July 2015

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From the Dean

Jay AkridgeMuch has been said about ‘increasing variable and volatile weather patterns’ in our future – and with our Indiana weather over the past few years, it feels like the future is now. When I wrote my InFocus message for the July 2012 issue, we were in the middle of one of Indiana’s worst droughts in history.  About 80 percent of Indiana’s corn crop was rated ‘poor’, with little chance for recovery. Everyone in the state was dealing with torrid heat—105 degrees the day I wrote the message. Now, in the summer of 2015, we just finished the wettest June on record (an average of 9.03 inches of rain in our state; more than 18 inches in Jasper County) and July looks to be more of the same.

I have been traveling around the state over the past few weeks, and while some areas look relatively good (southwest), the crops in much of the state look nothing like normal – uneven, serious ponding, huge drowned spots in fields, yellow leaves from a lack of nitrogen.  The USDA’s most recent crop progress report rates 25% of Indiana’s corn and 26% of our soybean crops in “poor” and “very poor” condition. Purdue Agricultural Economist Chris Hurt estimates corn and soybean losses at about $475 million – a number that may well climb depending on what happens over the next few weeks.

Of course, agriculture is only one part of our state affected by the weather. Continued high water in many parts of the state means people are dealing with flooded basements (and flooded houses in some cases), problems with septic systems, mold development, high mosquito populations, and other critical problems brought on by excessive rainfall.  

Purdue Extension has been on this weather disaster from the first signs that this summer would be anything but normal. When the rains just would not quit in June, Extension specialists conducted a briefing in Indianapolis for news media, Extension educators, and partner agencies on how the flooding is affecting Indiana agriculture, and they provided information to help producers and consumers manage through this crisis as effectively as they can. Experts gave advice on everything from managing weeds, to replanting prospects, to disease control, to crop insurance. Many Extension educators have been involved in county status assessment efforts with their counterparts in USDA’s Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Indiana State Climate Office, located here at Purdue in the Department of Agronomy and headed by Dr. Dev Niyogi and Associate State Climatologist Ken Scheeringa, maintains weather data archives and analyzes current data to forecast weather conditions and issues regular reports and forecasts on temperature and rainfall conditions across the state.

An Extension Disaster Education Network web site provides timely, relevant information on the flooding and response to producers and consumers. The site includes instructional videos, background materials, news stories and how-to guides produced by Extension experts on topics including crops and livestock, agribusiness, residential flooding, horticulture and gardening, financial management, mold control, food safety and managing stress. Extension specialists are continuing to monitor the weather and offer expert insights and advice. The Extension Twitter feed (@PurdueExtension) provides information and updates organized under the #INfloods15 hashtag.

From drought to flooding and everything in between, we are able to respond because of our exceptional Extension specialists and educators who have not only dealt with these challenges before, but who are either familiar with or have conducted the research that supports informed decision-making in these situations. We are able to respond because we have our Agricultural Communications Department and the Extension Disaster Education Network in place to help disseminate information in a timely way. (As an aside, the weather certainly has impacted our own field research – my thanks to all of those involved in doing everything they can to keep our extensive field research program moving at the Purdue Ag Centers, ACRE and ASREC in this extraordinary year.)

Three years ago, I talked about how Purdue Agriculture steps up when our stakeholders are in trouble, and how proud I was of the response of our College to the heat and drought conditions. The same holds true this year in this summer of record-breaking rain. We cannot control the weather (much as we would like to), but we can make research-based insights available in a timely way to help our stakeholders make the very best decisions possible under the circumstances.  And, I know we will continue to be there for the people of our state, and the broader region, until this weather breaks.

My thanks again to everyone in the College who is helping us work through the summer of 2015 and serve our stakeholders at the highest possible levels.

All the best,


Purdue Agriculture People


Ag Research Spotlight: Fernanda San Martin  

Fernanda San MartinThe 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. Our spotlight for May is on Fernanda San Martin, Food Science, whose work underscores the theme, “Enhancing Food and Health.”

Full story: https://ag.purdue.edu/arp/Pages/Spotlight-Gibson.aspx#



Graduate Research Spotlight: Marie Laudeman

Marie LaudemanThe Graduate Research Spotlight highlights graduate students and their work. This month’s spotlight is on Marie Laudeman, Youth Development and Agricultural Education; advisor Natalie Carroll.

Full story: https://ag.purdue.edu/arp/Pages/Graduate-Student-Spotlight.aspx#.VaVS2zBVhBc




Youth Development and Agricultural Education Department Head Named

Mark RussellMark Russell, Professor of Animal Science at Purdue, has been appointed Professor and Head of Purdue's Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education, effective August 1. He succeeds Roger Tormoehlen, who is returning to his role among the College of Agriculture faculty after serving as department head since 2003. Dr. Russell will have a 100% faculty appointment in the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education. Dr. Russell grew up in New York on a horse and dairy cow farm. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University. Following graduation, he went to work as a hunter/jumper horse trainer and later trained Morgans. He later made the decision to change careers to work in Extension education. He returned to school to obtain his master's and doctorial degrees from the University of Illinois. He has a doctorate in amino acid nutrition in foals. He has worked at Purdue University over 25 years as an extension educator, advisor, and professor. "Mark brings a commitment to leadership development, teaching and learning scholarship, creativity, energy, and passion, and a demonstrated ability to engage broadly with stakeholders to his new role," said Dean Jay Akridge.  "I am really looking forward to having him on our College’s leadership team. I also want to thank the search committee for the good work that led to this successful outcome."


Purdue Extension exhibits to have new home at Indiana State Fair

Indiana State FairPurdue Extension exhibits at the 2015 Indiana State Fair will be located in the newly named “Purdue Extension Ag/Hort Building”. The museum-quality exhibits that fairgoers have come to love will have a new home in the central hall of this building, and feature topics such as The Edible Journey, A Salamander Tale, Plant Cell Explorer, The Face of Farming, and many other exhibits touching on a wide variety of content.

We will also have a space for periodic themed presentations based on the clientele expected to be at the fair each day. The opportunity to engage fairgoers with hands-on, quick educational demonstrations is open to educators, specialists, graduate and undergraduate students. Since there is no organized "Purdue Day" at the Indiana State Fair this year, this is a chance for those who would normally participate on that day to have time with fair clientele. Additional registration and information about this opportunity can be found here.

We are also looking for Purdue Agriculture staff to help at the information booth and exhibit area. This is a chance to visit with fairgoers, answer general questions about the exhibits and Purdue Extension, facilitate a scavenger hunt, network with colleagues, and serve as an ambassador for Purdue University and Purdue Extension at the fair. More information, available dates, and registration can be found here.

More information: http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/in_focus/2015/July/2015 Indiana State Fair.pdf



Nominees sought for Purdue's Hovde Award

Nominations are now being accepted for this year's Frederick L. Hovde Award of Excellence, given annually to a member of Purdue University's faculty or staff who has displayed outstanding educational service to rural Indiana. Any active member of the faculty or staff is eligible. A person's contributions may have been in the classroom, in counseling, in research or through Purdue Extension. The nomination deadline is September 8, 2015. Click here for the Hovde Award nomination form.

More information: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q3/nominations-sought-for-2015-hovde-award-of-excellence.html

Nominations sought for Purdue Agriculture's top awards

Nominations are being accepted for the top two annual awards of the Purdue College of Agriculture and the Ag Alumni Association recognizing achievement and service to the agricultural profession. The Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award recognizes mid-career alumni of the College of Agriculture who have a record of outstanding accomplishments, have made significant contributions to their profession or society in general and exhibit high potential for professional growth. The alumni association's Certificate of Distinction recognizes those who have contributed to agriculture through professional accomplishments, activity in organizations, community service and other activities that make the nominees a credit to their profession. Nomination deadlines are September 14 for the Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award and October 1 for the Certificate of Distinction.

Information and nomination forms available here: https://ag.purdue.edu/agalumni/Pages/Awards.aspx


Training modules available for faculty and staff

Risk Management, in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Ethics and Compliance and the Office of the Vice President for Human Resources, announces the availability of the Risk Management Employment Claims Initiative education program. The program helps employees and supervisors understand employment-related issues such as discrimination, harassment, disability awareness and accommodations, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), overtime rates, and other university leave policies. Participants will complete four training modules and corresponding certification quizzes: 1) Equal Opportunity; 2) Americans with Disabilities Act; 3) Wage and Hour Issues for Employees and Supervisors; and 4) Family and Medical Leave Act and University Leave Policies.

The training modules and instructions for accessing the certification quizzes are located on the Purdue Employee Portal. Each training module is approximately 20 to 25 minutes long. Training on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Equal Opportunity will also fulfill College of Agriculture requirements for civil rights training as required by the USDA. All faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to complete these training modules. Faculty and staff participation in these training modules impacts the College's share of insurance costs.

Awards and Recognitions


Gebisa EjetaGebisa Ejeta, Agronomy, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Haramaya University (formerly Alemaya College) in Ethiopia, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1973. He was cited for his groundbreaking sorghum research and his impact on the lives of Africans: "[Professor Ejeta] was responsible for resurrecting sorghum from obscurity in Ethiopia. His pathbreaking research over the past 30 years not only changed the science of sorghum but also helped secure the livelihoods of millions of poor people in Africa and across the world. Millions of poor Africans have more to eat thanks to the pioneering research of Dr. Gebisa Ejeta."



Knobloch and MorrisNeil Knobloch, associate professor in Youth Development and Agricultural Education and Pamala Morris, associate professor in Youth Development and Agricultural Education and assistant dean and director of the College of Agriculture Office of Multicultural Programs, were awarded a NACTA Educator Award at the Annual Conference of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture in June. This award recognizes individuals whose efforts represent the very best in agricultural higher education.​​​​​




business office service awardBeth Siple (left), assistant director of financial affairs, Agriculture Sponsored Program Services; Shelly Gamble (center), business assistant in the Animal Science business office; and Mary Wise (right), account clerk in the Agronomy business office, are the 2015 winners of the College of Agriculture Business Office Service Award. The award was established to recognize the significant efforts of business office staff members who consistently exert effort above and beyond expectations to help accomplish the College's strategic goals.



Dairy ClubThe Purdue University Dairy Club took home First place in the Scrapbook category and Third place in Oral Dairy Research at the American Dairy Science Association meeting in Orlando, Florida. Pictured here with Associate Dean Marcos Fernandez are PJ Neff, Ashley Curry, Holly Kyler, Allison Culp, Lydia Hoene and Brandan Bergdall.



IFAMA teamAgricultural Economics graduate students finished in Second place in the annual International Food and Agribusiness Management Association's​ Case Study Competition. The 2015 case study focused on Monsanto and its recent acquisition of Climate Corp. The Purdue team competed against 16 teams from around the world. Pictured here are (left to right) David Boussios, Brian Bourquard, William Nelson (President, CHS Foundation), Kim Ha, and Yangxuan Liu.

Purdue Agriculture in the News

Purdue leading research using advanced technologies to better grow sorghum as biofuel

Mitch TuinstraPurdue University has been awarded $6.5 million by the U.S. Department of Energy for research aimed at producing superior strains of sorghum suitable for growing as a biofuel. The grant is among six Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture awards nationwide from DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The projects are focused on accelerating energy crop development for the production of renewable transportation fuels. A team of researchers from the Purdue colleges of Agriculture and Engineering and Purdue's Polytechnic Institute has partnered in the project with IBM Research, the largest industrial research organization in the world, and a scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia. Purdue was competitive for the funding because of the investment in Purdue Moves, a range of initiatives, including plant sciences, that the university introduced in 2013 to broaden Purdue's global impact and enhance educational opportunities for its students.

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q2/purdue-leading-research-using-advanced-technologies-to-better-grow-sorghum-as-biofuel.html


Purdue flood website offers resources for rebuilding

floodingPurdue's Extension Disaster Education Network has compiled a number of informational resources on a new website to help agricultural producers and homeowners affected by this summer's destructive floods in Indiana. The site includes instructional videos, background materials, news stories and how-to guides produced by Extension experts. Topics covered include crops and livestock, agribusiness, residential flooding, horticulture and gardening, financial management, mold control, food safety and managing stress. "Those who have lost crops or personal property face many decisions going forward. By providing these resources, we hope to help people make choices with confidence," said Michael Schutz, director of Extension's agriculture and natural resources programs.

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q3/purdue-flood-website-offers-resources-for-rebuilding.html


State Climate Office: Indiana rains set record for month of June

State Climate OfficeIndiana set a record for rainfall in the month of June, with a state average of 9.03 inches, the Indiana State Climate Office said July 1. June also was the fourth-wettest of any month on record since 1895. The rainfall surpassed the previous June record of 8.13 inches set in 1958. The climate office, based in the Department of Agronomy, said nearly all parts of Indiana received above-normal rainfall. Normal rainfall ranges from 4.1 inches to 4.3 inches across the state. The heaviest rain totals generally were in a west-to-east band stretching from Newton to Adams counties across northern Indiana. A rainfall monitoring station in Rensselaer in Jasper County had the most rain - 18.06 inches. Two locations in Newton County had more than 17 inches. During the entire month there were only four days when it did not rain somewhere in Indiana. On seven days, some areas had more than 4 inches.

Full story: http://tinyurl.com/omog7me



Hurt: Indiana crop losses now potentially up to $475 million

flooded fieldIndiana’s corn and soybean crops in a month of rain went from among the best to among the worst, with Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt now estimating that production could decline by $475 million. Indiana dropped from having above average corn and soybean yield prospects in the first week of June to well below normal at the end of the month, noted Hurt, who analyzed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Crop Progress report released June 29. On June 8, the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Service rated Indiana’s corn crop at the 77th percentile based on the previous 15 years. Three weeks later, the Indiana corn crop was ranked at the 18th percentile, about the second worse crop out of 10 years. Seventy-five percent of Indiana’s corn crop was rated good to excellent as of the USDA’s June 8 report. In the June 29 report, the crop dropped to 48 percent good to excellent.

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q2/hurt-indiana-crop-losses-now-potentially-up-to-475-million.html



Researchers identify gene that controls soybean seed permeability, calcium content

Jianxin MaPurdue Agriculture researchers have pinpointed the gene that controls whether soybean seed coats are hard or permeable, a finding that could be used to develop better varieties for southern and tropical regions, enrich the crop's genetic diversity and boost the nutritional value of soybeans. Jianxin Ma, associate professor of agronomy, and fellow researchers found that a mutation in the gene GmHs1-1 causes the tough seed coats of wild soybeans to become permeable. The gene could be modified to produce improved varieties for growing regions in which seed permeability can be a handicap, Ma said. Understanding the mechanism that determines seed permeability could also give researchers better access to the largely untapped genetic diversity of wild soybeans to enrich cultivated varieties, whose lack of genetic richness has curbed improvements in yields.

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q2/researchers-identify-gene-that-controls-soybean-seed-permeability,-calcium-content.html


Extension publication delves into how public views animal agriculture

Purdue ExtensionA new Purdue Extension publication presents local and state leaders with research findings on the similarities and differences in how people in rural and urban Indiana perceive animal agriculture. The authors of Views on Animal Agriculture in Rural Versus Urban Indiana Counties explain the viewpoints that influence food purchasing decisions and evaluate how residents in rural, urban and "mixed" counties - those where there is a combination of both urban and rural living - get their information on animal welfare and form their opinions on livestock operations. "Given agriculture's importance to Indiana, understanding the views of residents in both rural and urban settings is necessary for decision makers," write Purdue University lead author Ann Cummins, an agricultural economics graduate student; and co-authors Nicole Olynk Widmar, agricultural economics associate professor; Joan Fulton, agricultural economics associate department head and professor; and Candace Croney, director of the Purdue Center for Animal Welfare Science.

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q3/extension-publication-delves-into-how-public-views-animal-agriculture.html


DNA samples from Purdue, Kew fungi collections provide key to mushroom 'tree of life'

Catherine AimeGenetic material from fungi collections at Purdue University and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, helped a team of researchers resolve the mushroom "tree of life," a map of the relationships between key mushroom species and their evolutionary history that scientists have struggled to piece together for more than 200 years. The group used DNA from frozen, heat-dried and freeze-dried specimens to analyze a dataset of 39 genomes representing most of the known families in Agaricales, the order that houses some of the most familiar kinds of mushrooms. High-throughput sequencing technology allowed the scientists to define seven new suborders and the "trunk" of the Agaricales tree, providing a framework for testing hypotheses of the evolution of mushrooms. "Mycology really is one of the last frontiers in biology," said Catherine Aime, associate professor of mycology, the study of fungi. "We know there are six to 20 times more species of fungi than plants, but we don't really know much about them. People have tried to figure out how mushrooms are related since the time of Linnaeus. It's gratifying to finally solve this mystery."

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q2/dna-samples-from-purdue,-kew-fungi-collections-provide-key-to-mushroom-tree-of-life.html


Extension website presents ways to help protect Indiana's endangered mussels

MusselsA new Purdue Extension website explains how the public can help protect the rich diversity of mussel species of Indiana's Tippecanoe River. With more than 45 species of mussels, the Tippecanoe River is home to one of the most diverse populations of freshwater mussels in the U.S., including six endangered species. Protecting mussels is critical for maintaining good water quality, healthy fish and wildlife populations, and recreational use of the river, said Linda Prokopy, professor of natural resource social science and leader of the mussel education effort. "Mussels are like the heart of a river," she said. "A single mussel can pump eight gallons of water a day. It's crucial that we protect these organisms that help keep our rivers clean."

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q2/extension-website-presents-ways-to-help-protect-indianas-endangered-mussels.html


Study: Targeted LEDs could provide efficient lighting for plants grown in space

space plantsA Purdue study shows that targeting plants with red and blue LEDs provides energy-efficient lighting in contained environments, a finding that could advance the development of crop-growth modules for space exploration. Research led by Cary Mitchell, professor of horticulture, and then-master's student Lucie Poulet found that leaf lettuce thrived under a 95-to-5 ratio of red and blue light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, placed close to the plant canopy. The targeted LED lighting used about 90 percent less electrical power per growing area than traditional lighting and an additional 50 percent less energy than full-coverage LED lighting. The study suggests that this model could be a valuable component of controlled-environment agriculture and vertical farming systems in space and on Earth, Mitchell said.

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q2/study-targeted-leds-could-provide-efficient-lighting-for-plants-grown-in-space.html


Purdue offers military vets opportunity to tour farm, learn about ag careers

AgrAbilityCurrent and former military members interested in starting a farm or improving practices on an existing farm are invited to a breakfast workshop and tour of a veteran-owned farm as part of Purdue University’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher program. The event is set for Aug. 16, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in North Salem. It begins with the breakfast session at the Eel River Community Center, 6 S. Main St., where experts will discuss financial support programs for farmer veterans, including federal grants and loans. Participants will then have a chance to tour the Blue Yonder Organic Farm, 5262 N. state Route 75, and speak with owner Sara Creech, a former Air Force member who raises pastured chickens, turkeys, ducks and sheep as well as organic fruits and vegetables. “There has certainly been a movement of military veterans coming out of the service and pursuing careers in agriculture,” said Cindra Chastain, farmer veteran AgrAbility coordinator at Purdue. “We hope to create a network of farmer veterans who can interact and learn from each other,” she said. “Farming or an agricultural career is a viable option.”

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q3/purdue-offers-military-vets-opportunity-to-tour-farm,-learn-about-ag-careers.html


Farming is driving force in drying soil in Northern China

China soilAn important agricultural region in China is drying out, and increased farming may be more to blame than rising temperatures and less rain, according to a study spanning 30 years of data. A research team led by Purdue University and China Agricultural University analyzed soil moisture during the growing season in Northern China and found that it has decreased by 6 percent since 1983. The optimal soil-moisture level for farmland is typically 40 percent to 85 percent of the water holding capacity, and the region's soil is now less than 40 percent and getting drier. If this trend continues, the soil may not be able to support crops by as early as 2090, said study leader Qianlai Zhuang, Purdue's William F. and Patty J. Miller Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and Agronomy. "The soil moisture declined by 1.5 to 2.5 percent every decade of the study and, while climate change is still a factor, this water depletion appears to be largely driven by human activities," Zhuang said. "A 10 percent decline in soil moisture over the course of a century would have major implications for agriculture and the fresh water supply in this heavily populated area."

Full story: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2015/Q3/soil-in-northern-china-is-drying-out-and-farming,-not-climate-change,-is-culprit.html


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