March 2016

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From the Dean

Jay AkridgeLast week, we were honored to celebrate 11 distinguished alumni of our College. They have excelled at everything from farming and leading agribusiness firms, to designing innovative public landscapes and conducting research on forest soils and human health. Their contributions and impact are felt in local 4-H clubs, in industry and in academia, from rural Indiana to South America and Africa. I want to thank our departments for the gracious hospitality shown to these 11 individuals, and I hope you enjoyed interacting with them. During the convocation held in their honor, many recounted moments with College faculty and staff (as well as other students) that turned out to be life changing, career changing, or both. Many of these moments likely seemed insignificant at the time, but when our alumni looked back, these small moments had big impacts.

I have been on the road a lot over the last three weeks and have met a number of our alumni along the way. These interactions, as well as interactions with alumni we have invited back to campus, provide more evidence of what we know: graduates from our College go on to do extraordinary things in government, in industry, in academe. The University recently honored Dr. Tuajuanda Jordan as a Distinguished Woman Scholar. Dr. Jordan earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from our college and is now president of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Dr. Warren Preston, who earned his Ph.D. in agricultural economics here, was just named Deputy Chief Economist at USDA. Earlier this week, three recent graduates, Rachel Cumberbatch, Jill Zeller, and Shane Hageman, were all invited back to campus by the University as part of a new program called Rising Professionals. There is no doubt that these individuals – and so many more – were gifted and talented people before they came to our College. But, all have said that their time with us was an important part of their career success.

The Gallup-Purdue Index Report has clearly documented the impact of mentors who encourage students to pursue goals and dreams, professors who make students excited about learning, and professors who ‘care about me as a person’ on the well-being of Purdue graduates (and college graduates broadly).

Faculty and staff engagement with our students continues to be a strength of our College.  Recently, the Purdue Office of Institutional Research and Equity (OIRAE) summarized the results of the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) survey, which Purdue administers every two years to graduating seniors. The data are compared to nine AAU peers (Texas A&M, Rutgers, Minnesota, Washington, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Iowa, Virginia, and Indiana). Our College posted the highest rates on campus on the questions of ‘satisfaction with advising by school or college on academic matters’, as well as satisfaction with staff and faculty advising – and was far above the mean for the AAU peers. Our students also expressed a high level of satisfaction with the quality of coursework: 70.9% for lower division courses and 82.9% for upper division courses. Our AAU peers’ numbers were 60.6% for lower division and 73.9% for upper division courses.

Quality teaching and advising has been a hallmark of our College for many decades. I told the group assembled for our Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Convocation that while these numbers are impressive, what I am most proud of is the fact that our College knows these numbers are in the rear-view mirror now. Last year’s graduating class had very positive things to say about their Purdue Agriculture experience. Now, we are challenged to continue to improve that experience as our students change, the technology we use to teach evolves, and new approaches to teaching emerge.

To support our continuous improvement in this area, the Office of Academic Programs offers many learning opportunities to help our faculty continue to get even better in the classroom. And, we now have a set of guidelines to help faculty moving through promotion and tenure document their student mentoring activities to meet the new University mentoring requirement.

My thanks to all of you who touch our students – undergraduate and graduate - in any way.  My thanks to all of you who engage and mentor students before they arrive at Purdue through 4-H and other youth development programs. Your work is making a difference, even if you don’t see it now. Who knows—some small moment you have with a student today may someday be the focus of a Distinguished Agriculture Alumna speech.

Have a great Spring Break!

All the best,



Purdue Agriculture People


Ag Research Spotlight: Brian Dilkes

Brian DilkesThe 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 February is on Brian Dilkes, Biochemistry, whose work underscores the theme, “Utilizing molecular approaches to expand the frontiers of agriculture and life sciences.”​

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College initiates "Unsung Diversity Hero" Award

diversityThe College of Agriculture invites nominations for a new award, the “Unsung Diversity Hero” Award. This award is being established to recognize one individual or group whose work to build a diverse and inclusive community and/or improve the climate in the College of Agriculture has gone unrecognized. One award will be made each year.

Criteria for consideration: The nominee(s) must have been a member of the College of Agriculture community (faculty, staff or student) for at least one year. The individual or group should not have been recognized previously in a formal way for such efforts.

Nominations may be submitted by anyone inside or outside of the College. Submit a 1-page nomination letter that includes the nominee’s name, position, department or unit, and number of years at Purdue. The nomination should focus on: the purpose of the nominee’s actions, what the nominee did to bring about improvement or achieve success, and evidence of success from the nominee’s actions.

A committee established by the Assistant Dean for Multicultural Programs will review nominations and select a winner if it believes that an award is warranted at that time. Winners will be recognized at the College awards program.

Nominations are due by close of business on Friday, March 25 and should be sent to Melissa Funk, in the College’s Office of Multicultural Programs.



College honors eleven Distinguished Agriculture Alumni

Distinguished Ag AlumniEleven educators, business leaders and researchers received 2016 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni (DAA) Awards, the College of Agriculture's top honor, on March 4. The DAA award recognizes 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. The 2016 class brings to 219 the number of alumni who have received the award since it was created in 1992. "As with all previous recipients, the new inductees are terrific examples of what Purdue Agriculture produces every year - farmers, scientists, educators, entrepreneurs and business executives who become leaders in their fields," said Dean Jay Akridge. "We are very proud of them and what they have accomplished to this point in their careers. And, we are even more excited about what they will yet accomplish."

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PK-12 Council to host Engagement Workshop

The PK-12 Council and Office of Academic Programs will host a PK-12 Engagement Workshop on March 22, 2016 from 11:30AM – 1:00PM in Whistler 116.  Lunch will be provided to the first 25 faculty, staff, and graduate students who RSVP by March 15th. The topic of the workshop is A Common Assessment for Pre-College Experiences. Speakers include Amy Jones, Plant Sciences Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator, Myron McClure, Office of Multicultural Programs Assistant Director, and Kaylie Scherer, M.S. student in Youth Development and Agricultural Education.  To RSVP, email Kaylie Scherer at


College participates in Bravo Awards Program

Bravo AwardPurdue Agriculture participates in the university's Bravo Award program. The Bravo Award is intended to highlight the excellence found across all areas and job functions at Purdue by recognizing and rewarding extraordinary achievements on every scale. The Bravo Award is a one-time cash award to employees at all levels in recognition of substantial accomplishments that extend well beyond regular work responsibilities. Acknowledging employee accomplishments that help Purdue make a difference with our students and in our state and help us move the world forward is vital to the University's mission and the morale of our faculty and staff. Click here for more information and FAQs about the Bravo Award. You can find the Bravo Award nomination form here. Please use this form—not any older versions. If you have questions, please contact your business manager.



A reminder about tracking civil rights and diversity training

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. Therefore, we created a system utilizing the Qualtrics survey tool to have individuals self-report completion of their training. Rather than mandate a specific training, we are asking you to comply by recording training you have been to already or attend any training that fits your needs and interests and enhances your knowledge/understanding of diversity, civil rights or sexual harassment. 

Report training at:

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


Keith JohnsonKeith Johnson, Agronomy, received the Distinguished Grasslander Award from the American Forage and Grasslands Council at their annual meeting in January. The Distinguished Grasslander Award is one of the top awards given by the organization. He was recognized for his many contributions as forage Extension specialist, including his role as organizer of the Indiana Forage Field Day that attracts thousands of participants each year and as the lead author and editor of the popular and highly successful Purdue University Forage Field Guide.



xiaoqi liuXiaoqi Liu, Biochemistry, has been selected to receive the 2016 Lafayette Lions Club Award for Outstanding Achievements in Cancer Research at Purdue. He joins a list of 38 winners of this award, sponsored since 1978 by the Lafayette Lions Club. He will receive the award and present a talk on his research at a ceremony on May 18.




rhonda phillipsRhonda Phillips, professor of agricultural economics and dean of the Purdue Honors College, has been named to the prestigious American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) College of Fellows for her outstanding achievements in urban and regional planning. Fellowship is granted to planners who have achieved certification through the American Planning Association’s professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, and have achieved excellence in professional practice, teaching and mentoring, research, public and community service, and leadership.


Christine HofmeyerChristine Hofmeyer, academic advisor and graduate program coordinator in Forestry and Natural Resources, received the Outstanding New Professional Award at the PACADA (Purdue Academic Advising Association) annual meeting. This award is given to professionals in advising with less than 3 years of experience in the profession who demonstrate effective advising qualities and practices that distinguish him or her as an outstanding academic advisor.



Donya LesterDonya Lester, Executive Director of the Purdue Ag Alumni Association, received a Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Indiana Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman at the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry on February 6. She was recognized for her 25 years of service to Purdue and to Indiana agriculture. Donya joins a list of Sagamore recipients that includes astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, artists, musicians, politicians and citizens who have contributed greatly to Hoosier heritage. (Photo by Tom Campbell)


The Agricultural Research at Purdue (ARP) team earned a "Thumbs Up" thanks from Dawn Parks, also in ARP: College of Agriculture's Agricultural Research at Purdue administrative team: Christy Rich, John Frigo and Wendy Madore were so accommodating and creative as we launched Digital Measures. Couldn't have done it without them.


Brandon BruntBrandon Brunt, a junior majoring in agribusiness management and agricultural education,  has been named to the Student Advisory Team for AFA (Agriculture Future of America) for 2016. Founded in 1996, AFA offers leader and career development training and community-based academic scholarships for college men and women pursuing a career in an agriculture-related field.



Jordyn McCordJordyn McCord, who is pursuing majors in biological engineering and pharmaceutical sciences, has been selected to be the student responder at Purdue's May Commencement ceremony.




Purdue Agriculture in the News


Tick genome reveals inner workings of a versatile blood-guzzler

Catherine HillAn international team of scientists led by Dr. Catherine Hill, Entomology, has sequenced the genome of the tick that transmits Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne illness in North America. The decadelong project, involving 93 authors from 46 institutions, decodes the biology of an arachnid with sophisticated spit, barbed mouthparts and millions of years of successful parasitism. The genome of Ixodes scapularis, known as the deer tick or blacklegged tick, also sheds light on how ticks acquire and transmit pathogens and offers tick-specific targets for control. "The genome provides a foundation for a whole new era in tick research," said Dr. Hill, professor of medical entomology and Showalter Faculty Scholar. "Now that we've cracked the tick's code, we can begin to design strategies to control ticks, to understand how they transmit disease and to interfere with that process."

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Purdue research report gives insights on talent management

Talent ManagementFood and agricultural business leaders can use the results from a recent Purdue University study to better understand and manage talent within their organizations. The Performance Management in Agribusiness Survey was conducted by the Center for Food and Agricultural Business. It explored trends in performance management specifically within food and agricultural businesses and was the basis for the National Conference for Agribusiness in November. The survey, conducted in 2015, garnered responses from more than 600 agribusiness professionals. "Survey respondents confirmed what we suspected: Performance management matters," said Michael Gunderson, Purdue associate professor of agricultural economics and associate director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business. "But, historically, economics researchers haven't really focused on understanding the roles of individuals in the economy or within the business environment.

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National workshop to include AgrAbility 25th anniversary celebration

Field pilot liftThe 2016 AgrAbility National Training Workshop in Colorado will feature a celebration of the organization's 25th year of helping people with disabilities stay productive in agriculture. The workshop will be held April 11-14 at the Fort Collins Marriot in Fort Collins. Professionals and other participants from across the country will participate in plenary sessions, breakouts, tours, networking and special events. There will also be silent and live auctions and tours of local agricultural enterprises and rehabilitation facilities. "The AgrAbility National Training Workshop is an opportunity for AgrAbility staff, rural professionals, farmers/ranchers and farmer veterans to interact with and learn from each other," said Kylie Hendress, AgrAbility program engagement coordinator. "In addition, they will come together to celebrate 25 years of AgrAbility's accomplishments and advancements in agriculture." Dr. Bill Field, agricultural and biological engineering, has been a leader in AgrAbility since its inception 25 years ago,

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Trustees approve phenotyping facility, building name

Phenotyping FacilityPurdue University’s Board of Trustees on Feb. 26 gave authorization to move forward on the Controlled Environment Phenotyping Facility, which will enhance plant sciences research and education in the College of Agriculture. At approximately 7,300 square feet, the state-of-the-art plant imaging facility will support the university’s existing strengths in the analysis of plant improvement research and boost the Purdue Moves initiative to expand plant sciences. Trustees also approved naming the  Indiana Corn and Soybean Innovation Center in recognition of a combined $4 million investment in the facility from the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council. The 28,000-square-foot facility, previously called the Agronomy Center Automated Phenotyping and Seed Processing Laboratory, is scheduled to open in early summer 2016 and will support research related to plant phenotyping and technology innovation.

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Study: Eliminating GMOs would take toll on environment, economies

Wally TynerHigher food prices, a significant boost in greenhouse gas emissions due to land use change and major loss of forest and pasture land would be some results if genetically modified organisms in the United States were banned, according to a Purdue University study. Wally Tyner, James and Lois Ackerman Professor of Agricultural Economics; Farzad Taheripour, a research associate professor of agricultural economics; and Harry Mahaffey, an agricultural economics graduate student, wanted to know the significance of crop yield loss if genetically modified crops were banned from U.S. farm fields, as well as how that decision would trickle down to other parts of the economy. They presented their findings at the International Consortium on Applied Bioeconomy Research in Ravello, Italy, last year. The findings of the study, funded by the California Grain & Feed Association, will be published in the journal AgBioForum this spring. "This is not an argument to keep or lose GMOs," Tyner said. "It's just a simple question: What happens if they go away?"

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Modern corn hybrids more resilient to nitrogen stress, crowded planting conditions

Tony VynModern corn hybrids produce more plant material and take up, on average, the same amount of nitrogen as earlier varieties, in spite of being more crowded and having less nitrogen available per plant, a study by Tony Vyn, agronomy, finds. In an analysis of 86 field experiments, agronomists found that corn hybrids released after 1990 prove more resilient than their predecessors in multiple ways. Modern hybrids maintain per-plant yield in environments with low nitrogen, can bounce back from mid-season stress and have an improved ability to take up nitrogen after silking, even if they suffered from nitrogen deficiency during flowering. The study suggests reserving a portion of nitrogen fertilizer to apply later in the season could be a good bet for growers.

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Purdue researcher: Cyclone forecasting for Indian coast improved

Dev NiyogiA partnership among scientists and the governments of the United States and India has made significant progress in improving the safety of people vulnerable to cyclones along the Indian coast since a devastating supercyclone there in 1999 claimed 10,000 lives, says Dev Niyogi, professor of agronomy and earth, atmospheric and planetary science. He noted that while the Orissa supercyclone that year made landfall in the state now known as Odisha on the Bay of Bengal coast and killed that many people, the death toll from a similar storm in the same area in 2013 - very severe cyclonic storm Phailin - was 39. "The storm in 1999 was a pretty massive disaster," said Niyogi, who is also Indiana state climatologist. "Phailin, in 2013, was roughly the same strength and took about the same track, and it had roughly the same intensity, yet this time the number of deaths was many times smaller. When we improve science, when we improve models, it impacts the ability for officials to make life-or-death decisions and implement effective disaster and communication plans. This is the result of science and action."

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Extension publications available for vegetable farmers

tomatoesThree Purdue Extension publications will help vegetable farmers get the most out of their crops this growing season. Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2016Midwest Vegetable Trial Report for 2015 and a new Extension bulletin,Vegetable Diseases: Tomato Disease Management in Greenhouses, are available through Purdue Extension's The Education Store. The publications are online at The Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2016 is $10 for a print copy or free as a pdf, and can be found by searching for it by its production code, ID-56. Vegetable Diseases: Tomato Disease Management in Greenhouses is free; its production code is BP-197. Midwest Vegetable Trial Report for 2015 also is free as a pdf or $42 for a print version; its production code is 16-18-15. 

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Purdue Extension program's objective: enhance public spaces

Kara SalazarA Purdue Extension program that helps Indiana communities improve public spaces such as parks and town centers is surveying West Lafayette residents to get input on the city parks and recreation department's next five-year master plan. Specialists and educators in Extension's Enhancing the Value of Public Spaces program are administering the survey and collecting and analyzing the feedback. The objective is to create a five-year plan for improving facilities, services and programs. Citizens can access the survey online at Deadline to complete the survey is March 15. "The Enhancing program is strongly rooted in the community development principles of good practice," said Kara Salazar, sustainable communities Extension specialist.

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Purdue study: Fewer grain entrapments reported in 2015

Bill FieldThe number of confirmed grain bin entrapments and incidents in other confined spaces on U.S. farms fell in 2015 to its lowest level in a decade, but it is likely that many such cases continue to go unreported, a Purdue Extension farm safety expert says. Bill Field, professor of agricultural safety and health, said there is no mandatory national reporting system for confined space incidents. Nationwide, 47 confined space incidents were reported last year, a 34 percent decrease from 2014, when 71 cases were confirmed, according to Purdue’s annual Summary of U.S. Agricultural Confined Space-Related Injuries and Fatalities. It was the fewest number of reported confined space cases since 46 were recorded in 2006.

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Survey: Public supports use of GMO mosquitoes to fight Zika virus

Nicole WidmarThe U.S. public overwhelmingly supports introducing genetically engineered mosquitoes to help control the spread of the Zika virus, two Purdue researchers found in a nationwide survey. The preliminary findings in the Feb 10-12 online survey provide insight into public sentiment toward the use of genetically modified organisms in fighting the Zika virus. The researchers said they were surprised by the findings because of the public debate over GMOs. "Yet when it comes to fighting the Zika virus, public sentiment comes out pretty strong in favor of using these technologies to our advantage," said Dr. Nicole Widmar, agricultural economics, lead researcher on the study.

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Dates and Deadlines

March 14-18: Spring Break

April 15: 42nd Annual Snyder Lecture, Guest Speaker: Dr. Bob Thompson

April 16-17: Spring Fest

May 14: College of Agriculture Commencement ceremony, 2:00 pm

May 25: Spring Fling

For more dates and deadlines, check the Purdue Agriculture calendar.


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