Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station
In 2004, Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station scientists
brought in new funds, with external grants and contracts increasing
over 2003 by more than $5 million and reaching $23,037,707 million.
This increase was the largest ever for the College of Agriculture
and one of the largest for any college at the University. It reflects
the talent and drive of our faculty as well as our relevance to
the work of state, federal, and industrial sponsors. There were
109 ongoing projects in 2004 in the areas of food, forests, families,
biology, and business.
Some projects established this year fostered new ways to educate
students and consumers. Others are moving University technologies
to the marketplace. Still others are helping to diversify the
tobacco economy, from producing alternative crops to enhancing
the entrepreneurial skills of producers.
Contributing to economic development in many ways,
- developed a business incubator in the Kentucky Tobacco Research
and Development Center for new companies working with plants
and their products
- encouraged six startup companies through the Natural Products
- provided 25 internships for students to work with natural
- developed entrepreneurial programs with the Gatton College
of Business and Economics.
Our partner, the USDA Forage Animal Production Research Unit,
continued to grow.
- Together we are planning a building to house federal and
- We renovated laboratories and offices for five federal scientists
in Ag North.
With our clientele in the equine and livestock industries,
we produced a new plan for the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center.
As a result:
- We established a new epidemiology program.
- With the General Assembly’s approval of $8.5 million,
work is under way to expand and renovate the necropsy floor,
upgrade the laboratory, and replace equipment.
The College agreed to merge dairy facilities with Eastern
Kentucky University for greater efficiencies in the state’s
dairy cattle program, through a memorandum of understanding signed
by UK President Lee Todd and EKU President Joanne Glasser. As
part of this merged program:
- Our dairy cattle will be housed at EKU.
- The General Assembly has awarded funds for planning and design
of new dairy cattle facilities.
In this issue we highlight how scientists responded to new emerging
pests with research and advice and how we continued to find new
ways to stimulate rural and small town economies. One of two new
pests we address, soybean rust, affects the crop economy of Kentucky
and other states. The second pest, bed bugs, affects both people
and the hospitality industry. College teams made up of both research
and extension personnel have worked together to assess our knowledge
base, identify new research problems, and deliver up-to-date information
to the public. Project leaders Don Hershman (soybean rust) and
Mike Potter (bed bugs) both have appointments with the Kentucky
Cooperative Extension Service.
The other four projects highlighted represent different strategies
for supporting the rural economy. David Freshwater asks questions
about agricultural policy appropriate for a state such as Kentucky
that doesn’t have a large commodity farm economy.
The work of Mark Swanson, Sunny Ham, and Vanessa Jackson addresses
how Kentuckians can market products. Dr. Swanson’s project
helps farmers with distribution and other aspects of product delivery.
Drs. Jackson and Ham assess the potential benefits of using the
Web for marketing and advertising.
We are proud of the research reported here, and we are confident
and optimistic that our work will continue to provide great benefits
for Kentucky and the wider world.
Nancy M. Cox, Associate Dean
Director, Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station
S-129 Agricultural Science Center,
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky 40546-0091
for Federal Fiscal year—
October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004
*Includes funding secured by teaching and
FEDERAL…. $ 5,254,874
Income.... $ 3,793,858
& Contracts*..... $ 23,037,707
to the College of Agriculture through
the UK Research Foundation
Grants are for the state fiscal year, July
1 - June 30.
for Soybean Rust
Soybeans are a huge crop in Kentucky. In 2003, they were No.
3 in crop value, with the year’s production valued at $405.2
million, according to the latest available figures from Kentucky
That’s why soybean rust, caused by the fungus Phakospora
pachyrhizi, is such an economic threat to producers in Kentucky.
First spotted in the United States in 2004, soybean rust shows
up as tan or reddish-brown lesions on the plant leaves and can
be harbored over the winter in more than 30 other plants, including
kudzu. Soybean rust cost Brazilian farmers alone an estimated
$1 billion in 2004.
The College has been involved in a number of research trials this
year to understand how best to fight soybean rust.
Some of the College’s research has taken place at the University
of Kentucky Research and Education Center in Princeton, in labs
on the UK Lexington campus, and at 47 sentinel plots scattered
throughout the state.
These sentinel plots were set up as part of an early warning system
put into place across the nation by USDA’s Animal and Plant
Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the North Central Soybean
Research Program. The plots were monitored regularly by Cooperative
Extension agents or other agricultural professionals.
The College has been working with both government agencies and
private industry on fungicides to fight soybean rust. This research
has included studies to find out which fungicides work best and
how and when to best apply them.
Researchers have also worked with industry to monitor 10 sentinel
plots for spores of the soybean rust fungus—the part of
the fungus that enables it to spread. That information will enable
them to better understand the disease process and help detect
the presence of soybean rust earlier than is possible by scouting
fields for disease symptoms.
The College is also among states that are uploading data in a
USDA-APHIS project to refine a predictive model for the disease.
The data will help refine information about variables such as
wind current, rainfall, and temperature so the industry will have
a better sense of what conditions are likely to cause the disease
Don Hershman, plant pathologist at Princeton,
said the work on soybean rust “has been a team effort that
also has involved the departments of Entomology, Plant and Soil
Sciences, Biosystems and Ag Engineering, and Plant Pathology as
well as private industry.”
The Kentucky Soybean Association and Kentucky Soybean Board have
also been part of that team, Hershman said.
Hershman knows that researchers are in the odd position of hoping
the disease shows up so they can learn more about it, “but
only if it’s in their own research plots.” (As of
late July, no soybean rust had shown up in Kentucky.)
Still, Hershman expects that with all the research going on in
the United States on soybean rust “the chance is fairly
high that we’ll obtain good data from somewhere.”
That is good news for soybean farmers in Kentucky and the rest
of the country.
Taking a Look at
Dave Freshwater in the College’s Department
of Agricultural Economics thinks both farmers and the general
population might benefit from seeing agricultural policy as a
function of broader national policy, not as something distinct
The aim in taking the larger view, he said, is that “we
need to try to find programs that deliver what society wants,
not just what the farmer wants.”
Freshwater has used that frame of reference to look at pesticide
regulations, income stabilization (which in this country is traditionally
made up of price support programs), and the idea that the farm
is more than the crops it produces (called multifunctionality).
He thinks it’s useful to study models from other nations
when looking at policy. “They’re not necessarily directly
applicable, but something there may work well here,” he
Here is some of what his research has brought forth to date:
Pesticide regulations— Regulatory controls
for pesticides sold between the United States and Canada currently
focus on product standards but don’t include pricing. The
result is that pesticides cost farmers more in the United States
than they do across the border, creating what Freshwater calls
an “ongoing battle” to import cheaper pesticides from
Canada for private farm use.
His research led him to conclude that a single pricing structure
for both countries is probable, though pesticide costs are not
likely to go down for U.S. farmers. The major benefits would be
a wider range of suitable products on the market and a more level
Income stabilization— The United States
has various price support programs for producers, while Canada,
by comparison, is working with a single income stabilization program.
The premise of the Canadian program is that farmers will be compensated
for any loss based on the level at which they pay in their own
cost-share, with the government providing more of the compensation
as loss rises.
With such a program, Freshwater said, the farmer “chooses
what to produce and the amount to produce.” That way, the
farmer becomes more responsive to what the market wants and is
less likely to overproduce any one commodity, he said.
Income stabilization has a major advantage of being compatible
with international trade agreements.
Freshwater is continuing to research how and when a single, cohesive
program such as Canada’s income stabilization program might
work in this country. His research suggests that it is hard to
design an insurance program that would cover large, infrequent
losses, which means emergency disaster programs are still likely
to be needed.
Multifunctionality— Finally, Freshwater
is looking at how the farm serves not only to grow food but to
provide aesthetics for human enjoyment and land to be preserved
and enjoyed. It even gives us the icon of the farmer, an image
important to national identity.
Multifunctionality is a concept accepted in Europe and is becoming
more a part of how we define U.S. farms, Freshwater said. The
2002 Farm Bill, for example, included substantial money for agro-environmental
“We’re largely a suburban society, and many of us
value the land as more than a place where food is produced,”
he said. “If we want the right mix in what our farms offer
us, we’ve got to send the right signals to farmers, and
that means greater support for farm practices that improve the
Mike Potter in the College’s Department
of Entomology doesn’t mince words when he talks about the
bed bug—a wicked insect that is making a comeback in the
“It’s an urban plague,” said Potter of this
insect, known in scientific circles as Cimex lectularius. “It’s
the real deal, a secretive, blood-sucking pest that bites people
at night in their bedrooms.”
It gets worse. Bed bugs spread rapidly, and the pesticides available
to fight them aren’t 100 percent effective.
One bright spot: bed bugs aren’t known to transmit disease.
What they do leave when they creep out of hiding places such as
mattresses and box springs is itchy red welts on the skin, anxiety,
and sleepless nights for those who are bitten or discover that
these bugs are in residence.
Bed bug infestations are most likely to occur in places where
there’s turnover in people using the sleeping quarters.
The lodging industry, for example, is now on red alert about this
pest, which can travel in luggage or clothing from other countries.
“They’re incredible hitchhikers,” Potter said.
A whole generation of entomologists and pest control professionals
had had no experience with this insect, which was common in this
country from the 1920s to the 1940s but was virtually eradicated
by DDT by the middle part of the 20th century.
In 1972, DDT was banned, and more recently other somewhat effective
pesticides also have been taken off the market. So, when the upsurge
in international travel brought the bed bug back to the United
States about three years ago, nobody had any experience fighting
it, and there weren’t many tools left to fight with.
Potter had never encountered bed bugs until 18 months ago, but
he has learned fast. He has begun to work extensively to educate—and
be educated by—the pest control industry, developing a pool
of information and experience that is adding to the knowledge
about this pest.
When the Department of Entomology puts on a training conference
this fall for professionals from some 20 states, bed bugs will
get a lot of attention.
The College's Department of Entomology is going further: doctoral
candidate Alvaro Romero joined the department this fall, and much
of his work, which will be funded through a pest control industry
fellowship, will focus on basic and applied research on bed bugs.
The goal is to develop better management strategies.
the Food Highway
As the tobacco era ends, Mark Swanson, who has
been in the College’s Department of Community and Leadership
Development, is interested in the extent to which Kentucky’s
farmers are moving on to other crops.
In his research, Swanson has found that although diversification
is working for some farmers, it is not working for all of them.
“Some of them are afraid there will be no market, and others
fear that the market will be flooded if everybody diversifies,”
To better understand the hurdles of the new agricultural economy,
Swanson focused on how food production, distribution, and consumption
are intertwined in three counties in southeastern Kentucky.
Producing for local markets may work for some farmers who have
discovered that wholesale markets don’t work for them, Swanson
“Our farmers are very equipped to compete if they are selling
locally, because there’s less overhead. They can offer produce
of higher quality if they don’t have to worry about shipping
and storage,” he said.
But even if farmers concentrate on the local market, other obstacles
“Most farmers don’t want to do marketing,” Swanson
said. “They don’t have the time, the skills, or the
incentive.” That means that while farmer’s markets
and roadside stands might work for some producers, it won’t
work for all of them, and other options are needed.
One of the counties Swanson has worked with, spurred by its isolation
from the interstate highway system and traditional distribution
channels, has applied for a USDA grant to fund a local food broker.
The broker would work with local farmers to sell their produce
to local schools and other institutions.
Swanson’s research has examined some other new approaches
as well. One is the wholesale produce auction, an idea he said
was originated by the Amish. Farmers box their produce in standard
wholesale containers and sell it through the auction.
Buyers can include people who run roadside fruit and vegetable
stands, independent distributors, and those who might resell the
produce at farmers markets.
In Kentucky, these auctions are now being held in Christian, Lincoln,
and Bath counties and in the Buffalo Trace area of northeastern
Swanson thinks the idea makes sense in the Commonwealth.
“Kentucky farmers are used to auctions for tobacco and cattle.
With the wholesale produce auction, you’re not expecting
farmers to both grow a new crop and take on an unfamiliar marketing
Swanson, who is now in UK’s College of Public Health, is
also researching where people buy fresh food and how often. Obstacles
exist there as well. “If you don’t have a car, it’s
hard to buy fresh food,” he said.
His hope is that the exchange of information—by researchers,
producers, and consumers—will lead to a better understanding
of how the food system works. That knowledge could lead to more
inventive outlets for farmers in the new economy and more locally
produced fresh food for all Kentuckians.
You can buy everything from movies to mustard on the Internet.
More and more, it’s also is the place to plan a vacation,
set up a business trip, or just do some digital dreaming about
faraway places. From 2000 to 2004, the number of Americans seeking
travel information online grew from 6 to 10 million, according
to the Pew Internet Project.
Most of the research on consumers in e-commerce in the hospitality
and travel industry has been on the industry as a whole. That
doesn’t provide a lot of useful information for those who
own restaurants but don’t run airlines, or those who have
a small hotel but don’t serve food in a big way.
“People in a specific industry want to know who their market
is,” said Sunny Ham in the Department of
Nutrition and Food Science in the College’s School of Human
Environmental Sciences. “Otherwise, they may waste time
and effort in promoting their operations to those who are not
So Ham set out to do what she believes is the first e-commerce
research that sectors the industry.
With the assistance of the UK Survey Research Center, she used
a random sampling to contact Kentuckians who were interviewed
by phone about their use of online services for airlines, restaurants,
lodging (hotels and motels), and travel destinations.
Ham’s survey also asked interviewees how long they had used
the Internet and sought demographic information on age, gender,
income, number in household, etc.
Those most likely to go online for products and services with
airlines, restaurants, and lodging? People in the high income
group ($70,000 or more a year) who have used the Internet for
three or more years. Ham’s survey found that the less money
people made and the less experience they had with the Internet,
the less likely they were to go to it for help in these three
The research showed that those who go to the Internet to find
out about travel destinations were a little different from the
other groups. Length of Internet use was still a factor, but instead
of income, where people live mattered: those living in rural areas
were less likely than those in suburban/city areas to use the
Internet to find out about places to travel.
She also found that people visit travel and hospitality sites
on the Internet for convenience and the desire to save money.
In Kentucky, where agritourism is playing a bigger and bigger
role in our economy, Ham’s research could help producers
and others wisely use the money they have available for online
by the e-Tail
Vanessa Jackson, a faculty member in Merchandising,
Apparel, and Textiles in the School of Human Environmental Sciences,
believes greater use of e-commerce could increase customer base
and cost efficiencies for rural businesses, providing an edge
that could increase their chances of financial viability and survival.
She and two colleagues—Debra Cotterill, agent for family
and consumer sciences in Mason County, and Leslie Stoel, assistant
professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences at The Ohio State
University, decided to find out to what extent rural business
owners use the Internet in their business.
In interviews with a number of rural business owners in both states,
they found that “very few used the Internet for actually
building their own business,” Jackson said.
The research showed that most of those interviewed who use the
Internet did so to gather information about suppliers. But when
it came to actually making contact with those suppliers, they
used the phone or regular mail.
These businesses also didn’t use the Internet to market
their products, track inventory, maintain their financial records,
or accept online orders.
It was clear to the researchers that reluctance to do business
online has a lot to do with ease and familiarity with the technology.
“Some people aren’t comfortable with it,” Jackson
Jackson and her colleagues now plan to produce a series of training
modules that will, step by step, take rural business people through
the learning curve about e-commerce. It will include information
- how to use the Internet
- how e-commerce can be beneficial to a
- customer relations (customer contacts, advertising, developing
- applying electronic technology to a business’s finances.
These modules, once complete, will be available to local
Cooperative Extension offices in Kentucky and Ohio to help rural
businesses in both states learn how to use electronic tools. More
successful rural businesses and a stronger rural economy could
be the result.