Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine and Natural Resources News from Iowa State University

March 26th, 2002


An Iowa State University plant pathology professor has discovered a way to make the effects of pathogens on host crop plants a bit easier to understand. Roger Wise is a USDA research geneticist affiliated with Iowa State's Plant Sciences Institute. Wise's research focuses on the mechanisms of resistance to fungal pathogens of cereal crops (barley, corn, oats, etc.), particularly oat crown rust. Fungal diseases are one of the greatest problems in cereal grain production. Wise and graduate student Gong-Xin Yu examined the mechanism of resistance to oat crown rust. They discovered two new oat genes that regulate hypersensitive cell death—a significant key of disease defense in oats. The discovery of these new genes reveals that hypersensitive cell death is not necessary for crown rust resistance. Wise said this research will help scientists understand how disease defense mechanisms work in plants. When this response in plants is understood, it could result in an overall increase in yield through the development of pathogen-resistant varieties. The research was funded by a grant from the USDA-National Research Initiative. Contact Wise, (515) 294-9756; or Bridget Bailey, News Service, (515) 294-6881.


The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University offers its perspective on the current discussion in Washington, D.C., surrounding upcoming farm legislation. In a paper that outlines three approaches in the discussion, associate director Mike Duffy and director Fred Kirschenmann say the choices made could affect Iowa agriculture for years to come. "We think the current approach of putting all our resources into producing cheap, bulk commodities while keeping alive the fiction of supporting 'family' farms is the worst of the three options. It is cruel and it gives farmers false hope. It leads them to believe that if they just hang in there a little longer, things will get better," Duffy and Kirschenmann write. "[Another] approach would be to decide that we want more than just cheap, bulk commodities from agriculture. Instead of expecting only food, feed and fiber from farming, we could broaden our expectations. Farming could be called upon to help create energy, medicines and industrial products. Most importantly, farming could be thought of as providing a service, not just a product." The paper is on the Web at Contact Duffy, (515) 294-6160; Kirschenmann, (515) 294-3711; or Laura Miller, Leopold Center communications, (515) 294-5272.


In 1996, Congress significantly transformed the U.S. welfare system, converting it from a cash-benefit entitlement program to a state block grant program with time-limited assistance in exchange for work or work preparation. How have Iowans in need fared since the enactment of the reforms? In 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service funded four state studies, including one in Iowa, to help evaluate the new welfare program's effectiveness in moving people toward economic self-sufficiency. Iowa State University researchers at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) and The Statistical Laboratory surveyed a sample of 1997 Food Stamp Program participants still living in Iowa. As was the case nationally, Iowa experienced sharp decreases in Food Stamp Program enrollment following the welfare reforms of 1996. The study found that less than one-half of the 1997 participants surveyed were still enrolled in the Food Stamp Program in 1999. However, other measures of well-being indicated the families in the study continue to struggle. Private assistance is commonly combined with public assistance and earnings to meet basic needs. One-quarter of the families in the survey said they experienced hunger in the year before the interview. Results for the other states, Arizona, Illinois and South Carolina, were similar to those for Iowa. Contact Helen Jensen, CARD, (515) 294-6253 before April 5 or after May 1; or Sandra Clarke, CARD Communications, (515) 294-6257.


George Beran is looking for a rumen magnet. He has plenty of catchers and notchers and tongs. And more than a few hooks and scopes. There's even a nose twitch and a mouth gag. Yet among the 2,000 artifacts and books donated to the Iowa State College of Veterinary Medicine's new heritage room, there was no rumen magnet. Beran, a distinguished professor emeritus, is the catalyst-caretaker for the R. Allen Packer Heritage Room, which chronicles the everyday efforts and extraordinary achievements of veterinarians in Iowa. The museum and center for veterinary historical research opened last fall in the college. Obsolete instruments and medicines are displayed. Hundreds of books dating back to the 1820s record the history of diagnosis and control, and in many cases, eradication of specific animal diseases. Among the most unusual and valuable collections is the hog cholera exhibit. Syringes, vials and photos tell the story of the conquest of hog cholera and the important role played by ISU veterinarians. Beran still seeks a rumen magnet, a Shikles Bag, vaccines from the early 1900s, photographs of veterinarians at work and selected books. People interesting in donating should first contact Beran with a list of their items: George Beran, 2134 Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011-1250; or e-mail to Contact Beran, (515) 294-7630 or (515) 232-2790; or Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778. Downloadable print-quality photos of Beran and items in the museum are at


The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State is hosting a program, "From Farm to Fork: A Forum on Locally Grown Foods at University Campuses," on April 4. It will feature Nadeem Siddiqui, director of the award-winning Cornell University Dining Services in Ithaca, N.Y., that purchases one-third of its food from in-state farmers and processors. Information about local food-buying projects at the University of Northern Iowa and ISU's tearoom and Scheman Building will be presented and an ISU faculty-student panel will discuss using local food on campus. The forum will be April 4, 1:30-3:30 p.m., in the Joan Bice Underwood Tearoom, 23 MacKay Hall, ISU. Siddiqui was assistant director of the dining service at Grinnell College from 1991 to 1994. An informal discussion will be 9:30-11 a.m., 0331 Palmer Building. Contact Rich Pirog, Leopold Center, (515) 294-1854, or Laura Miller, Leopold Center Communications, (515) 294-5272.