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Common Ground

We are well into the 2015 Tennessee legislative session. Governor Haslam delivered his State of the Union address last Monday and released the proposed FY 2016 budget. We are very pleased that Governor Haslam continues to make funding for education a high priority.

The proposed budget is very positive for programs in the Institute of Agriculture. The governor is proposing a 1.5 percent salary pool for faculty and staff that would be a $1.28 million increase across the Institute. Additionally, the governor is recommending approximately $1.5 million in operating improvement across CVM, AgResearch, and Extension. The total increases across UTIA are $3.14 million.

In addition to these increases, the governor recommended full funding for the Complete College Tennessee Act (CCTA) formula. He recommended that two of the UT capital projects be funded. We are fortunate that one of these projects is the West Tennessee 4-H facility.

I am pleased that Dr. Thomas Gill has accepted our offer to join UTIA in the Donald and Terry Smith Endowed Chair. Dr. Gill will also serve as the UTIA director of International Programs. His faculty appointment will be in 4-H–ALEC. Dr. Gill comes to us from Penn State University and is nationally recognized for his leadership in international agriculture. Dr. Gill will begin on July 1.

Go Vols,


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

New 4-H/ALEC Assistant Dean, Director Now on Campus

Knoxville area employees gathered February 5 for a reception to welcome Richard Clark to the Institute. Clark is the new assistant dean and head of the Department of 4-H Youth Development/Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication. He comes to UTIA from the University of Illinois and has a career that has spanned academic, administrative, and Extension appointments at a variety of institutions including Virginia Tech, The Pennsylvania State University, The Ohio State University, and Rutgers University.

“I am extremely excited to join the University of Tennessee and the Institute of Agriculture,” Clark says. “The new Department of 4-H/Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications has the opportunity to serve as a model for other universities as an integrated approach to impacting the lives of young people from elementary school through college. 4-H and ALEC have a common underlying youth development and education knowledge base that makes this merger ideal.”

Gill Appointed to Donald and Terry Smith Chair

UTIA has appointed Thomas Gill, a faculty member specializing in international agriculture at The Pennsylvania State University, as the Donald and Terry Smith Endowed Chair for International Sustainable Agriculture and Director of International Programs.

Established through a gift of UT alumni Donald and Terry Smith, the Chair for International Sustainable Agriculture will bring science-based, sustainable agricultural solutions to less economically developed countries of the world.

Working with UTIA faculty and others, Gill’s challenge is to forge public and private partnerships for UTIA faculty that will enhance food security and nutrition, improve sustainable natural resource management, reduce poverty, and increase social equity. Potential partners include other national and international universities, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and private foundations. More ...

USDA Census Shows Tennessee Agriculture Growing Strongly

The USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture reports that the number of farms in Tennessee selling directly to consumers is up by almost 37 percent over the last 15 years, outpacing the national average.

The value of products sold has grown a whopping 129 percent during the same span of time, also ahead of the national average. More ...

Staff Across Tennessee to Celebrate UT Extension in March

UT Extension agents in communities throughout the state are planning special observances in March to celebrate the first Extension month.

Plans call for Twitter Tuesdays to share Extension impacts and news. County offices will host receptions and other events aimed at spreading awareness of the services they offer to citizens. One goal is to reach new audiences not already acquainted with Extension and the research-based information it delivers to people of all ages from all walks of life.

Game On—
Students Rack Up Points in Professor’s ‘Gamed’ Classroom


Taking one of Brandon Horvath’s classes can be fun and games. That’s because Horvath, turf pathologist and plant sciences professor, has integrated elements typically found in games into two of his undergraduate courses, History and Impact of Turf Grasses and Turf Grass Pathology.

Horvath said this type of classroom approach increases self-motivation and participation. It also gives students who may not test well the opportunity to prove their knowledge in a different way.

“I wanted students to engage with the material and get involved,” he said. “The stuff I teach they’ll be dealing with the rest of their lives. I wanted them involved and working on it on a regular basis.” More ...

External Funding for Close of 2014 Totals $3.7 Million

Sponsored projects for the final two months of 2014 totaled $3,723,075. Congratulations to the principal and coprincipal investigators, and Extension county directors and agents! Read the report.

External funding is vital to our overall program, and we appreciate the support and efforts of everyone engaged in enhancing our external funding.

Comparative and Experimental Medicine Symposium a Dynamic Bridge for UT Students, Programs

A joint UTIA-UT Knoxville symposium marking its ninth year this May unites disciplines, campuses, and investigators. Past symposiums have included presentations about everything from basic cancer cell biology research, to tick-borne disease, to food safety.

Learn more about the symposium in a column by Michael McEntee, professor and head, CVM Department of Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences. More ...

Greener Pastures Await Steer with Prosthetic Foot


A team with the UT Veterinary Medical Center conducted cutting edge surgery to equip a yearling Hereford with a prosthetic foot. The Gentle Barn, an animal sanctuary in California, plans to use the steer in outreach for children and veterans with disabilities. The surgery is the first of its kind at the Center. Dr. David Anderson, head of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and board-certified large animal surgeon, says advancements in veterinary prosthetics are parallel to human medicine to some degree.

“Every time we do a prosthetic on a patient it allows us to learn something and to move forward. Every patient presents different challenges, and we approach each case with a sense of learning. As a veterinary surgeon, one of the most exciting things for me is working with human orthotic- and prosthetic-trained people and adapting their technology for animals.” Anderson says that creates a very powerful team working to bring the best technology for the benefit of current patients and those yet to come. Watch a video about Dudley the (then) bull and his procedure. More ...


In March producers interested in marketing beef directly to consumers will have the opportunity to attend two UT Extension workshops geared toward enhancing their profitability. See the Center for Profitable Agriculture for more information.


The Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology is partnering with the East Tennessee Pest Control Association to find ways to get rid of bed bugs and annoying ants. The association has presented $50,000 to assist the department with its urban entomology graduate program. Half the amount endows a scholarship and half serves as a support fund for the program. That fund is named in honor of professor Karen Vail.


Tom Looney, director of advancement for the Institute, has been honored with the 2014 UT Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors Award in recognition of his success in advancing the mission and interests of the Institute through constituent engagement. More ...

In Springfield, Meet Research Associate Brad Fisher

What do you do at the Highland Rim AgResearch and Education Center?

I oversee the row crops, forages, and fruit and vegetable research trials at the Center. My responsibilities include collecting data from around 6,000 individual plots every year with the bulk of those being corn, soybean, and wheat plots. I use ArcGIS for field mapping of the research center, and train my coworkers on how to use our auto-steer setup for the tractors and pesticide applicators. I also oversee planting, fertilizing, spraying, and harvesting of our soybeans, wheat, corn, and forages that are not on research projects. A significant portion of my time is spent collaborating with my coworkers on projects from beef grazing trials to tobacco research.

How long have you been with UTIA?

I have been with UTIA just over nine years.

What is the best part of your job?

Being outside in the field. Whether it is planting, harvesting, irrigating, or taking notes, I like it all. I also enjoy working and communicating with my coworkers and project leaders in the departments. I like being a part of new advancements in agriculture, such as new row crop varieties being developed.

Other thoughts?

I grew up on a family farm and always knew I wanted to be a part of agriculture. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Science from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. I was fortunate to start my career with Highland Rim less than a month out of college, and I love what I do every day. It is a great feeling to know technology I get to see on the research center is put in practice on farms across the state and nationally.

‘I Believe’ in UT—The Big Orange Family Campaign

The Institute has teamed up with the Knoxville campus for the Big Orange Family Campaign. During the month of February, we are asking Knoxville-area faculty and staff to financially support the Institute and say “I believe” in UT. Use this opportunity to direct your giving toward an area of the Institute most important to you. Gifts may be made through payroll deduction or a one-time gift online.
Keep an eye on your inbox for door prizes for campaign participants.

Thank you so much to those of you who have already participated. Your gift truly makes a difference. Your support expands study abroad and hands-on learning opportunities for students, retains our top faculty through faculty support funds, and encourages alumni and friends to give back, because you give back.

Plateau AgResearch Center Studies Aim to Make Produce Safer


Consumers want safer produce, and so do the farmers who grow it. Fresh fruits and vegetables are vulnerable to food-borne bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella during production.

Research underway at the Institute’s Plateau AgResearch and Education Center in Crossville is evaluating the effectiveness of different disinfectant methods used for irrigation water before it is applied to crops. A multidisciplinary team is beginning its second year of research and, thus far, its treatment strategies are looking very promising.

The team expects to have recommendations for fruit and vegetable growers that will effectively lessen the risk of produce contamination, which is good news for all consumers. To learn more, plan on coming to the Institute’s annual Steak and Potatoes Field Day at the Center on August 4, where findings will be presented.

Pictured is Food Science and Technology PhD student Laurel Gann who is contributing to this research as part of her dissertation. Gann is shown harvesting strawberries that were irrigated with one of the disinfection technologies to make sure there were not any differences in yield and quality.


The UTIA Junior Bull Test Sale will take place March 12 at the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Spring Hill. The sale will feature mostly Angus bulls, but will also include some Hereford, Gelbvieh, and Simmental. The sale catalog is available online. A video catalog will be coming soon!


The College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2017 is hosting a fun dog show, “Bark in the Brehm,” at the college on February 22. The family-friendly event is both a fundraiser and educational event aimed at exposing the community to all avenues of the dog world. Agility, K9 nose work, K9 bomb and narcotic dogs, best dog tricks, doggie dash, best kissers, etc., are all in store. More ...


On Saturday, February 21, the College of Veterinary Medicine will host “Knowing Your Horse Inside and Out.” The conference is designed for those who have owned horses for years and newcomers to the equine world. It covers everything from dentistry and maintaining healthy feet to pasture management and behavior. More ...

February is Student Engagement and Philanthropy Month

The Institute of Agriculture's impacts are much more powerful because of individual financial support, and that is why we are devoting the month of February to highlighting the role of donors.

Our College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources students and College of Veterinary Medicine students have agreed to help us say thank you. We have been sharing stories all month of how students are influenced by the generosity of donors. Be sure to check them out here as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Please take the time to learn about our students and hear why they are thankful for our donors.

Videos are on YouTube here and here.

Institute Leads Multi-state Investigation of Bioplastic Mulches

Growers throughout the nation are preparing for spring, but many of them—especially those who raise tomatoes, strawberries, and pumpkins—struggle with the problem of disposing of the plastic mulches they use to produce their crops. So they often pile them on their property or illegally burn them.

A new $1.9 million USDA grant involving the Institute, Washington State University, and Montana State University will research the problem and potential solutions beginning with this growing season. More ...

Steckel Named Outstanding Extension Scientist

The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has honored UTIA’s Larry Steckel with the 2015 Outstanding Extension Award. The award was presented at the WSSA annual meeting in Lexington, Kentucky, last Monday.

Steckel maintains an extensive applied research program on weed management in agronomic crops. He also evaluates the effectiveness of novel integrated weed management technologies in Tennessee row crops. Steckel was one of two dozen individuals honored for their contributions to the field of weed science during the special ceremony. More ...

UTIA’ers Wear Red for Heart Disease Awareness


This National Wear Red Day, a movement designed to raise awareness and support the fight against heart disease in women, has special meaning for those who know Selene Moser, one of the UT Veterinary Medical Center’s Client Service schedulers.

Last week, Moser traveled to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio for her second open heart surgery in two years. Surgeons replaced her tricuspid valve. In honor and support of Moser (she’s probably called you “honey” or “sweetie” if your paths have crossed), CVM’s Big Orange Family on the UTIA campus donned red. Moser hopes to raise awareness of heart disease in women and men. Also on National Wear Red Day, held February 6, Institute employees gathered for photos in Morgan Hall and at UT Extension Dickson County, posting images on social media in support of the cause.

In Memoriam

Bob Reynolds, 86, retired assistant superintendent, East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. Reynolds excelled at livestock management and data collection and analysis for livestock research projects. Prior to that appointment, he was assistant superintendent at the UT-Atomic Energy Commission Agricultural Research Laboratory in Oak Ridge, which AgResearch operated from 1948 to 1981. Reynolds served the Institute for 43 years. (Name links to obituary.)

Learn More about Animal-Assisted Therapy in Knoxville, Tri-Cities

A free informational meeting for people interested in learning more about volunteering with Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT) is planned for Saturday, February 28, at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Registration starts at 12:30 p.m. with the program taking place from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in room A118. A meeting for potential volunteers in the Tri-Cities area will be held March 26 in Johnson City.

HABIT is a nonprofit group of volunteers working together to promote the bond between people and animals. HABIT sponsors animal-assisted therapy programs for all ages in a variety of settings such as nursing and retirement homes, assisted living centers, hospitals, physical rehabilitation centers, and area schools.

Last Week’s Cotton Focus Looks Ahead to 2015 Crop

UTIA's 2015 Cotton Focus drew a large crowd in Jackson last Thursday. The annual event included presentations by specialists from UTIA, Mississippi State University, and the National Cotton Council on a variety of crop management topics including cotton variety selection, weed and pest management, and the use of unmanned aerial systems. If you were unable to attend, you can access the presentations online.

College Dream Comes True

Cathy Potter, administrative assistant for UT Extension Fentress County, marked a very special milestone in December. She walked across the stage at UT Martin to receive her bachelor’s degree in management, a degree she worked toward for six years using fee waivers, a benefit many Institute employees use to pursue their dreams of college degrees.

Potter is married and has four sons and ten grandchildren. “I put school first many times, but sometimes you have to do that to make your dream come true. All my struggles to get through are worth it, but, yes, when I look back on that time, I wonder how I actually did it.” Taking one class at a time, though, made it all very manageable, she adds.

Potter says her father, Ed Cottrell, was so proud of her for going back to finish her degree. He didn’t live to see her graduate, though. So, with him in her thoughts, she took her favorite photo to commencement. She’s shown here with her mother Marie Cottrell of Jamestown.




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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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