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Common Ground

Happy beginning of spring! It looks like it may be here to stay this time as evidenced by warmer temperatures and some beautiful blossoms.

For us, this month has meant another round of visits to our federal and state elected officials. During these visits we thanked them for their support of UTIA, informed them of the programs we're conducting, and requested continued support through our state and federal budgets. In a visit to Washington, DC, Mr. David Fugate and Mr. Chuck Yoest, who serve as UTIA's representatives on the national Council for Agricultural Research, Extension and Teaching (CARET), were very effective in communicating with members of Congress and their staffs. They noted what a difference our programs make in the lives of Tennesseans and spoke about their personal and family experiences with UTIA faculty and staff. Their comments were very well received.

Ag Day on the Hill was a very positive event this year for UTIA and all the producer groups across the state. We were able to provide evidence of the importance and impacts of UTIA programs as we met with members of the Tennessee General Assembly. Governor Bill Haslam even stopped by our exhibit -shown in image- and expressed appreciation for the work done by faculty and staff in UTIA.

Strong positive relations with our federal and state officials, as well as our county governments and local communities, provide a solid foundation for our public appropriations. Thanks to the good work you do, we are well positioned for continued support.

Finally, I just returned from attending another outstanding 4-H Congress in Nashville, this year celebrating 70 years. It's always inspiring to me to see the talent, knowledge, and innovation of our youth on full display and this year was no disappointment. Based on what I saw at the various events, our future is certainly bright. I'll share more in next month's issue.


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

Resources for Rural Communities

Governor's Rural Task Force Launches Website & Database

To assist Tennessee's rural communities, the Governor's Rural Task Force has launched a new website and resource database. The website is an outcome from the task force in its October 2016 strategic plan. It is designed to provide Tennessee's rural community leaders and citizens with an integrated source for information from nine state departments and six task force community partners.

State of Tennessee Agricultural Commissioner Jai Templeton says, "The new searchable grants and resources database will especially help our rural leaders find grants, technical assistance, training, and other resources from all departments of state government and task force partners in one central location." More...

Tennessee Is Spotlight State at 2017 Sunbelt Expo

Some 80,000 people are expected at this year's Sunbelt Agricultural Expo, along with 1,200 vendors and exhibitors. Among them will be a special exhibit featuring Tennessee as the "Spotlight State." The annual expo will be held October 17-19, 2017, near Moultrie, Georgia.

Our state's pavilion will have the theme of "Soundtrack of America Made in Tennessee." There visitors will discover the beauty and diversity of Tennessee's three grand divisions along with diverse agricultural production and products from them. During the Sunbelt Expo, the 2017 Tennessee Farmer of the Year, Mr. Mike Robinson, will represent our state in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest. More...

March Is Extension Month in Tennessee

County Extension offices across the state are planning various celebrations and commemorations as the state's Extension program marks its 107th year.

An integral part of the land-grant mission, Extension programs are delivered in all ninety-five counties of the state by subject matter specialists, county agents, and volunteers associated with the Institute and the Tennessee State University College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.

"UT Extension 'extends' the university's teaching and research missions to deliver research-based information and education to all the state’s citizens through youth and adult programs in every county," says Delton Gerloff, interim dean of UT Extension. Latif Lighari oversees TSU Extension faculty as associate dean for Extension at TSU.

This year marks the fifth annual UT Gardens Gala, and it promises a memorable–and delicious– evening. Join honorary host Sherri Lee on Friday, April 28, in the UT Gardens, Knoxville, for “Gardens Legends–Rooted in Tradition” recognizing the Knoxville Garden Club for its contributions to the local community. Enjoy hors d’oeuvres, drinks, musical entertainment, a seated dinner, and live and silent auctions to benefit the academic programs, educational outreach, and operations of the UT Gardens, Knoxville. To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit AdvanceUTIA.com/GardensGala2017.

UTIA Experts Contribute to SEC Conference

Two water experts from the Institute will be panelists at next week's Southeastern Conference Academic Conference. Researchers and academic leaders from all fourteen SEC institutions will contribute their knowledge and collaborations represented by the conference's theme, "The Future of Water: Regional Collaboration on Shared Climate, Coastlines and Watersheds."

Chris Wilson, a research assistant professor in UT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, will represent UT on a panel about environmental hydrology. Dayton Lambert, associate professor in UT's Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, will be a panelist for a session on the food-energy-water nexus. More...
(Photo credit: Dave Lawrence via Flickr/Creative.)

Three Institute Students Are Finalists in 3MT

Three Institute students have advanced to the final round of competition in the UT Knoxville-wide 3-Minute Thesis competition. Good luck to Tori Couture, Rachel Herwick (pictured), and Amy Michael at the April 7 event. The 3MT competition is a collaboration between the academic colleges and the graduate school. Using one slide and three minutes, participants must explain and engage a general audience about their research work.

Rachel is a UTCVM student who worked with Drs. Zenny Ng and Julie Albright in the Center of Excellence Student Summer Research Program. She is discussing her work testing the hypothesis that hospitalized children who interact with a therapy dog for ten minutes prior to sedation will demonstrate less anxiety before their operation and require less sedation than children who play with an iPad for the same length of time.

Tori is a master's student in Animal Science mentored by faculty members Peter Krawczel and Gina Pighetti. Her presentation is "Making the Connections: Mastitis and Behavior." This represents her research examining the potential activity monitors hold as a method for early detection of dairy cows with mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland typically caused by infection. Earlier detection of this common and economically significant disease could enable producers to respond faster in managing cow health and their resultant milk quality.

Amy is an M.S. graduate research assistant working in professor Jerome Grant’s laboratory in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Her presentation title is "The Kudzu Bug: A Case Study in Sustainable Agriculture." She discusses the invasiveness of the kudzu bug and its threat to soybean production, as well as its ability to invade homes and cause medical concerns. Amy's research examines how a naturally occurring fungal pathogen can fit into sustainable control of an invasive soybean pest.

Spring Events

On April 8, join UTCVM students for their wildly popular open house. This year's theme, "If the Shoe Fits," will share with the community the variety of shoes veterinarians fill, both in their practices and an array of industries and governmental agencies.

Help support one of the country's oldest Animal-Assisted Interaction Programs, HABIT, at Barbeque and Bidding, an evening of good food and good fun. B&B takes place on March 28 at the Knoxville Museum of Art and is the program's premier fundraiser of the year. Through the UTCVM program, more than 550 teams provide animal therapy to residents of twenty East Tennessee counties.

Canine Spring Cleaning! The UTCVM Class of 2019 is excited to host the second Annual Spring Cleanin' Dog Wash and Adoption Event in partnership with the Blount County Animal Center. The wash is set for April 23, and food trucks will add to the fun. Learn more at the link above.

International Outreach

UTIA and University of Florida faculty (pictured) spent the first week of March conducting site visits in Belize, meeting with local and national partners, and developing research projects for the recently awarded grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Education and Literacy Initiative.

Pictured above left to right are Michael Andreu, UF; Don Hodges, UT; David Butler, UT; Gordon Holder, University of Belize Central Farm; John Stier, UT; Adam Willcox, UT; Bill Giuliano, UF; and Emma Willcox, UT.

The program will enable fourteen undergraduate students to engage in international research and Extension activities in and around the Vaca Forest Reserve in Belize. The selected student Fellows will begin work with their faculty mentors this spring and summer to develop and implement research projects related to the interrelationship and coexistence of sustainable agriculture and rainforest conservation.

Top Posts and Honor for Five

Scott Senseman, professor and head of UT's Department of Plant Sciences, is president-elect of the Weed Science Society of America, and Larry Steckel, professor and Extension weed science specialist, Plant Sciences, is vice president. WSSA is a national scientific society that promotes research, education, and extension outreach activities concerning weeds and their impact on the environment.

The Society publishes three professional journals and provides science-based information to the public and government policy makers.

"Scott and Larry have been at the forefront of the weed science field for many years and will represent our Institute well as officers of WSSA," says Tim Cross, chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture. More on their appointments here.

Meanwhile Walt Hitch (left) and Barry Sims, both of UT AgResearch, have been honored by the national Research Center Administrators Society.

Sims, who is associate director of UT AgResearch, was recognized for service as president of RCAS and now becomes past-president. Hitch, director at the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center, received the society's Distinguished Service Award.

This award celebrates a member who has made outstanding contributions to the society across a span of years. Hitch has held numerous offices and committee appointments, including serving as RCAS president from 2012 to 2013.

"The Institute has a long history of participation in the RCAS," says AgResearch Dean Bill Brown. "This society provides an important opportunity for Center directors from across the county to come together and share ideas. Both Barry and Walt have consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing agricultural research and education at a state, regional, and national level. It is wonderful that their efforts have been recognized by their peers at RCAS."

CASNR Dean Caula Beyl was honored March 10 as a 2017 Distinguished Women Scholar Honoree during a reception held at Purdue University. The Office of the Provost and the Butler Center for Leadership Excellence honored Beyl for exemplifying the Purdue spirit in her work and dedication to her field. Beyl holds a PhD in stress physiology and a master's in horticulture from Purdue. She is the first woman to serve as dean of CASNR. Purdue's honor is the latest in a series of awards Beyl has received for her leadership and achievements. She is pictured above. Left to right is Cary Mitchell, Beyl's doctoral major professor; Mary Ann Rice, Beyl's sister; Beyl; and Havel Wetzstein, department head of horticulture and landscape architecture at Purdue University.

Upcoming Training

• Extension Southeast TN Beef Summit
• E-commerce Workshops for Farmers
• Value-Added Meat Marketing
• Carriers on Meeting the New FSMA Requirements

Learn about each in News & Announcements at the Institute's website, ag.tennessee.edu

In Memoriam

Jerry Gresham, 73, professor emeritus of Animal Science and retired interim college dean for the University of Tennessee at Martin. Gresham was a strong supporter of agriculture and served as a valued partner with the Institute. Memorial

Charles D. Holland, 86, retired Extension agent, Sullivan County. Memorial

William 'Bill' Miller, 93, of Knoxville, retired professor and head of the Extension Animal Science-Dairy Department. Memorial

Bill Sanders, 76, former faculty member and founder and leader of the statistical and consulting group for UTIA. He later directed the university’s Value-Added Research and Assessment Center. Memorial

John Sharp, 96, retired forestry Extension specialist and 4-H forestry leader. Memorial

Stella J. Wheeler, 89, for twenty years, served as secretary in the UT Extension Anderson County Office. Memorial

Kathryn Young Whitten, 86, retired secretary at the UT Extension McNairy County Office. Memorial

Celebrate Spring at the UT Gardens, Knoxville

The UT Gardens hosts a fun family educational event on Saturday, April 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Children ages 12 and under are invited to come learn about wild birds, the vegetarian side of their diet, and how to feed their favorite wild birds with both foods and flowers! Families will learn how to attract birds to their home gardens and create natural spring-inspired crafts.

All kids will leave with two bird feeders, a seed dispersal craft to attract wild birds, a bird seed mix with foods that cater to the preferences of your favorite backyard birds and young seedling that can grow to attract and feed birds in your garden. The youth also will have the opportunity to hunt for 3,000 eggs in the UT Gardens. Register by March 30. More...

Hall of Famer

We have to say we're bowled over by the latest honor for our people. UTCVM facilities supervisor Rebecca Haynes O'Connor is being inducted into the Greater Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame. O'Connor is only the third person ever to be inducted for bowling. The rest of the 2017 Hall of Fame class includes Jim Haslam, Rod Delmonico, Buck Vaughn, George Quaries, Kevin Swider, Art Reynolds, and Dawn Marsh. O'Connor, who works in Small Animal Clinical Services, has more than proven herself for this honor. She is the reigning Smoky Mountain US Bowling Congress Performer of the Year and has been for the past seven seasons. O'Connor has seven 300 games and two 800 series to her credit, as well as winning multiple local championships. She also has excelled at the state level, taking home top honors in multiple championships. Not surprisingly, O'Connor also has held the state high average. She has a career high average of 229 and is a three-time Smoky Mountain Congress Queens Champion. When you see O'Connor on campus, feel free to "strike" up a conversation!
(Bowling Photo Credit: Knoxville News Sentinel)


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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