December 2013

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From the Dean

Jay AkridgeAs 2013 comes to a close, this column has a simple message:  It has been an extraordinary year for the College, and I simply want to say thank you to each and every one of you who made all we accomplished possible.

Pick your highlight this year: booking the largest individual gift ($65m) in Purdue history; Gabe Rangel and Laura Donaldson being named Purdue’s top seniors; the Agricultural and Biological Engineering undergraduate and graduate programs ranked #1 in the nation by US News for the third and fifth years respectively; the Landscape Architecture program climbing to #3 in the nation as ranked by Design Intelligence Magazine; securing the $1.25m in AgSEED funds from the state legislature; enrolling our largest undergraduate class since 1982; the Purdue Moves Plant Sciences Research and Education Pipeline initiative; a terrific group of new faculty joining us this year; our first (and very successful) small farms conference; Jason Henderson and Brian Farkas joining our College; continued momentum around the PICS project; our College’s #6 ranking among agricultural and forestry institutions worldwide by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS)…  I could go on, but you get the idea – we have had another exceptional year as a College.

Just as exciting to me are the initiatives we are working on: the distance education task force report (exploring distance education for our teaching and Extension missions) will be completed this month; the task force report on enhancing the climate of the College will be delivered in February; the Plant Sciences Research and Education Pipeline Initiative is picking up momentum; we are off to a strong start in raising funds for the new Ag and Life Sciences Building (Animal Sciences); more than 20 faculty searches are underway; IPIA is working to take advantage of the Purdue Moves investment in Study Abroad to expand student participation in these transformational international experiences; the Issues 360 pilot focused on developing our students’ skills to engage in contentious issues is moving ahead…again, I could go on.  In 2014, we will also kick off our strategic planning process to set the course for our College for the longer term.

It is exciting to hear our President regularly talk about STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, AGRICULTURE, and Math. But, he and our Trustees have done much more than talk about our College – they have made important investments in the College, and they have important expectations about the return on those investments. The State of Indiana has placed a big spotlight on food and agriculture innovation, and we figure prominently in those plans. While there is no shortage of challenges (yesterday’s announcement from the state about University funding being one of them – we will update you as soon as we know more), 2014 promises to be another exceptional year.  

Now to the other part of my message: Thank You! The people of this College make extraordinary things happen every day—in the classroom, in all 92 Indiana counties, in the laboratory, on the farms, and in more than 60 countries around the world. Some of these extraordinary accomplishments are very visible – our faculty who were inducted into the Teaching Academy and the Book of Great Teachers, Tom Hertel’s Purdue University Research and Scholarship Distinction award, our researchers whose discoveries were published/patented this year, to list just a few. Many, many extraordinary contributions are behind the scenes – getting our college IT network up and running after a storm; finding a replacement combine after a fire and completing the harvest at ACRE; managing the review of 95 AgSEED proposals; doing timely and thorough background work for budget reviews; educating the public on our research and Extension through a myriad of media channels and making sure the accomplishments of our alumni are recognized in the media…  We are a great College because of what each of you bring to your work every day.

I wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy holiday and look forward to working with you in 2014 to make Purdue Agriculture an even better, more impactful College, making a difference for the people of our state, nation, and world.

All the best,


Purdue Agriculture People



Graduate Research Spotlight: Martha Patricia "Paty" Romero Luna

Paty LunaThe Graduate Research Spotlight highlights graduate students and their work. This month’s spotlight is on Martha Patricia "Paty" Romero Luna, Botany and Plant Pathology; advisor Kiersten Wise.

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Purdue Ag alumus chosen as Forbes Africa Person of the Year

AdesinaDr. Akinwumi (Akin) Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Purdue Agriculture alumnus, has been awarded the prestigious Forbes Africa Person of the Year recognition for his reforms in Nigeria’s agriculture sector. Dr. Adesina, who received his MS and PhD in Agricultural Economics from Purdue, was honored for his work on behalf of African farmers, turning agriculture away from a development program and into a business activity that will generate wealth for millions of farmers. In the announcement of the award, Channels Television said that Dr. Adesina’s initiatives—the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme that increased food production by nine million metric tons in its first year, and the Electronic Wallet System that speeds the delivery of subsidies for seeds and fertilizers to farmers and enables them to pay for farm inputs electronically—empowered more than six million farmers across Nigeria to embrace agriculture as a business, at the same time enhancing food security for 30 million people in rural farm households.

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College implements civil rights and diversity training tracking system

civil rights logoThe College of Agriculture is committed to making ongoing improvements to policies and practices to assure that race, ethnicity and gender are not barriers to success. During our USDA Federal Civil Rights Compliance Audit in 2012, it was brought to our attention that we did not have a formal tracking system in place to verify that all faculty, staff and graduate students received appropriate training. In order to comply with this, individuals are required to receive training in civil rights (the regulations), diversity awareness, or sexual harassment each year. Rather than mandate a specific training program or activity, we ask all College faculty, staff and graduate students to record any training you have attended or attend any training provided by the units listed below that enhances your knowledge and understanding of diversity, civil rights or sexual harassment. To make it possible for individuals to easily report their civil rights and diversity awareness training, we created a system utilizing a Qualtrics survey

Examples of Training Providers:

College of Agriculture
Office of Institutional Equity -
Division of Diversity and Inclusion -
Purdue Human Resources-

Examples of Training & Awareness Opportunities:

ADVANCE Workshops
Departmental Diversity Workshops
Harassment and Discrimination: Prevention and Response On line Training

Please take a few minutes to record your completed training for the Fall 2013 semester here. If you have questions regarding training, please contact the Office of Ag Research at 49-48462.


Start-up company finishes strong in global competition


yuan yaoPhytoption LLC, a start-up company based at Purdue Research Park with which Yuan Yao, Food Science, is associated, was awarded runner-up among more than 220 entries in the Global Food and Health Innovation Challenge in November at the Global South Summit in Nashville, Tenn., for its All Natural Food Color initiative. Phytoption won the award after being named one of six finalists and presenting its business plan to judges and investors. By using all natural and sustainable food materials, Phytoption promotes large-scale, broad-spectrum use of natural colors - a nearly $1 billion market - in the food industry. Because of health concerns, replacing artificial food colors with natural food colors is a major trend in the food market. Scientific studies have linked artificial food colors to health problems in humans, especially increased hyperactivity in children. Natural food colors are coloring materials extracted from natural resources, such as plants. Most of these materials, such as beta-carotene, are antioxidants, providing not only coloring but also potential health benefits.


Whitford Pens Third Purdue Agricultural History Book


Fred WhitfordFred Whitford, Purdue Extension specialist and coordinator of Purdue pesticide programs in the College of Agriculture, has penned his third agricultural history book, For the Good of the Farmer, recently launched through Purdue University Press. The book chronicles the groundbreaking work of John Harrison Skinner (1874-1942), a pioneering educator and administrator who transformed the study of agriculture at Purdue University during the first decades of the 20th century. Skinner was the first dean of Purdue's College of Agriculture (1907-39). He grew the program from one building and 150 acres to 10 buildings and 1,000 acres during his tenure as dean.

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Awards and Recognitions


Michael LadischMichael Ladisch, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, is one of two Purdue professors who have been named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors. The other person recognized is Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering. The two are among 143 new members "who have demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and the welfare of society," according to a statement from the NAI. They will be officially recognized during an NAI induction ceremony on March 7 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office headquarters in Alexandria, Va.


Ron TurcoRon Turco, Agronomy, has been selected as the 2013 recipient of the Spirit of the Land Grant Mission Award recognizes a faculty member for excellence in integrating and promoting Purdue’s core missions of discovery, engagement, and learning. The award celebrates faculty who have successfully developed an integrated, comprehensive program that benefits agriculture, health and human sciences or veterinary medicine nationally and/or internationally. Turco was chosen for his achievements in creating and disseminating the knowledge needed to ameliorate important environmental problems for Indiana and the nation, and his collaborative and transcisciplinary approaches to problem solving. He will present the Spirit of the Land Grant Mission Award lecture on a date to be set in early 2014.


Agriculture 'Thumbs Up' Recognitions

Jan Beaty and Lauren Lee, Beck Ag Center: Jan and Lauren do a great job of managing the Beck Agricultural Center. I just finished up a two-week program out there, and I'm happy to say everything went great. Jan and Lauren really care about the customers and go out of their way to be helpful. Thank you! -- Katricia Sanchez (Agricultural Economics).

Deb Claeys, Ag Administration: A huge shout-out to Deb for her exceptional assistance at the 2013 College of Agriculture Entrepreneurial Event on Nov. 7. A lot of people offered to help; Deb actually took a task and full responsibility for it. The reception was beautiful, and she handled it all. Thanks, Deb, for the rescue! -- Carol Weaver (Agricultural and Biological Engineering)

Ed Stath, Ron Steiner and Sherron Myers, Department of Agronomy: I recently exchanged furniture with areas all over campus, Purdue Research Park, and Purdue Surplus. Sherron has done an amazing job coordinating everything. Ed and Ron have been troopers about picking up the bookshelves, cabinets, and such and helping us with reorganizing. Thank you all so much! -- Samantha McFarland (Business Office - Agriculture)

Jessica Harsh Jessica Harsh, a sophomore in agricultural communication, was accepted into the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) program and attended the 2013 Leaders Conference in Kansas City, MO. DRIVE Livestock magazine sponsored Jessica's involvement.





Purdue Agriculture in the News


Purdue specialist: Real Christmas trees becoming more popular

Christmas treesThis holiday season could be especially "green" as tree growers anticipate a busy 2013 sales period, partly because of the public's increasing concern for the environment, a Purdue Extension wood products specialist says. Still, the debate over whether real trees or artificial trees are better for the environment continues, said Daniel Cassens, Forestry and Natural Resources. More than $1 billion in real trees will be sold in the United States, the vast majority from Thanksgiving weekend through the first two weeks of December, Cassens said. About 28 million real trees are sold in the United States each year, and 200,000 choose-and-cut Christmas trees will be sold in Indiana this year.

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Low corn prices spark potential for increased ethanol demand

corn harvestLow corn prices on the heels of near-record yields this year could mean increased demand from ethanol producers, export markets and biofuels consumers, Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt says. A proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the amount of biofuels that oil companies must blend into gasoline and diesel from 18.15 billion gallons to 15.21 billion gallons in 2014 - including an implied reduction of corn ethanol from 14.4 billion gallons to near 13 billion gallons - initially appeared negative for corn markets. But according to Hurt, even with the proposed reduction in the Renewable Fuel Standard, national corn use for ethanol might not drop below the 4.9 billion bushels that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated.

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Purdue researchers examine issues of life in rural Indiana

Indiana mapResearchers at Purdue University are rolling out a series of publications to help state and local leaders better tackle the many quality-of-life issues facing people in the most rural counties in Indiana. The "Rural Indiana" series through Purdue Extension explores how changes in population and other demographics are creating both barriers to progress and opportunities for the future in rural areas. Local leaders in rural counties have long been searching for solutions to problems stemming from poverty, an aging population, "brain drain" of young people leaving for opportunities elsewhere, and other conditions inherent with daily living there."Hopefully, this will help provide new insights on specific issues," said Janet Ayres, a Purdue Extension agricultural economics specialist whose work focuses on leadership and economic development in rural Indiana.

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Lack of farm bill leaves farmers to face uncertainty in 2014

Roman KeeneyWith just a few legislative working days remaining in 2013, the likelihood of a new farm bill is waning, leaving farmers in limbo once again, Purdue Extension farm policy expert Roman Keeney says. The Farm Bill Conference Committee, composed of congressional representatives from the Senate and House, has been working since October but as yet has failed to agree on what should be in the bill. The Senate and the House have each passed their own vastly different versions. Dairy support programs, the subsidy payment basis and nutrition assistance have been the most heavily debated issues. "With the start of fiscal year 2014 on Oct. 1, authorization for previous farm legislation written in 2008 has already lapsed, triggering a reversion to farm subsidy laws first enacted in the mid-20th century," said Keeney, an associate professor of agricultural economics. "With the 2013 crop just harvested being the last that is subject to the 2008 law, farmers are left making plans for their 2014 crops with uncertainty about the rules and regulations that will govern the farm commodity system."

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Mutant corn could yield new ways to curb 'billion-dollar bug'

corn rootwormPurdue and University of Illinois researchers have discovered a novel corn mutant whose leaves are highly susceptible to attack by Western corn rootworm beetles, a pest that feeds primarily on corn silks and pollen. While Western corn rootworm beetles were previously thought to avoid corn leaves based on food-source preference, study of the mutant suggests that normal corn plants have an active defense mechanism that deters the beetles from feeding on their foliage. Identifying this mechanism could lead to new strategies for controlling Western corn rootworm, which is the most destructive insect pest of corn in the U.S. "This opens up a whole new opportunity to understand more about the mechanism of defense in corn to control this beetle," said Gurmukh Johal, professor of botany and plant pathology. Johal and Stephen Moose of Illinois independently discovered the mutant around the same time.

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EPA's RFS cuts would stymie biofuels growth, Purdue ag economist says

Wally TynerThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new plan to reduce the required amount of biofuels to be produced in 2014 by 2.94 billion gallons would reduce incentive for biofuels growth, Purdue University energy policy specialist Wally Tyner, Agricultural Economics, says. Tyner commented on the EPA's proposal to trim total production of biofuels from the current mandate of 18.15 billion gallons to 15.21 billion. Tyner recommends the total be set at 16.4 billion. "I think something in that area does a better job of fulfilling the original intent of Congress in the RFS, but adjusted for current market and technology realities," Tyner wrote in a blog posting titled "The Biofuels Renewable Fuel Standard at a Crossroads" at

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Grain storage rescue training offered at Purdue’s ADM Center

grain engulfmentEmergency responders, grain elevator employees and farmers will learn how to best avoid getting trapped in grain bins by attending one of two Purdue Extension workshops. They will be Dec. 27 and 30 at the ADM Agricultural Innovation Center, 694 S. Russell St. on Purdue University's campus.The training is especially important in Indiana, which led the nation in the number of documented grain-related entrapments and engulfments in 2012, with six.The instruction is designed for fire, rescue and emergency medical service personnel; grain elevator employees; and farm operators, says Steve Wettschurack, Purdue Extension agricultural emergency response specialist.

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Purdue Extension workshops to focus on pest management

integrated pest managementPurdue Extension's Pest Management Program will offer a series of Crop Management workshops at five Indiana locations in January. Workshop presentations are chosen based on the previous cropping year and new technologies, and they focus on a variety of pesticide regulation, agronomy and pest topics. Purdue Extension experts presenting at the workshops are weed scientists Bill Johnson and Travis Legleiter, soil fertility specialist Jim Camberato, nematologist Jamal Faghihi, plant pathologist Kiersten Wise, entomologist Christian Krupke, corn specialist Bob Nielsen, and Fred Whitford, director of Purdue Pesticide Programs. Their presentation topics include weeds, soil nutrients, soybean cyst nematode, field-crop diseases, insect pest management, corn yields and herbicide adjuvants.

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Purdue Extension to host Farming Together workshop

Purdue ExtensionFarm families can learn about succession planning for the future of their business operations by attending the "Business Structure, Taxes and Valuation" workshop of Purdue Extension's Farming Together series. The workshop, to be held at four locations across the state, will focus on legal and tax issues with farm transfer, long-range business planning, operating and buy-sell agreements, and business valuation. Each workshop will feature a local attorney and accountant as well as presentations from members of the Purdue Succession Planning Team. A panel of family farmers will share their experiences from the succession planning process.

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University News


Purdue Extended Campus seeking applications for online course development

Purdue Extended Campus and its Division of Online and Distance Learning are inviting Purdue West Lafayette faculty members and instructors to submit proposals for new online courses that would be offered in fall 2014. Applications are being sought campus-wide for courses that meet general education or core requirements, courses in high demand, and/or courses that take advantage of a unique niche or teaching methodology. PEC designers will work with faculty members and instructors one-on-one over the summer to develop online courses that meet Purdue's high standards. PEC will support the course development by providing faculty with one month's summer salary. Alternatives can be discussed with PEC staff, including when the course will be offered, courses that are team-taught, or course that could be offered across the Purdue system.

For more information and to complete an application, visit Questions may be directed to Catherine Watt, associate dean for distance learning, at or 49-48011.

Purdue's Sands named Virginia Tech president

The Board of Visitors of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) on Dec. 6 named Purdue University's Tim Sands as its next president. The appointment takes effect June 1. Sands, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, will remain at Purdue through the spring semester. At Virginia Tech, he will succeed Charles W. Steger, who has been president since 2000. Virginia Tech is Virginia's largest research university and its senior land-grant institution with an enrollment of 31,000 students and an annual operating budget of $1.2 billion.

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Purdue VP named top financial officer at Marymount University

Al Diaz, Purdue's executive vice president for business and finance, treasurer, on Dec. 6 was named treasurer and chief financial officer at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. The appointment is effective June 1. Diaz will continue in his current role at Purdue until he joins Marymount. Diaz has been Purdue's chief financial officer since July 2009. Marymount is an independent Catholic university that enrolls nearly 3,700 students.

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Procedures for adverse weather conditions

On an ongoing basis, but particularly as we enter the winter months, existing and predicted weather conditions are carefully evaluated by Environmental Health and Public Safety and Physical Facilities to ensure the health and safety of the members of our campus community. In accordance with Purdue University Adverse Weather Conditions policy IV.A.6, dated November 18, 2011, special procedures pertaining to classes, operations, parking, pay and/or attendance will become effective for the West Lafayette Campus should action pertaining to adverse winter weather conditions become necessary.

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Report Hate and Bias

report hate cardPurdue University is a community where diversity is valued and incidents of hate and bias are not tolerated. Students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors who feel that they have been the victim of a bias related incident (or who have witnessed a bias related incident) are encouraged to report it online at or to contact the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities at 765-494-1250. Your report can remain anonymous if you wish. Remember, if it is an emergency situation that requires immediate medical or emergency services attention, please call the Purdue University Police Department at 911 or 765-494-8221.