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Are you positive you have Goss's wilt?

Published August 17, 2011
As the old adage goes, "All that glitters is not gold." Likewise, all that glitters is not Goss's wilt this growing season.

"When a disease that has occurred only sporadically in past seasons suddenly becomes a big player, worries and conjecture abound," said Suzanne Bissonnette, University of Illinois Plant Clinic Coordinator.

In the past few weeks, Goss's wilt has been reported from a number of areas east of the Mississippi River where the disease sporadically occurred in isolated fields.

Initial symptoms are linear, chlorotic to necrotic lesions with a silver-colored, water-soaked appearance at edges where the disease is advancing. Symptoms known as "leaf freckles" also are prominent at edges of lesions. Leaf freckles appear as dark green to black spots about the size of a pinhead.

Symptoms continue to advance on susceptible hybrids, resulting in large areas of dead leaf tissue. When this occurs, affected areas of leaves may have a shellac-like, glittery appearance due to the bacteria oozing to the leaf surface, said U of I crop sciences professor emeritus Jerald Pataky. On hybrids with moderate levels of resistance, initial symptoms are similar to those on susceptible hybrids, but the extent of leaf area affected is considerably less.

"Keep an open mind when making observations for presence of Goss's wilt," said Carl Bradley, U of I Extension plant pathologist. "Numerous factors other than Goss's wilt can contribute to large necrotic areas on corn leaves. For example, heat stress, drought stress, and nutrient deficiencies are prominent causes of dead and dying leaves in lower and middle plant canopies."

Bissonnette said it can be tricky to observe these large areas of dead tissue because they tend to be colonized by fungi called saprophytes that grow in patches on dead tissue. Growth of saprophytes may be confused with the "leaf freckles" caused by Goss's wilt.

The distress surrounding this epidemic may be due in part to a readily available immuno-strip test that can test for Clavibacter, the genus of bacteria that causes Goss's wilt. The immuno-strip test was developed for the tomato canker bacterium, Clavibacter michiganensis michiganensis, but it also detects the Goss's wilt bacterium (Clavibacter michiganensis nebraskensis) and other species of Clavibacter. A positive Clavibacter immuno-strip test indicates that the Goss's wilt bacterium or a related organism is present.

"The U of I Plant Clinic laboratory diagnosis also depends on the presence of bacterial streaming in the affected tissue and a critical examination of the symptoms," Bissonnette said. All three of these factors need to be positive for the diagnosis of Goss's wilt. Sterile sample preparation procedures also are followed when testing to prevent contamination."

How should you interpret a positive result?

"A positive laboratory result doesn't mean the whole field has Goss's wilt, it means the sample does," Bissonnette said. "Also, a positive result doesn't always mean that the infection of that plant is severe — it means the bacterium is present."

Additionally, as with all diagnoses, consider other factors that may be contributing to the issue, Bradley said. Other leaf blights, bacterial and fungal, may be present. Consider environmental conditions such as drought, or heat. Consider nutrient deficiencies or excesses. One or more of these factors can contribute to the widespread leaf necrosis being noted in the field this season. Any or all of these factors will each contribute to yield loss if present.

A proper diagnosis and methodical analysis of the whole situation in a field will help determine if management tactics such as rotation, tillage and selection of hybrids with adequate levels of resistance may be necessary to prevent Goss's wilt from occurring in subsequent years. For more information on the U of I Plant Clinic, visit web.extension.illinois.edu/plantclinic.

Digital photos available for three months at www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/News_Photos/GW2

Have your cake and eat it too

Published August 17, 2011
Involving Institutions in Local Food Networks: Conversations with Producers, Student Farms, and Buyers field day will spur discussions at the University of Illinois Student Farm on Sept. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The field day will provide universities and other large institutions, such as schools and hospitals, the opportunity to learn about using local food resources. Private producers, student farm employees and volunteers, university dining services staff and local food organizations will share their experiences as integral parts of local food networks.

The Land Connection, an Illinois nonprofit organization devoted to training farmers, saving farmland, and empowering consumers, will organize a panel of farmers to discuss and answer questions about providing for institutions including their issues, obstacles and successes.

Dining services representatives from the U of I and Southern Illinois University — Carbondale (SIUC) will discuss the needs of institutional food buyers and the opportunities to partner with local farmers.

Members of the Local Organic Initiative of Carbondale (LOGIC), a SIUC organic garden created by students, faculty and staff that provides produce for their campus dining halls, will discuss how they established a relationship to provide local, organic food to SIU dining halls. In addition, a panel of U of I and SIUC students will discuss their involvement with the student farms and answer questions about how they have built relationships with university food buyers.

Attendees will enjoy an organic lunch produced locally before touring the U of I Sustainable Student Farm (SSF) with three acres of outdoor field production and nearly 10,000 square feet of year-round high tunnel production to provide residence halls with locally grown, low-input sustainable food.

After the tour, visit with students and enjoy the annual U of I Student Farm Open House from 3 to 6 p.m. to learn more about this living laboratory that connects students, community members and Illinois residents with regional, small-scale food systems.

Pre-registration is required. Register at ioga-2011-09-01.eventbrite.com. The event is free but a $12 fee for lunch is optional for participants. Lunch is provided free to students.

The field day is co-sponsored by U of I Extension, The Land Connection, SSF, LOGIC and the Illinois Organic Growers Association, an organization that promotes networking, new and improved production methods, and expanded markets for organic products.

For more information, contact Ellen Phillips at 815-732-2191 or ephillps@illinois.edu.

Charles Pignon


U of I Plant Clinic offers testing for Bacterial Leaf Scorch

Published August 15, 2011
Are your trees getting scorched by the drought-like conditions in Illinois this summer? Find out if your trees are experiencing bacterial leaf scorch (BLS), the infectious type of scorch, by sending in your samples to the University of Illinois Plant Clinic.

"Drought, environmental stress, root injury and many other factors are causing leaf margin necrosis, or scorch, to show up in trees throughout the state," said Stephanie Porter, U of I visiting plant diagnostic outreach specialist in the Department of Crop Sciences. "Bacterial leaf scorch (BLS) is infectious and spreads systemically and causes a slow decline and death of the tree."

Although BLS is not new, it's beginning to appear more frequently in the Midwest, Porter said. The infectious leaf scorch is caused by the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. The bacterial pathogen is found only in xylem tissue. Xylem-feeding leafhoppers and spittlebugs are thought to spread the bacterium in landscape trees.

"It can also be transmitted between trees through root grafts," she added. "The transmission methods must not be very effective, though, because we do not see rapid spread of the disease from tree to tree."

The most frequent hosts of this disease include elm, oak, sycamore, mulberry, sweetgum, sugar maple, and red maple. Look for scorch symptoms that occur in early summer to midsummer and then intensify in late summer. The scorched leaf edges or tissue between veins may be bordered by a yellow or reddish brown color.

"The symptoms occur first on one branch or section of branches and slowly spread in the tree from year to year," Porter said. "It is one of those situations that you hope will be better next year, but only gets worse. Symptoms will often show on oldest leaves first, distinguishing this disease from environmental scorch that first appears on newest leaves."

However, diagnosis is never that simple, she said. For example, most references say that oaks show symptoms on an entire branch at once. BLS often allows infected leaves to remain on the tree until the fall.

"Oaks are an exception," she said. "If you have seen a slow decline in your oak, leaf scorch symptoms showing each July to August, and fall leaf drop about a month ahead of healthy oaks, BLS may be present."

To determine if you have BLS, submit a sample to the U of I Plant Clinic. A fee will apply for submitted samples. Porter suggested calling ahead to be certain you have prepared the correct sample and to avoid resampling at your expense.

Leaf petiole tissue is preferred for this test, so leaves with green petioles are the usual request, she said. Please send samples in the next several weeks. The U of I Plant Clinic will collect samples, store them, and then run ONE test on all the submitted samples at the end of August.

If BLS is present, Porter said there is probably nothing you can do to keep the tree from dying. However, she recommends pruning out dead wood as it appears. She also encourages tree owners to think about planting a tree replacement not known to host this disease.

"Be sure to pick a species that does well in the site you have in mind," Porter said. "Investigate drainage pattern, soil type, amount of sunlight, and any oddities about the location. There are no fungicides, insecticides, or bactericides that can be sprayed on a tree to effectively prevent or cure this disease. There may be antibiotics that can be injected, but they may need to be repeated as frequently as every year, can be costly, and afford no guarantees."

For more information, contact web.extension.illinois.edu/plantclinic.

Digital photos available for three months at www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/News_Photos/BLS

Can oral care for babies prevent future cavities?

Published August 15, 2011
New parents have one more reason to pay attention to the oral health of their toothless babies. A recent University of Illinois study confirms the presence of bacteria associated with early childhood caries (ECC) in infant saliva.

ECC is a virulent form of caries, more commonly known as tooth decay or a cavity. Cavities are the most prevalent infectious disease in U.S. children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"By the time a child reaches kindergarten, 40 percent have dental cavities," said Kelly Swanson, lead researcher and U of I professor of animal science. "In addition, populations who are of low socioeconomic status, who consume a diet high in sugar, and whose mothers have low education levels are 32 times more likely to have this disease."

Swanson's novel study focused on infants before teeth erupted, compared to most studies focused on children already in preschool or kindergarten — after many children already have dental cavities.

"We now recognize that the 'window of infectivity,' which was thought to occur between 19 and 33 months of age years ago, really occurs at a much younger age," he said. "Minimizing snacks and drinks with fermentable sugars and wiping the gums of babies without teeth, as suggested by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, are important practices for new parents to follow to help prevent future cavities."

In addition, his team used high-throughput molecular techniques to characterize the entire community of oral microbiota, rather than focusing on identification of a few individual bacteria.

"Improved DNA technologies allow us to examine the whole population of bacteria, which gives us a more holistic perspective," Swanson said. "Like many other diseases, dental cavities are a result of many bacteria in a community, not just one pathogen."

Through 454 pyrosequencing, researchers learned that the oral bacterial community in infants without teeth was much more diverse than expected and identified hundreds of species. This demonstration that many members of the bacterial community that cause biofilm formation or are associated with ECC are already present in infant saliva justifies more research on the evolution of the infant oral bacterial community, Swanson said.

Could manipulating the bacterial community in infants before tooth eruption help prevent this disease in the future?

"The soft tissues in the mouth appear to serve as reservoirs for potential pathogens prior to tooth eruption," he said. "We want to characterize the microbial evolution that occurs in the oral cavity between birth and tooth eruption, as teeth erupt, and as dietary changes occur such as breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, liquid to solid food, and changes in nutrient profile."

Swanson said educating parents-to-be on oral hygiene and dietary habits is the most important strategy for prevention of dental cavities.

"Comparative analysis of salivary bacterial microbiome diversity in edentulous infants and their mothers or primary care givers using pyrosequencing" was published on August 10 in PLoS ONE. Researchers include Kelly Swanson, Kimberly Cephas, Juhee Kim, Rose Ann Mathai and Kathleen Barry of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Scot Dowd of the Research and Testing Laboratory and Medical Biofilm Research Institute in Lubbock, Texas; and Brandon Meline of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District. This study was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (project ILLU-538-396).

Digital photo available for three months at http://images.itcs.uiuc.edu/media/infantsaliva

No room to increase corn consumption

Published August 15, 2011
The USDA projects that 13.245 billion bushels of U.S. corn will be consumed during the marketing year that ends on Aug. 31, 2011. That forecast is 60 million bushels below the July forecast but is 179 million bushels above the record consumption in the previous year, said University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good.

"Corn exports during the year just ending are projected at a six-year low of 1.825 billion bushels. Domestic feed and residual use of corn is projected at only 5 billion bushels, the smallest use in 15 years," he said.

Declining feed use of corn since 2005-06 reflects the increasing consumption of distiller's grains and other co-products of ethanol production, he noted.

"Domestic processing use of corn during the current marketing year is expected to reach a record 6.42 billion bushels, 459 million more than consumed last year. The increase reflects an expected increase of 429 million bushels in the amount of corn used for ethanol and by-product production," he said.

Based on the current USDA projection of the magnitude of old-crop corn supplies on Sept. 1, 2011, and the projected size of the 2011 crop, corn consumption may have to be reduced by a small amount during the 2011-12 marketing year, he said.

Stocks of 940 million bushels, imports of 20 million bushels, and production of 12.914 billion bushels provide for a 2011-12 marketing year supply of 13.874 billion bushels. The projected supply is 311 million bushels less than the supply for the current marketing year, he said.

"Assuming that marketing year-ending stocks cannot be reduced below 5 percent of consumption, projected supplies would limit 2011-12 marketing year consumption to 13.213 billion bushels, leaving year-ending stocks at 661 million bushels," he said.

The actual supply of corn that will be available for use during the year ahead may differ from the current projection. The size of old-crop stocks on Sept. 1 will not be known until the USDA releases the quarterly Grain Stocks report on Sept. 30. The size of the 2011 corn crop will not be known until the USDA releases the final estimate in January 2012, he said.

New forecasts, however, will be available in September, October, and November. Historically, the October forecast has been reasonably close to the final production estimate, he said.

"Assuming that available supplies will limit corn consumption during the year ahead, two important issues emerge. The first is: How will available supplies be allocated among the major consumption sectors? The second is: What price of corn will be needed to limit consumption to the level of available supplies?" he said.

The USDA's World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report released on Aug. 11 projected a further decline in exports and domestic feed and residual use of corn during the year ahead. Domestic processing use is projected to increase as ethanol production continues to expand modestly, he added.

According to Good, U.S. exports during the 2011-12 marketing year are projected at an eight-year low of 1.75 billion bushels. The projection reflects expectations that wheat will substitute for some corn feeding around the world, he said.

"Wheat feeding outside the United States is expected to increase by about 340 million bushels, or 8.2 percent," he said.

Sales of U.S. corn for export during the 2011-12 marketing year have been relatively large, Good said.

"As of Aug. 4, the USDA reported that 327 million bushels of corn had been sold for export. Sales were 68 percent larger than those of a year earlier and represent nearly 19 percent of the projected exports for the year," he said.

Good said that all the major importers have purchased larger quantities of U.S. corn than at this time last year. With the large carryover sales from the current year, the 2011-12 marketing year will start with very large corn export sales on the books.

Domestic feed and residual use of corn during the 2011-12 marketing year is projected at 4.9 billion bushels, 2 percent below the projection for the current year. If supplies were available, feed consumption of corn would likely be larger than the USDA projection, he noted.

"The 2011 calf crop is expected to be only 1 percent smaller than the 2010 crop, dairy cattle numbers exceed those of a year ago, and pork production has stabilized. Placements of broiler chicks are down about 5 percent from those of a year earlier," he said.

Only a small increase in distiller's grain production is expected, less sorghum will be fed, and wheat feeding may decline next summer. The USDA expects high corn prices to limit corn feeding, he added.

According to Good, the use of corn for ethanol and co-product production is expected to increase by a very modest 80 million bushels (1.6 percent) during the year ahead. Ethanol production (consumption) will be influenced by total fuel consumption, gasoline prices, and perhaps the fate of the blender's tax credit.

Corn consumption during the year ahead could be rationed by weaker demand and/or higher corn prices. Ongoing economic and financial weakness speaks to some demand weakness, but the majority of any needed rationing will likely have to come from a continuation of high corn prices, he said.

"What remains to be seen is how much rationing, if any, will be needed. Based on the way the growing season is ending, the size of the 2011 crop could be smaller than the August projection, requiring even more rationing than currently anticipated," he said.

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Acquire the lay of your land

Published August 15, 2011
Small-acreage landowners will learn everything from stewardship practices to income opportunities during the Illinois Living on the Land 10-week course held Sept. 28 through Nov. 30 on Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m.

"The purpose of the course is to help people sustainably manage smaller acreage properties from about 1 acre to 50 acres," said University of Illinois Extension local foods and small farms educator Ellen Philips. "Participants will gain a better understanding of how to manage their property from current landowners, local industry experts, agency professionals, and U of I Extension educators teaching the course."

The session topics include inventorying of resources, managing soil, living with streams and ponds, managing well and septic systems, managing pastures and lawns, controlling weeds, beginning a business using small acreages, and much more.

"This class is really helpful, especially if you are not from a farming background. It teaches you all kinds of things you should think about from where to put a well to what kinds of crops to grow based on your property's soil type. They have a little of everything," said Cindy Gustafson, a former Illinois Living on the Land participant.

The course will feature a farm tour and a "What We Wish We Knew" small acreage owner's panel. Participants will also develop a plan for their property using key information from the course. In addition, they will receive feedback, helpful resources and ongoing support.

"Before this course, we owned property, but we were just leasing out the tillable acreage. Today we sustainably farm over four acres, sell produce at farmers markets, and run a hunting club as well," Gustafson said.

Four of the classes will be held at U of I Extension offices, including the Will Unit in Joliet, the Boone Unit in Belvidere, the Stephenson Unit in Freeport and the Sangamon Unit in Springfield. The remaining five classes will be taught through online webinars. The tour will be determined by each county.

A $200 registration fee is due by Sept. 26 for all 10 sessions, and additional family members may register for $100. This fee includes one handbook per family. You may also register for individual sessions featuring topics of interest for $30 per session. To register or get a brochure, go to web.extension.illinois.edu/state/calendar_event.cfm?ID=55266.

Participants will need a computer, Internet connection (or PowerPoint or PowerPoint Viewer) and a speaker phone to access the webinar classes.

For a complete listing of session topics, registration questions and additional information about the course or the equipment requirements, call the office where you wish to attend. For Boone County, call 815-544-3710, for Will County, call 815-727-9296, for Sangamon County, call 217-782-4617, and for Stephenson County, call 815-235-4125.

CHS Foundation supports U of I students at Ag Media Summit

Published August 15, 2011
The CHS Foundation granted $1,000 to the University of Illinois Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow through a mini-grants program to send Claire Benjamin and Renee Deuth to the Agricultural Media Summit (AMS) in New Orleans, La.

While there, Benjamin and Deuth attended industry workshops, networked with industry professionals, and connected with other agricultural communications students from across the country. After returning from the summit, Benjamin said she obtained knowledge and advice that will advance her writing and her career.

"I gained so much from this experience. The writing and Adobe workshops provided me with skills that will serve me well in the years ahead," she said.

Deuth said it would not have been possible to attend without the assistance from the CHS Foundation.

"We really appreciate the opportunity to attend AMS and the financial support that helped get us there," Deuth said.

Benjamin and Deuth attended AMS July 23 through 26. During this time, they attended a session on teamwork and "never giving up" from Nick Lowery, former NFL football player and keynote speaker. They also attended workshops on writing, photography, graphic design, and other communications essentials.

"We are proud to support the efforts of Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and thank you for the opportunity to continue investing in the future of agriculture, rural America, and cooperative business through education and leadership development," said William J. Nelson, president of CHS Foundation.

Prepared by Whitney Lynch, 217-333-9355, lynch21@illinois.edu

Channel Pet's Need to Chew and Scratch

Published August 15, 2011
An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at http://vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns/. Requests for reprints of this article may be directed to Chris Beuoy, beuoy@illinois.edu.

Shredded tissues. Destroyed shoes. A gnawed coffee table. These are just a few of the things I have come home to after leaving my puppy unattended. Similarly many cat owners discover that their couch or curtains have been shredded by sharp claws. A hassle for you and a potential danger for your pet, chewing and scratching are behaviors that should be addressed.

Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, says that chewing for dogs and scratching for cats are behaviors that we should expect from our four-legged friends.

"These behaviors should not be discouraged but directed to appropriate objects," she says. Starting when your pet is young, you need to supervise your pet so that you can direct him to chew or scratch the appropriate items. For puppies and adult dogs, you can do this by providing them with chewable toys. If you are not able to supervise your dog, Dr. Ballantyne recommends confining him to a crate or pen with chew toys to prevent the destruction of household items. The chew toys should be durable, to prevent your dog from biting pieces off that could be swallowed, leading to potential intestinal issues. Strong, rubber toys with depressions or cavities in which you can place food or treats can also help to encourage your dog to chew on those items specifically.

For kittens and cats, you should provide scratching posts in multiple locations to encourage scratching of those items rather than your furniture. Any given cat may differ on its scratching preferences, so Dr. Ballantyne advises that you try various set-ups to determine what your cat prefers. You can place a post vertically or horizontally and in several locations of the house. The key is that the material of the post be shreddable, because cats use their scratching as a means of visual communication.

"Cardboard scratching posts are inexpensive and typically well-liked," Dr. Ballantyne recommends. "You can also attach toys to the post, or place catnip around the post, to encourage investigation and scratching."

Many pet owners have trouble directing these behaviors to the appropriate outlets. Until your pet can be trusted on its own, confinement to a crate or small "pet-proofed" room can save you a lot in the way of destroyed objects. Dr. Ballantyne says that such confinement can prevent reinforcement of the inappropriate behavior, and will likely allow your pet more freedom as an adult.

When pets continue to chew or scratch inappropriate objects, you should consider what you are providing them with as an outlet and how you are presenting it. For example, if you give an old shoe to a dog to chew on, he will learn that chewing on shoes is okay and may also chew on your brand new pair. Only items that are specifically for chewing should be provided.

If your cat continues to scratch a piece of furniture despite access to scratching posts, you can also place the post directly in front of the location where the cat has been scratching. Then the cat will be more likely to scratch the post than the piece of furniture. If your cat seems to have an affinity for a particular material, you can cover a scratching post with a similar material to encourage the scratching in a more appropriate location.

You may also need to take a look at your pet's personality overall. Some pets may be overly destructive for other reasons. If the destruction takes place primarily when you are away from the home, your pet may have separation anxiety. Puppies and kittens (as well as high-energy adult animals) can also be more likely to chew or scratch destructively if they don't have appropriate outlets for their energy. Increasing the amount of exercise and mental stimulation your pet gets daily may also help in preventing such destructive behaviors.

In the long run, the effort to train your pet and to provide him with appropriate chewing, scratching, and energy outlets could save you a lot of heartache and money related to destroyed household items and emergency veterinary bills.

For further information on appropriate chewing and scratching, please contact your local veterinarian.

An archive of Pet Columns from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine is available online at http://vetmed.illinois.edu/petcolumns/. Requests for reprints of this article may be directed to Chris Beuoy, beuoy@illinois.edu.

Veterinary Extension/Office of Public Engagement
University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
217/333-2907

UI students receive BP grant to study biomass

Published August 11, 2011
URBANA - Five undergraduate students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign received a $5,000 grant from British Petroleum to research the engineering properties of biomass. The students wrote the grant to develop a virtual database that will tell end users the properties of different types of energy crops, such as sorghum, Miscanthus, switchgrass, willow and energy cane, and their value for energy production.

Su Jung Lee, Rachel Gross and Colleen Moloney, all agricultural and biological engineering students, began the project while working in the lab of Luis Rodriguez, a professor in the U of I's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Ian Moses, a junior in mechanical engineering with an avid interest in alternative fuels, joined the group, as did Kevin Today, a computer science major.

"I knew I wanted to learn more about alternative fuels," said Moses, "so I decided to contact a professor working in that area to see if I could work with him. One of the professors I contacted was Dr. Rodriguez, and he eventually offered me a job.

"Dr. Rodriguez found the opportunity for this grant," Moses continued, "and it had the kind of scope that we could deal with as undergraduates. Our different majors play a role in the work that we do. As a mechanical engineering major, I've designed some of the equipment that we'll use for our testing, and Kevin has been very helpful with the computer programming we've had to do. But for the most part, the work is fairly interchangeable — you get assigned a certain task and you do it. In the next year, we hope to compile as many different engineering properties applicable to the process of energy production as we can."

Some of the properties the students hope to evaluate in their research include moisture (if biomass takes moisture from the air, and if so, to what extent), the breaking point of each crop (if the material is hard and brittle or elastic and flexible), the compressibility of each crop, and the angle of repose (the angle at which the material falls naturally, which determines how much can be stored in a given area).

Rodriguez works closely with the students, and he said they anticipate that these properties will change, depending on the form the biomass is in. "For example, how much moisture will biomass hold if you chop it into smaller and smaller pieces that have more surface area? Given a relative humidity, it might actually mean more moisture in the biomass. If that's the case, some of the other engineering properties might change as well."

The students hope the data they collect will provide researchers with the ability to design harvesting, chopping, and densification equipment by determining how much force is involved in each operation and what materials should be utilized. Transportation technology will be impacted by their study, and the data should also provide information that will aid in the design of facilities to store the biomass by determining how large facilities need to be and what types of air handling systems will be required.

"As all the different parts of the system are clarified, we can determine the best use for biomass," Rodriguez said. "Should we focus on biomass to bioethanol, to bio-oil, or to biopower? Surely each potential biomass crop will be best suited to different processes and end uses as a result."

"Research in the area of engineering properties of biomass is just beginning," Rodriguez said. "The biomass we hope to use in ethanol or other alternative fuels is probably not going to be harvested with conventional technology. We don't have all that much experience in harvesting biomass, transporting it, or storing it for long periods of time. Understanding the engineering properties of the biomass will allow us to determine how efficiently we can process it," he concluded.

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