industry, which is built on corn-based ethanol, and the work currently being done to improve sugarcane as an energy crop.

After a week in Champaign-Urbana, the Fellows will travel with IBRL representatives to Chicago and Washington D.C. to meet with representatives from several agencies including the USDA and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“IBRL is becoming a hub for bioprocessing innovation and commercialization, so it is fitting for our team to help other regions expand their own bioprocessing capabilities. We are excited at the prospect of being integral to the international biofuel community,” added Singh.

The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) has previously hosted Cochran Fellows from Rwanda for training on in-vitro fertilization techniques to improve dairy production.

The Cochran Fellowship Program provides short-term training opportunities to agricultural professionals from middle-income countries, emerging markets, and emerging democracies. The goals are: 1) to help eligible countries develop agricultural systems necessary to meet the food and fiber needs of their domestic populations; and 2) to strengthen and enhance trade linkages between eligible countries and agricultural interests in the United States.

Approximately 600 Cochran fellows come to the United States each year, generally for 2-3 weeks, to work with U.S. universities, government agencies, and private companies. They receive hands-on training to enhance their technical knowledge and skills in areas related to agricultural trade, agribusiness development, management, policy, and marketing. USDA announces eligible countries and topics each year based on current trade issues. 

Since its start in 1984, the Cochran Program has provided training for more than 17,500 fellows from 125 countries. The program is named for U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

The Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory, or IBRL, is a flexible, plug-and-play, pilot-scale facility and analytical laboratory that brings faculty, students, and industry together to develop efficient and economical strategies for the production of renewable bio-based products. The facility is housed in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering in the College of ACES.

News Source:

Vijay Singh, 217-333-9510

News Writer:

Leslie Myrick, 217-244-5373

ACES Twitter chat April 26: Trouble in the field: Managing diseases and insect pests in crops

Published April 17, 2018

What are the major pathogens affecting (corn, soy, small grains)?
How will the winter we just had affect insect pests in 2018?
What is the difference between a sign and symptom?

What are the most important insect pests in field crops in Illinois?

Diseases and insect pests can severely impact yield and quality of field crops in Illinois, including corn, soybean, and small grains. What are the major disease and insect issues that producers should have on their radar? What is the best way to control them? Join us for a Twitter chat with ACES experts Dr. Nick Seiter, Extension Entomologist, and Dr. Nathan Kleczewski, Extension Plant Pathologist, both of the Department of Crop Sciences, Thursday, April 26, from noon-1 p.m. CT to learn about how to manage potentially damaging diseases and insect pests in field crops.

How can you take part in this exciting conversation?

  1. Go to Twitter. Type in #askACES. Click the “Latest” tab. Watch the questions and answers from noon-1 p.m. CT.
  2. Ask your own questions and contribute to this conversation by including #askACES with your question.
  3. If you aren’t on Twitter, watch the live feed at
    If you have a question, but can’t participate in the live chat, send it to
  4. Watch ACES social media (Twitter and Facebook) for a follow-up podcast with Nathan Kleczewski and Nick Seiter.

Don’t miss the discussion on April 26. Your questions are important to us as we tackle this challenging and impactful topic.


The College of ACES is excited to host this series of chats - #askACES - on Twitter addressing some of the hot topics in social media today. Recently, we’ve discussed a variety of topics from water quality with Dr. Laura Christianson, Dr. Paul Davidson and Jonathan Coppess to nutrition labeling with Dr. Brenna Ellison, Dr. Anna Arthur, and Dr. Jennifer McCaffrey. Our goal is to distribute sound science on social media and provide the public an opportunity to engage in a conversation and ask their questions about these topics. We would love to have you join us on Twitter for these chats and contribute to the conversation. Or, listen to the follow-up podcasts at

News Source:

ACES staff

Too early to worry about corn acreage?

Published April 17, 2018

URBANA, Ill. - Recent unseasonably cold and wet weather over much of the Corn Belt precipitates speculation into the prospect of reduced corn acreage this year. With March prospective plantings at 88 million acres, a reduction in corn acreage under the recent strong demand levels for corn creates a supportive scenario for corn prices moving forward.

University of Illinois agricultural economist Todd Hubbs explains that despite larger-than-expected March 1 corn stocks, the strong demand for corn exports and ethanol production continues to provide backing to corn prices as farmers move into the planting season. The December 2018 corn futures price contract increased sharply following the release of the Prospective Plantings report and settled into a marketing-year high until the recent uptick of volatility associated with trade issues.

New crop futures moved lower over the past week despite the start to planting season in the Corn Belt showing potential for significant delays. 

“April is shaping up to be one of the coldest in the last 120 years in the Corn Belt and northern Plains,” Hubbs says. “Through April 7, over 75 percent of the prospective-planted corn acres contains soil too cold and wet to start planting -- the prospect of planting delays raises questions about the likely magnitude of final corn acreage and the possible impact on yields.”

Some indication of the potential acreage impact of continued delays in planting is revealed by the acreage response in years of late planting. According to Hubbs, no set definition of late planting exists for corn, but the previous analysis used here defined late planting occurring after May 20 for a majority of corn production areas. Additionally, a threshold of greater than 20 percent of the crop is assumed for a large amount of late planting.

Using these definitions and weekly planting progress reports, a calculation of the percentage of the crop planted late each year is possible. Since 1997, there have been seven years when the USDA’s weekly Crop Progress report indicated that 20 percent or more of the corn crop was planted after May 20. The final USDA estimate of planted acreage was less than March intentions reported during six of those years. Late planting ranged from 20 to 29 percent in those years and acreage came in lower than intentions by an average of 643,000 acres, ranging from 32,000 (2008) to 1,917,000 (2013) acres.

The only exception occurred during 2009 when 29 percent of the crop was planted late; final acreage exceeded intentions by 1.396 million acres. During those same years, the acreage response shown in the June acreage report presented a different picture. June intentions acreage came in higher than March intentions by an average of 218,000 acres, ranging from -200,000 (2002) to 2,049,000 (2009) acres. June intentions came in on average 831,000 acres larger than final acreage in late planting years.

Research related to late planting and corn yield potential indicates a yield loss associated with late planting, particularly when planting dates get pushed past the third week of May.

“In the seven years since 1997 with the largest percentage of the crop planted late, the U.S. average yield was below trend in two years,” Hubbs explains. “Corn yield came in near trend in three years and above trend in two years over the period.”

Considerable variation in national corn yield relative to trend is present despite the amount of the crop planted at a later date. Substantial yield adjustments hinge on the weather during the growing season rather than planting date. Hubbs explains that if a large portion of corn planting gets pushed back into late May, the potential for decreased yield comes into play.

“The previous two decades of corn acreage adjustments show the potential for declines from March planting intentions associated with late planting,” Hubbs adds. “Acreage adjustments varied widely during the period, and no definitive result is predictable at the national aggregate level.”

For this year, concerns around corn planting delays focus on the Northern Plains and upper Midwest where continued snow accumulation and cold soil temperatures suggest a potential for persistent delays. These areas possess a smaller planting window for prime corn yields. A shift away from corn acreage in those areas is feasible as acreage is moved into different crops or goes unplanted.

Hubbs adds that the impact on spring wheat and soybean acreage may be even more pronounced in many areas of the Corn Belt if planting is significantly delayed. Overall, less corn acreage than reported in March seems likely if planting delays continue. 

The potential size of the 2018 U.S. corn crop is uncertain at this early stage of the planting season. A continuation of cold and wet weather over large portions of the Corn Belt could lead to losses in corn acreage.

“It is too early to write off corn acreage at this point since time remains to plant the crop, but continued delays narrow the window for planting without the prospect of yield losses,” Hubbs says. “The next three weeks of planting progress reports should bring the potential for corn acreage adjustments into stronger focus and expectations about corn acreage will gain a more accurate assessment in the USDA’s June 29 Acreage report.”

Discussion and graphs associated with this article are available here:




Vanessa Peters, Nutritional Sciences Graduate Student

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
180 Bevier Hall

Vanessa Peters, Nutritional Sciences Graduate Student, Title, TBD

Study explores carbohydrates’ impact on head, neck cancers

Published April 13, 2018
Anna E. Arthur, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Photo by L. Brian Stauffer.

URBANA, Ill. — Consuming high amounts of carbohydrates and various forms of sugar during the year prior to treatment for head and neck cancer may increase patients’ risks of cancer recurrence and mortality, a new study reports.

However, eating moderate amounts of fats and starchy foods such as whole grains, potatoes and legumes after treatment could have protective benefits, reducing patients’ risks of disease recurrence and death, said lead author Anna E. Arthur, a professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois.

In the study, researchers tracked the pre- and post-treatment diets and health outcomes of more than 400 cancer patients. Participants were followed for an average of 26 months after they were first diagnosed and treated for squamous-cell carcinoma of the head or neck; all were patients of the University of Michigan Head and Neck Specialized Program of Research Excellence. The study was published recently in the International Journal of Cancer.

Participants’ typical intake of food, beverages and supplements was assessed for the year prior to diagnosis and for one year post-treatment using the Harvard Food Frequency Questionnaire. Patients who consumed the lowest amounts of simple carbohydrates – which included refined grains, desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages – consumed about 1.3 servings daily, compared with about 4.4 servings by patients who were considered high intake. 

Patients who consumed the most total carbohydrates and sugars – in the forms of sucrose, fructose, lactose and maltose – in the year preceding cancer treatment were at greater risk of mortality from any cause during the follow-up period, Arthur said.

Among the study population, the most commonly diagnosed cancers were in the oral cavity and the oropharynx, which includes the tonsils, the base of the tongue and surrounding tissues. More than 69 percent of participants were diagnosed when the disease was at stage 3 or stage 4. Patients’ average age at diagnosis was about 61.

During the follow-up period, more than 17 percent of patients experienced recurrence of their cancer, and 42 patients died from it. Another 70 participants died from other causes, according to the study.

Associations among carbohydrate intake and patient outcomes differed by cancer type and stage, Arthur said. 

Higher mortality rates were found among people with oral cavity cancer who consumed the greatest amounts of total carbohydrates, total sugars and simple carbohydrates, but the researchers found no such associations among people who had oropharyngeal cancers.

Likewise, high carbohydrate consumption and glycemic load were significantly associated with increased risk of mortality from any cause among people with cancers in stages 1 to 3, but not in patients with stage 4 cancers.

 “Although in this study we found that higher total carbohydrate and total sugar were associated with higher mortality in head and neck cancer patients, because of the study design we can’t say that there’s a definitive cause-effect relationship,” said Arthur, who also is an oncology dietitian nutritionist with the Carle Cancer Center at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois. “The next step would be to conduct a randomized clinical trial to test whether carbohydrate restriction has a protective effect on survival rates.”

Consuming a moderate amount – about 67 grams – of various forms of fat and starchy foods daily after cancer treatment appeared to provide some beneficial effects, lowering participants’ risks of mortality and cancer recurrence.

“Our results, along with the findings of other studies, suggest that diet composition can affect cancer outcomes,” said co-author Amy M. Goss, a professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. “We’d like to determine if this is true using a prospective, intervention study design and identify the underlying mechanisms. For example, how does cutting back on sugar and other dietary sources of glucose affect cancer growth?” 

The study is believed to be the first to provide observational data on the therapeutic potential of carbohydrate-restricted, higher fat diets on head and neck squamous-cell cancers. Five-year survival rates among these patients continue to be low, in part because these cancers are often detected in later stages, putting patients at high risk of recurrence.

“This observational study is noteworthy because it focuses on a serious cancer that is difficult to treat, and little is known about how nutrition can best help a patient battling it,” said co-author Dr. Laura Q. Rogers, a professor of nutrition sciences at Alabama, Birmingham. “This study reiterates the importance of additional intervention studies that test optimal diet recommendations for cancer survivors.”

 The National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture co-funded the study.

Additional co-authors on the paper were Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, William R. Carroll, Kevin R. Fontaine, Barbara A. Gower and Sharon A. Spencer, all of the University of Alabama, Birmingham; and Alison M. Mondul, Laura S. Rozek and Gregory T. Wolf, all of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Yi Tang Chen of the University of Illinois also co-wrote the study.

Early-season soybean management for 2018

Published April 13, 2018
spring field

URBANA, Ill. – Given the persistence of cold and wet conditions into early April, it is clear spring of 2018 won’t allow an early start for field operations across Illinois. Emerson Nafziger, recently retired professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, explains how soybean growers can cope.  

Farmers’ most pressing concern is when to start planting. After some success with very early (February) soybean planting in 2017, Nafziger says a few took advantage of a short window in mid-March this year to plant. The weather since then has not been kind, and it looks like the success in 2017 may not repeat this year.

“Soybean seedlings are somewhat tolerant of below-freezing temperature after they have emerged, but seed in cold, wet soil may not live long enough to emerge,” he says.

While soybeans can sometimes be planted before April and survive, Nafziger says there is virtually no yield benefit for early-planted soybeans versus ones that are planted in late April or early May. Nafziger’s trials across 26 sites show that soybeans should produce maximum yield if planted anytime between the second week and the last week of April.

The rate of yield loss accelerates when planting is delayed after May 1. The response curve predicts that the crop will lose about 6 percent of its potential yield by May 10, about 10 percent by May 20, and about 15 percent (10 bushels in these trials) by the end of May.

Nafziger explains that these are lower loss rates with planting delays than he often hears from others, which is not surprising given how variable the response is over trials. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to plant as early as we can for best yields, but it does show what most farmers know from experience – that high soybean yields depend more on what happens during the season than on when the crop gets planted.”

Planting early helps the plants get off to a quicker start, which increases the chance that the crop will be able to respond to favorable conditions later. Still, early planting needs to be kept in perspective: planting into wet, cool soil conditions can cancel the benefit of early planting.

“While we can’t do much to change the weather, we can control seeding rate, and higher seed costs have had some thinking about lowering seed rates,” Nafziger says. “Our research shows that trying to minimize the seeding rate can end up costing yield and profit, especially in those cases when emergence and stand establishment are lowered by conditions at or after planting.

“We have found that 115,000 to 120,000 plants (not seeds) per acre are often needed to produce the highest dollar return on the seed investment. Good seed planted into good conditions should have 85 percent stand establishment, in which case we should plant about 140,000 seeds per acre.”

Nitrogen has gotten attention in recent years, because some promote it as the key to making high soybean yields even higher. Nafziger’s trials, and most other trials across the Corn Belt, have shown little or no yield increase from applications of 45 to 90 pounds of nitrogen (100 to 200 pounds of urea) during the growing season, but the practice continues to draw a lot of interest.

“While we seldom see responses to nitrogen on prairie soils, we were surprised to find, in two of three years on an irrigated loam soil north of Peoria, large increases from applying nitrogen at planting time,” he says.

He adds that applying nitrogen four times per season produced yield increases more often than when applying only once, but the yield increases didn’t come close to justifying the cost of these applications. Putting that much nitrogen on also means excess nitrogen in the soil at the end of the season, so more nitrogen loss through tile drainage.

“Unless one is willing to put out replicated strips in a field or fields to measure the effect of nitrogen on soybean yield, our research has shown that that is almost certain to be unprofitable in Illinois, especially on medium- or heavier-textured soils.”

This season, Illinois soybean acreage is expected to stay at its 2017 level in Illinois, while corn acreage again decreases slightly. This will mean that some soybeans in 2018 will follow soybeans planted last year. Nafziger says there is no particular concern in planting soybeans after soybeans, except to avoid it if soybean cyst nematode egg counts are high. Cyst nematode egg counts often increase when soybeans are in a field, so SCN-resistant varieties are a must for soybean following soybean.

“The yield penalty for soybeans that follow soybeans instead of corn varies some by site and year, but in our research this penalty has been only about 5 percent on average, ranging from 2 to about 10 percent. In 2017, soybean following two years of soybean yielded about 2.5 bushels less than those following one year of soybean,” he says.

Cereal rye planted into corn stalks last fall has produced much less growth than normal due to the cool temperatures this spring. Rye will start to grow rapidly once it warms up, but wanting more cover crop growth and needing to get soybeans planted might represent a conflict for some producers, Nafziger says.

“Rye usually doesn’t compete very much with soybean plants as long as soybean seed placement is good, and some wait until after soybean planting to spray to kill the rye. If it turns dry, though, growing rye plants might take up enough water to make establishment and early growth of soybeans difficult. In that case, earlier spraying might be better.”

For more information, see Nafziger’s full article on the Bulletin.

More than just menageries: First look at zoo and aquarium research shows high output

Published April 12, 2018
dolphin and girl

URBANA, Ill. – Most of us think of zoos and aquariums as family destinations: educational but fun diversions for our animal-loving kids. But modern zoos and aquariums are much more than menageries. According to a new study, the institutions are increasingly contributing to our knowledge base on biodiversity conservation and other scientific topics.

Through an analysis of scientific literature, the study’s authors determined that researchers at zoos and aquariums have contributed at least 5,175 peer-reviewed articles to conservation, zoology, and veterinary journals over the past 20 years.  

“This paper is the first quantification of research productivity of zoos and aquariums. It shows a trend of substantial and increasing publishing through time,” says Eric Larson, a freshwater ecologist in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. “Zoos and aquariums are definitely players in scientific research.”

The 5,175 papers came from 228 zoos and aquariums, all of which are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. As part of its accreditation standards, the AZA requires conservation and research activities. Larson and his co-authors wanted to see if these standards were having an effect in terms of research output. Clearly, they were.

Other factors mattered, too. The authors looked at the age, size, financial status, type, and mission statements of the 228 institutions in their sample. Of those, age, size, and the inclusion of research in mission statements were most important.

Larson thinks older zoos and aquariums have had more time to build endowments that support research. “We also found that larger organizations have more capacity to do research, but there’s some control at the organizational level about that – choosing to put research in your mission statement does matter,” he says.     

Publishing in conservation journals doesn’t necessarily translate to adoption of conservation practices on the ground, Larson notes. That so-called implementation gap is hard to quantify and is not unique to zoos and aquariums. However, unlike other research institutions, zoos and aquariums often participate in conservation activities like species survival plans, including captive breeding to ensure genetic diversity.

“Zoos and aquariums also have much greater impact in terms of public outreach and education than traditional research institutions,” says Tse-Lynn Loh, lead author and visiting tutor at Quest University Canada.

Larson says he and his co-authors would like to dive deeper to get an even better sense of the research output of zoos and aquariums. But for now, he says, the reaction from zoos and aquariums to the paper has been very positive. “Based on some of the reactions on social media, I think we found a much larger volume of papers than researchers at those institutions had expected.”

The article, “Quantifying the contribution of zoos and aquariums to peer-reviewed scientific research,” is published in Facets, an open-access journal [DOI: 10.1139/facets-2017-0083]. Larson’s co-authors include Tse-Lynn Loh, Solomon David, Lesley de Souza, Rebecca Gericke, Mary Gryzbek, Andrew Kough, Phillip Willink, and Charles Knapp. The research was done while Larson, Loh, and David were postdoctoral researchers at Shedd Aquarium.

News Source:

Eric Larson, 217-300-3197