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Agriculture

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  • Livestock donation programs reduce poverty, improve food security and nutrition

    Research from U. of I. agricultural economists Peter Goldsmith and Alex Winter-Nelson found that the direct donation of livestock to impoverished communities in rural Africa had numerous positive effects ranging from a reduction in poverty to an increase in gender empowerment.

  • Many Midwestern retailers sell mislabeled invasive vines

    Gardeners hoping to celebrate the beauty of American bittersweet – a native vine that produces orange berries in the fall and is used for wreaths – may be unwittingly buying an invasive bittersweet instead. That’s because many Midwestern retailers are selling oriental bittersweet with labels misidentifying it as the native plant, researchers report. These sales are occurring in stores and online.

  • Master Naturalists needed to preserve Illinois' environment

    Adults who have a passion for the outdoors – and are interested in sharing that with others – are needed statewide as volunteers in the University of Illinois Extension Master Naturalist program.

  • Mastery of physical goals lessens disease-related depression and fatigue

    CHAMPAIGN, lll. - Physical activity is known to reduce depression and fatigue in people struggling with chronic illness. A new study indicates that this effect may stem from an individual's sense of mastery over - or belief in his or her ability to achieve - certain physical goals.

  • Measure of age in soil nitrogen could help precision agriculture

    University of Illinois engineers developed a model to calculate the age of nitrogen in corn and soybean fields, which could lead to improved fertilizer application techniques to promote crop growth while reducing leaching.

  • Miscanthus, a biofuels crop, can host western corn rootworm

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The western corn rootworm beetle, a pest that feasts on corn roots and corn silk and costs growers more than $1 billion annually in the U.S., also can survive on the perennial grass Miscanthus x giganteus, a potential biofuels crop that would likely be grown alongside corn, researchers report.

  • Molecular techniques are man's new best friend in pet obesity research

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - According to the World Health Organization, more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. And it's not just humans who are packing on the pounds. Our furry companions are plagued by an obesity epidemic of their own. More than 50 percent of the dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese.

  • Neuroimaging reveals lasting brain deficits in iron-deficient piglets

    Iron deficiency in the first four weeks of a piglet’s life – equivalent to roughly four months in a human infant – impairs the development of key brain structures, scientists report. The abnormalities remain even after weeks of iron supplementation begun later in life, the researchers found.

  • New algorithm fuses quality and quantity in satellite imagery

    Using a new algorithm, University of Illinois researchers may have found the solution to an age-old dilemma plaguing satellite imagery – whether to sacrifice high spatial resolution in the interest of generating images more frequently, or vice versa. The team’s new tool eliminates this trade-off by fusing high-resolution and high-frequency satellite data into one integrated product, and can generate 30-meter daily continuous images going back to the year 2000. 

  • New master's program at Illinois will train translators and interpreters

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The demand for translators and interpreters is projected to increase by at least 20 percent by the year 2020, and a new program at the University of Illinois will offer a master's degree to equip graduates to fill those jobs. Elizabeth Lowe, the director of the U. of I.'s Center for Translation Studies, says the program offers both on-campus and online options, and is accepting applications now for courses that will begin in the fall.

  • New method helps map species' genetic heritage

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Where did the songbird get its song? What branch of the bird family tree is closer to the flamingo - the heron or the sparrow?

  • New technique can track drug and gene delivery to cells

    University of Illinois researchers say they now know how to track and map drug and gene delivery vehicles to evaluate which are most effective at infiltrating cells and getting to their targets, insight that could guide development of new pharmaceutical agents. The researchers described their tracking system and their findings on the most effective delivery vehicles in the journal Nature Communications. 

  • North American checklist identifies the fungus among us

    Some fungi are smelly and coated in mucus. Others have gills that glow in the dark. Some are delicious; others, poisonous. Some spur euphoria when ingested. Some produce antibiotics.

    All of these fungi - and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more - occur in North America. Of those that are known to science, 44,488 appear in a new checklist of North American fungi, published this month in the journal Mycologia.

  • Nutritious frozen foods can play role in weight-loss programs

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Size matters when it comes to meal portions in weight-loss diets, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And consuming convenient, nutritious frozen dinners may be a way to control portion size.

  • Paper: Nutrition label readers favor food quality over quantity

    Although nutrition-label users eat roughly the same amount of food as less-discerning diners, the two groups diverge when it comes to the quality of the food they eat, says a new paper co-written by Brenna Ellison, a professor of agriculture and consumer economics at Illinois and an expert in consumer food preferences and behaviors.

  • Pineapple genome offers insight into photosynthesis in drought-tolerant plants

    By sequencing its genome, scientists are homing in on the genes and genetic pathways that allow the juicy pineapple plant to thrive in water-limited environments. The new findings, reported in the journal Nature Genetics, also open a new window on the complicated evolutionary history of grasses like sorghum and rice, which share a distant ancestor with pineapple.

  • Plant breeder boosts soybean diversity, develops soybean rust-resistant plant

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — It took decades of painstaking work, but research geneticist Ram Singh managed to cross a popular soybean variety (“Dwight” Glycine max) with a related wild perennial plant that grows like a weed in Australia, producing the first fertile soybean plants that are resistant to soybean rust, soybean cyst nematode and other pathogens of soy.

  • Pollinator habitat program spreads bad seeds with the good

    Weed scientists in at least two Midwestern states have been reporting for years that a conservation program meant to provide habitat for pollinating insects is sowing bad seeds – including seeds of the potentially devastating agricultural weed Palmer amaranth – along with the good. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois have traced the weed seeds to at least one source: pollinator habitat seed sold by a company in the Midwest.

  • Report: Milkweed losses may not fully explain monarch butterfly declines

    Monarch butterfly declines cannot be attributed merely to declines in milkweed abundance, researchers report.

  • Researchers study role of natural organic matter in environment

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The decomposition of plant, animal and microbial material in soil and water produces a variety of complex organic molecules, collectively called natural organic matter. These compounds play many important roles in the environment.

  • Researcher tracks agricultural overuse of bug-killing technology

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - High corn prices are leading many growers to plant corn every year and to overuse pesticides and other bug-killing technology to maximize yields, researchers report. In many instances, pesticides are applied without scouting fields to see if they are needed, violating a bedrock principle of integrated pest management. The result is a biological diversity desert in many corn and soybean fields in the agricultural Midwest, and signs that the surviving insects are becoming resistant to several key bug-fighting tools now available to farmers.

  • Research grant will help assessment of prairie seed banks

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois Natural History Survey has received a grant from the Conservation 2000 Program to assess seed banks at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County.

  • Salmon baby food? Babies need omega-3s and a taste for fish

    A UI food science professor has two important reasons for including seafood in a young child's diet, reasons that have motivated her work in helping to develop a tasty, nutritious salmon baby food for toddlers.

  • Science at Illinois feeds the world, furthers health, protects the planet

    Illinois scientists are helping power plants run more efficiently, designing better, longer-lasting batteries, finding new ways to target cancerous tumors, and developing robots that can aid in construction, in agricultural fields and even inside the human body.

  • Scientists: Expanding Brazilian sugarcane could dent global CO2 emissions

    Vastly expanding sugarcane production in Brazil for conversion to ethanol could reduce current global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 5.6 percent, researchers report in the journal Nature Climate Change.

  • Scientists seeking rare river crayfish aren't just kicking rocks

    As far as anyone can tell, the cold-water crayfish Faxonius eupunctus makes its home in a 30-mile stretch of the Eleven Point River and nowhere else in the world. According to a new study, the animal is most abundant in the middle part its range, a rocky expanse in southern Missouri – with up to 35,000 cubic feet of chilly Ozark river water flowing by each second.

  • Scientists tweak photosynthesis to boost crop yield

    Researchers report  that they can increase plant productivity by boosting levels of three proteins involved in photosynthesis. This confirms a hypothesis some in the scientific community once doubted was possible.

  • Seven Illinois researchers rank among the world’s most influential

    Seven University of Illinois researchers have been named to the Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers list for 2015. The list includes “some of the world’s most influential scientific minds,” according to a statement from Thomson Reuters.

  • Should states be in the lottery business?

    A major downside to record-breaking lottery jackpots is that money flows from poorer communities into the hands of one incredibly lucky person, said Craig Lemoine, the director of the Financial Planning Program at the College of ACES.

  • Solving food insecurity problems among older Americans

    A Minute With™... Craig Gundersen, the University of Illinois Soybean Industry Endowed Professor of Agricultural Strategy

  • Some plants grow bigger – and meaner – when clipped, study finds

    Some plants behave like the mythical monster Hydra: Cut off their heads and they grow back, bigger and better than before. A new study finds that these “overcompensators,” as they are called, also augment their defensive chemistry – think plant venom – when they are clipped.

  • Stink bugs a threat to farmers, smelly guests for homeowners

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The brown marmorated stink bug - scientific name Halyomorpha halys - has been found in four Illinois counties and could be a major threat to fruit, vegetable and agronomic crops if it proliferates.

  • Study: Cell-phone bans while driving have more impact in dense, urban areas

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A new study analyzing the impact of hand-held cell phone legislation on driving safety concludes that usage-ban laws had more of an impact in densely populated urban areas with a higher number of licensed drivers than in rural areas where there are fewer licensed drivers, according to a University of Illinois researcher.

  • Study: Crop rotation-resistant rootworms have a lot going on in their guts

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — After decades of effort, scientists are finally figuring out how insects develop resistance to environmentally friendly farming practices – such as crop rotation – that are designed to kill them. The researchers say their insights will help develop more sustainable agricultural practices.

  • Study finds parallels between unresponsive honey bees, autism in humans

    Honey bees that consistently fail to respond to obvious social cues share something fundamental with autistic humans, researchers report in a new study. Genes most closely associated with autism spectrum disorders in humans are regulated differently in unresponsive honey bees than in their more responsive nest mates, the study found.

  • Study: Future drought will offset benefits of higher CO2 on soybean yields

    An eight-year study of soybeans grown outdoors in a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere like that expected by 2050 has yielded a new and worrisome finding: Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations will boost plant growth under ideal growing conditions, but drought – expected to worsen as the climate warms and rainfall patterns change – will outweigh those benefits and cause yield losses much sooner than anticipated.

  • Study: Ground-level ozone reduces maize and soybean yields

    Despite government regulations, ground-level ozone – an odorless gas that forms as polluting nitrogen oxides drift in sunlight across the countryside – continues to threaten crop quality and yield. In a new study, researchers quantify this loss from historical yield data for the first time. They show that over the last 30 years, ozone emissions have reduced soybean and corn yields by 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

  • Study: Groundwater from aquifers important factor in food security

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Thirsty cities, fields and livestock drink deeply from aquifers, natural sources of groundwater. But a study of three of the most-tapped aquifers in the United States shows that overdrawing from these resources could lead to difficult choices affecting not only domestic food security but also international markets.

  • Study: Human wastewater valuable to global agriculture, economics

    It may seem off-putting to some, but human waste is full of nutrients that can be recycled into valuable products that could promote agricultural sustainability and better economic independence for some developing countries.

  • Study identifies chemical in diet that determines a honey bee’s caste

    A closer look at how honey bee colonies determine which larvae will serve as workers and which will become queens reveals that a plant chemical, p-coumaric acid, plays a key role in the bees’ developmental fate.

  • Study links fish stress hormones to whether they take the bait

    Take a fish out of water and its stress hormones will go up. Adrenaline and noradrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormones, peak first, followed more gradually by cortisol. A new study finds that largemouth bass whose cortisol levels rise most after a brief bout of stress are inherently harder to catch by angling.

  • Study: Regulatory hurdles hinder biofuels market

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Regulatory hurdles abound for the successful commercialization of emerging liquid biofuels, which hold the promise of enhancing U.S. energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and serving as a driver for rural economic development, according to new research at the University of Illinois.

  • Study rewrites early history of corn in corn country

    A new study contradicts decades of thought, research and teaching on the history of corn cultivation in the American Bottom, a floodplain of the Mississippi River in Illinois. The study refutes the notion that Indian corn, or maize, was cultivated in this region hundreds of years before its widespread adoption at about 1000 A.D.

  • Study: Second-generation biofuels can reduce emissions

    Second-generation biofuel crops like the perennial grasses Miscanthus and switchgrass can efficiently meet emission reduction goals without significantly displacing cropland used for food production, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Illinois and collaborators published their findings in the inaugural edition of the journal Nature Energy. The researchers call it the most comprehensive study on the subject to date.

  • Study suggests commercial bumble bee industry amplified a fungal pathogen of bees

    Scientists hoping to explain widespread declines in wild bumble bee populations have conducted the first long-term genetic study of Nosema bombi, a key fungal pathogen of honey bees and bumble bees. Their study found that Nosema infections in large-scale commercial bumble bee pollination operations coincided with infections and declines in wild bumble bees.

  • Supersweet Sweet Corn: 50 Years in the Making

    Fifty years ago, sweet corn wasn't all that sweet and had a short shelf-life, which made it difficult for grocery stores to stock it. As a result of the persistence of some UI corn researchers, today's sweet corn not only lives up to its name in taste, it maintains its high quality for more than a week, long enough to get it into stores and onto dinner tables. Jerald "Snook" Pataky, UI plant pathologist in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, has researched the history of UI’s contribution to the existence of today's supersweet corn and will be one of the featured speakers at Agronomy Day on Aug. 21. s

  • Survival of many of the world’s nonhuman primates is in doubt, experts report

    A report in the journal Science Advances details the grim realities facing a majority of the nonhuman primates in the world – the apes, monkeys, tarsiers, lemurs and lorises inhabiting ever-shrinking forests across the planet. The review is the most comprehensive conducted so far, the researchers say, and the picture it paints is dire.

  • Switch from corn to grass would raise ethanol output, cut emissions

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Growing perennial grasses on the least productive farmland now used for corn ethanol production in the U.S. would result in higher overall corn yields, more ethanol output per acre and better groundwater quality, researchers report in a new study. The switch would also slash emissions of two potent greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.

  • Team converts wet biological waste to diesel-compatible fuel

    In a step toward producing renewable engine fuels that are compatible with existing diesel fuel infrastructure, researchers report they can convert wet biowaste, such as swine manure and food scraps, into a fuel that can be blended with diesel and that shares diesel’s combustion efficiency and emissions profile.

    They report their findings in the journal Nature Sustainability.

  • Team nebulizes aphids to knock down gene expression

    Researchers are nebulizing soybean aphids with RNA to speed the process of discovering the function of many mystery genes.