Page 1

The Changing Fate Of Oaks War Zone Valuable Cargo Global Agriculture In Disarray Farm To School

Also Inside:

1 0 2




S o uthe r n I l l i n o is U n ive r sit y C a r b o n da l e C o l l ege o f A g r icu ltu r a l S cie n ces

8 10 14 18 20

4 10

what’s inside



1 4 7 8 10 14 18 20 22 23 24

Foreword Big Rivers Real Trailblazer The Changing Fate Of Oaks War Zone Valuable Cargo Global Agriculture In Disarray Farm To School Trailblazers A Gift Horse Class Acts


College of Agricultural Sciences Mickey A. Latour, Dean Todd A. Winters, Associate Dean Karen L. Jones, Director of Graduate Programs Jeff Beaulieu, Interim Chair, Agribusiness Economics Gary Apgar, Interim Chair, Animal Science, Food and Nutrition James J. Zaczek, Chair, Forestry Brian P. Klubek, Chair, Plant, Soil and Agricultural Systems Brian G. Young, Assistant to the Associate Dean Susan Graham, Business Manager and Contributor University Communications Mike Ruiz, Director Tim Crosby, Staci Schoenfeld, Writers Jay Bruce, Amy Dion, Nathan Krummel, Designers Russell Bailey, Steve Buhman, Photography Send Comments and Letters to: College of Agricultural Sciences AgriSearch Magazine Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1205 Lincoln Drive Mail Code 4416 Carbondale, IL 62901

foreword P

revious issues of AgResearch focused on Soy, Water, Food and Green. These excellent issues are testaments to our traditional ag roots. This year my colleagues and I wanted to take a different approach. We chose the topic of health because it is not a topic many folks associate with colleges of agriculture. We decided to view health through different lenses and found that health accurately describes what many faculty researchers do. In this issue, we examine ranges of issues: from microscopic to macroscopic, from fungi to global, from plants to humans. And we work in unusual places such as in and on rivers, in classrooms and in forests. SIUC’s College of Agricultural Sciences faculty, staff and students are truly exceptional. My goal for this issue of AgResearch was to reflect the excellence of our people. I think with the help of faculty contributors, my staff (Susan Graham) and the great artistry of the SIUC’s University Communications crew, that we have accomplished a product worthy of our people. For it is our faculty, staff and students that are solving real world problems for the people of Illinois and are making our world a healthier place. Please check out stories about some of our finest new faculty and students in the Trailblazers and Class Acts sections. Of special note is the graduation of our first doctoral student. Dr. Kaotar El Mounadi graduates Fall 2012 after completing her dissertation work on fungal mycotoxins under the direction of Dr. Ahmad Fakhoury. We also lost our founding Dean, Dr. Wendell Keepper at the age of 100. A tribute to his memory is included on the back cover. The loss of Dean Keepper is offset somewhat with the hiring of a new Dean, Dr. Mickey Latour who has a new vision for our college. I am sure we will see Dean Latour’s influence on research in subsequent issues. I for one can hardly wait to see what the college has in store for us in the coming years. I hope you enjoy the issue.

Karen L. Jones, Director of Graduate Programs

Printed by the authority of the State of Illinois, 1/13, 1M, and printing order number. Produced by University Communications, Southern Illinois University Carbondale 618 | 453.2276,

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences


The number of farm-to-school programs, which use local farms as food suppliers for school meals programs, increased to 2,095 in 2009, up from 400 in 2004 and 2 in the 1996-97 school year, according to the National Farm to School Network. Source:

Technology advances have produced new varieties of soybeans that deliver the yields needed to feed a growing world, but do not require tillage (plowing). Eliminating tillage decreases the farmers’ use of fuel and pesticides/herbicides that are subject to run-off and water contamination. Source: farming/#slide14


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

The majority (69.9 percent) of Americans consider sustainability when choosing food products at the grocery store. Female shoppers have a stronger interest (82.1 percent) when compared to men (69.9 percent). Source:

India contributes about 48 percent of the world’s market for spices. The growing global Almost 3.6 million people die each year from a water-related disease.

demand for spices throws up several challenges mainly related to food sustainability, traceability and safety standards.

That is equal to the entire population of Los Angeles.

Source: pune/31045856_1_spices-board-spice-industry-food-safety


A growing world population is leaving millions hungry. At the same time, expanding incomes in other parts of the world have placed a greater demand on the food supply. The United Nations has challenged industrialized nations to increase food production by 50 percent by the year 2030 to “avoid a global catastrophe.”

A 2003 study in the ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’ found that portion sizes increased significantly from 1977 to 1998, with the percentage varying with the food type. The greatest increases occurred in the fast food industry. Another factor is activity. According to the Surgeon General, less than one-third of American adults follow physical activity recommendations. Source:

Source: sustainable_farming/#slide9

Historically, obesity primarily afflicted adults, but this has changed in the last two decades. Now, 15-25 percent of American children and adolescents are obese. Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese in adulthood and to develop obesity-related health problems. Source:

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences




Nutrition researcher dives into obesity problem among river barge crews


Southern Illinois University Carbondale


he food onboard the river barge towboats is good, maybe a little too good. From meatloaf, to fried fish to potatoes and gravy, the daily fare on the hundreds of barge-pushing craft traversing inland rivers is filling, satisfying and delicious. In a no small way, the generous portions and great taste help define the unique culture of riverboat crew members, some 33,000 of whom are responsible for moving

Researchers from SIU Carbondale gather body mass index data from riverboat barge crew members as part of study they are conducting.

huge quantities of agricultural products and supplies around the nation and beyond. But those meals, while tasty, also may represent a serious health risk to the crews who partake of it in stints lasting 21-30 days every other month.

A food and nutrition researcher at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is delving into the little-studied issue of obesity among riverboat crewmembers. She is investigating the connection between the crewmembers’ larger waistlines and their work place, which for weeks at a time consists of little sleep, tiny decks, narrow corridors and all-you-can-eat Southern-style cuisine. Dawn Null, instructor in the Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition, began examining the issue after a professor at another institution contacted her about training river towboat cooks on food safety and healthy cooking. Once arriving in that world in 2010, Null saw an opportunity for groundbreaking research on a workforce niche most never see up close and that exists on the rolling waters of the Ohio, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri and Cumberland rivers. For Null, it was a question ripe for investigation. “It was just too interesting to pass up,” she said. “I grew up in between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and that’s where we learned to water ski. I would see these boats, and I just thought they made nice waves for us. I knew nothing about them.” That’s hardly the case now, as Null continues to log hours of cruise time with these hard-working crews, while also conducting hundreds of interviews, surveys, training sessions and body measurement data collection with them. Obesity and chronic health problems go hand-in-hand, and Null is working with at least six barge companies that are trying to find ways to keep their crews

healthier as insurance costs skyrocket. Along the way, she hopes to write a dissertation and publish more results of her research on the subject, which has garnered little attention from health researchers in the past. Barge traffic on inland rivers is just as critical to the economy as it is unique. It is the most efficient means of moving grains and other bulk goods, with just one barge carrying

“Something could easily happen to them and if they’re pushing 40,000 tons of cargo when it happens and they hit a bridge, it could be a catastrophe.” as much as 15 jumbo railcars or 54 trucks. It is key to agricultural industries. A major impetus for the Null’s work and companies and employees cooperating is a new set of rules that they anticipate the Coast Guard handing down in a few years. The Coast Guard, which sets the rules and regulations for inland waterways and the five-year merchant mariner credentials for river towboat wheelhouse officers, is expected to tighten up the physical requirements for such crewmembers. The change could have a major impact on all aspects of the river barge transportation industry. Currently, the requirements are fairly lax in terms of crew members’ “body mass index” or BMI, which is a number assigned to

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences


an individual based on their weight-toheight ratio, sex, waist size and other factors. For example, health officials consider a normal BMI to be between 18.5 and 24.9. Someone with a BMI of about 27 would be considered overweight and may appear to have a “husky” build, while those above 30 are considered obese. The current Coast Guard BMI requirement for barge towboat wheelhouse officers, however, is 40 or lower. Null said a BMI of 40 or in the high 30s is considered “extremely obese” and can be a major risk factor for chronic disease and disability. Even so, if such a crewmember has a BMI of more than 40, they can still qualify for credentials if they are able to pass a physical abilities test by the Coast Guard. Such tests, Null said, are not very demanding. The coming change could have a big impact, Null said. “It has a lot of people concerned because they could lose their jobs -- and there will be no grandfathering in of current workers,” she said. “There’s already a shortage wheelhouse officers. So companies are concerned, too, about losing their most experienced workers and leaders. There’s a great deal of training and experience that goes into becoming a captain. “But companies are also concerned about their health of their crews,” Null said. And there is much about the way things work on a towboat that makes obesity and associated chronic health problems a real danger.


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Crewmembers start out as deckhands, where they do physically demanding labor around the clock in six-hour shifts. Doing physically challenging work makes a highcalorie diet sensible to some degree, Null said. But the habits -- not to mention the great food -- are hard to turn away from as crewmembers move up in the ranks and become responsible for labor that is more stressful mentally and not as challenging physically. The shift schedule also plays a role, Null theorizes. Crewmembers work six hours on, six hours off. That means they never get a full eight hours sleep during their sometimes month-long assignments, and they often are eating right before they go to sleep. There is practically no time to exercise if a crewmember wishes to do so. “It’s a real challenge,” Null said. “This environment is very small, and there’s not a lot of room to move around or get exercise. In a wheelhouse, you can sit or you can stand and that’s it. Some captains have said the only exercise they get is going from wheelhouse to kitchen and back.” All that may be up for grabs as the Coast Guard and the barge companies reconsider how to best approach life on the river. “Nutrition has not been the focus, but with discussions with the Coast Guard and rising health care costs it is becoming one,” Null said. Another concern is safety, as heart attack, stroke and diabetes risks are related to obesity and a wheelhouse officer is charged with navigating thousands of tons through twists and

turns in the river and around bridges and other infrastructure. So far, Null’s findings show there is cause for concern. She has found the average BMI for crewmembers is 32, which qualifies as obese. The average waist size is 42 for men, with 40 and over indicating a higher risk for heart attacks. A few waist sizes have topped 60 inches. Also, about 67 percent of the crewmembers smoke, she said. “As we develop more risk factors, our risk of developing heart disease significantly increases. Therefore, a BMI of 32 coupled with a 42-inch waist and smoking only compound the negative effects on your body. And, we can’t forget, one in three adult Americans have high blood pressure; another risk factor for heart disease and other chronic disease’s. ” she said. While conducting the study, which she hopes to publish this year, Null continues training boat cooks and spending time with crewmembers on the river. “This is an industry very much tied to tradition, including the wonderful Southernstyle cooking, so we are trying to initiate small changes that may lead to bigger ones down the road,” she said. “Also, when you take into account the constraints of the towboat and the grueling work schedules, you can see how this environment would be conducive to unhealthy eating and physical inactivity. Fortunately, the companies are supportive of healthy changes, and the crewmembers are starting to pay attention, too. “Baby steps. You can’t change tradition in a day,” she said.

Breaking Ground on an Experimental Horse Trail


here are trailblazers – people at the forefront of their fields, and trailblazers – people who create trails for hikers, bikers, horseback and ATV riders. Luckily for SIU, Dr. Logan Park embodies both definitions. Park, one of perhaps a dozen full-time recreation ecologists in the world, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Forestry. After earning a B. S. in Chemistry at Furman University, he earned a M. S. in Natural Resource Planning at the University of Vermont and a Ph. D. in Forestry at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He recently completed projects in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. One part of the project Park undertook in the Ozarks was measuring and mapping rider-created horse trails and what he learned on that project dovetails nicely with the work he is undertaking in SIU’s backyard. Park said, “We’re building an experimental horse trail hereon campus right in our own backyards in the university farm system. Most of that area is made up of fields and traditionally recognizable agriculture and part of it is forested, and that’s what our department uses.” Groundbreaking will occur in the fall of 2012 and the trail should be completed in just a few weekends. It will accommodate students in the Equine Studies program as well as those who take horseback riding classes. Although the horses enjoy over 100 acres of pasture and students ride in both indoor and outdoor rings, if a student wants to take a horse for a ride, they often end up on Minetree Road. The mile-long trail Park is building will make horseback riding safer and more pleasurable. “We’re building this horse trail on the edge of campus and we get to run experiments on it from the get-go. A lot of research projects in my particular field, recreation ecology, look at trail systems that have been there for ten years, fifty, a hundred years and measure changes across time, but without that baseline set of measurements

you are missing a really important piece of the picture,” Park said. Erosion is of particular concern here in Southern Illinois since the soil here is loess, a super-fine particulate blown in from Missouri and other states to our west. Loess is very fertile and great for farming, but since it does not stick to itself well, it can create major problems on a trail where horseriding occurs. “Horses walk just like we do by pushing off with the tip of their toe at the end of their stride, but a horse’s hoof is very hard and sharp, so it can dig in and throw that dirt backwards. If they’re walking up a slope, they’re pushing off much harder, which is why there is a very strict set of recommendations for how steep can you have a horse trail. Not very steep, otherwise you’re going to be fixing that trail constantly,” Park said. Building a horse trail isn’t as easy as saddling a horse and creating a path by taking it for a ride. A trail designer needs to take into consideration the resources used to create the trail, the maintenance of the trail (both as it is being created and after), and how the trail will be used. “You build with a very careful eye toward the landscape. One of the main things that defines how fast a trail is going to erode is how well does it stay at approximately the same elevation. If it is completely perpendicular to the contour, it’s going straight up and down hill, that’s the maximum kinetic energy to run and transport that soil away,” Park said. Portions of the trail will be designed with a variety of vegetative cover, primarily native grasses, or gravel aggregate in order to see which ground cover works best to combat the problem of erosion. The trail will be between six to eight feet wide with a buffer zone built in by trimming back the vegetation on either side which will increase rider maneuverability and safety. Finally, Park notes that a horse trail “not only has to be functional, it has to be beautiful, it is almost like designing a consumer product, but one you experience, not hold.” 2012 College of Agricultural Sciences



sk anyone living in Southern Illinois on May 8, 2009, and chances are good that they will answer with a detailed story about the where they were when the derecho hit. The straightline windstorm with its hurricane-strength gusts, tornadoes, and flood-producing rain devastated the region, causing over $58 million in damage in a single day from southeast Kansas to western Kentucky. The derecho, however, provided a ready-made research project for Forestry professor Dr. Eric Holzmueller. Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Holzmueller went to school at Iowa State University where he received his B.S. and M.S. in Forestry. He went on to earn his PhD in Forest Ecology at University of Florida and started work here at SIU in 2007, just months before the derecho hit. Holzmueller’s post-derecho research centers on the Larue-Pine Hills lands in the Shawnee National Forest which cover approximately 1000 hectares (almost 2500 acres). The plots he and his fellow researchers focused on had a sample size of about 150 hectares (about 15% of the total area, approximately 370 acres). “These plots were established in the 1990’s by Dr. Phil Robertson in Plant Biology. We had just re-sampled them, looking at another forest health project the year before the storm. We’d already measured and had the pre-storm data and then the next year it hit, so we were able to go in the following year and look at pre-and-post-storm and see what species were affected the most and what forest type was affected the most. And we didn’t have to guess or find a control area that wasn’t affected by the storm,” Holzmueller said. Working alongside Holzmueller on this research were Dr. David Gibson, a professor in SIU’s Department of Plant Biology, Center for Ecology, and Paul Suchecki, a Johnson City High School science teacher who earned his Master’s degree at SIU. According to Holzmueller, Suchecki “led the charge to collect the plot data. We went out there together and assessed some damage and he collected the data with one of my graduate students, Mike Martinek.” The pre-storm photo seen here was taken in 2009 and the post-storm photo was taken in winter 2010, less than a year after the storm. There are 54 circular plots and each plot measures .04 hectares, Holzmueller said. “Just about every plot had some sort of damage that might range from some branches being down to the entire plot being wiped out. At least 60% of the plots lost at least one tree following the storm.”

THE CHANGING FATE OF OAKS in LaRue-Pine Hil s after the May 8th Derecho


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

One of 54 plots in the LaRue-Pine Hills area of the Shawnee National Forest just prior to the May 8th derecho. Credit Paul Suchecki

A few months later, the same plot shows a striking an example of the damage caused by the straight-line windstorm. Credit Paul Suchecki

What Holzmueller found interesting from a forest health perspective was seeing which trees were able to withstand the damaging winds and which did not make it through the storm. Oaks, in particular, did not do well. Holzmueller and his team found much more devastation amongst the five or six different oak species – including red oak (Quercus rubra), white oak (Quercus alba) and black oak (Quercus velutina) than in other tree species like maple or beech. “We saw a greater loss of oak compared to other species following the storm. We’re really concerned about oaks in Southern Illinois because they are a really valuable timber species, so there is an economic concern, and they’re important for wildlife because of the acorns they produce. There’s been concern that we’re going to lose oaks in the forest because oftentimes we don’t see a lot of oak regeneration, so we don’t see little oak trees underneath the bigger tree,” Holzmueller said.

The reasons for the lack of smaller oak trees coming up are varied, according to Holzmueller, and can include “a lack of harvesting, lack of fire, lack of disturbance in general. Oaks do best in the kind of areas that have been burned over or cut over continuously.” That kind of disturbance, Holzmueller said, “allows oaks to gain dominance in the understory and then once trees in the overstory die or fall over they are replaced with oak seedlings. With the lack of disturbance you don’t see hardly any oaks in the understory and during the derecho we had a greater loss of oaks (both in terms of density and basal area – which is a way of measuring volume). The concern is that the oak overstory is going to be depleted and that’s going to be replaced by maple, beech, and other, less desirable species from an economic and wildlife perspective.” Acorns are a food source for squirrels, deer, turkeys, and other animals. About 100 different animal species eat acorns, Holzmueller said. “In terms of forest health we have the concern of we’re not getting oaks regenerating in our forests and the storm took away a lot of the oaks, and once those oaks are away you lose your seed source. Typically in Southern Illinois, you don’t plant trees. You rely on natural regeneration so what’s there in the woods going to provide the next generation.” There are a few reasons for the lack of tree reseeding in the forests of Southern Illinois – it’s not something that is usually needed and it’s expensive and doesn’t always work. “By not preparing for these natural disasters and not having that regeneration cohort in place, once that overstory gets removed from an unexpected event, your opportunity is lost. So you should always be prepared, particularly in these older forests where they haven’t done a lot of harvesting or there hasn’t been any other disturbance for a long time,” Holzmueller said. This lack of disturbance, whether by fire or another occurrence, leads to mature, top-heavy trees that are not as flexible or resilient as younger trees. Combine older, larger trees with a large amount of rain and strong winds, and the result is that they can be easily wiped out. Holzmueller hopes to take some follow-up measurements in five to ten years to see what kind of trees are coming back. While he expected to see an increase in maple and beech and a decrease in the oak population, there are many variables that could affect the composition of trees seen in the area. For example, an extended drought could change the course of the trees that grow to replace the oaks that were lost. In a drought, maples, tulip poplar, beech don’t do as well. Blackjack and post oaks are more drought tolerant, Holzmueller said. “There will still be trees there. They will just be different.”

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences


Soybeans fight against fungus.


Southern Illinois University Carbondale


soybean field in summer can be the picture of serenity, with its neat, green rows and leaves rustling lightly in the breeze. But researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale know this tranquil scene belies the war taking place -- often at the molecular level -- between the soybean plant and one its chief enemies: fungi. Ahmad Fakhoury, associate professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems in the College of Agricultural Sciences, is squarely on the side of the soybean plant in this battle, which involves airborne invasions, counter attacks and chemicals. Fakhoury and his research partner, Jason Bond, an associate professor in the same department, are leading two multi-state studies funded by the United Soybean Board aimed at helping the valuable plant withstand the onslaught of fungi and fungi-like organisms. As a plant pathologist, Fakhoury studies the things that kill plants: fungi, molds, bacteria and even some viruses. His work is often based in labs, where he conducts the basic science work that Bond then applies and

evaluates in the field. The pair works on corn diseases as well as soybeans. Fakhoury is studying the interaction between the genes and molecules of the fungi and the soybean plants. But it’s not a straight, simple one-on-one comparison. Instead, fungi come in many variations or “races.” At the same time, soybean plants come in many different varieties, or “lines,” as well. The many genes and molecules interact in unique ways and studying the various combination of effects, and then making room for environmental factors, such as soil type and weather, makes the research complex. But where fungi and soybeans are concerned, agriculture leaders have no choice but to go to war. Fungi ranks only behind weeds and insects in terms of destroying crops, including soybeans, Fakhoury said. He credits the organism with 20 to 30 percent of all crop losses each year. His ongoing studies are three-year projects totaling about $1 million each year, with about $150,000 staying at SIU Carbondale.

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences


Fakhoury and Bond are coordinating both studies, leading teams of plant pathologists and plant breeders in a dozen other states. Plant breeders develop the various lines of plants, aiming to strengthen naturally occurring traits, such as resistance to fungi. One of the main fungi culprits Fakhoury and Bond are looking at is called cercospora sojina, which causes something called “frog eye leaf spot” on soybeans in southern areas of the country. Fakhoury says it’s one of the top fungi in terms of soybean destruction and it and its sister pathogens are developing resistance to common fungicides used to control it. “We’re looking at how fast it is building this resistance and its molecular basis,” Fakhoury said. “We want to learn whether there are management practices we can use to counter this trend.” As its name implies, frog eye leaf spot is a foliar disease, which attacks the plants’ ability to synthesize food. The fungi typically live on dead material in the soil throughout the winter, sending out spores that land on soybean plants


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

in spring. Those spores then germinate and send out tentacle-like filaments that creep along the surface of the leaf until they find an opening to enter. From there, the destruction begins. “It basically kills the leaf and that hurts the plant and the amount of seed it can produce,” Fakhoury said. “We don’t know much about how this causes disease. We need to learn why so that we can breed plants for certain resistance traits.” To do this, Fakhoury is using genomics and basic molecular biology to study how the two interact. “One interesting aspect is that we have different races of this fungus, meaning that we know certain populations are more or less aggressive to certain lines of soybeans,” he said. “So we know there is some kind of intimate relationship between certain lines of soybeans and certain races of the fungus. “If you get the two wrong ones together, it can be very bad,” he said. The researchers have found that soybean plants use a variety of strategies to counter the fungus’ tactics. Such methods range

from the structure of leaves to the release of certain chemicals that kill the fungus once the plant senses its presence. One of the mysteries they would like to unlock is exactly how the soybean plant senses the fungus is present. “One possibility is the plant senses a toxin being released by the fungus and reacts to it by releasing its own chemicals,” Fakhoury said. At SIU Carbondale, teams of researchers, graduate students, technicians and undergraduates in three laboratories will test soybean lines, looking at genomic interactions and resistance traits. “Soybean plant breeders have been working on this issue for a long time and they have lines they think are promising that we will help test in the field,” Fakhoury said. A second study Fakhoury and Bond are leading involves mitigating fungi and fungi-like diseases in soybean seedlings. This especially insidious attack can, under the right conditions, devastate an entire field soybean population, Fakhoury said. “We can see this especially with a cool wet spring,” he said.

“There will be no germination or shortly after germination, the seedlings will die. Farmers can lose 60 or 70 percent of their crop when the environment is right.” There are many environmental factors and varieties of fungi involved in this phenomenon, so the study involves institutions in 12 different states, many of which will collect samples to send to SIU Carbondale researchers for testing and identification. Along with understanding how such attacks work, a major goal of the study is to develop a simple test kit that will quickly and cheaply identify fungi and fungi-like organisms’ presence in a field. Just knowing the enemy, Fakhoury said, will empower farmers when they set up defenses. Such a kit, if researchers can develop it, might allow a farmer to test a soil sample on site or send it to a local agriculture support service that can test it. Currently, such testing is slow and expensive, Fakhoury said, but that could change with this research. “We are hoping to develop something that at a certain

point in time in the future an extension agent or farmer can use to determine what is there, or even if they sent a sample to a lab it can be handled quickly and cheaply to identify what is in soil,” he said. “We want to make it so one would need less training to do it. Make it simpler, so that it does not require that high a level of training and machines,” Once a farmer knows what’s in his field agriculture advisers can help them prepare a defense, he said. “We could then tell them these are organisms that you have, so if you have a certain set of weather conditions then you need to use a certain line that is resistant, or chemicals, or you might want to consider treating your seed, because it’s worth the cost in this case,” he said. Another subgroup in the study will test the efficiency of such seed treatments, to evaluate their relative value. Researchers and students will treat seeds and expose them to various fungi in greenhouse experiments. “Farmers pay a lot of money for those treatments, so we

want to see how much they help and under what conditions,” Fakhoury said. A lab at SIU Carbondale will study ways to test for different fungi while a lab at Michigan State University will look at identifying fungi-like organisms, called oomycetes. As enemies go, fungi show no signs of surrender at this point, Fakhoury said. Agriculture leaders must therefore find smarter ways to combat the destruction fungi cause, especially as resistance to fungicides grows. “This family of fungi in particular is developing resistance to fungicides, so farmers are having to use more and more to control it. That is more costly in money and to the environment and it presents logistical challenges in application, too,” Fakhoury said. “We know this is becoming a problem so we’re just trying to monitor it to see where it’s going, how bad it is, and if there is anything we can do to alleviate the problem.”

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences


Valuable Researchers striving for sturgeon health, aquaculture expansion

Fish-lovers have enjoyed the benefits of farm-raised fish for a long, long time. Researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, however, are trying to push that practice one step farther by finding ways to cultivate a fish rarely raised in captivity. And in this case, it’s not the fillet that farmers are after. The shovelnose sturgeon is a fierce-looking creature compared to other aquaculture mainstays, such as tilapia and hybrid striped bass. With its long nose and bumpy, bony back, the fish looks every bit like the prehistoric creature that it truly is. In recent years, however, the female shovelnose has become a much sought-after commodity in the rivers around Southern Illinois. That’s because her cache of eggs – black, salty and inviting -- can help commercial fishers fill the gap left in the worldwide caviar market created by the overfishing of Beluga sturgeon during the last century. Since then, a few sturgeon caviar aquaculture operations have opened around the world. Some in Europe produce Siberian sturgeon while one in California produces huge white sturgeon, which can grow up to 1,800 pounds. That’s where SIU Carbondale and Brian Small, associate professor of animal science, food and nutrition, come in. “Our concern is the Mississippi River system, where we have a different species of sturgeon: the Scaphirhynchus sturgeon -- which includes the pallid and the shovelnose,” Small said. “The shovelnose is still fished in the system for its caviar, but under new laws, fishing boats can’t fish for them where their numbers overlap with the pallid sturgeon, which is on the endangered species list. So the opportunities have decreased for those in the wild. “So we want see if we can develop a shovelnose sturgeon caviar aquaculture industry in the Midwest,” he said.


Southern Illinois University Carbondale


2012 College of Agricultural Sciences


Not only do farmers want to raise the shovelnose for its eggs, other government hatcheries want to raise more pallid sturgeon to pump up their numbers in the wild. Small and his students are studying problems with raising shovelnose and pallid sturgeon in captivity. Two recent studies looked at common problems of what causes stress in the fish, as well as finding a safe sedative to calm their jangled nerves at certain crucial times in their lives. “Whether you’re raising the sturgeon for consumption or numbers enhancement, you’ve got points in the system where there’s stress on the fish,” he said. “So we’re looking at ways of minimizing that stress, which can make a huge difference in survival rates.” If fish farmers can find reliable, efficient ways to raise the shovelnose in captivity, not only will it help them financially, but it also will help protect the shovelnose’s larger and paler cousin, the pallid sturgeon, Small said. Because of their greatly similar appearance, many pallids are mistaken for shovelnose when caught by commercial fishing operations. “If we’re producing shovelnose in captivity, we see several benefits,”


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Small said. “We will reduce pressure on the natural fishery. And it would give farmers and another alternative, highend crop.” Fish raised in aquaculture must be able to tolerate a certain amount of stress. In some cases, fish farmers add sedatives to the water that calm the fish during high-stress times when they are being handled, for instance. One problem, however, is that the only sedative currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, tricaine methanesulfonate or MS-222, requires the fish to remain in captivity for about three weeks before being released into the wild or eaten by humans. This time lapse, called “withdrawal,” gives the sedative time to work its way out of the fish’s system. The industry, therefore, is very interested in finding a zero-withdrawal sedative. And researchers at SIU Carbondale are testing a potential winner. Carlin Fenn, an undergraduate at the time, and post-doctoral student David Glover looked at using a new sedative, which may have the ability to both sedate the fish while leaving it safe for human consumption soon thereafter. The new seadative uses derivatives

of clove oil, a natural substance used as a spice and in human dentistry as a topical numbing agent. The pair, under Small’s guidance, looked at finding the optimum dose that would render the fish “handeable,” a fisheries term that means the fish are sedated enough that they easily handled and manipulated by humans. They experimented with five different doses and different groups of pallid sturgeons and then compared the optimum dose of the new sedative to that of MS-222, as well as how long it took the fish to return to normal behavior. Even though a fish may appear sedated, however, some sedatives can actually increase stress on a fish’s system. The only way to tell its true level of sedation is by looking at the amount of the cortisol hormone the fish produces. Releasing cortisol is wellknown stress response in fish and higher levels of the hormone can lead to bad health effects, including suppressing the fish’s immune system. So the researchers also checked this response by taking blood samples from the fish sedated by the new sedative and MS-222 and comparing them. “So we were able to identify a dose of the new sedative that gave good

If we’re


shovelnose in captivity, we see several

sedation levels and also kept the cortisol levels from going up,” Small said. “We reported our results to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which is looking at approving this product for use.” In another study, Small helped Luke Nelson, at the time an undergraduate and now a master’s student in animal science, in looking at stress response in pallid sturgeon under certain environmental conditions. The researchers looked at stress levels in the fish when they were exposed to high ammonia levels in the water, low dissolved oxygen content and crowded conditions by measuring cortisol in their blood. “Since these fish are being reared in state and federal hatcheries there are chances to be exposed to these conditions, so we wanted to see what effect that had on sturgeon in order find the ideal culture conditions to raise them,” Small said. The pair took blood samples from fish at different time intervals during three separate experiments. They found high ammonia levels had very little effect on the fish, but crowding and low dissolved oxygen levels caused significant levels of stress. Finding optimal conditions to raise the fish is critical in sturgeon, Small said, because the fish takes much longer to bring its product to market. Typically, it takes a couple years before farmers can even sort the male from females, and then it might take another five or six years for a female to bear eggs, which go for about $35 an ounce. All this adds up to a significant investment for the fish farmer. Small said scientists want to find ways to grow the fish faster and much of that will involve its environmental conditions. The shovelnose, with its smaller body size, still produces up to 14 percent of its body weight as eggs - - the same percentage as the giant white sturgeon raised in California. “That means we could grow the same percentage of caviar on a much smaller footprint around here,” Small said. As the research rolls on, Small pointed out SIU Carbondale is a leader in involving undergraduates in research, and continuing that as students move into master’s level work and beyond. “That is super important, and one of things I love about this University,” he said. “I get good students to help with quality research and they get a publication and get to present their research at a conference. The nice thing is that two of the students who did this research as undergrads really found their niche and decided they want to continue on with me and do a master’s program. “It’s a win-win,” he said.


2012 College of Agricultural Sciences



The statistics, according to Dr. Wanki Moon, are sobering: every year rainforest the size of England disappears; 70% of our quickly vanishing fresh water supply is used for agricultural production; by 2050 the estimated population is going to be nine billion, which means that we will need to double our food production if we want to make sure no one goes hungry; and our current agricultural production accounts for one-quarter of all the greenhouse gasses, making it one of the biggest industries that contribute to global warming. An agricultural economist and Associate Professor in the Department of Agribusiness Economics, Moon is originally from Korea. He completed B.S. and M.S. degrees at SungKyun Kwan University, then came to the United States in 1990 to work on his PhD at the University of Florida. Following his time in Gainesville, he did post-graduate work as a research associate at the University of Georgia and started teaching at SIU in 2000. Moon’s focus is the big picture – on the global agricultural system, which he claims is desperately in need of fixing. “Currently the global agricultural system is in disarray. Some scholars call it a crisis, but it’s in disarray – a disorder. One billion people in less developed countries are suffering from malnutrition and hunger and the global agricultural system needs to adapt to climate changes. Large agricultural exporting countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, those tropical/sub-tropical countries have huge potential for expanding their agricultural industries. At the same time they have rainforest, like the Amazon, mostly they are destroying rainforest to expand agricultural production, and the destruction of the


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

rainforest is contributing to global warming. In a nutshell, the global agricultural system needs to increase food production in an ecologically sustainable and geographically balanced manner,” Moon said. The need for better system of global governance stems from the fact that the above problems represent global public goods (climate change, global hunger, water shortages, global balance of food demand and supply). “The benefits of global public goods transcend national boundaries and cannot be confined within the nation who makes the investment needed for the provisioning of global public goods. While nation-states have every reason to provide national public goods (e.g., education, highways, national security) at the right level because of their pivotal role in economic development, they have incentives

to be free-riders in provisioning global public goods under the absence of a world government that has the type of authority of nation-states, causing global public goods to be under-supplied. Consequently, collective actions at the global level through transnational cooperation are critically important for the provision of such public goods at the right level. The Kyoto protocol in 1997 and the Copenhagen agreement in 2009 are good examples of transnational cooperation to provide a global public good (reduction in carbon emissions),” Moon said. While the above broadly depicts agriculture/food problems at the global level, a particular issue of Moon’s interest is the global trading system which, he believes, is adding to the problems. “The Uruguay Round represented the first serious multilateral efforts to liberalize

agricultural trade, reduce trade barriers, and remove domestic subsidies – heavy subsidies by the U.S. and E.U. governments that caused severe overproduction/surpluses. They needed to get rid of those surpluses and they used international markets to dump those products and those surpluses depressed global world prices. And developing countries, previously exporting countries, could not compete in the international market and are now importing those cheap grains from U.S. and E.U. So there was strong pressure from the international community toward the U.S. and E.U. to remove farm subsidies and reduce trade barriers. While the Uruguay Round didn’t achieve substantial progress in terms of reducing farm subsidies, but it has significance in the sense that for the first time in history, the Uruguay Round placed agricultural trade under some types of rules, international rules, and the WTO (World Trade Organization) was created succeeding GATT (General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade) and the WTO is a global institution governing trade,” Moon said. Following the Uruguay Round was the Doha Round, which began in 2001, and is still ongoing. However, according to Moon, it’s been a failure largely because of the difficulties in achieving agreements on agricultural trade rules. Instead, he suggests

that a separate organization is needed that focuses only on agriculture. “The current WTO involves all goods and services, including agricultural and its mandate is to produce a free market for everything. But I’m arguing that free trade is not appropriate for agriculture because of distinctively different roles of agriculture across different groups of countries, so we need to have a separate trading system that gives more weight to each country’s needs while inducing transnational cooperation to provide global public goods associated with agriculture” Moon said.

that takes into account economic, political, cultural, and ecological factors,” Moon said. Once all countries have their own systems put in place, the second step would be to “put all those proposals together” for evaluation in view of global needs and the third step would allow the “the global committee to ask countries to modify their proposals if needed in view of global needs,” Moon said. Finally, Moon says that there is a necessary fourth step, “to repeat steps one through three every 5 or 10 years because there will be changes in global and domestic

Moon’s idea on how to solve the global food crisis is pretty radical –in fact he’d like to replace the current WTO with an organization solely focused on global agricultural needs. He proposes a three part plan. “The first part would consist of the creation of a separate trade organization, one that would give each country the chance to develop their own agricultural system – one

needs and scientific or technological breakthroughs may change the situation.” Right now Moon considers this his ideal system, and he believes there is hope. “Although I view my ideas as naïve, there is still some possibility for the WTO to go through major reforms, especially after the experiences of the Uruguay and Doha Rounds” Moon said.

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences


Local farmer Bill Bliss of Bliss Farms delivers vegetables he raises at his operation to Unity Point School in Carbondale.


ow often do school children -- or any of us, for that matter -- stop to think about how the veggies on our plate got there? A researcher at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently led an effort to connect those dots, showing how the food gets from the farm to the school. Sylvia Smith, assistant professor of animal science, food and nutrition, worked with a local farmer and elementary school to get the locally grown foods onto the local kids’ plates. Smith worked with officials at Unity Point School in Carbondale and Bill Bass, a farmer south of Carbondale, on the project. The study sought to assess nutrition knowledge of third-graders at the school and to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. Through a $13,000 specialty crop block grant from the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Smith set up an experimental case study that involved bringing Bass’ green beans, tomatoes, zucchini and corn crops to children at the school. At the same time, she and a graduate student taught the students about the benefits of vegetables and fruits, local foods and measured their attitudes about consuming them. “It ended up being a very good experience for everyone,” Smith said. “The farmer supplied and delivered the crops to the school at a fair wholesale price, the cafeteria workers processed the foods and the children ate them. At the same time, they got a chance to visit


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Grant harvests healthy local veg

the farming operation and see where their foods are grown.” The money from the grant paid for cafeteria workers to work part-time during the summer preparing the foods for freezing or, in the case of the tomatoes, turning them into sauce. The foods, in turn, were served to the Unity Point students several times during the fall of 2011. Graduate student Ashley Moss also spent three weeks teaching about 80 third-graders about the importance of nutrition and the

“I have tried for years to buy local produce but it is very hard to find farmers who are able to work with schools” advantages of local foods. All the third-graders also got to take a trip to Bass’ farm. “There were lots of hands-on activities there and the kids had lots of questions,” Smith said. Moss and Smith gave students a survey about their vegetableeating habits before giving them two nutrition classes. After the nutrition classes, the researchers divided the kids into two groups and took one group on a visit to Bass’ farming operation to see if it would have an effect on their fruit and vegetable consumption. They

ggies for Carbondale school kids

then gave both groups another survey. The kids reported eating more vegetables at home following the farm visit, Smith said, and eventually all the kids got to visit the farm and reported eating more vegetables at school. When the school served the local food, it was with some fanfare, Smith said. “Unity Point made a big deal out of it when those foods were served and we used it as a teaching opportunity,” Smith said. “Ashley went all out on the educational component of the grant, and it made a difference.” Ulrike Tragoudas, food service director at Unity Point and a registered dietitian, helped plan the program while cafeteria workers Pam Robbins and Becky Golden lightly processed the foods for freezing and later use. She said the program was a win-win that opened a relationship between the school and a local farmer. “I have tried for years to buy local produce but it is very hard to find farmers who are able to work with schools,” she said. “Difficulties include low price, availability of big quantities, slow payment process. (But) Smith helped us to establish the relationship, negotiate a fair price for both parties involved and helped to decide what produce would be most user-friendly for us as a school. Of course it helped that her grant paid for labor costs.” Tragoudas said the benefits of the program included fresher produce and educational experiences for the students, such as

Students at Unity Point School in Carbondale look at a growing operation at Bliss Farms talks to them about vegetables he raises at his operation.

visiting Bass Farms, and that the relationship between the school and farmer continues. “We saved money due to the grant, and the grant also provided equipment and utensils for the school kitchen,” she said. “We also were able to buy produce from the Bass Farms long after the grant was over. We also expect to continue to buy from the farmer this spring, summer and fall. We also would like to apply for another grant to provide us with funds for the program.” Smith said given the right situation and attitudes, there is a lot of room to scale up the case study in the area. “This was just a case study in order to see the obstacles and be able to overcome them working with one farmer and one school, and I set it up that way intentionally,” Smith said. “I wanted to make it work, not find out why it wouldn’t work.” With the right logistics and attitude, however, Smith said the farm-to-school programs could work on a wider basis. “It needs support and funding and the schools have to want to do it,” she said. “You need interested participants, meaning the cafeteria workers and of course the farmers. “There were many benefits, to people’s health, the local economy and support to the farmers,” she said. The small and midsized farmers are the guardians of our Earth in a sense. They’re taking care of the land. And this brings a better menu and more knowledge about nutrition to the kids.”

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences






TRAILBLAZERS Dr. Kaoutar El Mounadi’s Fight for Safer Food


hat do cereals, grapes, coffee, spices, wine, and beer have in common? If they have been exposed to high humidity, it’s possible they are contaminated with a potentially lethal toxin known as ochratoxin A, the very toxin Dr. Kaoutar El Mounadi was researching as part of her PhD work at Southern Illinois University. El Mounadi is the first graduate of the College of Agricultural Sciences PhD program. Originally from Morocco, she graduated with a B. S. in Plant Biology from Mohammed V University in Rabat. She then went on to earn a M.S. in Microbiology at the University of Seville in Spain prior to entering a Master’s program in Plant and Soil Sciences here at Southern Illinois University. When approval for the PhD program came, El Mounadi switched over and began her PhD research. Her advisor in the program was Ahmad Fakhoury, an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant, Soil Science and Agricultural Systems. While her PhD is in Agricultural Sciences, El Mounadi’s focus was on plant pathology, in particular mycotoxins – toxic compounds produced by fungi. The focus of her research was ochratoxin A, a toxin produced by Aspergillus and Penicillium species which can contaminate a wide range of food and feed and is found on cereals, grapes, coffees, spices, and all products made from those foods including wine and beer. “It’s a huge problem, so there are limitations for how much of this toxin you can have in each food. And the problem is that


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

El Mounadi is the first PhD graduate of the College of Agricultural Sciences

you can’t get rid of it. The toxin goes through the whole chain and then it accumulates in humans. Ochratoxin A is a teratogenic, so it can interfere with normal embryonic development and cause birth defects. It’s also immunosuppressive and carcinogenic. For all these reasons, the Eurpoean Union has imposed limitations on how much ochratoxin A can be present in cereals, coffee, grapes, and wine. Worldwide, if any of these food commodities have ochratoxin A content above the established limit, they cannot be exported, and they cannot be sold,” El Mounadi said. Ochratoxin A was first isolated from the fungus Aspergillus ochraceus in South Africa in 1965 and since then the worldwide scientific community has been attempting to find ways to curtail the toxin’s impact on food and feed, while helping to identify its role in human and animal illnesses. The toxin has been tied to regional illnesses, including Balkan Endemic Nephropathy, which causes renal failure in humans.

In her research, El Mounadi was engaged in trying to understand the toxin at the genetic level. “How this toxin is produced by the fungus and why it’s produced is still unclear. So we’re trying to see is how it’s produced from the genetic point of view – what genes are involved in the biosynthesis of this toxin,” she said “It’s very important to know how the fungus is producing the toxin – what are the genes that are involved in the biosynthesis of the toxin so you can control them and what conditions inhibit or simulate the production of the toxin. Once you control the production of the toxin from the fungus, then you can control whatever comes after. You can still have the fungus but it can’t produce the toxin. A part of our work was to isolate the species that are nonproducers of the toxin so that they can be used later for bio-control,” El Mounadi said. Until researchers find a way to stop the growth of ochratoxin A, there are regular inspections for food and feed, both before they get exported and before they get sold in the market, El Mounadi said. “It’s very well regulated.” In September, El Mounadi began working as a postdoctoral research associate at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis where she will be involved in researching the mode of activity of the antifungal proteins, plant defensins, and developing strategies for the development of fungal disease resistant mycotoxins-free transgenic crops.


How Horses May Help Researchers Improve Fertility Treatments for Women


orses may have lost professor at the Federal University the “best friend” title to of Vicosa, Brazil. dogs, but they’re still Later, as a post-doctorate one of humans’ most treasured researcher at the University of companion animals. Wisconsin – Madison, Gastal and And, as Eduardo Gastal, collaborators compared both data assistant professor of animal sets, looking for similarities and science in the College of differences. Agricultural Sciences, is finding The researchers found the out, they can provide an important ovarian follicles tend to develop window - - or maybe the word is at the same rate and in several mirror? - - into our reproductive similar wave patterns in both world, as well. species, with one follicle during the Eduardo Gastal, assistant professor of animal science, food and nutrition, ovulatory wave typically becoming Gastal is studying similarities poses with his student researchers. The group is studying the similarities between the monthly cycles dominant, maturing and releasing between the reproductive cycles of women and mares. of mares and women. His a fertilizable egg. work is not only increasing our “Mares are now considered one of understanding of human reproduction issues, but also potentially the best, if not the best, model for comparing ovarian function in opening the way for major improvements in animal breeding humans,” Gastal said. “It was a real breakthrough.” techniques that could lead to healthier, more productive livestock. The findings could lead to improved fertility treatments for Gastal, who has worked in equine and bovine ovarian research humans, Gastal said. Instead of more scattershot approaches to for some 25 years, said the striking similarities between women’s and hormone treatments aimed at helping women ovulate, doctors now mares’ cycles have only become scientifically apparent in recent years. have information to better pinpoint when to give the treatments at Gastal’s work has focused on the area of folliculogenesis, the different stages in the woman’s cycle. process by which follicles are created in the ovary, mature and Another promising research technique Gastal is working on ovulate as eggs. Folliculogenesis, along with follicle dynamics, some involves harvesting immature follicles from mare ovaries and then hormonal changes and other reproductive aspects are quite similar in growing them into mature antral follicles in an in vitro cultured media women and mares. setting - - a Petri dish filled with a soup of hormones and glucose. The work means spending time with the subjects. So, on many The ultimate goal would be to not only aim to develop the follicle spring days when mares come into season, Gastal and his students into a mature egg outside the ovary (creating an “artificial ovary”), can be found at the University Farms, conducting ultrasound exams but to also fertilize and replant it into a host female for development on mares and taking follicle, ovarian and blood samples for testing. and birth. This also could have major implications for both human Over the years, Gastal said he and other researchers strongly and livestock reproductive issues. suspected there were great similarities in the way women’s and “Say you have a woman who is battling cancer and has to mare’s cycles worked. Proof, however, was scarce. undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy that will destroy these In 2004, an important discovery in comparative reproductive follicles. If you can remove these beforehand and mature them biology came through Gastal participating in a collaborative effort outside the body you can preserve the woman’s fertility greatly. with a Canadian research team. While Canadian researchers “The same would be true for valuable livestock - - say, a cow collected daily ultrasound observations throughout the monthly that gives great quantities of milk. Instead of harvesting her eggs cycle of 30 women, filling in a knowledge gap with important data as they slowly mature each month, a great majority of immature on follicular development and ovarian function, Gastal conducted follicles with the eggs could be preserved or matured for fast daily ultrasound observation in 30 mares as an associated reproduction,” Gastal said.

2012 College of Agricultural Sciences



Student researcher takes message of healthy eating, living to local schools

Loran Luehr, senior in human nutrition and dietetics, says she benefited greatly from SIU Carbondale’s emphasis on involving undergradutes in research.


eading, writing and…sustainable food systems. If Loran Luehr had her way, teaching school kids about eating healthy, locally grown foods would be as elementary as drilling multiplication facts. And the senior in human nutrition and dietetics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale set out to do just that when she snagged an undergraduate research grant last year. For Luehr, from Steeleville, her quest to live healthier took a leap forward in 2011 when she made it point to begin shopping at local farmers’ markets. The idea of eating local sort of “grew” on her, and pretty soon she was applying for a Research-Enriched Academic Challenge grant, know at SIU Carbondale as a REACH grant. Luehr also reached out to Sylvia Smith, assistant professor of animal science, food and nutrition, to help her organize a project that would allow her to share her love of healthy eating with Southern Illinois school children. “After going to these farmers markets I really got into the local food movement,” said Luehr, “I think it’s very important for the environment, part of going green that people might not think about. And it’s a very sustainable way of living.” After receiving her $1,450 grant that April, Luehr’s first thought was to teach local Girl Scouts. But after weeks of trying she could not get the logistics to work out. 24

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Eventually, in October, a family friend invited her to teach the fourth-graders at Tri-Co Elementary School in Campbell Hill about topics such as local foods, gardening, recycling and world hunger. For four weeks Luehr worked with about 50 kids, sharing her perspectives and challenging them to think about their place in the environment. But it wasn’t all book learning. The lucky students also got to taste the delicacies that Luehr brought in to class as a way of bringing the subject to life. Butternut squash, horseradish, and fresh pumpkin purchased at the farmers markets, along with her grandmother’s homemade jellies all found their way into the student’s mouths…as well as the conversation. “Many of the kids had never tasted those things and they were very interested,” Luehr said. Later, Luehr also had the opportunity to teach sixth- and eighthgrade students at Unity Point School in Carbondale. The REACH grant paid for foods from the farmers market and other supplies up front. Her research centered on surveying the students’ knowledge and attitudes about healthy eating and environmental topics before her class. She asked them, for instance, whether or to what extent they recycled, what they knew about composting and local foods and how they felt about protecting the environment. After finishing teaching the classes, she surveyed the students again and she is currently crunching the numbers for results. “I’m curious to see how each age group was affected, because that might tell us what the best age is for delivering this kind of information,” Luehr said. Already, however, she is seeing some positive trends. Fourthgraders, she said, greatly improved their knowledge base and their participation in such efforts also improved, she said. The REACH grant also will help Luehr make presentations at several upcoming conferences and contests. Luehr, who is scheduled to graduate in May, has already applied to continue toward her master’s degree at SIU Carbondale and hopes to become a registered dietician. She said getting the opportunity to do research as an undergrad will be key to her future success. “It was tremendously helpful because in grad school I’ll know how to go about doing a research project and writing a thesis,” she said. “It’s also helped me be responsible and get things organized and done independently.”

Dean Latour


n administrator and researcher from Purdue University became the new dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on July 1, after approval by the SIU Board of Trustees. Mickey A. Latour was a professor in Purdue’s College of Agriculture. He also served as associate dean for Purdue Extended Campus and chief director of Purdue University Distance Learning. “Dr. Latour’s extensive leadership and research experience will be a great benefit to the college and the University,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said in announcing the appointment. “He has a strong record of success in various administrative roles, both in the College of Agriculture and campus-wide at Purdue.” Latour earned his doctorate in animal physiology in 1995 at Mississippi State University, where he also earned his Master of Science in physiology in 1992. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in animal science in 1990 at Southeastern Louisiana State University. He joined the Purdue faculty as an assistant professor in 1997, earning promotion to associate professor in 2002 and full professor in 2010. As a researcher in the College of Agriculture at Purdue, Latour focused on lipid manipulation in final meat products, involving graduate and undergraduate students in his work. His work has established him as a national leader in lipid metabolism, playing a major role in identifying so-called “soft fat” in swine and especially as lipid metabolism relates to the quality of bacon and bratwurst. As chief director of distance learning, Latour oversaw MBA programs in agriculture and management, technology master’s degree programs, online veterinarian technology degrees, teaching certificates and others. Latour said he sees the SIU Carbondale College of Agricultural Sciences emerging as a campus leader in student success in terms of retention and satisfaction through the efforts of its faculty and staff. In terms of goals, Latour said he envisions immediately working to align the College of Agricultural Sciences with the University’s strategic plan that is now under development, and to create new synergies across the campus. As part of this effort, he looks forward to contributing to the plan in areas such as curriculum, outreach, research and online initiatives. Among his awards and honors, Latour received the Outstanding Teaching Award in Purdue’s Department of Animal Science in 2001, 2004 and 2007. He received a Certificate of Excellence in the Classroom from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2004, and was named a National Teaching Fellow, North American Colleges and Teaching in Agriculture, in 2007. In 2008, Latour was elected a Teaching Academy Fellow at Purdue.

c o l l e g e o f a g r i c u lt u r a l s c i e n c e s a g r i g u lt u r a l b u i l d i n g - m a i l c o d e 4 416 Southern Illinois University 1205 lincoln drive carbondale, il 62901

Wendell E. Keepper 1910-2011

When you think about the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, you have to think about Wendell E. Keepper, the first dean of what would become that college. Keepper died at the age of 100 on June 22, 2011 at his home in Carbondale.

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

Arriving at SIUC in 1950, Keepper oversaw a small department in the then-College of Vocations and Professions. From that seedling of a program, the Montgomery County native guided the creation of the University’s School of Agriculture in 1955 and it subsequent growth and success over the next 24 years. When he retired in 1974, the progrm had grown to 59 faculty and staff, more than 850 graduate and undergraduate students and had a $1.5 million budget. “Dean Keepper was a very important part of our college’s history,” said Todd Winters, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “His vision has resulted in arguably the most successful non-land grant college of agriculture in the country. His legacy continues.” Keepper said when he arrived at the University he found conditions that were “not entirely encouraging,” as it was entering a period of growth and change. The agriculture department had just five faculty, a $70,000 budget and a small research farm. Just three years after arriving, however, Keepper helped launch the agriculture education track at the University. A few years after that, he watched as Gov. William G. Stratton laid the cornerstone for the new agriculture building. It opened in 1957 and continues serving students today.

AgriSearch Magazine 2012  

Previous issues of AgResearch focused on Soy, Water, Food and Green. These excellentissues are testaments to our traditional ag roots. This...

AgriSearch Magazine 2012  

Previous issues of AgResearch focused on Soy, Water, Food and Green. These excellentissues are testaments to our traditional ag roots. This...