Ag research funds appropriated to University

By David Valdes

The U.S. House of Representatives granted more than $3.7 million dollars to the University for agriculture and food science research.

The funding is intended to aid four research initiatives: the Future Foods Initiative, the Illinois-Missouri Biotechnology Alliance, the Livestock Genome Sequencing and the Soybean Disease Biotechnology Center, according to U.S. Rep. Timothy V. Johnson, (R-Ill.) in an Oct. 31 press release.

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Bob Easter, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, said the funding would help the University’s research efforts.

“As a college, as we do our research, we are concerned with societal needs,” Easter said. “We attempt to find ways to respond to those needs.”

These needs include plant disease and producing soybeans for countries affected by HIV and AIDS, he said.

Easter said the process of obtaining funding requires approval by the University and state government.

“We develop proposals about how we may go about addressing these problems,” he said.

The proposals are dealt with by the University and then by state legislators, who decide whether or not to grant funding. Of the four main research initiatives, the most recent is intended to help those in countries struggling with HIV and AIDS, Easter said.

“It’s important that the person being treated has adequate nutrition and understanding of his nutritional needs,” he said. “In this case, there’s a significant need for soybeans.”

Easter said he hopes to benefit those in need and produce fiscally successful results for the University.

“At the end of the day, we hope to return dollars to the citizens who invest in our research,” he said.

Steve Pueppke, associate dean of research in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, said the funding opened doors for the University.

“We have some resources to do some research now, that we otherwise couldn’t do,” Pueppke said.

Pueppke also said the money will help forge bonds between the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, and other colleges.

“Some of the funding will allow us to develop partnerships between faculty in the college of ACES and faculty in other colleges,” he said.

Pueppke said the Soybean Disease Biotechnology Center’s grant would allow the center to do more intense and comprehensive research.

“The idea is to use biotechnology and nanotechnology to reduce plant disease,” he said. “There are some scientific problems that can be addressed by this technology, we’ll be able to use that otherwise couldn’t have been.”

Pueppke said the other research projects would deal with food nutrition.

“Can we make foods that go beyond just providing sustenance and actually promote health and wellness?” he said, expressing excitement about future research ideas.

Another project, the Livestock Genome Sequencing, will also deal with food and nutrition.

“The idea here is to get the genome sequence of these livestock and extract information which will allow us to do everything from control animal diseases to create animals that are more efficient as food-animals,” he said.

Pueppke said there are many different opportunities for research that can be explored.

Sofia Torres, president of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related sciences, said she was happy to hear about the funding awarded to the University.

“I think it’s really good, but I think there has to be more awareness,” she said.

Torres had her own wishes for how the funding should be spent.

“My hope is that some of the money is used to educate people about the importance of sustaining good agriculture,” she said.