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Planting green involves planting main crops into living cover crops. An example shown here: Cereal rye is rolled and soybeans planted green in the same pass at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center
July 2, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Allowing cover crops to grow two weeks longer in the spring and planting corn and soybean crops into them before termination is a strategy that may help no-till farmers deal with wet springs, according to Penn State researchers. The approach — known as planting green — could help no-till farmers counter a range of problems they must deal with during wet springs like the ones that have occurred this year and last year. These problems include soil erosion, nutrient losses, soils holding too much moisture and causing a delay in the planting of main crops, and main-crop damage from slugs.

Dan Stearns, J. Franklin Styer Professor Emeritus, left, is congratulated by Roger Phelps, member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals' Academic Excellence Foundation Board. Stearns was named Outstanding Educator of the Year.
April 24, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dan Stearns, J. Franklin Styer Professor Emeritus, who served as the inaugural professor and program coordinator of the landscape contracting program in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, recently was named Outstanding Educator of the Year by the National Association of Landscape Professionals during its annual conference in Fort Collins, Colorado. The organization represents an industry of nearly 1 million landscape, lawn care, irrigation and tree care experts. The award recognizes educators who have been passionate supporters and tireless ambassadors of the landscape industry; who have contributed time, energy and enthusiasm to their programs; and who show dedication to the education of future industry leaders. “Dan Stearns exemplifies what it means to be an engaged and committed educator,” said Erin Connolly, professor and head of the college’s Department of Plant Science. “He gave his best to students, instilling in them the knowledge and confidence needed to make their mark in the industry. Those students — and Penn State — have been enriched by his talents and genuine interest in elevating others.”

For this study, at the University's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, researchers grew two nearly identical lines of sorghum.
April 5, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Compounds produced by sorghum plants to defend against insect feeding could be isolated, synthesized and used as a targeted, nontoxic insect deterrent, according to researchers who studied plant-insect interactions that included field, greenhouse and laboratory components. The researchers examined the role of sorghum chemicals called flavonoids —specifically 3-deoxyflavonoid and 3-deoxyanthocyanidins — in providing resistance against the corn leaf aphid, a tiny blue-green insect that sucks sap from plants. To defend against pests like the aphids, sorghum has evolved defenses that includes biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, including flavonoids to poison the pests.

Rachel Milliron, a master's degree student when the study was conducted, now a Penn State Extension educator specializing in agronomy, identified multiple strategies that farmers can use to produce forage with fall manure and protect water quality.
April 3, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dairy farmers in the Northeast can improve water quality and boost the profitability of their operations by changing the timing and method of applying manure to their fields in the fall, along with planting rye as a cover crop between corn crops — or by double-cropping rye and corn, according to Penn State researchers. In a two-year study at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center, researchers compared the effects on nitrogen conservation of three field-management options that could be implemented by farmers, to determine whether new strategies would yield environmental and crop-production benefits.

The mystery involved a spontaneous gene mutation that causes red pigments to show up in various corn plant tissues for a few generations and then disappear in subsequent progeny. Image: Surinder Chopra Research Group/Penn State
January 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In discovering a mutant gene that "turns on" another gene responsible for the red pigments sometimes seen in corn, researchers solved an almost six-decades-old mystery with a finding that may have implications for plant breeding in the future. The culmination of more than 20 years of work, the effort started when, in 1997, Surinder Chopra, professor of maize genetics at Penn State, received seeds from a mutant line of corn. At the time, Chopra was a postdoctoral scholar at Iowa State University, and he brought the research with him when he joined the Penn State faculty in 2000.

Farmers in Angonia, Mozambique, happy with the performance of new varieties of common bean developed by an international partnership of plant scientists that included researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
November 29, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In the culmination of more than a decade of research on root traits conducted by Penn State plant scientists, about three tons of seed for common bean plants specifically bred to thrive in the barren soils of Mozambique will be distributed there Dec. 11. Farmers, nongovernmental organizations and seed companies in eight villages across the central region of the country in southeast Africa will receive seed for bean plants that possess an enhanced ability to acquire the essential nutrient phosphorus. The distribution is a joint event led by the Mozambican Institute of Agrarian Research (IIAM), with support from Penn State, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the McKnight Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Soybean was a logical crop on which to conduct the research. It is the most widely grown legume in the world.
November 13, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — By temporarily silencing the expression of a critical gene, researchers fooled soybean plants into sensing they were under siege, encountering a wide range of stresses. Then, after selectively cross breeding those plants with the original stock, the progeny "remember" the stress-induced responses to become more vigorous, resilient and productive plants, according to a team of researchers. This epigenetic reprogramming of soybean plants, the culmination of a decade-long study, was accomplished not by introducing any new genes but by changing how existing genes are expressed. That is important because it portends how crop yields and tolerance for conditions such as drought and extreme heat will be enhanced in the future, according to lead researcher Sally Mackenzie, professor in the departments of Biology and Plant Science at Penn State.

Researcher Cameron Stephens, a former graduate student in plant science, is shown in the laboratory with dollar-spot fungus isolates from Pennsylvania golf courses. Researchers tested isolates from more than 40 Pennsylvania golf courses to assess fungicid
October 25, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dollar spot — the most common, troublesome and damaging turfgrass disease plaguing golf courses — is becoming increasingly resistant to fungicides applied to manage it, according to Penn State researchers. An aggressive and destructive disease caused by the fungal pathogen Clarireedia jacksonii, dollar spot overwinters in plant tissues, often re-emerging in multiple epidemics throughout the year over the spring, summer and fall. The symptoms on highly maintained, closely mown turf typically consist of small patches of bleached plants that are unsightly and can affect playability of putting greens or fairways.

Penn State graduate Curtis Frederick is enjoying a career as a senior agronomist at Sterman Masser Inc., a large, family-owned potato company, in Sacramento, Pennsylvania.
September 25, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Curtis Frederick really digs potatoes. And that's a good thing considering that the 2009 graduate of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences is enjoying a career as a senior agronomist at Sterman Masser Inc., a large, family-owned potato company, in Sacramento, Pennsylvania. "Having grown up on a potato and grain farm in Pennsylvania, I had a long-held interest in a combination of science and agriculture, but my exact career path was not clear," said Frederick, who majored in horticulture with minors in biology and agronomy. "Penn State provided the opportunity to explore options in many ways."

Mark Guiltinan, J. Franklin Styer Professor of Horticultural Botany.
September 21, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Mark Guiltinan, professor of plant molecular biology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, recently was named the J. Franklin Styer Professor of Horticultural Botany. The Styer Professorship, created in 1990 by an endowment from late Penn State alumnus J. Franklin Styer, is intended to supplement departmental support for outstanding faculty and further the scholar's contributions to teaching, research and service.

Both conservation scenarios simulated in the research decreased nitrous oxide emissions by reducing denitrification, but the scenario that included manure injection, shown here, retarded 91 percent of the nitrogen volatilization that occurred in the broad
September 14, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — If the majority of dairy farms in Pennsylvania fully adopt conservation best-management practices, the state may be able to achieve its total maximum daily load water-quality target for the Chesapeake Bay, according to researchers. That is the conclusion of a novel assessment of the simulated effects of implementing a conservation dairy-farming system on all dairy farms in the Spring Creek watershed, a small drainage in Centre County. In the simulations, the conservation dairy-farming systems — which have been developed and tested by Penn State researchers over the last decade — produce the majority of the feed and forage crops consumed by their cattle, use no-till planting, have continuous diversified plant cover, and have one system to employ manure injection.

Hannah Hunsberger, a senior majoring in plant sciences, spent 10 days in Ireland studying agriculture there as part of an embedded course she took last spring.
August 13, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Growing up on a dairy farm in Mifflintown, Hannah Hunsberger never thought much about agriculture beyond America. That all changed during a mission trip to Haiti with her church. "While I was in Haiti, I met with a number of local farmers, and it really opened my eyes to the world of agriculture outside of the U.S.," she said. "It made me realize that I wanted to do something in a field I’m passionate about and make a difference for farmers at home and abroad." That ambition led her to Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, where she is a senior majoring in plant sciences with minors in international agriculture, agronomy and horticulture.

A smallholder farmer harvests Acacia pennata (Cha-om) shoots from her "living fence" in Cambodia.   Image: Penn State
June 7, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In a perfect world, everyone would have access to nutritious, affordable food. However, as Rick Bates knows, there is no such thing as utopia when it comes to food security, as millions of people around the world have limited food resources. One of those places is Cambodia in Southeast Asia, one of the world's poorest countries, where the rural poverty rate is 24 percent, and 40 percent of children younger than 5 are chronically malnourished, making them vulnerable to significant health problems.

Rob Crassweller, professor of horticulture and extension tree-fruit specialist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
May 22, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rob Crassweller, professor of horticulture and extension tree-fruit specialist in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has received the 2018 American Society for Horticultural Science Outstanding Extension Educator Award.

Jonathan Lynch, distinguished professor of plant science in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has been named the 2018 winner of the Dennis R. Hoagland Award.
May 16, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jonathan Lynch, distinguished professor of plant science in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has been named the 2018 winner of the Dennis R. Hoagland Award for his work in improving scientific understanding of crop productivity and plant nutrition to improve production and food security.

Image Credit: Andrew Fister/Penn State
May 16, 2018

Use of the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 could help to breed cacao trees that exhibit desirable traits such as enhanced resistance to diseases, according to plant scientists. The cacao tree, which grows in tropical regions, produces the cocoa beans that are the raw material of chocolate. Reliable productivity from cacao plants is essential to the multi billion-dollar chocolate industry, the economies of producing countries and the livelihoods of millions of smallholder cacao farmers.

Erin L. Connolly, Ph.D.   Professor and Head
May 16, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) Department Executive Officers (DEO) Program has gained five additional Fellows from the Penn State ranks. The BTAA is the academic consortium of the Big Ten universities. Through its leadership program, participants who have demonstrated leadership ability through University administrative assignments or through other significant leadership positions in public, private or professional organizations, are aided in further developing their leadership and managerial skills. Erin Connolly, head, Department of Plant Science, College of Agricultural Sciences.

April 30, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State President Eric Barron presented 11 awards to more than 30 graduate students in recognition of outstanding achievement during the annual Graduate Student Awards Luncheon held April 25 at the Nittany Lion Inn. The following students received awards. Articles about this year’s award recipients are linked below, by award category. Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Award: Kirsten Lloyd, doctoral student in horticulture.

April 30, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State President Eric Barron presented 11 awards to more than 30 graduate students in recognition of outstanding achievement during the annual Graduate Student Awards Luncheon held April 25 at the Nittany Lion Inn. The following students received awards. Articles about this year’s award recipients are linked below, by award category. — Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award and Distinguished Doctoral Scholar Medal: Mitchell Hunter, doctoral student in agronomy.

Differences in bean plant growth observed by researchers were striking. Image: Jonathan Lynch Lab / Penn State
January 19, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Bean plants that suppress secondary root growth in favor of boosting primary root growth forage greater soil volume to acquire phosphorus, according to Penn State researchers, who say their recent findings have implications for plant breeders and improving crop productivity in nutrient-poor soils. The increase in the length of the root is referred to as primary growth, while secondary growth is the increase in thickness or girth of the root. Because root growth confers a metabolic cost to the plant, bean plants growing in phosphorus-depleted soils that send out longer, thinner roots have an advantage in exploring a greater volume of soil and acquiring more phosphorus.