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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.

Program Highlights

Contributing to economic development in many ways, we:

  • 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 Alliance
  • provided 25 internships for students to work with natural products companies
  • 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 College scientists.
  • 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.


Research Highlights

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 for Research
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 extension faculty.

FEDERAL…. $ 5,254,874

Income.... $ 3,793,858

& Contracts*..... $ 23,037,707

STATE............................….$ 27,111,873



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 Agricultural Statistics.

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 to spread.

Don Hershman 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
Agricultural Policy

Dave Freshwater 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 from it.

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 said.

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 playing field.

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 programs.
“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 environment.”


Bed Bugs

Mike Potter 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 United States.

“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 bugs 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

Mark Swanson 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,” Swanson said.

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 has found.

“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 exist.

“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 Kentucky.

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 mechanism.”

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.


the e-Traveler

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.

Sunny Ham “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 their customers.”

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 areas.

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 marketing.


Taking Business
by the e-Tail

Vanessa Jackson 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 said.

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 on:

  • how to use the Internet
  • how e-commerce can be beneficial to a
  • customer relations (customer contacts, advertising, developing customer relationships
  • 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.