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Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science

A biannual newsletter from the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.

Winter 2017

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Welcome from the Department Head

I think that we had a very good fall with graduation of eighteen students, participation at regional and national conferences or events, a trip to Shenyang Agricultural University, a successful soil judging competition, being highlighted by USDA, helping with food banks, and our customary fall kick-off barbecue. I am looking forward to an exciting spring semester.

The BESS Soil Vols qualified for Soil Judging Nationals that will take place in Dekalb at Northern Illinois University
April 22-27, 2017. In addition, our senior Biosystems Engineering students are working on four exciting senior designs projects: 1) EZ-Lift: A mechanical lift assist for foldable roll-over protective structures (ROPS); 2) an ergonomic phototherapy delivery system for in-patient rehabilitation; 3) aerial data acquisition mechanism (ADAM); and 4) onsite biochar generation using greenwaste. Final presentations of these projects will be conducted at the end of April 2017.

Julie Carrier

I believe that BESS has the opportunity to become the destination for developing science and engineering knowledge at the intersection of soil health and quality and broad biosystems engineering practices.

Julie Carrier
Professor and Head
Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science

Congratulations to our December 2016 Graduates!

Environmental and Soil Sciences:
Matthew Davis, Steven Hayes, Stephine Smith, Justine Tomlinson

Construction Science and Agricultural Systems:
Griffin Asplund, Landon Cameron, Drew Landguth, Mark Estep, Ethan Greer, Todd Henry, Cameron Mackle, Boone Myers, Austin Neely, Ryan Pasko, Michael Scott II, Michael Wright

Biosystems Engineering:
Parker Dulin, Jonathan Yoder

Jagadamma to Lead ASA Community

Sindhu Jagadamma

Sindhu Jagadamma, assistant professor of soil management, has been elected to lead the Global Climate Change Community of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA). She began serving as the committee's vice chair last month and will ascend to the position of committee chair in January 2018.

As a vice chair, she will work with the chair to serve the Global Climate Change Community. The community is a group within the ASA's Climatology and Modeling Section, which provides a forum for discussion of approaches for mitigation of climate change and adaptation with respect to agronomic systems. As vice chair, Jagadamma will take suggestions for topics related to Global Climate Change symposiums and sessions that will be presented at the ASA 2017 annual meeting set for October 22-25 in Tampa, Florida.

Sherfy Recognized for Youth Science
Program Development

Youth Science

A BESS instructor is helping Knox County high school students learn about watershed science in a program that focuses on the remediation of a Knoxville, Tennessee, creek.

Andrew Sherfy, a College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources faculty member, was recently recognized by the US Department of the Interior Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) for his efforts leading to the development of the new STEM course curricula. Sherfy worked in cooperation with OSMRE and the Knox County Adopt-A-Watershed Program to develop a STEM-scientific problem-solving course focusing on watershed science. In its initial year of deployment, the program is being piloted at L&M STEM Academy, a local urban area magnet high school located in downtown Knoxville.

Sherfy serves as a professional contact for the academy students as they research and develop projects focused on the remediation of the Second Creek Watershed, which includes the northeast portion of the UT campus. The educational goal of this program is twofold: To teach youth about the critical role water plays in sustaining life on earth, and to engage them in a service opportunity that will allow them to apply the investigative study data they collect to a real-world situation.

BESS in China

BESS in China

BESS faculty will be actively involved in the management of a new center that spans halfway around the world.

On October 24, the joint Center for Soil Productivity and Environmental Conservation (SPEC) was launched within the framework of the memorandum of understanding signed in June 2016 between the University of Tennessee and Shenyang Agricultural University (SYAU) in China. The Center aims to develop long-term innovative scientific collaboration in areas of soil sciences and biosystems engineering through faculty exchange, student internships, joint curriculum, facility sharing, and even jointly hired faculty. It was developed from a collaborative research group on biogeochemistry and climate change, which began in January 2013.

The collaboration involves other top agricultural institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Nanjing Agricultural University, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Applied Ecology and Institute of Soil Science, Jilin Agricultural University, Purdue University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

BESS Grad Student's Work Honored at Conference

Cole Condra

BESS graduate student Cole Condra won second place at the 2017 Cotton Engineering and Ginning Systems Student Competition with his paper, "Influence of field characteristics, planter width and planting speed on planting efficiencies."

The event was held at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences in Dallas, Texas.

Professor Mike Buschermohle is Cole's major professor. Congratulations, Cole!

Congratulations, SoilVols!


Last fall the UT SoilVols competed in the Southeast Region Soil Judging Competition at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. The team finished fifth overall, qualifying to compete in the National Collegiate Soil Judging Competition to be held in April at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois.

Other SEC teams headed to nationals include Clemson University, Virginia Tech University, the University of West Virginia, and the University of Georgia.

The students who participated in the regional contest include team captains Devone Coleman and Keagan Handley, along with members Ben Meeks, Will Luke, and Dan Sain. The SoilVols are coached by BESS faculty members Andrew Sherfy (head coach), and assistant coaches Mark Radosevich and Sean Schaeffer.

USDA NIFA Showcases McMinn County Project

A project conducted by five BESS faculty members is being recognized by the US Department of Agriculture. "Watershed scale project in Oostanaula Creek," funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), was only one of four projects nationally mentioned in the USDA Under Secretary's annual report.

BESS faculty members Forbes Walker, Jennifer DeBruyn, Michael Essington, Shawn Hawkins, and Andrea Ludwig took part in the project. The researchers and several BESS graduate students worked with farmers in the Oostanaula Creek watershed in eastern Tennessee to improve pasture management and reduce the amount of erosion coming from beef, dairy, and row crop farms. During the course of the project, 400 acres of pasture were renovated and 9 miles of cattle exclusion fencing and heavy-use cattle lanes were installed. The result was reduction of sediment moving into the stream and parts of the creek were de-posted from TDEC's 303(d) list of impaired steams in Tennessee.

Pictures below were taken January 11, 2011 and January 29, 2015.

Watershed Before

Watershed After

Careers in Water

Careers in Water

The fifth annual Watershed Symposium hosted by the Watershed Faculty Consortium drew students from sixteen academic programs seeking to learn more about opportunities in water-related career paths. Students from programs in the Colleges of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Arts and Sciences, and Engineering participated. The event took place September 13 at UT.

Many thanks to Tim Gangaware, assistant director of the Tennessee Water Resources Research Center, and faculty members John Buchanan (BESS), Joanne Logan (BESS), Brad Collett (Plant Sciences), Brian Alford (Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries), Jon Hathaway (Civil and Environmental Engineering), John Schwartz (Civil and Environmental Engineering), John Tyner (BESS), Becky Jacobs (Law), Chris Clark (Ag Econ), Daniel Yoder (BESS), Forbes Walker (BESS), Andrea Ludwig (BESS), and last but certainly not least our poster judges Richard Strange (Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries) and Mike McKinney (Earth and Planetary Science).

And as always, much appreciation for the support from our administration, CASNR Associate Dean John Stier and Center director Terry Hazen. To view more pictures, click here. The Watershed Faculty Consortium is already planning for this year's event, so save the date for September 26, 2017.

Construction Science Advocacy Reception

Construction Science Advocacy Reception

Last fall, the construction science program, housed within the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, held its third annual Construction Science Advocacy Reception.

The event was located at the Cherokee Mills Professional Complex and was attended by seventy-five construction industry leaders, eighty-five construction science students, and numerous UT Institute of Agriculture administrators and faculty.

The event allowed students to professionally engage construction leaders, composed of company owners and officers, from around the country and provided a forum for UTIA to recognize the generosity of donors who have supported the program. Each year the construction industry funds the reception, and UTIA faculty and staff coordinate the activities.

These receptions have showcased the quality of our students, resulting in a 100 percent student placement rate since the inception of the program in 2010.

Can-Struction for a Cause

CanStruction for a Cause

A group of construction science students helped can hunger through their participation in a friendly competition that benefited Knoxville's Second Harvest Food Bank.

In November, BESS students partnered with McGill Associates and the Tennessee Road Builders Association to create a color-changing, 14-foot-long, 4-foot-tall replica of Knoxville's Henley Street Bridge-completely made from donated nonperishable canned goods. The entry was one of thirteen displayed at the at the Knoxville Convention Center until early December, when all the projects were dismantled and donated to Second Harvest. The total number of cans allowed Second Harvest to create and serve 107,900 meals to East Tennesseans in need last holiday season.

Student Exhibit Wins First Place

Student Exhibit

A BESS exhibit prepared by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) student club placed first in the Class II Exhibits for Engineers Day at the UT Tickle College of Engineering. The exhibit highlighted engineering aspects of the integrated system to monitor dairy calf feeding behavior for pre-clinical detection of respiratory disease.

September Welcome Back Barbecue

Welcome Back Barbecue

The Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science held its welcome back barbecue on September 6. Potato salad, beans, grilled pork, and chicken were on the menu. Extension specialist Tim Prather, professor Mike Buschermohle, and associate professor Willie Hart were excellent taskmasters!


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Department of Biosystems Engineering
and Soil Science

2506 E. J. Chapman Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996
bess@utk.edu  ·  bioengr.ag.utk.edu

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