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CPSC in the News
Two Crop Sciences scientists rank among world's most influential

Two faculty members of UIUC Crop Sciences and Plant Biology 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: crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen Long, and plant biology professor Donald Ort. Read more here.

Cassava may benefit from atmospheric change more than other crops

A team from the University of Illinois and Monash University studied how the root crop cassava, which feeds over 1 billion people, will adapt to the amount of carbon dioxide expected by the second half of this century. They grew the crop in an outdoor research facility called SoyFACE that artificially boosts carbon dioxide to understand how increasing levels will impact crops in the coming decades. 

“We wanted to know how cassava copes with elevated carbon dioxide,” said RIPE Deputy Director Donald Ort, Robert Emerson Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois’ Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. “Sometimes, plants cannot make use of extra carbohydrates, which then triggers the plant to down-regulate photosynthesis. We found cassava could maintain photosynthetic efficiency and nutritional quality.” 

This study is the result of a partnership between two international research projects that are supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Cassava Source-Sink is focused on improving the yield of cassava; Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is improving photosynthesis to boost crop yields with support from the Gates Foundation, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, and U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Read more here.


Drones and AI detect soybean maturity with high accuracy

In a new study from the University of Illinois, researchers predict soybean maturity date within two days using drone images and artificial intelligence, greatly reducing the need for boots on the ground.

“Assessing pod maturity is very time consuming and prone to errors. It’s a scoring system based on the color of the pod, so it is also subject to human bias,” says Nicolas Martin, assistant professor in CPSC and co-author on the study. “Many research groups are trying to use drone pictures to assess maturity, but can’t do it at scale. So we came up with a more precise way to do that. It was really cool, actually.”

Rodrigo Trevisan, a doctoral student working with Martin, trained computers to detect changes in canopy color from drone images collected across five trials, three growing seasons, and two countries. Importantly, he was able to account for “bad” images to maintain accuracy. Read more here.

Employment outlook is promising for new college graduates in agriculture

 A new report, released today by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, shows a strong job demand for new college graduates with degrees in agricultural programs. U.S. college graduates can expect approximately 59,400 job opportunities annually between 2020 and 2025. This reflects a 2.6 percent growth from the previous five years. Employer demand will exceed the supply of available graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture-related fields.

Male weeds may hold key to their own demise

Scientists are getting closer to finding the genes for maleness in waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, two of the most troublesome agricultural weeds in the U.S.

Finding the genes could enable new “genetic control” methods for the weeds, which, in many places, no longer respond to herbicides. “If we knew which genes control maleness and we could make those genes proliferate within the population, every plant in the field would be a male after a few generations, and theoretically, the population would crash,” says Pat Tranel, professor and associate head in CPSC and lead author on a study in New Phytologist.

Tranel and his colleagues had previously identified molecular markers associated with the male genomic region. After sequencing male genomes for both species, the researchers were able to use those markers to zero in on the male-specific region. Now, they are within 120 to 150 genes of finding their target. Read more here.

Awards & Accomplishments
Dr. Dokoohaki led proposal awarded $200,000

A grant proposal led by Dr. Hamze Dokoohaki and Animal Science's Dr. Isabella Condotta was awarded $200k over three years by the CHS foundation. The proposal, ‘Precision Agriculture Talent Pipeline Initiative’ aims to ‘even playing field’ for young and brilliant under-represented minorities seeking an opportunity in precision agriculture. Other CPSC scientists on the proposal team include Dr. Nico Martin and Dr. Adam Davis.


CPSC Grad Students Win Big at NCWSS

The UIUC quiz bowl team came in first place in the Teams categories in the North Central Weed Science Society Quiz Bowl. CPSC grad students Olivia Obenland and Chris Landau came first and third respectively in the Individuals tournament.

Chris Landau took first place in the graduate student competition for his oral presentation entitled "Variable weather, weed control, and corn management effects on yield loss due to weeds" at the virtual NCWSS meeting.

CPSC Students Win ASA Oral Competitions

CPSC students won first and second place in the American Society of Agronomy Environmental Quality section: Nutrient Community student oral competition. Ariana Munoz won 1st place and $300 for their presentation "Nutrient Leaching from Packed Soil Columns with Cover Crops Exposed to Freeze-Thaw Events". Giovani Preza Fontes won 2nd place and $200 for their presentation "Subsurface Drainage Nitrate Losses in Continuous Corn As Affected by 4R Practices and Cover Cropping."


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