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CAFNR Research Digest
CAFNR Office of Research Newsletter // Jan. 25, 2024 // 6(2)
Feature Story
Biofuel boost: A CAFNR researcher's patented protocol boosts biofuel potential in cover crops (click to read)
Biofuel boost: A CAFNR researcher's patented protocol boosts biofuel potential in cover crops »

As the climate continues to change and the landscape of the agriculture industry also shifts in response, one CAFNR researcher’s work is making strides that support the health of the planet and the farming families that feed us. Jay Thelen, professor of biochemistry, has just patented a biotechnological advance that can increase the oil content of common cover crops, allowing them to be harvested and used in making biofuels.

“Oil and protein are two opposing sources of value in oilseed crops, and historically protein is the more valuable of the two,” Thelen said. “That’s changing now. Oil is moving up in value, and in oilseed plants that don’t make much protein or nutritionally-balanced protein — the oil is nearly all the value.”

Cover crops — crops planted in suboptimal land and between regular growing seasons of row crops like soybeans or corn — are becoming an important strategy for carbon sequestration, but they have not traditionally been profitable for producers. Currently, the majority of cover crops are tilled into the soil when the time comes to replant the field. This is where Thelen’s technology could introduce a fundamental change to the value of cover cropping. By increasing the oil content yield in crops like Camelina and Pennycress, the seed value is enhanced and ultimately harvested and processed into biofuels, and that means profit for the farmer in addition to government incentives in place for planting cover crops.

“I come from a farming family,” Thelen said. “My dad was a farmer and my uncle still farms, so I respect their desire to make a profitable and sustainable living from their land. What we are trying to do is make a higher-value cover crop that incentivizes the farmer beyond what the government is already doing.”

Research Highlights
Kantha Channaiah is bacteria’s worst nightmare (click to read)
Kantha Channaiah is bacteria’s worst nightmare »

Kantha Channaiah carries out his faculty role as a food safety expert with equal parts grim realism and sunny optimism. He knows that just a few unchecked bacteria could multiply enough to sully an otherwise spotless piece of broccoli. And he’s just as certain that science-based methods of dealing with food can prevent all outbreaks of foodborne illness. That’s right, he says, “100%.”

2024 Agroforestry Symposium (click to read)
2024 Agroforestry Symposium »

The Center for Agroforestry held its annual symposium Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024 at the Center for Missouri Studies in downtown Columbia. The 15th annual event focused on the theme, Silvopasture in Practice, and was also available on Zoom. Visit the Flickr album to view photos from the event.

Thinking outside the barn (click to read)
Thinking outside the barn »

Known as the Monarch MK-V tractor, it is one of the nation’s first electric, autonomous tractors — and Mizzou is the first university to own one.

CAFNR Research Council
 Webinar Series continues today (click to read)
Webinar Series continues today

The CAFNR Office of Research is pleased to announce the continuation of the CAFNR Research Council Webinar Series featuring speakers discussing a timely topic. The next webinar will take place at 3:30 p.m. today, Jan. 25 on Zoom and will feature Gary Wheeler, executive director and CEO of the Missouri Soybean Association. Wheeler’s presentation is titled, “The Strength of Partnerships: How farmers impact short- and long-term investments into research.”

Watch at

Wheeler serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director for the Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and Foundation for Soy Innovation. He is an innovative and committed servant leader with the farmer always in mind. His focus on partnerships and the power of forward-thinking has successfully led Missouri’s soybean organizations through significant operational and strategic challenges.

Wheeler holds a Master of Business Administration from William Woods University and a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural business from Murray State University. He previously served the Missouri agricultural industry in roles with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Corn Growers Association and Missouri Corn Merchandising Council.

Research Roars

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

Craig Paukert, Characterize aquatic biota and habitat for cold and cool water stream systems to enhance resource management and protection across thermal gradients, Missouri Department of Conservation, 7/1/23-6/30/24, $183,803

Hannah Hemmelgarn, Establishing a Professional Agroforestry Certification and Learning Network for Education and Exchange, North Central Regional Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education, 10/1/23-9/30/26, $119,962

Henry Nguyen, Expanding the Genetic Base of Southern Root-knot Nematode Resistance in Soybean, University of Arkansas, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $93,534

Feng Lin, Expanding the Genetic Base of Southern Root-knot Nematode Resistance in Soybean, University of Arkansas, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $56,510

Henry Nguyen, Gene editing and innovative mutation breeding approaches to develop 2nd generation improved soybean soluble carbohydrate composition, Texas Tech University, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $96,284

Henry Nguyen, Redefining the effects of beneficial microorganisms on N fixation and nutrient uptake in soybean to provide sustainable solutions to reduce chemical fertilizers use, Texas Tech University, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $80,141

Grover Shannon, Develop and deliver best management practices and soybean cultivars to minimize yield and quality losses from Cercospora leaf blight, Louisiana State University, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $35,999

Felix Fritschi, Utilizing Genes from the Soybean Germplasm Collection to Mitigate Drought Stress – Phase II, Agricultural Research Service, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $244,641

In the News

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