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CAFNR Research Digest
CAFNR Office of Research Newsletter // June 20, 2019 // 1(10)
Research Highlights
USDA Relocation from D.C. to Kansas City will benefit farmers, MU officials say (click to read)
USDA Relocation from D.C. to Kansas City will benefit farmers, MU officials say »

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will relocate the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Research Service from the nation’s capital to Missouri

Agricultural Research Centers
Jefferson Farm and Garden: Butterfly Festival (click to read)
Jefferson Farm and Garden: Butterfly Festival »

Jefferson Farm and Garden in Columbia celebrates National Pollinator Week at its Native Butterfly House. Free tours will highlight the important role that butterflies play in our ecosystem, and how visitors can attract and support butterflies in their home gardens. A variety of fun activities and informational booths will engage all ages:

  • Saturday, June 22: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 23: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.


MU Extension Compiles Online Flood Resources for Crop Farmers

University of Missouri Extension agronomists and economists have created a one-stop shop of online resources for crop farmers coping with flooding and persistent rains. See all of the resources on the MU Extension site >>

Graduate Student Spotlight
Norman Best, USDA-NIFA AFRI Fellow (click to read)
Norman Best, USDA-NIFA AFRI Fellow

The USDA-NIFA AFRI Postdoctoral Fellowship is focused on developing the next generation of scientists in food and agriculture by providing two years of funding to postdoctoral researchers. The title of my proposal is: “Auxin and brassinosteroid regulation of primary root development in maize.” Auxin and brassinosteroids are plant hormones that regulate growth and development. Exogenous application of auxin has been shown to inhibit root growth, while low concentrations of brassinosteroids promote root growth. I am proposing to investigate the interdependence of these two hormones in regulating maize primary root development using a combination of chemical treatments, genetics, genomics and developmental techniques.

What is your research focus?
My research focus is to identify the role of plant hormones and their interactions on controlling plant development. I have always been interested in how plant hormones interact and influence each other to control the development of mature plant form. I use the species maize (corn) to carry out my studies. My research focus is primarily basic research. However, an additional advantage of studying maize is the future potential to directly apply my findings to improve maize commercial production to improve root architecture to acquire nutrients and water.

Why does this field interest you?
There are nine plant hormones the regulate different aspects of plant development. Textbooks always say that this hormone does this and that hormone does that. However, recent discoveries have uncovered the interactions of these different hormones and the direct or indirect effects these hormones have on each other. Many of these are unknown or poorly understood. I find the complexity of these interactions highly interesting and important to improving crop fitness for future generations.

Why did you decide to come to Mizzou?
I decided to come to Mizzou for multiple reasons. The first is because of my advisor, Dr. Paula McSteen. I have always respected the work she has done studying hormonal regulation of maize development. In addition, Mizzou has a large number of collaborative groups including the Interdisciplinary Plant Group, Missouri Maize Center, and the Bond Life Sciences Center. These allow for the opportunity to interact and work with a large number of researchers that are experts in their respective fields, including Dr. Robert Sharp and Dr. Ruthie Angelovici, who are co-mentors on this fellowship. Mizzou also has a high number of current maize researchers and a long history of maize research including Lewis Stadler and Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock.

Who is your advisor?
My main advisor is Dr. Paula McSteen. She studies auxin control of maize development, primarily inflorescence development. Her knowledge and experience have been invaluable in assisting me in formulating my independent project. I am also co-mentored by Dr. Robert Sharp and Dr. Ruthie Angelovici on this project. Dr. Sharp is an expert in plant root development and physiology, and Dr. Angelovici is an expert in plant genomic studies and quantitative genetics, both main focuses of this project.

What are your future career plans?
I am leaving my future career plans open. I would like to become a professor at a university and run my own research lab. However, I am not discounting a career in industry. I see the benefits of both career paths and joining Mizzou as a post-doc researcher has allowed me to keep both of these avenues open for the future.

Research Roars

Lisa Webb Wins 2018 U.S. Geological Survey, Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Scientific Excellence Award

Lisa Webb, cooperative associate professor in the School of Natural Resources, has received the U.S. Geological Survey, Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Scientific Excellence Award for 2018. This award is given to one Cooperative Research Unit faculty member nationwide (out of about 85 scientists) and is based on research productivity, student engagement and placement, and collaboration with cooperators. In addition to Webb’s research productivity (more than nine publications this year), her students and postdocs have recently received jobs throughout the country with organizations and agencies such as Ducks Unlimited, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the University of Missouri, and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Her nomination packet included letters of support from the Missouri Department of Conservation, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and The Nature Conservancy. These letters indicate how Webb’s research is being used by their agencies to benefit wetland management, endangered species and waterfowl harvest regulations. She was surprised with the award June 17 when meeting with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

CAFNR faculty members present at UM System Summit

Three CAFNR faculty members were part of the recent “Road to Resilience – Disaster to Social and Environmental Resilience” Summit presented by the University of Missouri System. This research summit showcased interdisciplinary work from all four UM System universities and provided a forum to stimulate system-wide collaboration and innovation around recovering from and preparing for disasters. CAFNR faculty presenting included Felix Fritschi, C. Alice Donaldson Professor in Bioenergy Crop Physiology and Genetics, Plant Sciences; Jere Gilles, Associate Professor, Rural Sociology; and Damon Hall, Assistant Professor, School of Natural Resources.

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

Alba Argerich, Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program, 4/1/2019 – 3/31/2020, $165,276, Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Paula Chen, Investigating mTORC1 Activation Mechanisms and Its Role in the Viability of Early Porcine Embryos, 6/1/2019 – 5/31/2021,  $95,745, National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Christine Elsik, Development of MaizeMine, a Flexible Data Warehouse and Analysis System for Retrieval of Customized Datasets from the MaizeGDB Database, 5/1/2016 – 5/31/2020, $149,926, Agricultural Research Service

Harriet Fitzgerald, Investigations into How Uterine Glands Impact Human Pregnancy Establishment, 6/1/2019 – 5/31/2020, $52,000, The Lalor Foundation

Felix Fritschi, Foundations for Soybean in Africa, 5/1/2019 – 5/1/2020, $8,350, University of Illinois

Karl Kerns, Machine Learning Approach to Elucidate the Relationship of the Sperm Zn Signature to Boar & Bull Fertility and Creating an Improved Extender for Zn Signature Management, 6/1/2019 – 5/31/2021, $165,000, National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Dae-Young Kim, Designing and Conducting a Tourism Development Survey and Economic Impact Study for the True/False Festival, 12/15/2017 – 12/31/2019, $4,238, City of Columbia, Missouri

Benjamin Knapp, Documenting the extent and spatial distribution of woody invasive plants on Baskett Wildlife Research Center and the Southwestern Project Area of the Cedar Creek Ranger District – Mark Twain National Forest, 6/1/2019 – 5/31/2020, $6,998, Forest Service

Kiruba Krishnaswamy, High Oleic Soy-based Instant Powder through Spray Drying: Value-Added Product, 7/1/2019 – 6/30/2020, $32,134, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council

Rebecca North, Statewide Lakes Assessment Project, 4/1/2019 – 3/31/2020, $193,204, Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Andrew Scaboo, Foundations for Soybean in Africa, 3/31/2019 – 3/31/2020, $11,970, University of Illinois

Reid Smeda, Chemical Materials Trial/Protocols NA19T8B004H; and NA19T8B005H, 6/1/2019 – 6/30/2020, $10,500, Dow AgroScience LLC

Michael Stambaugh, Evaluating the use of prescriptive grazing and fire for the management and maintenance of Ozark woodlands, 7/2/2018 – 9/30/2020, $12,000, Forest Service

Xi Xiong, 16ESP009/Water mgmt PoC/Putting green field trials/Plant health RGAA0070, 5/17/2019 – 5/16/2020, $10,000, Bayer CropScience LP

Provided by the MU Office of Research

Mizzou Research Resources
University of Missouri System External Discovery Site Has Launched

Available at, the University of Missouri System External Discovery site enables users to search for UM System-affiliated research articles, patents and grant awards by research topic and scholar name. Updated daily, the site can help with identifying collaborators and research interest groups.

Please Join Us

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources presents a talk by J. Scott Angle, Director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and a CAFNR alumnus, on Tuesday, June 25. Dr. Angle will speak on “Balancing Land Grant Capacity with NIFA Opportunities – A Delicate Dance” at 2 p.m. in Monsanto Auditorium, Bond Life Sciences Center. His talk will be followed by a Q&A.

Dr. Angle was sworn into office as the third director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture on Oct. 29, 2018. He received his BS and MS at the University of Maryland in agronomy and soil science, respectively. He obtained his PhD from the University of Missouri with an emphasis on soil microbiology. Angle worked for 24 years as a professor of soil science and director of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and Maryland Cooperative Extension at the University of Maryland. His early work focused on the study of losses of nutrients from agro-ecosystems, and their impact on the Chesapeake Bay. He also studied the impact of heavy metals on the food chain with the goal of protecting our food supply from these harmful elements. Later he concentrated his studies on phytoremediation, the use of plants for the extraction of heavy metals from soil. In 2005, he moved to Athens, Georgia, where he served as dean and director of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia for 10 years. Most recently, he served as president and CEO of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), where he oversaw a staff of 800 and coordinated development projects in diverse regions of the world.

In the News

Disaster aid bill passed, signed
Western Livestock Journal

MU dairy first to use new breeding system in grazing herd

Days suitable for planting corn, soybeans few and far between
Palmyra Spectator


The photo featured in the header shows a recent campus reception for Tom Spencer, Curators Distinguished Professor of Animal Sciences, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He is the 10th Mizzou faculty member elected, and fourth in CAFNR. Read more about his accomplishment

Please note that CAFNR Research Digest will take a break for the July 4th holiday. Publication will resume July 18.