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Lights On Fresh Food! Farming Row By Row Fungi 007 Learning Through The Grapevine Foal Watch


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More Than Cows, Sows And Plows Lights On For Fresh Food! Farming Row By Row Managing Nature Fungi 007 Learning Through The Grapevine Foal Watch Farming For The Future In The Present

College of Agricultural Sciences Mickey A. Latour, Dean Karen Midden, Associate Dean Ira Altman, Chair, Agribusiness Economics William J. Banz, Chair, Animal Science, Food and Nutrition James J. Zaczek, Chair, Forestry Karen L. Jones, Chair, Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems Ahmad Fakhoury, Director of Graduate Programs Jason Bond, Director of the Illinois Soybean Center Susan Graham, Assistant to the Dean and Contributor University Communications & Marketing Rae Goldsmith, Director Andrea Hahn, Writer Nathan Krummel, Designer 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 T

he theme of this year’s magazine is “Educate.” The stories in it reflect topics that appear in discussion threads on social media, an indicator of general, non-professional interest. Hence, you’ll find articles about food safety, animal care, woodland areas, urban gardening and farming technology as well as the agriculture – tourism intersection, bioagents used for plant disease control, integrated weed control programs and the impact of globalization on domestic agriculture. We can no longer take for granted that the general populace understands agricultural fundamentals. We can no longer assume that what we do in the field or the barnyard, or the decisions we make about land use, are simple, obvious and not controversial. It’s up to us – all of us affiliated with agricultural industries – to be aware of consumer concerns and opinions. ‘Educate’ has always been part of what we do at SIU. Our College is recognized as an educational authority in agriculture, food, fiber, and forestry. It is part of our mission to mentor and support our future leaders in agriculture, our policy-makers, our innovators and the stewards of our resources. It is also part of our mission to reach out to the community, to provide opportunities for school children to learn about agricultural science and to support grassroots efforts to link community members and producers and land management experts. Some highlights over the past six years: 23 percent increase in the number of students maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher 14 percent increase in Dean Scholars, denoting students with a 3.5 GPA or higher 56 percent decrease in the number of students on academic probation 41 percent decrease in the number of students on academic suspension Currently trending 10 percent points above the campus norm for graduation and retention rates. We hope this issue of Agrisearch will contribute to discussions about what we, as agricultural professionals, do. And if you are not an agricultural professional and you are reading this magazine, welcome!

Mickey A. Latour, Dean

Printed by the authority of the State of Illinois, X/X, XM, and printing order number. Produced by University Communications & Marketing, Southern Illinois University Carbondale 618 /453-2276,

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


“More Than Cows, Sows And Plows” Ag Ed Teachers Cultivate A New Generation Of Leaders


llinois has more positions open for high school agricultural education teachers than agricultural education graduates to fill them. That’s not news to Seburn Pense, professor of agricultural education at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, however. He can’t remember a time when there hasn’t been a shortage of agricultural educators in Illinois junior and senior high schools. Right now, though, the shortage of new teachers prepared to take charge of an agricultural education program is especially acute. According to the 2015 Illinois Agricultural Education Annual Report, agricultural education is growing. Over the past five years, Illinois added an average of five new secondary agriculture programs per year. Also over the past five years, Illinois had an average yearly demand for 41 agriculture teacher candidates. However, during that same five-year period, Illinois has only graduated a yearly average of 21 students in agricultural education. Of those 21 per year, a yearly average of just 13 chose to accept agriculture teaching positions. 2

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The shortage of agricultural education teachers is part of a national trend showing an overall shortage of teachers. There are some factors that apply specifically to agriculture teachers, though, and versatile career options is one of them. “About 50 percent of agricultural education majors go into the agricultural industry instead,” Pense said. “Many have employment before they have even graduated.” “Agricultural education is different from traditional teaching,” said Peter Dirks, recruitment coordinator for the college and a lecturer in the Department of Agribusiness Economics. “The curriculum can be challenging because it’s so broad and requires at least basic skills in several areas.” In addition, he noted, agricultural education teachers don’t necessarily get the summer off. For example, the Illinois Association FFA State Convention this year was June 14-15 – well after the last day of school for most of the state. Dirks pointed out, too, that many FFA chapters or agricultural programs maintain small plots of row

crops or greenhouses that are crucial to fundraising. Generally, it falls to the agricultural teacher to care for facilities, crops, gardens and whatever else the school has. However, he said, most agricultural education majors welcome the challenges particular to their field. “They got into this because they love agriculture, and they get into teaching because they love teaching,” Dirks said. “They want to make an investment in the future.” Initiatives outlined in the Illinois Plan for Agricultural Education, revised in June 2016, cover agricultural literacy programs beginning immediately in prekindergarten and continuing all the way through high school. Agriculture programs include not only traditional agricultural production and livestock management, but also food preparation, horticulture, floriculture, health and nutrition, marketing, conservation of land and water resources, economics and public policy, career readiness and college preparation.

Here are some of the events held during the 2016-2017 academic year: Sept. 9 – Horse judging invitational Sept. 20 – STAR Conference and Greenhand workshop Sept. 20 – District agriculture teachers workshop Sept. 24 – State forestry judging Oct. 6 – Fall Festival Oct. 12 – Food science career development day Jan. 23 – Farm Bureau/FFA Acquaintance Day March 22 – Novice parliamentary procedures competition April 5 – Public speaking competition April 21 – Horticulture judging competition and livestock judging competition April 26 – Job interview competition and agricultural issues competition 2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


Nick James: SIU Alum In The Agricultural Education Classroom “It’s a diverse job experience, and a teacher is often a ‘jack of all trades,’ ” Pense said. “Agricultural teachers won’t be going over the same material all day long. Each class is different, with different students, different coursework. Teaching agriculture is an exciting career in that way. They need to keep up with the trends, and agricultural technology grows quickly. We have students learning about GIS and precision farming. We’re seeing an increased interest in urban agriculture that goes along with agriculture programs finding their way into some urban environments.” Where you find agriculture programs, typically you’ll also find FFA, now the largest youth leadership organization in the United States. “You can’t underestimate the importance of FFA to agricultural education,” Dirks said. “Students we have who have come through the program are dedicated to it, and remain so if they go on to become teachers.” “FFA uses competition as a learning device,” Pense said. “It teaches leadership as well as practical agriculture skills. FFA members learn job interview skills, parliamentary procedure and public speaking. They have competitions for that, as well as for livestock judging and horticulture. When we get a student at SIU with an FFA background, they are invariably career-minded.” SIU, with its large, award-winning Collegiate FFA chapter, brings hundreds of FFA students to campus every year. For the fall 2016 semester, six FFA were held at the Univeristy before Thanksgiving, and about 20 take place throughout the year. Hosting such events is part of the college’s mission, and it’s a great opportunity for college students to mentor younger students. The events are also prime recruiting events. The recruiting efforts have been successful. In the past two years, enrollment in agricultural education has grown from seven students to at least three times that number. “Students come here and they see the campus and the facilities, they see that this college is like a family,” Pense said. “We feel that if we get them here for an event, many of them then want to come here as college students.” “We are at the FFA national and Illinois conferences, we have a presence on agriculture and education boards and committees, we recruit at the events that bring students to campus,” Dirks said. “We are recruiting for the College of Agricultural Sciences and the university as a whole, but agricultural education is a big part of that.”


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Nick James came to SIU from Anna to be a math teacher. Now he’s in Harrisburg teaching agriculture. The shortage of agriculture teachers has a lot to do with his career shift. “I’m glad I made the switch,” he said. James is one of two agriculture teachers at Harrisburg High School in Saline County. The curriculum he and his colleague built has strengthened the vocational and career development programs in place at the high school, just as agriculture programs are doing statewide. James teaches basic agricultural mechanics, agricultural construction and technology, agricultural machinery service and metal fabrication, and natural resources. “Basic Ag Mechanics is my favorite, because it is hands-on – and we cover surveying, electricity, welding, carpentry and woodworking,” he said. The relative freedom agriculture teachers have to build curriculum is one of the pluses of the career, as far as James is concerned. However, that also is part of what often makes agriculture teachers such good hires in industries other than education. “You do have to know a lot,” James said. “And there are so many opportunities for people with agriculture education training. If you get a degree to teach high school math, that’s basically what you are qualified to do. A degree in agriculture – any degree in agriculture – is versatile.” Summers off – that lauded benefit of teaching – doesn’t necessarily apply to agriculture teachers. For example, James worked about 200 extra hours this past summer. “It depends on the community,” he said. “Some communities want their FFA chapters competing in everything. That can be exhausting for the agriculture teacher, but it is nice to have the community backing. When the community is behind us, we have more opportunities. Right now, in Harrisburg, we’ve kept building momentum. The school is really starting to see what we have here.” Last year, Harrisburg enrolled 165 students in its agriculture classes. James’ shop classes included 10 to 15 students, and natural resources had 25. While the extra activities that strengthen an agriculture program at a high school can be demanding, James said participation in them leads to some of the best parts of being a teacher: mentoring students and seeing real growth in them. “We get to know the kids on a whole different level,” he said. “It’s very rewarding as a teacher to see them try new things, to see students accomplish things they didn’t know they could do.” James graduated from SIU in 2009. This summer he won the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers.

Oasis Food Desert In The

Urban Gardening Addresses Inner-City Food Security


ocal foods seems like a simple concept -- food produced within a certain geographic proximity to the consumer. In rural areas, it’s often not hard to find local food. But what about urban dwellers? What, to them, is local? Major cities have some of the same local foods arrangements as smaller towns do – farmers markets, for example. Increasingly though, local to a city dweller might mean “my block.” “There is a growing need for diversified food supplies, and a growing interest in food security,” said Karen Midden, associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “We’re seeing increasing interest in urban gardening and in larger-scale urban food production. Practices like hydroponics open up whole new possibilities for agriculture.” Urban farmers lack the advantages of acreage and soil. Hydroponics is a way around that. The term “hydroponics” is a recent one, coined by a scientist in the 1930s, but the practice of using minimal soil and nutrient-rich water to grow produce is ancient. There are several methods of hydroponic farming. Small-scale producers typically opt for ebb and flow or drip systems. In these, plants grow in a tray with a non-nutritive stabilizing medium such as perlite to hold them in place. Pumps flood the tray with nutrition-enhanced water. The water gradually retreats to a reservoir, where it is used again. Larger-scale producers may use a nutrient film technique that uses similar principles. Variations on soilless farming include aeroponics, in which the plants are suspended rather than set in trays, and aquaponics, which

combines aquaculture – raising aquatic animals such as fish or crayfish – with cultivated plants in a symbiotic relationship of shared nutrients. Some hydroponic plant beds are stackable, which increases the space economy of this farming method. But there’s more to it than saving space alone. There’s water conservation: Despite the role water plays in these systems, hydroponics uses less water than soil-planting because the water recycles. Indoor farming controls the variables of weather and can create an ideal growing environment, which means harvest time is shorter and production per square foot is higher. This method of farming also typically sees significant reduction in pesticides. However, nothing is perfect. Start-up costs are high. The artificial hydroponic environment is dependent on a reliable power source. If the power goes out, an entire season of crops can perish in a short time. For traditional farmers, market production from urban agriculture presents possible competition for produce. A payoff, though, is sharing traditional agrarian values with city dwellers who are often far removed from direct understanding of where their food comes from and how it gets to the market. This education component is especially true in urban gardening at a much smaller scale: the school garden. “Country kids grow up with natural environments all around them, but children in cities are surrounded by built environments,” Midden said. “These children don’t have as many opportunities to learn about natural systems or food production.” Midden is co-author of “Gardening with Young Children: Hollyhocks and Honeybees.” She promotes bringing gardens to all schools, but particularly to urban schools, including rooftop, vertical, container or traditional in-ground. If children are growing produce, they might be more inclined to eat it, and that helps promote healthy lifestyles. They also learn about plant biology and soil science, and may lend a helping hand to important pollinators. “Kids need to learn not all food comes in packages,” Midden said. “Growing food will get them thinking more about where their food comes from. They’ll also learn about biodiversity and water quality. And they may find that growing things brings them pleasure.”

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


Lights on fresh food! Ruplal Choudhary Uses Ultraviolet To Preserve Freshness, Infrared To Measure Nutrition


rom the turnip that falls off the truck to the yucky stuff we scrape off our plates, food waste in the United States accounts for 30 percent to 40 percent of the food supply. That’s about 133 billion pounds of food, or about $161 billion annually. In September 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency issued the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, an initiative calling for a 50 percent food waste reduction by 2030. There’s food waste at every post-harvest step. Unfortunately, some of our best attempts to eat healthier and more nutritious foods contribute substantially to food waste. We’ve been told for decades that fresh fruits and vegetables are a part of every healthy diet, but the dark side of that very quest for “fresh” is spoilage. Researchers at Southern Illinois University are working at several stages of the farm-to-table (and beyond) cycle to find ways to reduce waste without sacrificing nutrition and taste.


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

There’s food waste at every post-harvest step. Unfortunately, some of our best attempts to eat healthier and more nutritious foods contribute substantially to food waste. We’ve been told for decades that fresh fruits and vegetables are a part of every healthy diet, but the dark side of that very quest for “fresh” is spoilage. Researchers at Southern Illinois University are working at several stages of the farm-to-table (and beyond) cycle to find ways to reduce waste without sacrificing nutrition and taste.

Infrared light Ruplal Choudhary, a bioprocess engineer and associate professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems, began looking at uses for infrared light in food processing when he was still a graduate student. At SIU, he’s using infrared light to determine nutritional levels in fresh produce. He and several graduate student researchers are contributing to an Illinois Department of Agriculture specialty-crop block-grant study of Asian greens. April Vigardt, a College of Agricultural Sciences researcher, is growing 35 different varieties of Asian greens, including bok choy, bekana and komatsuna, to determine which greens will grow best in Southern Illinois, and Sylvia Smith Thoms, associate professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems, is studying how well the local palate will adapt to them. Choudhary and a team of student researchers are handling the phytonutrient and antioxidant analysis of the greens. Phytonutrients are health-boosting qualities of food occurring naturally in plants that have particular health effects. For example, glucosinolates, a class of phytonutrient, appear in cruciferous (green leaf) vegetables and give those vegetables their odor and flavor. Research suggests that glucosinolates are useful in slowing or stopping the development and growth of cancer. Near-infrared (NIR) and mid-infared (MIR) spectroscopes are becoming more common to determine fats, proteins and carbohydrates in nutritional analysis, but Choudhary’s analysis also determines the phytochemical, antioxidant and keratin protein makeup of the produce. He’s building a database of known analyses to “train” the spectroscopes in his lab. As the database grows, use of the spectrometer becomes more efficient.

In addition to the spectroscopes, he uses a camera to record the color and texture of fresh produce. Together with the spectroscope, he can even predict taste qualities such as sweetness or crispness. He hopes that the technology he’s using in his lab will find its way to food processing, making sorting fresh produce more efficient. In an earlier study, conducted with Alan Walters, professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems, he used the spectrometer in the nutrition lab to help the research team determine how harvest time affects the nutritional value of produce. The team harvested produce at various stages of ripeness and found that the more ripe the fruit or vegetable is when harvested, the better its nutritional value. In addition, the team checked nutritional levels after harvest on the same day, the next day and after a week. They found that post-harvest nutritional levels declined over time. This study clearly indicates that, for optimum nutritional value, produce should not be harvested early, nor should it sit around for a long time in storage. However, that’s a problem for major retailers of fruits and vegetables. It takes time to harvest produce and ship it, which is why some produce is harvested early and allowed to finish ripening post-harvest. In addition, for a grocery store, quantity and choice is part of marketing –but that can contribute to fresh produce staying in the store longer than a day, two days or even a week. The problem goes beyond declining nutritional benefits. The longer produce sits, the more likely it is to spoil – and that contributes to food waste. SIU researchers are seeing a different kind of light when it comes to preserving food freshness.

This study clearly indicates that, for optimum nutritional value, produce should not be harvested early, nor

should it sit around for a long time in storage.

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


Ultraviolet light Ultraviolet light seems an unlikely ally in the quest to preserve the freshness of fruits and vegetables. However, UV sterilization or UV irradiation can kill a list of things that lead to food spoilage, including viruses, bacteria, molds and yeasts. Ultraviolet light is classified by wavelength. UV-C has the shortest wavelength and is germicidal. It deactivates the DNA of pathogens, which prevents them from multiplying and spreading disease. Irradiation already is a common application to disinfect and sanitize drinking water, and even to disinfect the air and food contact surfaces. Food processors also have been applying UV-C lights to reduce dangerous pathogens in food and beverages, particularly in dairy products and fruit juices, for some time. Researchers are finding applications with a wide range of other foods, including fresh produce. UV-C light, which kills E. coli and salmonella, among other well-known bacteria, also can contribute to preserving freshness. However, the technology can be costly – and the research is far from complete. Choudhary and Dennis Watson, associate professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems, are working on cost-effective “smart technology” ways to implement UV-C irradiation at the retail level for fresh produce. They’ve tested the effectiveness of UV light on blueberries and strawberries, and they know it works to kill the


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

bacteria and germs that lead to fruit spoilage. But there’s a problem: UV light is hot. Using UV light to keep berries fresh ends up cooking or drying them. So the team began working on a cooler that would use UV light to keep the produce fresh but also neutralize the heat the light generates. To make the cooler more energy efficient, Watson is working to build in smart technology. High humidity makes it easier for bacteria and other food nasties to grow. Watson wants the cooler to chill more when humidity is high, and to back off when the humidity level is lower. He’s working on a humidity and temperature sensor that will automatically adjust cooling in relation to humidity. Choudhary and Watson hope this combination of UV light and “smart” cooling will eventually be available to grocery retailers to use in their storage areas. If grocers can keep food fresh longer, that should contribute to a reduction in food waste. And if the technology works well enough to allow for later harvest, consumers wouldn’t miss out on the enhanced nutritional value of in-the-field ripening. Meanwhile, Choudhary is exploring natural phenolic compounds to use with the UV light for freshness. In an experiment with strawberries and blueberries kept fresh longer under UV light, he also used limonene, a citrus-based compound that works as a natural antimicrobial agent. The limonene discourages fungus growth on the post-harvest berries. With the UV light and limonene combination,

Choudhary and Watson hope this combination of UV light and “smart” cooling will eventually be available to grocery retailers to use in their storage areas.

the team kept berries fresh for two weeks, and edible (with some shrinkage) for three weeks. This compares favorably to the typical one week of freshness for non-treated berries.

Curcumin-coated surfaces Choudhary also is working with the spice turmeric – or, more specifically, curcumin – to make food-safe, antibacterial surfaces for food processing, preparation and packaging. Curcumin, the main ingredient in turmeric, forms a phenolic compound that contains naturally occurring properties, making it a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. This is not news in India, where curcumin is widely used as a medicinal herb. Science, however, has confirmed that the phenolic compounds known as curcuminoids have health benefits and antimicrobial qualities. Choudhary and a collaborative team of SIU researchers in the colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Science, along with a team under the direction of Victor Rodov from the Agricultural Research Organization at the Volcani Center in Israel, put curcumin to the test as they tried to find a way to use the phenolic compound to create a foodsafe, antibacterial surface. Their initial tests, conducted with the aid of a $100,000 feasibility grant from the Bi-national Agricultural Research and Development

Fund (BARD), included other compounds, such as resveratrol found in grapes and hydroxytyrosal found in olives. Curcumin turned out to be the most effective antimicrobial compound. In particular, the researchers tested the compound against E. coli and found curcumin to be highly effective. With the aid of $300,000 in continued support from BARD, the team, including Punit Kohli, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and John Haddock, associate professor of microbiology, set out to use the curcumin compound to develop an antimicrobial surface. They employed nanotechnology, a relatively new interdisciplinary science dealing in the realm of the very tiny – smaller-than-microscopic tiny. The team built nano-vesicles for the curcumin compound, which adhere to, and enclose, the compound and bind it to glass and other surfaces. These nano-coated surfaces, when used in food processing, preparation and storage, naturally kill microbes and prevent spoilage. Despite the spicy origin of the compound, the nano-treated surface does not flavor the food that comes in contact with it. Choudhary wants to use the curcumin compound in active food packaging – nano-coated packaging that extends the shelf life of fresh produce and other foods with natural antimicrobials and preservatives. His studies continue.

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


Farming r w by r w Precision Agriculture Is Here To Stay


ome things about farming never change. And some things change so fast that keeping up is almost impossible. The biggest development in farming in the past decade or so is the shift to precision agriculture – farm management based on intensive examination of the field row by row, even plant by plant, rather than managing a field as a single unit. The implications are far-reaching, from saving money to saving the environment. Myron Albers, senior lecturer in plant, soil and agricultural systems, is also interim director of University Farms. He talked about a few of the changes that make farming today a different career than it was as little as a generation or two ago. Some of it is technology, some of it is philosophy. Agricultural education may be more important than ever now, Albers said. The high-tech equipment becoming more widely used requires training.


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Farmers or students need experience with equipment, production and being able to sell themselves through presentational skills,” Albers said. “Realize your potential employer or banker is looking to evaluate you in those areas.” In addition, sustainability is an increasing concern in the food market. Consumers today, even if they are far away from farm life, focus on issues that include environmental degradation through soil erosion, agricultural runoff and other factors; biodiversity and monoculture acreage; water resources; and more. They question the benefits of industrial agriculture in a way very few people would have thought to ask 20 or 30 years ago, when the increased production made possible by increased mechanization was taken for granted. Albers overviews a few of the technologies that are changing the face of agriculture – technologies that may improve farming efficiency and sustainability at the same time.

Drones “The most interesting thing taking place now is the rapid development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), otherwise known as drones, adapted to agricultural applications, including spraying and scouting for pests and plant growth problems,” he said. Drones can scout a field, including the very center of it, far more quickly than a walkthrough. Infrared and other applications can gauge plant health in a way the naked eye never could. And they can target problem areas, applying more seed, more herbicide, more whatever, just where it is needed. “This results in less chemical applied and enables us to lower potential contamination in other areas,” Albers said. “This is where sustainability can make a difference.”


Equipment investment

Even higher in the sky than drones, but already grounded in agricultural production, are satellites – namely, the Global Position System (GPS) and its agricultural applications, often used in conjunction with geographic information systems (GIS). By simply by pushing a button in the relative comfort of a tractor cab, a farmer can obtain immediate information about soil moisture, erosion or other factors that contribute to soil fertility. The farmer can use this information to regulate pesticide or fertilizer application, making it possible to treat the field only as needed, rather than wasting applications where they aren’t required. “The greatest advantage to precision agriculture is the ability to manage the crop better,” Albers said. “We can use variable-rate seed planting on various locations in the field where fertility and growing conditions are better or worse – planting less on wet locations or hillsides, for example.” Albers also referred to row shutoff devices that help keep planter overlap to a minimum and result in seed savings. “This technology depends on GPS, on the planter knowing where it is in the field,” Albers said. “And on the harvesting side, yield mapping will show where there are problems during the growing season, and may help determine where closer field management is necessary.”

Precision agricultural equipment is not cheap, and it might be out of reach for farmers whose acreage is in low triple digits. But Albers said used equipment might be more affordable – and might just be worth the investment. “Take small steps and evaluate your results,” he said. “Examine your machinery needs closely to determine what is critical, and investigate leasing, renting or sharing equipment.”

Sustainability Albers sees two general advantages to precision farming: economic efficiency over the long run and sustainability. “In really restrictive times, as we now face related to crop prices, any input costs that can be reduced without impacting yield are a big deal to the bottom line on costs,” he said. The directed applications synonymous with precision farming are meant to reduce waste and increase efficiency – a combination most farmers welcome. Those concerned with sustainability may well welcome it, too, for the potential to reduce substantially the amount of chemicals – fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides – sprayed onto fields.

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


Educate Facts


Agriculture is the largest industry in the state, employing 25 percent of the state’s workers. There are more than 300 different agriculturerelated careers in Illinois.

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Nationally, there are about 1 million agricultural education students in the nation, taught by nearly 12,000 secondary school teachers with more than 10 million hours of in-school instruction annually.

There are 2.2 million farms in America, and 97 percent of them are family owned – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. In Illinois, there are more than 75,000 farms. The average farm size is 358 acres, and the state’s total farmland is 26.7 million acres.

There are 1,300,000 cattle, 4,650,000 pigs, 69,000 sheep and 200,000 horses in Illinois. Illinois dairy cattle produce more than 1.8 million pounds of milk each year. Illinois chickens produce more than 1.4 million eggs every year.

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Corn and soybeans are Illinois’ top crops, accounting for $13 billion in farm sales. In 2013, Illinois was the top producing state for soybeans, with more than 461 million bushels. Illinois also is the leading state in production of the specialty crops of pumpkins and horseradish.

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Marketing Illinois’ commodities generates more than $9 billion annually. The agribusiness industry contributes more than $13.5 billion to the state’s economy.

Conservation-minded farming techniques have contributed to a nearly 50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982. Farmers have enrolled 31 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, contributing to estimated soil erosion reduction of 622 million tons and more than 2 million acres returned to wetlands.



Farm and ranch families make up just 2 percent of the U.S. population.


The average depth of topsoil in Illinois is 12.6 inches. Illinois includes approximately 1,500 different soil types.

Forty-two percent of districts surveyed the USDA say they participate in farm-to-school activities. That’s 5,254 districts and 42,587 schools. The two most common farm-to-school activities are serving locally produced food in the cafeteria and promoting locally produced food at school.

Sources: National Association of Agricultural Educators; Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education – Illinois Agricultural Education; American Farm Bureau Federation;; USDA Farm to School Census; and

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences



Conservation Efforts Underway


t seems counterintuitive: To preserve something in nature, nature must be managed. And not gently; conservation management techniques include tree harvest, prescribed burns, and sometimes even the application of herbicides. James Zaczek, professor and chair of the Department of Forestry at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, explained that there are two basic schools of thought when it comes to protecting a natural area. One is preservation: mark off the area and leave it alone; no more human meddling. The other is conservation: Determine what in the natural area is to be protected, and then protect it. The latter viewpoint is currently at work in the Trail of Tears State Forest. Charles Ruffner, forestry professor and a member of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, also is the faculty leader of the Saluki Fire Dawgs, a student organization at SIU devoted to


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

ecological research whose members participate in prescribed burns. The group has been part of efforts to restore health and resilience to the forest – and, in particular, to protect the oak species that are crucial to biodiversity. “It seems people think forests exist on the landscape forever,” Ruffner said. “Trees do have long life spans. White oak can live 200 to 400 years – but, for black oak, 100 years is old. Maples can live 200 to 300 years. However, trees do die of old age.” Ruffner explained that different species of trees require different environments. “Oaks need a more open canopy,” he said. “When they are young trees, they put growth energy into their root systems. Maples put growth energy into growing taller. Maples can crowd out the young oak, closing up the holes in the canopy the oak need.” That’s what’s happening in the Trail of Tears forest. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, oak has dropped there

by 50 percent since 1980, while American beech and maple are on the rise. Without intervention, the oak species could disappear – and that will change the nature of the forest. “We haven’t had a regeneration cycle for oak,” Ruffner said. “That’s one reason we are losing them.” Bringing the oaks back protects more than just the oak trees. If oak is once again the dominant tree species in the forest, then the forest floor will receive more light. That benefits wildflowers and grasses, as well as the pollinators and bird species that prefer grassy spaces and sunlight. In addition, oak provides food for multiple species of animals, creating a biologically diverse habitat. Zaczek referred to a natural history survey area in the Kaskaskia River bottoms where data has been collected regularly for more than 60 years – and where there has been almost no human intervention. The result is that sugar maples have increased from less than 20 percent

ng Nature

y In Trail Of Tears State Forest

“It seems people think forests exist on the landscape forever.”

of new tree stems to more than 60 percent – and that’s at the expense of oak and hickory. The maple outgrows the oak and hickory in the early stages, closing the canopy. In 62 years of keeping records in that area, not a single oak or hickory stem made it to tree-hood. “Wildlife in this area has evolved with oak and hickory forests,” Zaczek said. “Without those tree species, we can have a real problem with biodiversity and wildlife habitat.” The foresters at Trail of Tears are undertaking the process of restoring oak by selective tree removal, including commercial harvest, in about 142 acres out of the 5,000 acres of forest. “Lumber still is a component of the Illinois economy,” Ruffner said, noting that lumber harvest can be part of a sound conservation strategy. Prescribed burns can be part of the strategy as well, particularly when it comes to managing invasive species. Ruffner’s research

specialty is historical ecology. He said Native Americans regularly used prescribed burns to manage the forest to achieve some of the same results the Trail of Tears conservationists hope for – promoting oak and hickory species, and the biodiversity that goes with them. “I hear this idea sometimes that management of natural areas is not ‘natural,’ ” he said. “It’s natural; we are part of the environment. What’s not natural is preventing natural disturbance. Increased management is beneficial to conservation.” Ruffner noted that, for many years, public opinion about the Shawnee National Forest and state forests near it has been strongly against tree harvest of any kind. As more people understand the goals of conservation, though, public support for scientific, ecologically sound management has increased. The problem now is funding. “We’ve mapped out areas that are unique habitats, areas we want to protect,” he said.

“The Illinois Nature Preserves Commission identifies these areas on private land and works to negotiate contracts for future purchase of those areas. That is dependent on state funding. What we’re seeing to fill in the gaps or delays in funding is the rise of citizen groups who are stepping up to help manage for native prairie and oak and hickory forest.” Ruffner referred to the Southern Illinois Prescribed Burn Association, the first of its kind east of the Mississippi River, established in 2006. This group of landowners and conservationists works with SIU and the IDNR in the 11 southernmost counties of Illinois to restore natural habitat. “Regeneration of an oak forest is a process that requires many steps,” Zaczek said. “Harvesting and planting is just the beginning. People respect the huge, old trees, but there’s a saying: ‘Baby trees need love, too.’ ”

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences





hmad Fakhoury, associate professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems, spends hours with a microscope seeking ways to defeat soybean-and corn-killing fungi. Still, he can’t help but like the fungi – partly because they are so difficult to subvert. “They are complex enough to be interesting, but not so complex as to be unknowable,” he said. “We can manipulate them easily enough to handle in the lab, and they are mostly not pathogenic to people. They are easy to maintain and grow. They don’t really die easily.” They also can be rather pretty, Fakhoury said, at least when they are under a microscope. Fakhoury also admires the great variation of fungi. Some reproduce by spores, others by meiosis. And fungi have many uses. Many have antimicrobial functions, which makes some species useful in producing


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

antibiotics, vitamins, and cancer-fighting and cholesterol-lowering drugs. Without fungi, bread and beer would be far different, as would soy sauce, sake and cheese. And, of course, mushrooms are perhaps the most famous fungi. However, not all fungi are beneficial. Fungi cause some of the leading soybean diseases, including leaf spots, root and stem rot, and seedling blights. For example: Sclerotinia stem rot, also known as white mold, can, under the right circumstances, destroy an entire crop. The United Soybean Board and several university partners provide annual estimates of soybean yield reduction caused by plant disease or pathogens. Charcoal rot in 2014 caused an estimated yield loss of 26 million bushels, while sudden death syndrome caused a yield loss of 61 million bushels. Both of those are fungal diseases.

“They are complex enough to be interesting, but not so complex as to be unknowable.”

Most of the fungi causing soybean disease are microscopic. The farmer doesn’t know they are there until the problem is visible in the field. Even then, several diseases have similar symptoms. Identifying the fungi (or bacteria or nematode) causing the disease is crucial to treating the disease and taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence. Fakhoury is engaged in a study of soybean seedling diseases. The research received funding from the United Soybean Board and the North Central Soybean Research Program. Fakhoury is studying fungal isolates – pure samples separated from a mixed culture. He and other researchers are testing each isolate to determine which are harmful to the seedlings. For this study alone, Fakhoury is working with about 3,500 fungal isolates. As he began to identify the pathogenic fungi on seedling samples collected from several sites in the Midwest, he discovered that some fungal isolates seemed to compete with the pathogenic fungi, while others appear to attack the pathogenic fungi as parasites. It was an exciting discovery and led to further study, funded by the North Central Soybean Research Program. Fakhoury is now looking at potential biocontrol applications. He hopes to use the fungal isolates to fight pathogenic fungi and protect vulnerable soybean seedlings. The first laboratory trials were successful. Fakhoury tested 58 fungal isolates as potential biocontrol agents against seven soybean fungal

pathogens and found several that worked against the organisms that cause soybean sudden death syndrome, seed decay and charcoal rot. Fakhoury conducted further tests in the research greenhouse, and he has experienced success there as well. The next step is field trials, and those tests are already underway. Even better, he has found that some of the biocontrol agents are resistant to fungicides, which may make it possible to incorporate them into an integrated disease control management program. Fakhoury also found that some of the fungal biocontrol agents not only targeted the pathogenic fungi, but also seemed to induce soybean defense-related genes, increasing the soybean seedlings’ innate resistance to diseases. “We want to coat the seeds with the ‘good’ fungal isolates – biocontrol agents – to help the seedlings withstand the pathogenic fungi,” he said. “If the field trials are successful, we might have another tool to combat soybean seedling diseases – a natural, biological tool. We also want to fine-tune existing soil management and diseasecontrol practices to enhance the environment for the good fungi.” The seedling project is a collaborative effort involving universities from Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska and Minnesota, as well as SIU.

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


Learning Throu The Grapevine

Vine-To-Wine Research Opportunities In The Region’s Growing Wine Tourism I


t was a way to make a real difference, to help a fledgling industry get off the ground. Twenty years after shifting his main focus from peaches and apples to grapes, Bradley Taylor, associate professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is pleased that the time he invested in helping grape growers in the region has contributed to a strong agricultural and agro-tourism enterprise. One thing he loves about his research is the opportunity to be outside, in the vines,


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

working with students to help them learn and develop efficient and environmentally friendly growing techniques. Another thing he loves is the way the wineries in the area emphasize the natural, giving their customers a chance to see the vineyards that produce the fruit that ultimately ends up in their wine glasses. “This area is an effort in stewardship,” he said. “Our industry is a method of connecting the urban consumer back to the earth and nature, and the practice of producing fruit. It’s an unknown; so many people never realize how

many out-of-our-control factors producers deal with (and) how easily we can lose an entire crop.” With grapes in Southern Illinois, the two factors growers expect are the dangers of spring frost, which can reduce or eliminate the crop, and winter injury, which can destroy the vines. There are dozens of other factors; not enough rain or too much, plant disease and wind damage are a few. But untimely cold is a constant challenge, and it’s one of the reasons so many vineyards in the region are set on hills. “When the weather is cool, hilltops can

“Our industry is a method of connecting the urban consumer back to the earth and nature, and the practice of producing fruit.”

ugh e


be 3 to 10 degrees warmer than down in the bottoms,” Taylor explained. “The cold air flows down the hill, and the warmer air above it drops onto the hilltop. In the summer, we have to deal with excess humidity, and hilltops drain better – and, because they get more circulating air, they often dry faster.” Another advantage hills present is low soil fertility. It seems counterintuitive, but Taylor said that grape growers want their plants to put energy into the fruit, not in growing long shoots – the leafy branches that come off the

main vine. Six feet is about perfect; longer than that and the shoots produce too many leaves, which prevent the grapes from thriving. Taylor and his students are working with Chambourcin grapes at Blue Sky Vineyard. They take “hands-on learning” literally. As the students work on the various projects, they routinely straighten the vines, arranging the leaves so the grapes get sunlight exposure. Sarah Bowman, a doctoral student from Bourbonnais, is working on cover treatments – growing plants in the vineyard aisles to help keep the weeds in check. Traditionally, grape growers clear all vegetation in the aisles and between rows. The idea behind planting manageable vegetation is that it helps prevent erosion, a particular concern on a hillside in a climate given to isolated bursts of heavy rainfall. Bowman is working with several kinds of grasses, particularly red fescue, which she favors for its fine grass blade and low water use. In some cases, she mows the fescue when it reaches a certain height and uses the clippings

as mulch. She’s also trying a successive treatment of rye, spring oats and sorghum, which keeps the aisles in continual growth. In addition to live planting, she’s experimenting with compost created by the winery of seeds, skins, stems and decaying wood. She came to SIU to study journalism, but found her true calling with grape production. “This is my office,” she said. “I’m so lucky I get to come out and spend so much time outside in this environment. This vineyard has been a huge part of my life for the past three years.” Bowman’s efforts, combined with the close care Taylor’s team is giving the vineyard, is working. “They were open to letting us do what we wanted,” Taylor said. “When we first started working this part of the vineyard three years ago, the vines were starved and not producing a profitable crop. Now, with what we’ve done, the yield is up 60 percent. It didn’t happen overnight. That’s the key to successful production – you have to look at the whole system, and you have to be patient.”

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


You also have to work around a host of factors, many of them out of human control. The climate lately has been variable, Taylor said, with too much rain or not enough. The vineyard uses a preventive fungicide, but plant disease is still a challenge. And people aren’t the only grape consumers: Deer creep into the vines, and a flock of migrating birds can wipe out whole sections of the vineyard. “The final variable is people,” Taylor said. “The viticulturist is responsible for growing the grapes and the wine maker for making the wine. The two need to cooperate; they need to respect each other’s work and understand the basics about it.” Kaleb Wilson is a 2004 SIU graduate and one of Blue Sky’s wine makers. He said working closely with the viticulturist, and being involved in the grape growing as well helps to build recognizable “terroir” – the sum collective of all the factors that are part of a grape-growing area that give both fruit and wine a distinctive character. “We’re really starting to develop that here,” he said. “We still have a ways to go. In making wine, balance is the most important thing. I prefer a little edginess; I want to make a wine that stands out in a crowd.” Taylor agreed that the Southern Illinois wine industry, despite its current success, can do better still. “I continue with this because the grape and wine industry has a significant opportunity for growth and importance as a specialty crop,” Taylor said. “The wine industry brings $700 million of economic impact to the area, but we have tremendous opportunities for growth. Across the river in Missouri, they have twice the acreage in grapes and an economic impact of $1.8 billion. So, yes, I believe this industry has room to grow.”


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Raise your glass – Southern Illinois has earned recognition as an American Viticultural Area – the Shawnee Hills AVA. The region covers 2,140 square miles in portions of Alexander, Gallatin, Hardin, Jackson, Johnson, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Saline, Union and Williamson counties. This designation is a traditional way to define an area where grapes for wine are grown with a certain level of consistency, quality and quantity, among other factors.

Common Illinois Grapes Chambourcin – a dark grape that produces a red wine similar to a Bourdeaux and is sometimes used in rosé wines. Seyval – a widely planted grape producing a white wine similar to Chardonnay. Vignoles – a versatile white wine grape that can be used in dry to sweet wines. Chardonel – a hybrid of Chardonnay and Seyval vines, this makes a dry white wine. Vidal Blanc – a white wine grape that produces a wine similar to Sauvingnon Blanc. Norton – a dark red wine grape with flavors of plum and cherry.


Herbicide-Resistant Weeds Require Integrated Management


arla Gage is a weed ecologist and plant biologist. She researches what makes weeds thrive to find ways to discourage them from doing so. One thing she knows for sure: Weeds adapt quickly. “Nature is always selecting for something,” Gage said. “An effective weed program has many points of attack. It’s an integrated system.” Gage is particularly concerned about “superweeds,” the herbicide-resistant biotypes that are plaguing farmers nationwide. The answer, Gage said, isn’t just new herbicide formulas, but better herbicide stewardship. Herbicide-resistant “superweeds” develop the same way as antibioticresistant “superbugs”: rapid evolution and consistent exposure to the same prevention method. Many species of weeds, such as Palmer amaranth and waterhemp, evolve quickly. Each time plants reproduce, the offspring have new combinations of genes from each parent. This increases the likelihood of plants adapting to survive herbicide application. Spraying the same herbicide repeatedly makes the problem worse, not better. Some of the weeds survive, and they pass their resistant traits on to the next generation of weeds. Herbicide resistance also can occur when land managers apply herbicides to weeds that are too large to control with herbicide, or

when they use herbicides at concentrations below the suggested amount. This practice can lead to “creeping resistance,” where plants become a little more tolerant to the herbicide with each generation. “We’ve seen this happen with glyphosate (Roundup) use,” Gage said. “We need to learn our lesson from this. If the herbicide is not applied correctly, it contributes to widespread resistance.” An integrated approach incorporates weed management into every phase of farming. Gage advocates a combination of different herbicides, such as soil-residual treatments, along with non-herbicidal practices to address weeds across a broader spectrum – such as the use of cover crops. Among her current research projects, Gage is working with a team in Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge to study possible advantages of pollinator-friendly cover crops or field border crops to help manage weeds. She’s also looking at narrow-windrow burning as a way to destroy weed seeds. In this method, a chute on the back of the combine concentrates the chaff into a narrow row, like a crop row. Burning the rows may be effective against some species such as waterhemp. In fact, narrow-windrow burning may be more effective than burning an entire field. Gage noted there is some urgency to develop diverse weed control programs. The Weed Science Society of America reports that farmers lose billions of dollars to weeds every year – about $27 billion in corn and $16 billion in soybeans. And although herbicide-resistant weeds have been around a long time, the number of resistant weeds has increased dramatically in the last quarter-century. According to WSSA, 250 species of weeds have evolved resistance to 160 different herbicides, spanning 23 of the 26 known herbicide types. “If we lose our most important chemical tools to herbicide-resistant weeds, we’ll be back to soil cultivation to control them,” Gage said. “Growers may not have the labor or tools to do that effectively and would lose important advances in soil conservation. It’s crucial to develop effective weed-control programs that slow down the evolution to resistance.” Gage, along with five graduate students and two full-time researchers, is involved in 96 field trials this season at five different sites in Southern Illinois. “Some of our field trials are in collaboration with industry, and some are scientific inquiry weed science and ecology,” she said. “They are all aimed at agriculture-focused, direct-application weed control.”

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


FOAL WATCH What To Expect When A Mare Is Expecting


alk about a demanding class: Animal Science 419 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale requires students to spend a few overnights in the barn. But the students love it. Animal Science 419 is “Stable Management.” The nights spent in the barn are “foal watch” nights, and the purpose is for each student to witness a mare foaling – otherwise known as the birth of a baby horse. Students learn the “textbook” version of foaling before they begin their nighttime vigils in the barn. The students monitor the mares by video camera. A typical night is 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and the students need to be awake and


Southern Illinois University Carbondale

alert the entire time. Most mares foal during the night, and things can happen quickly. Stephanie Speiser, senior lecturer and the foal watch instructor, explained that mares have only about a half-hour after their water breaks in which to safely deliver a foal. Longer than that, and the mare may develop problems that endanger the foal’s life – as well as her own. The tension when a mare shows signs of foaling on that night is nearly unbearable. The mares on video are those who’ve shown physical signs a foal is coming soon. When the students observe a mare’s water break, they go to the mare to monitor her directly, but with as little interference as

possible. They record everything: when labor began, when it ended, how quickly the foal stands, how soon it begins nursing, and other vital and behavioral signs. And always, the students notify barn manager Sheila Puckett, who is present at all the births. Puckett decides if the mare needs assistance – and, if so, if a veterinarian should be present. “One thing I can say after 12 years of foaling mares here, it never gets old,” Puckett said. “If I have reason to think a mare might foal, I can’t sleep. When that phone call comes, all my energy is focused on getting the foal here safely and keeping mom in good health as it happens.”

“If I have reason to think a mare might foal, I can’t sleep. When that phone call comes, all my energy is focused on getting the foal here safely and keeping mom in good health as it happens.” Students greet Hershey as his mother, Blitz, gets to know him. Student Michael Halpin is in the foreground. She witnessed four foalings during the 20 or so days she participated in foal watch.

Michael Halpin, a senior from Dorchester, Illinois, was present at four foalings during her foal watch nights. She spent about 20 nights total in the barn, staying there every fourth night during foal watch. “Every time I saw a mare going into labor, adrenaline would kick in,” she said. “After weeks of foal watch and staying up all night, the moment the water broke all thoughts of sleep vanished. I tried to stay out of the way and hope nothing went wrong. Waiting to see that new foal for the first time – watching them struggle to stand up and balance, and hearing the foal nicker for the first time – is something I cannot put into words.” “Watching foalings is like a box of mixed emotions,” added Samantha Wuest, a graduate student from Edwardsville, Illinois, and assistant barn manager who was a teaching assistant for foal watch last spring. “Your adrenaline is up, you’re excited, nervous, hoping all goes OK, and overwhelmed with the

job. It only takes about an hour for the foal to be born and then up and nursing, and then you are overwhelmed with exhaustion. I have spent more nights at the SIU Equine Center than I can count – but I don’t regret it.” Speiser said the whole experience is part of what she wants students to learn – not just the biology. “The class teaches not only foaling, but also gives students the opportunity to build responsibility, to observe horse behavior for hours on end, and good practices under pressure,” she said. “Foal watch is actually one of the reasons I chose SIU for my animal science degree,” Wuest said. “I came to SIU specifically to have the breeding and foaling experience hands-on.” She’s been around the horse barns long enough to know some years, and some births, are more joyous than others. Speiser tells a story about a mare that took four hours to foal – far too long to be safe. The foal was in the

wrong position and the mare was suffering from fescue toxicosis, a grass-based poison to which pregnant mares are susceptible. The foaling crew had called a veterinarian, who was on the brink of euthanizing the mare when the mare fell down in shock. And a foal’s nose appeared! “We grabbed forelegs and jerked the foal out, thinking it might be dead,” Speiser said. “It fell to the ground and blinked! Twenty students had gathered by now, and you should have heard everyone shout. I have a picture in my office. It was a happy ending – but I’m glad we don’t have dramatic stories like that very often.” The foal watch experience is intense, and it gives students a real look at what a career in equine reproduction might mean. Halpin values her experience but is looking at other areas of the equine industry. Wuest is keeping her options open, and one day hopes to own her own breeding and foaling business. SIU is the only public university in Illinois offering a bachelor’s degree in equine science.

2017 College of Agricultural Sciences


Farming For The Future In The Present: Sustainability Or Export Markets?


pecific numbers vary by the study, but the alarm bells ring the same warning: The United States needs to grow more food to meet the needs of an expanding world population. Because of its position as a leading food producer, the United States is expected by the rest of the world to provide leadership during the predicted food security crisis – and American farmers are on it. They’ve been exploring ways to increase yield per acre and agricultural productivity, too. But Wanki Moon, professor of agribusiness economics at SIU, asks: What if, from a global perspective, it would be better if the American agricultural industry paid greater attention to promoting sustainability and food quality rather than increasing production for the purposes of export? Moon said one of the reasons America is such a powerhouse in agriculture is because there is strong public support for agriculture and an innovative private agribusiness sector. Some of the public support is in the form of subsidies, but some comes as university extension programs that help farmers stay up to date on best practices and efficient techniques. This helping hand to agriculture helps the consumer as well. The strong infrastructure and support system are why Americans enjoy stable and reasonable food prices – a benefit to consumers and producers alike. The United States has been in the “cheap food era,” Moon said, and has been able to export cheaply, too. In some cases, often with an eye to diplomacy, the United States even gives away food. There’s a side effect to this ability to produce, though, that affects poorer countries that are food importers. They can’t produce food as cheaply at home as a major producer, such as the United States, can provide it to them out of surplus. As these countries become dependent on foreign food, their own agriculture industry stalls, Moon said. The problem this causes for underdeveloped countries is that, without a successful agricultural industry, they cannot address food insecurity and poverty, which adversely affects their overall economic development. This keeps them from participating in the global economy. A country that has poor public infrastructure and a weak agribusiness sector is a country with a food security deficit. These are the countries that will be hit hardest by food shortages, no matter if the reason is population explosion or climate change. If the world really wants these countries to be food secure, Moon said, then these countries will have to grow their agricultural industries. They will have to produce more on their own land to reduce poverty and food insecurity, and to lay the foundation for overall economic development, he said.


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If that sounds simple, think again. If these countries import less, where will agricultural exporters – such as the United States, France and Brazil (to name some of the top agricultural exporters) – sell their surplus? One possible answer is to give up the market-based model of more production at less cost, and instead adopt a sustainability-based model that takes into account food production in the future – without sacrificing today’s farmers’ livelihoods. “No one wants to see a mass loss of farmland or farmers losing their livelihood,” Moon said. “It’s a matter of food security for any nation to ensure continued agricultural growth.” Moon noted that programs already exist to encourage farmers to hold onto their land but to keep some of it fallow, or even to promote natural ecosystems by restoring wetland or forest land. If the emphasis of the subsidies shifted from increased production to promotion of sustainable practices, the long-run payoff might be well worth the shift, he said. Some of the land management problems we are facing – depleted water resources, agricultural runoff in the water system, a lack of biodiversity in some farmland areas and problems with soil fertility – may be addressed by more sustainable farming methods he said. “We’re looking at $40 billion lost annually to soil erosion damage; depletion of water resources, 70 percent of which is used in agriculture; crises in soil fertility; and agricultural runoff,” Moon said. “Now is the time to invest in a new agricultural revolution – a more sustainable one with use of cover crops, no-till production, intercropping to promote biodiversity, better management of livestock grazing and other practices.” Meanwhile, the food aid the United States gives developing and Third World countries could continue to be used for helping the U.S. World Food Program designed to cope with emergency food crises. However, Moon said, the United States and other agriculturally prosperous nations should find ways to help developing nations strengthen their agricultural production capacity. For many nations, improvement would come from simply using basic technologies employed elsewhere in the world, he said. He acknowledges that this is not a popular notion with agricultural export countries. It seems counterintuitive to suggest that it’s good for the American agricultural industry to not be aggressive in seeking export markets, but Moon said that a more sustainable approach will benefit global agriculture in the long term.


The Agbassadors have been on the front line of SIU recruitment efforts for 30 years. They are the group of students that represent the college to the campus and community -- they are the first face many prospective Salukis get to know. “It’s an honor to be selected to become an Agbassador,” Peter Dirks, coordinator of student success and transition, explained. Students who want to be considered for the group must attend an informational meeting and submit an application that includes an essay, a resumé and reference letters. A selection committee composed of faculty, department chairs, staff and outgoing Agbassadors chooses applicants to interview. They choose the top 10 or 12 students who will best represent the college on visits to high schools, trade shows and community colleges. Agbassadors also play leadership roles during campus visits, open houses, FFA events held at SIU and at SIU Farms field days among other events. “Prospective students want to hear from current students,” Dirks said. “Also, high school and community college teachers and instructors love having their alumni back into their classrooms to talk about career opportunities and college choices for the students they are currently teaching. It’s a great way for us to stay in contact with our alumni who are teachers.” This year’s Agbassadors are: Graydon Baima (Collinsville, ANS); Chloe Buchanan (Leo-Cedarville, Ind., Ag Ed), Cody Carman

(Sullivan, Ag Ed), Hailey Duvall (Cuba, ANS), Zachary Edwards (Alton, ABE), Ally Engle (Aledo, HND), Danielle Freelove (Sugar Hill, Ga., ABE), Gabby Fry (Grayslake, ANS), Noah Gallion (Hillsboro, ABE), Peyton Gehrs (Highland, Ag Ed), Cameron Helderman (Rockville, Ind., ANS), Renee Kinzinger (New Athens, ABE), Elizabeth Lewis (Boonville,Ind., Ag Ed), Manuel Lopez (Chicago, ABE), Austin McAllister (Thebes, Ag Ed), Charlotte Metz (Elgin, ABE), Lauren Murray (Champaign, FOR), Krista Russell ( Jerseyville, Ag Ed), Austin Salsman (Greencastle, Ind., Ag Systems), Kelsey Smith (Pickneyville, CSEM), Christian Stanley (Eldorado, Ag Ed), Grant Suess (Greenville, ABE), Sarah Vogeler (Dixon, ANS), Trevor Wagner (Atwater, CSEM), Sarah Webster (Hudsonville, Mich., ANS) and Joshua Whelan (Prairie du Rocher, CSEM).

ABE – Agribusiness economics Ag Ed – Agricultural education Ag Systems – Agricultural systems ANS – Animal science CSEM – Crop, soil and environmental management FOR - Forestry HND – Human nutrition and dietetics

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

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

Belleville Field Day

Belleville Field Day, held annually at SIU’s Belleville Research Center, has a 50-year legacy of educating growers and other agricultural professionals in the southwestern Illinois region. Ronald Krausz, researcher at the facility, explained that the field day covers all aspects of crop production, from weed ecology and soil fertility to farm machinery technology and marketing. For the working farmer, the field day is a quick way to get up to date on new technology and research-tested farming protocols. The field day also provides education credit for certified crop consultants. Krausz has been part of the field day since 1984. Over the years, he’s seen increased emphasis on technology, including drones, which growers are using for field inspection and precision farming. Attendance at the field day averages about 150 participants. Vendors and farm machinery representatives also are on hand for demonstrations at most field day events. The SIU Belleville Research Center is on Illinois 161, south of the Scott Air Force Base and about 30 miles east of St. Louis. It includes 183 acres, 75 of which are devoted to crop production and small-plot research. Research projects include weed science, plant pathology and breeding, and production agronomy and horticulture. Crops include corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, wheat, canola, alfalfa, pumpkins and horseradish.

Agrisearch 2017  
Agrisearch 2017