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  • Flooded farm field draining into stream

    Study: 'Legacy' phosphorus delays water quality improvements in Gulf of Mexico

    The same phosphorous that fertilizes the thriving agriculture of the Midwest is also responsible for a vast “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico near the Mississippi Delta. Efforts to reduce the amount of phosphorus that enters the Mississippi River system are underway, but research led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign suggests that remnants of the contaminant are left behind in riverbeds for years after introduction and pose an overlooked – and lingering – problem.  

  • Photo of Yong-Su Jin in the laboratory

    Microbial division of labor produces higher biofuel yields

    Scientists have found a way to boost ethanol production via yeast fermentation, a standard method for converting plant sugars into biofuels. Their approach, detailed in the journal Nature Communications, relies on careful timing and a tight division of labor among synthetic yeast strains to yield more ethanol per unit of plant sugars than previous approaches have achieved.

  • Maria Kalaitzandonakes, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois.

    Paper: Multistate foodborne illness outbreaks impact restaurant stock price, public perception

    Foodborne illness outbreaks spanning multiple states bring swift financial losses, increased media attention and a public-relations hit that makes subsequent smaller outbreaks more financially damaging, says Maria Kalaitzandonakes, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois.

  • A NASA image containing visible and infrared data revealing the presence of dissolved organic matter – including potential antibiotic-resistant pathogens – in the waterways along coastal North Carolina after Hurricane Florence.

    Genetic sequencing uncovers unexpected source of pathogens in floodwaters

    Researchers report in the journal Geohealth that local rivers and streams were the source of the Salmonella enterica contamination along coastal North Carolina after Hurricane Florence in 2018 – not the previously suspected high number of pig farms in the region. 

  • Fresh produce being sanitized in the device

    Lightning sparks scientists’ design of ultraviolet-C device for food sanitization

    Scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed a self-powered device that uses UV-C light to inactivate bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. The Tribo-sanitizer could be used in the home, agricultural industries and disaster zones where electricity is limited.

  • Photo of Stephen Long holding a soybean leaf in the sun.

    In TED Talk, Long describes three photosynthetic changes that boost crop yields

    In a newly released TED Talk, Stephen Long, a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor of plant biology and crop sciences, described his and his colleagues’ efforts to boost photosynthesis in crop plants. He described three interventions, each of which increased crop yields by 20% or more.

  • Portrait of Nicolas Martin standing in front of the Morrow Plots cornfield on the U. of I. campus

    Management zone maps of little use to corn growers, study finds

    A multiyear analysis tested whether management zone maps based on soil conditions, topography or other landscape features can reliably predict which parts of a cornfield will respond best to higher rates of seeding or nitrogen application. The study found that – contrary to common assumptions – crop-plot responses to the same inputs vary significantly from year-to-year. The most unpredictable factor – the weather – seemed to have the biggest impact on how the crops responded to these inputs.

  • 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.

  • Kaiyu Guan standing in an agriculutural field in Illinois

    Researchers propose a unified, scalable framework to measure agricultural greenhouse gas emissions

    Increased government investment in climate change mitigation is prompting agricultural sectors to find reliable methods for measuring their contribution to climate change. With that in mind, a team led by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign proposed a supercomputing solution to help measure individual farm field-level greenhouse gas emissions. Although locally tested in the Midwest, the new approach can be scaled up to national and global levels and help the industry grasp the best practices for reducing emissions.

  • 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.

  • Photo of Germán Bollero, the next dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. The appointment takes effect April 16, 2023.

    Bollero named College of ACES dean

    Germán Bollero will be the next dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Bollero has served as the interim dean of ACES since September 2021.  

  • Photo of the researchers.

    Are Illinois farmers aware of the risk of tick-borne diseases?

    Illinois Ph.D. candidate Sulagna Chakraborty describes awareness of ticks and tick-borne disease among Illinois farmers.

  • 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.

  • Working in the lab, the team continues its work on soybean proteins

    A soybean protein blocks LDL cholesterol production, reducing risks of metabolic diseases

    Soybean varieties with greater proportions of the protein B-conglycinin reduce plasma cholesterol levels and promote liver homeostasis, showing potential for preventing fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis, according to research by food scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Photo of the researchers.

    Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations extends RIPE funding with $34M grant

    Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations has awarded a grant of $34 million to the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency project, an international research effort led by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In its 10-year history, RIPE has demonstrated large increases in crop productivity in replicated field trials on the university farm.

  • Josie Rudolphi standing outdoors with a tractor in the background on the U. of I. farms

    What is driving the high suicide rate among farmers?

    Mental health outreach programs for farmers also need to provide services for their teens, who have similar rates of anxiety and depression, said agricultural and biological engineering professor Josie Rudolphi. 

  • 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.