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  • Photo of the researchers on this year's list.

    Nine Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential

    Nine U. of I. researchers have been named to the 2022 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. The list recognizes research scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated exceptional influence – reflected through their publication of multiple papers frequently cited by their peers during the last decade. This year’s list includes 6,938 individuals from around the world whose papers rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in the Web of Science.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • photo of five leafhopper species

    Study tracks plant pathogens in leafhoppers from natural areas

    Phytoplasmas are bacteria that can invade the vascular tissues of plants, causing many different crop diseases. While most studies of phytoplasmas begin by examining plants showing disease symptoms, a new analysis focuses on the tiny insects that carry the infectious bacteria from plant to plant. By extracting and testing DNA from archival leafhopper specimens collected in natural areas, the study identified new phytoplasma strains and found new associations between leafhoppers and phytoplasmas known to harm crop plants.

  • 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.

     

  • Research Team

    Corn genetic heritage the strongest driver of chemical defenses against munching bugs

    Plants release chemical distress signals when under attack from chewing insects. These “911 calls" alert other bugs that dinner or a nice place to lay their eggs is available nearby. If predatory or parasitic insects detect the right signal, they swoop in like saviors to make a meal out of – or lay their eggs in – the bodies of the herbivore insects.

    A new study explores the factors that contribute to corn plants’ chemical signaling capacity, comparing how different corn varieties respond to herbivory in the presence or absence of a soil bacterium known to promote plant health.

  • 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

    Will Russian invasion of Ukraine spark a global food crisis?

    The U.S. isn’t on the verge of a food crisis but is experiencing rampant food price inflation, says Scott Irwin, professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Photo of Lowell Gentry

    How do we solve the problem of agricultural nutrient runoff?

    Agricultural runoff from Midwestern farms is a major contributor to a vast “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen, phosphorous and other farm nutrients drain into the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf, spurring algae to overpopulate and suffocating other aquatic life. Illinois is a main culprit in this ongoing environmental blight. News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates spoke with U. of I. natural resources and environmental sciences researcher Lowell Gentry about possible solutions.

  • 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.

  • Headshot of Sean Kennedy

    Climate adaptation increases vulnerability of cocoa farmers, study shows

    Sean Kennedy, a professor of urban and regional planning, found that strategies to keep cocoa farmers in place transferred climate-related risks from chocolate manufacturers to the farmers.

  • Photo of Atul Jain

    Six Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential

    Six faculty members at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2021 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Photo of Yilan Xu, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois

    Study: Domestic control of COVID-19 takes priority over international travel bans

    A new paper co-written by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign economist Yilan Xu says taming domestic transmission of COVID-19 ought to be prioritized over international travel bans.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Photo of three researchers standing in a field of sorghum.

    Not just CO2: Rising temperatures also alter photosynthesis in a changing climate

    A new review explores how increasing temperatures influence plant growth and viability despite the higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Individual photos of each of the three researchers described in this release.

    Three Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential

    Three faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2020 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. The list recognizes leading researchers in the sciences and social sciences from around the world. It is based on an analysis of journal article publication and citation data, an objective measure of a researcher’s influence, from 2009-2019.

    The highly cited Illinois researchers this year are: materials science and engineering professor Axel Hoffmann, crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen Long, and plant biology professor Donald Ort.

  • Photo of banyan fig tree with large roots connecting upper branches to the ground. The aerial roots look like mini tree trunks.

    Genomic study reveals evolutionary secrets of banyan tree

    The banyan fig tree Ficus microcarpa is famous for its aerial roots, which sprout from branches and eventually reach the soil. The tree also has a unique relationship with a wasp that has coevolved with it and is the only insect that can pollinate it. In a new study, researchers identify regions in the banyan fig’s genome that promote the development of its unusual aerial roots and enhance its ability to signal its wasp pollinator.

  • Aerial view of the U. of I. campus.

    U of I to lead two of seven new national artificial intelligence institutes

    The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture are announcing an investment of more than $140 million to establish seven artificial intelligence institutes in the U.S. Two of the seven will be led by teams at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

    The USDA-NIFA will fund the AI Institute for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability at the U. of I. Illinois computer science professor Vikram Adve will lead the AIFARMS Institute.

    The NSF will fund the AI Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy and Manufacturing, also known as the Molecule Maker Lab Institute. Huimin Zhao, a U. of I. professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry, will lead this institute.

  • 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. 

  • Professor Jim Best led a review of the health and resiliency of the world’s largest river systems and calls for multinational governance and scientific collaboration to confront the mounting effects of human activity and climate change faced by rivers.

    Human activity on rivers outpaces, compounds effects of climate change

    The livelihoods of millions of people living along the world’s biggest river systems are under threat by a range of stressors caused by the daily economic, societal and political activity of humans – in addition to the long-term effects of climate change, researchers report.

  • Atul Jain led a study that used a combination of satellite and census data to identify deforestation and expanding saltwater farming as the key physical and socioeconomic drivers of climate change in Bangladesh.

    Study: Integrating satellite and socioeconomic data to improve climate change policy

    Bangladesh is on track to lose all of its forestland in the next 35-40 years, leading to a rise in CO2 emissions and subsequent climate change, researchers said. However, that is just one of the significant land-use changes that the country is experiencing. A new study uses satellite and census data to quantify and unravel how physical and economic factors drive land-use changes. Understanding this relationship can inform climate policy at the national scale in Bangladesh and beyond.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Two Indian corn plants standing in the sun.

    Cahokia's rise parallels onset of corn agriculture

    Corn cultivation spread from Mesoamerica to what is now the American Southwest by about 4000 B.C., but how and when the crop made it to other parts of North America is still a subject of debate. In a new study, scientists report that corn was not grown in the ancient metropolis of Cahokia until sometime between A.D. 900 and 1000, a relatively late date that corresponds to the start of the city’s rapid expansion.

  • Entomology professor Adam Dolezal and his colleagues found that infection with the Israeli acute paralysis virus increases the likelihood that infected bees are accepted by foreign colonies

    Virus-infected honey bees more likely to gain entrance to healthy hives

    Honey bees that guard hive entrances are twice as likely to allow in trespassers from other hives if the intruders are infected with the Israeli acute paralysis virus, a deadly pathogen of bees, researchers report.

    Their new study, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, strongly suggests that IAPV infection alters honey bees’ behavior and physiology in ways that boost the virus’s ability to spread, the researchers say.

  • 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.

  • Photo of Yilan Xu, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Paper: Disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing poses dangers to drivers

    A new paper co-written by Yilan Xu, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, shows that the growing traffic burden in shale energy boomtowns resulted in a surge of road fatalities and severe accidents.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Auriel Fournier, the director of the Forbes Biological Station at the Illinois Natural History Survey, studies the migratory behavior of purple martins.

    Purple martin migration behavior perplexes researchers

    Purple martins will soon migrate south for their usual wintertime retreat, but this time the birds will be wearing what look like little backpacks, as scientists plan to track their roosting sites along the way. The researchers recently discovered that purple martins are roosting in small forest patches as they migrate from North America to Brazil, an unexpected behavior. The scientists published their findings in the Journal of Field Ornithology. 

  • University of Illinois researchers Jeremy Guest, left, John Trimmer and Daniel Miller have developed a conceptual roadmap to help guide others through the unexplored environmental and economic aspects of sanitation.

    Human waste an asset to economy, environment, study finds

    Human waste might be an unpleasant public health burden, but scientists at the University of Illinois see sanitation as a valuable facet of global ecosystems and an overlooked source of nutrients, organic material and water.

  • 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.

  • Plant biology professor Evan DeLucia and his colleagues found that hotter conditions expected by midcentury will lead to a need for crop irrigation in the Midwest, a region that relies primarily on rainfall to grow crops.

    A warming Midwest increases likelihood that farmers will need to irrigate

    If current climate and crop-improvement trends continue into the future, Midwestern corn growers who today rely on rainfall to water their crops will need to irrigate their fields, a new study finds. This could draw down aquifers, disrupt streams and rivers, and set up conflicts between agricultural and other human and ecological needs for water, scientists say.

  • 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.

  • U. of I. crop sciences professor Patrick Tranel and his colleagues are working to understand the processes that lead to herbicide resistance in plants.

    New mutations for herbicide resistance rarer than expected, study finds

    New evidence suggests that the mutation rate in amaranth – a group that includes several agricultural weeds – is quite low and that low-level exposure to herbicides contributes little, if anything, to the onset of herbicide-resistant mutations in this group.

  • 'Engineering Fire' documentary premieres on BTN

    “Engineering Fire,” 30-minute documentary video chronicling the work of University of Illinois engineers to introduce a solar-cooking device in Haiti, premieres May 12 at 7 p.m. CDT on the Big Ten Network.

  • University of Illinois crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen P. Long is one of 100 new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

    Long elected to National Academy of Sciences

    Stephen P. Long, a professor of crop sciences and plant biology at the University of Illinois, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest professional honors a scientist can receive.

  • University of Illinois scientists have linked historical crop insurance, climate, soil and corn yield data to quantify the effects of excessive rainfall on corn yield.

    Excessive rainfall as damaging to corn yield as extreme heat, drought

    Recent flooding in the Midwest has brought attention to the complex agricultural problems associated with too much rain. Data from the past three decades suggest that excessive rainfall can affect crop yield as much as excessive heat and drought. In a new study, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Illinois linked crop insurance, climate, soil and corn yield data from 1981 through 2016.

  • 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.

  • Chemical and biomolecular engineering professor and department chair Paul Kenis, right, and graduate student Shawn Lu are co-authors of a new study that examines the feasibility of a new CO2 waste-to-value technology.

    Study: Reducing energy required to convert CO2 waste into valuable resources

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Surplus industrial carbon dioxide creates an opportunity to convert waste into a valuable commodity. Excess CO2 can be a feedstock for chemicals typically derived from fossil fuels, but the process is energy-intensive and expensive. University of Illinois chemical engineers have assessed the technical and economic feasibility of a new electrolysis technology that uses a cheap biofuel byproduct to reduce the energy consumption of the waste-to-value process by 53 percent.

  • 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.

  • Scientists at the University of Illinois found that compounds in purple corn fight obesity, inflammation and insulin resistance in mouse cells. The team includes, from left, food science professor Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, postdoctoral researcher Diego Luna-Vital and crop sciences professor John Juvik.

    Study: Phenols in purple corn fight diabetes, obesity, inflammation in mouse cells

    Scientists at the University of Illinois developed new hybrids of purple corn with differing combinations of phytochemicals that may fight obesity, inflammation and diabetes, a new study in mice indicates -- and give the food industry sources of natural colorants.