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A Horse is a Horse The Big Picture Raising the Bar Trailblazers Research Baton

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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


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Foreword Soy to the World Blowin’ in the Wind Changing Needs, Changing Minds Feel-Good Food Seeds of Hope A Horse is a Horse, of Course, of Course The Big Picture Raising the Bar Trailblazers Passing the Research Baton


College of Agricultural Sciences Gary L. Minish, Dean John S. Russin, Associate Dean Steven E. Kraft, Chair, Agribusiness Economics Todd A. Winters, Chair, Animal Science, Food and Nutrition John E. Phelps, Chair, Forestry Brian P. Klubek, Chair, Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems

University Communications Mike Ruiz, Director K.C. Jaehnig, Editor, Writer Jay Bruce, Shawna Moyers, Designers Russell Bailey, Phil Bankester, Steve Buhman, Jeff Garner, Photography Photos.com, iStock Photo,

Send Comments and Letters to: College of Agriculture Sciences AgriSearch Magazine Southern Illinois University Carbondale 1205 Lincoln Drive Mail Code 4416 Carbondale, IL 62901

Printed by the authority of the State of Illinois, 1/08, 1M, Print Group Inc. Job#06447. Produced by University Communications, Southern Illinois University Carbondale 618 | 453.2276, www.siu.edu/uc

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lease enjoy this issue of AgriSearch, developed to showcase research, education and outreach activities in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Established in 1955, the College enjoys a rich, productive history as a leader among non-land grant agricultural colleges. From traditional animal and crop production to the expanding green industries, from agricultural economics and policy to dietetics and hospitality, and from resource and recreation forestry to international programs, the College strives to serve stakeholders and satisfy its agricultural mission in Illinois. This issue features a snapshot of some of the college’s respected soybean research programs. Within our recently established and endowed Illinois Soybean Center, traditional aspects such as crop production and protection partner closely with emerging arenas that include health aspects of soy along with public perception and acceptance of GMO crops. Extending far beyond traditional agriculture, our diverse research portfolio includes projects to develop and implement nature education programs for urban youth alongside those whose goals embrace equine behavior. Outreach to stakeholders is a philosophical cornerstone within the College of Agricultural Sciences. From the struggling agricultural economies in countries such as Afghanistan to the ongoing challenges within the Illinois agricultural community, our outreach programs are where “the rubber meets the road” for applied, problem-focused research. Undergraduate and graduate education, long a vibrant chord in our college, meshes closely with research and outreach efforts. While graduate students receive sound, practical training in their disciplines, undergraduates benefit from many research opportunities that will augment their education and enhance their professional development. You’ll enjoy reading about their timely research on vermicomposting and bottomland hardwood regeneration.

John S. Russin Associate Dean, Director ISC

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soy soy

(n) erect bushy hairy annual herb having trifoliate leaves and purple to pink flowers; extensively cultivated for food and forage and soil improvement but especially for its nutritious oil-rich seeds

SoybeanS were probably derived from a wild plant of East Asia, where they have been cultivated for

some 5,000 years. Introduced into the U.S. in 1804, they began to be farmed widely as a livestock feed in the 1930s. The United States is now among the world’s foremost soybean producers.

}

Source: encyclopediabrittanica.com

Uses Oil | Meal | Flour | Infant formula | Tofu | Bio-Diesel | Margarine

R

ecent research suggests that soy may also lower risk of prostate, colon

heaLth and breast cancers as well as osteoporosis and other bone health

problems, and alleviate hot flashes associated with menopause.

Source: www.soyconnection.com

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale


Illinois Soybean Center Enhancing the production, use and scientific potential of soybean • Crop improvement, production and protection • Biotechnology and genomics

The

soybean crop annually occupies more than 10 million acres of land in Illinois and the crop produced has a value of approximately $3 billion. It is a rotational crop with corn, and is often double-cropped with wheat in southern areas of the state and region. Illinois contributes about 15 percent of the total U.S. soybean production. More than 40 percent of the crop is annually exported.

• Health and nutrition • Environmental sustainability, economics and policy • Technology transfer • Education www.isc.siu.edu

Most of the soybean crop is used in animal feed. Worldwide, consumption of soybean in human diets utilizes nearly 1 percent of the crop. This percentage continues to increase as improvements in tastefulness of foods with soybean as a major component occur and as soybean has been recognized as a health food. The demands for soybean production are expected to continue to increase as world population increases to eight to nine billion by 2050. Source: Illinois Soybean Center

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SOY TO T

he College of Agricultural Sciences has focused on soybean from its very beginnings.

Out in the lab, down in the field or over in the kitchen, College researchers look for ways to put soybean on top of the global heap.

Early agronomists evaluated existing means to manage weeds, insects and diseases in soybean fields and looked for new ones. They studied soil fertility and assessed tilling practices that would produce the best crop. Breeders focused on producing new

germplasm or varieties that offered higher yields and other desirable traits. As soybean sudden death syndrome and soybean cyst nematode developed into major threats, College researchers expanded their efforts, finding ways to counteract these new dangers both on the ground and in the bean itself. When a reorganization elsewhere in the university brought food and nutrition faculty into the agricultural sciences fold, the College gained new soybean arenas in which to work. In the past few years, huge strides in technology have helped researchers make headway faster, more easily and with greater certainty in their hunt for genes that will produce the ultimate bean, both for producers and consumers.

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THE WORLD What’s old is new again

The College’s Center of Excellence for Soybean Research, Teaching and Outreach is now simply the Illinois Soybean Center, but its mission remains the same: to make soybean a better crop, easier and more profitable to grow, and more widely used in the region, the nation and the world. Research and training will not only help it meet its goals but add to scientific knowledge while providing the professionals of tomorrow.

The College established its “center without walls” in 1997 with the idea of drawing on faculty members throughout the university who had the interest and knowledge needed to meet new and growing demands for soybean production. It identified health and nutrition; crop improvement, production and protection; biotechnology and genomics; environmental sustainability; technology transfer; and education as key areas where SIUC

expertise could make a difference. It set up an organizational structure, commissioned a logo, put out some brochures, hired a plant pathologist and embarked on some initial projects, but the expected $500,000 budget that would allow it to do more never materialized. The center didn’t begin to work as envisioned until 2005, when the Illinois Soybean Association, using Checkoff dollars, gave SIUC $500,000 in an endowed fund to move the center forward. “We now have proceeds from that endowed fund plus an annual match from the chancellor’s office, which gives us a functional center,” said John S. Russin, the College associate dean for research and acting director of the soybean center. Three faculty members, three department chairs and three members from the Illinois Soybean Association make up the advisory board, which met early in 2007 to help Russin determine College of Agricultural Sceinces

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the center’s initial priorities and activities and devise ways in which to accomplish them. The first thing the group did was develop a simple, succinct name that focused on what the center was all about. It also began looking at retooling the Web site to add new information, “downloadables” and links, meanwhile searching for additional funding to cover new programs and expanding operations. For a closer look at the Illinois Soybean Center, visit it on the Web at www.isc.siu.edu.

Here’s a brief summary of future directions for the Illinois Soybean Center… • A regular column on emerging issues in the soybean world, whose authorship will rotate among the different board members. • The center will join the university’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in sponsoring lectures on some aspect of soy policy. The inaugural lecture featured the Hon. Catherine A. Bertini, 2003 World Food Prize laureate, former United Nations cabinet member and former head of the U.N. World Food Program. The College’s Gilbert and Jean Kroening Lecture Series also sponsored this lecture. • The center will work with area public schools, doctors and agencies to provide education on obesity, diabetes, the benefits of soy foods and other health-related topics.

• The center will look for ways to join with the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health, a non-profit organization that trains food processors in 23 developing countries and works to improve health and nutrition there by promoting soy-fortified foods. • The center will offer competitive grants each year to faculty and will partner with the Illinois Soybean Association to support additional initiatives. In 2007, the center made an award to Sharon L. Peterson for a community nutrition project (in line with the objective immediately previous) and teamed up with the association to fund proposals from Jason P. Bond and Ahmad M. Fakhoury for soybean disease detection and management.

Blowin’ in the wind It’s an ill wind that blows no good — and that’s proving especially true for new soybean threats. Jason P. Bond, a College of Agricultural Sciences plant pathologist, has been keeping a wary eye on three fungal diseases not previously a problem in the Midwest as they move up from the South. Meanwhile, agronomist Bryan G. Young worries about herbicide-resistant weeds that already have gained toeholds in neighboring states. 6

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ond sees soybean rust as the biggest threat farmers face today. “Even though it has yet to cause yield loss in Illinois, the threat is based on what it’s done in other parts of the world and in specific fields in southeastern states,” he says. “Given the right conditions, it could be the worst thing that we have ever experienced, though that might happen only once every 10 years.”

Because resistance would offer farmers the most economically efficient way to manage the disease, part of the College effort to protect against this emerging threat focuses on breeding. Although nothing is completely immune, researchers are working with some of the germplasm that has potential for resistance. They are making crosses, hoping eventually to select specific genes from those crosses that show the most promise. Then they


will “stack” or combine these genes to develop new varieties. Bond warns, though, that managing rust with resistant beans won’t happen for several years. “Each species of rust contains genetically distinct strains, often caused by a single mutation, which can vary from region to region,” he says. “These mutations get distributed throughout their populations quickly, allowing rusts to adapt to and then overpower plant varieties that were resistant just a few years ago.” Because soybean rust is a

current threat, farmers need a means to deal with it now. Bond and his colleagues therefore are looking at different types of fungicides and different ways of applying them. As fungicide is not the norm in soybean production, such applications will require farmers to change the way they manage their crops. Fortunately, many fungicides for rust work very well at increasing yield by managing other “minor” diseases. While rust grabs all the attention, another new disease is lurking in the residue and

Healthy soybean leaflets and those from plants affected by sudden death syndrome, one of Illinois’ most destructive soybean diseases. undisturbed soil of no-till bean fields. Frogeye leaf spot, named for the eyeball-like lesions that blight bean leaves is, Bond says, “the little fungus that could.” “The key difference between this disease and rust is that the pathogen has the capacity to overwinter,” he says. “It looks like it’s already overwintering as far north and east as Ohio.” While frogeye leaf spot does not cause the widespread losses

of more familiar pathogens, a moderate to severe outbreak a few years ago in Southern Illinois caused losses of up to 70 percent. And over time, it seems to be getting worse. The good news is that breeding resistance to all races of this pathogen is relatively easy compared to soybean rust. The bad news is that most varieties sold as resistant aren’t. “We’ve tested more than 500 varieties, and only 12 had College of Agricultural Sceinces

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resistance to all races of the pathogen,” Bond says. “We are trying to get resistance into lines here because if you have that resistance, you eliminate or at least reduce the need for foliar fungicides.” Back in 2004, Bond and other researchers found that Davis, an old variety grown in the South, could protect against all known isolates of the fungus found here in the Midwest, information

they then sent on to the seed companies. The discovery came as part of a project Bond coordinates, funded by the North Central Soybean Research Program, involving plant pathologists and soybean breeders from 10 states. The researchers hope to discover soybean genes that can resist both frogeye leaf spot and charcoal rot, another fungal disease, leading to new resistant lines on down the road. They’ve made good progress with frogeye leaf spot, Bond says, discovering some 130 lines that appear to have some resistance in field studies. They’re also searching through about 300 plant introduction lines used in work with soybean cyst nematode resistance. Even so, according to Bond, it will take five to 10 years before producers will have durable resistance in a large number of varieties adapted to this region. Progress has come more slowly with charcoal rot, the No. 1 soybean disease in the Mid-South. The fungus invades

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through the roots and settles in the stems, turning them gray and stunting the plants. Scientists have been working with this disease for years, but it presents some special challenges. “We don’t have any resistant varieties, so we don’t have the tools to compare differences between cultivars,” Bond says. “All we can do is compare varieties to less susceptible varieties.” Although it’s a fungus, charcoal rot does best in hot, dry weather, increasing the difficulty of getting good data. Field conditions are right only once every four years or so, so most of the work has to be done in the greenhouse. Even so, researchers involved with the project have moved forward, coming up with a greenhouse test that can detect partial resistance to the disease. “That’s a big development,” Bond said. “It’s much harder to screen for resistance to charcoal rot than it is to screen for frogeye leaf spot.”

hile Bond grapples with emerging diseases, Young wrestles with weeds that will not die. Since the ‘70s, farmers have used glyphosate to kill a broad range of grasses and broadleaf weeds. But over the last decade, weed scientists have seen more weed species still standing in fields treated with glyphosate. In Illinois, resistant marestail has already reared its head. “Marestail isn’t new, but marestail resistant to glyphosate is a new challenge,” Young says. “I’ve seen flushes of marestail eight months of the year.” Glyphosate-resistant water hemp and giant ragweed, the top two threats to Illinois soybeans, have popped up in neighboring states. They will likely cross state lines as grower practices differ so little from state to state. “These weeds could spread, though probably not to the same extent as marestail, which is a windblown seed that can go for miles,” Young said. In Illinois, waterhemp is a particularly thorny weed to deal with. The amount of glyphosate-based weedkiller needed to dispatch it has crept steadily upward. Should farmers lose glyphosate, farmers may never get season-long control. Young has been keeping a wary eye on it for several years. In 2006, he began collecting samples of both waterhemp and marestail, looking to determine their sensitivity to glyphosate as well as other herbicides. If these assays turn up resistance, Young will warn the crop protection industry and step up education efforts aimed at a short-term fix. Long-term, he will continue trying to find an 8

Southern Illinois University Carbondale


Small plot research, which is key for soybean breeders and plant protection specialities, is carried out by SIUC scientists throughout much of Illinois.

Because soybean rust is a current threat, farmers need a means to deal with it now. Bond and his colleagues therefore are looking at different types of fungicides and different ways of applying them.

herbicide or combination of herbicides to help farmers regain control. Weed scientists are also noticing that morningglory, star-of-Bethlehem and yellow nutsedge are thriving in fields where glyphosate has laid waste to their competition. Though not as harmful as the big three, Young sees this as a warning of worse trouble to come. “Over the last decade, growers have rapidly adopted glyphosate-resistant soybeans — to the tune of about 90 percent of soybean production in Illinois,” he says. “In the early stages, growers could get by with one or two applications of glyphosate at a fairly modest rate. Today, we’re using more glyphosate and requiring more applications. We’re also starting to use other herbicides along with the glyphosate. “To me, we’re essentially on the downhill slope of the simplicity of the Roundup Ready system in soybean. As simplicity declines,

so do some of the economics, and they become much more complex to figure out. When you have to go to prescription weed control, it’s more time consuming, it’s not conducive to farming more acres, and it won’t be good for those who don’t educate themselves about weed management.” In 2005, Young began working with Monsanto on a four-year project aimed at finding out how a mix of crop rotation, Roundup Ready technology and herbicide affects weeds in 27 Illinois fields. Working together, they hope to reduce

the risk of selecting weeds that are resistant to glyphosate and keep glyphosate in the weed management tool kit for a long time to come.

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Changing needs, changing minds m

Gel’s Images IRD700 Analysis Some consumers believe genetic engineering is a sci-fi horror lumbering offIRD800 the page and into reality. In fact,

Mother Nature was life’s first biotechnologist — and her work continues today. We’ve seen it most recently 9 10 in the evolution of bacteria that can resist antibiotics and in flu strains that change from year to year, making annual new vaccines necessary. Agricultural economist Wanki Moon examines what it will take to market genetically modified food. And for those who won’t buy such food at any price, genomics biotechnologist

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Khalid Meksem seeks to develop better soybeans by compressing naturalchannel evolution from millennia into channel

o succeed in European markets, genetically modified foods must present a friendlier face. “If the industry can transfer this technology to developing countries as a tool to solve hunger, drought and other problems, that could change the perceptions of consumers in developed countries,” says Moon, who has been studying consumer acceptance of genetically modified foods for about five years. “It’s an indirect solution, but that’s one of the only ways I can see to market them.” Moon, along with colleagues Siva K. Balasubramanian of SIUC’s College of Business and Administration and Arbindra Rimal from Missouri State University, recently began looking at discounts and premiums as possible marketing tools for these foods. They Southern Illinois University Carbondale

published their findings in the August 2007 issue of the “Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.” Based on data from a subset of 2,568 Britons surveyed in 2002, the researchers concluded that a substantial number of British consumers do not see genetically modified foods as equal to food without extra genes. Should the food industry change its stance, it could expect roughly 12 percent of British consumers to buy genetically modified foods without hesitation — the origin simply doesn’t matter to them. Roughly 35 percent would buy such foods given a discount of about 23 percent per item. The actual discounts required at the store could be smaller. Survey respondents often overstate their anticipated responses in hypothetical situations. In this piece of research, the trio performed a sort of “reality check” by telling some respondents about this tendency before they completed the survey. Those

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who heard about potential bias tended to choose lower discounts. The researchers also found nearly 58 percent of British consumers willing to pay extra to make sure food didn’t contain “foreign” genes — up to 20 percent more per item on average. In classic economic theory, the premiums consumers would pay to avoid modified food should equal the discounts they’d require to buy it. But that didn’t happen here. The difference reflects a difference in the perception of the risks involved in eating genetically modified food. Those who believed they risked more wanted larger discounts. This underscored earlier research by Moon and


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Balasubramanian, published in 2004 in the “Review of Agricultural Economics.” They IRD700 found British consumers would channel IRD700 likely care more about potential IRD800 risks than potential benefits, a tendency that occurs throughout Europe, despite lack of scientific evidence that genetically modified foods pose any kind of danger. Consumers tend to overestimate risk when they have no choice about taking chances, Moon said. In this respect, the industry shot itself in the proverbial foot. “This whole issue of consumer acceptance was a backlash,” he said. “Consumers saw these products as giving most of the benefits to the producers and most of the risks to themselves, so the industry lost a huge potential for profits it could have had if it had taken the time to present the technology and its products and worked with regulators from the beginning.” In their 2004 article, Moon and Balasubramanian concluded that the risks/benefits debate would dominate the future of genetically modified food. They recommended that the industry develop and commercialize what they called “second-generation” crops

— those that clearly9 provide consumer benefits. To some degree, this has occurred. IRD800 Golden rice, for example, channel modified to contain more Vitamin A, has helped many children in the Third World stave off blindness. Yet, these crops have had no effect on European consumers because they benefit developing countries, Moon believes. “What the industry needs is products that affect European consumers. If it can develop those, it could change the outcome dramatically. It has a number of second-generation products in the pipeline that could improve taste or nutritional content, but few are on the market yet.” In the United States, where Moon and Balasubramanian surveyed more than 3,000 consumers, negative attitudes toward genetically modified foods play a far smaller role in the marketplace. And overall, genetically modified organisms of all types aren’t the hot buttons they were when first introduced. Nonetheless, true global acceptance will depend largely on Europe, Moon believes. “This whole issue started there, and they have the key to resolve it,” he said.

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Consumers worldwide increasingly must choose between “traditional” food and agricultural products (including clothing) and those that are genetically modified, says agricultural economist Wanki Moon.

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Most processed foods sold in the United States contain at least one ingredient from a genetically modified plant. Most livestock in the United States eat feed made from biotech crops. U.S. agencies regulate biotech crops to ensure that they are:   — Safe to eat (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)   — Safe for the environment (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)   —Safe to grow (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Source: agribiotech.info

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eksem, on the other hand, uses “laboratory-assisted breeding” to help consumers who may balk at buying genetically modified products. With TILLING, an acronym for “targeting induced local lesions in genomes,” Meksem creates “mutant” soybeans from both domestic soybeans and wild Asian varieties by soaking their seeds in a chemical to rearrange their genetic material. “The chemical speeds up natural selection so it becomes an overnight process,” Meksem said. Scans of these plants’ DNA show changes,

or “lesions,” indicating mutation has occurred. Planting the seeds “fixes” the desired traits, making them heritable. “These are not foreign genes,” Meksem said. “They’re soybean genes, and the actual transfer is done later by breeding.” Conventional breeders have used chemicals to create mutations for years, but they did not have today’s highpowered scanning and imaging machines that can pinpoint the exact locations of particular genes. These tools make possible the other laboratory shortcuts that are part of the TILLING process. Biotechnologists like Meksem use them to figure out what particular genes do so they can produce plants with variations of those traits. With the help of a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Research Initiative, Meksem’s new TILLING center has produced 6,000 mutant plants in 2006 and 2007. Before the end of 2009, he expects to provide soybean and legume researchers with at least 15 to 30 forms of each soybean gene.

The “new” soybeans Meksem has bred include plants whose seeds contain oil with more omega fatty acids than the standard varieties, plants with more root nodules, plants with narrower leaves, and plants with better resistance to soybean cyst nematodes, sudden death syndrome and root rot. Once commercialized, they would boost farmers’ profits, either with premiums that producers would get for growing “value-added” beans or by increasing yield. But that’s not all. Seeds with higher omega fatty acid oil content could contribute to the nation’s health. Plants with extra root nodules could aid the environment by taking up excess nitrogen in fields with fertilizer run-off. Plants with the narrower leaves would need less water, making them good choices for a warmer, droughtier world. Plants in the pipeline include some with oil that could power diesel engines, some that are bushier and therefore produce twice as many beans without any increase in cost and some with beans that don’t taste like soybeans. “Most of us prefer a nice, juicy steak to a soybean burger because of the taste,” Meksem said. “The protein and oil content are responsible for that. If we can modify them, we can make healthy soy foods more acceptable.”

Meksem’s new TILLING center has produced 6,000 mutant plants in 2006 and 2007. Before the end of 2009, he expects to provide soybean and legume researchers with at least 15 to 30 forms of each soybean gene. 12

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ome foods are not just good but good for you. William J. Banz, professor of food and nutrition, and Kolapo “Kola” M. Ajuwon, one of the College’s newest nutrition experts, look at the molecular “keys” that will open the doors to new knowledge about soy’s hidden health properties. The obvious connection between food and health is weight, which plays a key role in the development of such chronic ailments as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes. Banz’s early research examined soy proteins and isoflavones (plant hormones with anti-oxidant and estrogen-like properties) and their effects on health. Positive results led to further work with “apple-shaped” body types, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and tryglicerides, and insulin resistance, each of which increase the risk of heart disease. These health conditions tend to cluster together in what experts call the metabolic syndrome, a huge risk factor for the development of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Soy seems to exert a helpful effect on most conditions related to the metabolic syndrome, said Banz, who with SIUC colleagues holds a patent on uses of particular soy proteins and isoflavones in treating the ailments. He has grown particularly interested in these substances as

therapeutic tools for both diabetes and obesity. “We have found that bioactive factors in soybeans work similarly to a ‘new generation’ class of drugs used to treat diabetes,” he said. One of Banz’s current studies tests the effects of specific soy compounds on rats specially bred to resemble obese, diabetic humans. He and his colleagues will look not just at the isoflavones and proteins but at the metabolites and peptides involved in the constant building up and breaking down processes of mammal metabolism. Getting a handle on this big picture may help explain why research results in various soy-related studies sometimes vary, both at SIUC and elsewhere. Banz is also working with Ajuwon on soy oil. “Soy has a lot of oil in it, but the health benefits have not been previously characterized,” said Ajuwon. Ajuwon and his

colleagues are trying to determine what the oil portion of soybeans does to cut the risks of developing heart disease or the metabolic syndrome. In a related effort using rat studies, test-tube experiments and molecular examinations, they will compare how well soy oil performs its protective tasks compared to other polyunsaturated oils. Yet another study focuses on what the oil component might do in tandem with soy isoflavones, an aspect of soy nutrition not previously researched. This study attempts to mimic differing human diets and then assess the effect on the development of heart disease and diabetes. Although the study won’t end until late in 2007, trends became obvious early on. “We have clear indications that soy oil would have health benefits for cardiovascular disease and for Type 2 diabetes,” Ajuwon said. For one thing, lab studies suggest that the linoleic acid (Omega 6) in soy oil clears blood of the “bad” cholesterol that causes hardening of the arteries. The oil also seems to promote greater sensitivity to insulin. Greater sensitivity means lower risk, while lower sensitivity, in addition to boosting heart disease risks, features in all metabolic syndrome ailments. If final results bear out these initial findings, processors could sell the oil as a value-added product, which could offer American consumers a painless way to enhance their health. “Not many people eat tofu, and not too many people like soy milk,”Ajuwon acknowledged, “but everyone uses cooking oil.”

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SEEDS OF HOPE On the farms and in the classrooms of Afghanistan, College faculty members help sow new crops and new approaches

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oybeans and American agricultural know-how are taking root in one of the world’s most unlikely spots with a little help from the College of Agricultural Sciences. Afghanistan, a semi-arid steppe, has about 22 million acres of fertile land — roughly the amount of Illinois planted in corn and soybeans. Most of the land needs irrigation, the agricultural sector’s infrastructure has crumbled, and subsistence farming has become the rule with poppies the major cash crop (Afghanistan is the world’s top opium producer). Soybean could provide a legal alternative cash commodity while improving nutrition at home for both people and livestock, said Oval Myers, a “retired” College agronomist with longstanding ties to that part of the world. In April 2007, Myers and interested colleagues sought support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization for a national soybean plan. A month later, they received a $50,000 grant for a short course on food preservation. The organization also agreed to provide

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“I’ve had people stop me in the halls saying, ‘I would like to be involved,’” Myers said. “We almost had to draw straws.”

Oval myers teaches an obviously engaged group of students at Balkh University in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. another $50,000 for a limited market and production survey for all oilseeds, including soybean, to be completed in Balkh and Herat provinces by the end of that year. At the same time, Myers met with representatives from an international oilseed-processing equipment company, four universities and an Afghan entrepreneur. “An alliance for oilseed development will come out of this,” Myers said. “ Things are developing even as we speak.” College efforts in Afghanistan cover more than crops, however. Myers’ first project there, supported by USAID funding, involved providing extension-type training to Afghan government workers, university teachers, non-profit staffs and industry representatives, who would then go out to distant rural areas and train the farmers. “We tried to help across a range of disciplines, from crops to livestock to economics to strategic planning,” Myers said. Modeled on an earlier project in Pakistan and run with the help of a Pakistani university, Afghan faculty members enrolled in master’s programs in Pakistan with Pakistani scientists providing the lab and field station mentoring. “There were five master’s degree students from Kabul University and five from Nangarhar University,” Myers said. “These people have now graduated, and they’re back on the job. Currently, an additional ten master’s degree students are funded by Afghanistan.” In 2005, USAID bgan underwriting the rebuilding of agriculture programs at Balkh University in Mazar-e-Sharif, updating classroom, field and laboratory offerings, skills and materials. Balkh’s

Faculty of Agriculture has three departments: plant science, animal science and forestry/horticulture. The agriculture program’s library fit into two (not very large) bookcases. It had three overhead projectors (two that worked), two computers (one of which did only word processing), two modestly sized lecture halls, two smaller classrooms (which faculty members must surrender to those from other disciplines in the afternoon) and a lab used mostly for storage. Nonetheless, enrollment has surged. “It has gone from 200 students in 2005 when we started this project to almost 900 in 2007,” Myers said. “There are still only 15 professors and the same inadequate space as when there were 200.” College faculty members in Carbondale have shown remarkable interest in participating in the project, Myers said. “I’ve had people stop me in the halls saying, ‘I would like to be involved,’” he said. “We almost had to draw straws.” While some of the USAID projects in Afghanistan are winding down, College involvement in South Asia is coming full circle with a new initiative out of Pakistan. That country’s higher education commission wants more of the universities’ faculty members to have foreign experience in all or a part of their doctoral degrees. The first student arrived at SIUC in July 2007. Yearly faculty exchanges will make up part of the project, which also encourages joint research. Funding comes from a five-year grant by the Pakistan Higher Education Commission. “These things just develop,” said Myers with a grin. “When you have a presence at the table, people think of you.”

Darul Amaan Agricultural Research Station on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. The ruins of the presidential palace, destroyed in the Russian war, loom in the background. Photo courtesy Abdul Qayyun Khan.

“We tried to help across a range of disciplines, from crops to livestock to economics to strategic planning,” Myers said. College of Agricultural Sceinces

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A HORSE IS A HORSE, OF COURSE, OF COURSE And “horse whisperer” Sheryl King knows just what a horse wants

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he old adage has it that “Seeing is believing.” Equine scientist Sheryl S. King hopes that’s true. King is a little more than halfway through a five-year effort aimed at demonstrating what horses want when it comes to their own welfare and care. With digital images and observations of horses in barns and pastures, she hopes to produce a guide to the humane care and management of one of the world’s largest domestic animals. “The thing that started me down this road was the difference in perceptions of quality care,” King said. “No expert can talk people out of their perceptions. The only chance I have is to show them. You look at the horses’ behavior and tell me who is the happiest animal.” The horse evolved on arid land covered with short, fibrous grass and not much else. It and its fellows moved constantly in search of food. Even now, left to themselves, horses will spend as much as 70 percent of their time roaming around eating, and that includes night, too, because horses don’t sleep much. The more living conditions mimic that natural state, the happier the animals are. Horses living alone inside barns develop “stall vices.” They pace, chew the walls, paw, kick. Even tongue lolling, lip licking, constant drinking and hoof problems can signal stress. A grant from the Equine Promotion Board paid for the infrared closed-circuit cameras that allow student Diana Thissen to monitor the stalls. 16

Southern Illinois University Carbondale


“This problem of confinement is only individual personalities.” going to get worse as everything becomes more The students change, too, giving more of the urbanized,” King said. “But even in a congested next generation of professional horse handlers new urban environment, you can have happy animals if insights into horse behavior. you’re sensitive to what it means to be a horse. You King said she’s encountered no surprises as yet could, for example, create a barn that would give in the data students have collected on horse behavior. them more freedom than they generally have now.” The “human side of the equation” is another story. King’s research began in 2004 with 29 “The fact that the students actually enjoy doing undergraduate equine science majors working in this came as a complete surprise to me!” she said. teams to watch and describe “Most of the time, they’ve what “their” horses did for been out in 40-degree “There are ways, even in a 24 hours. Some horses had weather doing ‘nothing’ and the run of the pasture, some congested urban environment, getting pretty darn cold, and spent the entire time in their most of them have said they to have happy animals stalls. Others stayed out loved it. if you’re sensitive to the during the day but returned “Some have also said to the barn at night, while mentality of what it means to they were surprised to find out still others roamed free at what they’d learned in class be a horse,” says King. night, doing stall time in was really true. I guess it’s the daylight hours. Some of always more meaningful when the stalls had only natural light, while in others the you experience something and prove it to yourself.” lights stayed on the whole time. King anticipates finishing the project in 2009, Watching in shifts and using checklists to help and her guide to humane horse care will be available them describe what they saw, the students would soon after. The Horsemen’s Council of Illinois has record a minute of activity every five minutes, expressed willingness to help get it out to end users. producing 10 such behavior “snapshots” each “It’s up to me to get it in a form that horse lovers will hour. Subsequent years have followed the same understand and take to heart,” King said. “I have to pattern, though with different horses each year. get them to get out of their brains and into the horse “We want to get a long-term picture of overall mentality. I hope that’s a leap I can help a lot of horse behavior,” King said. “All horses have people make.”

WHat do horses say anyway? What does it take to make a horse happy? Surprisingly little. It wants to graze and wander, preferably with other horses. “Putting a horse in its own private stall, covering it with blankets and feeding it the very best foods you can afford may seem like love to you, but if you truly understood the nature of the horse, you’d know it was miserable,” King said.

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work. f student o n io it ib h the ex re shows This pictu

This picture was taken by Neimoya.

THE BIG PICTURE A youth photography project connects environmental education with efforts to bring back the Cache River Wetlands

pictures made with disposable Kodak cameras — exactly right, emphasize Mae A. Davenport and Jean C. Mangun, forestry professors in the College of Agricultural Sciences, who oversaw the picture taking. “There are no wrong answers,” Davenport said. For those who think of forestry as trees and timber, the project may seem aymah saw it in coral clouds an odd fit. But Davenport and Mangun against a lapis lazuli sky. represent the “human dimension”of Neimoya depicted it as a pine forestry. Their sub-specialty reflects tree struggling to grow against the fact that politics, economics, the back of an industrial building. social systems and culture all play And for Jerry, it was a snake in an roles in both creating and solving aquarium. These middle-schoolers and environmental problems. 33 others from two of “It’s an interdisciplinary approach deep Southern Illinois’ to natural resource management poorest counties all got that integrates the social sciences the assignment — to with communication, education, show “nature” in their collaboration, cooperative action and hometowns through volunteerism to make management

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale

more responsive,” Davenport said. With the Cache River work, the women knew they wanted to start with kids. And they knew they couldn’t use a survey as their starting point. “This auto-photography process and personal interviews do a much better job of capturing emotions and feelings,” Mangun said. And so was born the Visions of Nature Youth Photography Project. With funding from the university, they started in Cairo, Ill., in 2006 as an afterschool activity. They pulled in SIUC forestry students to talk to the young photographers about the pictures they took, their views on nature and what they like and dislike about it, the things that interest them and the kinds of things they might like to learn about. In 2007, the format changed. With newly forged links to teachers


with udents t s se). y r t s fore blue blou s in ( w o k h c s Bu ture nice M. This pic dent Eu u t s e t gradua

from Cairo, Mounds and Tamms in schools with little in the budget for extras, Davenport and Mangun proposed expanding into the classroom. “Superintendents and principals were on board immediately,”Mangun said. “They were thrilled that the university was reaching out to them and thrilled to have these enrichment activities available.” Forestry students assumed a larger role in running the program, helping them develop relationships with people different from themselves and giving them hands-on experience in education. Student groups developed low-cost, nature-related lesson plans for teachers. One such plan creates a “forest in a jar” so children can see how a wetland becomes a forest, one serves as a guide to nearby natural areas, and one uses exercises in science and art to observe

how a tree changes over a year. “Even if we’re not there, even if they don’t have the money for film and cameras, teachers could still provide environmental education that might give kids a similar experience,” Davenport said. Eunice M. Buck, a graduate research assistant, is analyzing the content of photos and interviews from both years to better understand what nature means to these children. She will use the results in making recommendations to community leaders, natural resource professionals and environmental educators — and as the crux of her master’s thesis. This combination of research and outreach make theirs more than just another “kids with disposable cameras” project, the organizers say. “We get information that will

help natural resource managers and educators understand this population, the kids see models who are or will be working in the natural resources area, and our students get exposed to the future clientele they will be working Mae Davenport pauses in front with,” Davenport said. of pictures from the student exhibition. Mangun said, “Our undergraduates are 90 percent male and 100 percent Caucasian, but they will be serving a much more diverse population out in the real world. They have to learn to be inclusive and get along with a lot of different kinds of people.”

Assignment — show “nature” College of Agricultural Sceinces

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RAISING THE BAR

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ducation and clothing have a lot in common. Something custom made for a particular person invariably fills the bill better than a one-size-fits-all item fished out of a bin. That truth underpins the recent redesign of the Department of Agribusiness Economics’ curriculum. “We have laid out a number of career tracks to meet the emerging needs of our students and the employers we serve,” said Chairman Steven E. Kraft. “Each student has a faculty adviser, and we design a program of study to suit that student. “Previously, we had two specializations: agriculture resource management and applied economics. We did away with those. They were too rigid, given what was happening in the field and the kind of feedback we were getting from students, employers and the college leadership board. Now we have career tracks for agribusiness management and finance, energy and environmental policy, farm business management, sales and marketing, and pre-law, which we have never offered before.”

Now we have career tracks for agribusiness management and finance, energy and environmental policy, farm business management, sales and marketing, and pre-law, which we have never offered before. Steven E. Kraft

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Both agribusiness economics and law require a logical, analytical approach, so a number of the department’s students set their sights on law school after they finish their undergraduate degrees. To better prepare them for the law school aptitude test, the department’s new pre-law track draws on existing courses and creates a few new ones. It includes more options in political science, focusing on policy analysis and introducing the legal process. It also requires additional hours of oral and written communication to hone the skills in reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and oral argument necessary for a career in law. Students can complete a typical program in 120 semester hours, or four years. Students who choose this track don’t all opt for law school. Some go on to jobs in food and fiber production, processing and distribution; natural resource management; energy and environmental policy; and rural and regional development, to name just a few. Department faculty members chose to develop career tracks, which require only agreement among themselves, rather than specializations, which need external approval, to gain maximum flexibility, Kraft said. “The industry and the needs of employers are changing rapidly,” he noted. “There’s a lot of consolidation going on within agriculture. The ethanol and biofuel sectors, for example, were just blips on the horizon five years ago. The concern with agriculture and the environment has always been there but has become more significant. This way, we can adjust our programs quickly to meet changing needs — of the students, the job market and society.”


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TRAILBLAZERS

With input from farmers, agricultural economist Ira J. Altman seeks to assess Illinois’ potential as an alternative energy powerhouse

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ould energy made from something other than corn make a go of it in Illinois? With a $120,000 grant from the Council on Food and Agricultural Research, agribusiness economist Ira J. Altman proposes to find out by coming at the question in some new ways. “Other studies have focused on how much biomass might be available (to turn into fuel or other forms of energy), based on estimates of agronomic factors, such as growth rates, soil types, number of acres in production, “Altman said. “That takes the farmer out of the equation — I want to bring in the human aspects. “Also, previous studies have not looked at the financial feasibility of production or the economic impacts on rural economies. This is the first study I’m aware of that links these three (study areas) in one research project.” To get at the information, Altman is working on a survey that will go out to some 2,000 Illinois farmers. Using the survey responses, he will then devise a computerized economic model to help him project financial outcomes such as profit margins, rates of return, investment payback periods and the number of jobs and dollars that would be pumped into a region producing alternative energy. Altman is particularly interested in cellulose ethanol, made from crop waste products such as stover (the leaves and stalks of corn and soybeans), hay and wheat straw. and from socalled “energy crops” such as miscanthus (an extremely tall, perennial grass), hybrid willow and poplar, grown specifically as feedstocks for biomass processors.

“As for dedicated energy crops (those grown specifically for the energy market), that requires a much larger commitment from the farmer, and there are different issues to consider,” Altman said. “What percentage of their crops will they grow for energy? What will be involved in the changeover to these new crops? How much money will they want for them? There aren’t going to be spot markets, where they sell on site directly to the consumer, so how do they want to sell these crops?” Farmer preferences will have an impact on Illinois’ chances of successfully developing a biopower industry because of their effects on the costs of buying unprocessed material and reselling it as energy. If power companies “As the No. 2 state in crop production, don’t choose the most efficient way of obtaining Illinois already produces stover, hay and wheat biomass feedstock for their generators, they straw, and it could easily produce some of these will lose money and get out of the business. energy crops,” Altman said. Those failures will discourage future efforts at “But while corn ethanol production commercialization of this technology. is a fairly mature technology, there are no Altman expects the formal project to take commercial plants right now producing cellulose three years, but the work itself could continue ethanol, though a number are investigating its beyond that. It wouldn’t take much tweaking to feasibility. We’re really in the forefront of trying to adapt the survey for other crop-based versions lead the charge.” of plastics, fiber board and renewable energy Farmer preferences will play a huge role products, and the computer model could easily in whether or not this form of energy takes off, be adjusted to reflect the new information. Altman believes. Farmers may not want to sell “The results from this study could help their crop waste at all, for example. all types of bio-processing facilities in their “Some might argue that taking organic procurement decisions and commercialization matter off the land is not the best thing to do in initiatives,” he said.. terms of soil structure and fertility,” he noted. Some may be willing to sell the waste on a year-to-year basis; others may be willing to enter into contracts for set periods. College of Agricultural Sceinces

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College of Agricultural Sciences faculty members aren’t the only ones who do research

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Undergraduate Research

PASSING THE RESEARCH BATON 22

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

ou won’t find worms and broccoli on a menu, but they make a good combination. College of Agricultural Sciences senior April L. Vigardt designed and conducted a 12-week experiment to find out if compost made by worms could replace peat moss in growing broccoli starts in the greenhouse and transplants out in the field. The short answer seems to be yes. “My findings do seem to correlate with other research in the suitability of vermicompost as a greenhouse medium,” she stated in a report prepared for REACH, the university’s undergraduate research program, with faculty mentor Jorge D. Hernandez of the Department of Plant, Soil and Agricultural Systems. “An increase in broccoli growth is usually seen with the addition of vermicompost, although all treatments high in vermicompost concentration did not show the best response.” Why should we care whether broccoli grows in peat moss or vermicompost? “A peat-based growing medium is a nonrenewable resource harvested from peat bogs,” Vigardt said. “When it’s gone, it’s gone.” Worms also are easy and cheap to feed; they like food scraps, cattle manure and plant trimmings. “These are things we have too much of and have problems getting rid of,” Vigardt said. “When they go through the worms, they become a stable, peat-like substance, though more granular — like a rich, dark soil. It’s odorless, and the worms absorb only 5 percent of the nutrients; the rest pass through to become available to the plants.” Vigardt grew starts in pots with no vermicompost, in pots containing only vermicompost and in pots of growing media mixed with 10 percent, 25 percent, 50 percent and 75 percent vermicompost. After three weeks, she took half the pots from each category and fertilized them, leaving the others alone. After six weeks, she transplanted the best of the starts from each group to a farm field in Anna. Ill., about 18 miles south of Carbondale. From the beginning, she took weekly measurements of stalk height, node height, node number and leaf number. After 12 weeks, she took plant tissue samples and analyzed them.


“Our research shows you can substitute up to 100 percent vermicompost (for peat) and it will not harm the growth,” Vigardt said. “Broccoli grown in 75 percent to 100 percent vermicompost established better. We did see root development decline above 75 percent vermicompost, possibly due to initially high salt contents, but this did not affect their overall establishment in the field. We can’t say this will happen all the time because this was just a preliminary study. “The plant height was the same for both the fertilized and nonfertilized treatments, while the number of leaves was higher for the fertilized treatment. At up to 75 percent vermicompost, the number of leaves in the unfertilized plants increased with the addition of vermicompost. Fertilized plants had the highest number of leaves with 25 percent vermicompost.” Because the study was designed to run 12 weeks, Vigardt did not collect data on the flowerets, the part that people eat. “But this is preliminary work — we wanted to see if it justified moving forward to a larger scale experiment,” Hernandez stressed. “In the greenhouse, the growth was a little stunted and the stems curled a bit when you got over the 50 percent mark, but once it was in the field, it did fine. In some instances, the nutrients were higher than the plant needed, so this has to be managed carefully, but the broccoli did well and didn’t show any toxicity, even with high soluble salt content. Because the nutrients are in the root ball, they are available where the plants can use them. That means they’re also not in the field where they can run off.”

Vigardt, a 35-year-old non-traditional student, was torn between plant biology and plant and soil science when she started back to school. Some time spent in her “youth” on an organic farm prompted an interest in alternative crops, but she wasn’t sure the ag college was for her. She was interested in farming but thought she might want to do research instead. Then, two years ago, she got a job managing Hernandez’ soil fertility lab. Shortly after, she applied for and won the REACH grant that funded this project. “It was the best opportunity I’ve ever had,” Vigardt said. “It gave me the opportunity to do my own research, to see what worked and what could go wrong, and to see how what I had learned fit into it. The classes became a lot more meaningful.”

College of Agricultural Sceinces

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Bottomland hardwood forests are common in many areas of southern Illinois.

Graduate Student Research 5 1

2 The Department of Forestry in SIUC’s College of Agricultural Sciences is ranked among the nation’s top programs.

3 1 WL15 Data Logger 2 Water Passage Holes 3 Clay Seal 4 Transducer (Level Sensor) 5 Data Download to laptop 6 Gravel Source: SUSAN P. ROMANO

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale

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In the case of the Lower Kaskaskia River floodplain’s missing oaks, a College of Agricultural Sciences doctoral student in forestry found the Carlyle Dam guilty — and not. Residents and landowners in the region had noticed the forest, the state’s largest unbroken stand of floodplain trees, contained more silver maples and fewer oaks. Because bottomland oaks need flooding to survive, they suspected the dam was at fault but could find no hard evidence to prove their case. “Very often people think dams change flooding patterns in the entire river, but in this case, flooding changed only in the area just below where the dam was built,” said Susan P. Romano, now an assistant professor of river and forest ecology at Western Illinois University. At Posey, about four miles downstream from the dam, Romano found that floods did not occur as often or last as long as they had before the dam went up. But below Posey, water from Shoal Creek and Crooked Creek, two of the river’s tributaries, lessened the dam’s effect. Further down the river at Fayetteville, the land actually drained faster because of a canal installed to accommodate barge traffic below the town. “It was a complicated situation there,” said Associate Professor James J. Zaczek who, with colleagues Karl W.J. Williard, Jean C. Mangun, Sara Baer and various graduate students, conducted a two-year study of the effects of changes in water movement caused by the dam in the Kaskaskia River Basin as a whole. As part of her doctoral work, Romano tried to find out whether the dam altered the river’s effects on the nearby forest, if the make-up of that


Very often people think dams change flooding patterns in the entire river, but in this case, flooding changed only in the area just below where the dam was built. Susan P. Romano

Dams are critical for water management ard transportation on rivers throughout Illinois.

forest was changing and if so, why. Initially, it made sense to point a finger directly at the dam in figuring out what happened to the missing trees. Built in 1967 to help both the river barge industry and area farmers, the dam controls water levels in the canal below Fayetteville. Much of the forest lies between the dam and the canal. Romano began by taking a closer look at three downstream sites: Posey; Venedy, about 20 miles away from the dam; and Fayetteville, 28 miles from the dam. Over a twoyear period, she inventoried and measured trees, tracked daily water levels, gathered tree ring data and analyzed soil texture. At Venedy, she counted and identified seedlings. She also used historical information and a computer modeling program to get a handle on flooding before and after the dam was built. From this, she concluded that although the dam changed flooding only at the site closest to it, the combination of dam, agriculture and canal were causing tree species changes all along the Lower Kaskaskia. “Flooding is a two-edged sword,” Romano said. “While it creates the kind of disturbance that aids forest perpetuation by increasing nutrient inputs and making openings in the tree canopy, flooding that occurs for lengthy periods of time robs the soil of its air, which damages the trees’ root systems so they don’t grow as well as they should. Plus trees that aren’t as tolerant of flooding, like some of the oaks, don’t do as well.” In the Lower Kaskaskia’s floodplain forest, changes in flood patterns mean that fast-growing, shadetolerant silver maples, green ashes and hackberries are out-competing the oaks for sun and nutrients. Left unchecked, these trees will become tomorrow’s bottomland forest. Romano’s research also suggests some means for counteracting the trend, among them letting unrestricted flooding take place in spring and early summer or compensating farmers for

allowing some of their low-lying farm fields to revert to oak forest, either naturally or through planting trees. “We know these suggestions have to be considered with care because you don’t want to cause problems that would hurt people or their property,” Zaczek said. “However, if people are concerned about losing the oak component of this forest, they will have to do more active management on the flood plain. They will have to change the flooding patterns or do some harvesting to make the kind of disturbance that would open up the tree canopy. Because some of the effects of these ecological changes take many decades to become obvious, we hope (decision makers) will take this information into account.”


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SIUC AgriSearch Magazine 2008 - Soy  

AgriSearch, developed to showcase research, education and outreach activities in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

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