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What do the new blood pressure guidelines mean for you?

Published February 5, 2018

URBANA, Ill. - In November of 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released the first comprehensive guidelines for managing high blood pressure in adults since 2003. The update was created to identify and treat hypertension (high blood pressure) sooner. Research shows a very clear link between high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, making you twice as likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack, explains University of Illinois Extension educator Marilyn Csernus.

Doctors previously diagnosed hypertension as blood pressure above 140 systolic (top number) or above 90 diastolic (bottom number). Now, Stage 1 hypertension is 130-139 mm Hg and 80-89 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension is greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg, or greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg.

The new guidelines classify normal blood pressure as less than 120/80 mm Hg. There is a new category of elevated blood pressure, without a diagnosis of hypertension. Elevated blood pressure is between 120-129 mm Hg and less than 80 mm Hg.  

“All of these different numbers and categories can be confusing,” Csernus says. “One of the most important changes is that what used to be considered normal blood pressure is no longer normal.

“Because there are often no symptoms—yet it significantly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke—hypertension is known as a ‘silent killer.’ These updated guidelines mean more adults will now have hypertension, but not all will necessarily require medication. Lifestyle changes may be enough to bring blood pressure down to a normal range for some people.”

Positive changes in lifestyle behaviors have a cumulative effect on lowering blood pressure. Csernus says the most effective lifestyle interventions are weight loss and a healthy eating plan like the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH). The DASH plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. The DASH plan is lower in sodium and rich in other nutrients that lower blood pressure. Other positive interventions include regular physical activity and moderate alcohol intake.  

“Accurate blood pressure readings are the first step in diagnosing hypertension. Caffeine, nicotine, and exercise can affect blood pressure and should be avoided within a half-hour of a blood pressure check. A correctly fitted and placed blood pressure cuff is necessary for an accurate reading,” she adds.

When checking blood pressure, the cuffed arm should be placed on a flat surface at heart level. Sit upright with feet flat on the floor and back straight. Do not talk during a blood pressure reading. Use the average of two blood pressure readings taken at least one minute apart, after sitting quietly for five minutes.

“If using a home blood pressure device, keep a log of the readings to share with your health care provider. Take your home device along to your appointment to make sure it is accurate,” Csernus says.

An elevated blood pressure reading should not be taken lightly. “Remember, each positive lifestyle change made can cumulatively reduce blood pressure. If lifestyle changes are not enough, medication will be needed to maintain normal blood pressure and prevent the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Individual recommendations and treatment for blood pressure should come from your health care provider,” she adds.

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Illinois researchers contribute to publicly accessible agronomy database

Published February 5, 2018
Nafziger and Villamil
Nafziger and Villamil

URBANA, Ill. – Data from the USDA-funded Sustainable Corn Coordinated Agricultural Project, which includes contributions from University of Illinois scientists, are now publicly available at Comprising data from five years and 30 field research sites in the Midwest, it has been called one of the most comprehensive agricultural datasets ever to be published.

The research was funded from 2011-17 with a $20 million USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant. The research included nine states, 11 institutions and a 140-member team, which was led by Lois Wright Morton and Lori Abendroth from Iowa State University, and included U of I researchers Maria Villamil and Emerson Nafziger, both in the Department of Crop Sciences.

“The team focused on management practices that could build resiliency to weather variability while maintaining crop yields and reducing negative environmental impacts,” Abendroth says. “It was our goal to make the data available to other scientists in a collaborative effort to advance our understanding of the interactions between the crops we grow, local soils,  changing climate, and management decisions.”

The research areas included agronomy, soil science, greenhouse gas, water quality, drainage, and entomology. Data was collected at different frequencies ranging from yearly to sensor-based measurements collected in 15-minute intervals.

The U of I portion of the project was conducted at two western Illinois sites where Nafziger established crop rotation and tillage studies in the mid-1990s. “These studies have produced valuable data on long-term effects of crop rotation compared to continuous corn and soybean, and on how tillage affects yield and yield stability within different crops and rotations,” Nafziger says.

Villamil and her team focused on soil factors associated with different crop rotation cycles, including soil as a source of greenhouse gases. “We found that crop rotation, as opposed to continuous corn, helps to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and also helps to boost the yields for each cash crop,” says Gevan Behnke, graduate student in crop sciences at U of I and member of Villamil’s research team. 

Nafziger adds that the use of nitrogen fertilizer on corn is the major factor in greenhouse gas emissions, so finding more emissions with continuous corn was not unexpected. “The major practical drawback for continuous corn in the experiment was that it yielded less than corn in rotation with other crops, and so was less profitable,” he says.

Standardized protocols were developed, as well as standards regarding data structuring and consistency for end-users. A data dictionary describes the measurements taken along with detailed field management data and notes to help users properly interpret the data. “This real-world data can be used in classroom exercises to better understand the responses and relationships inherent in agriculture. In addition, data can be used to train students in data sciences including visualization, analysis and interpretation,” Abendroth says.

“It’s public data; anyone can use it. I’m very proud of having been part of that effort,” Villamil says.  

The team posted the data to the USDA National Ag Library Ag Data Commons, which is a long-term repository and provides additional access to the data. Teams receiving USDA-NIFA funding are required to make data publicly available once a project has ended. The Sustainable Corn CAP team encourages others to use the data to generate added value for research applications and educational purposes.

The Sustainable Corn CAP was a transdisciplinary team funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA, Award No. 2011-68002-30190).


50th annual IPT Bull Sale is the source for total performance genetics

Published February 2, 2018

URBANA, Ill. – Commercial cow-calf producers and seedstock breeders interested in purchasing a total performance tested bull will want to attend the 2018 Illinois Performance Tested Bull Sale. The sale will be the leadoff event of the Illinois Beef Expo.

There are 64 bulls cataloged, with 17 being longer-aged 2016 mature bulls and 47 yearlings. A breakdown of the breeds includes 37 Angus, 22 Simmental and SimAngus, and 5 Polled Hereford. The sale is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m. and will be held in the Livestock Center on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

“Over the past 49 years, we’ve sold 4,690 bulls, valued at over $8.5 million,” says Travis Meteer, IPT Bull Sale Manager. “This year, our 50th annual sale will feature some of the most elite seedstock in Illinois and the Midwest.”

The sale order will be based on a Power Score system that utilizes the economic indexes provided by the breed associations. The Power Score will be calculated on the “percentile rank” for these values. The economic indexes are $W and $B for Angus, API and TI for Simmental, and BMI and CHB for Hereford.

Along with strict requirements for superior EPDs (expected progeny differences), bulls must meet some of the most rigorous requirements in the industry. “These bulls don’t just have to pass the test… they have to pass every test,” Meteer says.

All of the bulls must meet a stringent minimum scrotal circumference for their age. Mothers of the bulls are required to test negative for Johne’s disease or come from a Level 1 or higher herd of the Voluntary Johne’s Certification Program. Bulls also must be tested free for bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) using the persistently infected (PI) ear notch screening system. All senior and January yearlings must be fertility tested. All bulls will sell with genomic-enhanced EPDs, which increases the accuracy and reliability of the EPD values. All bulls meet weight, frame, and functional soundness evaluations prior to the sale.

The 2018 IPT Bull Sale offers some of the most elite bulls found anywhere in the United States as verified by their Power Scores. The 2018 sale will feature several genetic powerhouse bulls that have low birth weights, high growth, and carcass desirability. Proven breed-leaders, AI sires, and legendary breed icons fill the pedigrees of the bulls. There are truly unique combinations of performance, pedigree, and phenotype offered through the sale, Meteer says.

The IPT Bull Sale catalog and additional supporting information can be found online at The website contains pedigree information, adjusted weights, Power Scores, and EPDs on seven different traits and two dollar value indexes. In addition, there is a list of registration numbers for all the bulls that allow prospective buyers to print a “performance pedigree” from the breed associations. Online bidding will be offered through DV Auction.

The sale is supported by University of Illinois Extension, University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences, Illinois Angus Association, Illinois Simmental Association, Vita-Ferm, Boehringer-Ingleheim, Zoetis 50K, and ABS. For more information on the sale or bulls consigned, contact Travis Meteer at 217-430-7030 or email at

News Source:

Travis Meteer, 217-236-4961

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

2018 Resilient Farm Roadshow planned for February

Published February 2, 2018

URBANA, Ill. - Some of the habits of successful farm managers include being innovative and cost- conscious, and evaluating the returns on alternative technologies and investments. Cash flow management is key in preserving working capital in these tight economic times. Crop insurance and marketing presents opportunities to manage risks. These and other topics will be discussed during a series of half-day workshops throughout Illinois in February.

The event, hosted by the Illinois Soybean Association and farmdoc at the University of Illinois, will feature panel discussions during which successful farm managers will bring home these topics to implementable strategies. Optional computer sessions in the afternoon will cover developing a cash flow for an individual operation.

Locations and dates include:

  • Feb. 13, Dekalb, Faranda’s Banquet Center
  • Feb. 14, Galesburg, Prairie Inn and Conference Center
  • Feb. 15, Bloomington, Chateau Bloomington
  • Feb. 20, 2018, Effingham, Carriage House Event Center
  • Feb. 21, Mt. Vernon, Drury Inn

Speakers for the sessions will include: Dan Davidson, agronomist, Illinois Soybean Association; Gary Schnitkey, professor, farm management, University of Illinois; Dwight Rabb, CEO, Illinois Farm Business Farm Management; as well as personnel from Compeer Insurance and Farm Credit Illinois Insurance.

For more information, or to register, go to

Funding for this project is provided by the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture under Award Number 2015-59200-24226

Additional support was provided by the Illinois Soybean Association under their profitability initiative, Compeer Financial, and Farm Credit Illinois.

Register for 2018 annual Forest Stewardship Conference

Published January 31, 2018

URBANA, Ill. — University of Illinois Extension and Iowa State University Extension are hosting the 2018 Tri-State Forest Stewardship Conference on Saturday, March 10, at the Sinsinawa Mound Center in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin.

“We are proud to announce that this is the 24th year for the forestry conference, which annually draws over 500 woodland landowners and tree enthusiasts from Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and several other states,” says Jay Hayek, U of I Extension forester.

“We definitely like to brag about this being one of the largest woodland-owner conferences east of the Mississippi River. We have 16 guest speakers this year with a slate of 20 forestry, conservation, and wildlife-related presentations,” Hayek says.

To register online and to view the conference agenda, please visit

Participants will also have the opportunity to interact with state and university forestry and natural resource specialists.

Registration is $55. The registration fee includes continental breakfast, turkey or meatless lasagna lunch, refreshments throughout the day, handouts, and the traditional Tri-State Forest Stewardship Conference coffee mug.

The deadline to register is noon on March 2. Advance registration is required. Participation is limited to the first 450 paid registrations, so early registration is encouraged and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. No walk-in registrations on the day of the conference will be allowed.

Sinsinawa Mound Center is located on 585 County Road Z, Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. Directions to Sinsinawa Mound Center can be found at

For more information about the Tri-State Forest Stewardship Conference, visit

News Source:

Jay Hayek, 217-244-0534

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Nickols-Richardson named Interim Associate Dean and Director of Extension

Published January 31, 2018

URBANA, Ill.  – Shelly Nickols-Richardson has been named Interim Associate Dean and Director of Extension within the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois.

“Dr. Nickols-Richardson brings a tremendous amount of administrative leadership experience to this role, which will serve well as she works closely with all of us to evolve the Extension enterprise to the next level of excellence,” says Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of ACES.

In addition to serving as the head of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) for the past five years, Dr. Nickols-Richardson served as a member of the Extension 3.0 Task Force, which familiarized her with many of the opportunities and challenges Extension is facing. As the head of FSHN, she also had the opportunity to work with Extension faculty and staff on a regular basis.

“I consider Dr. Nickols-Richardson to be the ideal person to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations from the Extension 3.0 Task Force, and to create cohesion between Extension and the College of ACES based on the experience, perspective, and wisdom she brings to the position,” Kidwell says. “We will partner closely with college and Extension personnel to achieve this goal. It is imperative for our long-term success and sustainability that we frame an exciting vision that will allow us as a collective to manifest the land-grant mission that means so much to so many.”

While Nickols-Richardson is serving in this interim role, Nicki Engeseth, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, has agreed to serve as the acting department head of FSHN. Having served in the interim head role several years ago, Engeseth brings experience and a deep understanding of the department to this role. Nickols-Richardson and Engeseth will assume their new duties and responsibilities on March 1.

Nickols-Richardson will succeed George Czapar, who will be retiring on March 1 as Associate Dean and Director of Illinois Extension. Czapar has served in this role for the past five years, activating the reorganization of Extension in an extremely challenging budget climate.

“Czapar’s dedication, compassion, and commitment to Extension and 4-H are unwavering,” Kidwell says. “The persistence and resiliency with which he has fought for the cause and has supported his personnel is truly impressive.”

News Source:

Kim Kidwell, 217-333-0460