March 2014

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From the Dean

Jay AkridgeSpring Break is next week on campus, and we can only hope that the weather will start to reflect the ‘Spring’ part of the designation! Enough said about the weather—most of us are as tired of the topic as we are of the cold and snow…

This month, I want to highlight three key groups that support our College in very important ways: CARET, PCARET, and our Dean’s Advisory Council (DAC). As most of you know, our College’s recurring (hard-funded) budget comes from three primary sources: the University general fund (student tuition and state support); our federal capacity funds (Hatch, Smith-Lever, and McIntire-Stennis) and state-line funds (Crossroads and AgSEED). About 45% of our total hard-funded budget is from the University general fund and 55% comes from state, county and federal support. As many of you know, there are specific federal reporting requirements of all faculty with research and Extension appointments that represent one form of formal accountability for the federal funds. However, we also have two groups of volunteers who help us with ‘stakeholder accountability’. These volunteers connect with federal and state legislators directly and share their stories about how the work you do in research and Extension matters to them personally.

The Council for Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching (CARET) is a national volunteer organization founded in 1982 to advocate for agricultural research and Extension funds at the federal level. (I currently serve as the liaison to the CARET organization representing the deans of agriculture colleges.) Four CARET delegates represent Purdue: Ken Huseman from Cedar Lake; Louise Beaman from Franklin; Bob Guernsey from Lebanon, and Rebecca Roach from Oaktown. We traveled to Washington, DC last week for the annual CARET meeting and visits with our federal delegation.

PCARET is Purdue CARET, a network of nearly 400 citizen advocates who tell our College and Extension story at the county, state, and federal levels. Again, these are individuals from across our state who benefit from the work Purdue Agriculture and Purdue Extension do, and are proud to talk about that work and its impact with elected officials. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we were in Washington, DC with the PCARET group. They had a chance to meet with our Congressional representatives to share how they benefit from your good work. Donya Lester, John Baugh and Teresa Rogers provide great leadership and support to these groups.

At a time when budgets are so tight at every level and county, state, and federal elected officials have very difficult decisions to make, the voices of CARET and PCARET are critically important for the College. We can talk all we want about how important the work that you do is, but when a citizen, as an unpaid volunteer, takes the time to tell an elected official how important 4-H is in their county, how an Extension program made a difference on their farm, why research into detection of food borne pathogens is important—those elected officials listen and they hear. I have said this before, and I will say it again: I wish each of you could hear these folks talk about the impact your work has on their lives, farms, businesses, and communities. It is both humbling and invigorating, and it also frames our responsibility to the people of this state (and nation and world) going forward and the expectations they have of us.

Finally, our Dean’s Advisory Council is comprised of 30 individuals, primarily from Indiana, who meet twice a year to provide insight on important questions our College is facing and to get an update on College activities. You can find a list of current members here:

The Dean’s Advisory Council (DAC) will be here for its Spring meeting today. They will get an update on undergraduate recruiting activities; we will discuss College use of social media; talk about our Extension economic development strategy; get an update on the Center for Animal Well-Being Science; have a dialogue with our students on what is important to them when looking at employers; and more. This group has provided the spark for important ideas over time, such as the Leadership Development Certificate Program and the Issues 360 Initiative. In addition, these people play a key role as ‘eyes and ears’ for the College across the state. As you would guess, they are terrific ambassadors for us as well.  Dinah McClure provides great support for the DAC. (If you have any suggestions for DAC members, please let me know. These individuals serve three-year terms, so we have 10 new openings every year.)

Relevance and impact are two important words for Purdue Agriculture. And, these three groups help us stay in tune with the needs of our stakeholders, give us important feedback on what we are doing well and where we can improve, and  make the time to share their Purdue Agriculture experiences with elected officials and other decision makers. We are very fortunate to have them all as part of our Purdue Agriculture team.

All the best,


Purdue Agriculture People


Ag Research Spotlight: Kiersten Wise, Botany and Plant Pathology

Kiersten WiseThe Ag Research Spotlight shines each month on an individual whose work reflects our commitment to the six strategic themes that guide Agricultural Research at Purdue. This month’s spotlight is on Kiersten Wise, Botany and Plant Pathology, whose work underscores two themes: “Building a sustainable and secure food production system", and "Facilitating informed decision making to improve economic and social well-being".

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Graduate Research Spotlight: Benjamin Pauli

Ben PauliThe Graduate Research Spotlight highlights graduate students and their work. This month’s spotlight is on Benjamin Pauli, Forestry and Natural Resources; advisor Patrick Zollner.

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11 alumni receive Purdue Agriculture's top award

Distinguished AlumniThe College of Agriculture on March 7 recognized 11 people from business, government and education with the college's highest honor, the Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award, for their achievements. The award recognizes mid-career Purdue Agriculture alumni who have demonstrated outstanding accomplishments, made significant contributions to their professions or to society in general, and exhibit high potential for future professional growth. "These 11 people are terrific representatives of what we do so well - prepare students to make a difference," said Dean Jay Akridge. "They are businesspeople, educators, scientists and entrepreneurs working in both the public and private sectors, and they are all leaders. We take great pride in our alumni, and these are 11 of our best."

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Purdue ABE graduate program rated best sixth year in row

US newsThe Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering has been selected by U.S. News & World Report for the sixth consecutive year as offering the best such graduate specialty program in the nation. The complete rankings of what U.S. News & World Report considers the best agricultural and biological engineering graduate programs is available on the magazine's website at The magazine also rated Purdue's undergraduate ABE program No.1 last fall for the third consecutive year.


Beck Named 2014 Agribusiness Leader of the Year

Sonny BeckSonny Beck, president of Beck’s Hybrids, Purdue Agriculture alum and member of the Purdue Board of Trustees, has been named the 2014 Agribusiness Leader of the Year by the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA). The award, which is NAMA’s highest honor, will be presented at the Opening General Session of the 2014 Agri-Marketing Conference, “A Fresh Perspective,” on April 10 in Jacksonville, Florida. The award honors outstanding leaders in agribusiness, education, government service or other agribusiness related areas who exemplify excellence in agribusiness by their significant contributions to the industry.

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New Face in Office of Academic Programs

Penny KellyPenny Kelly has joined the staff in the Office of Academic Programs as administrative assistant to Associate Dean Marcos Fernandez, succeeding Jan Ward, who retired in January. Penny started her career in the Air Force in 1986 and was on active duty for almost ten years in office support and supervisory roles. She came to Purdue in 2009 as the secretarial pool supervisor in the Department of Biological Sciences. Penny and her husband, Gary, have four grown children--two boys and two girls. Penny says she has felt very welcomed in Agriculture and is excited about her new position and the opportunity to work with our faculty, staff and students.


Call for posters: Plant Science Network Gathering

plant sciencesAre you interested in presenting a poster at the April 4th Plant Science Networking Gathering? This can be a poster you have used for a recent meeting, a poster that you will use for an upcoming meeting, or a poster about your current research. Different size posters are acceptable. You do not need to have results to present a poster. It can be on what you are just beginning to do or planning to do – this will enable useful feedback. We welcome posters from grad students, postdocs, undergrads in the area of plant sciences, very broadly defined. The number of posters is limited so this will be a first-come, first-served to some extent. Those who present a poster will receive an extra coupon for a free beverage. Please send your name, your department, your advisor's name, and the title of your poster to Lynn Bargfeldt Cornell, by 4 PM on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.


Fifth annual College food drive kicks off March 24

food driveBeginning on March 24, participating College of Agriculture departments, clubs and associations will collect food and monetary donations to support the Lafayette Food Finders Food Bank. More than 86,000 residents in the surrounding 16-county area are considered food insecure—and 36,000 of those are children. Our donations will not only help stock area food pantries, but will also support the BackPack program that distributes over 3,500 food-filled backpacks to school kids each Friday, often providing the only food a family will have for the weekend. Please bring your food and/or monetary donations to your departmental office. There will be pickups in each departmental area on April 11. The College donated 50,863 lbs. of food last year (5 times more than 2012) and this year’s goal is 60,000 pounds. For information about where to drop your canned goods or monetary donation, contact Luanna DeMay You might also want to “like” the Food Drive Facebook page and check it for updates and departmental fund raisers.

Awards and Recognitions


Jen KaiserJennifer Kaiser, Purdue Agriculture Business Office, received Purdue's 2014 Eleanor Kaplan Award for Exceptional Customer Service. Jen is Ag Accountant and Business manager for the Botany and Plant Pathology and Animal Sciences Departments, as well as the Purdue Ag Centers (PACs). She has been in the College of Agriculture for seven years. The Kaplan Award was created in 1996 to recognize administrative and clerical staff in Business Management who demonstrate excellence and leadership in providing customer service.


Brittini BrownBrittini Brown, graduate student in Youth Development and Agricultural Education, has been selected as an Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) Scholar. Through the program, she will receive a stipend and attend AGEP professional development workshops, enrichment activities, and mentor high school and college students who are interested in graduate study.



AFA studentsJake Bohlander and Morgan Dawson, Agricultural Economics, have been selected by Agriculture Future of America for its 26-member Student Leadership Team for 2014-2015. They will serve as Campus Ambassadors, acting as a liaison between AFA and university faculty and staff and their fellow students. Jake will also serve as one of nine Student Advisory Team members responsible for planning and facilitating the 2014 AFA Leaders Conference, The AFA Student Leadership Team is made up of students representing 24 schools from 22 states across the country. Throughout their time of service, they will interact with agribusiness leaders, campus faculty and fellow students as they represent AFA.


Jenn Piotrowski, Brooke Fruits and Lauren Taylor, all Ag Communication students in the Department of Youth Development and Ag Education, have been selected to participate in the Social Media Corps at the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Conference in April in Jacksonville, Florida. The Social Media Corps students will collect and create content, including photos, videos, tweets, blogs and Facebook posts, and will guide the online conversation during the event using the hashtags #NAMASocial and #NAMA14.



Purdue Agriculture in the News


Purdue awards state-funded AgSEED projects

AgSEEDThe College of Agriculture has awarded $1million in state-funded grants for a wide variety of projects designed to advance Indiana's leadership in plant and animal agriculture and rural development. The grants were awarded in the initiative called AgSEED, short for Agricultural Science and Extension for Economic Development. The state Legislature funded AgSEED in 2013 through the state's Crossroads program as part of Indiana's commitment to agriculture and rural development. "The research and education being supported by these funds will help Indiana better position itself not only for economic growth and jobs in our food and agricultural industries, but for a world that will demand adequate nutrition and energy for 9 billion people by 2050," said Dean Jay Akridge. "We are very excited about the state's investment in these innovative and high-impact projects."

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Woodlands owners to get help in managing their property

woodlandsPurdue Extension is co-sponsoring a regional workshop March 22 to help woodland owners make decisions on how to best manage the variety of natural resources on their land. The Ohio River Valley Woodland and Wildlife Workshop, to be held at General Butler State Park in Carrollton, Ky., will feature forestry and wildlife experts from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio who will offer their expertise to property owners. "Everyone has a different approach as to how they manage their land," said Brian MacGowan, Purdue Extension wildlife specialist and a presenter. "Many times during our management discussions we begin asking ourselves the question, 'What's next?' This workshop will answer many questions that woodlands owners have." There will be sessions on such topics as controlling invasive plants and invasive insects, identifying trees, how wildlife use woodlands for habitat, learning about the most common amphibians in woodlands, nature photography and pond management, among others.

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Disaster volunteers' national conference in Indianapolis

Indiana VOADHundreds of leaders in disaster preparedness and response will convene May 13-15 in Indianapolis for the 22nd annual conference of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Indiana VOAD is hosting the conference and Purdue Extension is a member of the organization. Anyone interested in disaster preparedness, response or recovery can attend. The conference is expected to attract 400-500 leaders from all 50 states, several U.S. territories and more than 50 national organizations, said Abby Hostetler, a Purdue Extension Disaster Education Network communications specialist and host committee co-chair. "This annual event provides educational opportunities and a chance for the VOAD members to communicate so they can coordinate and collaborate when disasters strike," Hostetler said.

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Center for Food Integrity official presents research on consumer trust

Terry FleckThe executive director of the Center for Food Integrity presented consumer research findings on public skepticism of the food system and steps the industry can take to rebuild consumers' trust. Terry Fleckfocused his March 12 presentation on CFI's 2013 Consumer Trust in the Food System research survey, which provides a roadmap to seven steps for building the public's trust through transparency. "The model provides a clear path to effectively address growing skepticism about today's food," Fleck said. "Consumers have been asking for more transparency, but it has not been well defined. This research defines transparency and provides direction. Effectively implementing this new model will help companies and organizations build trust with their stakeholders and consumers."

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Winter likely to keep a frigid grip on Indiana into late March

WinterDespite recent mild weather days that made us think spring could be near, the Indiana State Climate Office says winter isn't going away anytime soon. While it isn't abnormal in Indiana for snow and cold temperatures to linger into mid-March, current weather models suggest spring weather might not move in until even later. "A few days with temperatures in the 50s and 60s might have led us to believe spring is right around the corner," said Ken Scheeringa, associate state climatologist for the Indiana State Climate Office based at Purdue University. "Not so fast," he quickly added. "The snow and cold of winter usually continues into the first half of March. Based on the latest weather outlook, it could even persist late into the month."

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Long non-coding RNAs help genes get out of the starting block faster

Elizabeth TranYeast can quickly adapt to changes in its environment with the help of molecules known as long non-coding RNAs, a Purdue study shows. Elizabeth Tran, assistant professor of biochemistry, and her fellow researchers found that long non-coding RNAs prepare metabolic genes to be activated swiftly when baker's yeast needs to switch its source of energy from glucose - its main sugar source - to an alternative sugar, galactose. The study is the first to link long non-coding RNAs with the timing of gene expression. "The fact that long non-coding RNAs are involved in the timing of gene expression was totally unexpected," Tran said. "This opens up new and exciting challenges for the future of genomic research."

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Purdue Extension helping people rise above poverty

WilliamsThe latest installment of an online series on challenges and opportunities facing rural Indiana highlights Purdue Extension community programs that are helping to lift people out of poverty. The article, posted Feb. 25 on the website of Agricultures magazine, is the sixth of the seven-part "Giving New Life to Rural Indiana" series by the Department of Agricultural Communication. The article includes the experiences of a woman from Huntington, Ind., who attended a Purdue Extension class, called Getting Ahead, that helped her to regain her sense of self-worth and find the resources she needed to successfully complete her nursing assistant certification. She now works in home health care and is financially stable. Nearly 1 million people in Indiana are living in poverty, earning an annual income of less than $11,000 for an individual, $15,510 for a family of two and $19,530 for a family of three.

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Purdue Extension to take part in agricultural forum

forum logoPurdue Extension is again co-sponsoring and providing programming for the Indiana Livestock Forage and Grain Forum on March 13 in Indianapolis. The educational forum is organized by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and aims to bring together all facets of Indiana commodity production for a keynote address, trade show and breakout sessions. The keynote address features Kenneth Cukier, data editor at The Economist and co-author of Big Data: A Revolution that will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think. Cukier's talk, "Big Data - The Big Picture," will be followed by a panel discussion and question-and-answer session.

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Hurt: Expansion of beef cattle herds possibly on the horizon

beef cattleRecent record-high cattle prices and lower feed costs could offer producers the profit incentives they need to start expanding their herds after U.S. beef cattle numbers at the start of this year reached their lowest point since 1951, Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt says. The nation's beef cattle herd has been declining for many years, with the most recent phase beginning in 2007 when high feed prices led to large financial losses for producers. Since that time, major beef-production areas also have been dealing with drought. But if lower feed costs and high cattle prices hold steady, producers could start to slowly grow their operations. "While the incentives have turned positive, they have not been in place long enough for the industry to begin registering signs of expansion according to U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers," Hurt said. "The rebuilding of the beef herd is expected to take multiple years."

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University News


Purdue named in "best value" list

Purdue University is listed among the Princeton Review's 150 "best value" colleges for 2014. The education services and test-prep company says universities on the list, which appeared in USA Today, offer the "best bang for the buck." The listing is based on an analysis from surveys conducted from fall 2012 through fall 2013. The top 10 public and private "best values" are ranked; the rest are listed alphabetically.


“Software Carpentry” boot camp March 17-18: tools and techniques for making research computing less painful, faster

A “Software Carpentry” boot camp designed to teach Purdue researchers, especially graduate students, tools and techniques to get their research computing done with less hassle, more efficiently and faster is set for March 17-18. Free registration for the program, sponsored by ITaP Research Computing (RCAC), at: Participants must register by March 11. The Purdue boot camp will run from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day March 17 and 18 in Rawls Hall, Room 3058. The two-day event will cover topics such as using the Bash shell to do more in less time, basic Python programming for data analysis and other purposes, employing version control to manage and share information, and program testing, debugging and documentation. The curriculum is tailored to help early-career graduate students in particular, although any Purdue researcher may attend. The Software Carpentry program, started at Los Alamos National Laboratory and now supported by the Mozilla and Sloan foundations, is geared to helping scientists and engineers become more productive by teaching them fundamental research computing skills on which they can build.

Purdue seeking high-tech startups to participate in Interns for Indiana program

Purdue University is recruiting high-tech startup and second-stage companies to participate in the Interns for Indiana program. Led by the Discovery Learning Research Center in Discovery Park, the Interns for Indiana program connects Indiana startup companies to high-quality undergraduate student interns. Interns are assigned to companies based on the potential quality experience for students, the opportunity for student on-the-job growth and future employment, and on company needs. Interns for Indiana, known as IFI, is partially funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc. Participating companies are required to provide a $2,000 membership fee to help cover a portion of student and program costs. Startups accepted into the Interns for Indiana program are matched with Purdue juniors and seniors who work a minimum of 400 hours during the summer session, and who receive a stipend of $4,500 for successful participation.

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Diversity and Inclusion program guide offered online

The Division of Diversity and Inclusion's Spring 2014 Diversity and Inclusion Program Guide is now online. The guide, which offers a comprehensive listing of the division's programs and services, is available at


Nominations sought for engagement awards

The Office of Engagement is seeking nominations for the Faculty Engagement Scholar Award, Corps of Engagement Award, and Faculty Engagement Fellow Award. Nominations are due March 24. Details about the awards, including purpose, criteria, and general guidelines, are available here.