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  • Photo of Ann-Perry Witmer

    What is place-based adaptation to climate change?

    A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll states that roughly half of registered voters say climate change is either “very important” or “one of the most important issues” in their vote for Congress this year. However, many citizens struggle to understand their place in this global issue. Applied Research Institute senior research scientist Ann-Perry Witmer, also a lecturer in agricultural and biological engineering, spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about a more digestible approach to the climate crisis and encouraged readers to participate in a public panel discussion this week.

  • A new assessment makes grim predictions about the effects of climate change in the Great Lakes region.

    Report outlines growing climate change-related threats to Great Lakes region

    A team of Midwestern climate scientists has released a new report with grim predictions about the impact of climate change on the Great Lakes region. The report foresees a growing trend of wetter winters and springs, with increases in heavy rain events leading to flooding, particularly in urban areas with hard surfaces that cannot absorb the excess water. Rural areas will likely see more erosion, and unpredictable cycles of heat and rainfall could undermine agriculture.

  • A portrait of the Illinois researchers who contributed to the study.

    Study provides basis to evaluate food subsectors' emissions of three greenhouse gases

    A new, location-specific agricultural greenhouse gas emission study is the first to account for net carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions from all subsectors related to food production and consumption. The work, led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain, could help identify the primary plant- and animal-based food sectors contributing to three major greenhouse gas emissions and allow policymakers to take action to reduce emissions from the top-emitting food commodities at different locations across the globe.

  • The soybean cyst nematode is a major pathogen of soybeans. A juvenile nematode is pictured here with an egg.

    Fungus application thwarts major soybean pest, study finds

    The soybean cyst nematode sucks the nutrients out of soybean roots, causing more than $1 billion in soybean yield losses in the U.S. each year. A new study finds that one type of fungi can cut the nematodes’ reproductive success by more than half.

  • 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.

  • Narayana Aluru, William Gropp, Andrew Leakey and Ray Ming are among 416 scientists elected AAAS Fellows this year.

    Four Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows

    Four professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been elected 2018 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They are: mechanical science and engineering professor Narayana Aluru, computer science professor William Gropp and plant biology professors Andrew Leakey and Ray Ming.

  • University of Illinois agricultural communications professor Taylor Ruth was a member of a research team that studied American consumers’ attitudes toward genetic modification science in hopes of saving the U.S. citrus industry from citrus greening disease.

    Future of US citrus may hinge on consumer acceptance of genetically modified food

    A tiny insect, no bigger than the head of a pin, is threatening to topple the multibillion-dollar citrus industry in the U.S.The battle to save it is pitting producers and researchers against a formidable brown bug, the Asian citrus psyllid.

  • 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.

  • U. of I. veterinary clinical medicine professor Dr. Leyi Wang led the team that detected bovine kobuvirus in the U.S.

    Team finds bovine kobuvirus in US

    A virus that afflicts cattle that was first discovered in Japan in 2003 has made its way to the U.S., researchers report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

  • Cartoon of a honey bee with a QR code on its back.

    Brain gene expression patterns predict behavior of individual honey bees

    An unusual study that involved bar coding and tracking the behavior of thousands of individual honey bees in six queenless bee hives and analyzing gene expression in their brains offers new insights into how gene regulation contributes to social behavior.

  • Honey bee hives placed near flowering prairies in late summer and early fall were much healthier than those left near soybean fields after August, the researchers found.

    A little prairie can rescue honey bees from famine on the farm, study finds

    Scientists placed honey bee hives next to soybean fields in Iowa and tracked how the bees fared over the growing season. To the researchers’ surprise, the bees did well for much of the summer. The colonies thrived and gained weight, building up their honey stores. But in August, the trend reversed. By mid-October, most of the honey was gone and the overwintering brood was malnourished, the team discovered.

  • Civil and environmental engineering professor Jeremy Guest, left, and graduate student John Trimmer evaluated the feasibility of using human-derived waste as a safe and valuable nutrient commodity.

    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.

  • Photo of Scott Irwin, the Laurence J. Norton Chair of Agricultural Marketing in the department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

    New book chronicles personal, professional journey studying futures markets

    Scott Irwin, the Laurence J. Norton Chair of Agricultural Marketing in the department of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, is the author of “Back to the Futures,” a book that’s part personal memoir and part explainer of the futures market.

  • Professor Praveen Kumar and graduate student Dong K. Woo developed a model to tell the age of inorganic nitrogen in soil, which could help farmers more precisely apply fertilizer to croplands.

    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.

  • A new study reveals genetic differences that influence how corn responds to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone.

    Study finds rising ozone a hidden threat to corn

    Like atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide, ground-level ozone is on the rise. But ozone, a noxious chemical byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, has received relatively little attention as a potential threat to corn agriculture.

    A new study begins to address this lapse by exposing a genetically diverse group of corn plants in the field to future ozone levels. The study found that some members of the corn family tree are more susceptible than others to yield losses under high ozone air pollution.

  • Plant biology professor Evan DeLucia and co-authors found that the renewable fuel standards greater emphasis on second-generation biofuel can reduce emissions greatly despite economic considerations.

    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.

  • A robot under development at the University of Illinois automates the labor-intensive process of crop phenotyping, enabling scientists to scan crops and match genetic data with the highest-yielding plants. Agricultural and biological engineering professor Girish Chowdhary, right, is working on the $3.1 million project, along with postdoctoral researcher Erkan Kayacan.

    Agricultural robot may be ‘game changer’ for crop growers, breeders

    A semiautonomous robot being developed by University of Illinois scientists may soon be roaming agricultural fields gathering and transmitting real-time data that crop breeders can use to identify the genetic traits in plants likely to produce the greatest yields.

  • Photo of Sarah C. Williams, Lynne M. Thomas and Erin E. Kerby surrounding a medieval manuscript copy of Walter of Henley's "Hosbondrye."

    Library’s 15-millionth volume is influential manuscript on agricultural management from Middle Ages

    The 15-millionth volume in the collection of the University Library is a copy of Walter of Henley’s 13th-century work “Hosbondrye,” one of the most influential works on agriculture and land management in the Middle Ages.

  • Photo of food science professor Soo-Yeun Lee and alumna Lauren Killian

    Study: Irritable bowel syndrome may be underdiagnosed in athletes

    Gastrointestinal problems are common among endurance athletes, and many of them may be struggling with undiagnosed irritable bowel syndrome, a new study by University of Illinois food scientists suggests.

  • Chemical and biomolecular biology professor Xiao Su in his lab

    Study demonstrates energy-efficient conversion of nitrate pollutants into ammonia

    The nitrate runoff problem, a source of carcinogens and a cause of suffocating algal blooms in U.S. waterways, may not be all gloom and doom. A new study led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign demonstrates an approach for the integrated capture and conversion of nitrate-contaminated waters into valuable ammonia within a single electrochemical cell.

  • Professor Craig Gundersen

    Would replacing food stamps with food boxes reduce hunger?

    Swapping food stamps for food boxes would mean scrapping 'the most successful government program we have going today,' said U. of I. professor Craig Gundersen

  • Researchers Bin Peng, left, and Kaiyu Guan led a large, multi-institutional study that calls for a better representation of plant genetics data in the models used to understand crop adaptation and food security during climate change.

    Study: Multiscale crop modeling effort required to assess climate change adaptation

    Crop modeling is essential for understanding how to secure the food supply as the planet adapts to climate change. Many current crop models focus on simulating crop growth and yield at the field scale, but lack genetic and physiological data, which may hamper accurate production and environmental impact assessment at larger scales.

  • Professor Yong-Su Jin led a team that engineered a strain of yeast to produce the low-calorie natural sweetener tagatose from lactose.

    Low-calorie sweetener derived from lactose gets manufacturing boost from yeast

    The quest to satisfy the sweet tooth without adding to the waistline has a new weapon in its arsenal: a strain of yeast that can metabolize lactose, the sugar in dairy products, into tagatose, a natural sweetener with less than half the calories of table sugar.

  • Image shows a few Africanized honey bees in a hive.

    Group genomics drive aggression in honey bees

    Hive genomics – not individual genetic traits – drive aggression in a unique population of gentle Africanized honey bees, a new study reveals. “This is a signal that there may be more to the genetics of behavior as a whole than we’ve been thinking about,” said U. of I. bioinformatics professor Matthew Hudson, a co-author of the study. 

  • Headshot of Melissa Ocepek

    Study looks at food-buying behavior during different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic

    Grocery shopping in person remained extremely common throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, while restaurant dining was more vulnerable to surges in case rates, according to a new study examining how Americans acquired food at various points during the pandemic.

  • A new study of stress responses in largemouth bass found that those that are less likely to strike at a fishing lure also tend to experience higher cortisol levels after a stressful encounter.

    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.

  • Illinois Sustainable Technology Center researchers Elizabeth Meschewski, left, and Nancy Holm and collaborators developed a systematic study to test the effectiveness of the soil additive biochar and found that it may not be as effective as previously thought.

    Biochar may boost carbon storage, but benefits to germination and growth appear scant

    Biochar may not be the miracle soil additive that many farmers and researchers hoped it to be, according to a new University of Illinois study. Biochar may boost the agricultural yield of some soils – especially poor quality ones – but there is no consensus on its effectiveness. Researchers tested different soils’ responses to multiple biochar types and were unable to verify their ability to increase plant growth. However, the study did show biochar’s ability to affect soil greenhouse gas emissions.

  • A photo of Madhu Khanna, right, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois, and Weiwei Wang, a postdoctoral research associate at Illinois.

    Export of wood pellets from US to EU more environmentally friendly than coal

    A new study co-written by Madhu Khanna, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois, found that harvesting wood pellets in the U.S. and exporting them to the EU was more environmentally friendly than burning coal in the EU to generate electricity.

  • Two researchers in a stand of sorghum.

    New imaging, machine-learning methods speed effort to reduce crops' need for water

    Scientists have developed and deployed a series of new imaging and machine-learning tools to discover attributes that contribute to water-use efficiency in crop plants during photosynthesis and to reveal the genetic basis of variation in those traits.

  • Cute dog lies on the grass looking at the camera.

    Overweight dogs respond well to high-protein, high-fiber diet

    A study of overweight dogs fed a reduced calorie, high-protein, high-fiber diet for 24 weeks found that the dogs’ body composition and inflammatory markers changed over time in ways that parallel the positive changes seen in humans on similar diets. The dogs achieved a healthier weight without losing too much muscle mass, and their serum triglycerides, insulin and inflammatory markers all decreased with weight loss.

  • Photo of Craig Gundersen, the ACES Distinguished Professor in the department of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

    How has COVID-19 affected food insecurity in the US?

    The economic devastation wrought by COVID-19 accounts for an almost 43% increase in food insecurity in the U.S., said Craig Gundersen, the ACES Distinguished Professor in the department of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Giant reed is a photosynthetic outlier, study finds

    Arundo donax, a giant reed that grows in the Mediterranean climate zones of the world, isn’t like other prolific warm-weather grasses, researchers report. This grass, which can grow annually to 6 meters (nearly 20 feet) in height, uses a type of photosynthesis that is more common to crop plants like soybeans, rice and peanuts.

  • Tomato-broccoli together shown to be effective against prostate cancer

    A new UI study shows that tomatoes and broccoli – two vegetables known for their cancer-fighting qualities – are better at shrinking prostate tumors when both are part of the daily diet than when they’re eaten alone.

  • From left, Sharon M. Nickols-Richardson, a professor of food science and human nutrition and director of Illinois Extension and Outreach; Cassandra J. Nikolaus, a graduate student in human nutrition and the lead author of the study; and Brenna Ellison, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics. 

    Scholars: Estimates of food insecurity among college students problematic

    A good estimate of how many college students struggle with food insecurity is a difficult number to pin down, says new research from a team of University of Illinois experts who study food choice issues.

  • Photo of Brenna Ellison, a professor of agriculture and consumer economics at Illinois and an expert in consumer food preferences and behaviors.

    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.

  • Photo of lead researcher, Xiao Su, in his laboratory.

    Less salt, more protein: Researchers address dairy processing's environmental, sustainability issues

    Researchers say the high salt content of whey – the watery part of milk left behind after cheesemaking – helps make it one of the most polluting byproducts in the food processing industry. In a new study, chemists demonstrate the first electrochemical redox desalination process used in the food industry, removing and recycling up to 99% of excess salt from whey while simultaneously refining more than 98% of whey’s valuable protein content.

  • Esther Ngumbi, a U. of I. professor of entomology and of African American studies, speaks and writes about global food security.

    How do we combat global food insecurity during pandemics?

    The World Food Programme recently warned that the COVID-19 pandemic could double the number of people facing extreme food shortages, bringing the number of those in crisis to about 265 million worldwide. Esther Ngumbi, a professor of entomology and of African American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who writes and speaks about global food security, spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about the practices that can help reduce the problem of global food insecurity.

  • Photo of Brenna Ellison, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois.

    Study: Impact of food waste campaigns muted, but point toward right direction

    Food waste campaigns are a low-cost way to curb waste at all-you-can-eat dining establishments, but they may need to be combined with other environmental changes to make a difference, says new research co-written by Brenna Ellison, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois.

  • Illinois scientists are making advances in pharmaceutical chemistry (1); tracking invasive species (2) and emerging diseases (3); understanding pollinator biology, behavior and population status (4); exploring genomics (5); developing new imaging techniques (6); improving photosynthesis (7) and developing and harvesting biomass for bioenergy production (8).

    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.

  • May Berenbaum has been appointed editor-in-chief of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Berenbaum named PNAS editor-in-chief

    University of Illinois entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and longtime editorial contributor to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and other journals, has been appointed editor-in-chief of PNAS, effective Jan. 1.

  • Illinois professor Andrew Smith, right, and graduate student Mohammad Zahid developed a technique to track molecules that deliver drugs and genes to cells.

    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. 

  • Crop sciences professor Aaron Hager examines herbicide-resistant waterhemp.

    Illinois growers are running out of options in fight against waterhemp

    Resistance to multiple herbicides is the new norm for populations of waterhemp, a common agricultural weed. With their herbicide options dwindling and nothing new on the horizon, Illinois growers must be strategic in how they manage waterhemp-infested fields, says a University of Illinois expert on crop weed management.

  • Photo of the researcher

    Will renaming carp help control them?

    Illinois officials this month announced that Asian carp would now be called “copi” in an attempt to make the fish more desirable for eating. Joe Parkos, the director of the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Kaskaskia, Ridge Lake and Sam Parr biological stations in Illinois, spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about scientific initiatives to study and control carp/copi fish populations and the potential for rebranding to aid those efforts.

     

  • Silhouette of farm silos at sunset

    Nutrient-rich human waste poised to sustain agriculture, improve economies

    The future connection between human waste, sanitation technology and sustainable agriculture is becoming more evident. According to research directed by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign civil and environmental engineering professor Jeremy Guest, countries could be moving closer to using human waste as fertilizer, closing the loop to more circular, sustainable economies.

  • Researchers stand in a natural area with prairie plants in the background.

    Beneficial arthropods find winter sanctuary in uncultivated field edges, study finds

    Many species of ground-dwelling beetles, ladybugs, hoverflies, damsel bugs, spiders and parasitic wasps kill and eat pest species that routinely plague farmers, including aphids and corn rootworm larvae and adults. But the beneficial arthropods that live in or near cropped lands also are susceptible to insecticides and other farming practices that erase biodiversity on the landscape.

    A new study reveals that beneficial arthropods are nearly twice as abundant and diverse in uncultivated field edges in the spring as they are in areas that are cropped – if those field edges are rich in an array of flowers and other broad-leaved plants and not just mowed grass.

  • The crayfish Faxonius eupunctus is rare and under consideration for endangered species status.

    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.

  • Photo of U. of I. agricultural economists Peter Goldsmith and Alex Winter-Nelson.

    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.

  • University of Illinois engineering researcher Ann-Perry Witmer has developed a new computer algorithm that helps engineers who work internationally incorporate the influences of local values into their infrastructure designs.

    Diagnostic tool helps engineers to design better global infrastructure solutions

    Designing safe bridges and water systems for low-income communities is not always easy for engineers coming from highly industrialized places. A new discipline called contextual engineering helps engineers think beyond personal values, expectations and definitions of project success when tackling global infrastructure problems.

  • Photo of Stephen Moose

    Is the future of agriculture digital?

    With colleagues at several institutions, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign crop sciences professor Stephen Moose will lead the development of a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems. With $25 million in newly announced funding, the center will create an Internet of Living Things to learn the intimate biological language of plants and their associated organisms. Moose spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about this new initiative.

  • Soybean field and sunshine

    Study: Fluorescent light clarifies relationship between heat stress and crop yield

    Scientists report that it is possible to detect and predict heat damage in crops by measuring the fluorescent light signature of plant leaves experiencing heat stress. If collected via satellite, this fluorescent signal could support widespread monitoring of growth and crop yield under the heat stress of climate change, the researchers say.