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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Published March 25, 2015
sad boy back to camera

URBANA, Ill. – During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, University of Illinois Extension encourages parents to work to develop six factors that protect children against child abuse.

“The risk for neglect and abuse diminishes—and optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families are promoted—when parents have worked to develop six protective factors,” said U of I Extension family life educator Cara Allen.

Those factors are:

  • nurturing and attachment: the positive two-way emotional connection between caregiver and child
  • knowledge about parenting and child and youth development: helps parents know what to expect from their child and how to respond accordingly
  • parental resilience: the ability to deal with bad days or situations, forgive yourself when mistakes are made, and move ahead
  • social connections: having positive relationships with family, friends, and neighbors, and being able to call on them for help
  • concrete supports for parents: being able to access social services in the community, such as day-care subsidies, respite, etc.
  • social and emotional developmental well-being: parents can model how to express and handle emotion and how to develop healthy relationships with peers and adults

To build and promote these protective factors, U of I Extension’s family life team is devoting all April posts of its blog “Family Files: Facts for All Ages” ( to helpful information for parents. These blog posts will be based upon Extension’s award-winning series, “Your Young Child,” which provides information on challenging developmental stages and suggestions on how to cope with these stages, she said.

“It’s critical to get all community members involved in protecting children. Focusing on ways to build and promote the six protective factors in every interaction with children and families is the best thing a community can do to prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development,” Allen said.

For more information on the “Your Young Child” series or the Family Files blog, please contact Cara Allen, family life educator, at or 309-837-3939.

Expert says that being sleep deprived leads to weight gain, other disorders

Published March 24, 2015
sleeping woman

URBANA, Ill. – Almost a third of Americans don’t get enough sleep, and that increases their risk of weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart attack, and stroke, said Michael A. Grandner, an expert in behavioral sleep medicine and the keynote speaker of the University of Illinois’s Division of Nutritional Sciences recent Nutrition Symposium.

“Both people who sleep too little and people who sleep too much —seven to eight hours is the gold standard for adults—have a higher mortality rate,” he noted.

According to Grandner, the link between short sleep and obesity has been well documented by at least 65 studies, with the Nurses’ Health Study showing that people who sleep six hours or less are more likely to gain an approximate 33 pounds over the course of 16 years. Short sleepers are 20 percent more likely to have hypertension, and they are 30 percent more likely to develop diabetes.

Because sleep and diet are both biological imperatives, it’s no surprise that one affects the other, he noted. Inadequate sleep promotes inflammation, which can lead to difficulty regulating insulin and an increase in the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin.

Short sleepers tend to consume more calories, snack more, eat fewer vegetables, and eat more fast food later at night, he said.

“Just as we have healthy diet interventions, we should have sleep interventions. But how do you teach people to get better sleep? It’s hard to get people to sleep more. You’re asking them to give up what little autonomy they have left in their lives. They would trade sleep for work or for their commute, but not for leisure, which they don’t want to give up,” Grandner said.

Further, Grandner said that the less sleep people get, the more impaired they are, and they don’t necessarily realize it—so that drowsy driving is a real problem on our highways. The deficits due to sleep loss add up over time, and after two weeks of skimping on sleep, short sleepers don’t adjust, they get worse, he said.

Lack of sleep is associated with high stress, moodiness, and impaired decision making, he said.

“Sleep-deprived people may not be able to discern what is relevant and irrelevant when making decisions, and they are more likely to engage in risky behavior,” he said.

Short sleepers are also more likely to have memory problems. “I tell my students if they’re going to pull an all-nighter, don’t do it the night before the test. Do it the night before the night before the test. They’ll remember more of what they studied,” Grandner said.

The sleep scholar is also concerned that there is a strong association between food insecurity and sleep difficulties. Problems include difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, and daytime sleepiness. “Hungry people are likely to also be sleep-impaired people,” he said.

Grandner is an instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. After earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the joint doctoral program at San Diego State University and the University of California, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in sleep and circadian neurobiology and a fellowship in behavioral sleep medicine, both at Penn. He has been honored by the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, the Sleep Research Society, and the American Heart Association, and has written extensively about sleep and health.

Online survey on soybean farming practices

Published March 24, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – Soybean farmers who take a ten-minute online survey will help University of Illinois crop scientists and Extension educators to better understand how decisions are made in their farms regarding soybean management and inputs and to tailor programs and projects to improve yields and profitability.

“By gathering baseline information about current management practices and technology adoption, we will be able to develop programs and focus research on the most critical agronomic issues for soybean farmers in Illinois,” said U of I crop scientist Maria Villamil. 

Villamil requests that soybean farmers take the survey by April 10.

The survey is a collaborative effort between the Department of Crop Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, U of I Extension, and the Illinois Soybean Association. The Farm Journal-AgWeb Research will be distributing an invitation to participate in the survey by email.

Questions about the survey can be sent to María Villamil at or Anne Silvis at


Risky venture reaches milestone: 1,000 posts on farmdoc daily

Published March 23, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – Four years ago, a crazy idea was hatched: post an original article that analyzed an aspect of Corn Belt farm economics every day. Today, University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good had the honor of posting the 1,000th article on farmdoc daily.

The daily economics blog-style website was the brainchild of U of I agricultural economist Scott Irwin. He was the driving force behind its parent site farmdoc in 1999 and recognized the need for a change.

“By 2010, the smartphone/tablet revolution was in full swing, and blogs and 24/7 news sites were gaining in popularity,” Irwin said. “Farmers were using their smartphones as a portable office. That technology met their needs because they didn’t have to be tied to a desk. They were telling us that they loved farmdoc but wanted it in a more easy-to-read format on their phone. Our old legacy site was not mobile friendly.”

Irwin said that he became convinced that they needed to try something that was risky for an academic unit—create a monster that needed to be fed every day. Now he just had to convince the rest of the team.

“As director of the farmdoc project, I believe it’s important that all decisions are unanimous,” Irwin said. “I proposed this idea in February 2011. You could have heard a pin drop. They just blinked and said, ‘Do you really think we can pull off publishing every day?’ because we hadn’t come close to that with the old farmdoc site. A few people said that they really liked the idea but that it would never work, that we couldn’t supply that volume of high-quality articles. I worried about that an awful lot. And, in that first year, there were some pretty shaky times getting the articles generated. I’ve had to write quickly to fill in a few times when someone couldn’t meet the deadline, but that hasn’t happened very often.”

Irwin said that he intentionally wanted the word “daily” in the title to communicate the frequency up front and “tie the team to the mast.” The team includes 13 U of I agricultural economists, Chris Hurt from Purdue who submits posts on livestock economics, and Carl Zulauf from Ohio State who is a policy specialist. Mark Althouse serves as project coordinator with his assistant Hongxia Jiao.

“We’d like to attract a few more authors who are outside of this department to write on special topics,” Irwin said. “Long term, we’ll need to look at who will replace some of the team members when they decide to retire.”

According to Irwin, the team’s biggest challenge at this point is that they didn’t anticipate having 1,000 articles to archive. Consequently, they are working on ways to provide better search tools and categories so that it will be easy for people to find what they need.

The project has two corporate sponsorships – TIAA-CREF and Farm Credit – to help provide the base funding. farmdoc daily articles are distributed to over 11,000 subscribers via email and has over 1,300 Twitter followers. Irwin said that during the recent Farm Bill cycle, the site received 6,000 to 7,000 visits per day, and although about 85 percent of the visits are from users in the United States, every month the site has visitors from almost every country in the world.



March 1 soybean stocks estimate to be overshadowed by planting intentions?

Published March 23, 2015

URBANA, Ill. – The USDA’s estimate of Dec. 1, 2014, stocks of U.S. soybeans was surprisingly small, according to University of Illinois agricultural economist Darrel Good. Based on the estimated size of the 2014 crop and estimates of exports and domestic crush during the previous quarter, the stocks estimate implied a record-large residual use of soybeans during the first quarter (September-November) of the 2014-15 marketing year.

The USDA provides an estimate of seed and residual use of soybeans for the marketing year, but does not estimate seed and residual use on a quarterly basis. “Historically, those quarterly estimates were provided based on estimates of total domestic disappearance of soybeans and the Census Bureau estimates of the size of the domestic crush during the quarter,” Good said. 

Monthly Census Bureau crush estimates were discontinued in July 2011. Quarterly estimates of seed and residual use can now be derived based on the monthly estimates of the domestic crush provided by the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA).

“Using NOPA estimates of crush, adjusted to reflect that the NOPA estimate is thought to be for about 95 percent of the industry, seed and residual use of soybeans during the first quarter of the 2014-215 marketing year is estimated at 281 million bushels,” Good said. “That estimate is 51 million bushels larger than the previous record use a year earlier and 100 million bushels larger than use during the first quarter of the 2012-13 marketing year. Some explained part of the large residual use with the observation that more soybeans were in transport on Dec. 1, 2014, than in previous years. Export inspections, for example, were about 20 million bushels larger during the first week of December 2014 than in the same week the previous year. That is the explanation that was apparently favored by the market, as March 2015 soybean futures closed 36 cents lower on the day the estimate was released.”

Good said another possible explanation for the large residual use of soybeans during the first quarter of the marketing year is that the 2014 crop was overestimated. This argument might be supported by higher-than-expected soybean prices this year given the estimated size of the surplus projected to be generated by the large 2014 crop. In addition, basis levels have been generally strong for most of the year.

The USDA’s estimate of March 1, 2015, soybean stocks, to be released on March 31, may provide some insight into the debate. Expectations for the magnitude of March 1 stocks are based on the estimate of Dec. 1 stocks, imports during the quarter, and estimates of soybean consumption during the quarter. With Dec. 1 stocks at 2.524 billion bushels and quarterly imports of 10 million bushels, supplies for the quarter would have totaled 2.534 billion bushels.  Based on monthly NOPA estimates, the domestic crush during the second quarter of the 2014-15 marketing year was 2.4 percent larger than the crush during the same quarter in the previous year.

“The total domestic crush should have been near 498 million bushels,” Good said.

Census Bureau estimates of soybean exports are available for December 2014 and January 2015, but have not yet been released for February 2015. “The Census estimate of exports for the two months was 8 million bushels less than the USDA estimate of export inspections during December 2014 and January 2015,” Good said. “If that margin persisted through February, quarterly exports should have totaled about 715 million bushels.

“If the size of the 2014 soybean crop has been accurately estimated, the March 1 stocks estimate should imply a large negative seed and residual use during the second quarter of the 2014-15 marketing year,” Good continued. “That was the case in previous years of very large, implied residual use during the first quarter of the marketing year. Seed and residual use during the second quarter of the marketing year, for example, was estimated at -38 million bushels last year, -22 million bushels in 2012-13, and -42 million bushels in 2009-10. A reasonable expectation this year might be near -90 million bushels.  A March 1 stocks estimate near 1.41 billion bushels would be consistent with the estimated size of the 2014 crop and known use of soybeans through February.” 

Good said if the USDA March 1 stocks estimate deviates substantially from the calculated value, the debate about the size of the 2014 crop may be renewed. Such a debate, however, would not be resolved for another six months.

“The USDA’s estimate of the crop size is frequently revised, but not until the release of the Sept. 1 stocks estimate, which will be on Sept. 30 this year,” Good said. “Historically, implied seed and residual use of soybeans during the first half of the marketing year has not been a good predictor of the size or direction of any subsequent change in the estimated size of the crop.

Trade expectations for the USDA March 1 estimate of soybean stocks will be reported this week. 

“If history is any indicator, expectations will be in a wide range,” Good said. “In addition, the experience following the release of the Dec. 1 stocks estimate suggests that the price reaction to the USDA estimate is difficult to anticipate. As concluded for corn last week, unless the March 1 soybean stocks estimate deviates substantially from the range of possibilities, expectations about the magnitude of year-ending stocks will not likely be altered. The market will likely focus instead on the estimate of soybean planting intentions.”


Explore NRES during Illini Summer Academies

Published March 23, 2015
Delegates will also have the opportunity to tour a research laboratory, learn about the research being done, and meet the scientists.
Delegates will also have the opportunity to tour a research laboratory, learn about the research being done, and meet the scientists.

Illini Summer Academies is a residential camp June 21-24 open to any youth in 8th to 12th grade (at least 14 by 9/1/15). Choose from: Agri Business, Ag Mechanization, Chemistry, Computer Science, Digital Fabrication, Aerospace Engin., Creative Writing, Electrical & Computer Engin., Human Development & Family Studies, Molecular & Cellular Bio., Natural Resources, Plant Science & Vet Med. #illini4H Academies of Study

Delegates will spend nearly 17 hours in Academy time with University of Illinois staff and graduate students. Space is limited in all academies and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Register for 2015 Illini Summer Academies

Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences Academy of Study

Cost: $250 Minimum Number: 6 Maximum Number: 14
The natural word is amazing and important to our everyday lives. Join NRES as we explore the environment in a hands-on, active way to learn about the sciences that encompass our natural world. From the smallest microbes to the largest forests, you will learn how scientists study nature and how they work to conserve our natural systems for everyone's benefit. We will take field trips to research plots and other green spaces to collect samples in the wild and study them further in our laboratory spaces. Get your hands dirty and let's learn!

Career Opportunities: Conservation Biologist, Environmental Attorney, Environmental Consultant, Environmental Educator, Forester, Natural Areas Manager, Park Ranger, Soil Conservationist, Sustainability Coordinator, Wildlife Biologist

News Source:

University of Illinois Extension
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