NEWS in brief





A Great
Pumpkin Patch

With an average of 1,500 acres planted each year, pumpkins are the second most planted horticultural crop in Kentucky, second only to sweet corn. That’s a lot of jack-o’-lanterns. Light on labor, “pumpkins are harvested in one or two passes and don’t require constant monitoring like some other crops,” says Tim Coolong, extension vegetable specialist in the Department of Horticulture.



Carbs for Abs

Fall’s cooler weather entices many a hot weather couch potato to exercise more. Want to get the most out of your workout? Athletes eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates and protein to beef up endurance and burn calories, Nutrition and Food Science Senior Lecturer Tammy Stephenson says. Eating a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter or low-fat yogurt topped with almonds or walnuts before that run will help. And drink plenty of water before, during, and after physical activity.



Wild Turkey

Kentucky’s wild turkey population is large, thanks to abundant food sources. In the summer, the young need protein to set feathers, so insects are prized. In the fall and winter, turkeys switch to a broader diet of acorns, other nuts, leaves, clover and other legumes. They even pilfer from agricultural fields, though damage is slight. “We have lots of oaks in Kentucky, and acorns become very important,” says Tom Barnes, UK extension professor for wildlife.



It’s All About the “Mattress”

Turns out cows like a comfy place to snooze, too. Compost bedded pack barns use a composted cover of organic matter over a large, open resting area. CBP barns have become increasingly popular housing for lactating dairy cows in Kentucky. A study by the departments of Animal and Food Sciences and Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering shows the CBP system has reduced white blood cell counts, improved reproductive performance, and reduced culling rates, says Randi Black, a graduate research assistant in Animal and Food Sciences.



Wine and Vine

Until Prohibition reared its head, Kentucky was one of the top three grape and wine producing states. Well, history repeats itself. Kentucky’s topography and climate, with its long growing season, make it well suited to once again “become a high contender in grape production,” says Patsy Wilson, UK Extension specialist in viticulture. From 1999 to 2010, the number of acres devoted to wine grapes grew from 68 to 560, and licensed wineries rose from 10 in 1997 to 61 today.


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News in brief


A Gutsy Approach
to Biofuels

Driving a car powered by insects may seem far-fetched, but it could be a future reality if UK College of Agriculture researchers Xuguo “Joe” Zhou and Ling Yuan have anything to do with it.

Zhou, an entomology assistant professor, studies the digestive tracts of wood-feeding cockroaches and termites.

These insects turn wood into glucose faster and more efficiently than any organism or machine on the planet, including current industrial biofuel production methods.

“Both termites and woodroaches can efficiently convert over 90 percent of woody materials into fermentable sugars in their tiny bioreactor hindguts within a day,” he said.

Zhou is compiling a comprehensive list of the digestive enzymes of these two insects. The wood-feeding cockroach is the ancestor of termites and provides a unique reference point for the termite research. Once Zhou has the list, he will look for the common enzymes between the two insects. This will tell him which are vital to the wood digestion process.

The current biofuel pretreatment process relies solely on chemo-thermal energy to break down woody materials.

Once Zhou identifies the enzymes, Yuan, a protein engineer and associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, will select the right proteins within the candidates and engineer them to be more suitable for biomass pretreatments.

“One of the major problems with the biomass conversion industry is the enzymes they are using aren’t cost effective,” Yuan said. “My lab will take the enzymes Joe identifies and engineer them to reduce the number needed for bioprocessing and make them more efficient in terms of sustaining the harsh conditions such as high heat or extreme pH required by the bioprocessing industry.”

Current biofuel production uses high levels of energy to convert biomass into biofuels and the chemicals used to break down the material are emitted into the environment. Ultimately Zhou would like to see insect enzymes controlling the entire biofuel production process.

“If these insect-derived enzymes can work with some of the chemicals currently used in the biomass pretreatment process, or if they can perform under industrial conditions, we can reduce energy input and pollution,” Zhou said.


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NEWS in brief

Rainy Days
and Memories

“Dottie” and her husband spent every summer in France. Years later, when the progression of Alzheimer’s disease forced her into an assisted living facility, her family hung a painting of the French countryside over her bed. It made sense. They knew those memories were important to their mother.

But when she spoke to Amy Hosier, “Dottie” didn’t remember those trips. What she did remember was taking her first car ride in her grandparents’ LaFayette. She’d never shared that story with her family, so they had no way of knowing that pictures of Dottie’s grandparents or the car itself might have been a better choice for the room.

“That experience (with ‘Dottie’) has always remained in the back of my mind,” said Amy Hosier, assistant extension professor in the College of Agriculture’s Department of Family Sciences. She has created a pilot program called Memory Banking with Professor John Watkins, Assistant Professor Faika Zanjani, graduate student Brian Downer, all in the Graduate Center for Gerontology in the UK College of Public Health.

The idea behind the project is to help people record or “bank” their memories in a variety of ways, which could include journals, photographs, and drawings, and to have a better understanding of what those memories mean. In four workshop sessions, people begin to think of their life history along eight “life domains,” family/friends, health, spirituality, home/place, historical contexts, education, work/volunteering, and recreation/leisure.

Participants work in two-person teams with spouses, family members, or friends. Hosier said that when a memory bank is shared, it can help build or maintain quality relationships and also be used as a caregiving tool.

“Memory Banks help individuals build legacies and exercise the mind,” she said.

“The process might uncover some events you never talk about, but they shaped who you are and affected your behavior and your decision-making,” Hosier said. “In return, if you know your loved one a little bit better, then you as a caregiver can make better decisions for that person.”

In a survey taken after the workshops concluded, one of the participants commented, “Doing the lifeline makes you remember things you had not thought about in years. The program is a motivation to start a Memory Bank for future generations.”

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NEWS in brief




Steve Higgins explains his BMP for livestock around streams.




Teaching by Example

Four of the College’s farms now have demonstration projects in place to show producers how to protect natural resources as they deal with environmental issues related to production agriculture.

These projects are visual proof that proven methods, called best management practices or BMPs, can go a long way toward assuring that our streams, lakes, ponds, and other water bodies, all of which supply drinking water, are clean.

“Not only do these practices help the environment, but clean water for livestock can improve production,” said Steve Higgins, the College’s director of environmental compliance.

Higgins and his team have set up project sites at UK farms across the state—at North Farm in Lexington, the Oran C. Little Research Center in Woodford County, the UK Research and Education Center at Princeton, and at Eden Shale Farm in Owen County. They are part of an agriculture water quality plan for each farm. The sites are a model to show producers methods to comply with the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Act.

Having demonstration sites at the experiment stations allows the College to use a regional system to showcase water quality best management practices, Higgins said. Producers learn techniques for controlling, trapping, and filtering contaminated runoff before it reaches a stream. The sites display a variety of BMPs such as vegetative buffer zones; fencing with gated livestock crossings; clean water diversions for livestock use; structures, such as grade stabilization structures, gutters and downspouts on roofs; composting and manure storage facilities; winter feeding and rotational grazing structures; and nutrient management plans.

Numerous producers, educational groups, state and federal agencies, and special interest groups have already seen these practices in action at field days and tours, through the Master Cattleman and Master Stocker programs, as well as other events.

“It used to be producers would go to one (private) farm and see one BMP, and to another farm to see another one,” Higgins said. “Now, we can take them to one paddock and show them eight to 10 BMPs.”

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NEWS in brief

Campbell Co. photo

Left to right:
Steve Martin, Ron McCormick, Vince Rawe and Don Sorrell participate in the Campbell County Beef Association, which connects local ranchers with consumers



Local Beef: It’s in Your Freezer

In Campbell County, twelve farmers banded together to market antibiotic- and hormone-free beef directly to consumers. Don Sorrell, the county’s agriculture and natural resources extension agent, credits members of a 2008 Agriculture Council planning meeting, along with UK extension specialists, the Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, and local farmers for creating the Campbell County Beef Association to offer a local, natural product.

Sales are promising. Since its inception one year ago, the co-op has sold 22 animals to 121 individuals, some of them repeat customers.

“We are in the service business, catering to consumers in Northern Kentucky and greater Cincinnati,” Sorrell noted.

This city-based clientele has led them to explore different options, among them processing the finished product into smaller sizes, as well as offering a sampler box that suits households that do not have the necessary freezer space. The grain-finished beef is USDA-inspected and graded by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. A whole or half beef costs $3 per pound hanging weight, quarters are $3.15 per lb. and the 30-lb. sampler is $3.50 per lb.




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NEWS in brief

children's garden







The Kentucky Children’s Garden


After years of planning, fundraising, and labor, the Kentucky Children’s Garden at The Arboretum opened in 2011 to much fanfare. The garden provides a place for the whole family to discover the environment in a fun, interactive way. Families experience different Kentucky landscapes and geology and encounter footprints of the state in child-themed gardens and along winding sidewalks, connecting paths, and streams. Interactive exhibits inspire visitors to learn about nature and the cycle of life; comfortable benches provide places to pause and reflect.  


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