What’s Next? CALS Visionaries on ... High-Tech Ag . Youth Development . Gene Editing . and more
CALS Visionaries on ... High-Tech Agriculture Human Nutrition Gene Editing ... and more
NEWS FROM NC STATE’S COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AND LIFE SCIENCES
I AM CALS Ask Cody Burton what most excites her about attending CALS and her face instantly lights up. She rattles off a head-spinning list: classes, new friends, a dorm room to decorate, walking through the Free Expression Tunnel as a bona fide college student. Then, in a blink, she remembers that she’s leaving behind everything she knows, trading her tiny hometown for a massive college campus in a big city. Her eyes fill with tears. But she keeps smiling. That’s because, despite engulfing fear and homesickness, Cody is beyond ready. Ready to study in one of the nation’s top poultry science departments. Ready to take advantage of every opportunity CALS has to offer. Ready to graduate, become a scientist, shape the future. This freshman is determined to live her dream – and to return one day to Aulander, North Carolina, population around 800, having made a real difference in the world. “I’m hoping … to come back to Bertie County and give back to the community that gave so much to me,” she said. “I’m hoping to start up a company down here and open up jobs that are in the biotechnology field.” First, though, she has to conquer the seemingly insurmountable task at hand: detaching from home. Continued on page 43
NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
WHAT’S NEXT? 16 Engineering Plant Sensors To Fight Disease — With Data 20 Training The Future: Christian Gray is #AgPackStrong 26
Beyond The Laboratory: Our (Possible) Genetic Futures
30 Robots And AI And Drones, Oh My! 38
Shaping What’s Next: CALS Takes Initiative(s)
40 Student Research Leaders
12 Dean Linton’s Round Table
34 CALS Behind-The-Scenes: Visionary Leaders
44 Faculty Focus: Billy Flowers
ONLINE EDITION cals.ncsu.edu/news/magazine
FROM THE DEAN
At the end of a recent farm visit, one of our North Carolina growers turned to me and said something that stopped me in my tracks: “Dean Linton, our farm operation is what it is today because 20 years ago, we asked ourselves, ‘what’s next?’” It must be in the air. That’s the same question we’ve been asking ourselves here on campus and in Extension interactions around the state: What’s next, and how can the College of Agriculture and Life Science at NC State lead the way through the 21st century and beyond?
At CALS, we grow student talent. We grow solutions. We grow opportunities and economies. And we do that by looking ahead and strategizing the best way to act on what we see coming. That means investing in people to extend our reach. It’s why we’re hiring 78 new faculty over the next three years. It’s why we hired four visionary new department heads, who you’ll be hearing from later in these pages. It’s why we work so hard to attract forward-thinking students whose work will blaze a trail for communities both rural and urban, in the Old North State and around the world.
Working with partners, we are growing agriculture and the life sciences through our shared big dreams and bold action. Keep reading to learn about the innovations taking root thanks to our NC Plant Sciences Initiative. You’ll see how we are taking initiative to support student access, develop leaders, support animal agriculture and build a new food manufacturing economy. And you’ll learn more about dynamic alumni like Christian Gray, who uses his CALS degree in youth mentorship. Problem-solving is in our DNA. It’s what happens when we “Think and Do.” We believe the future belongs to those who command it — and that’s why we’re always asking the question: “What’s next?” Go Pack and go CALS!
Richard Linton, Dean College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
CALSNEWS AGI Alum Is International Prize-Winning Ice Sculptor
Set an eight-foot block of ice in front of Agricultural Institute alumnus Todd Dawson, and he’ll rev up his chainsaw and carve it into a 12-foot masterpiece. That’s how Dawson and his competition partner, Chris Currier, won first place in the Realistic Single Block category at the 2017 World Ice Art Championships in Alaska in March. Dawson’s only training is a single art class in high school. At AGI, he studied ornamentals and landscape technology. He grew up in a farming family in Garner and still lives on his grandfather’s tobacco farm with his wife and two sons.
Photo courtesy of KWebster 2017
But during a seasonal lull in his landscaping business, Dawson bought a chainsaw, got a chunk of ice and taught himself to carve. He took one of his ice vases to a bridal show and left with orders for eight more. His Raleigh-based custom ice sculpture business, Ice Occasions, has been in demand statewide since 1997. Dawson credits AGI with helping him develop the inner resources to succeed, but he almost didn’t make it through. Three days into his first semester, Dawson suffered severe injuries in a truck accident. During his 10-day hospital stay, his AGI academic advisor, horticulture professor William Fonteno, visited regularly. Dawson is still wowed by that effort. “When your professor knows who you are after three days and then comes to see you in the hospital, you know you’ve found a special place,” Dawson said.
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
CALS Magazine WHAT’S NEXT? 2017 A Publication of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Managing Editor Design/Layout Writers Photographers Videographers
Chelsea Kellner Patty Mercer Chelsea Kellner Dee Shore Suzanne Stanard Marc Hall Becky Kirkland Roger Winstead Ken Ellzey Chris Liotta
Dean and Executive Director for Agricultural Programs Richard Linton Senior Associate Dean for Administration Sylvia Blankenship Associate Dean and Director, NC State Extension Richard Bonanno Associate Dean and Director, N.C. Agricultural Research Service Steve Lommel Associate Dean and Director, Academic Programs John Dole Interim Assistant Dean and Director, CALS Advancement Sonia Murphy Assistant Director, CALS Alumni and Friends Society Lindsay Skinner Chief Communications Officer Richard Campbell
NC State University promotes equal opportunity and prohibits discrimination and harassment based upon one’s age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation and veteran status. Send correspondence and requests for change of address to CALS Magazine Editor, Campus Box 7603, NC State University, Raleigh, NC 27695 -7603. 25,000 copies of this public document were printed at a cost of 48¢ per copy. Printed on recycled paper.
Bye, Bye Bug Bites Pregnant women wanting protection from Zika and other mosquitoborne diseases will soon have a chemical-free alternative: sleek, biteresistant clothing made possible by NC State research. CALS entomologists Michael Roe and Charles Apperson worked with scientists from the colleges of Textiles and Natural Resources — Andre West, Marian McCord, Emiel DenHartog and Kun Luan — to develop and test fabrics and finished garments that stop the mosquito’s long, needle-like mouthparts from reaching the wearer’s skin. This year, the team launched the company Vector Textiles to focus on maternity clothing, but others already benefit: For hunters and others who are often outdoors, Walmart sells undergarments called RynoSkin™ Total that use the NC State technology.
Extension Agricultural History Now Online From home-brewing muscadine wine to general farm management, the deep historical knowledge of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service is now more accessible than ever: online in the NCSU Libraries’ Rare & Unique Digital Collections website: go.ncsu.edu/historicextensionpubs. Made possible by a Project Ceres grant through the U.S. Agricultural Information Network, the Agriculture Network Information Collaborative and the Center for Research Libraries, the digitized publications will date from 1922 to 1988 and include 4-H, home economics and general agriculture titles.
National Award for Jaykus The NoroCORE project led by Lee-Ann Jaykus, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Science, received the 2017 USDA-NIFA Partnership Award in the “Innovative Programs and Projects” category. The award recognizes outstanding innovation, initiative, collaboration and leadership. “Dr. Jaykus has done a masterful job at partnering with other universities, the food industry and governmental organizations to find better ways to identify, detect, and control our number one food safety challenge: the human norovirus,” CALS Dean Richard Linton said.
A Perfect Partnership For new CALS scientists Anna Whitfield and Dorith Rotenberg, knowing more about the molecular-level interplay among viruses, insect vectors and host plants could be key to developing better ways to protect crops and prevent losses from insect-spread plant viruses. The couple joined NC State’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology in July. They came from Kansas State University, where they co-directed the Center for Excellence for Vector-Borne Plant Virus Disease Control, drawn in part by CALS’ recent merger of the Crop Science and Soil Science departments.. With the merger, CALS offers the chance to work in a department that brings together their interests in entomology and plant pathology. Among the other factors drawing them to NC State: CALS’ commitment to a plant sciences initiative, and the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program, which brings together clusters of interdisciplinary researchers to focus on key issues of global interest.
CALSNEWS Whitfield is a professor in the Emerging Plant Diseases and Global Food Security cluster, led by CALS plant pathologist Jean Ristaino, and Rotenberg is an associate professor. Rotenberg has made significant headway in her molecular exploration of western flower thrips and the tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV). Meanwhile, Whitfield is finding out more about how the virus gets into the insect so she can find ways to stop its spread. TSWV can devastate an array of crops – field crops, flowers and vegetables, both here in North Carolina and beyond. Each of them also conducts research into other virusinsect-plant systems. “With the multidisciplinary expertise of the team and the department,” Whitfield says, “I think we can expand our efforts to address some of the important problems with plant diseases and, one day, solve them.”
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
The Year 2050: What’s Next for NC? Award-winning CALS economist and syndicated radio commentator Mike Walden examines the projected future of the Tar Heel State in his new book, North Carolina Beyond The Connected Age. Using economic principles and trends to peer into the year 2050, Walden’s predictions range from a continued urban population boom — Charlotte and the Triangle are set to double in size, accounting for almost 40 percent of the state’s projected growth — to the role of government in 2050 (Lean in or back off? It’s complicated.). “North Carolina will be a state of dense cities and urban areas, with wide-open rural regions in between,” Walden writes. “Rural North Carolina will be dominated by farming, firms requiring substantial acreage (manufacturing assembly plants, solar collectors and data storage facilities), outdoor recreation and simply open spaces. There just won’t be many permanent residents as today. “Some do see a strategy to at least slow the rate of population loss in rural counties. This is to attract retirees ... and to build a consumer service economy around them. ... Retirees will be the fastest-growing population in both the nation and North Carolina.” Since economic growth prospects will increasingly be in developing countries, Walden sees future growth for the North Carolina economy as partially linked to international connectivity and therefore to big investments in transportation. Two specific needs, he writes: more direct international flights, and a new shipping port built to handle the loads that current ports Morehead City and Wilmington simply can’t. That would require major investments in corridors of I-95 linking key ports around the region, Walden wrote. The book is “smart and eminently readable,” said Peter Coclanis of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Replete with fresh ideas and insights, [this book] will make navigating the state’s economic future a little less frightening,” Coclanis wrote.
FINAL NUMBERS ARE IN
PRIVATE FUNDRAISING YEAR
37.4 % 59.7 %
FUNDRAISING OF TOTAL COLLEGE-BASED
AMONG THE TRANSFORMATIONAL GIFTS
GOLDEN LEAF FOUNTATION INVESTMENT IN THE PLANT SCIENCES INITIATIVE
CALSNEWS Student Snack Entrepreneur Makes Good Just two months after his CALS graduation, Josh Monahan saw the company he founded in his junior year, 1 in 6 Snacks, celebrate its 200th retail customer. Along with a new degree in agribusiness management, Monahan’s hard work has led to a brand new storefront on Hillsborough Street. There’s a mostly new delivery van in the parking lot and his first-ever employee behind the counter to help with a flood of new orders. “I didn’t have that period of not knowing what I wanted to do next,” Monahan said. “As soon as I got this started while I was in school, I knew this was it.” Monahan’s current focus: Carolina Kettle Chips, now available in 200 locations including major grocery chains Harris Teeter and Fresh Market. The preservative-free chips come in flavors ranging from sea salt to dill pickle. Despite a full-time courseload his junior year, Monahan created the company when his love of entrepreneurship met a startling statistic: in 2015, one in six people in American didn’t know where their next meal would come from. Monahan donates 10 cents from the sale of each bag to local food banks. Most sellers are in the the Triangle area for now, but Monahan has won loyal fans in South Carolina and Virginia and is starting to make headway in Georgia. Whenever possible, he drives the delivery van himself.
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
CALS 2017 TAILGATE
WHAT’S NEXT . . . AND At CALS, the unknown is an opportunity. We see global challenges as solvable — and we seek the opportunities hidden inside those challenges. Whether you’re a grower or a scientist, an academic or an entrepreneur, the most important question you can ask yourself is what’s ahead. The future is, by definition, uncertain. This can be the source of much anxiety — but also much excitement. Here at the College of Agriculture and Life Science at NC State University, we work every day to help define that future and grow prosperity in our state, nation and world. We grow talent through top-notch education and outreach, out in our communities and right here on campus. We grow solutions, developed by faculty and student research in the lab and through Extension agents and specialists out in the field. These solutions lead to growth in our communities and economies across the state, and a positive future for all. On these pages, you’ll hear from some of the smartest people on campus and across North Carolina with their take on what’s next for everything from gene editing to youth development to the latest CALS initiatives. Because the most important thing to us is to grow North Carolina for its best possible future.
CALS Goals: Grow agriculture from NC’s
84B $ 100B $
HOW DO WE GET THERE? “We’ve got a short time to make a huge difference in agriculture. The biggest challenge is to almost double the food supply in the next 30 years. That’s only 30 growing seasons to figure it out. The urgency of this must be realized.” — Dean Richard Linton
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
Hey, you — where are we going? In August 2017, CALS Dean Richard Linton gathered an interdisciplinary panel of CALS experts and partners — including our first grower to sit down to the round table — to talk about what they see up ahead. The conversation ranged from farming fears to educator excitement ... just turn the page.
Participants Mario Ferruzzi, Professor, Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Science Dewey Scott, Grower and CALS Partner, Scott Farms, Inc. Johanna Elsensohn, Ph.D. student, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology Mike Jones, Ph.D. student, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics Patricia Curtis, Head, Prestage Department of Poultry Science Harry Daniels, University Director, Southeast Climate Science Center at NC State Richard Linton, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Science
FACING OUR FUTURE
WHATâ€™S NEXT? ... 2017
CALS Dean Richard Linton: Our conversation today is about what’s next — what is on the horizon for our state, nation and world? And how does CALS continue to lead the way in preparing students and transforming challenges into opportunities?
Dean Linton: We’ll start with a very simple question: In a few words, what do you think is most important in preparing for the future? Johanna Elsensohn: Expecting that more change is going to happen more and more quickly — we have to figure out ways to deal with uncertainty around those changes. Mike Jones: I would say decision-making under uncertainty, at the university level and at the policy level, in the face of a rapidly changing environment. Dewey Scott: As a producer, it’s being creative and willing to adapt to situations and deal with people on a more personal level.
Mario Ferruzzi: In the food space, it’s redefining
“processing” and delivering optimal food and nutrition to the growing world population. Pat Curtis: As a department head, we need to look at interdisciplinarity in undergraduates. Right now, we get tied to that “four years” number, that we’ve got to get them out in this certain length of time, and it becomes a rush.
Harry Daniels: For me, there are two words: Risk, certainly, but also opportunity. Linton: Harry, what’s your thinking on how climate will impact production of agricultural plants and animals in the future? Daniels: For me, one of the main challenges in climate variability is water, whether drought or flooding. There was an article in the paper today about how cities in North Carolina will be impacted by the rising sea level. Linton: Some of our most fertile and productive parts of the state. Daniels: Right. And saltwater intrusion ruins the soil. There are areas in Hyde County where loblolly pines can no longer grow because of saltwater intrusion. That’s going to affect crops. Those are real impacts that are going to be happening very soon. But at the same time, it’s a great opportunity for us to look at new cultivars. A few years ago, a group from France ... talked about realizing they’re not going to be able to grow the same kinds of grapes they’ve grown historically, so they’ll have to bring in other varieties to make their wine. I think there are many other crops we’ll have to look at, too.
Linton: Speaking of crops — Dewey, you’ve made big changes over the years to become one of the most advanced processing and sorting operations for sweet potatoes in the world. What do you see around the corner? Scott: Our goal as producers is for everything that we build to have value. The difficulty is that the more we do as producers, the more difficult they make it. I just finished 20 piles of paperwork this morning. The box we can operate in gets smaller and smaller, and we spend our time being paper-pushers. If we’re going to operate in the next generation — or even the next 20 years — the work that’s done at NC State has got to help us find something that allows us to continue to produce food at a reasonable cost. Linton: Dewey presents a difficult challenge: Who is out there listening to our stakeholders? How do we take a proactive role? Elsensohn: As researchers, we need to be hearing from different people about these issues, and we also need to be advocates on Capitol Hill. For the past two years, I’ve been a science policy fellow through the Entomological Society of America. I’ve talked with both congressional policymakers and executive offices like the State Department. One of the take-home messages has been very clear: They want and need more scientists in Washington. Information is not at their fingertips. They need us to be in contact, sharing our concerns.
Linton: Pat, you work closely with our industry partners. What are you hearing, and what’s next for the Prestage Department of Poultry Science? Curtis: I think we need to envision where the industry is going, and to move faster than the university has typically been known to move, so that we can meet the needs of our large, diverse poultry industry in North Carolina.
Scott: As farmers, we know the issues we have, but sometimes they’re so difficult to explain that it’s hard for me to sit down in front of my representative and express myself accurately. So that’s where I think it’s very important that scientists and farmers work together as closely as can be.
Ferruzzi: The problems have become so big everywhere — in the food space,
in the nutrition space, in the climate space, genetics — that no longer can we be siloed, and no longer should we be siloed, in the way we address them. Linton: Mario, I know you’re working on a big project with a new facility that’s going to be built in Kannapolis called the Food Processing Innovation Center. I think it’s the “what’s next” when it comes to new partnerships.
Ferruzzi: The partnership with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture is
one big piece there, as well as engaging the broader food industry in adopting new technologies or improving processes, bringing research to a commercial scale. Curtis: How do you plan to address the perception of processed food being bad? We’re facing those same issues in the poultry industry.
Ferruzzi: It’s a huge challenge. My fundamental answer is that scientists have
lost the high ground in that discussion. I think it’s time to try to get some credibility back on the science side. Linton: How should we present information so people can make informed decisions? Jones: As a university, we can help take the pulse of consumers and examine the diversity of their wants, needs and things they might reject. … It’s important not to be seen as explicitly advocating. I think presenting a variety of experts — and actually getting them in front of people — is key. Not relying, for example, on our journal publications to sway public opinion. Elsensohn: Values are what drive consumer decision-making when either accepting or rejecting a new technology. … We need to have better mechanisms for feedback and finding alternatives.
There are a lot of opportunities for growth there — it’s a global industry. And I’m not talking about just meeting the needs of one aspect of that industry, I’m talking farm to fork, everything from breeding and genetics all the way up to nutrition of products. There are only six poultry science departments left in the country. I would like to see NC State’s Prestage Department of Poultry Science be number one globally. Linton: Fast forward to five or ten years from now. Our college has the goal of being top five in the country. A big piece of that is enhancing the student experience. What do you recommend we do in the future? Jones: More programs that routinely expose graduate students to other people in other fields. I think bringing people together in teams to tackle real problems is crucial. Linton: Here’s what I heard today: Interdisciplinarity. Communication. Novel partnerships. Adaptation to change. Creation of human talent. But the thing I didn’t hear that I think we all meant to say was: Urgency. We’ve got a short time to make a huge difference in agriculture. We know the challenges that are out there, and the biggest one is to almost double the food supply in the next 30 years. That’s only 30 growing seasons to figure it out. I hope that as we strengthen our effectiveness working with federal and state legislators and the public, that we’re effective so that sense of urgency can be realized.
go.ncsu.edu/CALSRoundTable3 WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
TALKING THE (PLANT) TALK By Dee Shore
One day soon, tiny electronic sensors will take precision farming to the next level. They will translate the language of plants and send waves of data to growers, giving a heads-up at their crops’ first talk of trouble ... and our cross-college partnership is leading the way. Plants have a lot to say, if you know their language and listen. At NC State, scientists and engineers are collaborating across colleges to learn that language and devise electronic devices sensitive enough to detect pests, pathogens and other stressors before the plants show visible signs of trouble. Principal investigator and CALS professor Ralph Dean says the project’s goal is to show that it’s possible to develop an early-warning system using electronic sensors that reliably and accurately translate a plant’s messages in real time — fast enough, he hopes, for farmers to intervene to prevent crop loss. This is an early example of what’s possible through the North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative, investigator and food science microbiologist Sophia Kathariou said. “To me, this is science at its best, bringing together people who may not speak the same language but who can share insights and understand ones offered from other perspectives,” Kathariou said.
Smell fresh-cut grass? You’re eavesdropping. Of course, plants can’t talk out loud, but their cells do have ways to communicate with each other and with other nearby plants. One way is by emitting aromatic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, explains Dean, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology. If you’ve ever smelled freshly mowed grass, then you’ve encountered the VOCs it emits when it’s been wounded. Those VOCs are noticeably different than compounds emitted when, say, a greenhouse plant has been infected by powdery mildew or attacked by disease-carrying thrips.
WHATâ€™S NEXT? ... 2017
“Plants produce specific volatile signatures in response to different types of attacks, whether they be from biotic agents such as pathogens or from abiotic stresses such as drought and mechanical damage. So we can use these signatures to diagnose what’s causing that stress,” Dean says. Oftentimes the VOCs’ aroma is subtler than that of cut grass — too subtle for people to smell. Fortunately, though, scientists know how to get around that limitation: Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, they’ve been detecting plant VOCs and determining what’s in the chemical cocktails that make them up.
“Affordable, quick, reliable and small” While that technology is fine for scientists working in a lab, it’s not yet practical for farmers to use in the field. That’s because it relies on equipment that’s too big, bulky and expensive. What farmers need, Dean says, are sensors that are affordable, quick, reliable and small: Think of lollipopshaped sensors placed next to each plant in a farmer’s field. Coin-sized metallic chips embedded in plants. Or maybe sensors incorporated into drones or irrigation equipment that continuously pass over the field, relaying data to farmers about real-time conditions. Sound far-fetched? Not to the researchers running the project.
Here’s how it works... Earlier this year, Dean pitched his ideas at a meeting designed to kickstart collaboration among researchers from CALS and the College of Engineering. Each attendee could present a single slide conveying their ideas for research to propel the NC Plant Sciences Initiative toward its science goals. The initiative, which will be headquartered in a state-of-the-art building planned for NC State’s Centennial Campus, aims to make the state the world’s best place for plant sciences innovation. Dean’s ideas for VOC-detecting sensors resonated with others at the meeting. Some professors had expertise and experience that they could contribute immediately.
A small research team quickly took shape. Dean brought his biochemistry expertise, and electrical engineer Omer Oralkan brought experience with making super-small, self-powered sensors that measure specific levels of different VOCs. Meanwhile, chemical engineer Greg Parsons offered to use his knowledge of advanced materials to find polymers capable of responding to low levels of key chemicals in VOCs. Food microbiologist Kathariou rounded out the team with her knowledge of the molecular-level relationships between plants and troublesome human pathogens — such as listeria, E. coli and salmonella — that can live on produce and result in foodborne disease outbreaks. Thanks to a grant from the North Carolina Agricultural Foundation, plus matching funds from departments, in July they started a pilot project to demonstrate that a small array of sensors — perhaps eight to 10 — could rapidly detect chemical signatures of stressors affecting wheat and tomatoes. They are looking not only at pathogens that can kill plants but also ones that sicken people who’ve eaten contaminated produce. The researchers have hired a post-doctoral researcher, Nasie Constantino, with experience in plant VOCs. They also are reaching out to the ag biotech industry to seek further ideas and expertise. A planned symposium next year will bring together scientists from around the world to discuss the potential for using electronics to promote better yields and safer food. Steve Lommel, CALS’ associate dean for research, is excited about the project’s potential to advance precision farming to deliver on its full promise: higher yields, with less need for chemicals like pesticides that can affect the health of both people and the environment. “One day in the not-so-distant future,” Lommel says, “every plant in every field in every county in every state in this country will be sending waves of big data to our growers, letting them know with intricate precision the best way to farm.”
CALS Experts on Plant Electronics Research “To me, this is science at its best, bringing together people who may not speak the same language but who can share insights and understand ones offered from other perspectives,” — Sophia Kathariou
“It’s important for people from different disciplines and different backgrounds to come together and have an opportunity to exchange ideas, because that’s how we can cultivate problem-solving innovation.” — Omer Oralkan
“I hope we’ll see technologies developed that get students and the ag biotech industry excited about the potential for integrating electronics with plants that we rely on every day.” — Greg Parsons
“If you can detect plant stressors in real time, you have more options to intervene. Right now, by the time farmers can detect plant disease systems in their fields, it’s usually too late. One minute they see nothing, then a couple of days later their plants are looking sickly and haggard and all they can do is hope for the best.” — Ralph Dean
TRAINING THE FUTURE By Chelsea Kellner
CALS Alum Christian Gray is #AgPackStrong On Christian Gray’s basketball court, you will stay focused, and you will stay positive, and you will always remember that your team is your family. You do not hang your head when you miss a shot or bend over to catch your breath, stopping the game. And if your 12-year-old training teammate catches you doing one of those things and corrects you, you’d better do as he or she says. Because on Gray’s court, you do not disrespect your family. That’s because Gray’s court is more than opposing hoops and colorful lines. It’s a zen garden. It’s a finishing school. It’s a safe haven from poverty, danger and distraction — in his own challenging childhood and for many of the players he’s mentored. “For me, I see a painting of hope when I’m on that court,” Gray said. “Those lines, that structure, they saved my life.”
From the NBA to middle school In the five years since Gray founded DIVERSE Training, the CALS alum has trained NBA players like Brice Johnson of the
Los Angeles Clippers. He was the youngest Division I coach in the country at NC Central University in 2015. Demand for Gray’s skills as a trainer have taken him from Los Angeles to North Dakota to the Bahamas. Athletes like Dominique Wilson, a former NC State shooting guard who graduated in May 2017, swear by Gray’s combination of athleticism and accountability. In Wilson’s three years on the NC State team, she was a first team all-ACC selection, as well as the leading scorer her last two years. She trained with Gray from the beginning. “He’ll push me and tell me straight up how my attitude is that day, how I’m working, driving me to be better,” Wilson said. But Gray has also canceled important business trips because he promised one of his middle school trainees he would be at a school or family event. Mentoring younger players both on and off the court is his priority. He graduated from CALS’ Youth, Family and Community Sciences program in May 2017 with a master’s degree that he immediately put to use through DIVERSE. “Keeping your word with kids is one of the most important things you can do,” he said. “I will not let these kids down.”
go.ncsu.edu/Gray WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
#AGPACKSTRONG “I will not let these kids down.”
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
WHATâ€™S NEXT? ... 2017
Childhood motivation Gray’s mother was 16 when he was born. Growing up, the two of them moved almost every year — Fayetteville to Sanford, Sanford to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale back to Fayetteville. His mom worked long hours at multiple bartending jobs. Every time rent went up, they packed their bags.
But the year his mom turned 29, Gray turned 13. Their closeness in age led to friction. She set rules around curfew and how he spent his spare time; he ditched home and started living at his coach’s house. They had bounced back to Fort Lauderdale for his mom to earn her real estate license; she sent Gray to live with his dad in Fayetteville, hoping it would calm him down.
Paying it forward
Gray often slept on couches, on the floor, sometimes in the back of their car. Some mornings, he would have to heat water on the stove to clean up for school. For the first 10 years of his schooling, Gray didn’t spend two consecutive years in the same district.
Even in his self-described “knucklehead” phase, Gray kept in touch with his middle school mentor, social studies teacher Zack Reynolds Jr., who he credits with “seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself at the time.”
“I don’t know if you know anything about project homes, but there’s no carpet, and I just remember the coldest, hardest floors,” Gray said. “You have your roaches going on, and of course there’s going to be crime that comes with all that. But my mom, I give her so much credit — we were so poor, but she’s where I got my work ethic. She did the best job I can imagine covering it up and making sure I didn’t go without.”
Though he was also Gray’s assistant basketball coach, Reynolds was more concerned with Gray’s academic and personal development. That made Gray pay attention. Even when Gray moved on the following year, they kept in touch. The desire to play sports kept Gray accountable — he was captain of every team he played on, and that required good grades — but Reynolds kept Gray aspiring to something greater.
Years later, Gray had to scramble to meet the required 50 community service hours for high school graduation. Inspired by Reynolds, he chose a mentorship program. At first, his middle school mentee refused to speak. They would pass notes back and forth instead — until one day, the student mentioned that he enjoyed being outside. Gray made a deal: They would hold a daily basketball shooting competition. Every time Gray won, the student would have to tell him something new about himself. Slowly, his mentee opened up. And Gray’s love of sports, coupled with deep understanding of the impacts of a challenging childhood, started to draw other children in the program to the court. Gradually, Gray realized he had stumbled upon his calling.
Finding a ‘why’ Gray founded DIVERSE Training in his junior year at William Peace University. It’s an acronym: Dedicated Individuals who Value Education, Relationships, Success and Effort. DIVERSE is about more than basketball. If your children train with Gray, they’ll get lessons in things like money management and social media etiquette alongside ballhandling and agility. It’s intense, he says, and not for everyone. Gray’s focus on attitude and maturity is crucial in professional sports, Wilson explains. A bad attitude can tank your chances with an NBA or WNBA scout in a second. “Attitude can carry through a team and ruin the goals the coach has set for those players,” Wilson said. “If you have a bad attitude, they don’t care how good a player you are, they’re not going to take you.” After graduating from Peace, Gray’s attitude and expertise won him a prestigious job in player development at NCCU under Coach LeVelle Moton. It was his dream job, and one that he fought for fiercely. Leaving to pursue a master’s degree at CALS was a difficult choice, but Gray decided education came before career.
“I could sit in class from 6 to 9, and go right to the basketball court and see the kids’ behaviors we just discussed in class,” Gray said. “For the first time in my life, school made sense.” At his graduation in May 2017, Gray credited the young people he trains as the reason he pushes himself to be better. “I always preach having a ‘why,’ having a purpose in what you do,” he told the graduating class. “Because one thing we all share and have in common is adversity. Regardless of whether you’re white, black, privileged, not privileged, it doesn’t matter. ... If your goal is only about you, you’ll fail yourself every time.” Gray was recently recruited as a success coach by nonprofit Communities in Schools, mentoring Wake County students who have behavior challenges in the classroom. Gray tells them his story, tells them they can do better — and gets the principal to let them use the gym every morning. For Gray, there’s an even deeper reason to push himself to be better: his mom. “To this day, I don’t know how she made it happen for us, but she did,” Gray said. “That’s really what drives me, because that’s my mission: I’m going to take care of my mom, period.”
Warming up At Tuesday night practice in Wake Forest, Gray’s trainees line up to thank visitors for their time, shake hands and introduce themselves. As they huddle before warm-ups, Gray gives a short pep-talk. “For the next two hours, nothing else matters,” Gray tells them. “No distractions.” Then they break for practice the way they always do. “With me on three,” Gray shouts. “One, two, three …”
He doesn’t regret it. He found a sense of home at CALS, he said, and a directly applicable education.
“For me, those lines, that structure — they saved my life.”
The rest of the players join in. “Family.”
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
OUR (POSSIBLE) GENETIC FUTURES By Chelsea Kellner
As crowds poured into Raleigh’s contemporary art museum during the April 2017 art walk, one white wall began to fill with hand-written messages scribbled on neon Post-It notes. Above was a sign: Write down one word describing how you feel about your genetic future. Hopeful, read one note. Forgotten, said another. Diverse. Adventurous. Misunderstood. “The idea is to bring art into the equation of understanding, analyzing and considering the future of a world that already contains genetic engineering,” said Molly Renda, exhibits program librarian with NCSU Libraries. Titled “Art’s Work in the Age of Biotechnology: Shaping Our Genetic Future(s),” the exhibit was a partnership between NC State’s Genetic Engineering and Society Center (GES), the NCSU Libraries and CAM Raleigh. It’s part of a broader effort to maintain public education and engagement that can help guide the cutting edge innovation. At CALS, ethics, engagement and public policy have become as much part of the gene editing conversation as Cas9 proteins and gene drives. “The first question we ask is what you can do with a genetic engineering tool; then the second question we ask is, should you do it?” said Fred Gould, codirector of GES, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Entomology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
What is gene editing? Broadly speaking, gene editing is any biotechnical technique that modifies specific DNA sequences in the genome of a living organism. The newest methods have major implications for agriculture, food, biotechnology and bioenergy — and key research is happening in CALS. CRISPR, for example, is a tool that co-opts a microbial adaptive immune system into a cut-and-replace gene-editing system. Award-winning CRISPR pioneer Rodolphe Barrangou is associate professor of food science, the Todd R. Klaenhammer Distinguished Scholar in Probiotics Research and the CRISPR Lab lead. His long-term goal: solve the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“We have choices to make about our genetic future, and there are many different directions we can go. That’s a piece where NC State can be very important in actively guiding the technology.” — Fred Gould
WHATâ€™S NEXT? ... 2017
“We are first trying to address challenges that are nobrainers, not controversial to anyone: Can we prevent the rise of antibiotic resistance? Can we help cure diseases that currently have no cure?” Barrangou said. It’s a mistake to think of gene editing as a single entity, cautions Jennifer Kuzma, co-director of GES and the Goodnight-NC GlaxoSmithKline Foundation Distinguished Professor in Social Sciences. There are a variety of methods, some intended to stay in the lab, others whose impact requires release into the general population. “When we start talking about ethics, those questions are dependent on how those tools are being used, and why, and where,” Kuzma said. Once guidelines are set up, scientists should and will abide by them, Barrangou said, but he believes they largely need to be hammered out by a variety of informed experts.
Enter the ethicist For this, Barrangou points to experts like regulatory agencies, think tanks, NGOs — and ethicists, like Kuzma. She believes that the most crucial component of ethical genetic futures is public awareness and education. “People should know, have a voice and have a choice,” Kuzma said. The hot debate around GMOs taught hard lessons on when and how scientists roll out new technologies for public consumption. Some of those lessons have led to another key element of what’s next, Gould explains: Scientists have also focused on developing the ability to assess whether genetic editing causes unintended changes to the genome in real time. “As we’re developing the technology, we’re simultaneously developing checks on it,” Gould said. CALS scientists are also seeking out a deeper level of public communication. For example, Kuzma, Gould and CALS student Nicole Gutzmann, are currently researching the meaning of responsible innovation in genetic engineering. Now in the second year of a grant from the National Science Foundation with Kuzma as principal investigator, they are exploring what it means to innovate responsibly in this area.
“It’s training students to think more deeply about responsibility and innovation, and it’s also getting communities of practitioners to think more responsibly about what they’re doing,” Kuzma said. “We are directly addressing these questions in a variety of ways at NC State.”
“Like having a patent on pizza dough” It’s impossible to discuss the future of gene editing without talking about who might control the intellectual property rights to the technology — and that’s up for grabs, Barrangou said, in what he predicts will be “the biggest IP patent battle of all time.” CRISPR and other gene editing technologies have potential billion-dollar value to industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to biofuel. The development of the technology is difficult to pinpoint at a particular laboratory, as scientists around the world have built on one another’s breakthroughs, some developed simultaneously. “There are many people who would like to get their hands on a piece of the intellectual property, who are willing to do everything in their power to put a claim on the whole thing,” Barrangou said. “We have never seen this happen before.” Patents on aspects of CRISPR technology are currently held by, for example, the Broad Institute and the University of California at Berkeley. A current fight is to nab the patent on having invented the foundation itself: the use of CRISPR to change DNA. Whoever owns that, owns the price of gene editing in the future. “The incentives are so big — imagine somebody having a patent on pizza dough,” Barrangou said. And the longterm impact of the outcome depends on who wins — and what they decide to do with it. NC State is not involved in the race, but it’s an outside factor with implications being examined at the university level by interdisciplinary groups like GES. “If you don’t make the technology accessible to certain groups like developing countries and nonprofits, that doesn’t do much for democracy or social good,” Kuzma said.
Constructing the science highway That’s where regulation could come in — but it’s tricky. Public safety is paramount, but too-tight controls could drive innovation offshore, bleeding scientists to countries with fewer restrictions. Issues of inequality also loom large, both in access to the technology itself and in the capital investments in facilities and equipment necessary in order to put it to use. “If you put too many financial or difficulty constraints on technology, are we missing out on something we have a moral imperative to do, like cure a disease or save an endangered species?” Kuzma said. Barrangou compares the development of cutting-edge science to road construction: You have your previously constructed highways, already lined with guide rails and governed by a speed limit. But when you need new stretches of road across unexplored terrain, it requires specialists with both the desire and the skills to clear a path. NC State’s emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration has already begun laying groundwork to both advance and guide that process. “We have choices to make about our genetic future, and there are many different directions we can go,” Gould said. “How do we make these choices? Which voices are heard? That’s a piece where NC State can be very important in actively guiding the technology.”
“People should know, have a voice and have a choice.” — Jennifer Kuzma
ROBOTS and AI and DRONES, OH MY! By Chelsea Kellner
When CALS alumnus and tobacco grower Brandon Batten needed to streamline his baling process 10 years ago, he designed and built the automation himself. His homemade hydraulic-powered conveyors, scales and overhead chain-pulley system cut a daylong process down to an hour.
Now, Batten uses a drone to scout the fields of his 600acre Johnston County farm. He logs in to a smartphone app every morning to track year-to-year irrigation, rainfall and fertilization data for each field. And he can program his tractor to drive itself, accurate down to the half-inch. Tech-powered precision agriculture is a big part of how many growers are strategizing to survive in an increasingly competitive global market, where theyâ€™re expected to produce more food even as land is lost to urbanization and time is lost to paperwork.
“When it comes to industry trends, we can see a transition of the machine-systems and agricultural engineering areas to more high-tech precision agriculture applications,” said Garey Fox, head of the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. CALS alumni and partners are leading the way — and looking ahead.
“Just scratching the surface” Agricultural innovation is crucial to the North Carolina economy. According to NC State Extension economist Mike Walden, farming has maintained a higher level of significance in North Carolina than the nation as a whole. Agriculture and agribusiness make up an $84 billion a year industry in North Carolina, contributing one-sixth of the state’s income and employees. Batten was named the 2017 Innovative Young Farmer of the Year by Tobacco Farm Life Museum, based on his creative thinking and savvy tech implementation. This February, a grant from NC AgVentures, NC State Extension and NC State University allowed him to purchase a drone. When rain swamped his fields right after he transplanted tobacco, Batten used the drone to count plants and make localized fertilization and input decisions to save his crop.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface of automation and technology on the farm, figuring out what technology like drones can do,” Batten said.
NC State Extension: A front-row seat NC State Extension agents and specialists are among the first to see these changes roll across the state’s agricultural spectrum — and must keep up or lose their chance at impact. “A huge part of being a good Extension worker is keeping up with industry and knowing what their needs are,” Extension specialist Bill Cline said. “You have to stay plugged in with your clientele.” In his 30 years with Extension, Cline has seen the automation revolution of the berry industry, from mechanized color sorters in the late 1990s to the invention of “soft sorters” about 10 years ago. To weed out mushy, overripe blueberries, a cascading wall of the berries are plopped onto sensors that note how each berry hits and how high it bounces. When a berry doesn’t pass muster, a jet of air shoots it out of the cascade.
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
Smartphones have also transformed Extension work, Cline said, providing the ability to instantly send photos of an ailing plant, for example, rather than making the grower wait for an in-person diagnosis. “That’s the thing that tickles me every day: when someone has a problem and we can pounce on it and make the solution clear very quickly, rather than farmers waiting days for a farm visit,” Cline said.
Looking ahead So — with all these technological innovations transforming the farm — what’s next? That, Batten said, is the “million dollar question.” Technology use will be a given, but some of the more striking changes may lie in human factors, Batten said. “I think as the number of farmers continues to decline, you’re going to see a paradigm shift, where family farms are going to have to bring in outside help to keep the farm sustainable,” Batten said.
This will be a growing career track for young people interested in agriculture, Batten predicts: as farm managers who will need to know as much about Global Positioning Systems as they do about fertilizer and irrigation. For Cline, what’s next for farming overall is on a foundational level: water use and land use — and the potential scarcity of both. “I think there’s a coming time where enough people will be competing with farmers for elbow room that that’s going to be the next big challenge,” Cline said. All progress points in the same direction: increased efficiency. “I’m a firm believer in work,” Batten said. “Sometimes you have to get out there and dig a ditch, but if there’s an easier way, that just makes more sense.”
Sweet Potatoes In London Six generations in, family-owned Scott Farms has weathered decades of industry fluctuations and economic avalanches, most recently by choosing an unlikely investment: the humble sweet potato. Linwood “Sonny” Scott Jr., his wife, Alice, and his sons, Linwood III and Dewey, have grown sweet potatoes on Scott Farms since the ’80s. At the time, sweet potatoes were the unpopular cousin in the tuber family, relegated to the Thanksgiving table once a year. But when health food interest began to surge, the Scotts saw an opportunity. In 2013, they invested in a completely automated, 50,000 square foot sweet potato packing facility for their Lucama-based operation. In their state-of-the-art facility, every potato is photographed. Two lightning-quick cameras are mounted on the 12-lane, high-speed sorter, which can be programmed with specifications as detailed as individual potato weight or the ratio of length to width. This also aids traceability, a food-safety priority that allows growers to track food through all phases of distribution. The family also innovates in the fields: Working with CALS, the farm now has a system ensuring that the farm uses no more than two generations of the same plant strain. In 2006, Scott Farms shipped 99 containers of sweet potatoes to their new UK office. In 2017, that number has ballooned to 2,500 containers. About 70 percent of sweet potatoes exported into Europe are from North Carolina, Dewey Scott said. And about 5,000 of their 12,000 acres are devoted to growing the orange spud. Technology saves physical labor, Dewey said, and also precious time needed for another new innovation added to farm life in modern times: piles of paperwork.
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
CALS BEHIND-THE-SCENES: VISIONARY LEADERSHIP
“The economic context is favorable. …
“I’d like to see the department experiencing …
It’s a prospering industry.”
a resurgence of glory.”
— John Beghin
— Melanie Simpson
We write a lot about our great faculty and students here at CALS — but out of the public eye, our staff and administration also work tirelessly to recruit, retain and inspire our best and brightest. So here’s a peek behind the curtain: a glimpse into the strategic thinking of our four new department heads. They work in very different disciplines, but they share two things: a deep love of CALS ... and a grand vision for what’s next.
“BAE is ranked in the top 10 in the country, but
“We can become global leaders.”
I see no reason why it shouldn’t be top 5.” — Garey Fox
— Patricia Curtis
Patricia Curtis Department Head Prestage Department of Poultry Science “I think what’s next for our department is to vision where the industry is going, and to move faster than the university has typically been known to move, so that we can meet the needs of our large, diverse poultry industry in North Carolina. “We can offer the most totally integrated food animal system in the country at a university for not just poultry, but for all major food animals. I think that’s an exciting opportunity that we can take advantage of and really grow here. “We’re also going to make sure our students are trained and prepared to go all over the world and enter non-traditional poultry careers as well as the production poultry career training they would get at most universities.”
Garey Fox Department Head Biological and Agricultural Engineering “We have hired five new faculty members since August, and we have three more positions coming. That creates an opportunity to not only build a brand-new culture but also to invest in facilities and resources. “BAE is jointly administered by CALS and the College of Engineering. That puts us in a unique position to serve as a catalyst for multidisciplinary partnerships with many other departments on this campus — as well as with other institutions across the U.S. “As more engineers retire each year than enter the workforce, the demand for engineering graduates is only going to grow. This puts our graduates in a good position to land outstanding jobs after graduation.”
John Beghin Department Head Agricultural and Resource Economics “My vision for our department is along the axes of teaching, research and extension. “In teaching, we are pushing for experiential learning opportunities for our students. With the Poole College of Management, we are building a program on agricultural entrepreneurship — by the end of the year we will have a concentration, and eventually a minor. … We’ve also been offering a course on data analytics for the farm and agribusiness to meet the demand for analytics skills. “In terms of research, we are pushing for more multidisciplinary work, especially on the economics of water. … And we are excited about what we are doing in the area of ag entrepreneurism across the entire spectrum, from small farms to big farms.”
Melanie Simpson Department Head Molecular and Structural Biochemistry “Research, nationally and internationally, is going more into team-oriented science because of the need to solve problems on a larger scale. In order to solve such complicated problems, you need a team of people who have expertise in vastly different areas. “Building teams like that is part of the reputation I built in Nebraska and a big part of the vision I have for coming to NC State. No one individual can push something. There’s so much more power in a team. “In 10 years, I’d like to see the department centrally positioned and facilitating quantitative science, with unique grants and training opportunities for our students and partnerships with industry that increase collaborations and lead to impact.”
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
WE GROW NC
Student Access There is more than one path to CALS, and jobs are available for graduating students: > > > >
Freshman Admission: Start classes the fall after high school graduation Spring Connection/STEAM: Enroll in the spring after a semester at a community college or a work experience. Agricultural Institute: Get a two-year associate degree – or transfer to a four-year program PackTrak: Gain admission to CALS via a partner N.C. community college
Plant Sciences The N.C. Plant Sciences Initiative leads the way to sustainable plant production by: > > > >
Partnering with academia, industry and government to become the world leader in interdisciplinary plant research Driving the development of new solutions, companies, student readiness and jobs Ensure that local farmers and their commodity associations have the best tools possible for crop production Solving grand challenges of agriculture such as drought, pest issues and plant nutrition
Food Animal Systems NC State’s Food Animal Systems Initiative will boost our state’s food animal production by: > Establishing a transdisciplinary academy for food animal health and production > Expanding our Extension expertise and partnership opportunities > Building a true farm-to-fork model farm for consumer programs and engagement
Food Manufacturing Our Food Manufacturing Initiative will build opportunity to process and produce local foods by: > Adding research and technology from the state’s largest university to its number one industry > Transferring that knowledge to commercial endeavors > Stimulating job creation and the manufacturing economy by development of new products
Leadership CALS leadership programs are building the next generation of ag leaders who are: > Pre-College: 4-H, FFA, Juntos, Institute for Futural Agricultural Leaders > At College: Agricultural Leadership Learning Institute for Graduate Students; CALS Proud Student Leaders Workshop; Jesse Helms Agricultural Legislative Internship Program; CALS Ambassadors > Faculty and Staff: Agricultural Leadership Learning Institute for Faculty; CALS Proud; Food Systems Leadership Institute > Stakeholder Development: N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission Ag Leadership Program, NC Farm School, Public Leadership . . . and more To read more about CALS Initiatives, visit cals.ncsu.edu/initiatives WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
STUDENT RESEARCH LEADERS Feifei Liang
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics You make hundreds of purchasing choices every trip to the grocery store: Cookies or carrot sticks? Organic or regular? Feifei Liang wants to figure out how to help you make healthier choices. Liang’s dissertation research asks how consumer health decisions are influenced by different types of nutrition labels — both what consumers buy and how much they’re willing to pay for it. “We are living in an era where there is perhaps too much information in our lives,” Liang said. “I’m thinking about how information could be better organized, and what kind of information is actually needed.” To figure this out, Liang deciphers data collected from thousands of shoppers in a midwestern grocery
“In the near future, I’m pretty sure these kinds of labels will change customers’ diets.”
store from 2010 to 2011, when certain types of simpler labels were first introduced in the area. She examines variables like price, product attributes and type of nutrition label, coupled with consumer demographics like income, education and age. She’s seen that, for example, people will pay 3-4 percent more on average for a container of yogurt with a simpler nutrition label — though factors like education level also impact that number. This information could prove helpful to consumers, food manufacturers and grocery stores alike. It’s already made a difference to Liang. “I spend more time on my own grocery shopping now,” Liang said. “I’m buying food for myself, but I’m also thinking about it as future research.” go.ncsu.edu/Feifei
“We’re trying to see into the future.”
Masters Candidate, Department of Horticultural Science As pollinator gardens grow in popularity, Marisol Mata wants to make sure they are giving North Carolina’s native bees the nutrition they need to thrive. Her work can also help us glimpse the future — how changes in global weather patterns could affect nutrition for one of our smallest but most important eco-partners. “People call a lot of flowers ‘pollinator-friendly,’ but we have no idea what their nutritional quality is,” Mata said. A balanced bee diet comes in two servings: nectar, for carbohydrates to be turned into energy, and pollen, for the protein that helps them grow. Mata zeroes in on pollen. In four isolated growth chambers at NC State’s Phytotron facility, Mata is testing a variety of native plants with a mix-and-match of environmental changes in nitrogen levels, CO2 levels and temperatures.
“We’re trying to see into the future,” Mata said. “Based on the conditions we expect climate change to produce, we’re looking at the effect those changes will have on the nutritional quality of pollen.” To do that, Mata uses an electric toothbrush to shake flower pollen into a tube for chemical analysis. And to make sure we know what bees eat in the wild, Mata enlisted volunteers to identify and count native bees on flowers in the J.C. Raulston Arboretum starting last summer. She hopes to have enough data for at least two peer-reviewed publications by spring 2018. Bees are close to Mata’s heart: She grew up on her family’s honey production farm in Argentina, founded by her father when he was 16 years old. “My entire life and scientific career has been supported by bees,” Mata said. “It’s only fair I give some of that back to them.”
WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
Simon Gregg Masters candidate, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering Simon Gregg seems like a quiet guy — until it starts to rain.
driven watershed management planning and innovative stream restoration techniques.
Gregg sizes up the downpour and rattles off a list of strategies for handling the torrent. When the sky clears, he traces the path of runoff water through culverts and detention basins, puzzling over why the ephemeral channels haven’t begun to flow.
When he heads home for the day, Gregg jumps into his other project: the Environmental Protection Agency’s swine and dairy waste Nutrient Recycling Challenge.
Then Gregg spots one, snaking its way down from the large suburban homes above to the granite boulders down in the stream channel. His face lights up. “That will only last a few minutes — can we get footage?” Gregg calls to the video producer. “That would be great to have for my research.” Gregg is so fascinated by the impacts of land use, he studies it both professionally and in his spare time. His research at CALS examines urban stormwater mitigation with regenerative stormwater conveyance through smarter development, more ecologically
“This is where a lot of engineering started: On the farm, needing to develop solutions on the fly.”
Gregg is studying the native black soldier fly, whose larvae incorporate nutrients into their biomass as they feed on decomposing organic matter. Larvae can also be harvested and used to produce a value-added insect meal for use in commercial feed products. Gregg hopes to develop solutions that will make insects a commercially viable option for organic waste management. After two years of work, he’s preparing for the next phase: pilot-scale testing. He can’t wait. go.ncsu.edu/Simon
I AM CALS
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“It’s been tough. There have been days where it hits me and I just kind of cry. … I thought maybe I can’t do this, maybe this isn’t right for me, but I decided that it’s definitely what I want to do.” As much as Cody loves daily life with her family in Bertie County, she is fully aware that there isn’t much opportunity there. “The recent flooding has shut down a lot of places for people to get jobs,” she said. “And there’s not a lot of places that require you to have a degree to get jobs around here — it’s just fast food and restaurants.” Cody fell in love with NC State as a high schooler attending a biotechnology “boot camp” run by Matt Koci of the Prestage Department of Poultry Science. He teamed with Bruce Boller, Cody’s science teacher at Bertie Early College High School, to give the students a rare opportunity to dive into collegelevel science. It was like “drinking from a fire hydrant,” she said, but by the end of that week, Cody was more sure than ever of her dream to be a scientist. In her junior and senior years of high school, she worked in a team of students to produce research-quality recombinant proteins – those made from a foreign gene and introduced into bacteria using biotechnology – to support projects in Koci’s lab. “I’m not used to being wrong and messing up, but with science I learned to accept that you’re not always going to be right, that you learn from your mistakes,” she said. Cody graduated in June as class valedictorian and a transformed student. When she started high school, she rarely answered questions in class and didn’t socialize. Today, she is confident and self-assured. “Being on NC State’s campus is the best feeling ever because it’s where I’ve felt like I was always destined to go … and it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something big,” Cody said. “I’m definitely nervous and really, really overwhelmed, but I’m more excited than anything.” Cody has her sights set on working for a company like Novozymes or Bayer. She may even pursue a Ph.D. At the end of the day though, she wants to return home and pay it forward. “[Science is] something that I plan to pursue for the rest of my life and hopefully be able to impact other young girls to do the same thing.” —Suzanne Stanard WHAT’S NEXT? ... 2017
Faculty Focus: Billy Flowers
In his 30 years at CALS, Flowers has “When students come in, they don’t become “something of a legend,” know what they’re good at,” Flowers See said. Now a William Neal said. “You try to put them in positions Reynolds Distinguished Professor, where they can figure out what lights Flowers is a reproductive physiologist the fire within them.” who pioneered the use of human Every Animal Science Flowers has taught at CALS long ultrasound machines to make swine freshman fills out Billy births safer, now common practice enough to see many of his former Flowers’ first-semester on hog farms. He served on national students become staff and faculty. survey of their goals, fears strategic committees during the avian flu crisis. “I’ve been sitting in an Extension and dreams for their time meeting and heard him say to the at CALS. And he’s made an indelible impact guy next to me, ‘I had you in class on his students. 20 years ago,’ and then he’ll tell him And every Animal Science student what grade he got on his final exam,” forgets about it — until graduation. “The way Dr. Flowers teaches, you See said, laughing. Flowers leaves their old survey on walk away remembering everything their seat to remind them of how far the rest of your career,” graduate Other universities and industries they’ve come. student Kayla Lannom said. have tried to coax him elsewhere, but Flowers wasn’t tempted. “It’s incredible for students to get Flowers’ current research explores that back at the end of their time how the management of young “I believe a lot in serendipity and here, because most of them have no animals affects their functioning as forces beyond your control that memory of what they wrote,” said adults and whether these changes shape where you stay,” Flowers said. Todd See, head of the Animal Science occur via expression of different “There’s no better job than the one I Department. “Students love it.” genes. He involves students in every have here.” research project. 44
New Prestage gift gives CALS prestige The new Marsha K. Prestage Agricultural Scholarship demonstrates a commitment to CALS like no other. An incoming freshman will receive the scholarship valued at over $40,000. The award covers tuition, fees and books and is renewable for up to four years. Looking for a way to truly do the extraordinary? Think how your gift could change a life at CALS.
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WHATâ€™S NEXT? ... 2017
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Published on Oct 25, 2017