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Common Ground

UTIA held New Employee Orientation last Thursday, and we were pleased to have close to fifty new employees participate. It is exciting to see the quality and enthusiasm of our new team members. Welcome aboard!

UT Day on the Hill took place February 17 at the Capitol Plaza in Nashville. The Institute was well represented by our students and staff. The All Vol Cheese samples that were available in our display booth were very popular with the legislators and other attendees. Thanks to Vice Chancellor Lisa Stearns and our Marketing and Communications team for their leadership in representing UTIA at this event.

Ag Day on the Hill, another important event at the state's capitol, takes place next Monday and Tuesday. AgResearch Assistant Director John Hodges has provided leadership for UTIA on this project. Information about UTIA, TN Magic Moments, and many of our agricultural producer partners across the state will be on display for legislators and the public.

Also, next week, some 450 4-H'ers from across the state will gather in Murfreesboro for the State 4-H Congress. The highlight will be the Citizenship Banquet on Tuesday evening. The theme for this year is "Breaking Barriers and Building Leaders."

UTIA was well represented at the meeting of the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists in San Antonio. Congratulations are in order for CASNR graduate students Sierra Lockwood and Kaysie Jennings, who made presentations at the Southern Section of Animal Science. I saw each there and am very proud of the outstanding impression they made. Sierra placed first in the PhD graduate student competition. She presented data related to her bull disposition research at the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. Sierra is currently working on her PhD with professor Hank Kattesh and assistant professor Justin Rhinehart. She was also recently elected to serve as the incoming graduate student representative on the ASAS-SS Executive Board. Thanks to Kattesh and Rhinehart's nomination, she had the opportunity to attend the ASAS-SS Executive Board meeting. Kaysie also presented data on her fescue studies in the master's student competition at SSAS. She represented the department well in her presentation. She will complete her MS this summer with associate professor Cheryl Kojima and then move to Colorado State to complete her PhD.

I hope you will join me in thanking Izetta Slade for her service as human resources officer for UTIA. Izetta is leaving us to serve as associate director in the Office of Equity and Diversity. Thank you, Izetta, for your excellent service.

I am pleased to announce that Whitney Fair, AgResearch human resources coordinator, has agreed to serve as interim human resources officer for UTIA, effective March 21. Thank you, Whitney, for assuming this role.

The General Assembly continues in session. Several bills have been introduced that relate to UT. We are monitoring these closely. This budget provides some increased support for UTIA, but no salary funds. We are working hard on this issue.

Spring is almost here!


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


Beefing Up the Rural Economy

Beef cattle can be found on about half of Tennessee's 68,000 farms. Historically, Tennessee's cattle production has focused on forage-based cow-calf operations where calves are sold and transported out of the state to be finished. Today, however, producers are finding profit in finishing, harvesting, and direct marketing their beef to consumers.

Learn how UT Extension specialists are assisting these producers and helping others expand into these areas through the Tennessee Value-Added Beef Program in a column by Extension Associate Dean Robert Burns. More ...


No Fooling

New Biosystems and Soil Sci Head Arrives on April 1
Drumm returns to teaching & research after eight years at helm

The new head of the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science plans to take up the reins on April 1. UTIA welcomes Julie Carrier from the University of Arkansas where she served as a professor in the College of Engineering Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, with research interests that include biofuels and biochemical production from cellulosic biomass. As Carrier arrives, Eric Drumm looks forward to a return to teaching and research.
More ...


UTIA and Genera Energy Harvest Hybrid Poplars
Woody biomass research aims to advance bioeconomy



A beef cattle research unit may seem an unlikely site for a bioenergy study, but that's just what's been taking place at the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center–Blount Unit. Ten acres of fast-growing hybrid poplars planted there four years ago had grown into towering 30-foot trees, but in February the stand was harvested as part of a biomass production study being conducted by the UTIA Center for Renewable Carbon to help scientists progress further down the path toward a viable bioeconomy.

The harvest is part of a five-year $15 million multidisciplinary research and development effort funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reduce barriers to the development of the Southeastern bioeconomy. The Center for Renewable Carbon leads the effort. Pictured above is CRC director Tim Rials with research assistant Jessica McCord examining the trunk of a freshly cut poplar. More ...


UTIA Home to Three President's Award Finalists

In February, UT President Joe DiPietro presented the inaugural President's Awards to three individuals chosen from across the UT system. The President's Awards are the highest honors presented by the University to employees. The recognition is for outstanding contributions of staff and faculty toward fulfillment of the University's mission of education, research, and outreach.

We are very proud that three members of the Institute were recognized as finalists for these distinguished awards. They are Elizabeth Strand of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Timothy Rials of the Center for Renewable Carbon, and Larry Moorehead of UT Extension. Read their citations.


Say "Cheese" At UT Day on the Hill



Thanks to AgResearch's new initiative called AgInnovations, legislators and visitors to the Legislative Plaza got a taste of a new product called "All Vol Cheese." Even UT President Joe DiPietro stopped by the UTIA table during UT Day on the Hill in Nashville to talk with graduate student Thomas Frederick about the cheese—and to sample, of course. With four flavors to choose from, everyone walked away impressed with this collaboration between AgResearch, Food Science and Technology students, and Sweetwater Valley Cheese.

Dr. D. was just one of many who stopped by to learn about the Institute during the annual event. UT Day on the Hill and next week's Ag Day on the Hill are opportunities for UT leaders and students to talk with representatives and their aides and share information on University programs and initiatives.


Department Stories

Get to Know the Department of Animal Science

This issue of Common Ground begins a new feature called "Department Stories." This will be a series of articles, written by department heads, that profile our units. This month it's Animal Science by Neal Schrick. Here, in his words, is what you'll find on a visit to the Department of Animal Science.

"Animal Science"—Most of our clientele (students, producers, industry) focus on the first word, "Animal," and pass over the second word, "Science." However, science is what we are about in the Department of Animal Science. Our faculty in research, Extension, and teaching are all top scientists in their area of specialty. They are either top in their area of Extension programming, experiential teaching in the classroom and labs, or experimental research and methodology—the three big E's as described to me years ago as a beginning graduate student. More ...


4-H'ers Prepare for Sixty-Ninth Congress

Next week when youth gather in Murfreesboro for Tennessee 4-H Congress, it will be the sixty-ninth year for the program. Richard Clark, assistant dean and department head for 4-H/Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications, says it's easy to explain why the learning that Congress offers is so important to 4-H'ers and holds special relevance this year:


"This is a national presidential election year and our 4-H teens are becoming aware of the importance of the political process in the life of our nation. While most will not vote in this election, they will in the next presidential cycle. Tennessee 4-H Congress provides the opportunity for 450 teens from all over the state to become legislators for a day as they form a state 4-H Congress. They will have the opportunity to debate and vote on youth-oriented bills, learn about government, and compete for college scholarships in the areas of leadership and citizenship. This hands-on experience truly prepares them to be our nation's future leaders." Visit the 4-H Congress website.


CASNR Adds Two Int'l Courses & Revises Minor



With revisions to the International Agriculture and Natural Resources minor, now all CASNR students who have an international experience in agriculture and natural resources or attain proficiency in a language should be able to achieve the minor with careful planning of general education and CASNR major courses. The minor's changes will go into effect for the 2016-2017 Undergraduate Catalog. The revisions are the result of work by faculty and students across the past two years.

In addition, the College has announced two new courses to advance international education for its students:

AGNR 180: Global Dynamics: Food, Biodiversity, and the Environment (3 credits, T R 11:10-12:25). Instructed by Adam Willcox and Tom Gill. The course introduces global agriculture and natural resources issues and will draw examples heavily from developing countries. This course fulfills a requirement for the Minor in International Agriculture and Natural Resources.

AGNR 480: How to Feed the World (3 credits, T R 3:40-4:55). Instructed by John Stier. This course will explore the critical development question of the 21st century: How Do We Feed the World? In-depth case studies will explore topics of shared student and faculty interest and may include the rise of agriculture, gender, and race; mechanization and farm footprints; use of international development funds; agricultural education and sustainability; and climate change. This course serves as one of the capstones for the Minor in International Agriculture and Natural Resources.

For more information, contact Adam Willcox at awillcox@utk.edu.


It's Extension Month in Tennessee

March is Extension Month in Tennessee! Established in 2015 by a proclamation from the Tennessee General Assembly, Extension Month celebrates the educational outreach, service, and economic impact achieved by Extension across the state.

During the month of March, county Extension offices have planned events to increase the visibility of Extension by showcasing educational programs, services, and information that Extension provides through more than 4.3 million direct contacts with Tennesseans annually.

Read more about the month's observance and Extension's impacts in Tennessee in a column by Shirley Hastings, director of Strategic Planning and associate dean emeritus, Family and Consumer Sciences.


A Site to See



If you haven't visited the UTIA Marketing and Communications site lately, it's a good time to drop by. This evolving resource continues to feature new materials. In the latest refresh, you can learn more about the team, the department itself, and some recent accomplishments.
More ...


The New UTIA Magazine Is Coming Soon!

Get ready to see a new look for our UTIA magazine, Tennessee Land, Life & Science! Its fresh new design is very reflective of the work being done at UTIA—forward thinking, exciting, and relevant. The spring issue cover story explores the creation of and future planning for the new Lone Oaks 4-H Camp and Conference Center in West Tennessee. Also included is an in-depth exploration of how UTIA's impacts and accomplishments on behalf of our communities in Tennessee and beyond are making a difference in people's lives.

Whether it's faculty, staff, or our students past and present, our magazine celebrates the stories of UTIA and shares them with alumni, donors, as well as you. Look for the issue to arrive soon!




It's been said you don't need to be inside four walls to learn. Any place can be a classroom. That's the training CASNR students often receive—in barns, fields, and outdoor laboratories. Here's how hands-on training prepares students to make future impacts.
More ...


Teams to Vie for $25K in Tenn Venture Challenge

UT-affiliated startup companies are preparing to pitch their business models to a panel of seasoned investors for a chance to win up to $25,000 in the UT Research Foundation-sponsored Tennessee Venture Challenge.

The competition takes place from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, April 6, at The Foundry in Knoxville. The award money will help the winning company help kick-start the process of commercializing their idea. Additionally, those attending will choose—via live text voting—a crowd favorite who will win a $5,000 cash prize!

In 2014, Plant Sciences Distinguished Professor John Sorochan, representing the proposed commercial company, QuickSod, swept both the $25,000 prize and the crowd favorite award. Read about that here.

Register to attend this year's competition at tinyurl.com/2016-TVC-Finale.




Have a program to advance your teaching or research program, or even your administrative office? Know a student with an idea for a project or trip that can advance his or her education, but needs extra cash to make it happen? UT has a crowdfunding program that may be able to give an assist.

VOLstarter makes it easy to follow, connect with, and support the most innovative and inspiring projects at the University. If you have that innovative idea or project, start a project today, and experience the power of crowdfunding. While you are there, support others' projects at any level, knowing that your money will go directly to fund the projects that are most important to you! Learn about VOLstarter crowdfunding.


I AM UTIA—
In Knoxville, Meet Dennis Deyton
Professor, Department of Plant Sciences



What do you do as professor?

My appointment in the Plant Sciences Department is 20 percent teaching and 80 percent research. I have previously taught undergraduate- and graduate-level crop physiology courses, and an undergraduate fruit crop production course at UT. I now teach a senior-level Fruit and Vegetable Crop Production course each fall semester and coteach a general education course titled World Food and Fiber Crop each spring semester.

My educational background is in horticulture with an emphasis on fruit and vegetable crops. I grew up on a farm in the Appalachian Mountains located between Asheville and Boone, North Carolina. My father assigned me the responsibility of growing a tomato crop when I was a freshman in high school. The efforts continued through my junior year of college and paid the major portion of my college expenses. It also led to receiving a horticultural scholarship offer and my choosing horticulture as my college major.

My research has centered on cultural practices that I hoped would benefit producers directly. The research projects have mostly been on fruit crops, though some have branched out to include tomatoes and nursery crops. My longest-occurring and largest project that I was a coleader (along with Dr. Carl Sams) on was a multistate project that led to the development and adoption of emulsified soybean oil for bloom delay of fruit crops and as insecticide sprays. My current research emphasis is developing a system of growing strawberries in protected culture with the use of biocontrols.

How long have you been with UTIA?

I have been on the faculty in UTIA for thirty-six years. I had previously worked for three years as a horticultural extension agent in Durham County, North Carolina, before returning to NCSU for my PhD studies.

What is the best part of your job?

The opportunities it has provided. My job allows me to be associated with people at UT who I enjoy and respect. It allows me to interact with growers, a group that I greatly respect and have secretly wished to return to as a member. It provides the opportunity to continue learning (something a farm boy from the mountains still enjoys doing). Certainly, one of the most rewarding aspects is interacting with students.

Other thoughts?

The loss of a number of trained personnel in fruit and vegetable crops in the U.S. is troubling. Numerous faculty were hired at many universities to work on fruit and vegetable production during the era I was hired. Many have recently retired or will do so in the near future. Many were trained in crop physiology to enable them to improve or solve crop production problems. Very few graduate students have been trained in applied and/or physiology-based research of fruits and vegetables during the last one to two decades. There is a shortage of trained students to hire into those vacating positions and now a shortage of experienced faculty to train them.


Explore Veterinary Medicine on April 23

Have you ever wanted a behind-the-scenes look at veterinary medicine? Then April 23 is your lucky day! Every year students in the UT College of Veterinary Medicine host an Open House. This year's occurs Saturday, April 23, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The family-friendly event is free and open to the public.


On tap will be a teddy bear clinic (children can bring a stuffed animal for a checkup), a canine parade of breeds, an equine parade of breeds, farm animal breeds, information about wildlife and exotic animals, learning about physical rehabilitation for large and small animals, community organizations, and much more. Students have worked to answer many of the frequently asked questions and additional information is available here.


Meditation & Yoga on Ag Campus



A meditation group has formed on the Knoxville agricultural campus, and yoga classes are also available to UTIA faculty, staff, and students. The two offer a pause and chance to de-stress on a busy day. Each group emerged from a collaboration of the College of Veterinary Medicine's Wellness and Health Organization (WHO) and Pendergrass Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Library. WHO is part of the College's overall wellness initiative.

"Students, faculty, and staff all struggle with having too much to do and too little time," says Caroline Zeglen, assistant librarian with Pendergrass Library. "In the never-ending race to get things done, we often forget to pause, be still, and breathe. The mindfulness and meditation and yoga groups help everyone on the agriculture campus to carve out a little time during the week to rest and recharge. My favorite thing about the groups are the communities—there's something about coming together that creates a special energy." Learn more about the meditation and yoga classes.


In Memoriam

Name links to obituary.

Dr. Robert Michel, 91, founding member of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Michel was a valued professor and former head of the Department of Pathology who helped establish the College's academic and teaching hospital philosophies. He retired as professor emeritus in 1989.


HABIT Invites Everyone to Its Major Fundraiser



The many volunteers of HABIT hope everyone will join them on March 29 at the Knoxville Museum of Art for their major fundraiser, "An Evening of Barbeque and Bidding." The event is sponsored by WATE, Swofford Financial, Geneos Wealth Management, Dead End BBQ, and the UT College of Veterinary Medicine.

Throughout the year, and throughout communities across East Tennessee, HABIT volunteers and their service animals brighten the lives of the homebound, children, troubled youth, the elderly, and many more through this veterinary outreach program. The fundraiser includes a pre-event tour of the museum and silent auctions. Learn more ...


Alum Builds Opryland Gardens—Twice



If you've visited the awe-inspiring 70,000-square-foot indoor tropical garden at The Opryland Hotel, you've entered a masterpiece of ornamental horticulture. And it's due to the work of CASNR alum Hollis Malone. He became chief landscaper at Opryland Theme Park in 1970 and took on the massive gardening challenge at the hotel twice during his long career. The Institute celebrated his achievements in 2004 with the Gamma Sigma Delta Award for Outstanding Alumnus. Learn about his handiwork at Opryland.


A Farmers Market Success

On March 1, the Farmers Market at River Park in Centerville, Hickman County, received the Community and Agricultural Development Award from the Tennessee Rural Development Committee.

The award crowns an incredible turnaround for a market that once struggled for its existence and celebrates its progress since 2007 in boosting farm income, improving the environment, promoting economic development, conserving natural resources, and improving facilities and services. UT Extension Hickman County was critical to that turnaround.

Teamwork involving UT Extension Hickman County, the Hickman County Health Department, and several people and groups working with local vendors, along with continuing promotion of the market began to make good things happen for the market. These efforts led to growth in the number of paid vendors from six in 2010 to twenty-six in 2015.

"We're excited about the impacts this market has had, both on income for area farmers and, through fresh, nutritious produce, in benefiting the health of many people in our community," says Troy Dugger, Hickman County Extension director. More ...



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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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