URBANA, Ill - On a crisp fall day, students, faculty and staff learned about ongoing research projects at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) Energy Farm as they walked among towering plots of prairie grasses and woody plants.
The farm tour was part of the Fourth Annual Sustainability Week, a weeklong celebration of the ongoing efforts by the University of Illinois to create a more sustainable campus and community.
Farm tours are a “fantastic way” for students to learn about the diversified research at Illinois, said Jenny Kokini, who helps run the Center for a Sustainable Environment which hosted the event.
“The students who toured the Sustainable Student Farm and EBI Energy Farm get to see firsthand what it takes to conduct bioenergy research that will help improve how we produce food and fuel sustainably,” she said. “Illinois faculty and staff are out here working and collecting vital data on rainy spring days, scorching summer days, and even cool, windy fall days like this one.”
Native bioenergy grasses could provide sustainable fuel while benefiting Illinois conservation by creating a habitat for animals and preventing soil erosion, said DoKyoung (D.K.) Lee, an assistant professor of crop sciences and EBI faculty member, who began the tour.
“We have a lot of different landscapes in Illinois, including hilly, flat, and wet areas,” Lee said. “Not all ground is perfect for row crop production. We would like to use this marginal land to produce biomass.”
Lee said native grasses like prairie cordgrass are good for cold, wet and salty areas whereas big bluestem is good for dry, hilly areas.
Next participants saw black locust trees, the most productive woody plant out of 21 species in a study by Gary Kling, an associate professor of crop sciences and EBI faculty member. Kling discussed how woody plants could be an alternative feedstock that can live for decades, provide a habitat for many animals, and be stored for long periods of time after harvest.
Tom Voigt, an associate professor of crop sciences and EBI faculty member, showed participants a plot of miscanthus, the highest-yielding grass for temperate areas like Illinois. This perennial bioenergy grass doesn’t use traditional fertilizers and produces eight to nine tons of dry matter per acre, whereas fertilized corn only produces about one to two tons of dry matter per acre and is often needed to replenish the organic matter in the soil.
EBI postdoctoral associates Ilsa Kantola and Candice Smith discussed how long-term bioenergy grass-crop and traditional row-crop production will impact Illinois soil, particularly carbon and nitrogen storage. Smith has found that perennial bioenergy plants leach very little nitrogen, which is important to preventing nitrogen from traveling to the Gulf of Mexico and creating large, hypoxic “dead zones” that are virtually void of life.
“The perennial crops are really great for holding onto their nitrogen and not allowing it to leach out,” Smith said. “They also do really well in not omitting nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”
Participants also toured a 20-foot research greenhouse and the university’s 2007 Solar Decathlon “Element House,” which will be renovated and placed at a permanent site on the farm.
The Center for a Sustainable Environment provides national and international leadership on sustainability by providing support for interdisciplinary education, research, and engagement in addition to developing and implementing strategies for a sustainable campus environment.
The Energy Biosciences Institute, supported by a $500 million, 10-year award from energy company BP, pursues solutions to the global energy challenge through collaborative research between the University of California, Berkeley; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The EBI’s efforts at Illinois take place at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB), an interdisciplinary research institute.
The Institute for Genomic Biology provided this article.
Fall 2013 Newsletter Available
The 2013 FSHN Newsletter is now available here.
Study to aid formulation of diets containing fermented soybean meal for weanling pigs
URBANA, Ill. – To aid in the formulation of diets containing fermented soybean meal, researchers at the University of Illinois have determined the digestibility of energy and amino acids in this ingredient.
Hans H. Stein, a U of I professor of animal sciences, explained that soybean meal contains anti-nutritional factors, such as oligosaccharides and antigens that restrict its use in diets fed to weanling pigs. Fermentation of soybean meal eliminates some of these anti-nutritional factors, making fermented soybean meal a potential lower-cost substitute for animal protein in starter diets.
Soybean meal fermented in the presence of Aspergillus oryzae and Lactobacillus subtilis has recently become available to the United States market, which prompted the study Stein explained.
"Fermented soybean meal contains fewer anti-nutritional factors and is well tolerated by weanling pigs. But there is a lack of data on the digestibility of energy and amino acids. So our goal was to determine those values,” he said.
Stein's lab conducted two experiments. In the first, they determined the concentration of digestible, metabolizable, and net energy in fermented soybean meal. In the second, they determined the standardized ileal digestibility of crude protein and amino acids. Both studies included conventional soybean meal and fish meal for comparison.
On a dry matter basis, fermented soybean meal contained 4,296 kcal/kg digestible energy (DE), 3,781 kcal/kg metabolizable energy (ME), and 2,710 kcal/kg net energy (NE). Stein said these values compared favorably to those in fish meal which contained 3,827 kcal/kg DE, 3,412 kcal/kg ME, and 2,450 kcal/kg NE. DE, ME, and NE were decreased in fermented soybean meal compared with conventional soybean meal, which contained DE, ME, and NE of 4,553 kcal/kg, 4,137 kcal/kg, and 2,972 kcal/kg respectively.
"Fermentation of soybean meal removes sugars and oligosaccharides. Sucrose is easily digested by pigs, and oligosaccharides are almost completely fermented. When these are removed, the remaining meal contains a greater percentage of fiber, which reduces the digestibility of energy in the diets,” Stein explained.
Digestibility of crude protein and amino acids in fermented soybean meal was the same as or greater than that of soybean meal. Digestibility values for most amino acids were greater in fermented soybean meal than in fish meal.
Stein said the results indicated that fermented soybean meal could replace fish meal in starter diets without negatively affecting the energy content or digestible amino acid content of the diets. "With this new product on the market in the United States, producers have another option for providing protein in weanling pig diets,” he said.
The study, "Concentration of digestible, metabolizable, and net energy and digestibility of energy and nutrients in fermented soybean meal, conventional soybean meal, and fish meal fed to weanling pigs," was recently published in the Journal of Animal Science and was co-authored with Oscar Rojas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at U of I. It is available online at http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/91/9/4397.full.
Don't let foodborne illness spoil your holiday celebrations
URBANA, Ill. – As families begin preparing for the winter holidays, sharing news and favorite recipes, they sometimes forget about the importance of food safety, said a University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator.
"Acccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six persons suffers from foodborne illness in the United States each year. That means 128,000 hospitalizations and about 3,000 deaths annually,” said Laura Lynn Barr.
Barr said that the biggest threats of foodborne illness come from person-to-food contamination or time and temperature abuse.
“Wash hands frequently, covering sores and keeping fingernails short, to reduce the incidence of person-to-food contamination,” she said.
Time and temperature controls ensure that bacteria cannot reproduce to numbers that have the ability to make us sick, she added.
According to the CDC, the top five pathogens are norovirus, salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter jejuni, and Staphylococcus aureus in that order.
“To avoid transmitting norovirus, avoid food preparation for others. This prevents person-to-food contamination. Also, remember to wash produce, thoroughly cook shellfish, and disinfect food preparation utensils and counter surfaces to stop norovirus in its tracks,” Barr said.
Similarly, people who have salmonellosis should avoid preparing food for others until their symptoms are gone. Salmonella is frequently found in raw eggs, poultry, unpasteurized dairy products, meat, and unwashed produce, she said.
The CDC cautions, “Food prepared on surfaces that previously were in contact with raw meat become unsafe. This is called cross-contamination.” Salmonella is destroyed by cooking foods to the correct temperature and by effective cleaning, Barr noted.
Clostridium perfringens is another culprit that dwells in high-protein foods. It has the ability to change into spores—bacteria in a dormant state—and these spores can change back to bacteria when the temperature is right. This type of food poisoning is mostly caused by leaving potentially hazardous foods in the danger zone—from 41 to 135°F—for more than two hours.
“Cool down large-batch foods (gravy, soup, sauce, and stew) quickly to prevent illness. And reheat leftovers to at least 165°F for 15 seconds to destroy bacteria,” Barr advised.
The CDC identifies Campylobacter jejuni as one of the leading causes of bacterial diarrhea sickness in the United States. The sources of campylobacteriosis include raw and undercooked poultry, raw milk, untreated water, and fecal waste. To prevent this infection, be sure to wash hands frequently and never cross-contaminate raw foods with cooked foods, she said.
“Finally, Staphylococcus aureus is common in the environment and resides in the nose and skin of some healthy adults. Staph becomes infective when skin is broken, and it multiplies and spreads to others. Hand washing and wound covering are critical to prohibit staph infections,” Barr said.
Remember these simple habits to inhibit the spread of foodborne illness:
- Wash hands thoroughly before food preparation and in between tasks.
- Prepare raw meats separately from other foods.
- Keep wet and dry ingredients for stuffing separate until you are ready to bake.
- Cook potentially hazardous foods in an oven set at 325°F or higher.
- Use a food thermometer.
- Cook turkey and stuffing to an internal temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving.
“Take extra care this holiday season to keep your family safe while you are enjoying meals and time together,” Barr said.
Ag Ed Students Earn Awards at National Conference
Eight students from the University of Illinois Agricultural Education Program participated in the National Alpha Tau Alpha (ATA) Conclave during the National FFA Convention. Students competed in four different events and took top honors in two of the four areas.
Program of Excellence - 2nd place
Members included: Danielle Brown and Trent Hawker
The Program of Excellence Award requires students to present a written summary and oral presentation of activities that are conducted in the Agricultural Education Program throughout the previous year. Students are evaluated in the areas of: Community Service, Professional Development, Fundraising, and Fellowship. In addition to earning a small monetary award and a plaque, the program also received a welder, donated by Lincoln Electric.
Debate Team – 2nd place
Members included: Danielle Brown, Clayton Carley, Jacob Dickey, and Claire Geiger
The purpose of the debate is to provide members an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to clearly communicate and defend their position on a provided topic. This year’s topic was “Should the FDA begin recognition of the difference between GMO and non-GMO foods and require labels to inform the consumer?” Students are evaluated on their knowledge of the topic area, public speaking skills, and ability to effectively communicate their stance on the issue.
Parliamentary Procedure – 1st place
Members included: Clayton Carley (Chair), Trent Hawker (Secretary), Shelby Cooper, Jacob Dickey, and Claire Geiger.
The purpose of the Parliamentary Procedure competition is for students to simulate a meeting using Robert’s Rules of Order. Students are evaluated on their knowledge of proper parliamentary law, public speaking ability, and their skill in presenting discussions and motions that relate to a provided topic. As the winning team, a small monetary award was presented in addition to parliamentary procedure teaching materials from One Less Thing.
Quiz Bowl – 1st place
Members included: Shelby Cooper, Trent Hawker, Caroline Hoff, and Jeff Reale
The quiz bowl was conducted in a bracket structure format. Students were asked questions that related to the history of Agricultural Education, teaching strategies, Agricultural Education Organizations – National Young Farmer Educational Association and the National Association of Agricultural Educators, and competency in the area of plant sciences. As the winner, a small monetary award was awarded, as well as plant science laboratory materials from Ward’s AgriScience.
ATA is a National Professional Honorary Agricultural Education organization that plays a vital role in the preparation of students who have chosen a major in agricultural education or extension education. The purpose of this organization is to promote the highest standards of agricultural education and a more intimate acquaintance and closer relationship with individuals who have chosen a major in agricultural education or extension education.
Strong pace of corn and soybean exports
URBANA, Ill. - In the September World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report, the USDA forecast 2013-14 marketing year exports at 1.225 billion bushels for corn and 1.37 billion bushels for soybeans, said a University of Illinois agricultural economist.
"The strong pace of exports and especially export sales so far this year has created expectations of larger forecasts in the WASDE report to be released on Nov. 8,” said Darrel Good.
As of Oct. 31, the USDA reported that cumulative corn export inspections for the marketing year that began on Sept. 1 totaled 206.7 million bushels. Cumulative inspections were 30 percent larger than those of last year and represented 17 percent of the current USDA projection for the year, he said.
Cumulative export commitments—exports plus unshipped export sales— as of Oct. 24 were reported at 808 million bushels. Those commitments were 88 percent larger than commitments of a year earlier and represented 66 percent of the USDA projection for the year, he added.
“Compared to commitments of a year ago, commitments this year are 138 million bushels larger for China, 125 million larger for Mexico, and 88 million bushels larger for unknown destinations. Sales to China represent nearly 22 percent of the total sales, compared to only 8 percent last year,” Good said.
As of Oct. 31, the USDA reported that cumulative soybean export inspections for the marketing year that began on Sept. 1 totaled 338.5 million bushels. Cumulative inspections were 9 percent smaller than those of last year and represented 25 percent of the current USDA projection for the year, he said.
Cumulative export commitments—exports plus unshipped export sales— as of Oct. 24, however, were reported at a whopping 1.184 billion bushels. Those commitments were 25 percent larger than commitments of a year earlier and represented 86 percent of the USDA projection for the year, he said.
“Compared to commitments of a year ago, commitments this year are 160 million bushels larger for China and 51 million larger for unknown destinations. About 14 million bushels have been sold to Russia, compared to none last year. Sales to China represent 62 percent of the total sales compared to 61 percent last year,” Good noted.
Export sales of corn and soybeans have been quite large early in the marketing year, but the question is: Is early-year export activity a good predictor of total marketing year exports? The short answer is no, he said.
“Seasonal export shipment and sales patterns vary considerably from year to year. Over the 10 years from 2003-04 through 2012-13, for example, corn exports during the first quarter of the marketing year averaged 26 percent of the total for the year but ranged from 22 to 30 percent. The pattern of sales was even more varied. Cumulative export sales at the end of the first quarter of the marketing year averaged 49 percent of the total exports for the marketing year but ranged from 36 to 66 percent,” he said.
Good said that soybean exports during the first quarter of the marketing year averaged 36 percent of the total for the year but varied from 28 to 47 percent. As with corn, the pattern of sales was even more varied. Cumulative export sales at the end of the first quarter of the marketing year averaged 63 percent of the total exports for the marketing year, but ranged from 48 to 82 percent.
“While the magnitude of export sales early in the marketing year is not generally a good predictor of marketing-year exports, cumulative sales so far this year are still unusually large relative to the USDA’s September export forecast for the year,” he said.
As mentioned before, after the eighth week of the marketing year, corn sales this year equal 66 percent of the USDA projection. That equals the largest percentage experienced after the thirteenth week of the marketing year in the previous 10 years. Similarly, soybean sales at the end of the eighth week represent 86 percent of the USDA projection for the year. That exceeds the largest percentage experienced after the thirteenth week of the marketing year in the previous 10 years, he said.
“With a very large corn crop, U.S. corn exports may well exceed the current projection of 1.225 billion bushels. Larger exports would in turn result in smaller year-ending stocks than would otherwise occur but would probably not result in higher corn prices. Instead, large exports are likely dependent on corn prices remaining relatively low,” he said.
According to Good, the story for soybeans is different. For soybean exports to exceed the current projection of 1.37 billion bushels, the U.S. crop may have to exceed the current forecast of 3.149 billion bushels because year-ending stocks are already projected to be small.
“As a result, there is some chance that soybean prices will have to remain high enough to limit consumption in the face of strong export demand. The size of the USDA’s Nov. 8 crop forecast will determine to a large extent whether or not such rationing is required,” he said.