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CAFNR Research Digest
CAFNR Office of Research Newsletter // February 13, 2020 // 2(3)
Agricultural Research Centers
A Humble Giver (click to read)
A Humble Giver »

Doug Allen’s generous gifts have strengthened CAFNR through the H.E. Garrett Endowed Chair Professorship and the recently unveiled Land of the Osages Research Center.

Shannon Named Interim Fisher Delta Research Center Superintendent (click to read)
Shannon Named Interim Fisher Delta Research Center Superintendent

Grover Shannon was recently named the Interim Superintendent of the Fisher Delta Research Center (FDRC). Shannon, a professor emeritus in the Division of Plant Sciences, retired in 2016 after a long career leading the soybean breeding program at FDRC. He has also served in an advisory role at Fisher Delta, and has more than 40 years working in soybean research at FDRC and in industry. He earned his bachelor’s degree in genetics and plant breeding at Mississippi State University, and his master’s degree and Ph.D. at Purdue University in genetics and plant breeding.

Keith Birmingham was appointed Assistant Superintendent as well. Birmingham has been employed at the Fisher Delta Research Center since 2000, and currently serves as a Business Support Specialist.

Both appointments were effective Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.

Graduate Student Spotlight
Jerri Lynn Henry, Division of Plant Sciences (click to read)
Jerri Lynn Henry, Division of Plant Sciences

What is your research focus?
My PhD research focuses on the off-target movement of dicamba and its effects on sensitive soybeans. In 2017, dicamba tolerant soybeans and new formulations of dicamba herbicides were released to public. While new formulations of dicamba were tested to be low risk for off-target movement, the United States experienced over 3.6 million acres of dicamba damage on sensitive crop that year. Dicamba tolerant soybean and cotton systems continue to be used nationwide and tighter application regulations have been enforced, but dicamba damage is still an issue. My research looks at dicamba drift during spray applications, the physiological effect of driftable rates on sensitive soybeans, volatility of dicamba from soybean leaves, and sprayer tank cleanout efficacy of dicamba herbicides. The overall goal is to identify factors that are leading to increased incidents of off-target movement of dicamba and try to figure out where risks can be mitigated.

Why does this field interest you?
Weed science interests me because it uses basic plant physiology, chemistry, and applied agronomics to reduce weeds and protect crop yields. Each different herbicide we use impedes a unique part of plant functions. To understand how an herbicide will affect the target plant, you have to understand how the plant works and the processes the chemical is intended to alter. In the United States, 98 percent of soybean acres will have an herbicide applied to them and working in weed science allows me to work with herbicide programs that a large number of producers may choose to use. Also, weeds are a prolific agronomic problem worldwide. It doesn’t matter if you are in the United States or Africa, there will always be weeds, or undesired plants, that will grow in competition with the crop you are trying to grow and understanding how to control weeds without harming the crop will not only help you in the current season but for many growing seasons to come.

Why did you decide to come to Mizzou?
Dr. Smeda convinced me to come to Mizzou. Previously, I worked in a mineral nutrition and forage physiology lab and had no experience with weed science. However, Dr. Smeda gave me a call one day and was interested in bringing on a student to focus on crop physiology and dicamba. After meeting with him and touring the facilities, I knew Mizzou was the place I needed to be.

Who is your advisor?
Dr. Reid Smeda. Dr. Smeda has been with Mizzou Weed Science since 1996 as a research/teaching professor. His research program focuses on alternative weed management systems for corn, soybeans, and vegetables, the identification of resistance mechanisms in herbicide-resistant weeds, and the biology and control of invasive roadside and right-of-way weeds.

What are your future career plans?
I’m currently looking for jobs in academia with a weed science or plant physiology focus.

Funding Agency News
USDA Casts Vision for Scientific Initiatives Through 2025

The USDA Science Blueprint provides a foundation for focused leadership and direction in advancing USDA’s scientific mission through 2025. It lays out five overarching themes for research, education and economics. The five Program Themes include:

  • Sustainable Ag Intensification;
  • Ag Climate Adaptation;
  • Food and Nutrition Translation;
  • Value-Added Innovations; and
  • Ag Science Policy Leadership.

The USDA Science Blueprint includes the four REE mission area agencies — the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) — along with the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) and the science arms of the U.S. Forest Service (FS), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

NIH FY 2020 Fiscal Policies for Grant Awards: Funding Levels, Salary Limits, and Stipend Levels

NIH issued guidance for NIH Fiscal Operations for FY 2020 including the following policies:

  • FY 2020 Funding Levels – Non-competing continuation awards made in FY 2020 will generally be issued at the commitment level indicated on the Notice of Award.
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) – Increase of NRSA stipends by approximately 2% for predocs and 4-5% on average for postdocs.
  • Next Generation Researchers Initiative Policy – Prioritizing meritorious R01- equivalent applications from early stage investigator (ESI) principal investigators.
  • Salary Limits – Salary limit is set at $197,300.

For additional guidance and details, see NOT-OD-20-068.

Research Roars

Multi-Grain Thresher Earns Second Place at Innovation Showcase

Kerry Clark, director of CAFNR International Programs, and two collaborators in Ghana have developed an inexpensive multi-grain thresher for poor smallholder farmers in Africa. It is common for women on small farms to “thresh” soybean grains from the mature plants by beating the plants with sticks to remove the beans from the pods. It would take up to two weeks to separate the grain from plants from one hectare (2.2 acres). With the newly developed thresher, the same task can be completed in 4 hours or less, increasing the yield of good seed by 35 percent and allowing the women to devote time to higher-value activities.

The thresher design has already received a second-place award of $10,000 at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Innovation Showcase and the developer, Jeffrey Appiagyei, has been invited as one of 12 innovators to the Impulse Morocco Accelerator Program, an international competition among top agriculture, mining, bio, material science, and nanotech startups from around the world. He will be competing for $250,000 of equity-free prizes and the chance to work directly with OCP, the world leader in the phosphate markets.

This project is a significant outcome from the Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab, led by the University of Illinois. MU is a leading collaborator.

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

Susanta Behura, Identification of candidate genes conditioning mosquito immune response to arboviruses, 2/1/2019-1/31/2021, $38,750, Notre Dame University

James T. English, Acquisition of Goods and Services-PGRUFY19-20, 4/1/2019-3/31/2020, $20,831, Agricultural Research Service

Benjamin O. Knapp, National Atmospheric Deposition Program, 3/7/2016-3/6/2021, $7,547, U.S. Geological Survey

Gerald Leo Miller Jr, 2019 National Bermudagrass (BG-19-04)/(BG-19-16), 1/1/2020 – 12/31/2024, $15,000, National Turfgrass Evaluation Program

Gerald Leo Miller Jr, 2019 National Zoysia grass Test (ZG-19-17), 1/1/2020-12/31/2024, $7,500, National Turfgrass Evaluation Program

Gerald Leo Miller Jr, 2019 Warm-Season Putting Green Test (PG-19-08), 1/1/2020-12/31/2024, $7,500, National Turfgrass Evaluation Program

Samniqueka Halsey, Zoonotic Diseases and Animal Welfare, 1/1/2020-12/31/2022, $189,000, Open Philanthropy Project

Provided by the MU Office of Research

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Ag Update

The photo featured in the header shows Ben Knapp, associate professor of silviculture, talking to numerous volunteers at the Baskett Research Center who are gearing up to tap maple trees to collect the sap. Each year, volunteers make the trek to Baskett for the collection of sap. Knapp boils the collected sap, turning it into maple syrup. Photo courtesy of Ben Knapp.