College of ACES
College News

Illinois scientists work with World Health Organization on fortifying condiments, seasonings

Published August 25, 2014
soy sauce

URBANA, Ill. – Two University of Illinois scientists are contributing to World Health Organization (WHO) efforts to fortify condiments and seasonings for use in countries with widespread micronutrient deficiencies.

“In some countries where these deficiencies are widespread, there is consistent use—almost a daily dose—of certain condiments and seasonings, such as soy sauce in Southeast Asia, at all socioeconomic levels, and there’s a real opportunity to correct deficiencies by fortifying these food items,” said Luis A. Mejia, a U of I adjunct professor in food science and human nutrition.

According to Mejia, micronutrient deficiencies affect the health and cognitive development of at least one-third of the world’s population, representing 7.3 percent of all global disease. The World Bank has called micronutrient fortification the most cost-effective of all health interventions.

"Just as iodine deficiency has been controlled for many years in the U.S. through salt fortification, we now hope to offer a framework to enrich foods with iron, vitamin A, and other micronutrients in the developing world. Pregnant women are particularly in need of folic acid and zinc to deliver healthy children,” said Allyson Bower, a doctoral student in the U of I Division of Nutritional Sciences.

Micronutrient deficiencies are a real problem in Southeast Asia, specifically in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia; and they also occur in West Africa and in Central America, she added.

Mejia pioneered the fortification of sugar with vitamin A in Guatemala as a scientist at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), and the program was later expanded to the rest of Central America. Because no single condiment or seasoning is consumed regularly there, sugar was chosen as the vehicle for enrichment.

“Fighting micronutrient deficiencies in this way hinges on finding a suitable food to fortify, and the vehicle chosen is usually a prominent part of the diet in a particular culture. Soy and fish sauces are promising vehicles in Southeast Asia, but bouillon cubes are better suited to West Africa and curry powder would be a better choice in India and Pakistan,” Bower said.

When a suitable condiment or seasoning is chosen, the legal framework that surrounds fortification becomes important. That’s what the two researchers are working on now.

“For example, Vietnam has a soy sauce fortification program, but Indonesia doesn’t. Indonesia does have regulations that allow fortification of wheat flour, margarine, and rice, but not condiments. So we can tell WHO that the legal framework is present in Indonesia and recommend that the organization expand its efforts there,” Mejia said.

Bower is excited about the opportunity to be involved in this project because it has global implications. “Sometimes it seems that the research you’re doing can only be applied at a certain ‘niche’ level, but when you’re working with the WHO, you know they’re going to take what you do and apply it to something that’s long-term and worthwhile. It’s especially rewarding to work on a project like this,” she said.

Mejia and Bower will contribute their recommendations to a WHO meeting in New York August 26-28. Elvira de Mejia, another U of I food science and human nutrition professor, and her collaborators, Yolanda Aguilera and Maria Martin of the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, will submit recommendations on industrial processing of condiments and seasonings worldwide.

Other research teams are investigating the bioavailability of micronutrients in fortified foods, their efficacy, the stability of the added ingredients in foods, and economic feasibility, among other concerns. All findings in the WHO’s Fortification of Condiments and Seasonings with Vitamins and Minerals in Public Health: From Proof of Concept to Scaling Up will be published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science.



Goutam Nistala
I believe that the U of I has the great culture of fostering research through collaboration.
Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Vizag, India

Goutam Nistala, a 2010 graduate of agricultural and biological engineering (ABE), enjoys being involved with cutting-edge technology and dynamic research.

“Knowing that my work is of direct help in detecting early-stage cancer in a diagnostic lab somewhere gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment,” he says.

Goutam says that the classes and research opportunities at the University of Illinois were instrumental in setting him up for a career in science.

“The interdisciplinary PhD program and collaborative nature of research in Dr. Kaustubh Bhalerao’s group at the Department of ABE helped me in developing a core research expertise and skill set.” Goutam says. “Graduate advisors with a vast and well-connected research network encouraged me in gaining industry experience through graduate internships and, most importantly, in transitioning to a postdoctoral career at Stanford University.”

Goutam says he enjoyed the multicultural experience that the University of Illinois offers, as well as the very active student life. His extracurricular activities helped him get insights into research as well as the business aspects of the biotech industry.

“Renowned faculty who are experts in their fields, and well-funded make U of I an ideal place for education and research,” Goutam says. “The quality of classes and exercises to reinforce concepts is great. I believe that the U of I has the great culture of fostering research through collaboration.”


Molly Messner
I have had the greatest learning experiences through participating outside of the classroom.
Agricultural and Consumer Economics
Algonquin, Illinois

When she first visited the University of Illinois, Molly Messner, now a student in agricultural and consumer economics (ACE), was impressed by all the options the ACE major offers. Although Molly does not come from an agricultural background, she was immediately interested in the public policy and law concentration and learning more about trade and development and rural economics.

“I was looking forward to getting a taste of economics with a mix of political science, business, and communications classes,” Molly says. “This led me to eventually choose business and communications as my two minors, because they complement the public policy and law concentration well.”

Molly says that in addition to the variety available in her classes, she enjoys the small, close-knit community that ACE offers. She attributes much of her academic success to the accessibility of College of ACES advisors and the resources they can provide.

“U of I has prepared me for my future career path through my education in various sectors of policy, and I have benefited from both coursework and out-of-class experiences,” Molly says. “I am interested in working for the government, and it is through my classes, peers, and advisors that I am aware of the plentiful opportunities available for internships and jobs in Washington, DC.”

On campus, Molly is a Jonathan Baldwin Turner scholar, a resident advisor, and a member of a social sorority. She also plays on the women’s ultimate frisbee club team. She has served as an ACE ambassador, worked as a Campus Recreation lifeguard, and studied abroad through ACES.  

“When I first visited, I was very intimidated by the number of people on this campus,” Molly says. “But there are many ways to stand out and not feel like a small fish lost in a big pond. I have had the greatest learning experiences through participating outside of the classroom.”


Corn and soybean acreage

Published August 18, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – The debate about the size of the USDA’s final estimate of the 2014 U.S. average corn and soybean yields continues, with the market apparently anticipating that those estimates will exceed the August forecasts, particularly for corn.  According to a University of Illinois agricultural economist, at the margin, the size of the crops will also be influenced by the magnitude of harvested acreage.

“The first acreage issue is the magnitude of planted acreage, and the second is the magnitude of harvested acreage,” said Darrel Good. “The current planted and harvested acreage forecasts are based on the June USDA surveys, adjusted for any new information revealed in the August crop production surveys. The August forecasts were unchanged from the June forecasts. History suggests that final acreage estimates will differ from current forecasts, with the direction and magnitude of those changes being the issue.”

Good explained that since 1996, when agricultural policy changed to accommodate more planting flexibility, the final estimate of corn planted acreage ranged from 2.014 million acres less (2013) to 750,000 acres more than the June forecast. The difference exceeded one million acres in only 4 of the 18 years from 1996 through 2013. The average difference was a decline of 432,000 acres, statistically not different from zero. However, the final estimate was below the June forecast in 13 of the 18 years. The larger declines were in years of late planting, but not all late-planted crops resulted in large declines from the June forecast to the final estimate. During that same time period, the final estimate of soybean-planted acreage ranged from 1.464 million acres less (2010) to 1.185 million acres more (2008) than the June forecast. The difference exceeded one million acres in 6 of the 18 years. The average difference was a decline of 141,111 acres, statistically not different from zero. However, the final estimate was below the June forecast in 11 of the 18 years from 1996 through 2013. The difference between the June forecast and the final estimate of planted acreage during that period was not correlated to either the lateness of corn or soybean planting. 

Good said that for the current year, a larger-than-average percentage of the corn acreage in the 18 major corn-producing states was planted late (defined here as after May 20).  Much of the late planting was in northern and eastern states.

“A late-planted crop, along with the historical tendency for the final estimate of planted acreage to be less than the June forecast, suggests that the final estimate this year will likely be below the June forecast of 91.641 million acres,” Good said.

The average difference in the 13 previous years of a drop in acreage estimates from June to final was 690,000 acres, in a range of 28,000 to 2.014 million. The average excluding the large decline last year was 580,000 acres.

“A decline of 500,000 to 700,000 acres would not be a surprise this year,” Good said. “The checkered pattern of historical differences between the June forecast and final estimate of planted acreage of soybeans provides little guidance for forming expectations this year. The tendency since 1996 for the final estimate to be less than the June forecast may influence expectations for acreage to be below the June forecast of 84.839 million acres. In those years since 1996 when the final estimate was less than the June forecast, the average difference was 705,800 acres, in a range of 32,000 to 1.464 million acres,” he said.

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) released its first report of planted and prevented acreage on August 15. Estimates in that report are based on required acreage certification by those producers participating in federal commodity programs.

Good said that the August report provides little guidance for forming expectations about changes in acreage forecasts by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) for two reasons. First, the FSA report reflects only acreage certifications to date. Those numbers will increase by an unknown amount in future reports.  Last year’s experience suggests that the September estimates, and certainly the October estimates, will be very close to the final estimates. Second, the magnitude of prevented acreage that was already reflected in the NASS June acreage forecast is not known.

From 1996 through 2013, the difference between planted acreage of corn and acreage harvested for grain averaged 7.464 million acres, in a range of 6.585 million (1996) to 9.78 million (2012).  That difference has increased by a very modest amount over time as total corn acreage has increased and tends to vary by the nature of the growing season. 

“The large difference in 2012, for example, reflected widespread dry conditions with more acreage harvested for silage or abandoned,” Good said. “Based on the USDA’s June surveys, the difference between planted and harvested acreage this year is forecast at 7.802 million acres, about equal to the trend value. The actual difference should be within a few thousand acres of the forecast,” he said.

For soybeans, the difference between planted and harvested acreage averaged 1.095 million acres, in a range of 595,000 acres (2007) to 1.858 million acres (2000). The difference has trended lower over time.

“Based on the USDA’s June surveys, the difference between planted and harvested acreage this year is forecast at 781,000 acres,” Good said. “That is nearly 200,000 acres less than the trend value for this year. Based on reports of more than the normal amount of acreage lost to flooding, the actual difference may be closer to trend value.

“While average yield will be the driver of the size of the 2014 U.S. corn and soybean crops, harvested acreage may be marginally less for both crops than is currently forecast,” Good said.



NRES Spring 2014 Teachers Ranked as Excellent

Published August 15, 2014

NRES congratulates the following Teachers Ranked as Excellent for Spring Semester 2014:

The asterisk * indicates that the faculty member or TA was rated Outstanding.

*Ahlers, Adam TA   NRES 285, 407
Happel, Austin TA   NRES 201
Coronel, Eric    TA   NRES 201
Miller, James           NRES 420, 456
Endres, Jody           NRES 425
Mulvaney, Richard   NRES, 572
Green, Eric       TA   NRES 310
*Schooley, Robert   NRES 285, 407
Groh, T             TA   NRES 201
Ward, Michael         NRES 101
Hodson, Piper         NRES 502
Yannarell, Anthony  NRES 421

Congratulations on a Semester of Excellence, Teachers!!!!


News Source:

Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning
Rachel Lauter
The faculty at U of I push you outside your comfort zone so that you can really grow as a student.
Natural Resouces and Environmental Sciences
Long Grove, Illinois

Rachel Lauter’s curiosity about how her actions impact the planet influenced her decision to major in natural resources and environmental sciences (NRES) at the University of Illinois. She says that she’s always been fascinated by the way humans interact with the world, so the NRES major is a perfect fit.

“My program offers study abroad opportunities tailored to my major,” Rachel says. “Even if I go abroad, I can still complete my requirements. There is also a hands-on component to prepare me for my future career.”

Rachel says her experience in the College of ACES has given her the tools she needs to form connections and relationships.

“I came from a huge high school, where I was just one in a thousand,” Rachel says. “I was nervous in coming to U of I that I would be in the same position, but ACES has proven to be a real community where faculty members want to form relationships with you and help you in any and every way they can.”

In addition to her coursework, Rachel conducts aquatic ecology research as an undergraduate assistant. Her time on campus will leave a lasting impact, as she helped found an organization for Jewish students interested in environmental concerns. She’s also vice-president of programming for her sorority and a member of the ACES Student Advancement Committee.  She says that the numerous opportunities available to students through clubs, undergraduate research, and internships set U of I apart from other academic institutions.

“The faculty at U of I push you outside your comfort zone so that you can really grow as a student,” Rachel says. “You are provided with the tools and the help for you to succeed. The college you choose is going to be your new home for four years, so pick somewhere that offers you both an academic and a social environment where you can grow and feel comfortable.”



College of ACES New Student Welcome

1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
First and lower levels of the ACES Library, 1101 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801

This event is part of campus’ Welcome Week and takes place after Convocation and the New Student Picnic. The ACES New Student Welcome is the chance for incoming freshman and transfer students to visit ACES registered student organization tables and mingle with some of our college’s student leaders, faculty, staff, and administrators. All ACES faculty and staff have been invited to attend.