Pedal to the steel

OARDC FABE building construction Steel deliveryThe first truckload of structural steel for OARDC’s new Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering Building arrives this morning in Wooster. When finished, the building will house research on biofuel, bioproducts, bioenergy and more. It replaces a building damaged beyond repair by 2010’s Wooster tornado. OARDC is CFAES’s research arm. (Photo: K.D. Chamberlain.)

Student awardees exemplify collaborative nature of international agricultural research

Bell-TestenCapacity building doesn’t occur spontaneously. Nor is it achieved through individuals and organizations acting independently. Two Ohio State graduate students in CFAES exemplified these notions with their recent selection as U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security, a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Patrick Bell, pictured, left, a Ph.D. student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), and Anna Testen, right, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Plant Pathology, each were awarded a graduate research grant on Dec. 23, 2013, to fund research that the students have been involved in through ongoing projects with other International Agricultural Research Centers (IARC) or National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS).

The Borlaug Fellows program seeks to foster leadership and scientific expertise among U.S. graduate students to effectively study and promote sustainable food systems in developing countries.

In Tanzania, boosting soil quality …

Bell, who interned in summer 2013 at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Tanzania, will continue his research on sustainable intensification for improving soil quality in that country. His research mission to Tanzania last year was supported by CFAES’s Office of International Programs in Agriculture (IPA), which currently administers a five-year, USAID-funded food security initiative at SUA called iAGRI.

Bell’s faculty adviser, Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science in SENR and director of the school’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, also has participated in the iAGRI project.

The integration of Bell’s research into the existing organization of the iAGRI project provided an ideal opportunity for both CFAES and SUA to mutually build their capacities.

“Through these arrangements, American graduate students are gaining valuable exposure to international research, while at the same time collaborating with Tanzanian scientists to develop technical capacity that builds long-term sustainability, thereby enhancing food security,” said Mark Erbaugh, IPA director.

… and battling vegetable diseases

Testen, a student under the advisement of Sally Miller, professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, not only conducts research in Miller’s Vegetable Pathology Laboratory but has worked with the iAGRI project in Tanzania as well. She traveled to Tanzania in August 2013 to conduct a survey of tomato diseases in the region and to work with local farmers in developing soil quality indicators.

With Miller serving as lead principal investigator of the International Plant Diagnostics Network (IPDN), a global project within the USAID-funded Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM-CRSP), Testen has studied plant diseases that pose critical threats to vegetable crops in developing countries, providing her with the opportunity to be involved in the type of international collaborative research that the Borlaug Fellows program seeks to foster.

Growing CFAES’s worldwide impact

Erbaugh emphasized that these awards are both a means and an end for building sustainable international agricultural research networks. “These institutional relationships are not shaped overnight, but often result from many years of researchers working collaboratively on different projects at various IARCs and NARSs.”

He said that IPA is proud to contribute to this exchange of knowledge through its own iAGRI program, as well as through a number of other international research and training programs funded by USAID and other organizations.

As U.S. Borlaug Fellows in Global Food Security, Bell and Testen will undoubtedly further CFAES’s effort to internationalize its research, and ultimately to improve agriculture worldwide.

For more information, contact Dr. Erbaugh at or 614-292-6479. Contact the writer, Beau Ingle, IPA program manager, at, 614-292-4221.

Jan. 31: Producing liquid biofuel from biomass

thaddeus ezejiCFAES scientist Thaddeus Ezeji presents “Liquid Biofuel Production from Biomass: Challenges and Opportunities” from 11:30 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31, in 244 Kottman Hall, 2021 Coffey Road, on Ohio State’s Columbus campus and in 121 Fisher Auditorium, 1680 Madison Ave., on the Wooster campus of CFAES’s research arm, OARDC. The talk’s sponsor is our Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. (Photo: Center for Applied Plant Sciences.)

Tiger (and others) team

tigerToday’s talk in the spring seminar series of CFAES’s School of Environment and Natural Resources looks at a new partnership for wildlife conservation involving the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, The Wilds, and Ohio State. Speaking is Barbara Wolfe, associate professor in Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The program starts at 4 p.m. Details.

Who shall speak for bee?

bee on blue lupineMichele Colopy of the Pollinator Stewardship Council presents “Pollinator Advocacy: Communicating Among the Stakeholders” from 3:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, in 121 Fisher Auditorium on the Wooster campus of CFAES’s research arm, OARDC, 1680 Madison Ave. There’s also a live video link to 244 Kottman Hall on Ohio State’s Columbus campus, 2021 Fyffe Road. Free. She speaks as part of the seminar series of CFAES’s Department of Entomology. Email contact for details.

Speaking of cover crops

A CFAES team now spells farming with three extra letters. The group studies, demonstrates and teaches about what it calls “ECO-farming,” a new approach aimed at boosting a farm’s production and profits while shrinking its environmental footprint. One of the keys is “continuous living cover” (the C part of ECO), achieved by using cover crops. Some of the team’s members will give a workshop on the topic Feb. 14 as part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association annual conference. Read more …

The force is strong with this one

david brandt ncrsMore on Ohio farmer David Brandt, who was mentioned in the previous post: A September 2013 Mother Jones story, “One Weird Trick to Fix Farms Forever,” calls him (citing a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service website), “The Obi-Wan Kenobi of soil.” The story also says, “If all U.S. farms adopted Brandt’s methods, we could save as much carbon as if we took 10 percent of cars off the road.” (Photo: NRCS.)

Learn about benefits of cover crops on farms in national broadcast Feb. 18; Ohio farmer to be featured

David Brandt, who farms 1,150 acres in Carroll, Ohio, has worked closely with CFAES and U.S. Department of Agriculture experts to ramp up his cover crop use. He’ll talk about it during a live national broadcast Feb. 18 that can be viewed in seven Ohio locations. Among their multiple benefits, cover crops, which often are planted in fall, killed by winter and left to rot in spring, cut erosion, enrich the soil and boost the soil’s microbial life.