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Water

Tropics of Interest Desert Streams 21st Century Dairy Autumn Olive Root of the Matter

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S o u t h e r n I l l i n o is U n i v e r si t y C a r b o n da l e C o l l e g e o f A g r ic u lt u r a l S ci e n c e s


Education goes Higher New program begins for tomorrow’s professionals in academia, industry and government

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Foreword Weighing the Cache Done to Scale Raising Cane Where Water Meets the Road Golden Opportunity Tropics of Interest Desert Streams Dairy Goes 21st Century Autumn Olive Reviled The Root of the Matter Trailblazers Education Goes Higher

ast fall, the College of Agricultural Sciences at Soutern Illinois University Carbondale became one of only two such colleges in the state to offer a doctorate. Planned to complement its counterpart at the University of Illinois, it is a 60-credit hour interdisciplinary program, offered through the college rather than its individual departments. Among its features: a core curriculum, required of all students, as well as 20 hours of structured courses in such specialty areas as plant and soil sciences, forestry, agricultural systems, animal science, food and nutrition, and agribusiness economics. The core, designed to meet the needs of students in both biological and social sciences, focuses on experimental design, research and teaching communications. “This degree is right for the times because so much in academia, industry and government requires an interdisciplinary approach now,” said Dean Gary L. Minish

Eight students are currently enrolled in the program with a target of 20 enrolled by the fifth year and a graduation rate of about 10 candidates annually from that point on. In addition to those who plan on academic careers, Minish expects the program to draw students already employed in various agriculture-related industries and government agencies because of its flexibility in accommodating them. These students may approach their studies a little differently — perhaps completing some of their work online or performing research in employers’ labs. Faculty members, who helped put the program together, are enthusiastic now that the effort has finally come to fruition. “I’ve heard nothing but excitement,” Minish said. “They waited a long time for this to happen.”

At the Helm John E. Preece, professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, became the College of Agricultural Science’s first director of graduate studies April 1, 2008. Responsible for graduate education in the college, Preece oversees admissions, assistantships, orientation, assessment, program reviews and marketing efforts, among other duties. He also shepherded the college’s new doctoral program through the approval process and played a key role in implementing it. “He was an excellent choice because of his experience in graduate education both in his department and at the university level, and he knows the new Ph.D. program better than anyone, having worked on it from start to finish,” said Dean Gary L. Minish. Preece’s initial tasks focused on having a fully operational graduate program in place in time for the fall semester. He also held a seminar

for faculty, staff and graduate students to bring them up to date and open lines of communication about the program. “Long term, he will look at the master’s degree programs so we can move toward a more concentrated effort on recruiting and assistantships,” Minish said. “We have increased the level of what’s going on in graduate education, so we really need someone to coordinate it.”

Preece, who came to SIUC in 1980 as an assistant professor, has been a member of 63 master’s and doctoral committees and has directed graduate studies in his home department since 2002. He has twice served on his department’s Graduate Policy Committee and has been part of the university’s Graduate Council for 12 years, including a two-year stint as chair. His research interests include vegetative propagation, plant hormones, tissue culture, hydroponics and bioenergy. He continues longstanding work with silver maples, focusing now on biomass and syrup production from cloned trees. He also is evaluating growth regulators and micro-propagating black walnut, oakleaf hydrangea and hibiscus, among other projects. A New Hampshire native, Preece earned his bachelor’s in 1970 from the University of New Hampshire and his master’s and doctoral degrees in 1977 and 1980 respectively from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.


College of Agricultural Sciences Gary L. Minish, Dean Todd A. Winters, Associate Dean Steven E. Kraft, Chair, Agribusiness Economics Karen L. Jones, Interim Chair, Animal

foreword

Science, Food and Nutrition James J. Zaczek, Chair, Forestry Brian P. Klubek, Chair, Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems University Communications Mike Ruiz, Director K.C. Jaehnig, Editor, Writer Jay Bruce, Amy Dion, Nate Krummel, Designers Russell Bailey, Phil Bankester, Steve Buhman, Jeff Garner, Photography Shutterstock.com Send Comments and Letters to: College of Agricultural Sciences AgriSearch Magazine Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1205 Lincoln Drive Mail Code 4416 Carbondale, IL 62901

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elcome to “AgriSearch,” a magazine showcasing the scholarly activities of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Our motto in the College is “More than meets the eye” because in addition to traditional agricultural areas such as agronomy, agribusiness, animal science and horticulture, our faculty are also involved in human nutrition, hospitality, forestry and landscape design, to name a few. We strive to educate the next-generation job force while serving our stakeholders in the food, fiber and natural resources sector and the public through our applied “cutting-edge” research and outreach activities. This issue of “AgriSearch” focuses on water, a resource essential for life. No one thinks much about water; the public simply expects (and needs) an abundant and safe water supply. As you’ll see, researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences at SIUC are examining the interaction of agricultural production systems and the maintenance of a safe water supply. In addition, we also highlight in this issue the use of byproducts of biofuel production for livestock feeds; graduate research on horseradish; undergraduate research on an invasive plant species; state-of-the-art improvements at the SIUC dairy; international scholarly activities in Afghanistan and Panama; and our new doctoral program in agricultural sciences, which will elevate our research endeavors to a higher plane. As the new associate dean for research in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern, I’m excited about the technological advances our researchers are making in both traditional agriculture and in those other areas that are “more than meet the eye.” I thank my predecessor, John Russin, for all the work that he put into growing the College’s research program and for his vision in spearheading this issue of AgriSearch. Enjoy!

Todd A. Winters, Associate Dean Printed by the authority of the State of Illinois, 2/09, 1M,09-1733. Produced by University Communications, Southern Illinois University Carbondale 618 | 453.2276, www.siuc.edu/uc

Pictured above (from left) Dean Gary L. Minish and Associate Dean Todd A. Winters

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The overall amount of water on our planet has remained the same for two billion years.

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In a 100-year period, a water molecule spends 98 years in the ocean, 20 months as ice, about 2 weeks in lakes and rivers and less than a week in the atmosphere.

Water regulates the earth’s temperature.

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Source: Lenntech Water Facts and Trivia

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Irrigation accounts for the largest use of ground water in the United states.

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Ground water is the water that fills cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand. Each drop of rain that soaks into the soils moves downward to the water table, which is the water level in the ground.

Source: National Ground Water Association Inc.

Ground water can take a human lifetime just to traverse a mile.

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A single tree will give off 265 liters (70 gallons) of water per day in evaporation.

Water moves around the earth in a water cycle. The water cycle has five parts: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, infiltration and surface run-off.

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An acre of corn will give off 15,000 litres (4,000 gallons) of water per day in evaporation.

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WEIGHING Researchers create a virtual counterpart of the Cache River watershed to find the best balance between environmental and economic decisionmaking

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he Cache River State Natural Area, a watershed region designated in 1996 by international treaty as globally significant, lies deep in the heart of Southern Illinois. Noted for its cypress and tupelo swamps, it contains two national natural landmarks and three state nature preserves. Its four distinct ecological regions teem with diverse plant and animal species, including more than 100 listed as endangered or threatened. Led by researchers in the Department of Agribusiness Economics, the College has maintained a presence in this area for decades, beginning with a study of the economic impact of a proposed national wildlife refuge on the region. While much of the earliest work focused on soil erosion and water quality, later projects took a broader, more interdisciplinary approach. These included a study of the interactions in “bioreserves” (wild preserves buffered by public use areas), a watershed management plan and the current effort, funded by the National Science Foundation under its bio-complexity program, which focuses on the interrelationship of physical and human systems in the watershed. Ecosystems along waterways and across rural landscapes provide critical services to the

human community. They trap sediment and nutrients, which helps purify the water in creeks, rivers and aquifers. Their trees and grasses store carbon, keeping it from the atmosphere where it would add to the greenhouse effect. They disperse floodwaters. They provide homes for helpful species. Their wild spaces can restore the soul. Yet, people also need to grow crops in these areas. The center of the department’s latest research lies at this intersection of ecosystem services and the production of agricultural commodities. “A focal point of our research is looking at how farmers respond to different signals regarding the price for these services and for agricultural commodities,” said department chair Stephen E. Kraft, a member of the College’s first Cache research team. Working with colleagues in geography and engineering, the researchers have created a computerized “virtual watershed” that shows the shifting balance between costs and benefits, both for the environment and for farmers as they use their land in different ways. Linking data regarding the behavior of farmers over time with environmental simulation software and a geographic information system initially allowed the team to create a cyberplace where they could tinker with laws and


THE CACHE policies, economics, environmental processes, social factors and land use to see how changes to the parts would change the whole. “Our first efforts at modeling this very complex system were fairly unsophisticated and one-dimensional: If X changes, Y will happen,” said economist Jeffrey R. Beaulieu. “As we began to take a more interdisciplinary approach, particularly with the inclusion of researchers from the College of Engineering, a more robust methodology — genetic algorithms — came into play.” Genetic algorithms draw on knowledge from genetics — inheritance, mutation, selection, recombination — in formulating computer simulations that allow researchers to look for optimal, or best, solutions to various problems. Their use has allowed these researchers to model solutions that balance competing needs and values, to find the point between economic and environmental goals where farmers do the best they can with regard to both. “This is cutting-edge work,” Kraft said. “As far as we know, it is the first use of genetic algorithms in agricultural, natural resource or environmental economics to predict economic behavior.”

Using the virtual watershed, they have, for example, found that growing crops each year nearly always releases carbon into the air. Although continuous no-till is better than conventional tillage when it comes to storing carbon, erosion eats away at that advantage. If farmers grow hay or pasture their cattle on the land, they store carbon; if they plant trees, they store substantially more. Based on such knowledge, the researchers say that policymakers should give carbon credits (a financial incentive to encourage carbon storage) based on land use and tillage combinations rather than on the measuring and monitoring of carbon in the soil. Using field practices as the criteria for carbon credits would be cheaper and easier, too. With ecosystem services becoming a critical area of public policy, lawmakers are showing an interest in the work being done at the university with the virtual watershed. Kraft has traveled to Washington, D.C., where he has briefed groups of Congressional staffers from both houses on the project. While he is enthusiastic about the virtual watershed’s ability to tie policies to results, he is cautious about the end result. “I think global warming and the

unwillingness of significant policy players to recognize the relevance of these services and the ecosystems that support them call into question the extent to which we will be able to put into place policies to safeguard them adequately,” he said. “A lot of moneyed interests will stand to lose, and we have shown a peculiar unwillingness to take on these interests. We are very poor advocates for the future.”

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Done to S When it comes to figuring out how best to protect water quality, these researchers are thinking big

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n what may be the first of its kind, a new watershed study undertaken by College hydrologists Jon E. Schoonover and Karl W.J. Williard attempts to look at the system as a whole rather than at individual parts. Going beyond the plot scale allows the researchers to investigate other factors, such as fertility regimes, water flow and nutrient processing, that can affect water quality. The ultimate goal: the best possible riparian buffers that would work for the entire watershed. “This may be the only study in the U.S. on a scale of this size,” Williard said. Researchers have for years recommended planting buffer strips of grass, trees or a combination of the two along the banks of creeks and streams as a way of keeping contaminants from washing off farm fields into the water supply. State and federal agencies have offered financial “carrots” to farmers willing to do so. But nobody really knows how effective such strips are in the real world over time. Schoonover and Williard aim to change that. Using three separate watersheds on university farmland, the pair hope to discover not just how well buffer strips

An artificial channel, called a “flume,” allows researchers to calculate the amount of water flowing through it each second. Here we see a flume in various stages of construction.

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perform long term but which kinds of plantings work best to filter out pollutants, protect against erosion and keep creeks and streams from filling up with sediment. They’re paying particular attention to giant cane. “No one has ever looked at it as a riparian species before,” Williard said. While most buffer strip research has focused on the ability to trap sediment and nutrients, Schoonover and Williard are also looking at filtering out fecal bacteria that washes off pastures and fields into the water supply. College records on manure and fertilizer applied to the farm property in the watersheds already exist, making it easier for the researchers to track their effect on water quality over time. In addition to fecal coliform measurements, the pair is recording information on other water quality indicators, stream flows and

stream channel dimensions. This three-year data collection process serves as the calibration period, documenting conditions before treatment starts. “After that, we can go to federal agencies,” Schoonover said. “Because we already have those calibrations, the actual work would move more quickly, so I think we have a good chance of getting funding to do the treatments and then follow through with cane restoration.”


Scale “Riparian buffers will continue to be one of the most important conservation practices applied to protect water quality,” Williard said. “Given the unique watershed scale approach of this project, we believe we can make a valuable contribution, not only to the university’s research but also on a national and maybe even international scale.”

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Raising ca The nation’s first cane nursery sprouts in Southern Illinois

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ane, America’s only native bamboo, once stretched for miles across the southeastern United States in vast, nearly impenetrable stands known as canebrakes, providing fishing poles for generations of small boys and their dads, fodder for cattle and cover for critters and birds. Today, they’ve largely disappeared, lost to crops, cows and the notion that really, they’re just weeds. These days, though, folks are taking a second look at cane. In small scale studies, forestry researchers Jon E. Schoonover and Karl W. J. Williard, along with their students, have shown that planted along creeks and streams, cane’s dense, fibrous roots can keep chemicals and bacteria from washing off farm fields and into the water while protecting the banks from erosion. This makes cane very attractive to farmers. (For more on a new watershed-scale study involving cane, see “Done to Scale,” p 6.) Because several endangered or threatened species, such as the Swainson’s warbler, depend on canebrakes, wildlife managers have a particular

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Graduate student David J. Dalzotto (left) and forest ecologist James J. Zaczek collect data on newly planted cane.

interest in cane for habitat restoration. And the plant’s fast, bushy growing habit could make it suitable as a source of cellulosoe-based biofuel if quality tests bear out. If demand goes up, however, there won’t be enough to go around. That’s where the nursery comes in. After nearly a decade of forestry department research

with this species, forest ecologist James J. Zaczek believes he and his colleagues have the right stuff to get a giant cane nursery up and running. Such a nursery would allow them to continue their research on planting methods, fertilization and biofuel potential while meeting an important restoration need. Within the next five years, the


ane researchers expect to be able to supply resource managers with giant cane propagules (bits of the plant that will produce new plants) with which to start nurseries of their own. This would give the managers a constant, sustainable supply of rhizomes (the underground root-like stems that send up new shoots) for use in riparian filter strips or habitat restoration. “We plan to harvest cane as you would harvest tree seedlings in a nursery,” Zaczek said. “I think if things go right we will have enough for the resource managers, though I don’t anticipate having enough to supply hundreds of acres of giant cane for whoever wants it.” In most countries where bamboo flourishes, folks have grown it for their own purposes for centuries. In this country, however, scientists previously knew little about the species and how to make it grow. Key discoveries by student researchers at the College have changed that. Among the findings: • While bamboo sprouts best from its underground parts (the rhizomes) rather than from the above-ground shoots (or culms), rhizome pieces produce a tremendous amount of growth if short pieces of culm remain attached. • Rhizomes sprout better when the end with the nodes and buds receives some sunlight. • Rhizomes can be planted with a tree

planter and harvested with a backhoe. • Rhizomes can go right into the ground without any special babying. While they might do a little better if started in a greenhouse, that slight advantage does not outweigh the expense involved in planting them twice. Herbicides proved marginally helpful, but cane can tolerate weed competition, so it doesn’t absolutely require weed killer. • Rhizome collection and planting should take place in the spring, even though fall collection and planting tends to fit better with resource managers’ schedules. Fall collection and planting results in poor survival. • Periodic burning reduces the shoots’ height and diameter but increases the density and helps it spread to adjacent areas. Without fire, the stands start to die back, and while new culms appear, much dead material remains standing. Zaczek said the work, which is ongoing, fills a gap. “There’s not much documented research on cane’s establishment, growth and spread, and we’re providing that in a very practical framework,” he noted. “Our attempts to scale up to larger acreages mean we could really have an effect on the landscape — a practical, logistical restoration of canebrakes and not just a patch of cane here and there.”

Undergraduate student David K. Piercy (left) and graduate student William W. Brendecke inspect cane rhizome roots in a campus greenhouse.

Graduate students E. Kathleen Bugle and Brendecke use a tractor-pulled tree-planting machine to plant rhizome pieces at the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

Dalzotto measures the height and spread of cane on Nature Conservancy property.

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oncerns about water quality in the Metro East area of southeastern Illinois have led forestry researchers from the College of Agricultural Sciences and a sociologist from Illinois State University to take a closer look at seven sites in the lower Kaskaskia River watershed. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the team’s three-year project will help them get a handle on water quality problems in the area as well as assist area residents in figuring

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Meets In a rapid-growth region, researchers and residents work to sustain a watershed

out what to do about those findings. Along the way, students in forestry and sociology will learn about research methods in both disciplines. While the overall goal addresses watershed health, the researchers are looking not just at water quality but at social issues as well. “If you just look at things like current conservation practices, you could come up with a set of recommendations that wouldn’t take into consideration the capacity of the community to implement them,” said Mae A. Davenport, an assistant professor of forestry. “We’re also

assessing the ability of these communities to take action.” The study area includes four sites in the Richland Creek sub-watershed and three in the sub-watershed of Silver Creek, both of which drain into the larger watershed for the lower Kaskaskia River. It spans a mix of environments, including the rapidly developing cities of Belleville and O’Fallon, the small towns of Freeburg and Troy, and land that remains largely agricultural. The researchers are looking at both urban and agricultural areas because both can affect watershed health.


s the Road “While water pollution has been attributed to agricultural practices, cities also produce their share,” said Jon E. Schoonover, also an assistant forestry professor. “They often experience rapid, unplanned growth, resulting in runoff from increased paving and overloaded sewer systems with high levels of fecal bacteria.” The social sciences portion of the project got underway in 2007 when team members began talking with city officials, farmers, developers, local Farm Bureau staff members, district conservationists and others with an interest in the area. The researchers found that urban growth and storm water management ranked among these leaders’ top concerns. Last year, using what they learned through those interviews, team members conducted seven focus groups to talk about the health of the residents’ communities, concerns they had about the watershed and possible solutions to the problems identified. They drew on information collected from these discussions in drafting a questionnaire that went to more than 2,000 area residents. Responses are being used to identify what communities can and cannot do to improve water quality and cut health risks and will pinpoint the best ways to communicate these findings. In addition, they developed a community research team of residents who wanted to maintain their involvement in the project. These residents reviewed survey questions, receive project updates and will offer suggestions in the development of out-

reach tools. Some are assisting in monitoring rainfall, storms and water quality. Water sampling also began at 44 sites during the project’s first year. Last summer, the team installed a gauging system to monitor the water discharged from streams, a radio telemetry system to give them data on rainfall and stream flow as it happens, a water quality sensor that measures dissolved oxygen, acidity, temperature and conductivity, and automated water samplers to gather data produced by individual rainstorms. Students have been involved from the start with both interviewing and sampling. As the project continues, they will study old reports dealing with outcomes of federal conservation efforts as a way to track the effects over time. They also will get hands-on experience with lab analysis while learning to work both in their own discipline and outside it. “The social science students will be working with the water quality students out in the field, and the water quality students will be working with the social science students in the focus groups because you can’t really study one area without the other,” Davenport said. When the project ends in late 2010, the researchers plan to communicate their findings through interactive workshops, traveling exhibits and a related Web site, an outreach element that sets this project apart from others. “When people think about their communities, they think about political boundaries,” Davenport said. “We’d like to help them start thinking about their watersheds.”

Above: Graduate students (from left) Christopher T. Slemp, Charnsmorn R. Hwang and Julia D. Friedman are taking part in a research project studying water quality and community interest in conservation in Illinois’ Metro East area. Photos on facing page: (Left) Graduate student Lily Hwang uses a flow meter to record stream discharge. (Middle Left) Hwang looks for suspended solids in water samples. (Middle Right) Colored lines indicate watershed boundaries. (Right) Graduate students Hwang and Jackie Crim install a stilling well, used to determine water depth.

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Researchers devise a restoration strategy for a tank training ground at the famed Fort Knox

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ong known as the repository for the nation’s gold, Fort Knox has another less famous identity. For decades, the U.S. Army has used a plateau with abundant sinkholes near the fort’s western edge to train soldiers slated to serve in tank battalions. Years of tank and heavy equipment use have taken their toll on erosion-prone soils, allowing topsoil to wash into those sinkholes. Once there, the waterborne sediment can move into underground limestone channels and caverns and eventually into nearby streams, affecting all creatures living in this watery environment. In the past, the Army dealt with the problem by planting new vegetation and keeping the areas off limits for a few months. But in 2007, officers decided to take a new tack. Hydrologists Karl W.J. Williard and Jon E. Schoonover with forestry colleagues John W. Groninger, James J. Zaczek and Charles M. Ruffner are charged with the first-ever effort to remedy these ills. Their efforts focus on first assessing and then managing the amount of water running off the training areas and the amount of sediment being transported.


The training area’s terrain presents a particular challenge for this kind of work. Much of it contains geological features — sinkholes, springs, “sinking” streams that disappear into underground channels and then pop up again elsewhere — formed as water dissolved the underlying, porous limestone rock. “It’s like a maze underground with different channels going a lot of different directions,” Williard said. “It makes our job a lot harder.” If, as some evidence suggests, fine sediments are moving through the underground sinkhole networks and ending up in receiving streams downslope, they could threaten a nearby trout nursery as well as endangered crayfish living in caves connected to the sinkhole networks. In addition, sediment deposits in adjacent floodplains can bury tree root collars, leading to the death of trees.

The researchers are taking a closer look at the sinkholes to determine if sediment is moving into them and if it does, whether it passes through or settles, creating a plug. They also are mapping the soil surface areas where water is concentrating and flowing into sinkholes so they can design better vegetative buffers around those sinkholes to trap more sediment before it reaches them. The buffers will be wide — as much as 75 feet — and will include more grasses that can trap significant amounts of sediment. Loss of topsoil will present a major challenge in getting this vegetation to grow because of the lack of nutrients. “They’ve lost thousands of years of topsoil — they’re down to the clay subsoil now, and you just don’t get that back,” Schoonover

said. “It takes a long time, 500 years or so, to develop one inch of topsoil,” The project, which includes an assessment period to see how well their management strategies are working, should end sometime in 2010. Both researchers commend the defense department for attempting to reduce its “footprint” on water and land. If the government can make such a sea change, perhaps there’s hope for the rest of us.

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International Research

Tropics of Interest A research course in Panama broadens student horizons

Earth-moving equipment at the site of Panama’s ongoing canal expansion shows the scope of that project. Students got a rare, behind-thescenes glimpse of the work as part of an acoustic ecology field course held in the Panama Canal Watershed over the university’s 2008 spring break. Forestry major Lindsay A. Warner, a senior from Algonguin, recorded this image.

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n addition to capturing the sounds of the rainforest, the lesson plan for the university’s new acoustic ecology field course included riding in a dugout canoe, releasing captured endangered animals back into the wild and watching from a limitedaccess site as construction equipment cleared the way for a deeper, wider Panama Canal.

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“It was an eye-opening experience,” said Eric E. Eickmeier, a senior forestry major from Monticello, Ill. “I was taken into a wilderness — another world. There’s something about being there — you get so much more out of it than you do just seeing a picture.” Eickmeier was one of 11 SIUC students

enrolled in the field course, eight days of non-stop activity aimed at combining the science of rainforest conservation with the art of “soundscape” recording in the Panama Canal Watershed. Held for the first time during SIUC’s spring break in 2008, the course grew out of joint research projects conducted in the area


species; helped release into safe areas animals removed from the canal expansion sites; traveled by dugout canoe to an Embera village to meet, learn from and eat with these indigenous people; walked one of birdwatching’s most famous trails; snorkled among coral reefs; kayaked; visited colonial ruins; got the lowdown on peregrine falcon breeding; and, after days of negotiating for security clearances, saw for themselves the sheer scale of Panama’s push to make its canal the world’s premier shipping channel. For Eickmeier, who described himself as “a huge outdoor and animal person,” it was, surprisingly, the Embera people who made the greatest impression on him.

Students take advantage of a photo op at the site of Panama’s ongoing canal expansion project. Panama officials granted entry to this limited-access site because of a longstanding working relationship with the course’s instructors.

by Andrew D. Carver, associate professor of forestry, and Jay F. Needham, assistant professor of radio-television. Carver, active in Panama since the decade’s start, had teamed up with Needham during the previous spring break with the idea of capturing sounds as a way of documenting both wildlife presence and noise pollution. Both saw the teaching opportunities such an experience would afford students and made it a priority to take them there. Needham, an artist and documentarian who specializes in sound, said noise often bombards pristine places because sound “doesn’t play by the rules of geography.” “Our data will reveal a lot about sounds invading that natural environment and what it means for the quality of life of both humans and animals,” he said. The canal’s watershed includes two national parks, a wildlife preserve, one of the world’s top birding trails and EcoParque Panama, nearly a thousand acres of tropical

forest abutting both the canal and Panama City. The whole area teems with life: More than 2,500 types of plants, 159 species of mammals and 564 kinds of birds flourish in the dense woods. “The biodiversity is so accessible — you don’t have to travel hours and hours to see animals,” Carver said. “Multiple times I have stopped traffic to move sloths across the road on my way in from the airport.” While the students received two to three credits for completing the field course, Carver and Needham tried to make it more of a research expedition than a class, immersing them in grassroots rainforest conservation through research activities, animal rescue and eco-tourism and meeting with nongovernmental organizations. Over the course of the eight days, the students set up motion-and-heat-triggered “camera traps” to add to the data on wildlife

It wasn’t on the syllabus, but forestry major Brendan P. Scahill adds snake handling to his assignments during the ecology field course, which drew 11 students from the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Mass Communications & Media Arts.

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This little frog, the world’s tiniest teacher, helped demonstrate to students the vast biodiversity of the Panama Canal Watershed.

“I don’t even know how to describe it — it was on a whole other level,” he said. “These people still dress as they always have, they have all this medical knowledge of how plants have been used for thousands and thousands of years, they show a great respect for the environment they live in, and they try to put more into the land than they’re taking out.” Their welcoming nature touched him, especially in light of the loss of their land and their growing dependence on eco-tourism. He’s not sure when or how, but he knows he’ll go back to Panama, and he wants to work with them when he does. For Joshua P. Gumiela of Burtrum, Minn., a graduate student working on his master of fine arts degree, the experience was more of an “ear-opener.” “I live through my ears,” he said. “Pretty

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much everywhere I went I was recording. Being immersed in that environment and hearing all those new sounds was an amazing experience.” The trip taught Burtrum something about how environmental noise encroaches on natural “soundscapes,” affecting the animals living there. Although he has done a lot of field recording on his own, this was the first time he’d worked on a project that he hopes will bring about some awareness of the sonic environment and perhaps even some change. The experience engaged him sufficiently that he, too, would like to return, particularly to the areas where growth is so rapidly taking place. His Panama research trip has given him a certain sense of urgency about capturing the sounds while they can still be a heard. “In a year or two, everything will be completely gone,” he said.

A tree in a Panama rain forest dwarfs forestry major Jolene Wright.


Afghanistan’s farmers, struggling to grow crops with very little water, are getting some help from the College of Agricultural Sciences

An Afghan research farm worker shows a fruit tree seedling with roots badly damaged by a fungal disease.

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n March 2008, the College embarked upon a three-year, $20 million federal project called AWATT — short for Afghanistan Water, Agriculture and Technology Transfer. Also involving agriculture experts from Colorado State University, New Mexico State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-

Champaign as well as the central and four regional universities, government ministries and other agencies in Afghanistan, the project focuses on: Developing a national water management plan for the country; determining the best means of increasing its ability to grow crops; fostering agricultural research and extension; and

designing policy changes related to access and use of land and water. While New Mexico State administers the grant, the College and the University of Illinois bring in-country perspective to the work. They have a number of ongoing and completed projects there as well as cooperative agreements

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with most of Afghanistan’s major regional universities. In addition, faculty members have worked with Afghan counterparts as well as with several international agencies. For AWATT, the 12 COAS team members are involved in most of the project’s training and extension portions, interfacing with the end users of the appropriate technologies and helping integrate them into both the university communities and the daily lives of the farmers.

In-country work on the project began last July when team members, including College agribusiness economist Phillip R. Eberle, emeritus faculty member Roger J. Beck and alumnus Robert Grassberger (the latter two now at New Mexico State), met in Kabul with officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock and the U.S. Agency for International Development. They also made site visits to various agriculture-related

businesses and to Kabul University. The following month, COAS members John W. Groninger and Charles M. Ruffner from the Department of Forestry along with Oval Myers and S. Alan Walters from the Department of Plant, Soil and Agricultural Systems made their own visits to ministry and USAID officials in Kabul and visited a demonstration farm before heading to the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, home of Balkh

Top To Bottom: Alan Walters points to alfalfa, a high-value cash crop, planted among young fruit trees in an orchard. Afghan vendors set up a small fruit and vegetable market on the road from Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif. Team members inspect a crop of tomatoes drying in the sun.

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Team members (from left) Alan Walters, Agha Jabarkhil, Abdul Qayyum Ansari, Oval Myers, John Groninger and Charles Ruffner stand on the banks of the Balkh-Ab River, which supplies water for irrigating agricultural land.

University. While there, they made day trips to several farms, a sawmill, a desert and a river basin before returning to Kabul for additional meetings with government and agency officials. “Our major goal was to identify, meet and interact with cooperators and to identify problems that will lead to opportunities in terms of technology transfer,” Myers said shortly after his return.

“We want to fill in the gaps, not reinvent wheels that are already turning. We now know enough to know where the gaps are, we have a field team in place, and we can begin implementing things in the field so that measurable accomplishments can begin to happen.” Plant diseases and pests present farmers their single biggest challenge, Myers said,

causing significant crop losses — as much as 80 to 90 percent — at farms they visited. Other needs include identifying the best horticultural germplasm for various parts of the country, increasing fuel and fodder crops that can grow on dry sites, controlling soil erosion and forest management training. Additional team trips to Afghanistan early in 2009 were in the works at press time.

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A new look, a new way of doing business at a longstanding College center

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hey may resemble the offspring of a tent and a Quonset hut, but the College of Agricultural Sciences’s new dairy barns save money, make money and expand both teaching and research opportunities. Made of translucent, heat-blocking fabric stretched over steel frames, they went up in four days. The fabric cuts summer cooling costs and lets in a lot of light. “In the old building, we needed ten to 20

lights,” said dairy foreman Chet E. Stuemke “We use three now, and that’s probably one too many. ” Time spent in natural light also makes for happy cows, and a happy cow gives more milk. Stuemke has seen milk production per cow rise roughly 10 percent since the move to the new digs. It’s better milk, too, as shown by its somatic cell count (the number of bacteria-fighting cells; a high count can indicate the presence of infection). The count dropped almost

immediately after the barns went up to more than 100,000 cells below the industry standard, which has greatly increased the price the milk brings in. The new barns’ thick sawdust floors make for a healthier herd. The cows have fewer udder infections, hoof problems and swollen knees and hocks since moving off the old barns’ concrete floors. The sawdust floors also keep the cows warmer and drier with heat generated by the mix

As veterinarian Steve Overstreet wields the transducer, students in the College of Agricultural Science’s dairy management class get their first glimpse of a calf on the ultrasound machine’s screen. Overstreet checks the herd monthly for pregnancies as part of the dairy’s new emphasis on breeding.

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale


of decomposing sawdust and animal waste. “We have to clean it out only once a year instead of every 30 days like we did before, and we can use the compost on the fields, so we create a recycling circle,” Stuemke said. The new barns have helped out with breeding, too. Cows in heat mount other cows, indicating breeding readiness. On concrete, they’re sometimes less sure of their footing, so hesitate about standing on only two feet. On softer surfaces they show no such caution. “In the new barns, we began to see signs of estrus almost immediately,” Stuemke said. “Two days after we put up the barn, we bred eight cows, and we were breeding cows for three weeks after that.” Breeding is playing a larger part in the dairy’s operation as the College looks to boost income. Stuemke is breeding cows to produce both more milk and more calves and to remain productive for seven to ten years rather than three. He has bought 20 new cows since his arrival in 2005, aiming to improve the herd’s genetics. He’s also changed the breeding schedule to produce two-thirds of the dairy’s calves in the fall and the other third in the spring to facilitate the dairy’s cash flow. The barns also offer learning experiences for students, especially those who work there. Stuemke listens to all their suggestions, implementing the best ones. When it comes to research, the new facility truly shines. Easily reconfingured, it allows four different housing and feed set-ups. Current research includes a trial substituting a biodiesel by-product for a portion of corn rations and one substituting canola for alfalfa. Researchers will also look at using readily available soybean chaff rather than harder-tofind sawdust in the bed pack. While the old-fashioned barns had a certain nostalgia value, the new ones have moved the dairy into the present, enabling it to meet today’s challenges and gear up for those of tomorrow — quite a feat for a pair of oddlooking buildings at the side of the road.

Dairy Feed Alternatives

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iscovering a use for the crude glycerol generated by biodiesel manufacturing could mean the difference between a boom and a fizzle. As crude glycerol and corn are both carbohydrates with similar energy values, animal scientist Amer AbuGhazaleh says adding it to animal feed could solve problems for both the industry and for livestock owners. “Twenty-five to 35 percent of what cows eat every day is corn, and the price of corn has almost tripled in the last four years,” AbuGhazaleh said. Glycerol couldn’t take the place of corn, but AbuGhazaleh feels fairly certain it could fill in for as much as 15 percent with no adverse effects on appetite, digestion, milk production or milk composition. If crude glycerol substituted for just 15 percent of the corn in dairy cows’ daily diet, the potential market for crude glycerol in Illinois alone would be close to 60 to 75 million pounds annually. “At 15 percent replacement, dairy producers would save at least $100 per head on feed each year,” AbuGhazaleh said. He also looked at replacing 30 percent and 45 percent of the corn with crude glycerol. At the higher rates, the glycerol-corn mixtures proved less digestible, resulting in less milk. But AbuGhazaleh found the amounts of volatile fatty acids propionate and butyrate produced

in the rumen went up, while acetate declined. Propionate aids milk production; butyrate improves rumen tissue health. Lower acetate levels cut methane production. AbuGhazaleh thinks adding fiber-digesting enzymes to the glycerol-corn mix could solve the digestibility problem while keeping the volatile fatty acid benefits, a theory he and SIUC dairy foreman Chet E. Stuemke are now testing. “To our knowledge, it’s the first study to evaluate the use of these enzymes in diets containing crude glycerol,” AbuGhazaleh said. “Using them would not add to producers’ costs because fiber-digesting enzymes are not expensive and are commonly used.” Economist Phillip R. Eberle is working with the pair to determine how much dairy farmers could save by substituting crude glycerol for corn. The team expects to report results of the project, funded by the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research, sometime this year. Before he’d recommend this, however, AbuGhazaleh wants to test mixed rations through an entire lactation season, rather than just for three to four weeks, to make sure they have no ill effects on health or fertility. Assuming good results, AbuGhazaleh could see a ripple effect for glycerol-corn rations. “It could be extended to other livestock animals beef cows, hogs, chicken, sheep and goats,” he said.

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PASSING THE RESEARCH BATON

AUTUMN Autumn OliveOLIVE Reviled REVILED An ongoing undergraduate study pinpoints just what’s wrong with this invasive shrub

Among a stand of trees from which he has cut down all the autumn olive, Andrew J. Somor samples the water in the soil, looking for traces of nitrate.

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olks used to like autumn olive. It smelled good, grew fast on poor soil, sheltered and fed birds and other wildlife, controlled erosion and made former strip mine sites look less naked. But then this kindly shrub turned thuggish. Helped in its spread by people, birds and beasts, it took over more and more land, shouldering out native species that couldn’t keep up with its speedy, dense growth. As if that weren’t enough, autumn olive roots manufacture nitrogen out of the air; in effect, the tree becomes its own fertilizer factory. Where you have fertilizer, you have the potential for water contamination. That’s where a longstanding research project run by forestry students in the College of Agricultural Sciences comes in. The original researcher, Jennie M. Church who did her thesis on the water quality impacts of autumn olive, hypothesized that autumn olive fixed more nitrogen than it could use; the excess then leached into the water.

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale

She found, and a subsequent study by Christine L. Goldstein confirmed, that areas of autumn olive and associated nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria produced significantly more nitrate than did nearby grassy areas. “It was sort of unexpected because ecological theory suggests that these kinds of plants make only enough nitrogen to meet their own needs,” said Andrew J. Somor, who looked at nitrate levels in streams from watershed areas containing autumn olive stands. Goldstein and Somor both found those areas with more stands had higher nitrate concentrations in their streams. Somor went on to examine the link between water quality and active management of autumn olive, looking at what would happen to nitrate leaching. both immediately and over time, with autumn olive removed. At SIUC’s Touch of Nature Environmental Center, Somor marked out nine plots of old stands dominated by autumn olive. He left three alone, chopped down the autumn olive in three others and in the last three not only removed the autumn olive but applied Brush-B-Gone to the stumps. He next installed equipment to sample soil water in all nine plots and in December 2007 began taking samples twice weekly. Given the previous studies, results seem a bit surprising. Nitrate levels in the cut areas surpassed those in the untouched plot. “We think that when you cut away the vegetative canopy, you expose the soil to more sunlight, more warmth, more water, and the soil organisms become more active — plus there’s all that dead material for them to convert into nitrate,” Somor said. “The assumption is that once you get the initial flush of nitrate from increased microbial activity and new vegetation starts to grow, in the next season nitrate levels would decrease.” The researchers assume, but they don’t know. That’s the value of an ongoing project like this one, said Karl Williard, who has served as the faculty advisor on the projects. “Disturbing sites in this manner always boosts microbial activity,” he noted. “But it will be interesting to see if and when the nitrate levels begin to decrease due to the autumn olive removal as we keep measuring over the next couple of years.” While Somor has gone on to grad school, Derek Evans, a senior in forestry, has stepped in to take his place. “That’s one of the hallmarks of our program,” Williard said. “We help students get their research off the ground, make sure they’re collecting their data in the correct manner and help with the analysis, but the students are the ones who do the work. I like that student focus — it’s one of the big reasons I am here.”


The Root Of The Matter

Graduate researcher looks for solutions to a costly horseradish problem

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raduate student Frank A. Dorris comes by his interest in horseradish naturally. His father farmed in the Metro East area, horseradish capital of America. “I grew up raising horseradish, and all the growers I’m working with have known me my whole life,” said Dorris, whose master’s research focuses on the plant’s genetics and the fungal pathogens that discolor its roots. While the pathogens don’t affect flavor, processors want only white, unblemished roots. Bleaching them can restore the desired look but adds to the cost and cuts into profits. And, as often happens with fungal diseases, when the pathogens get into the soil, you can’t get them out. “Once you have this, you have it for life,” Dorris said. “They’ve tried fungicides, but that hasn’t been shown to be effective, though researchers are still working in that area. But at this point, the only way to get around it is through tissue culture (creating new plants from root tissues previously treated to kill the pathogen) and breeding techniques.” As a first step in breeding for resistance to the disease, Dorris is analyzing the genetic make-up of 30 horseradish cultivars. The group includes those commonly grown by farmers as well as some old lines that have fallen out of favor. It also includes three cultivars developed by Dorris’ research mentor, S. Alan Walters, a College horticulture expert who heads the state horseradish breeding program. The idea is that close relatives of the most tolerant cultivars may

have some resistance themselves. Crosses between these cultivars might produce new ones that could better withstand fungal assaults. “Breeders of corn and soybeans have done this kind of work to improve their crops,” Dorris noted. “This is the next step for horseradish, though genetic analysis on it has never been done before — it’s an unknown.” Dorris also is comparing DNA of horseradish plant samples from growers’ fields with that from the cultivars from which they were originally taken. Since horseradish is asexually propagated, growers who save their own rootstock every year may have mislabeled their fields, thereby inadvertently growing something different from what they believe they’re selling to processors. This testing is the only way to be sure they are growing what they say they are. In related work, Dorris is finishing a three-year study comparing discoloration rates, yield and root quality of 19 of the cultivars whose genetic make-up he’s tracked, including the three Walters bred. Because of weather-related delays in harvesting, final data was unavailable at press time. Dorris hopes his results will lead to better protection for growers and greater diversity in the breeding program, but he’s certain it will advance the field of plant science in general. “I may be working on horseradish, but (this work) could cross over into other crops,” he said.

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C W R E A

NE S E

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TRAILBLAZERS

A beef nutritionist believes certain ethanol byproducts could cut feed costs dramatically for beef cattle and cow-calf operations

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hen ethanol plants use distillation and fermentation to turn corn’s starch into fuel, the corn’s remaining fat, minerals, vitamins and fiber concentrate into a nutrient-dense residue known as distillers’ grains. Some are wet, some are dry, depending on how they are fermented. Traditional rations for cattle include both corn for energy and soybean meal for protein. With the skyrocketing cost of corn, producers are turning to distillers’ grains, either to supplement corn rations or, in some cases, as a substitute, in order to offset feed expenses. Their use requires some caution. In feeding their animals sufficient distillers’ grains to get the energy benefit, producers may wind up with too much protein. Protein includes sulfur-containing amino acids. Too much sulfur can lead to sulfur poisoning, causing animals to wander blindly, stumbling about. In pregnant animals, too much protein can produce a larger fetus, which could result in problems with labor and delivery. While research on both wet and dry distiller’s grains has shown they safely can comprise as much as 40 percent of a feedlot steer’s diet with no ill effects, no one knows what would happen if the distillers’ grains component exceeded 40 percent. Nor has anyone looked at the effects of a diet containing distillers’ grains on pregnant cows. Beef nutritionist Rebecca L. Atkinson, who joined the College of Agricultural Sciences in 2006, is working with dried distillers’ grains in both areas. Funding for her research comes from the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Illinois Beef Association. One of Atkinson’s studies focuses on steers fed rations that include a high percentage of dried distillers’ grains. In addition to finding out just

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale

how much can be added, she will measure meat quality traits such as tenderness, juiciness and marbling. Because some research has indicated that dietary distillers’ grains can boost the production of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are good for the heart and arteries, she’s checking for evidence of that in her lab as well. “If dried distillers’ grains increase the content of unsaturated fatty acids and decrease saturated fatty acids, then retail cuts from these animals can be sold as a value-added products — and would give consumers an alternative to fish,” Atkinson said. She also is breaking new ground with another study looking at the effects of this supplement on pregnant and lactating cows. She is particularly interested in whether a diet containing distillers’ grains makes labor and birth more difficult and whether cows fed that diet while pregnant subsequently have more difficulty conceiving. Although she has not yet collected all her data, Atkinson finds preliminary results from

both studies encouraging. She has been able to push the distillers’ grains portion of the steers’ diets to 70 percent without causing sulfur toxicity problems or loss of appetite. “This is the first trial to ever successfully exceed 60 percent inclusion in the feedlot diet without detrimental effects on steer intake,” Atkinson said. “However, I think further research will be needed before animal nutritionists would recommend an inclusion rate of 70 percent.” To achieve the best average daily weight gain and the most efficient use of feed, it worked best to start the animals on the 70 percent ration and then decrease the distillers’ grains portion to 40 percent about halfway through the feeding period. However, these animals had more body fat, which could lower the price they’d bring on the market. To get a leaner carcass required starting the steers at 40 percent and switching to 70 percent halfway through. No matter what the feeding regimen, all cuts of meat received quality grades of low choice or better with some grading prime; prime and choice are the top two USDA grades consumers would find at the grocery store. As for the reproductive study, Atkinson found that distillers’ grains could comprise as much as 55 percent of the feed ration without adversely affecting delivery, calf birth weight, the weight or condition of the cow or her subsequent conception rate. “It’s important to realize that research of this nature typically has to be repeated before final conclusions are made,” Atkinson said. Both studies are continuing through this year. If end results bear out preliminary findings, farmers will have more options in a world of rising prices.


Education goes Higher New program begins for tomorrow’s professionals in academia, industry and government

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Foreword Weighing the Cache Done to Scale Raising Cane Where Water Meets the Road Golden Opportunity Tropics of Interest Desert Streams Dairy Goes 21st Century Autumn Olive Reviled The Root of the Matter Trailblazers Education Goes Higher

ast fall, the College of Agricultural Sciences at Soutern Illinois University Carbondale became one of only two such colleges in the state to offer a doctorate. Planned to complement its counterpart at the University of Illinois, it is a 60-credit hour interdisciplinary program, offered through the college rather than its individual departments. Among its features: a core curriculum, required of all students, as well as 20 hours of structured courses in such specialty areas as plant and soil sciences, forestry, agricultural systems, animal science, food and nutrition, and agribusiness economics. The core, designed to meet the needs of students in both biological and social sciences, focuses on experimental design, research and teaching communications. “This degree is right for the times because so much in academia, industry and government requires an interdisciplinary approach now,” said Dean Gary L. Minish

Eight students are currently enrolled in the program with a target of 20 enrolled by the fifth year and a graduation rate of about 10 candidates annually from that point on. In addition to those who plan on academic careers, Minish expects the program to draw students already employed in various agriculture-related industries and government agencies because of its flexibility in accommodating them. These students may approach their studies a little differently — perhaps completing some of their work online or performing research in employers’ labs. Faculty members, who helped put the program together, are enthusiastic now that the effort has finally come to fruition. “I’ve heard nothing but excitement,” Minish said. “They waited a long time for this to happen.”

At the Helm John E. Preece, professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, became the College of Agricultural Science’s first director of graduate studies April 1, 2008. Responsible for graduate education in the college, Preece oversees admissions, assistantships, orientation, assessment, program reviews and marketing efforts, among other duties. He also shepherded the college’s new doctoral program through the approval process and played a key role in implementing it. “He was an excellent choice because of his experience in graduate education both in his department and at the university level, and he knows the new Ph.D. program better than anyone, having worked on it from start to finish,” said Dean Gary L. Minish. Preece’s initial tasks focused on having a fully operational graduate program in place in time for the fall semester. He also held a seminar

for faculty, staff and graduate students to bring them up to date and open lines of communication about the program. “Long term, he will look at the master’s degree programs so we can move toward a more concentrated effort on recruiting and assistantships,” Minish said. “We have increased the level of what’s going on in graduate education, so we really need someone to coordinate it.”

Preece, who came to SIUC in 1980 as an assistant professor, has been a member of 63 master’s and doctoral committees and has directed graduate studies in his home department since 2002. He has twice served on his department’s Graduate Policy Committee and has been part of the university’s Graduate Council for 12 years, including a two-year stint as chair. His research interests include vegetative propagation, plant hormones, tissue culture, hydroponics and bioenergy. He continues longstanding work with silver maples, focusing now on biomass and syrup production from cloned trees. He also is evaluating growth regulators and micro-propagating black walnut, oakleaf hydrangea and hibiscus, among other projects. A New Hampshire native, Preece earned his bachelor’s in 1970 from the University of New Hampshire and his master’s and doctoral degrees in 1977 and 1980 respectively from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.


Water

Tropics of Interest Desert Streams 21st Century Dairy Autumn Olive Root of the Matter

NON-PROFIT ORG. U. S. Postage PAID Permit No. 15 Carbondale, IL

Also Inside:

College of Agricultural Sciences Agriculture Building - Mailcode 4416 Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1205 Lincoln Drive Carbondale, Illinois 62901

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S o u t h e r n I l l i n o is U n i v e r si t y C a r b o n da l e C o l l e g e o f A g r ic u lt u r a l S ci e n c e s

Southern Illinois University Carbondale - AgriSearch Magazine 2009  

A magazine showcasing the scholarly activities of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

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