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NEWS RELEASE

April 2001


AGRICULTURE, VETERINARY MEDICINE AND NATURAL RESOURCES NEWS FROM IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY

ISU RESEARCH COULD LEAD TO STRESS-RESISTANT CROPS
Plant scientists at Iowa State are getting closer to understanding how plants protect themselves from environmental stress and toxins. Their research on the chemical glutathione could eventually lead to the development of stress-resistant corn or soybeans. "All organisms use glutathione to protect themselves from stress," says David Oliver, professor and chair of botany at Iowa State. "In plants, the chemical grabs the toxin and carries it to a storage compartment inside cells where it can't do any damage." Oliver and colleagues at Iowa State's Center for Plant Responses to Environmental Stresses (CPRES) are among a handful of scientists who research glutathione in plants. The Iowa State research has improved understanding of how plants recognize the presence of a toxin and then alter their glutathione levels to respond effectively. Oliver has engineered plants with different glutathione levels and has discovered most of the genes involved in making the chemical. "We're now looking at how to control these genes. When we understand the process of turning on these genes, we can regulate glutathione levels and modify how plants respond to different stresses." CPRES is one of nine centers in Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute. For more information, contact Oliver after April 23, (515) 294-0134, or Teddi Barron, ISU News Service, (515) 294-4778.


LIVESTOCK PRICE FORECASTING - HOW ACCURATE IS IT?
Economists at Iowa State University and other land-grant institutions often are asked to forecast the prices of agricultural commodities. Iowa State livestock economist John Lawrence recently evaluated his price forecasting methods, plus others for the futures market and a seasonal index. Then he compared the three methods with the actual average prices. His research showed all the methods work well for the first two quarters, with less success in the third and fourth quarters. But more importantly, the wide variability of possible prices became apparent. Lawrence says producers should be cautious about relying on price forecasts and should use risk management strategies to protect themselves. Contact Lawrence, (515) 294-6290, or Susan Thompson, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0705.


MAY IS BEEF MONTH: A CATTLE INDUSTRY ASSESSMENT
All segments of the U.S. cattle industry are profitable, thanks largely to phenomenal consumer demand for beef, says livestock economist John Lawrence, director of the Iowa Beef Center at Iowa State University. Starting with the third quarter of 1999 through the end of the third quarter of 2000, beef supplies posted a year-over-year increase and prices increased, too. The USDA's January cattle inventory report showed a glimmer of industry expansion as the number of beef replacement heifers was up 1.5 percent from a year ago. Still, says Lawrence, beef cow numbers will be slow to rebuild, given the age of the cowherd and dry pasture conditions of the last few years. He says 2001 looks to be another good year in the cattle business. The only major issue looming on the horizon is the risk of weakening consumer confidence because of concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and foot-and-mouth disease. Contact Lawrence, (515) 294-6290, or Susan Thompson, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0705.


AG LEADERSHIP STUDENTS IMPROVING CHILD-CARE FACILITY
Iowa State agriculture students are busy completing a service-learning project at the University Childcare Center. The 27 students in the leadership in agriculture course are working on several outdoor improvements, including a new toddler play area, a structure to provide shade over a sandbox, a small arbor and garden, railings and a roof for a deck, and landscaping. "Students often learn theories in college without direct application in a real setting," said Cary Trexler, assistant professor of agricultural education and studies, who teaches the course. "For lasting learning, theories must be applied to problems in peoples' lives. It seems to me that learning a theory about leadership without application would be meaningless." An open house to mark the completion of the project will be from 4 to 6 p.m, Thursday, April 26. The University Childcare Center is at 1700 Christiansen Drive, in the veterinary medicine college complex. Contact Trexler, (515) 294-0897, or Melea Reicks Licht, Agriculture Communications, (515)-294-2957.


ISU NAMED HISTORIC LANDMARK BY AG ENGINEERING SOCIETY
Iowa State was one of four sites recently named an historical landmark by the American Society of Agricultural Engineering (ASAE). A plaque commemorating the Iowa Grain Aeration Historic Landmark will be placed in Davidson Hall. ISU was chosen for research conducted in the 1940s by George French and William Hukill. Their research showed that winter-time moisture and resulting fungal infection in grain bins could be eliminated by a low rate of mechanical aeration. Their results led to development of aeration recommendations for stored grain. The new landmark was dedicated at a recent meeting of the Iowa Section of ASAE. Davidson Hall was itself named an ASAE historic landmark in 1976 in honor of ASAE founder and first president, J. Brownlee Davidson. Contact Carl Bern, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, (515) 294-1270, or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0706.


ISU CENSUS SERVICES WEB SITE HAS NEW CENSUS DATA
ISU Census Services has updated its Web site, http://www.soc.iastate.edu/census, with initial data from the 2000 census. There's new data on total population, population 18 years of age or older and population by racial categories and Hispanic/Latino ethnicity. Some maps are available and others will be added. More detailed data will arrive this summer. Contact Willis Goudy, Sociology, (515) 294-8337, or Ed Adcock, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-2314.


WEB SITE SHOWS HOW TO DO ON-FARM ANIMAL DISPOSAL
Pork producers can learn how to make some of their problems disappear, thanks to a new Web site that shows farmers how to compost the carcasses of animals that die from natural causes or disease. "Dis-Solving Swine Mortality Problems," at http://www.ae.iastate.edu/pigsgone, summarizes research conducted by Tom Glanville, Jay Harmon and Tom Richard, agricultural and biosystems engineering faculty at Iowa State. On-farm disposal has increased in recent years with the disappearance of rendering services. Composting also reduces the potential for disease transmission when rendering trucks move from farm to farm. The research was funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State. Contact Tom Glanville, (515) 294-0463, or Laura Miller, Leopold Center Communications, (515) 294-5272.



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