Tag Archives: Kansas State University

Michael L. Day has been selected to lead Kansas State University’s department of animal sciences and industry beginning Aug. 11.

For the past four years, Day served as head of the department of animal science at the University of Wyoming. He was on the faculty in the department of animal sciences at The Ohio State University from 1985-2015, holding a research and teaching appointment focused on reproductive physiology of beef cattle.

“Dr. Mike Day comes to us with a great reputation as a research scientist, accomplished teacher and promising administrative leader,” said Ernie Minton, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and interim director of K-State Research and Extension. “He is an outstanding choice as the next academic leader for the department of animal sciences and industry and an ideal cultural fit for the department, the College of Agriculture, and K-State as a whole.”

The department of animal sciences and industry is the largest academic degree program at K-State, and among the largest of its kind nationally. The department records the greatest research expenditures of any single academic department in K-State’s Higher Education Research and Development report to the National Science Foundation, topping $15 million annually.

Day holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in animal science with an emphasis on reproductive physiology from the University of Nebraska. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry from the University of Missouri.

Since 2000, Day has received approximately $1.5 million in funding in support of his research. He has published 99 peer-reviewed scientific papers, along with hundreds of abstracts, proceedings, books and book chapters. He has been an invited speaker at numerous national and international settings.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the department of animal sciences and industry as head,” Day said. I am looking forward to working with faculty, staff, students and stakeholders as we move the department forward as a leader in animal and food sciences.”

MANHATTAN, Kan. — A team of Kansas State University wheat scientists are tapping into 10,000 years of evolution in the plant’s genetic code as part of their continued efforts to understand how historic processes that shaped modern wheat can help to improve the varieties grown by today’s farmers.

The exhaustive study, which is published in Nature Genetics, involved sequencing the genomes of nearly 1,000 wheat lines collected from different parts of the world with different environments. The work was led by researchers from K-State and Agriculture Victoria of Australia, in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and the University of Minnesota.

“We compared the genomes (in the 1,000 wheat lines) against each other, and looked for nucleotide base changes, or mutations, that distinguish one wheat accession from another,” said Eduard Akhunov, a K-State wheat geneticist.

He noted that the researchers found more than 7 million differences in the genetic code of the 1,000 lines.

“These differences can affect the function of genes that control various traits in wheat that helped it adapt to new growth conditions, such as withstanding drought and heat stresses; fighting off diseases; and yielding nutritious grain,” Akhunov said.

The changes that occurred in the genetic code can tell researchers a history of each wheat accession.

“When humans started spreading wheat from the site of its origin to other places, they brought it into contact with wild wheat, and wild ancestors accidentally began to inter-breed with bread wheat,” Akhunov said. “What happened then was that bread wheat  inherited the genetic diversity that was present in the wild emmer wheat.”

That process of one species sharing genes with another species is called gene flow, and it is key for explaining the genetic diversity of today’s wheat varieties, according to K-State wheat breeder Allan Fritz.

“Understanding gene flow between wild emmer and common wheat is more than just academically interesting,” Fritz said. “The importance of historical introgression suggests that a more strategic use of wild emmer should have value for future wheat improvement.”

Fritz noted that K-State scientists have been using wild emmer in developing germplasm for new wheat varieties in projects funded by the Kansas Wheat Association and the university’s Wheat Genetics Resource Center.

The work by Akhunov and his research team allows breeders to “evaluate the diversity in wild emmer and be intentional and strategic” in how they employ desired traits in new wheat varieties, according to Fritz.

“As we move forward, we can apply what has been learned here to also focus future efforts on traits related to health and nutrition that wouldn’t have been direct targets of historical selection,” he said.

Akhunov adds: “For the first time, we have described how wild emmer’s genetic diversity contributed to the development of bread wheat. And what it’s done since humans domesticated wheat is it’s helped to develop a better crop.”

K-State’s study was funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s competitive grants program, administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and part of the International Wheat Yield Partnership, which Akhunov said aims at increasing the genetic yield potential of wheat using innovative approaches.

Akhunov also said that Corteva Agriscience and the agriculture division of Dow/DuPont provided financial support through its collaboration with Agriculture Victoria Service. Their support, he said, allowed the researchers access to needed technologies and to develop the set of data indicating the genetic differences in wheat varieties, also called an SNP dataset.

K-State received additional funding from the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Kansas State University research team is putting the finishing touches on the findings from 12 years of work in which they tested the value of growing cover crops in a no-till rotation with wheat, sorghum and soybeans.

Kraig Roozeboom, a research agronomist with K-State Research and Extension, says the group is finding that intensifying the cropping system with cover crops or double-cropping increases soil organic carbon near the surface, potentially leading to such benefits as better soil structure, aggregate size, water infiltration and more.

“We’ve demonstrated that you can grow cover crops in our environment with either neutral or positive benefits on cash-crop yields if managed appropriately,” Roozeboom said. “And there are benefits to the soil when doing that.”

The researchers conducted the study in three-year cycles, which includes harvesting wheat in June of a given year, followed by double-crop soybeans or cover crops through the summer, then sorghum planted the following May. Soybeans are planted the summer after sorghum harvest.

The cycle starts over again with winter wheat planted immediately after harvest of the full-season soybean crop. Roozeboom notes that the entire system is done with no-till farming.

Double-cropping is a strategy of growing two or more crops on the same land in the same growing season.

“The base system is wheat-sorghum-soybeans; spray out any weeds and volunteer wheat that comes out between wheat and sorghum planting,” Roozeboom said. “We call that our chemical fallow check.”

The work by K-State’s group has drawn the attention of the Soil Health Institute, a national organization that aims to raise awareness of soil health in the United States. The Institute selected the long-term experiment coordinated by Roozeboom for intensive sampling this spring. He said it is “one of dozens of sites” being sampled across North America.

“One of their objectives is to get a better handle on how to characterize soil health scientifically,” Roozeboom said.

The study, which began in 2007, has helped to establish the value of cover crops in suppressing weeds and improving soil health. Roozeboom said the results, in most years, indicate no negative impact on yields of the grain crops in the rotation, with appropriate modifications to nitrogen fertilization applied to sorghum.

“In fact, some cover crops have resulted in yields comparable to that obtained in the chemical fallow system but with less nitrogen fertilizer,” Roozeboom said. “The exception came in the summer of 2018. The previous winter and spring were extremely dry. As a result, sorghum yields were reduced dramatically if a cover crop was grown right up to sorghum planting.”

However, he adds, “sorghum yields after cover crops grown the previous summer and terminated in late fall or by frost over the winter were comparable to sorghum yields in the chemical fallow system.”

The economics of the system are still to be determined. Roozeboom notes that cover crops aren’t always the best route for growers, due to the added cost of planting and fertilizing and managing cover crops. The biggest question to researchers – and perhaps most important to farmers – is whether the added cost and time needed to grow cover crops actually benefits them in the end.

“If you’ve got the added component of grazing livestock on the cover crops, then suddenly cover crops have a much better economics component,” Roozeboom said. “Double-crop soybeans also increase the potential for a positive economic result because of the additional grain harvested from the system in most years.”

K-State’s team has published results from parts of the project, and expect to publish more findings soon. More information also is available from local extension agents, and at the K-State Department of Agronomy’s website.