URBANA, Ill. - After hauling feed to cows all winter, there is no better thing than turning cows out to spring pastures. However, spring pastures are very lush and high in protein. These factors can ultimately contribute to poorer performance and slower breed-back in some cases, explained a University of Illinois Extension beef educator.
“After experiencing slower breed-up in the university herd and hearing many similar complaints from Illinois cattlemen who calve in late winter, we decided to investigate supplementing cows with a dry, low-protein mix to see if performance improved,” said Travis Meteer.
Pastures at the Orr Research Center are composed of endophyte-infected fescue, red clover, orchard grass, and white clover. Meteer said that samples from the pastures showed that crude protein (CP) was around 25 percent in early May. CP content declines as expected as the forage matures, however, measurements in 2013 and 2014 show levels could be in excess for approximately 20 days.
While protein levels are high, the fiber components of the plant, acid detergent fiber (ADF), and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) are low. “This combination lends to loose stools and high passage rates,” Meteer said.
Despite seeing no differences in cow body weight or body condition score either year of the trial, Meteer said he saw a numerical increase of 22 percent in first service conception rates in 2013.
“In 2014, we saw a 14 percent increase. It is evident that cows that received the dry, low-protein supplement were more apt to breed early in the season, despite no differences in overall conception rates,” he said. “Logically, as the grass matures, it decreases in CP and increases in fiber, and the cows breed, but they breed later in the season.”
In 2014, Meteer and his team took blood samples from the cows to look at the blood urea nitrogen (BUN) levels. Cows that received no supplement, only green grass, tended to have elevated BUN levels after being turned out to pasture.
Observing cows panting, crowding, or showing signs of heat stress, despite moderate temperatures, is common in cows that are consuming excess protein, Meteer said. “You can check urine pH as well. If the pH is above 7, the pasture is providing a diet that has excess protein. The obvious observation is the consistency of the manure. Loose, runny manure is a sign of excess protein,” he cautioned.
Supplementing cows on lush spring pasture that is too high in protein may be necessary to avoid losses in performance. Rotating cows rapidly through paddocks, only allowing them to consume the top one-third of the plant, can help, Meteer said.
“Cows calving from mid-February to mid-March will be the most likely to experience trouble re-breeding as the lush spring pasture coincides with their breeding season. Cows calving earlier are likely bred while still receiving harvested feeds, and cows calving later will breed on more mature forage,” he added.
“Providing a dry, low-protein supplement that is palatable will help balance protein excess in the rumen and contribute to optimal performance,” Meteer said.
Global Academy’s Washington, D. C. trip proves that "Agriculture is cool again"
The Academy for Global Engagement (Global Academy), a unique ACES training program in its ninth year, recently completed one of its most successful visits to Washington D.C. yet.
The 2014-15 Global Academy cohort spent the week of April 13-17, 2015, networking and engaging with agencies and organizations that promote and support international agriculture programs. Those traveling as part of the cohort were:
Mr. N. Dennis Bowman, ACES Extension
Dr. Patrick Brown, Department of Crop Sciences
Dr. Benjamin Crost, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics
Dr. Paul Davidson, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Dr. Erik Sacks, Department of Crop Sciences
Dr. Nathaniel Schroeder, Department of Crop Sciences
Dr. Pawan Takhar, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Dr. Alex Winter-Nelson, Director, ACES Office of International Programs
Ms. Suzana Palaska-Nicholson, Associate Director, ACES Office of International Programs
Organizations included in this year’s itinerary were selected to support the 2014-15 Global Academy theme: “Climate Change and Food Systems Resilience.” Therefore, the program included meetings with the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities (APLU), the United States Department of Agriculture (Foreign Agriculture Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The group interacted with the leadership of partnering agencies, including NIFA’s director, Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, and the acting director of NIFA’s Center for International Programs, Michael McGirr. At APLU, the Global Academy had an audience and a very informative conversation with Dr. Montague W. Demment, Vice President for International Programs and Dr. Mark Varner, Senior Counselor. While at USAID, the Global Academy spent over an hour with the Chief Scientist of the Bureau for Food Security, Dr. Rob Bertram and his colleagues. The discussions centered on the latest Feed the Future initiatives and opportunities for ACES researchers.
The robust Washington D.C. program culminated with a strong ACES participation at the fifth annual Global Food Security Symposium, organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (Council) and titled “Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food to Improve Nutrition.” A College of ACES delegation participated in this event for the first time under a special invitation by the Council itself. In addition to the members of the Global Academy, the team included Dean Robert Hauser, Assistant Dean for Research Prasanta Kalita, Department Heads German Bollero and Paul Ellinger, and Ms. Elise Ellinger, a student-member of the Council’s prestigious, Next Generation Delegation program.
ACES’ visible presence at the Symposium demonstrated the College’s, as well as the Global Academy’s, commitment to addressing the problems of international food security and our readiness to actively engage with leading voices in this field, such as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “Agriculture is cool again!” proclaimed Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, in his key-note address at the end of this impressive forum, and we at the College of ACES and the Global Academy are ready for it.
Food and fuel: A model for bioenergy feedstock/vegetable double-cropping systems
URBANA, Ill. – Much attention has been given to dedicated, perennial bioenergy crops to meet the revised Renewable Fuel Standard mandating production of 36 billion gallons of biofuel by the year 2022. Even so, concern remains over the impending need to convert as much as 30 million acres of U.S. crop land, which would include food crops, to land for perennial energy crops in order to meet that demand.
Researchers realize that biomass feedstocks will need to come from many different sources, including crop residues, forest residues, and municipal waste, for example, said Marty Williams, a University of Illinois crop scientist and ecologist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service. The use of double-cropping systems—a winter annual biomass crop is grown then harvested in the spring, followed by a summer annual crop—has been suggested as an additional option.
Knowing that many large-seeded vegetables in the Midwest must be planted later than agronomic crops into warmer soils, Williams was interested in the possibility of developing a bioenergy feedstock/vegetable double-cropping system. He explained that no such system had been developed and tested yet.
“Some vegetables have relatively short growing seasons, too. Rather than the standard fallow period for certain vegetables, what about integrating a bioenergy crop as a part of a double-cropping system?” Williams said.
Williams chose a vegetable crop popular in the state of Illinois, pumpkin, to be used in the double-cropping system study. “We took a fairly simplistic look at comparing this bioenergy/vegetable double-cropping system with traditional vegetable production using processing pumpkin,” Williams explained. “Illinois leads the nation in pumpkin production, providing some 90 percent of the processing pumpkin in the United States.”
Field trials were conducted over three environments. During the study, Williams compared crop productivity and weed communities in four different pumpkin production systems, varying in tillage, cover crop, and bioenergy feedstock/pumpkin double-cropping. A fall-planted rye (Secale cereale) mix was used as the biomass feedstock.
“In the end, winter rye may not be the best feedstock crop to use,” he explained. “It was more of a model crop for us for our system. It grows well and has several desirable traits. Seed is relatively inexpensive and the plant is hardy.”
Interestingly, the researchers saw pumpkin yields in the double-cropping system were comparable to conventional pumpkin production. However, the biomass feedstock also yielded an average of 4.4 tons per acre of dry biomass prior to pumpkin planting. “We saw a theoretical yield of 349 gallons of ethanol per acre, and a higher farm gate value than typical pumpkin production,” Williams said.
“It looks promising,” he added. “The biomass yield wasn’t as high as something like Miscanthus, but we’re producing feedstock and not taking land away from food production. Moreover, the cropping systems were not optimized, such as for soil fertility, so our economic estimates are likely conservative.”
Overall, the biomass yield was comparable to that of ‘Shawnee’ switchgrass, but only one-half the yield of a hybrid switchgrass, the study reported.
“Perhaps some of our vegetable-cropping systems could contribute to bioenergy production, while still producing veggies,” Williams said. “Also, there may be certain vegetable crops that are better suited to double-cropping. Given the potential competition between food and fuel production globally, systems making contributions towards both goals appear worth further consideration,” he added.
“A bioenergy feedstock/vegetable double-cropping system” was recently published in Industrial Crops and Products.
OIP transitions office managers
The Office of International Programs (OIP) recently said goodbye to its office manager of two years, Karen Driscoll, who retired on April 30, 2015, and welcomed a new office manager, Jodi Gritten.
Karen Driscoll retired after 10 years of service at the University of Illinois. Prior to OIP, Karen worked in the Department of Micro and Nano Technology Lab, the Center for the Physics of Living Cells, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Before joining the UI, Karen worked for a municipality outside Chicago. OIP is thankful for all Karen has done for our office and wishes her much joy in her retirement.
Jodi Gritten comes to OIP from the Illinois Applied Research Institute in the College of Engineering, where she worked for two years as the manager of operations. Previously, she worked for 13 years as office manager at the Unit of Computational Science and Engineering. Jodi is completing her B.F.A. in Art History. OIP is excited to have Jodi join our team.
Jodi can be reached at 244-2295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bullock brothers unite science and economics to help farmers and environment
Two brothers representing different disciplines in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) are collaborating to reduce environmental damage and raise farm profits around the world by providing better recommendations for using nitrogen fertilizers.
Dr. Donald Bullock is a professor of crop production in the Department of Crop Sciences.
Dr. David Bullock is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics.
The brothers are using precision agricultural technology (PAT) in South America, specifically Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Columbia, to conduct inexpensive, large-scale experiments that will yield the information needed to estimate site-specific application rates for nitrogen fertilizer.
Don designs the experiments, and David analyzes the data to develop management strategies.
“Our overall goal is to change how advice about nitrogen use is given. We want to make it very data intensive. By collecting the data on how yields and water quality respond to nitrogen, we can increase farmers’ production and reduce environmental damage from over-fertilization,” David explained.
PAT uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) so producers can know exactly where they are in a field. However, the brothers note that PAT has not always been used correctly. Their project takes PAT further, or rather backs up, to focus on gathering the right information.
“Our project is about generating the data you need to use precision technology. We are trying to figure out what information we need to collect to make good decisions. Technology and information are complimentary. The technology is worth so much more with the information. And the information is only valuable with the technology,” said Don.
The brothers’ primary collaborator in Brazil is Dr. Luciano Shozo Shiratsuchi, who works at Embrapa’s Agrosilviforestal Research Center. Through Dr. Shozo, the brothers have established a network of research institutions and farmers to cooperate with to run field trials and collect data sets.
The farmers thus far have been willing to participate.
“It’s really no difference for the farmer. We understand time is critical to producers, and they don’t have time to change things. But all they have to do for us is load a program and use yield monitors,” said Don.
Ideally the project will benefit these same farmers.
“By doing the research on the farm, rather than research plots, we will be able to tell this same farmer what their management practices should be. We are giving advice from data intensive analysis. It is pretty revolutionary,” said David.
The brothers have been running parallel experiments in the United States.
“We also need to do this internationally because the key to learning things with data is to have a variance in data. Our goal is to create an infrastructure where lots of data from lots of farms goes into a common database. The other advantage is that South America has a flipped season, so we can collect data all year round.” said David.
“It’s also a chance to go eat way better barbeque,” added Don, and David enthusiastically agreed that South America does has better barbeque.
In addition to uniting science and economics, the brothers unite their humors to give an entertaining interview.
Muli-disciplinary and intrafamily collaboration
Don and David agree they would not have likely sought each other out as collaborators if not brothers, but through the experience, they have learned interdisciplinary collaboration requires understanding each other’s “language.”
“If you read ag econ journals, there is a lot of bad crop science, and if you read crop science journals, there is a lot of bad economics,” said Dave.
“The argument is which is worse,” quipped Don.
The brothers’ large body work over the past 20 years has made great headway towards crop sciences and agricultural economists better understanding each other. And their new project goes beyond their own disciplines to be truly multi-disciplinary; they are also working with agricultural engineers and environmental sciences.
“People from different disciplines see things in different ways. But what we’re doing takes economists, crop scientists, and others. We don’t speak the same ‘language’ but eventually we get around to understanding what the other person is saying. When you get around to understanding, it makes sense; it’s just from a different viewpoint,” said David.
“Interdisciplinary collaboration allows you to see some of your own ignorance because when you work on big projects, it is easy to quickly get out of your area of expertise. When you bring groups and expertise to the table you can all do a better job,” added Don.
When asked it if it was harder or easier to collaborate with a brother, they said “both.”
“It’s harder,” said Don, “because you say things you wouldn’t say to anyone else.”
“So, yes, it’s harder to keep the relationship,” joked David.
The positive: “It’s pretty hard to offend your brother,” they agreed.
International careers inspired by Illinois
The brothers spent their early childhood in Central Illinois. Their grandfather was a farmer who originally came to Illinois to work the corn harvest. This background led to their interest in agricultural-related work.
Both speak some Spanish and have had truly international careers.
Don has done similar work in China to increase corn yields in the Jilin province. He just joined the “million mile club” on an airline but said about travel, “I love being there, but I hate to travel.”
David has done policy work with European Union, including European Union, France, Austria, Norway, and just the day prior to the interview, had lost a suitcase in Italy.
“It’s amazing the life we lead; we have the opportunity to go around the world and do amazing things,” they agreed.
The brothers will travel again to Columbia in August to review new data from the project’s ongoing experiments.
Funding for this project has included a Future Interdisciplinary Research Explorations (FIRE) grant from the College of ACES Office of Research, support from the Lemann Foundation, and travel funds provided by the ACES Office of International Programs.
Scientists create new low-allergen soybean
URBANA, Ill. - In the United States, nearly 15 million people and 1 in 13 children suffer from food allergy. Soybean is one of the eight foods whose labeling is regulated by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALPA). Soybean is a major ingredient in many infant formulas, processed foods, and livestock feed.
A decade-long effort by University of Arizona scientists Monica Schmidt and Eliot Herman and Theodore Hymowitz, a professor emeritus in the University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences, yielded a new soybean with significantly reduced levels of three key proteins responsible for both its allergenic and anti-nutritional effects. The work is described in a paper published online in the journal Plant Breeding.
Soybean contains several allergenic proteins, including P34, an immunodominant allergen protein discovered by the Herman laboratory in 1990, as well as several other anti-nutritional proteins that affect soybean use as food and livestock feed.
"We have created a low-allergen and low anti-nutritional inhibitor soybean using conventional breeding methods," said Herman, a professor in the University of Arizona School of Plant Sciences and member of the BIO5 Institute.
In 2003, Herman, then at the USDA, made national headlines when he and his colleagues addressed P34 as soybean's key allergen and genetically engineered it out of the crop. Although the new soybean may cause allergic reactions, its use and even its testing was impeded by its transgenic production, especially in key applications such as infant formula.
To circumvent the issue, Herman, Schmidt, and Hymowitz set out to create a similar soybean using conventional breeding methods. After screening 16,000 different lines of soybean for the desired trait, they found one that almost completely lacked the allergen P34. The lines were obtained from the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection in Urbana, Ill.
The team stacked the P34 null two lines previously identified by Hymowitz over a period of 35 years that lacked soybean agglutinin and trypsin inhibitors, proteins that are responsible for soybean's anti-nutritional effects in livestock and humans.
"We really believed in this goal and wanted to produce an enhanced soybean that could be used," said Herman. "That became the motivation for using conventional breeding rather than the transgenic approach."
After nearly a decade of cross breeding each line to the soybean reference genome cultivar called Williams 82, the team has produced a soybean that lacks most of the P34 and trypsin inhibitor protein and completely lacks soybean agglutinin. Beyond these characteristics, the soybean appears to be identical to Williams 82. They have dubbed the new line "Triple Null.”
"We think this will be embraced by many, whether they prefer conventional breeding or transgenic methods of food production," said Schmidt, an assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Plant Sciences and member of the BIO5 Institute. "It can be grown organically, with pesticides, and although conventional itself, it could be transformed to add additional producer or consumer traits.”
In collaboration with scientists at Purdue, it is planned to test the efficacy of the low-allergen soybean in swine. Swine develop soybean allergies remarkably similarly to human infants, and the Purdue team has bred a line of swine that develops a strong allergenic response that manifests a response very similar to that of human infants allergic to soybean formula. The swine studies will enable testing of Triple Null and enable new approaches to mitigate soybean allergies in humans.
"Food allergy is a huge and growing problem for children. In Arizona, teachers are required to undergo training in how to respond to an emergency situation where a child has a significant response to an allergen exposure," Herman explained. "We hope this work will offer a new approach to developing low-allergen foods and help to bend down the curve of growing food allergy."
Triple Null also has application for livestock and agriculture with soybean being the primary global input of vegetable protein for animal feed. A growing use of soybean is in aquaculture that produces more than 50 percent of consumed seafood, with this number expected to rise to two-thirds by 2030. Before soybean is used as feed, it must undergo a heating process to eliminate anti-nutritional proteins like trypsin inhibitors and soybean agglutinin that adds to cost—the very components that Herman, Schmidt, and Hymowitz have effectively eliminated.
"All over the world, people are consuming more meat," said Herman. "At the current rate, we'll have to more than double the amount of animal feed by the year 2050. This means that several hundred million more tons of soybean will need to be processed before it can be fed to animals."
By preemptively knocking out the anti-nutritional components of soybean, the researchers hope Triple Null can eliminate the need for extra processing and make the creation of animal feed more efficient, and potentially, to develop a raw soybean as animal feed.
"By the year 2050, animal feed needs are expected to rise 235 percent,” Schmidt said. "We're hoping that our soybeans can help with this. It's great to know that they can have an impact."
Adapted from a press release from the University of Arizona.
ACES to host International Summer Immersion Program
The Office of International Programs (OIP) is excited to announce the participation of at least 30 students as part of the 2015 International Summer Immersion Program (ISIP).
The newly named ISIP has evolved from the annual summer program formerly known as the Zhejiang University Research Apprenticeship Program. The program, going into its sixth year, will still include students from China’s Zhejiang University but has been expanded to include students from as many as three other partner institution, including Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Chungnam National University, South Korea; and University for Development Studies, Ghana.
“ISIP grew out of the desire to diversify the annual Zhejiang program, mainly because the program students experience will be enhanced by their exposure and interaction with fellows from other countries. This will create more opportunities for them to further their English language skills. Besides offering an outstanding experience to these students, the program serves as a vehicle for deepening our existing strategic partnerships with these other universities,” said Suzana Palaska-Nicholson, associate director of OIP.
Other enhancements to the 2015 program include new topical seminars and language classes that focus on English for graduate students. The program will run from July 13 - August 15.
“We look forward to welcoming the new group of students. Once again, there has been an overwhelming interest in the program, and we have had the opportunity to be highly selective of the students we bring in,” said Palaska-Nicholson.
OIP will be matching each student with an ACES faculty mentor. Most of the students are interested in crop sciences, agricultural and biological engineering, and food science and human nutrition. If you are interested in serving in a mentoring capacity, please contact Suzana Palaska-Nicholson at email@example.com.
For more information about the ISIP, visit: http://intlprograms.aces.illinois.edu/content/international-summer-immersion-program.
Wheat disease outlook
URBANA, Ill. - As the weather begins to warm up, wheat is beginning to grow at a faster pace. Symptoms of some diseases are also beginning to appear or will likely be appearing soon, said a University of Illinois Extension plant pathologist.
Carl Bradley cautioned that growers should now be watching for the following diseases:
Stagonospora and Septoria leaf blotch: Although caused by two different pathogens, symptoms of these two foliar diseases look very similar, and both can be managed with an appropriate foliar fungicide application. Bradley explained that most results from U of I wheat foliar fungicide trials conducted since 2008 have shown that an application of an effective fungicide for control of Fusarium head blight (scab) when wheat is beginning to flower also provides good protection against common foliar fungal diseases on the flag leaf.
“However, if a variety is very susceptible and if conditions are favorable (frequent rainfall/damp conditions), then an application of a fungicide when the flag leaf emerges may be needed,” Bradley said.
The 2015 multi-state university foliar fungicide efficacy table for wheat diseases can be found here: http://bulletin.ipm.illinois.edu/?attachment_id=3142.
Virus diseases: Surveys of viruses affecting wheat in Illinois conducted in recent years indicate that Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) is the most commonly detected virus affecting wheat in the state. However, other viruses, such as Wheat spindle streak mosaic virus (WSSMV), Soilborne wheat mosaic virus (SBWMV), Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV), and a few others also have been detected. Bradley said virus symptoms (yellowing, purpling, yellow streaks, etc.) can be confused with other diseases and disorders, and it can be extremely difficult identifying a virus disease by symptoms alone.
“Specific laboratory tests must be conducted to determine if a virus is responsible for these symptoms,” Bradley said.
The U of I Plant Clinic (https://web.extension.illinois.edu/plantclinic/) does not currently test for viruses in wheat but can help make a determination if virus testing is needed, he added. Plant virus testing can be done at the Purdue University Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory (http://www.ppdl.purdue.edu/ppdl/index.html) and at a private lab known as Agdia, which is located in Elkhart, Ind. (https://www.agdia.com/). “Unfortunately, no in-season control options are available for managing virus diseases,” Bradley said.
Stripe rust: To his knowledge, Bradley said stripe rust has not yet been detected in Illinois during the 2015 season. “However, there have been reports of stripe rust from states to the south of Illinois, such as Arkansas and Tennessee. Because rust spores have the capability of moving many miles, stripe rust could be on its way to Illinois,” he said.
If stripe rust is observed on plants, a foliar fungicide may be needed to protect the flag leaf, depending on the susceptibility of the variety. Applications at early flowering for control of Fusarium head blight also may be effective in managing stripe rust; however, an earlier application of a fungicide may be needed if stripe rust is found prior to heading and if disease is developing rapidly.
Fusarium head blight (scab): Although symptoms of this disease cannot be observed yet, Fusarium head blight is the most important wheat disease in Illinois, and thinking about how to manage this disease cannot occur too early, Bradley cautioned. “In years in which weather is favorable for infection (frequent rains, moderate temperatures, and cloudy weather—such as 2014 for southern Illinois producers), this disease can wreak havoc,” he said. “This is especially true because the fungus that causes this disease also produces toxins, such as deoxynivalenol (DON; also known as vomitoxin) that will contaminate grain and will result into major dockage when grain is delivered to the elevator. Infection of the scab fungus occurs when wheat heads begin to flower.”
He added that the beginning flowering stage is also the best timing for applying an effective fungicide to managing Fusarium head blight and DON. Results of university fungicide trials across multiple states have shown that Prosaro (Bayer CropScience) and Caramba (BASF) are the best products currently available for reducing Fusarium head blight and DON in grain. “One thing to keep in mind with these fungicides is that 100 percent control cannot be achieved, and susceptible varieties cannot be ‘fixed’ by applying a fungicide when conditions are very favorable for Fusarium head blight.
Bradley added that university research has shown that Fusarium head blight and DON can be reduced by approximately 40 to 60 percent with Prosaro or Caramba (relative to a non-treated check).
“The bottom line is that fungicides will reduce disease and DON levels in grain, but don’t expect a complete reduction with fungicides alone,” Bradley said. “The forecasted risk of Fusarium head blight can be observed by going to the Fusarium head blight Prediction Center website (http://www.wheatscab.psu.edu/).”