Tag Archives: agriculture

Building a better soybean

Soybeans are one of Virginia’s top crops, ranking sixth out of the commonwealth’s top 10 agricultural commodities.

Faculty members such as M.A. Saghai-Maroof, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences (front), are making agriculture more profitable in the commonwealth by building a soybean that can be grown in Virginia and digested easily by nonruminants.

Faculty members such as M.A. Saghai-Maroof, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences (front), are making agriculture more profitable in the commonwealth by building a soybean that can be grown in Virginia and digested easily by nonruminants.

The vast majority of the crop is processed as feed for farm animals — including cows, pigs, and chickens — which are also top products for the state.

Soybeans contain high levels of phytic acid, which stores phosphorous. When animals ingest soybeans, the phytate is broken down in the gut.

While ruminants such as cows can break down soybeans with ease, nonruminants like pigs and chickens have difficulty breaking down the high-phytate content in a traditional soybean. In addition, the waste produced by animals who consume soybeans is also high in phosphorous, which has far-reaching ramifications for bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay that are overburdened with phosphorous runoff.

M.A. Saghai-Maroof, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, is one of several researchers in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences helping to produce new soybean varieties with lower levels of phytate, which in turn is more easily digested and produces less phosphorous.

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Looking for clues about disease affecting cattle and people

A Virginia Tech researcher is hoping to better understand a bacterium responsible for both spontaneous abortions in cattle and an inconsistent and sometimes fatal fever in humans.

Clay Caswell (left), assistant professor of bacteriology, seeks to better understand brucellosis with Ph.D. students James Budnick and Lauren Sheehan.

Clay Caswell (left), assistant professor of bacteriology, seeks to better understand brucellosis with Ph.D. students James Budnick and Lauren Sheehan.

Clay Caswell, assistant professor of bacteriology at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and an affiliate of the Fralin Life Science Institute, has focused his attention on Brucella. While his colleagues at the veterinary college have spent years developing more-effective vaccines, Caswell is taking a different approach to better understand the molecular basis for Brucella infection.

Brucella lives inside a host immune cell called a ‘macrophage,’ “ said Caswell, who is studying how two small regulatory RNAs allow the bacterium to survive there. “The paradox is that it’s living inside the very cell that’s trying to destroy it.”

Caswell has received funding from the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station to characterize a novel genetic pathway linked to the bacterium’s virulence. He has also been awarded recent grants from the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health to develop the basic science needed to develop treatments in humans who are exposed through unpasteurized milk and other means.

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4-H builds communities around the world

In a Senegalese village, children grow vegetable seedlings and organize traditional wrestling events as fundraisers in a positive youth development initiative modeled after Virginia Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program.

Virginia Cooperative Extension senior 4-H youth development agent Ruth Wallace (left) poses with a group of children and adults in Senegal. In March of this year, Extension and the 4-H Positive Youth Development in Agriculture Program traveled to the West African nation to scale up programming in the region. Reggie Morris, 4-H youth development Extension agent in Alexandria, Virginia, is pictured in the second row, second from right.

Virginia Cooperative Extension senior 4-H youth development agent Ruth Wallace (left) poses with a group of children and adults in Senegal. In March of this year, Extension and the 4-H Positive Youth Development in Agriculture Program traveled to the West African nation to scale up programming in the region. Reggie Morris, 4-H youth development Extension agent in Alexandria, Virginia, is pictured in the second row, second from right.

At the Ndoumbouji primary school, the main focus is gardening.

“The teachers told us that every break they have, the students run to the garden,” said Ozzie Abaye, a Virginia Tech professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. “The group wants to try to expand the garden project outside of the campus.”

Through activities such as gardening and leadership training, 4-H’s international programming has helped to improve thousands of lives around the globe.

Kathleen Jamison, professor emerita and 4-H youth development specialist, and her team completed training workshops in March designed to scale up the programs’ outreach efforts throughout Senegal.

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Research aids in the fight against invasive species

From soybean fields to hemlocks forests, experts from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Virginia Cooperative Extension are developing ways to deal with and control the hitchhikers, interlopers, and otherwise nasty pests known as invasive species.

Jacob Barney, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, is just one of a team of faculty members studying invasive species and protecting Virginia producers from their destruction.

Jacob Barney, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, is just one of a team of faculty members studying invasive species and protecting Virginia producers from their destruction.

“The top 10 pests that we deal with now are non-native, and we spend lots of money to control them,” said Eric Day, an entomologist with Virginia Cooperative Extension and manager of the Insect Identification Lab in the Department of Entomology.

Meanwhile Assistant Professor Jacob Barney in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, collaboratively studies another invasive species — Johnsongrass — a weed that chokes out crops on farmland because of its fast-growing and extensive root structure.

Barney will study what makes Johnsongrass a globally successful weed and use the research to establish a model for studying other weeds and how to predict invasiveness.

Another most-wanted intruder, the brown marmorated stink bug, is an annoyance to homeowners, but the real problem is the millions of dollars in damage it causes to crops across the Mid-Atlantic region.

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Virginia Tech Beef Cattle Health Conference set for Jan. 28

Last year’s Beef Cattle Health Conference set an attendance record with more than 300 cattle producers and students participating in lectures and demonstrations.

Last year’s Beef Cattle Health Conference set an attendance record with more than 300 cattle producers and students participating in lectures and demonstrations.

The Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Farm Credit are hosting the Virginia Tech Beef Cattle Health Conference on Jan. 28 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Designed to give beef cattle producers an opportunity to learn strategies to improve the health of their herds, the conference will take place in the auditorium at Virginia Tech’s Litton-Reaves Hall, located at 175 West Campus Drive.

The conference will open with presentations from three faculty members in the veterinary college’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

John Currin, clinical associate professor of production management medicine, will speak about the Veterinary Feed Directive, a new Food and Drug Administration approval process for the use of antibiotics in animal feed. Sierra Guynn, clinical assistant professor, will give presentations on pinkeye and fly control.

Following a morning break, the conference will feature special guest Andrew Griffith, assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of Tennessee, who will discuss the economic outlook for the beef cattle industry. Morgan Paulette, an agriculture and natural resources Extension agent for Pulaski County, will then give an update on the New River Valley’s Virginia Quality Assured program.

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