NIFA Update May 9

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                             May 9, 2018

Making a Difference

University of Idaho mechanical engineer Martin Baker, left, and environmental chemist Greg Moller ready the U of I Clean Water Machine for testing.

University of Idaho Advances to $10 Million Water Prize Challenge

A University of Idaho (U of I) team advanced to the final stage of a $10 million competition to find the best way to stop to toxic algae blooms from poisoning drinking water supplies and the environment.

The Everglades Foundation announced four finalists for the George Barley Water Prize. It will be awarded to the team with the best way to remove phosphorus from public waters. Phosphorus causes algae blooms worldwide. “These finalists represent our best hope for solving the algae crisis that is choking waterways worldwide,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, which is hosting the competition.

The U of I team and eight others from around the world demonstrated their ideas for solving the phosphorus problem from February to May at an agricultural canal in Ontario, Canada. U of I environmental chemist Greg Moller, soil scientist Dan Strawn and mechanical engineer Martin Baker finished in the top four teams, winning the right to move on to the final round.

“We are extremely gratified to join the Everglades Foundation’s quest to find a practical, financially feasible and environmentally friendly fix for a serious problem facing people around the world,” Moller said. “Entering the competition’s final stage will require us to assemble a coalition of our corporate partners and others to show our technology can resolve a widespread threat.” Read the full U of I article.

NIFA supports this outreach through Hatch Funding projects. Technology Innovation at the Nutrient, Energy, and Water Nexus and the New Approaches for Sustainable Water and Energy Process.

University of Idaho mechanical engineer Martin Baker, left, and environmental chemist Greg Moller ready the U of I Clean Water Machine for testing. Photo courtesy of University of Idaho.

News for You

Thomas Spencer

University of Missouri Professor Elected to National Academy of Sciences

A University of Missouri professor in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources became the eighth current faculty member and the 10th faculty member overall at the university to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Thomas Spencer, a Curators Distinguished Professor in the Division of Animal Sciences, was one of 100 new members announced by the academy. Read the full Missourian article.

Thomas has received more than $20 million in grant support from NIFA and the National Institutes of Health.

Cattle at the Seminole Ranch in Okeechobee, Image by  Anastasia Samoylova for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Surviving Climate Change Starts With Heat-Proofing the Cows

In the hour after dawn, the cattle ranches north of Lake Okeechobee become an almost fantastical rendering of bucolic bliss. Perfect Florida sunshine rolls across miles of fire-hued grass, silhouetting idle cows in twos and threes, backlighting patches of slender, bushy-topped Sabal palms with bursts of orange and red. It’s as if  Dr. Seuss had illustrated a cowboy story. Then the heat starts. On a typical summer day, the temperature here breaks 80F by 9 a.m., 90F by early afternoon. And it’s only getting hotter. Heat affects cattle in subtle ways, none of them good. Read the full Bloomberg article.

This story highlights a NIFA funded project addressing climate change and beef cattle breeding.

Cattle at the Seminole Ranch in Okeechobee. Photographed by Anastasia Samoylova for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $5.2 in Agricultural Production Systems Research

NIFA recently announced 12 Agricultural Production Systems Research grants that will lead to the development of innovative sustainable solutions to problems limiting or threatening the productivity, efficiency, and profitability of agricultural production systems. The research will help address critical or process-limiting dynamics that occur among and within the various management components of these systems. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.