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Campus Chatter - July 31, 2019

Illinois tar spot researcher requests samples, offers resources

URBANA, Ill. — Corn growers experienced an epidemic of tar spot in 2018, with the fungal disease occurring in 172 counties across the Midwest. With the potential for another significant outbreak in 2019, a University of Illinois plant pathologist is asking for help from growers.

“We need samples of corn and other plants (grasses, ornamentals) infected with tar spot from across the United States and surrounding regions to understand the variability of tar spot populations and develop molecular tools to aid in its study. If you have (or think you have) tar spot, please send your samples to me,” said Nathan Kleczewski, research assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences.

Growers should look for small, black, raised spots (circular or oval) appearing on one or both sides of the leaves, leaf sheaths, and husks. Spots may be found on both healthy (green) and dying (brown) tissue. Kleczewski says the black spots may be surrounded by a tan or brown halo, which is especially obvious on healthy leaves.

Leaf samples should be wrapped in newspaper or dry paper towels and shipped in a large envelope, with the following for each sample: date collected, field ZIP code or county and state, type of plant, number of plants in the field showing symptoms, approximate percent incidence in the area, and collector’s name, phone number, and email address.

If possible, samples should be shipped early in the week, overnight, and on ice to the Field Crop Pathology Tar Spot Project, U of IL Plant Clinic, S-417 Turner Hall, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana IL 61801. Address any questions to Kleczewski at or 217-377-4406.

Growers can learn more about the disease in a new corn disease management report from the Crop Protection Network, available at

USPOULTRY taking education recruitment funding applications

TUCKER, Ga. — The USPOULTRY Foundation is accepting applications from colleges and universities for the Industry Education Recruitment Funding program. The funding supports student recruitment at colleges and universities that cultivate careers in the poultry and egg industry.

Any institution of higher education in the United States that does not have a poultry science department or degree, but can show conceivable ways of connecting students with the poultry and egg industry, is eligible to apply for a recruitment grant of up to $7,000. If a school offers a poultry science minor, that school may be eligible for up to $3,000 in additional funding, pending Foundation board approval.

A committee of university and industry professionals will review funding requests and make recommendations to the board of directors. Institutions may apply for a grant by completing the funding application and submitting it via email to Barbara Jenkins at or via regular mail by August 15. The application can be accessed at

Alltech gift expands capabilities of Illinois Feed Tech Center

URBANA, Ill. — The highly anticipated University of Illinois Feed Technology Center is set to greatly improve the university’s capabilities in animal nutrition. Now, with the gift of a Wenger extruder and auxiliary processing equipment from global animal health and nutrition company Alltech, those capabilities will be expanded further.

Researchers in the Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, as well as other units across the university, will use the new Center to prepare and test experimental diets for animals. The facility – on which construction has just begun and should be complete by September 2020 – will also serve as a launch pad for bigger-picture work designed to advance precision animal agriculture throughout the industry.

Headquartered near Lexington, Ky., Alltech is a leading producer and processor of yeast additives, organic trace minerals, feed ingredients, premix, and feed.

The Climate Corp. invests in computer, crop sciences major

URBANA, Ill. — In an effort to build a talent pipeline, The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Bayer, made a $500,000 investment in a new major at the University of Illinois. Leading the digital agriculture revolution, U of I launched a first-of-its-kind major combining computer sciences and crop sciences, which the Climate gift benefits.

Climate’s gift, which will provide scholarships to students in the new program, stretches over a five-year period and specifically aims to help grow the program. The undergraduate major, known as CS + CPSC and housed in the Department of Crop Sciences, admitted its first class of students last fall.

Over the next several years, the program is set to meet its capacity of 60-80 full-time students. It is one of several interdisciplinary computer science majors at Illinois, but CS + CPSC is the first to receive a significant investment from a private donor.

Students can learn more about the program by requesting information or scheduling a personalized visit at

Illinois fellowship builds capacity for digital ag careers

URBANA, Ill. — In its efforts to feed a growing population, the U.S. agriculture industry is incorporating advanced digital technologies and increasingly relying on statisticians to process “Big Data.” Traditional statistics degree programs typically do not provide a background in agriculture or plant science.

A new undergraduate fellowship at the University of Illinois, funded by the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, fills the gap with an immersive training program in agriculture and statistics.

All crop science majors are eligible to receive the expenses-paid statistics fellowship, including juniors in the new combined Computer Science + Crop Sciences major, which is offered in conjunction with the Department of Computer Science at Illinois.

The fellowship is also open to incoming juniors at Illinois State University and Northeastern Illinois University, and entering transfer students from Parkland College.

The two-year fellowship will include student-directed hands-on experimental design, data collection, and statistical analysis experience under the mentorship of faculty advisors specializing in statistics. Program leaders hope to provide a pipeline into graduate school by offering graduate school counseling and covering fellows’ costs for graduate school entrance exams, as well as professional conferences. The program also offers a stipend of $14,500 for each fellow over two years.

To learn more about the fellowship, contact Carrie Butts-Wilmsmeyer at 217-300-7560 or

Hayes Scholarship goes to rising stars in sustainable ag

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In partnership with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON), the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) presented scholarship awards to students committed to working on issues that affect black farmers.

Vanessa Garcia Polanco and Najma Muhammad of Michigan State University were each presented with Cynthia Hayes Memorial Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 to help further their work in sustainable agriculture and with communities of color. The scholarship’s namesake was SAAFON’s former director, a founder of the first network for African-American organic farmers in the U.S., and an inspirational force in the development of NSAC’s initiatives around racial equity in food and agriculture.

Polanco is an alumnus of the Food Solutions New England Network Leadership Institute and the University of Rhode Island, and is pursuing her graduate degree in the Department of Community Sustainability at MSU. As a woman of color immigrant from the Cibao Valley in the Dominican Republic, she brings her identity and experiences to inform her research and advocacy activities.

Muhammad was born and raised in Detroit, and had her first on-farm experience at 11 years old when she assisted with the building of a hoop house at D-town Farms. Her interest in agriculture was pushed forward by her involvement with her school’s after-school community gardening program and Earthworks Urban Farms. Her current academic path is in Urban Planning with a focus on social planning and food systems planning.

Five Purdue students chosen for agriculture scholarships

ROSE HILL, N.C. — Five Purdue University agriculture students are among 83 nationally awarded scholarships by Targeting Excellence, a nonprofit founded in 2013 aimed at supporting students in food and animal agriculture.

These students, ranging from graduate level to junior college, have shown their qualifications and ability to be leaders in agriculture and agribusiness for years to come.

More than $200,000 in scholarships were awarded in 2019, marking $1 million since Targeting Excellence awarded its first gifts in 2014. These students have gone to return to family farms, join Fortune 500 agribusiness companies and large-scale production systems, or be a part of their own agricultural startup.

Megan Hoover of Greensburg, Ind., is an animal science major studying to be a food animal veterinarian; Conor McCabe of West Linn, Ore., is also an animal science major who intends to pursue a Ph.D. in dairy cattle nutrition.

Miranda McGuire of Greentown, Ind., is an animal science major who intends to pursue research opportunities in the swine industry; Larissa Shirley of Springville, Ind., is majoring in animal science and will be attending graduate school, where she hopes to obtain a master’s degree in either swine reproduction or nutrition.

Tabitha Steckler of Ferdinand, Ind., is majoring in animal science and will be attending graduate school with a focus on dairy. She hopes to manage a farm or work with an animal agriculture company that allows her to interact with farmers on a daily basis.

Scholarships range in amounts from $1,000-$3,000 for students involved in agriculture-related majors. Targeting Excellence scholarships are be supported by annual contribution and fundraising events. To learn more, visit

AFIA and FASS pick Spears as New Frontiers award winner

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Feed Industry Assoc. and the Federation of Animal Science Societies are pleased to announce Jerry Spears, Ph.D., of North Carolina State University as the winner of the 2019 AFIA-FASS New Frontiers in Animal Nutrition Award.

Spears is a native of Kentucky and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science from the University of Kentucky. He holds a doctorate in animal nutrition from the University of Illinois, which he received in 1978. He joined the animal science faculty at the University of Arkansas in 1979.

In 1981, he accepted a position at North Carolina State University and was promoted to associate professor in 1985 and to professor of animal science in 1990. He retired in 2012 as professor emeritus.

Spears is recognized as a leading authority in the area of mineral nutrition of domestic animals. His research has advanced the understanding of mineral metabolism in ruminants and non-ruminants and has had an impact on the livestock industry.