Iowa State University

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777


Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine News

Local convenience stores, local foods

Iowa convenience stores could be an untapped opportunity for Iowa producers to market local products, according to the results of a recent survey of Iowa convenience store operators. The study was for the Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSWG) coordinated by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. The study area included 180 convenience stores in a rural area (Guthrie and Audubon counties) and in an urban area (Polk and Dallas counties). The survey results, which represent 60 percent of the stores in the study area, showed that respondents were interested in carrying more local foods. "Most operators cited the importance of supporting the local economy as their number one reason, and fulfilling customer requests for more local foods as their second reason for being interested in stocking local foods," said Mary Holz-Claus, from ISU Extension's value added agriculture program and an author of the study's final report. "Others felt a local foods presence could help differentiate the store from competitors, or result in a better quality, fresher product provided there was sufficient customer demand." The report is available (pdf file) online at Contact Holz-Clause, (515) 294-0648; Rich Pirog, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, (515) 294-1854; or Laura Miller, Leopold Center communications, (515) 294-5272.

ISU researchers develop sensors that could measure grain damage

Real-time grain damage sensors provide an opportunity to optimize combine operating conditions to minimize grain damage and prevent "invisible yield loss" during harvest. Grain damage sensors also have a number of applications in the marketing and processing of commodity and specialty grains. Researchers at Iowa State University have invented a method to use multi-frequency dielectric measurement techniques to sense mechanical grain damage. Under laboratory conditions, these dielectric techniques have made it possible to predict different levels of severely damaged and moderately damaged corn. In addition, the same dielectric variables also can be used to predict moisture content and bulk density. Commercial partners are being sought to transfer the laboratory technology to the real world. The ISU developers say the sensors could make it possible to do simultaneous, real time measurement of grain damage, moisture content and bulk density. The sensors also could be applied to static or flowing material, would provide a measurement system that is non-destructive and essentially non-contact, and would make it possible to conduct measurements of all grain in a lot, rather than just samples. It's expected the sensors could be used in combines, the marketing and distribution system, food production, the grain milling industry and the seed production industry. Contact Stuart Birrell, agricultural and biosystems engineering, (515) 294-2874; Carl Bern, agricultural and biosystems engineering, (515) 294-1270; or Susan Thompson, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0705.

Organic agriculture as rural development?

Could organic agriculture be a key to rural development? A grant from the Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSWG) at Iowa State University is being used to conduct an assessment of Woodbury County's food and farm economy. In June 2005, the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors approved a new policy that would provide up to $50,000 annually in property tax rebates countywide to farmers who convert land to organic production. County leaders hope the policy will attract organic food processors and other related businesses to create jobs. They also plan to purchase more locally grown food for use at county food facilities. "The Regional Food Systems Working Group acted quickly once this new policy was approved to find the expertise to conduct this initial assessment," said Rich Pirog, who coordinates RFSWG projects. Those projects are funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "Future plans are to look at the impact that organic agriculture will have on the regional economy," he said. Initial results showed that 28 farms in Woodbury County sold $200,000 in food directly to consumers, a 300 percent increase in the past five years. Contact Pirog, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, (515) 294-1854; or Laura Miller, Leopold Center communications, (515) 294-5272.

ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory safeguards state's livestock health

Iowa's economy has a $5 billion stake in keeping the state's livestock population healthy. On the front line of defense against a livestock disease outbreak is the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL) in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University. "We help veterinarians and producers detect and prevent disease by providing timely and accurate diagnostic services," said VDL interim director Dr. Bruce Janke. "We also can help decrease the occurrence and threat of diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans and stop the introduction and spread of foreign or new diseases through early detection." One foreign disease on everyone's mind now is the H5N1 Asian flu strain of the avian influenza, which has not been found in the United States. The ISU VDL has a long history of active surveillance of influenza -- both avian and swine, Janke said. "We have a full array of diagnostic tools that are routinely used to diagnose influenza-associated disease and to do surveillance for the spread of influenza in the livestock population in Iowa." Contact Janke, (515) 294-1950; or Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778.

AgMRC Web site reaches 2 million hits

The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center's Web site,, registered 2 million hits in October 2005, a new high for the center. AgMRC is a national Web site that provides producers with education and research about agricultural opportunities, business development and marketing channels related to value-added agriculture. The Web site contains state contacts and directories, interactive tools and commodity-specific information designed to help build successful value-added agricultural enterprises. The AgMRC is partially funded through a grant to Iowa State University, Kansas State University and the University of California from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development, Rural Business Cooperative Service. For more information, contact the center toll free, (866) 277-5567, or email to Contact Mary Holz-Clause, AgMRC, (515) 294-0648; or Christa Hartsook, AgMRC communications, (515) 294-4430.

USDA funds four-state water quality work

Water quality research, education and outreach programs in four Midwest states are coordinated under the Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative. The initiative, which first received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2002, links water quality programs at land-grant universities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. A new round of funding recently announced by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns continues the project through September 2006. Organizers say better coordination makes university resources more accessible to water quality improvement efforts in the region, while reducing duplication. And it enhances opportunities for communities to adopt voluntary approaches to reduce agricultural nonpoint sources of water quality impairment. Technical working groups coordinate symposiums and workshops, develop fact sheets and Web-based information resources, and lead other activities that promote collaboration on water quality issues. Current priorities for the program are water quality issues related to animal manure management, nutrient and pesticide management, and citizen involvement in watershed management. More information is online at Contact Gerald Miller, agronomy, (515) 294-4333; John Lawrence, economics, (515) 294-6290; Lois Wright Morton, sociology, (515) 294-2843; or Susan Thompson, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0705.


Quick look

  • Local convenience stores, local foods
  • ISU researchers develop sensors that could measure grain damage
  • Organic agriculture as rural development?
  • ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory safeguards state's livestock health
  • AgMRC Web site reaches 2 million hits
  • USDA funds four-state water quality work