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NEWS RELEASE

May 2001


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

WTO COMPLIANCE A KEY QUESTION IN CRAFTING NEW FARM BILL
The World Trade Organization has become a major player in shaping U.S. farm programs. "So American farm groups looking for increased subsidies from Washington should be prepared to answer whether their proposals are WTO-compliant," said Bruce Babcock, director of Iowa State's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD). Babcock and CARD researcher Chad Hart recently analyzed the WTO's impact on farm policy. The agricultural trade agreement within WTO puts limits on countries' farm programs that contain trade-altering effects. As Congress works on a new farm bill, judgments will need to be made on whether new or modified policies affect WTO limits. Babcock says it makes sense for the United States to limit farm subsidies in exchange for limits on other countries' subsidies. "As a large exporter of agricultural products, the U.S. and its farmers would be big winners from expanded, freer trade," he said. The downside, at least from an American producer's point of view, is that Congress no longer has complete freedom in designing farm programs, he added. Contact Babcock, (515) 294-6785; Chad Hart, CARD, (515) 294-9911; or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0706.


IOWA D.O.T. TESTS ISU ROAD MARKERS MADE FROM SOY PLASTIC
Raised, reflective-plastic road markers can signal the difference between a safe journey and a tragic one during reduced-visibility driving conditions caused by fog or severe rain. The safety markers are common in many parts of Europe and temperate regions of the United States and Canada. In Iowa and much of central North America, however, the reflectors can't be used because they hamper winter plowing operations. The solution could be a rugged biodegradable plastic made from soy protein that is being developed at Iowa State University. Perminus Mungara, assistant scientist in the food science and human nutrition department (FSHN), has developed a new compression-molded plastic formulation that the Iowa Department of Transportation is testing for roadway applications. The material is tough enough to withstand the rigors of a season’s use. When the first winter snow falls, the biodegradable plastic can be bladed from the surface and left to eventually decompose in the ditch. The decomposition products from the plastic formulation are harmless to the environment and beneficial to plant growth. Mungara works in the biodegradable plastics program headed by FSHN professor Jay-lin Jane. Contact Mungara, (515) 294-9763, or Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778.


ECHINACEA: A PROMISING ALTERNATIVE FOR PIG FEED ANTIBIOTIC
An Iowa State researcher reports that echinacea (purple coneflower) holds promise as a replacement for some antibiotics used as a feed supplement for nursery pigs. Palmer Holden, animal science, fed various levels of purple coneflower, garlic, goldenseal and peppermint to nursery pigs at the ISU Swine Nutrition Farm north of Ames. He compared the pigs' development and health to that of their siblings who ate a more traditional diet. Results of his research trials, conducted in 1997 and 2000, are included in the 2001 Center Progress Report from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. The 2001 edition has information about 24 competitive grants completed in 2000 and is the largest progress report to date from the Leopold Center. Contact Holden (515) 294-2240, or Jeri Neal, research coordinator, Leopold Center, (515) 294-3711.


AN ENDANGERED MINNOW LOOKS FOR PEACEFUL WATERS
The Topeka shiner, a small silvery minnow, enjoys the peaceful life found in the backwaters of streams. Because of urban development and agricultural activities, that kind of peace has become more difficult to come by. That's one reason the Topeka shiner is on the federal list of endangered species. Iowa State University animal ecologist Bruce Menzel has studied the fish, which can be found in Iowa and other Midwestern states. Menzel has developed a landscape habitat model that helps predict places where the Topeka shiner may be found. Information from the model has been useful in helping private landowners and government agencies reach agreements on land and water use when the shiner is found nearby. Menzel also is working with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to examine ways to restore shiner habitat. Contact Menzel, (515) 294-7419, or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0706.


ISU LAB CONTINUES TO SNIFF OUT ODOR INFORMATION
When it comes to swine odors, Dwaine Bundy has kept his nose to the grindstone. Although the issue hasn't grabbed as many recent headlines as it did in past years, the Iowa State University agricultural engineer continues work on several projects. He still tests the occasional commercial product that makes reduced-odor claims. This summer, he'll evaluate one in his lab and field-test others for hog operations in Iowa and Missouri. His lab also handles some out-of-state odors. Trained odor sniffers evaluate gases collected from swine lagoons in Colorado and Utah. They evaluate the samples to determine if producers are meeting air-quality standards. Bundy worked with state officials and producers in both states to develop procedures to measure compliance. If producers aren't in compliance, they must make management changes. Information from the evaluations may prove useful to Iowa producers, Bundy said. "We're collecting good data we can use to help identify problems and potential solutions to make these systems work better." Contact Bundy, (515) 294-1450, or Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications (515) 294-0706.



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