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CAFNR Research Digest
CAFNR Office of Research Newsletter // Feb. 8, 2024 // 6(3)
Feature Story
CAFNR faculty find genes mammals use to sense their environment, while creating hair shedding prediction tool for cattle farmers and ranchers (click to read)
CAFNR faculty find genes mammals use to sense their environment, while creating hair shedding prediction tool for cattle farmers and ranchers »

The tool is part of a study published in an Oxford University Press journal and could be used to help cattle farmers improve the health, wellbeing and productivity of their herds.

A groundbreaking, newly-published study by CAFNR researcher Jared Decker uses genomics and citizen science to help cattle farmers and ranchers across the globe make better breeding selections that will ultimately improve sustainability, animal welfare and profitability of their operations. And, the key to all of this? Hair shedding.

“This project has been really exciting to me because it blends both very basic research all the way to very applied research, so it is one of those rare projects that covers that wide spectrum,” said Jared Decker, associate professor of animal sciences and Wurdack Chair of Animal Genomics.

According to Decker, some cows shed their winter hair more effectively than others. This means that some lose their heavy winter coats during the spring months before the heat of summer sets in while others hang onto portions of that coat well into summer – sometimes as late as August. This is problematic because when the cows retain this winter coat into the warm months, it means they are putting their energy into keeping cool.

“It’s a societal concern because that animal is going to experience more stress, mainly heat stress,” Decker said. “Those animals are also not going to be as efficient. As a consequence of that, they are going to have lower reproduction. Farmers are putting all of these resources into this cow, and they are not going to produce a calf to bring to market.”

Decker further explained that when a cow with remaining winter coat does conceive and produce a calf, that calf is often smaller and younger than its counterparts in the herd.

But, all of this can be mitigated if you can predict which bulls will produce cows that shed more or less efficiently, so, eight years ago, Decker set out to create a prediction tool.

The project was part of a $3 million grant from the USDA NIFA Food Security Program, and Decker’s study was published in the February edition of G3: Genes | Genomes | Genetics, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Oxford University Press on behalf of the Genetics Society of America.

Research Highlights
Smart agriculture: Farming in the digital age (click to read)
Smart agriculture: Farming in the digital age »

Mizzou’s new Digital Agriculture Research and Extension Center will enhance research, education and outreach in emerging digital technologies for farming.

MU to expand outreach and technical assistance to Missouri land-owners for conservation practices through NRCS grant (click to read)
MU to expand outreach and technical assistance to Missouri land-owners for conservation practices through NRCS grant »

A pair of grants totaling $1.4 million will fund eight new positions located throughout the state and impact more than 20,000 acres of Missouri farmland.

Leading DASS: Harvey S. James, Jr., named to head Division of Applied Social Sciences (click to read)
Leading DASS: Harvey S. James, Jr., named to head Division of Applied Social Sciences »

Appointment is effective March 1, 2024.

Grant Spotlight
Improving Sustainability of Solanaceous Crop Farming through Increased Effectiveness of Biocontrol Methods against Fusarium Diseases

PI: Peng Tian

Granting Agency: North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE)

Grant Amount: $248,459

What is the main objective of this project?

The objective of this project is to increase the sustainability of specialty crop farming by reducing the incidence of an important food security issue such as Fusarium through identification and management with effective biocontrol agents.

What is the potential impact of this project?

This project will benefit farmers in North Central Region of the US by providing concrete information on which Fusarium strains are currently infecting their solanaceous crops and which Trichoderma strains are most effective as biocontrol. Furthermore it arms farmers with the research-based knowledge to make informed management decisions that can avoid contamination or allow faster recovery and profitability.


Walter Gassmann, Professor of Plant Science and Technology, Director of the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center, and part of the MU Interdisciplinary Plant Group.

Leland Cseke, Research Lab Manager for the Gassmann Lab.

Ramon Arancibia, Field Specialist in Horticulture with the University of Missouri Extension.

Dhruba Dhakal, Field Specialist in Horticulture with the University of Missouri Extension.

Babu Valliyodan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Lincoln University.

Are there any graduate students or lab workers you would like to recognize in relation this this project?

No graduate student is included in this project, but the lab manager of Plant Diagnostic Clinic, Lili Zhang, and an undergraduate student in the FRIPS program, Rachel Derner, will be involved.

Mizzou Office of Research
Tracking Your Grant Budget (click to read)
Tracking Your Grant Budget

As a principal investigator, it is important to have a system for tracking your budget as you manage your project. Alex Logan, senior finance and accounting analyst at the eMINTS National Center, will demo his grant budget tracking sheet and share how to pull useful data from PeopleSoft to populate your spreadsheet. To join Logan, at noon Feb. 14, via Zoom for this session, register online. Logan will share a template with participants.

CAFNR Funding Opportunities
C-MAP applications are open

Applications are open for the CAFNR Matching Assistantship Program (C-MAP). The goal of this program is to increase the number of PhD students, which will strengthen CAFNR AAU metrics and further strengthen the CAFNR research community. This also helps support the efforts of our faculty to attract highly competitive new Ph.D. students to our CAFNR.

Deadline for submission of application documents is March 15 for Summer/Fall semester and Sept. 15 for Spring semester.

CAFNR will award C-MAP funds to complement funding from other sources, which is required as a condition of the award. A maximum of $12,500 for 12 months for up to 4 years for a new Ph.D. student will be awarded. Annual renewal will be subject to satisfactory progress toward the degree based on annual reviews. C-MAP funds CANNOT be used to cover tuition, waiver of Educational Fees, Graduate Medical Insurance Subsidy, other incidental student costs (e.g., student recreation center), or research costs.

Faculty (tenure or non-tenure track) advisors submitting applications for C-MAP must be leading active research programs, have doctoral faculty status, document availability of at least half of the assistantship funding, and participate in a Multistate Hatch Project or will join a Multistate Project by the time the funding is approved.

A subgroup of the CAFNR Research Council (CRC) will serve as the selection committee.

More information is available on the CAFNR website.

Dissertation Research Improvement Grants available

The CAFNR Office of Research is pleased to offer the CAFNR Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (C-DRIG) for the fourth time. The purpose of this grant is to support dissertation research projects proposed by doctoral students in the College. Eligible students should have completed their coursework and have advanced to candidacy or will advance to candidacy within six months of the C-DRIG awards. This program has already helped many talented PhD students in our college to fund portions of their dissertation projects, while also gaining valuable grant-writing and management experience!

Proposals will be evaluated by the CAFNR Research Council, an advisory body that advises the CAFNR Office of Research and is made up of representatives from each Division in the College, or other CAFNR faculty as needed.

Awards have a duration of one year, May 1, 2024, to April 30, 2025, and pre-award costs may be incurred up to 90 days prior to the award start date with approval from the Associate Dean for Research. No-cost extensions will not be granted, and any remaining funds will be reclaimed.

For more details, see the CAFNR website.

Graduate Student Spotlight
Graduate Student Spotlight: Q&A with Angelica Crosby (click to read)
Graduate Student Spotlight: Q&A with Angelica Crosby »

Crosby is pursuing an M.S. in Plant, Insect and Microbial Sciences.

Research Roars

Three CAFNR faculty awarded MU Research Council Grants

The University of Missouri’s Division of Research, Innovation and Impact awarded the second round of Research Council Grants in December to 16 faculty members, three of whom call CAFNR home.

The CAFNR faculty awarded and their projects are:

  • Lesa BeamerProfessor, Biochemistry, Obtaining Preliminary Data on Enzyme Structure for CryoEM StudiesGlyphosate Dreams
  • Samniqueka HalseyAssistant Professor, Natural Resources, Identifying Tick-Borne Pathogen Prevalence Among Prairies in Central Missouri
  • Zipei ZhangAssistant Professor, Food Science, Development of Novel Biofilm Inactivation Adjuvants to Enhance Food Safety

Illuminating the future

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) recently selected MU as one of 18 U.S. academic institutions to receive an Accelerating Research Translation award. Two projects have already been selected to receive seed funding from MU’s hub in the first year, and both have ties to CAFNR researchers:

EcoTrast-GI: a food-based oral contrast agent for radiographic imaging of the gastrointestinal tract: Led by Teresa Lever at the MU School of Medicine and Kiruba Krishnaswamy at the MU College of Engineering and MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the goal of this project will be to further optimize a food-based contrast agent that can potentially improve diagnostic accuracy of dysphagia, a type of swallowing impairment.
Artificial intelligence approaches for development of novel fungicides: Led by Gary Stacey at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and Dong Xu at the MU College of Engineering, the goal of this project will be to use artificial intelligence to develop a fungicide that can be used effectively on a variety of crops.

CAFNR faculty members have received the following recent grants (listed by Principal Investigator):

Pei Liu, Enhancing Restaurant Consumers’ Desire for Sustainable Meat: An Experimental Study, Foodservice System Management Education Council, 1/1/24-12/31/24, $2,000

Chase Floyd, Multi-state Coordinated Trials: Management of Emerging Cotton Diseases, Cotton, Inc., 1/1/24-12/31/24, $12,500

Amy Petry, Evaluating the nutraceutical effects of soybean meal with or without DDGS in grower and finisher pigs in commercial production, United Soybean Board, 1/1/24-9/30/24, $305,000

Aaron Brandt, Delta Center Improvements 2023-2024, Mo Soybean Merchandising Council, 7/1/23-6/30/25, $240,000

Bradley Wilson, Evaluating In-Field Variability of Cotton Growth and Maturity, John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group, 7/18/23-12/31/23, $15,000

Kerry Clark, Connecting Agricultural Innovation Ecosystems, Digital Harbor Foundation, 1/24/24-4/30/24, $22,727

In the News

Smart Agriculture: Farming in the Digital Age
Morning Ag Clips

CAFNR project taps into maple syrup production in warming climate
Columbia Missourian

MU Show-Me-Select Program had successful 2023
Morning Ag Clips

Charcoal may guard specialty crops against herbicide drift
Iowa Farmer Today

Adam Shetley of Foremost Dairy Shines with DFA’s Young Cooperator Program
Dairy Business

Crop researchers see ‘extremes as opportunities’
Iowa Farmer Today

MU Recieves Grant to Study Biological Control of Tomato Diseases
Morning Ag Clips

Livestock Economist Expects Cattle Inventory to Decline Again
Brownfield Ag News

Novel Discovery could fortify farmers’ defenses against SCN
Farm Progress

There will be bugs: Two broods of cicadas may reach St. Louis at once this summer
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Eat MO carp, a professor’s plan to address the invasive fish
Spectrum Local News

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