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No-till soybeans growing through a rolled down cover crop ... The grant will enable John Wallace, assistant professor of weed science, to continue research aimed at increasing organic grain production using sustainable methods like this one. Wallace’s res
September 23, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded a researcher in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences a $1 million grant for his investigation of intensifying organic grain production while balancing production and conservation goals. The grant will enable John Wallace, assistant professor of weed science, to continue research aimed at increasing organic grain production using sustainable methods. Wallace’s research supports the adoption of coupled reduced-tillage and cover-cropping practices. Together, those approaches promote the intensification of domestic organic grain production without compromising environmental quality and economic viability of organic farms.

Lead researcher Barbara Baraibar, who was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Plant Sciences when the study was conducted, collects cover crop samples.
August 17, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State researchers, in a recent study, were surprised to learn that they could take the exact same number of seeds from the same plants, put them in agricultural fields across the Mid-Atlantic region and get profoundly different stands of cover crops a few months later. The study came to be known as “‘farm-tuning’ cover crop mixtures,” noted researcher Jason Kaye, professor of soil biogeochemistry, who added that the findings are significant because they show the need to customize cover crop mixes to achieve desired ecosystem services, depending on soil and climatic conditions. Cover crop mixtures comprised of multiple species planted in rotation between cash crops provide a suite of benefits — such as erosion reduction, weed control, and adding carbon and nitrogen to the soil. But it turns out, the expression of species in a mixture can differ greatly across locations.

Researchers collecting soil associated with roots of different sorghum lines (after frost). These soil samples were then subjected to sequencing for the identification of microbes. Seen here are graduate students.
August 12, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Flavonoid compounds — produced by the roots of some sorghum plants — positively affect soil microorganisms, according to Penn State researchers, who suggest the discovery is an early step in developing a frost-resistant line of the valuable crop for North American farmers. That is important because sorghum is a crop that can respond to climate change because of its high water- and nitrogen-use efficiency, according to Surinder Chopra, professor of maize genetics, and Mary Ann Bruns, professor of soil microbiology. A close relative to corn, it is the fifth most valuable cereal crop globally.

https://news.psu.edu/story/624863/2020/07/06/research/antioxidants-corn-line-could-aid-human-ibd-protection-therapy
July 8, 2020

NIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Flavonoids from a specific line of corn act as anti-inflammatory agents in the guts of mice with an inflammatory-bowel-disease-like condition, according to a team of researchers who said flavonoid-rich corn should be studied to determine its potential to provide a protective effect on human health. The researchers bred a novel line of corn at Penn State’s Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center to produce compounds called flavan-4-ols. The team then conducted an experiment with mice to judge the effect of those powerful antioxidant compounds on induced inflammation of the colon. “In this study, we utilized two corn lines­ — one containing flavan-4-ols and one lacking flavan-4-ols — to investigate the anti-inflammatory property of that flavonoid,” said Surinder Chopra, professor of maize genetics in the College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State. “They are near isogenic lines, meaning that their genetic makeups are identical except for a few specific genetic loci that are responsible for generation of the flavonoids.”