College of ACES
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New data portal makes research more accessible

Published July 19, 2016
screen grab from portal

•             Easy-to-use online tool allows policymakers and practitioners to quickly comb through mountains of data to make better conservation decisions

•             The Evidence for Nature and People Data Portal is available online.

URBANA, Ill.  – When policy makers need to make conservation decisions, the evidence is either hard to find, hard to access, and/or hard to understand. Much of the information that conservationists seek is in PDFs locked up behind paywalls, buried in organization websites, and lurking on hard drives never to see the light of day. Even when systematic maps and reviews are open access, there is still not an intuitive way to explore and obtain necessary information.

The Science for Nature and People Partnership Evidence-Based Conservation working group recognized this significant barrier between research data and the people and organizations aiming to solve the world’s conservation problems: How to distill critical information from the mountains of existing data.

The group created a new online portal to make conservation data readily accessible and explorable. Users can filter, explore, and visualize desired information using a policy-relevant framework. The portal provides access to thousands of available datasets on human well-being and natural ecosystems so policy makers and others can synthesize the data and make better conservation decisions.

“This tool will be enormously useful to researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, especially in the context of efforts to work toward the new sustainable development goals,” says Daniel Miller, assistant professor of natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois and former World Bank Program on Forests staff member. “The portal is a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on what we know about how different conservation interventions affect human well-being. It will save time and money, not only by quickly showing what is currently known, but also by highlighting key evidence gaps.” 

Miller says this type of portal currently exists and is widely used for a variety of physical, biological, and ecological data. For example, the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s GenBank is the standard repository for genetic information. A few data portals, such as Conservation Evidence, contain information on conservation actions and biological outcomes, but until now no similar database or data portal has existed for the linkages between conservation and human well-being information.

The new SNAPP tool operates as a flexible, graphical data portal for the links between conservation interventions and human well-being outcomes that allows users to download desired information as well as charts and summaries. It collates information from over 1,000 studies in an easy-to-interpret way and visualizes it for quick uptake. Users can filter the information by intervention and outcome type, geographic location, biome and study design – allowing them to hone in on regions and ecosystems of interest and gain quick information on the abundance and general quality of information for specific linkages and areas. The tool also offers the ability to download full datasets and bibliographic information.

“The world is faced with environmental crises ranging from pollution, to overfishing, to climate change,” says Samantha Cheng of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California Santa Barbara, and a SNAPP post-doctoral research fellow. “The actions that we take to address these issues will have long-lasting and widespread effects, which, if negative, will do more harm than good. Making decisions based on evidence for what works and what doesn’t work is absolutely critical if we want to achieve successful conservation.”

The SNAPP Evidence-Based Conservation working group is led by researchers from Conservation International and Wildlife Conservation Society.



How big is the market for U.S. corn?

Published July 18, 2016

URBANA, Ill. – Record-large U.S. corn acreage and prospects for the average yield to be near trend value point to another large crop this year. The USDA projection of acreage harvested for grain of 86.55 million acres and trend yield of 168 bushels per acre point to a crop of 14.54 billion bushels.

University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good provides this analysis:

At the projected level, the 2016 crop would be 939 million bushels larger than the 2015 crop and 324 million bushels larger than the previous record crop of 2014. With carryover stocks of 1.701 billion bushels and imports of 40 million bushels, the supply of corn for the 2016-17 marketing year would total 16.281 billion bushels, 889 million bushels larger than last year’s supply and 802 million bushels larger than the previous record supply for the 2014-15 marketing year.

To prevent an increase in year-ending stocks to a burdensome level, corn use during the upcoming marketing year needs to be large. In the July 12 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report, the USDA projected use during the current marketing year at 13.692 billion bushels and use during the upcoming marketing year at 14.2 billion bushels. Those projections have been generally characterized as generous.

Corn exports during the current marketing year are projected at 1.9 billion bushels. Outstanding export sales are large enough for exports to reach that level, but with just under seven weeks left in the year, shipments will need to average about 52.5 million bushel per week to reach that level. Export inspections for the six weeks that ended July 14 averaged 54.3 million bushels per week, a pace slightly higher than needed to reach the USDA projection. Exports during the 2016-17 marketing year are projected at a nine-year high of 2.05 billion bushels. The relatively large projection reflects the shortfall in the 2016 Brazilian corn crop and expectations that the United States will gain export market share in the upcoming year. The Brazilian crop is estimated at 2.756 billion bushels, 591 million bushels smaller than the 2015 crop. Brazilian exports totaled 1.357 billion bushels last year and are projected at only 728 million bushels this year and 866 million bushels next year. As of July 7, outstanding export sales of U.S. corn for delivery during the 2016-17 marketing year were reported at 243 million bushels, the largest for that date in three years and 139 million larger than on the same date last year.

Corn used for production of ethanol and co-products during the current marketing year is projected at 5.225 billion bushels, 25 million more than used in the previous year. Use during the first three quarters of the year totaled 3.865 billion bushels, equal to use of a year ago.
Although ethanol production has exceeded that of a year ago, more sorghum has been used as a feedstock. Use during the final quarter will need to total 1.36 billion bushels in order for the marketing-year total to reach 5.225 billion bushels. That is 1.9 percent more than used in the same quarter last year. Ethanol production in June and so far in July has been about 1.3 percent larger than production of a year ago. It appears that corn use could fall just short of the USDA projection unless ethanol production accelerates and/or the use of sorghum as a feedstock declines. Corn used for ethanol production in the upcoming marketing year is projected at 5.275 billion bushels. Ethanol production should be supported by increased domestic gasoline consumption resulting from low prices and continued strong ethanol exports. Corn use should be further supported by a modest reduction in the amount of sorghum used as a feedstock for ethanol production. 

Domestic feed and residual use of corn during the current marketing year is projected at 5.2 billion bushels.  Use during the first three quarters of the year totaled 4.551 billion bushels, so that summer use needs to be 649 million bushels in order for marketing-year use to reach the projected level. Use at that level would be 107 million bushels larger than use of a year ago and the largest use in seven years. On the surface, such large use seems unlikely given the expected increase in wheat feeding this summer. However, given the large variation in quarterly use from year to year that total cannot be ruled out. Use will be revealed with the USDA’s September 1 stocks estimate to be released on September 30.  Feed and residual use during the upcoming marketing year is projected at a nine-year high of 5.5 billion bushels. Use should be supported by abundant corn supplies, low corn prices early in the marketing year, and a modest expansion in livestock production. The USDA projects a 1.4 percent year-over-year increase in the number of grain consuming animal units. An important unknown is the level of wheat feeding during the summer of 2017.

While the 508 million bushel (3.7 percent) increase in the consumption of U.S corn projected for the upcoming marketing year is large, an examination of use by category suggests that the projections are very reasonable. Still, stocks of U.S. corn are likely to increase by the end of the 2016-17 marketing year. The magnitude of that increase will be largely determined by the size of the crop. Crop size will be determined by weather conditions over the next six weeks or so.  The USDA will release the first survey-based forecast of crop size on August 12.




Kidwell named College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences dean

Published July 15, 2016
Kimberlee Kae Kidwell
Kimberlee Kae Kidwell Photo: Courtesy of Washington State University

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Kimberlee Kae Kidwell will serve as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences effective Nov. 1, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Currently the executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University – a diverse college with 15 reporting units ranging from apparel, merchandising, design and textiles to biological systems engineering – Kidwell is a nationally respected scholar of plant breeding and genetics. She served as the college’s acting dean in 2015-16.  

At Illinois, she also will hold the inaugural Robert A. Easter Chair.

“Professor Kidwell has excellent scholarly credentials, leadership experience and management skills,” said Edward Feser, interim provost at Illinois. “She has demonstrated a passion for students and teaching throughout her career, and she has developed her own leadership skills training program, which she plans to relocate to Illinois in partnership with WSU.

“From the exceptional quality of her extensive interactions with campus representatives throughout the search process, it’s clear that she will be an outstanding leader of ACES.”

Kidwell earned two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She joined the Washington State faculty in 1994.

Kidwell will succeed ACES Dean Robert Hauser, who has served in that role since 2010. He was interim dean of ACES for a year prior to that, and also served two terms as head of the department of agricultural and consumer economics, from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2009.

Hauser has developed and led exceptional U. of I. Extension programs, taught several undergraduate and graduate courses since he joined the faculty in 1982, and received numerous research and Extension awards.

“Dean Hauser has been a tireless advocate for the faculty, students and staff of ACES and a respected ambassador for its programs and achievements across Illinois and the U.S.,” Feser said.


News Source:

Robin Kaler, 217-333-5010

Improve milk quality and economic gain with U of I Somatic Cell Count Calculator

Published July 12, 2016
Kelly Ryan, left, a recent graduate of Animal Sciences, and Russell Pate, a master's student in Animal Sciences, work with the Dairy Focus SCC Caluculator
  • Mastitis is the most prevalent disease in cows in the top dairy-producing states.
  • New calculator allows producers to identify cows in herd that contribute the highest percentage to the bulk tank somatic cell count (SCC).
  • Key aspect of calculator allows user to view the differences between bulk tank values with and without high SCC cows.

URBANA, Ill. – Dairy researchers at the University of Illinois developed a new tool to help dairy producers maximize their profit and improve milk quality. The Dairy Focus Somatic Cell Count (SCC) Calculator allows producers to analyze their test day milk numbers and take appropriate action regarding somatic cell count.

“The main goal of the SCC calculator is to assist dairy producers in making management decisions on an individual herd level,” says Phil Cardoso, a professor in animal sciences at Illinois. “This will improve overall health and decrease economic losses due to mastitis. Making these beneficial management decisions may then allow the dairy to improve milk quality and dairy efficiency, all while increasing overall economic gain.”

The goal of most dairy producers is to maintain a healthy herd while maximizing economic efficiencies. Mastitis is the most prevalent disease that restricts producers from achieving this goal. In 2014, a survey from the National Animal Health Monitoring System showed that roughly 24.1 percent of all cows in the top 17 dairy-producing states suffered from some either clinical or subclinical mastitis. It is estimated that the U.S. dairy industry loses roughly $1 billion in total milk revenue and about $110 per cow annually from production losses due to mastitis.

“Most milk cooperatives award producers with incentives for reaching higher milk quality,” Cardosa says. “If a dairy producer is not receiving a milk quality bonus due to high SCC cows, they could be losing out on a substantial amount of increased income. Most producers are aware of their bulk tank SCC. What they lack is a way of determining how much monetary loss is incurred by not receiving a milk quality bonus. The Illinois dairy focus team has developed a solution to this problem.”

The SCC calculator allows producers to identify cows in the herd that are contributing the highest percentage to the bulk tank SCC. The calculator also identifies cows that have chronic or new cases of mastitis by sorting cows by highest current and previous test day SCC.

“Not only is the user able to find problem cows,” says Cardoso, “but they are also able to see the benefits that would result from removing certain cows from the herd by viewing the economic gains table. This key aspect of the calculator allows the user to view the differences between bulk tank values with and without high SCC cows. These values are influenced by the bulk tank milk amount, bulk tank SCC, current milk price, and milk quality bonuses per hundredweight if an SCC parameter is achieved when a cow is removed. The table gives the producer an actual figure for the amount of money they are missing out on by keeping certain cows in the milking string instead of using their milk for alternate purposes and receiving a milk quality bonus.”

The Dairy Focus Somatic Cell Count Calculator is easy to operate and free to download. There are versions currently available for DairyComp 305 and PCDart, as well as a version for dairy producers who prefer to enter their data manually. Users can visit  and click on the ‘Tools’ page to download the calculator. An instructional video is available ( that shows users how to import data from their management program, and gives the user beneficial information on how to use the calculator to analyze their herd and assist in making critical management decisions.

News Source:

Phil Cardoso, 217-300-2303

News Writer:

Leanne Lucas, 217-244-9085

Atrazine alternatives in sweet corn

Published July 12, 2016
Nick Hausman, USDA-ARS Agricultural Sciences Technician, discusses the details of alternatives to atrazine in sweet corn weed management systems.
  • Atrazine, one of the oldest and most commonly used herbicides in sweet corn, is being phased out in some production areas, leaving growers searching for alternatives.
  • Research conducted in Illinois, Minnesota, and Oregon identified treatments that provide weed control and crop yield similar to atrazine.
  • Treatments including the herbicide tembotrione, an HPPD-inhibitor, performed consistently well across all environments.

URBANA, Ill. – Atrazine has been very good at killing weeds in corn fields for more than 50 years. But some of the properties that make it a successful herbicide, such as its persistence in the soil and ability to be transported in water, also lead to concerns about potential environmental impact. At both federal and state levels, increasing restrictions on atrazine use has the sweet corn industry wondering about alternatives.

“The list of herbicides available for use on sweet corn is much more limited than field corn, so historically sweet corn growers and processors have relied heavily on atrazine. They have been in need of alternatives, but the call for those alternatives has gone largely unanswered,” says University of Illinois and USDA Agricultural Research Service weed scientist Marty Williams.

Williams and a team of researchers from Oregon and Minnesota polled growers and processors to find out the weed management tactics they would consider using as alternatives.

“At the onset of this project, we engaged the processing sweet corn industry. We knew alternatives to atrazine had to be pragmatic. Are weed biocontrol agents an option? Would a cover crop solve the problem? Is handweeding cost-effective? In this case, no, no, and no. They wanted us to develop systems that integrated mechanical control with existing herbicide technology,” Williams recalls.

Most of the alternative herbicides they tried were already registered for use in sweet corn, and came from different herbicide classes than atrazine. The research team settled on 16 treatments, including three standard atrazine-containing treatments. Treatments were compared in sweet corn fields in Illinois, Minnesota, and Oregon over four years.

“Standard treatments containing atrazine and mesotrione applied postemergence provided the best control, and resulted in crop yields comparable to the weed-free check,” Williams states. “In our study, alternative treatments with tembotrione applied postemergence with or without interrow cultivation were similar in weed control and crop yield to atrazine-containing treatments.”

Interestingly, interrow cultivation sometimes stimulated weed emergence, thereby reducing effectiveness of the tactic in certain fields. The researchers also found that several other atrazine-free treatments worked well, but only in Oregon.

“Oregon fields were dominated by small-seeded weed species that were controlled by more products than the large-seeded weeds more common in the Midwest, such as velvetleaf and giant ragweed,” Williams explains.

Tembotrione was used to represent the HPPD inhibiting class of herbicides, which includes other efficacious herbicides such as topramezone, mesotrione, and bicyclopyrone. This mode of action was developed most recently, but some weeds are already becoming resistant to HPPD inhibitors.

“As with most herbicides, misuse of the alternatives to atrazine could select for herbicide resistant weed populations. Nonetheless, it is possible to grow sweet corn without atrazine using an approach that sweet corn growers and processors consider adoptable,” Williams notes.

The article, “Alternatives to atrazine for weed management in processing sweet corn,” is published in Weed Science. The research was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (grant no. 2012-03266).

News Source:

Martin Williams