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Common Ground

The heat and sun tell me it's midsummer, which is also the time of year we mark the start of fiscal year 2018. Thanks to President Joe DiPietro's leadership and support by the Tennessee legislature, we are able to award merit-based salary adjustments in July to faculty and staff members. These raises help UT remain competitive with salaries and recognize the excellent work of our top-performing UTIA team members.

There is news to convey on several other points as well. First, I want to thank UTIA's strategic planning team for its hard work in initiating overall reviews of our units, completed work on priorities and our pillars, and an environmental scan to determine significant trends. This committee will continue to meet with the goal of developing a ten-year strategic plan for the Institute, along with metrics to measure our progress.

The promotion and tenure workshop was successful with many faculty participants and great questions and interaction. Promotion and tenure candidates were approved and will be recognized at the UTIA awards luncheon at the end of this month.

The search for the next dean of UT Extension is moving along. The final candidates have been interviewed, and the search committee's recommendations are in my office. Thanks to all UTIA staff and faculty who attended the seminars and meetings and those who provided feedback.

With the start of the new fiscal year, I'd also like to give a shout-out to the Office of Advancement for an outstanding FY 2017. Members of this unit provided excellent support for all our programs, most importantly for student scholarships, faculty research and Extension programs, and staff initiatives. Their work is invaluable to the Institute and our continued mission.


P.S. Be sure to follow me and the latest Institute developments on Twitter at @UTIAChancellor.

Preventing Dicamba Drift

New rules have been enacted to mitigate the risk of drift of herbicides containing dicamba. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture and UT Extension are providing producers with information and resources, including videos, to reduce the potential for off-target dicamba injury.

A Farm Kid on Mars

When it came to selecting James Bevington (biosystems engineering, '11) as a crew member for an eight-month simulation of life on Mars, the resourcefulness and self-sufficiency he developed growing up on a Tennessee Century Farm impressed mission organizers of HI-SEAS. So did Bevington's technical abilities and experience working in teams at UT and the strong interpersonal skills he gained through living abroad—all are high-priority skills CASNR fosters in its students. For Bevington, the qualities factored into his selection as mission commander.

Bevington says testing the feasibility of life on the Red Planet is on target for his goals. This farm kid turned scientist aims to become an astronaut. Does he believe life on Mars is realistic? "It is as doable as anything. To make it reality, though, the international community must commit to seeing this goal through, as has been done with the International Space Station." The most frustrating thing he's experienced in isolated life? "Google searches. A deliberate twenty-minute delay in communications means we cannot research on our own." And that Spam-heavy diet? He says he could pass on that, too.

Watch videos about the HI-SEAS missions in the New York Times 360 series. And look for Bevington in the latest issue of UTIA's Land, Life and Science magazine arriving soon.

Summer Celebration & Field Days Ahead

What's a little heat to a devoted gardener? Nearly 1,800 visitors braved the high temps on July 13 to soak up plant knowledge at the UT Gardens, Jackson's Summer Celebration Lawn and Garden Show. Information from many of the classes is available here.

Field days ahead include Steak and Potatoes on August 1 and Fall Gardeners' Festival on August 29, both at the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center in Crossville.

Walk Across Tennessee

Bear blood transfusion

From Memphis to Mountain City and all through the state, Tennesseans are walking more with the help of UT Extension. One of Extension's most popular programs is called Walk Across Tennessee. While it helps people incorporate more exercise into their daily lives in an enjoyable way, Walk Across Tennessee's goal addresses serious issues: the increasing prevalence of obesity and chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer. Learn more about the program in a column by UT Extension Assistant Dean Laura Stephenson.

News Updates

• Research of sustainable food, energy, and water supply for a growing world is one goal of a new UT-ORNL China partnership.

• A vet med student who has worked with quarter horses in Texas, thoroughbreds in Kentucky, endurance horses in Tennessee, and working horses abroad has received $75,000 to advance her studies.

• Last week, three Tennessee 4-H'ers presented the results of a GPS study that examined possible contributing health factors to US adult obesity rates to an audience of 16,000 tech specialists.

• The UT Research Foundation profiled Ky Pohler in its Inventor of the Month spotlight. Pohler is a reproductive physiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science.

• A photo of engorged black-legged tick larvae taken by Graham Hickling graces the front cover of the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Medical Entomology. Hickling is an associate professor with the UT Center for Wildlife Health. The image represents a study of how ticks feeding on infected mice speed the Lyme disease pathogen.

Poultry Project Gears Up in Rwanda

Bear blood transfusion

Faculty from across UTIA departments and project partners in Rwanda are moving the USAID Feed the Future Tworore Inkoko, Twunguke project off the ground since its official start in January. The project aims to increase the capacity of smallholder farmers to produce broiler chickens. This, in turn, will increase availability of animal-source protein in the market and diets of Rwandans.

Two Awards Toast the Success of TN Magic Moments

For its success in advancing agriculture awareness in Tennessee, the campaign known as TN Magic Moments has received two top awards from the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association (NAADA). TN Magic Moments is a collaborative campaign encouraging recognition of the importance of agriculture in our lives through the sharing of social media posts with the hashtag #tnmagicmoments. Speaking engagements are also an important component of the campaign. NAADA honored TN Magic Moments with first place for the monthly e-newsletter and second place for the overall campaign.

Ladies Day at Lone Oaks Farm

Bear blood transfusion

Curious about what's happening at Tennessee's newest 4-H and conference center? About one hundred women from West Tennessee and beyond attended the June 23 Ladies Day at Lone Oaks Farm.

The event served to highlight the many assets the Hardeman County center offers as a site for retreats, weddings, and conferences. The women took part in an afternoon of seminars, socializing, and a farm-to-table lunch prepared by the Farm's Executive Chef Allen Cain.

Project Finals & Leadership and Citizenship Learning Are Ahead at 4-H Roundup

More than 300 delegates of Tennessee 4-H will gather July 24-28 at UT Martin for the ninety-fourth 4-H Roundup. More than 300 youth representing almost every county in the state will participate in the annual event.

"Roundup provides an opportunity for our high school 4-H members to further develop their presentation skills and confidence through 4-H project interviews," says Richard Clark, UT Extension assistant dean and department head for Tennessee 4-H. "It also serves as a venue for these youth to make memories and friendships to last a lifetime."

In Memoriam

Photo of a lily

Delle Rhue Burgess, a longtime employee at the AgResearch and Education Center at Milan. Burgess served as guide for the West Tennessee Agriculture Museum on the site. She also was a central and beloved staff member who helped host field days and other events both at Milan and the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center.

UTCVM Open House

Outdoor learning is underway at 4-H camps and in communities across the state. The educational programs are delivered to youth by Extension county staff and specialists and, certainly, staff at the camps themselves. Here Ron Blair, STEM director at Lone Oaks Farm, gives youth a hands-on lesson in aquatic organisms and water quality.


Common Ground is published monthly by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Send comments and suggestions to commonground@tennessee.edu. The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status.

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