College of ACES
College News

ACES hosts Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform from the Province of Bhisho, South Africa

Published December 4, 2017
DRDAR and Illinois delegations after signing MOU.

On November 20, 2017, the College of ACES hosted a 10-member delegation from the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR) based in Bhisho, South Africa.

The delegation met with faculty and staff from the College of ACES, University of Illinois Extension, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.

To conclude the visit and meetings, a Memoranda of Understanding was signed by DRDAR and the University of Illinois to establish an official cooperative relationship.

Examples of possible future collaborations include joint educational, cultural, and research activities, exchange of faculty members and graduate students, and joint development and implementation of programs to meet basic food security needs, especially for the small-scale farmers.

DRDAR is particularly interested in Illinois’ expertise in implementing a land-grant-style system of services throughout the province, and in developing improved training systems to support veterinary services. A relationship with DRDAR can offer Illinois the opportunity to create new experiential learning activities for students, new research partnerships for scientists, and an enlarged platform for global public engagement.

Illinois student delegation participates in World Food Prize

Published December 4, 2017
Illinois students at World Food Prize

Nineteen undergraduate students from the University of Illinois who are passionate about food security attended the annual World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa during October.

This year’s student delegation to the prestigious three-day event known as “the premier conference in the world on global agriculture” was sponsored by the ACES Office of International Programs and ACES Office of Academic Programs.

 “Our undergraduate delegation exhibited diversity in both academic concentration and cultural background. Whether be from the southside of Chicago or southern Brazil, all were united to further expand their understanding of global food security,” said Thomas Poole, senior in crop sciences and founder and president of Unify, a student organization focused on food security, who led the student delegation along with Xavier Morgan, senior in agricultural communications.

Additional vignettes below, provided by some of the students, recap the event and their lasting impressions.  

Andrew Peterson-Lipp, a sophomore in agricultural and consumer economics, said,

“This event gives the opportunity for real discussion to occur between the big and small players in the agricultural industry, from a farmer with one hectare of land in rural Africa to a corporation responsible for providing food for billions of people.”  

Cameron McCoy, a sophomore in crop sciences, was attending the event for the second time. He was most inspired by one of the speakers who was a small shareholder farmer in Nigeria:

“She was a qualified veterinarian who had established a school in her small village that is based on teaching three fundamental keys to success in life: time management through farming, the value of money, and the importance of saving the money they earn from their farm. She approached agriculture in a way that will profoundly change the way children of that village value money and farming.”

Kealie Vogel, an environmental science major who has focused her undergraduate research on agroforestry said,

“Several topics discussed during the Borlaug Dialog -- relationships among conservation, trade, and agricultural productivity in lower- and middle-income countries, the impacts of fertilizer use around the globe, and new methods for climate-proofing smallholder farms in Sub-Saharan Africa -- served as fascinating glimpses into the intersection between environmental science and food science.”

Michelle O’Rourke, an international exchange student from Ireland studying food science, noted how event he lunches were designed to make an impression:

“It was a light three course lunch, all with soy products incorporated. We ate tofu salad for starter, tofu mashed potato with the main and soy yoghurt with the dessert. It was an innovative and tasty way to introduce soy to people that may not have previously considered soy as a viable food source.”

Beyond the packed and informative program, the students had the opportunity to learn from each other.

Hayley Nagelberg, a freshman in animal sciences, said,

“The experience to spend three days with students from all across the college of ACES, and see how each of our interests and future career plans can work together to come up with unique and innovative solutions to world hunger was inspiring.”

This was the second year the ACES offices co-sponsored a delegation to attend this event. Read more about the World Food Prize here.


ACE Departmental Seminar - Brian Adam (Oklahoma State U.)

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
426-428 Mumford Hall

The Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics


Dr. Brian Adam
Professor, Agricultural Economics
Oklahoma State University

"Whole-Chain Traceability - Information Sharing from Farm to Plate and Back Again"

Whole-chain traceability - we've developed an internet-based system to trace food and food products through the supply chain (initial application was to beef animals from farm to packer, and we're expanding that to other food products). The key feature of the system is that the individual firm that puts data in is able to control who sees that information with everyone in the supply chain. The attached IFAMR article discusses some of those issues. Topics for discussion may include measuring value-added potential for various sets of information, relative to costs of participation in the system, and individual vs. industry/society costs and benefits.

Friday, December 8, 2017
12:00-1:00 p.m.
426-428 Mumford Hall

Pizza will be served.



Right plant, right place

Published November 30, 2017
To attract butterflies, choose the right plants.

URBANA, Ill. – As gardeners, we go to the garden center, wander the aisles, and find a plant we can’t live without. Then at home, we walk to our garden with plant and shovel in hand and look for a space to put our new impulse purchase.

“These spontaneous plant purchases often result in a mixture of plants that have no continuity, leaving our garden without a good overall design and visual interest,” says University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Jennifer Fishburn.     

According to Fishburn, each garden bed should have a design theme, such as an edible plant garden, or a goal, such as attracting butterflies or birds. A well-thought-out design will influence your plant choices and help prevent you from straying into the “hodgepodge” zone. 

“The time spent planning and drawing a design will be time well spent,” Fishburn says. “A plan will also reduce costly mistakes, avoid incorrect placement of plants, and result in fewer pest and disease problems. A design can be a simple sketch on paper or a formal drawing done to scale. Be sure to draw plants at their mature size.”

In addition, do some homework and research the characteristics of the plant, such as flower color, shape and bloom time, foliage color and texture, mature height, spread and shape of the plant, and pest resistance.

Selecting the right plants to fit the needs of the location is very important to the success of your landscape. Fit your plant selections for the site rather than altering the site to fit the plant.

Find out about the conditions under which the plant prefers to grow, such as hardiness, heat tolerance, amount of light, and soil and moisture conditions. Plants with similar growing conditions should be incorporated into the same planting bed.

Before selecting plants, learn everything you can about the site. Conduct a site analysis, which is a study of the features of the landscape. Conditions to take note of include amount of light, soil type (clays, loam, or sandy), soil pH (acidic or basic), water holding capability of the soil, and temperature extremes for the area.

“One of the best ways to prevent problems is to purchase healthy plants. Look for plants with healthy, properly colored foliage. Inspect foliage for signs of insect damage, insect eggs, or diseases,” Fishburn says.  

A well-planned landscape can enhance and sustain the quality of our environment. Plants not only add aesthetic beauty to the landscape; they also attract wildlife, help protect water quality, reduce soil erosion, improve air quality, reduce noise pollution, and reduce heating and cooling costs. Properly placed plants also have economic value and can increase the property value of a home.

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Agricultural education faculty earn national recognition

Published November 29, 2017
Thieman and Keating
Thieman and Keating

URBANA, Ill. – Two agricultural education faculty at the University of Illinois – Drs. Kari Keating and Erica Thieman – recently earned national recognition for outstanding achievements in teaching and research.

Thieman, an assistant professor in the Agricultural Education Program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I, was honored with the Outstanding Early Career Member award from the North Central American Association for Agricultural Education (AAAE). Recipients of this award have demonstrated excellence in teaching, significant contributions in research, scholarly writing pertaining to agricultural education, and service in professional organizations at the community, state, and national levels. The predominant focus of Dr. Thieman’s research is determining how stress impacts teacher proficiency and retention. She received the award during the North Central AAAE annual conference in September.

Keating, a teaching assistant professor in the program, was recognized as one of the best educators in the nation as a recipient of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Educator Award. NACTA is a professional society dedicated to scholarship in teaching and learning in agricultural disciplines. As someone who focuses on the people-development aspect of agriculture, Keating prepares the next generation of industry leaders and agriculture teachers in the agricultural leadership and science education program. Keating received the award during the NACTA annual conference in July.

News Source:

Debra Korte, 217-244-8086

News Writer:

ACES Staff

ACES researchers among the world’s most influential scientists

Published November 29, 2017
Long and Ainsworth
Long and Ainsworth

URBANA, Illinois – Of the five Illinois researchers recently recognized by Clarivate Analytics as Highly Cited Researchers, two – or 40 percent – are affiliated with the Department of Crop Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

Clarivate Analytics analyzed journal article citations between 2005 and 2015 to develop the list, which recognizes the top 1 percent of highly cited researchers around the world and across disciplines. The company says the researchers are “leading the way in solving the world’s biggest challenges.” Both Highly Cited Researchers from the College of ACES, Stephen P. Long and Lisa Ainsworth, were ranked in the plant and animal science category.

Stephen P. Long, Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Departments of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology, works to boost crop yield to provide food and fuel to a growing population under changing climate scenarios. His groundbreaking work has landed him on the list of highly cited researchers each year since 2005.

“Although these awards are attributed to individuals, it is important to recognize that it is the facilities and environment provided by the university, ACES, and crop sciences, along with colleagues and exceptionally able graduate students and post-doctoral fellows that have made this possible,” Long says.

Lisa Ainsworth, USDA ARS scientist and professor in plant biology and adjunct professor in crop sciences, also conducts research aimed at increasing crop production under changing climates. Her focus is on the photosynthetic and metabolic changes plants undergo in enriched carbon dioxide and ozone environments.

“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized for the citations to my research. Although I appear on the list, most of my highly cited publications have been written in collaboration with exceptional mentors (including Steve Long), graduate students, and post-docs. I am grateful to all of them for their collaboration and hard work,” Ainsworth says.

Germán Bollero, head of the Department of Crop Sciences, says, “Drs. Ainsworth and Long continue a long tradition of excellence in photosynthesis research at U of I. They have provided tremendous contributions to growing crops in a changing environment. This recognition goes beyond the citations to include the education of many graduate students that have been part of their labs.”

Dean of the College of ACES, Kimberlee Kidwell says, “The work of Drs. Long and Ainsworth demonstrates how research conducted at Illinois supports the scientific community by addressing the world’s greatest challenges. The concentration of talented faculty and staff at this university continues to amaze me. The passion and commitment these two individuals have for making a difference through their work is truly inspiring, and we are honored that they are members of the ACES family.”

Watch where you step: The legend of mistletoe

Published November 28, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – Decorating with mistletoe has been a holiday tradition for many centuries in North America and Europe. It begs the question: Why do we have this strange tradition that prompts friends, family, and even enemies to kiss when they meet underneath mistletoe?

“Perhaps you have been one of the lucky—or unlucky—few that have found yourself under the mistletoe for a kiss,” says University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Chris Enroth.

It is widely accepted that the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began in the 16th century, but the history of the plant goes back much farther than that. Mistletoe is considered one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants in European folklore.

It was used in ancient times, centuries before the birth of Christ, by Druid tribes living in what is considered modern-day Great Britain. In fact, the plant was so sacred to the ancient Druids that if two enemies met under the mistletoe, they would lay down their weapons and exchange greetings. Druid priests would harvest mistletoe with a golden knife and pass it around to celebrate the new year.

Mistletoe was banned from Christian ceremonies for many years because of its pagan origin, but Christian leaders eventually incorporated the plant into decorations and celebrations to draw in the old tribes of Britain and Europe.

The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began in 1520 when William Irving wrote, “A young man should pluck a berry each time he kisses a young girl beneath the hanging plant, and once the berries were gone the romantic power of the plant faded.” Hence, many gentlemen sought mistletoe cuttings with an abundance of berries to hang in their homes.

“In addition to its interesting history, mistletoe is also an interesting plant,” says Enroth.

It is a true parasite and grows as an evergreen in a variety of trees, but is common in apple trees, poplars, lindens, and willow. Mistletoe draws water and nutrients from its host. Although it typically does not kill the tree outright, it weakens it to the point of shortening the host’s lifespan, making it vulnerable to other pests and disease.

“There are many different species of mistletoe,” says Enroth. “The species celebrated in ancient texts and used in European celebrations is the European mistletoe, whose scientific name is Viscum album.”

Mistletoe native to North America falls into the genus Phoradendron, and is the mistletoe commonly sold in the United States.

Can you find mistletoe in Illinois?

“That would be highly unlikely at least in Central Illinois,” says Enroth. “Mistletoe is not common to our north-central Illinois climate, but can be found in Hardiness Zone 6 and becomes more prevalent further south.”

Enroth adds, “You may have success finding mistletoe in Southern Illinois. With the warming climate, we have seen southern plant species begin to creep northward.”

Most commercially harvested mistletoe grows in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Mistletoe is toxic and ingesting berries in large amounts can be lethal, so keep it out of reach of children and pets, or hang artificial mistletoe.

The name mistletoe translates directly to English as “dung-on-a-twig,” as ancient tribes thought the plant germinated sporadically from bird droppings. Since “dung-on-a-twig” does not lend itself to the plant’s romantic legend, let’s stick with calling it mistletoe and be careful where you stand this holiday season.

News Source:

Chris Enroth, 309-837-3939

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Acreage prospects for 2018

Published November 27, 2017

URBANA, Ill. – Corn and soybean prices have weathered the USDA's November Crop Production report which contained larger forecasts of the size of the 2017 harvest, relative to market expectations for both crops. According to University of Illinois agricultural economist Todd Hubbs, considerable speculation will occur over the next few months about the acreage decisions farmers will make in 2018. Current market conditions appear to support moderate soybean and corn acreage expansion in 2018.

“Projecting the acreage allocations for 2018 U.S. crops will begin in earnest after the turn of the new calendar year,” Hubbs says. “Prospects for 2018 crop acreage levels start with expectations about planted acreage for principal crops. Because planted acreage varies substantially from year to year, anticipating total planted acreage is quite difficult.”

In 2017, acreage planted in principal field crops declined to 318.2 million acres, the lowest level since 2011. The decrease in principal field crop acreage was particularly acute in the northern and southern plains. Texas and Kansas both decreased acreage by over 500,000 acres. North and South Dakota also decreased planted acreage by 143,000 and 279,000 acres respectively.  Nebraska was the lone exception with an increase of 202,000 planted acres.

“Although Illinois decreased planted acreage by 163,000 acres, most of the major Corn Belt states increased planted acreage in 2017,” Hubbs says. “As we move into 2018, the prospect of large decreases in crop acreage in the Corn Belt appears low, while acreage changes in the plains may be in the form of crop adjustments instead of acreage losses.”

In conjunction with the decrease in total principal crop planted acreage, Hubbs says prevented planting acreage was relatively low in 2017. The Farm Service Agency reports 2.4 million acres of prevented plantings in 2017, down from 3.7 million in 2016 and 6.7 million in 2016. “Conservation Reserve Program acreage appears set to remain near 23.4 million acres. The current low price environment across most field crops points to steady or slightly lower total planted acreage in 2018 but holds the potential for more soybean and corn acres.”

In 2017, the combination of corn and soybean acres increased to 179.9 million planted acres, expanding to 56.5 percent of principal crop acres, Hubbs says. Although corn and soybean acreage in total continued a three-year trend of increased planted acres, the change in soybean acreage stood out in 2017 with expansion to 90.2 million planted acres.

According to Hubbs, other than soybeans, the only major crops to see any planted acreage increases in 2017 were cotton, rye, peanuts, and canola. In the main corn-producing states during 2017, only Kansas, Michigan, and North Dakota increased corn acreage over 2016 planting decisions. Increased planting of soybean acreage was common across all major producing states. North Dakota and Kansas lead the way in soybean acreage growth with 1.15 million and 700,000 acres respectively.

“The increased soybean acreage, and in some instances corn acreage, came at the expense of other field crops with wheat acreage losing over 5.5 million acres from 2016 to 2017,” Hubbs says. “The continuation of corn and soybean acreage expansion depends on demand prospects during the 2017-18 marketing year and the evolution of corn and soybean prices between now and planting.”

Currently, demand prospects for corn remain mixed, Hubbs adds. “Current demand is very strong for corn use in ethanol as production continues to exceed the pace of a year ago. The growth of livestock numbers and supportive prices in many livestock sectors provides support for increased feed demand.

An indication of feed use for this marketing year will be available with the Dec.1 Grain Stocks report on Jan.12.  Corn exports currently lag behind last year’s pace with export inspections through Nov. 23 trailing last year’s total by 209 million bushels.

“When combined with the trade policy uncertainty associated with NAFTA, developments in the corn export market could inject volatility into corn prices in 2018,” Hubbs says. “Additionally, the 7.2 million acres of corn to be planted in Brazil saw a large portion of the prospective acreage pushed back to the second crop which is more susceptible to the dry season.  A reduction in Brazilian corn production may help corn exports in 2018.”

For soybeans, Hubbs says the pace of the domestic crush is off to a strong start in the first two months of the marketing year.

“Soybean exports appear to be set for a strong marketing year but currently trail last year’s pace,” Hubbs says. “Export inspections through Nov. 23 lag last year’s pace by 120 million bushels. The current soybean crop being planted in South America will be a major factor in determining whether U.S. soybean exports hit record highs this marketing year.

“The market will continue to form expectations about acreage devoted to corn and soybean acres,” Hubbs says. “Preliminary surveys of farmer’s planting intentions for 2018 have varied on the direction and magnitude of soybean and wheat acreage. Thus far, all surveys have indicated an expansion of corn acreage. Current market prices imply, at a minimum, a repeat of the soybean acreage planted in 2017. The prospect of corn and soybean acres seeing moderate expansions is possible in 2018.”

Data availability on acreage prospects in 2018 begins with the USDA's Jan.12 Winter Wheat Seedings report and will be followed by the March 30 Prospective Plantings report.