University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

Anderson, Tennessee, United States

University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

Anderson, Tennessee, United States
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News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Memorial Day Weekend is heralded the nation over as the unofficial start to summer. Schools have dismissed for the academic year, or soon will. The weather has warmed, and outdoor recreation will soon peak. So, it's timely that a new, detailed study conducted by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has quantified the economic value of outdoor recreation, at least along the Tennessee Valley Authority's managed river system. The study, which was performed by a team of scientists from the UTIA departments of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries and Agricultural and Resource Economics, determined that the combination of aquatic recreation and waterfront property along the Tennessee Valley Authority's managed river system creates $11.9 billion of annual economic impact to the region -- the equivalent of $1 million per shoreline mile. In addition, the TVA-supported study found that TVA's 49 reservoirs support about 130,000 jobs annually. To reach these conclusions, UTIA researchers conducted in-depth surveys of visitors and property owners along three of TVA's 49 reservoirs -- Norris, Watts Bar and Chickamauga -- during Summer 2016. Those reservoirs were chosen to represent urban, rural and tributary reservoir classifications. From that cross-section, the survey data was then extrapolated to cover the entire river system. Scientists involved included Neelam Poudyal, an assistant professor of natural resource policy, and Burton English, Kim Jensen and Jamey Menard, all members of the UTIA Agri-Industry Modeling & Analysis Group (AIM-AG). AIM-AG is well known for performing economic impact evaluations for industries and government entities. Several UT graduate and undergraduate students also participated by conducting a mail survey of shoreline property owners as well as on-site surveys of reservoir visitors at public access points, including fishing piers, swimming areas, boat launches and commercial marinas. Responses from more than 1,100 recreational users were included in the study. "Since its beginnings 84 years ago, TVA's mission has been to improve the lives of those in the Valley, and our integrated river management system is one of the cornerstones of our efforts," said Mike Skaggs, TVA Executive Vice President of Operations. Skaggs, other TVA officials, and representatives from UTIA unveiled the study results earlier this month as the agency kicked off a series of visits with civic officials and media from communities along the river system. "The UTIA study clearly establishes a strong link between the recreational opportunities our reservoirs create and improving the economic opportunities for the nine million people we serve every day," Skaggs added. First developed to provide flood control, navigation and hydroelectric power, TVA's integrated development plan for the Tennessee River and its tributaries also provides boating, swimming, and fishing enthusiasts their choice of unique destinations across all seven states in its service area. Poudyal, who specializes in the study of the human dimensions of natural resource policy, notes that TVA reservoirs provide tremendous outdoor opportunities to local and non-local visitors and visitors find their overall experiences highly satisfying. "Considering all the amenities that TVA reservoirs offer, the level of satisfaction among recreational users was relatively high - 75 percent," he said. Based on expenditures, the UTIA economists agreed. English remarked, "The study found that recreational visitors to the TVA reservoir system generate an average annual economic impact of $11.9 billion as well as more than 130,000 local jobs, $4.45 billion in labor income and $916 million in state and local taxes." English further remarked that the study did not take every economic impact into consideration. For example, the UTIA study did not consider the additional economic impacts created by non-aquatic based recreation (camping, hunting and hiking), and it did not address the additional economic benefits created by TVA's core missions of flood control or river transportation. The positive contributions of recreation along the river system are in addition to TVA's more formal economic development activities and partnerships, which contributed to more than $8 billion of capital investment and the creation or retention of more than 72,000 jobs in the Tennessee Valley last year alone. The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving more than 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation. Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.


News Article | May 23, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The vast majority of cow-calf producers in Tennessee and the Southeast using a defined calving season have long favored spring calving; however, researchers at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have evaluated the risk and returns for a fall calving season, proving once again that timing is everything. Selecting an optimal calving season involves a complex set of factors including nutritional demands of brood cows, forage availability, calf weaning weights, calving rates, seasonality in cattle, and feed prices and labor availability. Until now, information regarding profitability and risk associated with spring and fall calving seasons in the southeastern United States has been limited. Addressing this limitation, researchers assessed the potential trade-offs in risk and return of using a fall calving season rather than a spring calving season, while considering the seasonality of cattle and feed prices for least-cost feed rations. Using simulation models based on 19 years of data, UTIA researchers determined that the fall calving season, calving between mid-September and mid-November, was most profitable and had the smallest amount of variation in profits, meaning fall calving was less risky. This may seem counterintuitive, as spring calving produces heavier calves at weaning and feed costs are lower. The increased profitability of fall-season calving is due to the higher prices the calves can bring at weaning and an increase in calves weaned per cow. Cattle production in the United States revolves around a production system in which calves are born during the spring months. However, the southeastern United States is uniquely positioned to take advantage of an alternative fall calving season. Longer growing seasons for forages provide southeastern cattle producers a competitive advantage over producers to the north in terms of feed costs. The longer growing season also provides cattle producers in the Southeast an opportune time to calve cattle prior to extreme winter weather events, allowing beef production and availability to be more easily spread throughout the year. "A fall calving season is not only beneficial for cattle producers, but it can also be beneficial for consumers," said Andrew Griffith, assistant professor at UTIA for Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) and research coauthor. "The fall calving season can provide for a more uniform distribution of beef production throughout the year, which reduces storage costs and results in lower costs and a fresher product at the retail level." Information from this research, which was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics (vol. 48, issue 3), can help cow-calf producers in Tennessee and other southeastern states as they navigate the complex decision of choosing a calving season. Additional information can be found in the associated UT Extension publication Fall Versus Spring Calving: Considerations and Profitability Comparison. "While this research indicates possible advantages for fall calving, it is also important to consider the additional costs associated with switching seasons and labor availability in the fall when crops are harvested," said Chris Boyer, ARE assistant professor and research coauthor. Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu.


News Article | May 25, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

The vast majority of cow-calf producers in Tennessee and the Southeast using a defined calving season have long favored spring calving; however, researchers at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture have evaluated the risk and returns for a fall calving season, proving once again that timing is everything. Selecting an optimal calving season involves a complex set of factors including nutritional demands of brood cows, forage availability, calf weaning weights, calving rates, seasonality in cattle, and feed prices and labor availability. Until now, information regarding profitability and risk associated with spring and fall calving seasons in the southeastern United States has been limited. Addressing this limitation, researchers assessed the potential trade-offs in risk and return of using a fall calving season rather than a spring calving season, while considering the seasonality of cattle and feed prices for least-cost feed rations. Using simulation models based on 19 years of data, UTIA researchers determined that the fall calving season, calving between mid-September and mid-November, was most profitable and had the smallest amount of variation in profits, meaning fall calving was less risky. This may seem counterintuitive, as spring calving produces heavier calves at weaning and feed costs are lower. The increased profitability of fall-season calving is due to the higher prices the calves can bring at weaning and an increase in calves weaned per cow. Cattle production in the United States revolves around a production system in which calves are born during the spring months. However, the southeastern United States is uniquely positioned to take advantage of an alternative fall calving season. Longer growing seasons for forages provide southeastern cattle producers a competitive advantage over producers to the north in terms of feed costs. The longer growing season also provides cattle producers in the Southeast an opportune time to calve cattle prior to extreme winter weather events, allowing beef production and availability to be more easily spread throughout the year. "A fall calving season is not only beneficial for cattle producers, but it can also be beneficial for consumers," said Andrew Griffith, assistant professor at UTIA for Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) and research coauthor. "The fall calving season can provide for a more uniform distribution of beef production throughout the year, which reduces storage costs and results in lower costs and a fresher product at the retail level." Information from this research, which was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics (vol. 48, issue 3), can help cow-calf producers in Tennessee and other southeastern states as they navigate the complex decision of choosing a calving season. Additional information can be found in the associated UT Extension publication Fall Versus Spring Calving: Considerations and Profitability Comparison: https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W419.pdf "While this research indicates possible advantages for fall calving, it is also important to consider the additional costs associated with switching seasons and labor availability in the fall when crops are harvested," said Chris Boyer, ARE assistant professor and research coauthor.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 189.97K | Year: 2012

The family Tachinidae contains nearly 10,000 described species of beneficial parasitic flies. As enemies of other insects, particularly herbivores, tachinids are important regulators of host populations in natural and agricultural ecosystems. They help in the natural control of numerous pest insects and have been effectively used in biological control of invasive pests. Despite their diversity and ecological importance, we know little about their interactions with hosts and how these have developed over time. The taxonomic difficulty and lack of a robust classification of tachinids has hindered both basic and applied research. The goals of this project are to reconstruct relationships among groups of tachinid flies using molecular and traditional methods and then use these results to produce a stable classification and to understand patterns of host-use and other life history traits. Another key goal is to broadly distribute taxonomic and biological information on tachinids to researchers and practitioners.

Tachinidae are the most important group of insect parasitoids outside of the wasps. A sound grasp of their history and a reliable taxonomic infrastructure are necessary to understand their roles as enemies, the evolution of their diverse attack strategies, and the causes of their rapid and rampant diversification. Such an understanding can guide the selection of the most effective tachinid biological control agents in agricultural and forest systems and limit the potential negative impacts upon non-targets. It will also inform broad issues in biology such as biogeography, ecological specialization, and the causes of adaptive diversification.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 234.15K | Year: 2016

Animals have limited life spans, and mortality is a common occurrence in terrestrial ecosystems. What happens in nature to the body of an animal after it dies? From an ecological perspective, a decomposing animal creates a localized pulse (hot spot) of nutrient-rich organic matter, fertilizing the soil below. Following death of an animal, the environment may be inoculated with microorganisms from the animals microbiome. Very little is understood about the ultimate fate of these nutrients and microbes - how much is retained in soil, recycled, or released into the atmosphere? These questions are important in terms of understanding how nutrients are produced and consumed in ecosystems, and evaluating the importance of carrion inputs across larger scales, following massive die-offs, for example. The focus of this study will be to determine the impact of decomposing animal carcasses on nitrogen (N) levels in soil. As a result, this research will contribute to our understanding of terrestrial nutrient fluxes, and will inform or expand existing models through the inclusion of carcass-derived inputs. This research will provide foundational knowledge about a natural decomposition process and the abiotic and biotic controls on nutrient recycling. This knowledge has potential applications for agriculture (livestock mortality disposal) and forensic science (time since death estimations). This project will also provide interdisciplinary training for a postdoctoral scholar in microbial ecology, soil biogeochemistry, forensic anthropology, molecular biology, and bioinformatics and will support and undergraduate trainee and the development of new curriculum on soil and environmental science for Tennessee 4-H programs.

This research will provide a comprehensive evaluation of N flux in carcass decomposition hotpots. Preliminary research shows that microbial communities in soils below a decomposing carcass include both native soil taxa and introduced taxa from the carcass or insects that visit the carcass. These communities change in both composition and function, shifting to more anaerobic metabolic strategies over time. The objective of this research is to determine the fate of N in carcass decomposition hotspots, and elucidate how abiotic (temperature and oxygen) and biotic (decomposer community composition) factors control the fate of N. The objective will be met using a combination of lab mesocosms and field decomposition experiments with carcasses, manipulating abiotic and biotic controls and documenting the effects on N pools (nitrate, ammonia, nitrous oxide) and fluxes (nitrification and denitrification rates). Decomposer microbial communities will be examined using functional gene expression of N cycling genes and sequencing. This will reveal the types of microbes involved in decomposition and the mechanisms by which they are transforming nutrients. Ultimately this research will provide an understanding of the postmortem fate of vertebrate nutrients in terrestrial ecosystems.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 222.74K | Year: 2011

Bacterial pathogens are diverse and important enemies of plants. In agriculture, these pathogens cause significant destruction of crops and necessitate costly applications of antibiotics. How is it that wild plants are able to resist infection by these same bacteria? If the resistance mechanisms of wild plants can be identified, they can be used to improve the resistance of crops. Towards this goal, this research team has discovered that some wild collected plants of Arabidopsis thaliana are dramatically more resistant to infection by the virulent bacterial pathogen, Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000. The focus of the current project is to understand how elevated resistance in these plants is accomplished. For this purpose, the researchers use a powerful new approach, genome-wide association mapping, combined with mining of microarray data on gene expression, to identify focal candidate genes. RNAi knockdown lines will be created for these focal genes in the Stewart Lab and characterized in the Traw Lab for defects in plant resistance. In addition, plants lacking functional copies of these genes will be complemented with resistance allele candidates in both labs and tested in the Traw Lab to determine whether resistance is restored to those lines. Finally, given suspected roles of several candidates in membrane transport, broad and focused metabolite screening will be conducted by the Traw Lab using a subset of the experimental lines. One of the novel candidate genes is involved in the downstream response to abscisic acid. Allelic variation at that locus may therefore help explain how this bacterial pathogen is able to hijack the abscisic acid pathway in some plants. Thus, the project will provide strong insights into the mechanisms of natural plant resistance to bacteria. The findings are likely to contribute to the improvement of crop yields and reduction of exogenous antibiotic use in agriculture. The research may also contribute to improved treatment of bacterial diseases in humans. The project will advance the training of two postdocs and a graduate student, and will be used to create a series of laboratories that can be used in the teaching of introductory biology.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Physiolg Mechansms&Biomechancs | Award Amount: 151.04K | Year: 2015

Plant cell walls contain lignocellulosic compounds that are difficult to degrade, such as xylan, cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectin. However, insect herbivores are capable of degrading these compounds and using the simpler compounds derived from the degradation processes for energy. While early work assumed that the source of the catalyst enzymes involved in the biochemical breakdown of lignocellulosic compounds (i.e., plant cell wall degradation enzymes, PCWDE) in insects was gut-resident symbiotic bacteria, recent work has shown that PCWDE produced by the cells of the insect gut are more important than previously realized. The goal of this research is to examine the diversity of PCWDE in two major lower insect lineages using a combination of functional genomics and biochemical tests. This basic research will improve understanding about the physiological mechanisms of insect digestion and may yield novel insights about insect control methods, biofuel industry improvements, and other industrial applications. This work will provide the opportunity for undergraduate, high school and graduate students to gain experience in cutting edge functional genomics, and insect physiology and biochemistry. Museum exhibits will be produced to educate the public about the importance of wood feeding insects. These exhibits will be presented at the University of California David Bohart Museum of Entomology and several other science museums across California and Tennessee.

Preliminary work revealed that Phasmids (walking sticks) and Thysanurans (silverfish and firebrats) have strikingly high numbers of PCWDE, that these genes show compartment specific expression within the gut, and are effective at degrading plant cell wall compounds. This project will identify the full complement of PCWDE present in the focal species (6 Phasmids and 3 Thysanurans) and compare the activity and expression levels of them in the digestive systems of these insects. Using heterologous expression, the researchers will characterize the activity of the most active enzymes in these systems. The researchers will also analyze how patterns of gene expression correlate with the physical attributes of the gut, which vary greatly between the two focal insect orders. The ultimate goal is to describe the variation in physiological compartmentalization of the digestive system and determine how it works synergistically with a diversity of differentially-expressed enzymes to maximize digestion of lignocellulosic compounds. Findings from this research will be published in peer-reviewed journals, and presented at regional and national scientific meetings.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Enviro Health & Safety of Nano | Award Amount: 299.98K | Year: 2014

PI: Henry, Theodore B.
Proposal Number: 1435874
Institution: University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
Title: Effects of ingestion of manufactured nanoparticles on endogenous microbiota and pathogen resistance in rainbow trout

The objective of this proposal is to understand changes induced in the gut microbial community and on the host responses by nanoparticles (NPs). The overall hypothesis is that ingestion of nanomaterials, especially those that have anti-microbial properties, will change the microbiome (the community of microorganisms that share the body space) of trout resulting in adverse health outcomes. The investigators plan to investigate the changes in the microbiome resulting from the NP challenges, hypothesizing that these changes would lead to immunosuppression and increased opportunity for pathogen infection. The hypothesis will be tested with a bacterial pathogen challenge. The results of this investigation will provide new insights into the impact of NPs on the gut microbiome, which will have relevance not just for trout, but for humans and other organisms as well, since these fundamental host-microbiome interactions are conserved across all vertebrates. The data obtained from the proposed investigations can also be helpful for both industry and regulators as industry formulates new NPs with lower toxicity or regulators look to reduce exposure of humans and wildlife to NPs. The proposal includes excellent outreach and training of graduate and undergraduate students, as well as the involvement of high school students, in research. The research results can potentially guide regulatory agencies.

The model used will be the environmentally relevant and commercially significant rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss. The investigators will use high throughput sequencing to understand the changes in the microbiome, specifically, the effects of dietary exposure to NPs will be determined by global genomic sequencing of the microbial communities and quantitative PCR to target specific microbial species. Changes in abundance of the specific microbes will be evaluated among treatments and over time. In the same fish, gene expression profiling will be conducted to identify biomarker genes that respond to alterations in the microbial community composition. A subset of NP treatments will be selected to conduct longer-term exposure in fish that will subsequently be exposed to Y. ruckeri and the outcome of this bacterial challenge will be evaluated.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENERGY FOR SUSTAINABILITY | Award Amount: 8.00K | Year: 2016

The co-production of valuable chemicals and materials can improve the economic viability of bio-refinery processes that convert renewable biomass resources into biofuels. To serve as a forum for emerging bio-refinery concepts, the fourth scientific conference in the Frontiers in Biorefining series, titled Chemicals and Materials from Renewable Carbon, will be held during November 2016, at St. Simons Island, Georgia. This conference will assemble scientists and engineers from around the world to share recent progress, explore information needs, and present ideas that advance integrated bio-refinery concepts. A total of 90 participants from academia, government, and industry are expected. This award will support the travel of five graduate student researchers to present their original research at the conference, and to network with influential scientific and industrial researchers in the field of biorefining.

As research programs continue to build the body of fundamental science that create new bio-refinery concepts, a scientific conference to facilitate networking, exchange ideas, and further collaboration between scientists and research institutions is timely. The opening plenary session will highlight key developments in emerging bio-refinery concepts by invited scientists. The subsequent technical program emphasizes pathways for conversion of biomass to useful and valuable chemicals and materials in six parallel sessions and a student poster reception. Specific sessions are: Engineered feedstocks for the bio-refinery; Cell wall deconstruction and biomass fractionation; Catalytic conversion of lignin; Catalytic conversion of carbohydrates; Biochemical conversion of carbohydrates and lignin; Catalytic thermochemical conversion of whole biomass; The interface of biomass and petrochemicals. An open-access, peer-reviewed paper will summarize the activities at the conference in an effort to guide future research, funding opportunities, and policymaking in the fields of biorefining and bioenergy.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY | Award Amount: 20.00K | Year: 2016

1649510
Zhuang, Jie

Food production is closely linked to energy consumption, water/soil resources, and ecosystem conditions. This workshop aims to develop an integrative research, education, and industry agenda for securing food production, producing clean energy, protecting water resources, and improving soil productivity while developing economy and social wellbeing. Conference sessions and panel discussions will address important issues from an international perspective.

Specific workshop topics include: (1) Food Security and Safety - The workshop will overview the existing problems and potential risks associated with food production in terms of the demands of food quantity and quality. New methods of characterizing the cycling processes of matter and energy in agroecosystems will be discussed; (2) Energy Efficiency and Impact - Workshop participants will discuss specific technologies and policies that offer the greatest possibility of high efficient utilization of fossil fuels and renewable energy resources including biomass and water. The workshop is expected to create international joint research teams to further investigate these issues from life cycle and multi-dimensional perspectives; (3) Water Efficiency and Recycling - Workshop participants will exchange technologies and perspectives on water-saving agriculture and wastewater utilization. In particular, urban storm water management will be addressed; (4) Soil Productivity and Remediation - The workshop will address the latest approaches to promoting soil fertility and productivity and safe use of contaminated arable lands for food or non-food purposes. A joint team is expected to be establish for developing modeling tools that could predict threshold values of contaminants (especially heavy metals) for ensuring food quality and ecosystem health.

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