UD professor competes in Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race

March 31, 2014 under CANR News

Professor Eric Benson competes in the Can-Am Crown Sled Dog RaceWhen the University of Delaware’s Eric Benson entered the 22nd annual Can-Am Crown Sled Dog Race in Maine, the only thing that he did not want to see at the end of the run was the Red Lantern, which is given to the slowest team.

Luckily for Benson, he had put in enough training and his dogs ran fast enough to avoid receiving that “prize.”

Benson, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and his six-dog team finished in 20th out of 26 teams, running the 30-mile race in 4 hours and 19 minutes.

Benson said that he was happy with the result, especially because he and his dogs do not race a lot.

Benson co-owns Maryland Sled Dog Adventures LLC with his wife, Catherine. Maryland Sled Dog Adventures focuses on teaching people about dog sledding and most of the events are on weekends, which also is when the races are usually held.

Maryland Sled Dog Adventures works many Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, teaching the children about dog sledding. While the opportunity provides the young people hands-on experiences and gives the dogs training, these runs are generally for short distances, not the long 30-mile slogs through the snow that CAN-AM race entailed.

“Our normal business has us doing a lot of short distance, stop, short distance, stop, which is kind of the exact opposite of what we want,” said Benson. “On a given day when we’re running things for Girl Scouts, we might total six or seven miles, when we needed to get up to 30 miles and have the dogs run continuously.”

To supplement the training, Benson said they “did a couple of trips this winter where we went up to Maine and we would run 18-20 mile stretches.”

The week before the race, the team trained in Edmonton, Canada, and did 16-30 mile runs every other day in order to train under similar geography and temperature conditions that they would encounter during the race.

All of the dogs on the team – made up of four dogs owned by Benson and his wife and two dogs owned by friends — are Siberian Huskies, while a lot of the other dogs in the race were Alaskan Huskies.

Benson said that this put his team at a disadvantage because while Siberian Huskies are a registered, pure breed, Alaskan Huskies can be bred with faster types of dogs. “What that lets people do is mix in German short haired pointer, German shepherd, whatever they want — even greyhound — to get the speed that they need. So in any race when they’re in the same field, they will be faster,” said Benson.

The dogs that raced in the Cam-Am were Benson’s dogs Acadia, Sammamish, Beaver and Vale, and his friends’ dogs, Lumos and Yoda.

The dogs trained with Benson throughout the winter, both locally and on trips to Maine. This winter was especially good for training locally because of the numerous storms.

“We did some training here with snow,” Benson said. “We normally assume that we will do all of our training in this area with the wheeled carts, but this year, I think we had seven or eight times we were able to get out and sled. Previous years, we’ve had zero.”

sleddogsbAs for his role on the team, Benson said that for this particular course, the first eight miles were on an old railroad track that was converted to a trail and so from the beginning he had to slow the team down by pumping the brakes in order to save their strength.

After the flat beginning, the team moved into hills and Benson said he started what is known as pedaling, pushing the sled with one foot while the other stays on the sled’s runner. “You give a stride to help the dogs along. The other thing you do is sometimes you carry a ski pole and as you’re running along, you’ll use the ski pole to help add a little bit of energy to the team,” said Benson.

Towards the end of the race, at about mile 22, the elevation started to rise. “From mile 22-28, it was a tough run. A lot of helping the team, a lot of running up the hills, a lot of pedaling, a lot of poling,” said Benson.

As for how he got involved in the sport, Benson said it started when his dog Zoe, who has long since retired, wouldn’t tire out on normal walks around the block. They got into it with a very simple cart and two dogs — the other was named T-Bone — and then started adding dogs and equipment to get to where they are today.

Benson said that it is a little tricky to balance such an intensive hobby with his job as a professor, but that sometimes the two worlds collide nicely. “I did bring some of the sled dogs in last fall for my emergency animal management class when we were talking about working dogs, and that was actually a neat tie-in,” said Benson.

“Working dogs, including sled dogs, are managed very differently from companion animal dogs and having had the sled dogs, I really understand a bit more about that,” he said. “We’re kind of in a transition zone because our dogs are still pets, which is not traditional working dog mentality, but we’ve transitioned more toward a traditional working dog structure and so that definitely fit well for discussions in the emergency animal management class.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Catherine and Eric Benson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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April 9: Extension celebration

March 31, 2014 under Cooperative Extension

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension will hold a volunteer appreciation event and celebrate “100 Years of Extension” from 3-7 p.m., Wednesday, April 9, at the New Castle County Extension Office, 461 Wyoming Rd., Newark.

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 was passed to provide funding for land grant universities, such as the University of Delaware, to establish the Cooperative Extension Service. Its purpose was to work within the community to address youth, family and agricultural needs.

Extension accomplished this through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state of Delaware and the University by connecting UD resources and research and by establishing programs such as 4-H Youth Development, Family and Consumer Science, Agriculture and Horticulture.

This year, the New Castle County office of UD Cooperative Extension is not only celebrating this 100-year milestone anniversary but also showing its appreciation for dedicated and hard-working volunteers.

Invitees have been asked to bring along their favorite Extension story and will have the opportunity to record it on video so that in 100 years, others can learn about Extension’s 100-year history.

4-H will be providing games and activities for children, and the 4-H Junior Council will provide a special surprise for volunteer visitors.

An interactive timeline “When Did You Connect with Extension?” will highlight important Delaware Extension milestones and give volunteers the opportunity to add when they first joined Extension.

An “Ask an Expert” display will showcase a new way to get solid science-based answers to questions.

Guests can have their photo taken in front of the centennial logo in the photo corner, and a suggestion box will encourage people to “Forecast the Future.” At this station, people will be challenged to imagine what issues families, youth, and agriculture will be facing on Extension’s 200th anniversary and how its role will have changed in addressing these issues.

Those who are interested in attending should RSVP by Friday, March 28, by calling 302-831-1239.

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4-H to hold Science Saturdays at Newark locations

March 19, 2014 under Cooperative Extension

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension 4-H program will hold a series of six Science Saturdays on the first Saturday of May, September, October, November and December at different locations around Newark, including the UD campus and the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office.

These workshops are for youths ages 8-12.

The workshops are co-sponsored by Dow Chemical and 4-H, and are designed to give participants hands-on experiences in animal science, entomology, habitat conservation, geocaching, math, plant and soil sciences, biotechnology, forensics, food science and chemistry.

The first Science Saturday will be held on Saturday, April 5, from 9 a.m.-noon at UD’s Fischer Greenhouse. During this workshop, participants will receive a tour of the UD dairy farm and will get to perform experiments with dairy products.

Registration for the first workshop is due by Friday, March 28.

Click here to download the registration form.

For any additional questions, contact the New Castle County 4-H office at 302-831-8965.

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Cooperative Extension employees receive Delaware Award for Heroism

March 18, 2014 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Mark Manno and Doug Crouse awarded for their role in helping to prevent a suicideMark Manno and Doug Crouse of University of Delaware Cooperative Extension have received the Delaware Award for Heroism for their role in helping prevent a suicide at UD’s Paradee Center in Dover in December 2013.

Those in the Paradee Center at the time of the event, Marianna Freilich and Christine Vennard, were also honored for their role in preventing a tragedy.

Manno, state 4-H program leader, explained that with a rash of teen suicides in Kent County last year, Delaware 4-H had held a number of staff training workshops addressing the issue.

“We had done staff training in August on suicide prevention and the science of suicide, and then we joined the Sussex County Health Promotion Coalition to co-host training with guidance counselors, principals and staff from Sussex school districts in early December at the Carvel Center, so we were pretty much in the loop on the issue,” said Manno.

Still, he said, “To have that transpire was difficult and it is fortunate that nothing bad happened.”

When asked how he knew what to do in the situation — a man had entered the Paradee Center in Dover saying he wanted to take his own life — Crouse explained, “Sometimes I just think in life that your human side takes over and I saw a person there that I knew needed help. I feel that just taking the time to talk to someone sometimes can help, and that’s really all I did — I just took the time to start talking to him.”

Both Manno and Crouse, Extension agent and 4-H and youth development director for Kent County, were modest when talking about the award.

We just did what most people would’ve done. We just tried to help the guy. I mean that’s what we do, we help people,” said Manno.

Crouse added, “When it was first mentioned to us that they were going to present us this award, I thought, ‘I didn’t do anything to receive an award.’ I guess someone saw something in this process that they recognized as worthy of recognition so I appreciate that person for taking the time to write up the award but, again, I never did it for the award.”

If there was one thing Crouse wanted people to take away from the story, it is that the human side will always take over and that it is a good thing to help others.

“Every time everyone talks to me about it, I shrug it off like it was no big thing. I guess the main thing I probably have pointed out to people is that it’s OK to help,” said Crouse. “Unfortunately, we live in an environment where we are fearful of so much, but I keep coming back to this — the human side of you takes over and you just feel compelled to help people, and I am that type of person. I will help anybody if I think I can.”

The two have also been invited to a formal statewide recognition program in which they will be recognized by Gov. Jack Markell for their actions.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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UD students spend winter in Hawaii studying whales

March 17, 2014 under CANR News

Rebecca Moeller spent her winter break in Hawaii studying whalesWhile most Delawareans were inundated with cold and snow this winter, using shovels and plows to get out of their driveways, University of Delaware student Rebecca Moeller was busy working in the warm sunshine with whales in a place known as something of a tropical paradise: Hawaii.

Working in Maui through an internship with the Ocean Mammal Institute, Moeller, a senior majoring in animal science and minoring in wildlife conservation in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said she spent three weeks tracking pods of humpback whales to see what effect boats had on their behavior.

She explained that during four-hour shifts, either from 8 a.m.-noon or 1-5 p.m., she and her team would be stationed on a cliff about a half a mile offshore, or at another location right on the shore, equipped with binoculars and looking for pods of whales.

“We would try to find one pod and then we would keep track of that pod for 20 minutes. Once we had a 20-minute period without a boat near the pod, we would keep track of the behaviors when there was a boat within half a mile, and then again once the boat was out of range for 20 minutes,” explained Moeller.

Tracking behavior wasn’t the only thing Moeller did during her internship, however; she also learned how to use a theodolite — a surveying instrument used to track coordinates — in order to pinpoint the locations where they spotted the pods.

Moeller said that team members would usually work with four or five pods a day and they would do an analysis of the pods at the end of every day.

“We would map them and then record how much down time there was and how many surface behaviors there were,” said Moeller. “Then at the end of the internship, we had to write a research paper using all of the data that we had collected.”

The interns also had to take a three-hour class every night after completing all of their work. So while it’s natural for everyone to hear Hawaii and automatically think of rest and relaxation, Moeller stressed that she spent the majority of her time hard at work.

“We were able to go snorkeling, but that was about the only thing that we had time for. I mean, the condos that we stayed at were right on the beach so we were able to appreciate the beauty of it, but we didn’t get much down time,” said Moeller.

Not that that was a bad thing, especially since she was able to fulfill a lifelong dream. “Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. A lot of people have that phase, only I never really grew out of it. I’ve always just really loved marine mammals,” said Moeller.

She added that the internship would also help her after graduation as she enters the career field.

“In my future endeavors I really want to work in conservation biology for marine mammals and this definitely helped push me in that direction because I always knew that I wanted to be involved with dolphins and whales and porpoises,” she said. “Having this experience kind of showed me that conservation biology is definitely the direction that I want to go.”

Moeller was joined on the trip by another UD student, Alessandra Fantuzzi, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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In memoriam: Friends, colleagues remember Prof. John Dohms

March 10, 2014 under CANR News

In Memoriam: John DohmsThe University of Delaware extends condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of John E. Dohms, a retired professor of animal and food sciences at the University, whose death was confirmed by Newark Police on Feb. 28. Prof. Dohms had been missing since Sept. 13, 2012.

A member of the UD faculty for 32 years, Dr. Dohms retired in 2009 with the rank of professor of microbiology of infectious diseases. His research focused on the pathology of avian disease, and his former students have praised his inspirational teaching and the impact he has had on their lives and careers.

Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), said, “We at CANR grieve the loss of a dedicated colleague and friend who touched the lives of numerous students, faculty and staff. John’s contributions and impacts to the ANFS program were unparalleled.”

Limin Kung, S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal and Food Sciences, wrote, “John was respected and loved by all of us to the highest degree. At the height of his career, he was one of the best teachers and an excellent researcher. Students UNIVERSALLY loved him, because of his kind and caring nature as a person and mentor. Students flocked to his classes and to him as an academic adviser. Colleagues regularly sought advice and collaborated with him. As important as all other things, John was a good friend to all of us!”

Jack Gelb Jr., chairperson of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, said, “John will be missed by many friends and colleagues in this country who benefited from his service and contributions to the field of animal health. His legacy is reflected in the many fine students he mentored and trained and his sincere desire to make the world a better place.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go to Dr. Kim Herrman, John’s partner of over 25 years and an alumnus of our ANFS program, as well as many other family members and friends,” Rieger said.

Born in New York City, Dr. Dohms graduated from Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey in 1966. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from Bowling Green State University in 1970 and 1972, respectively, and earned his Ph.D. in veterinary microbiology from Ohio State University in 1977.

In addition to being a collegiate lacrosse player and lifelong fan of that sport, Dr. Dohms was an avid athlete and outdoorsman who enjoyed swimming, running, whitewater rafting or biking. He took many trips with his friends to experience the outdoors in Central and South America, Africa, New Zealand and the United States, and to pursue his passions that also included fly-fishing and birding.

He is survived by his partner, Kim A. Herrman of Newark, Del.; his brothers, Peter Dohms of Payson, Ariz., and James Dohms of Bradenton, Fla.; his nine nieces and nephews, as well as numerous friends and colleagues.

The family requests that memorial contributions be made in his name and suggests some of his favorite causes and institutions, including the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Delaware, Trout Unlimited and the National Audubon Society.

Details of a memorial service will be announced at a future date.

Condolences may be left online at www.rtfoard.com.

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UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower Show

March 4, 2014 under CANR News

UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower ShowThanks to an interdisciplinary class and a new registered student organization (RSO), the University of Delaware again has an exhibit at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs through March 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This year’s educational exhibit takes on an ecological theme, specifically the key role of American shad, a fish that once held a prominent place in the Brandywine River but has seen a drastic population decline in recent years.

The project aims to raise public awareness of the issue by helping educate those in attendance on the importance of shad and the ecosystem services they provide to the Brandywine, which supplies the city of Wilmington’s drinking water. The UD group received a “Special Achievement: Best Achievement in Social Change Messaging” award for the display.

The class is called Design Process Practicum and is taught by Jules Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration; and Jon Cox, assistant professor in UD’s Department of Art.

The newly formed RSO is called Design and Articulture (DART) and its members — many of whom are also in the class — helped with the creation of this year’s display.

The exhibit examines the Brandywine River and features flowers native to the Brandywine Valley that would naturally grow along its banks in the spring, as well as showing how shad once populated the river in large numbers. “Prior to settlement along the Brandywine we’ve read accounts of the water ‘boiling black’ with shad,” said Bruck, who explained that a lot of the dams along the Brandywine have prevented the shad from swimming upstream.

Some of these dams are historical treasures that can’t be removed — such as the dam at Hagley Museum — and part of the exhibit displays an alternative to dam removal known as a fish ladder. Bruck explained that a fish ladder is one of several techniques that can be used when there is a dam impeding fish trying to upstream.

“A fish ladder has short steps that the fish can flop up and over and get through them pretty easily, and depending on how high the water is, it’s easier at some times than others,” said Bruck, who explained that the group’s version of a fish ladder was a very contemporary version, not a realistic one. “It’s an idea that we just want people to be aware of,” she said.

The reason the group chose to focus on shad is that the fish is important culturally, historically and as indicator species to the relative health of the Brandywine.

Culturally, the shad were once linked to the Brandywine much like blue crab are linked to Baltimore. Middlebrooks explained that Gerald Kauffman, project director for the Water Resources Agency, was a guest speaker at a class session and explained the historical significance of the shad. Kauffman related to the class a story about how Washington’s troops were starving at Valley Forge and the shad migrated north just in time to provide a food supply.

Shad are also a very important indicator species. “Of course we’re interested in the species and their success but as many experts have now told us, shad are very indicative of water quality in the Brandywine watershed, which, of course, supplies all of Wilmington’s drinking water,” said Middlebrooks.

UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower ShowDART

DART is a relatively new RSO and Weber Stibolt, a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and club president, said that its members wanted to form a group to get more recognition for the project. “It’s been kind of an underground project these past couple of years; not a lot of people have known about it.”

Stibolt said that the club has 12 members right now and that his favorite part of working on the project has been learning about aspects of agriculture that he doesn’t get exposed to in his major.

Sydney Bruck, freshman in CANR and member of DART, said the RSO offers students who are in the class now and want to help out with the exhibit next year — but might not have room in their schedule to take the class again — a chance to participate. “If you don’t want to take the class again next year to be involved, you can still be part of the RSO and be involved,” said Bruck.

Bruck also said she enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspect of the project. “I think when you get a bunch of landscape designers together for a flower show, it’s missing something. It’s not complete. Or if you have a bunch of designers or art majors for an art project, it’s still very one sided. But I think we have a very well-rounded exhibit because of all the people, and I think the students really enjoy learning from each other, too.”

Future benefits

Another reason the professors enjoy having the students work on the flower show is that it looks great on their resumes when they apply for future jobs or internships.

Jules Bruck said that a student who worked on the show in the past came to her and said he applied for an internship and the Philadelphia Flower Show project was on his resume. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I got my internship because of the Philadelphia Flower Show. When I got my interview, that’s all they wanted to talk about,” Bruck said the student told her.

Middlebrooks said that the project is “really much more consequential for students long term. It provides yet another opportunity for them to get engaged with professors, get engaged outside the University. They make a variety of connections and I know a number of students have explicitly credited the flower show being on their resume with landing internships, even a Disney internship.”

Middlebrooks also noted that the interdisciplinary and creative aspects of the class help the students in the long run because, in his experience, when people apply for jobs, companies are looking for two main things: creativity and collaboration. “So we’re always looking for ways to really maximize that. And that’s really limited if you just do that in your own discipline, or in a single class, so the flower show has always and continues to serve as an opportunity to cross disciplines,” said Middlebrooks.

Hometown roots

The project is particularly important for Cox who grew up along the Brandywine and said that he remembers playing in the river as a child.

“Some of my earliest memories are actually going down the Brandywine in this little inflatable Sevylor two-person boat with my sister,” said Cox. “So the Brandywine has always been special to me and we go canoeing a couple times a year and we started taking my son there now and he is two and a half now and so he’ll be able to grow up and have some of the same experiences.”

Group effort

Of course, the flower show couldn’t happen without the flowers, and getting the native plants to bloom and look like they would in the spring was no easy feat, especially during such a rough winter.

Bruck was in charge of growing the plants and the students helped out as well. Bruck also thanked Rodney Dempsey, Bill Barts and Joyce Zayakosky, members of the UD Greenhouse staff, for all that they did to get the flowers blooming on time.

The group also thanked the Center for Teaching and Effectiveness and Learning (CTAL), the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society for help funding the project, and Kauffman and Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of the Brandywine Conservancy, for speaking to the class about the shad.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Jon Cox

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Weed Science School builds on the basics

February 26, 2014 under Cooperative Extension

weed school training dates announcedDelaware Cooperative Extension has announced its 2014 schedule of Weed Science School training to be held from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 12, at the Kent County Extension Office, 69 Transportation Circle Dover, Del.19901, and from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Friday, March 14, at the University of Delaware Research and Education Center Annex (old office building) 16686 County Seat Hwy., Georgetown, Del. 19947.

The weed management training will focus on weeds and issues with agronomic crops and commercial vegetables. The training will be conducted by Mark VanGessel, UD Cooperative Extension weed specialist and his research and Extension team.

The objective of Weed Science School is to train agriculture industry professionals and those who work on weeds frequently. Topics will  include weed management concepts and principles.

Lunch is provided and resources will be made available. There is no fee for the training.

Participants are asked to pre-register by March 7 with Karen Adams at (302) 856-2585 x 540.

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UD professor seeks holistic understanding of disease resistance in maize

February 25, 2014 under CANR News

UD professor seeks holistic understanding of disease resistance in maizeThe University of Delaware is leading an interdisciplinary project aimed at unraveling the biology of a durable form of disease resistance in maize.

A grant from the National Science Foundation Plant Genome Research Program (NSF-PGRP) has brought together a team of experts in breeding, genetics, pathology, bioimaging and computer science to generate new knowledge that can be leveraged in the staple crop when breeding for disease resistance.

Randall Wisser, assistant professor in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences is leading the five-year, $3.9 million project.

Working with seven other investigators at Iowa State University (ISU), Cornell University, North Carolina State University (NCSU), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Wisser explained that the group is trying to gain a holistic understanding of disease resistance.

“To date, we’ve focused on dissecting the genetics, trying to figure out what the genes are,” said Wisser. “In some cases we’ve been successful, but there are many more genes we have not yet identified; we still don’t understand how the genes work or how they act together to cause resistance.”

How cells react

A significant component of the project at UD consists of the researchers adapting bioimaging technologies to study natural genetic variation in disease resistance. For this, three of the labs are collaborating.

In controlled environments, Rebecca Nelson, professor at Cornell University, and Peter Balint-Kurti, research geneticist with USDA-ARS at NCSU, perform genetic experiments from which infected tissue is sampled and shipped off to UD.

Wisser and Jeff Caplan, director of the BioImaging Center at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI), work together to analyze microscopic images of the samples.

Studying hundreds of tissue samplesthe team captures numerous snapshots across each sample in microscopic detail and in 3D. Then, from more than 1,000 separate images taken on each sample, the researchers use computational techniques to reconstruct the images into their original form.

With these large format images, the team initiated a collaboration with Chandra Kambhamettu, professor in UD’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences and director of the Video/Image Modeling and Synthesis (VIMS) Laboratory, to adapt methods from computer vision research that allow features within the images — such as the number of cells the pathogen has infected — to be characterized.

In the end, the team is able to gain an understanding of how a specific resistance gene or a group of resistance genes act to cause resistance.

Wisser summarized the technique’s important effect, saying, “We’re not just taking a picture of the surface, we’re actually taking pictures as though we are peeling layers off the tissue one at a time. Also, because of the relatively large area of the leaf we can now image, we can observe plant-pathogen interactions at an unprecedented scale and gain a better understanding of variation in the interactions between pathogens and plants.

“Essentially, what we’ve been able to achieve is the development of an imaging and analysis platform that allows us to quantitatively examine the effects of different genes at the tissue and cellular level. It’s eye-opening, and we’ve only begun scratching the surface.”

Gene identification

The team is simultaneously trying to shine light on the specific genes that underlie disease resistance.

Jim Holland, research geneticist with USDA-ARS at NCSU, leads a component of the project on genetic mapping. Holland, Balint-Kurti, Nelson and Wisser collaborate on sequencing and comparing the genomes of over 250 maize varieties using advanced techniques in genetic mapping, when researchers try to determine the specific genes that control a characteristic like plant disease resistance.

There is typically uncertainty in the process. Therefore, Balint-Kurti and Nick Lauter, assistant professor from ISU, are validating the effects of these genes by searching for extreme mutations and deregulating the gene. If disruptions of the gene cause a change in the plants’ resistance to disease, then they know they are onto something.

Lauter and Alicia Carriquiry, professor from ISU, are also working with Cornell and NCSU to study how the genes are regulated when the pathogens infect. A gene may be turned on or off in response to infection, which further clues the researchers in to the genes that underlie resistance.

Looking at all of these results together allows the researchers to understand the genes associated with resistance, how they function in terms of their internal wiring, how they connect to each other to form a network, and how that network gives rise to disease resistance or susceptibility.

An applied impact

The work on this project addresses issues that relate to the global sustainability of agriculture. Pathogens often evolve quickly to overcome the resistance genes in the cultivars breeders produce, resulting in a constant tug-of-war between the breeder and the pathogen.

This basic research project intersects with applied efforts to have greater durability in disease resistance. The knowledge, methods and resources from the project can be leveraged in the breeding of varieties that have longer lasting resistance, resulting in better food security.

Wisser said that while the group is using maize for its study, the results could have positive effects on many plants. “The things we find are not just applicable to maize and diseases we’re working on here, but there are also some general rules that are likely to surface. So we think that our project has more to offer than helping to solve the issues associated with these specific diseases and the crop that’s the focus of the project.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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College of Agriculture and Natural Resources announces Ag Day date

February 24, 2014 under CANR News

Ag Day 2014Ag Day, an annual tradition of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware, will be held on Saturday, April 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The theme of Ag Day 2014 is “Feed the World. Protect the Planet.” In keeping with this theme, the Food Bank of Delaware will be on hand accepting donations of non-perishable food items.

Members of the campus community, and the surrounding community, are encouraged to join the college for a day filled with music, exhibitors, great food, and fun on UD’s South Campus.

Celebrating all that the college has to offer, visitors can experience everything from bird shows to bee demonstrations, livestock exhibits, 4-H arts and crafts, farm tours, plant sales, and much more.

The event will be held at CANR’s Townsend Hall, located at 531 South College Avenue in Newark. Both admission and parking are free and the event is open to the public.

Ag Day is family friendly, however, for the safety of the live animal demonstrations, organizers ask that all pets be left at home.

Registration for exhibitors and vendors is now open and runs until March 14. Registration is available on the Ag Day website.

The website also features additional information, announcements, and schedules, and will be updated as the event approaches.

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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