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2018

Scaring' soybeans into defensive mode yields better plants a generation later
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.
Golf course managers challenged by fungicide-resistant turf grass disease
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 education helps horticulture alumnus dig deep into potato industry
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."
Plant science faculty member named Styer Professor
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.
Conservation dairy farming could help Pa. meet Chesapeake target
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.
Plant sciences student seeks to improve agriculture at home and abroad
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.
Agricultural diversification: Empowering women in Cambodia with 'wild gardens'
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.
Crassweller receives society's Outstanding Extension Educator Award
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.
Lynch named recipient of American Society of Plant Biologists 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.
Gene editing shows promise for improving the 'chocolate tree'
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.
Five named Big Ten Academic Alliance Department Executive Officer Fellows
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.
Graduate student excellence celebrated at awards luncheon
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.
Graduate student excellence celebrated at awards luncheon
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.
Root discovery may lead to crops that need less fertilizer
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.