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2015

Smartphones enlisted in the battle versus crop disease
December 17, 2015
Despite modern technology, the first line of defense against famine-inducing crop diseases is still the keen eyes of farmers around the world, many of whom do not have access to advanced diagnostics and treatment advice. To address this problem, scientists are releasing 50,000 open-access images of infected and healthy crop plants, with an eye toward developing a smartphone app that can automatically diagnose a crop disease.
Project aims to improve food security by enhancing gender aspects of ag research
December 17, 2015
Recognizing the need to improve food security and enhance the well-being of rural populations in developing countries, a new Penn State project will provide intensive training for researchers that will help them to integrate gender-related dimensions into international agricultural research.
Penn State entomology researchers receive Grand Challenges Explorations grant
December 17, 2015
Two Penn State researchers have been chosen to receive a grant through the Grand Challenges Explorations program, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Johanna Ohm, graduate student in biology, and Matt Thomas, professor and Huck Scholar in Ecological Entomology, will develop an insect-based artificial diet for adult Aedes/Anopheles mosquitoes as a viable alternative to mammalian blood meals.
Boosting milk-production efficiency can reduce cow methane-emission intensity
December 17, 2015
These are not your grandfather's dairy cows. In 2014, the United States national dairy herd produced twice as much milk as it did 90 years ago, but with about 60 percent fewer cows.
Dicamba drift affects non-target plants and pollinators
December 17, 2015
Dicamba herbicide drift onto plants growing adjacent to farm fields causes significant delays in flowering, as well as reduced flowering, of those plants, and results in decreased visitation by honey bees, according to researchers at Penn State and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture.
Researchers receive $10.2 million to study new malaria-prevention method
December 17, 2015
In collaboration with partners in Europe and Africa, researchers at Penn State have received a five-year, $10.2-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to investigate a new method for preventing the transmission of malaria. The method involves limiting mosquito access to houses by blocking openings and installing "eave tubes" that contain a unique type of insecticide-laced mosquito netting developed by Dutch partner In2Care that kills the insects as they attempt to enter.
Pill that targets gut receptor treats fatty liver disease, obesity in mice
December 17, 2015
A bile acid that can turn off a receptor in the gut has prevented and reversed fatty liver disease in mice, according to an international team of researchers. The compound may help treat certain metabolic disorders, such as Type 2 diabetes and
Headed for the field: Commercializing a new diagnostic test for cows
November 12, 2015
Troy Ott, professor of reproductive physiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, is developing a blood test that dairy farmers and livestock veterinarians can use to tell whether a cow failed to conceive after insemination.
Entrepreneurial spirit can help communities better withstand trade shock
November 10, 2015
Communities with more self-employed workers can better withstand economic shifts caused by imports than communities that have fewer self-employed people, according to Penn State economists.
Cell phones could be a lifeline for honey bees and beekeepers in Africa
October 28, 2015
A new Penn State project aimed at improving the food system in East Africa by enhancing pollination services and promoting bee-derived products has received a Food Systems Innovation Grant from the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation, based at Michigan State University.
Bees to scientists: "We're more complicated than you think"
October 28, 2015
Chemical signaling among social insects, such as bees, ants and wasps, is more complex than previously thought, according to researchers at Penn State and Tel Aviv University, whose results refute the idea that a single group of chemicals controls reproduction across numerous species.
Probing Question: What is behind America's heroin epidemic?
October 28, 2015
Scientists had high hopes that heroin would be a safer and less addictive alternative to morphine, which had left tens of thousands of soldiers dependent on it after the Civil War. At the dawn of the 20th century, philanthropic societies even dispensed free samples of heroin to morphine addicts. Unfortunately, the wonder drug, when injected, turned out to be two to four times more potent than morphine and highly addictive.
Orange surprise in avocados may be future product
October 13, 2015
Food Science Professor Gregory R. Ziegler is exploring the commercial potential of a brilliant orange found in avocado pits as a natural food coloring.
Teenage mutant ninja tadpoles?
October 13, 2015
Penn State researchers are conducting field studies to monitor the effects wastewater irrigation practices are having on the ponds and its froggy inhabitants. The Living Filter has been operational for more than 50 years and is used as a cost-effective, sustainable way to restore ground-water levels and meet pollution-control requirements.
Phone app allows researchers to conduct concealed food safety observations
October 13, 2015
Smartphones are so ubiquitous, and text messaging and social media activities so common in public places, that no one questions what anyone does with their phone. That pervasiveness allows a phone application to be used in direct, concealed observations without alerting the people being observed.
Tillage timing influences nitrogen availability and loss on organic farms
October 13, 2015
In the battle against weeds, tillage is one of the strongest weapons at the disposal of organic or ecologically based farmers. But, depending on when it is used, tillage can also be a strong driver of nitrogen losses that contribute to groundwater pollution, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
NASA funds Penn State research on high-elevation communities in Asia
September 29, 2015
Exploring the effects of environmental stress and policy strategies for building more resilient communities in the central Asian highlands is the focus of a new NASA-funded research project at Penn State.
Penn State Animal Diagnostic Lab among first lines of defense versus avian flu
September 25, 2015
More than 48 million turkeys and laying hens in 21 states have died this year following an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza. As wild waterfowl, which may carry the virus, begin their autumn migration, Pennsylvania is in the crosshairs, and that has Penn State's Animal Diagnostic Laboratory on high alert.
Adolescent painkiller abuse a big problem for small towns, rural areas
September 25, 2015
Adolescents who live in rural areas and small towns and cities are more likely to abuse prescription painkillers than adolescents who live in large urban areas, according to sociologists.
E. coli more virulent when accompanied by beneficial bacteria
September 25, 2015
Scientists wonder why some people get so sick and even die after being infected by the foodborne pathogen E.coli O157:H7, while others experience much milder symptoms and recover relatively quickly. Now Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences researchers believe they have discovered an explanation.
Penn State researchers assess the impacts of changing weather on Pennsylvania
September 25, 2015
Penn State researchers assessed the effects of changing climate conditions on agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, water resources, forestry, energy and human health in the 2015 Pennsylvania Climate Impact Assessment Update. Researchers also made recommendations to help Pennsylvanians prepare and respond.
Caterpillar deceives corn plant into lowering defenses against it
September 25, 2015
In a deception that likely has evolved over thousands of years, a caterpillar that feeds on corn leaves induces the plant to turn off its defenses against insect predators, allowing the caterpillar to eat more and grow faster, according to chemical ecologists in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Food Science professor wins international Young Investigator Award
August 27, 2015
John Hayes, associate professor of food science and director of Penn State's Sensory Evaluation Center, received the Young Investigator Award at the Pangborn Sensory Science Symposium in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Colorful potatoes may pack powerful cancer prevention punch
August 27, 2015
Compounds found in purple potatoes may help kill colon cancer stem cells and limit the spread of the cancer, according to a team of researchers.
For trout fishermen, climate change will mean more driving time, less angling
August 26, 2015
When trying to explain the potential effects of climate change on plants, fish and wildlife, scientists usually resort to language that fails to convey the impact of warming. Now, a study by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences fisheries researchers clearly explains the impact of projected warming waters on wild brook trout in the eastern U.S. for fishermen.
Agricultural Sciences professor recipient of intergenerational research award
August 26, 2015
Matthew Kaplan, professor of intergenerational programs and aging in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is the co-recipient of the Brabazon Award for Evaluation Research, Generations United recently announced.
Opiate addiction spreading, becoming more complex
August 18, 2015
The growing availability of heroin, combined with programs aimed at curbing prescription painkiller abuse, may be changing the face of opiate addiction in the U.S., according to sociologists.
Alter awarded for outstanding research
August 18, 2015
Ted Alter, professor of agricultural, environmental, and regional economics, has been awarded the Community Development Society’s (CDS) 2015 Ted K. Bradshaw Outstanding Research Award. This award is presented to a CDS member in recognition of a significant stream of superior research that exemplifies and positively impacts community development practice and represents a lasting contribution to the field.
College of Ag Sciences researchers win funding to commercialize discoveries
August 10, 2015
Several promising technologies earned Penn State faculty researchers grants of $75,000 each to help them transform research projects into viable products on the market. The College of Agricultural Sciences Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program awarded the Research Applications for Innovation grants, which are designed to promote innovation and economic development by encouraging the transfer of technologies to existing and start-up companies.
Newly named research center reflects convergence of agricultural and energy law
August 10, 2015
Through its Agricultural Law Resource & Reference Center, Penn State Law has conducted extensive outreach activities in agricultural law for nearly two decades. To more accurately reflect the focus of this work and the interconnected nature of agricultural law and shale gas development, the center's name has been changed to the Center for Agricultural and Shale Law.
Feed supplement greatly reduces dairy cow methane emissions
August 10, 2015
A supplement added to the feed of high-producing dairy cows reduced methane emissions by 30 percent and could have ramifications for global climate change, according to an international team of researchers.
Eastern poultry producers brace for avian flu this fall as waterfowl migrate
August 3, 2015
Right now, in the vast prairie pothole region of southern Canada and the United States' upper Midwest, waterfowl are mingling, raising their young and instinctively preparing to migrate, some leaving as early as August.
Researchers develop new 'portable power supply' for engineering microbes
August 3, 2015
Penn State engineers have developed a new ‘portable power supply’ that will make it easier to manufacture plastics, therapeutics, fuels and other chemicals from sustainable feedstocks using diverse microbial organisms.
Some vaccines support evolution of more-virulent viruses
August 3, 2015
Scientific experiments with the herpesvirus that causes Marek's disease in poultry have confirmed, for the first time, the highly controversial theory that some vaccines could allow more-virulent versions of a virus to survive, putting unvaccinated individuals at greater risk of severe illness. The research has important implications for food-chain security and food-chain economics, as well as for other diseases that affect humans and agricultural animals.
Student Stories: Food Science major has impressive internship
July 3, 2015
From attending interesting meetings to writing company newsletters to approving product sales, Paige Smoyer found that working as a food safety intern was a fast-paced and intriguing experience.
New faculty position to investigate pollinator health
July 3, 2015
Pollinators are declining rapidly throughout the world, and researchers are scrambling to figure out why. To assist Pennsylvania's beekeepers, growers and others as they face this crisis, the Department of Entomology at Penn State has created a new faculty position that will be responsible for conducting research, education and outreach on pollinator health, conservation and management.
Penn State partnering to help orphaned children worldwide stay with families
July 3, 2015
An estimated 8 million children worldwide live in orphanages and similar institutions, children of whom an estimated 80 percent have living parents or families who could look after them with the right assistance. A newly announced research partnership between British author J.K. Rowling's nonprofit children's organization Lumos and the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at National University of Ireland Galway -- and including Penn State's UNESCO Chair in Community, Leadership and Youth Development program -- aims to change that by transforming the lives of children living in orphanages.
Déjà vu all over again: Research shows 'mulch fungus' causes turfgrass disease
July 3, 2015
An emerging turfgrass disease that is affecting golf courses around the world has been traced to a fungus commonly found in mulches. This is the first step toward a possible treatment for the disease.
Student Stories: Horticulture major studies cacao beans in France
June 23, 2015
Two weeks in Paris might sound like a dream vacation, but for Brian Rutkowski, the trip was just one component of his ag business management class.
Penn State Brandywine is the "bee's knees" of pollinator habitats
June 23, 2015
Penn State Brandywine recently received certification from the Pennsylvania State Master Gardeners to be a Pennsylvania Pollinator Friendly Garden. This comes after the White House announced the first national strategy to promote the health of pollinators.
Researchers study inexpensive process to clean water in developing nations
June 11, 2015
Penn State researchers are studying an abundant seed that may be a viable alternative to expensive water clarification methods in the developing world.
Student Stories: Sold on Snakes -- Environmental major interns at ecology center
June 9, 2015
Delainey Loedding found herself in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last summer with her hands full -- of snakes. She interned with the Urban Ecology Center, a small nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting community members to nature through habitat restoration, environmental education and citizen science.
Tree root research confirms that different morphologies produce silmilar results
June 9, 2015
Despite markedly different root morphologies and resulting disparities in nutrient-uptake processes, forest trees of different lineages show comparable efficiency in acquiring soil nutrients, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Sarah Chinn Kalser Faculty Research Assistance Endowment
May 28, 2015
$4,600 available for the 2015/2016 fiscal year to support research and scholarly travel to faculty whose research has a temporary lapse in funding. Proposals due June 19, 2015.
Faculty members' UNESCO presentation focuses on refugees, communication
May 27, 2015
Two Penn State faculty members will travel to Paris to share research about the impact of the Internet on refugees, specifically how it functions in terms of socialization and potential radicalization, during a UNESCO forum in June.
Ancient wisdom, modern technology team up to fight disease
April 29, 2015
Research into anti-cancer compounds gives whole new meaning to the phrase "eat healthy."
Researchers discover gene that controls melting point of cocoa butter
April 17, 2015
The discovery of a gene involved in determining the melting point of cocoa butter -- a critical attribute of the substance widely used in foods and pharmaceuticals -- will likely lead to new and improved products, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Study finds that maize roots have evolved to be more nitrogen efficient
April 17, 2015
Selective breeding of maize over the last century to create hybrids with desirable shoot characteristics and increased yield may have contributed indirectly to the evolution of root systems that are more efficient in acquiring nutrients, such as nitrogen, from the soil, according to researchers.
Protein-rich sports drink developed at Center for Food Innovation
April 15, 2015
A new sports recovery drink developed by a Penn State researcher, produced by the Penn State Berkey Creamery and tested by Penn State football players is now available. Dr. Pete’s Recovery Drink, a chocolate milk infused with an innovative research-based protein formula, is now available for sale at Café Laura in Mateer Building and in the near future at Berkey Creamery.
Rapid increase in neonicotinoid insecticides driven by seed treatments
April 2, 2015
Use of a class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, increased dramatically in the mid-2000s and was driven almost entirely by the use of corn and soybean seeds treated with the pesticides, according to researchers at Penn State.
Wildfire critical in calculating carbon-payback time for biomass energy projects
March 27, 2015
Accounting for wildfire is essential in achieving an accurate and realistic calculation of the carbon payback period associated with converting forest biomass into energy, according to a new study. Researchers said their analysis of carbon-accounting methods is expected to inform the scientific debate about the sustainability of such conversion projects.
Honey bees use multiple genetic pathways to fight infections
March 27, 2015
Honey bees use different sets of genes, regulated by two distinct mechanisms, to fight off viruses, bacteria and gut parasites, according to researchers at Penn State and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The findings may help scientists develop honey bee treatments that are tailored to specific types of infections.
Initiative to create center for agricultural research and education in Ukraine
March 27, 2015
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences will collaborate with CRDF Global, an independent nonprofit that promotes international scientific and technical collaboration, to establish the Research and Education Center for Agricultural Technologies in Ukraine. The initiative is supported by $20,000 in seed funding from the Woskob New Century Fund, an endowment that bolsters the University's commitment to fostering connections between Pennsylvania and Ukraine.
Professor uses data gathered from squirrels to make music
March 16, 2015
Mark Ballora, a Penn State professor, is using sonification to help University researchers translate their data into musical audio and reach new audiences.
Research to focus on how deer respond to changes in moon phase, weather
March 16, 2015
There seems to be a lot of common wisdom that exists when it comes to whitetails, such as, "It's near full moon, so the deer are only moving at night." Or how about, "A cold front is coming, which is why the deer are out feeding."
Cyanobacteria could help manage nitrogen to benefit Chesapeake Bay
March 10, 2015
A novel approach to harness bacteria that could diminish nutrient-laden runoff from agriculture has the potential to support efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, where water quality improvements have been elusive, research suggests.
Researcher develops novel strategy to improve crops and treat diseases
March 3, 2015
A novel strategy to enhance genome editing promises to increase the efficiency of making genetic improvements in a wide range of organisms, a new study suggests. The results could help boost applications such as developing better crops and treating genetic diseases in humans, Penn State researchers said.
New crop production guide aimed at helping farmers tap growing organic markets
February 27, 2015
If you are an organic-crop producer in the Northeast, or a farmer interested in transitioning to organic, there is a new resource available to help provide the research-based information you need to be successful. The newly published Penn State Organic Crop Production Guide is among the most comprehensive university-produced guides in the country.
Small predator diversity is an important part of a healthy ecosystem
February 24, 2015
Biodiversity, including small predators such as dragonflies and other aquatic bugs that attack and consume parasites, may improve the health of amphibians, according to a team of researchers. Amphibians have experienced marked declines in the wild around the world in recent decades, the team added.
Project looks to horticulture value chain to improve outlook for Honduran women
February 24, 2015
Impoverished families in western Honduras stand to benefit from a new project aimed at improving access to that country's markets for high-value horticultural crops. Researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have received a nearly $1.4 million grant to perform a gender-based analysis of the Honduran horticultural value chain, with an eye toward reducing barriers to participation for women and other marginalized groups, while enhancing family income and nutrition.
Dragonfly gut infections suggest environmental role in obesity
February 20, 2015
Obesity and diabetes are not just problems of modern-day humans and their domesticated pets. Insects also are affected by these health conditions, and intestinal infections by protozoans are the cause, according to researchers at Penn State. The research suggests that intestinal infections may contribute to metabolic diseases in humans as well. Ruud Schilder, assistant professor of entomology and biology, has received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to expand upon these findings.
Innovation Fund moving good ideas forward
February 20, 2015
In April 2014 the Penn State Research Foundation created The Fund for Innovation to promote commercialization of promising new ideas and discoveries generated by Penn State's $800 million research enterprise. The primary goal is to create new companies and new jobs, and by doing so to increase the already sizable positive impact that Penn State has on the economy of Pennsylvania.
Drinking green tea before taking supplements may offer protection from toxicity
February 9, 2015
As high doses of green tea extract supplements for weight loss become more popular, potential liver toxicity becomes a concern. In the last decade, dozens of people have been diagnosed with the condition. However, drinking green tea in the weeks before taking supplements likely reduces risk, according to researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.
Research to help farmers address environmental challenges of climate change
January 27, 2015
Penn State Eberly College of Science Professor Charles Anderson and his research team are looking to help farmers and crop breeders grow hardier plants to boost the world's food supplies.
Living laboratory offers thousands of acres for research, recreation
January 27, 2015
Stone Valley Forest, a 6,775-acre property primarily in Barree Township, Huntingdon County, is perhaps best known for outdoor recreation that is free to the public, also serves as a petri dish for faculty and student research.
Soils could keep contaminants in wastewater from reaching groundwater, streams
January 23, 2015
With endocrine-disrupting compounds affecting fish populations in rivers as close as Pennsylvania's Susquehanna and as far away as Israel's Jordan, a new research study shows that soils can filter out and break down at least some of these emerging contaminants.
New model identifies eastern stream sections holding wild brook trout
January 13, 2015
A new model that can accurately identify stream sections that still hold suitable habitat for wild brook trout will help fisheries managers from Maine to Georgia find and protect habitat for this fish, which is an economically, socially and ecologically important species.