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2 S A E S M a g a z i n e How exciting it is to have this ongoing opportunity to showcase the dedicated, hard working faculty of our five departments:
Community Planning and Urban Studies
Family and Consumer Sciences
Food and Animal Sciences
Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
. This second issue of the resolution of 21 st
further provides evidence of the School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences’ continued efforts to fulfill the land-grant mission of teaching, research and public service. In this current publication, I am most privileged to support and present to our students, stakeholders and society in general, the demonstration of our role in reshaping agriculture and related sciences, and in the Century challenges. As you take a mental journey through these pages, clearly depicted will be student training, coupled with a plethora of cutting-edge, timely 21 research with you. st century research, delivered in dynamic fashion. We thank you for letting us share our passion for life, living and
SAES Dean Welcome to our second issue of the School of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences’ (SAES) magazine. In this issue we have featured ongoing research programs of our various departments. These research endeavors reflect our commitment to improving the quality of lives in Alabama’s communities and impacting our nation and society on a larger scale. Linking science, technology, engineering and mathematic - “STEM” disciplines to agricultural sciences is timely, and enables us to pursue cutting-edge research in soil metagenomics, nanoscience, plant genomes, forest biotechnology, and animal biotechnology.
Furthermore, SAES is taking on an international presence to strengthen Alabama A&M University’s ability to develop globally competent students and faculty in research and education. Through our ongoing international endeavors, we aim to enhance courses with international contexts, to prepare and mentor students for international opportu nities in forestry, agricultural and environmental sciences; as well as to add new dimen sions to the scientific research and teaching capabilities of our faculty, via exposures to international resources and technologies.
We are certain you will enjoy learning about our featured research activities, engage with our scientists and students, and share your thoughts or ideas for future issues. Finally, we would like to express our warmest appreciation for your unwavering commitment to our programs.
SAES Research Director
As the School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences progresses and remains committed to its focus of research, education and outreach, the
toward resolution in the field of agriculture and environmental sciences. is also given to providing you, the reader with current issues, as well as our contributions We are determined to present the latest research and showcase the research efforts, programs and accomplishments of the School. Under the leadership of very capable scientists, academicians and committed staff, we are proud to share our successes with you. Please continue to support and enjoy this bi-annual publication.
SAES Public and Media Relations Coordinator SAES
18 S A E S M a g a z i n e 3
T he SAES Department of Agribusiness is involved in Rural Economic Development Research, led by Dr. James O. Bukenya, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics. This research is guided by the realization that natural resource policy and rural development policy need to be linked, if either is to provide a basis for sustainable development. The current
Rural Economic Development Research
projects spearheaded by Dr. Bukenya include:
Promoting Value-Added Enterprises among Small- & Medium-Sized Farms In Alabama:
The goal of the project is to examine the emerging markets from the perspective of consumers and end-users, as well as assessing how local groups of farmers and other economic development practitioners can facilitate the marketing and/or processing of high value agricultural products.
4 S A E S M a g a z i n e
Entrepreneurship and Local Economic Development: An
Education Program for Disadvantaged Communities
: The goal of this project is to expand the state’s entre preneurial base by promoting conditions necessary for the provision and growth of microenterprise businesses in Alabama. It will focus on the poor and marginalized groups, using entrepreneurship as a tool in building their capacity to take control of their lives.
Exploring the linkages between small farms and rural
: also changed? This research explores the economic linkage between small farms and neighboring communities. This linkage often serves as the explicit or implicit rationale for policies that support farm incomes. Over time, however, the size, structure, geographical concentration, and business models of farms have changed, which begs the question: has the size of the farm-community economic linkage
The role of natural amenities in rural economic devel opment
ment. : This research contributes to the ongoing debate about amenity-driven rural development strategies by examining the role of location/geog raphy. While some insights have been gained from previous research, most of this research has ignored the role of space in regional economic develop These projects are being carried out through the involve ment of both undergraduate and graduate students who are participating in different forms of experiential training and data collection in both field work and outreach services. This, in turn, gives the students experience in identifying and analyzing real world prob lems faced by today’s farmers and local leaders in rural communities. This research will increase community involvement and provide a better understanding of the key role agriculture plays in its overall development. This will open the door for more research in the future that will focus on helping rural and disadvantaged communities.
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D r. Jacob Oluwoye, one of many professors of the SAES, is taking the lead in the Transportation and the Built Environment research project. The purpose of the project is to solve two important questions: First, what are the factors that influence the volume of traffic in Madison County? And second, can the volume of traffic be predicted from factors that affect a driving trip’s generation rate? In addition, this research will examine the socio-economics of why more traffic is on the road and what influ ences traffic congestion. This research also seeks to develop a predictive model of traffic flow throughout the Madison area road networks.
Dr. Oluwoye, with the loyal help of his students, is carrying out this project by collecting secondary census data from the year 2000 as a model to follow. This research reflects the SAES in a positive light, for we have been recognized by the International Journal of Technology and Knowledge Society.
As the population continues to increase, the volume of traffic will continue to increase as well. Due to this fact, the goal of this research is to bring ease of travel time to the community.
6 S A E S M a g a z i n e
In addition to Transportation and Built Environment, Dr. Oluwoye, is also taking the lead in the Transportation and Environmental Health/current Evans-Allen Research. This research focuses on alternative housing for the non metropolitan population. Its purpose is to examine the housing alternatives that will be useful in developing energy-efficient housing.
Students of the SAES assist in the conducting of surveys with non-metropolitan households and collecting infor mation, such as their likes and dislikes about the variety of housing alternatives that are offered in the area. This research will promote the SAES as an expert in energy-efficient housing alternatives. Most recently, the Department of Community Planning and Urban Studies was recognized for previous research efforts for the piece, “A Conceptual Framework of Policy/Actions for Age as a Factor in Predicting Alternative Housing Needs among Non-Metropolitan Populations.” The outcome of this research will develop more innova tive solar and retro-fitted energy saving homes for the community. This will improve energy-efficiency costs for many households.
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Cynthia M. Smith
Research Mission: its elimination.
Newly proposed and pending research efforts for Family and Consumer Sciences will deal with topics to address the escalating issues surrounding the problem of obesity. This effort will establish a state and national signature initiative for the SAES. It will show that the School is responding to this national health risk and directing positive actions towards It is a well-known fact that the prevalence of overweight and obesity among the population in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent decades
Among the industrialized countries that have experienced obesity rate increases, the U.S. leads with more than 64 percent of adults being either overweight or obese (The Obesity Society, 2008). The health statistics for children are just as alarming. Today, one in three children are overweight or obese, putting them as well as their adult counterparts at risk for a number of potential health problems. According to research, overweight and obesity have been found to be signifi 8 S A E S M a g a z i n e
cantly associated with 1) diabetes; 2) high blood pres sure; 3) high cholesterol; 4) asthma; 5) arthritis; and 6) poor health. As such, obesity is the most common and costly nutritional disease in the U.S., and the second leading cause of preventable death. About 300,000 deaths annually have been attributed to poor diet and inactivity. It drains $100 billion from the U.S. economy each year.
Unfortunatley, despite all that is known regarding the negative consequences of overweight, obesity, poor/ improper nutrition, the situation is not improving, especially among African-Americans (The USDA/1890 Task /Force). Since the situation is steadily deterio rating, additional targeted research must be conducted, and new and creative interventions explored to address the problem.
Research Overview: pronged purpose to: To provide is designed to fulfill a three a holistic approach to the study and prevention/treatment of obesity, research in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences 1. Critically evaluate and enhance curricula offerings at AAMU to prepare Alabama’s educators to proactively address societal obesity issues.
2. Conduct interdisciplinary research to address obesity from a holistic perspective with consideration for physical, social/psychological and genetic factors.
3. Work cooperatively and collaboratively with the Urban and New Non-Traditional Programs of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at AAMU to implement activities leading to obesity prevention/treatment.
Pure and applied research efforts will be implemented which will focus on subjects of preschool age through adulthood. Efforts will include quasi experimental studies with teaching interventions, surveys, and indi vidual counseling with records of entry and long-term data for comparison/effectiveness purposes.
Student Involvement: The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences operates within the total mission of the University’s land-grant function of teaching, research, and service. More specifically, the main thrust of the Department’s program is preparing professionals to enhance the well-being of individuals, families and communities. Consequently, participation of students will be integral to the success of the program. Students will be involved in the preparation of materials, wellness analysis and counseling, data collection, data analysis, professional presentations and papers, etc.
Community Benefit: Through the activities of the Department in conjunction with Cooperative Extension, the University will be a viable, expense-free resource for individuals and families of the community in the treatment and prevention of obesity. Considering that African-Americans bear a disproportionate burden of obesity and obesity related illnesses and that AAMU is a historically will provide obesity within the community. a black institu tion, this holistic approach unique oppor tunity to address issues of The Future: The results of the initial efforts on the subject of obesity will be used to leverage for funding to develop a comprehensive Center of Excellence for Obesity Education, Outreach and Research, the first center of its kind at an 1890 institution. S A E S M a g a z i n e 9
10 S A E S M a g a z i n e Research Mission: The goal of research in the Nutritional Biochemistry/ Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention program is to understand mechanisms by which chemicals/compounds in foods may prevent cancer, and to use this information in the development of rational methods for cancer prevention. Cancer chemoprevention involves intervention with synthetic or naturally occurring chemicals to prevent, inhibit or reverse carcinogenesis in the program: or prevent the development of invasive cancer. There are three major research elements • Mechanisms and prevention of colon cancer • Molecular mechanisms of chemical carcinogenesis • Development of cancer chemopreventive agents/food products Research Overview: It is imperative that we conduct cutting-edge research in the area of nutrition, to improve the health and well-being of the popula tion. The long-term goal of our research program is to identify and develop interactions that inhibit carcinogenesis. Once these interventions are found through the use of pre-clinical and experimental animal models, initial clin ical exploration will be undertaken through Phase I/II trials. Those findings
will be confirmed and extended ultimately through definitive Phase III trials that pursue mechanism-based chemopreventive interventions. The core elements of our research are as follows: • Designs for evaluating phytochemical/ nutraceutical bioactivity/bioavailability • • • • • • Study of new insights into the role of phytochemicals Role of nutraceuticals in cell and tumor biology Study of nutrient-gene interactions and nutraceutical-gene interactions Designing functional foods/food products for health promotion Study of apoptotic mechanisms in cancer Targeting cancer bio markers (in animal models) using nutraceuticals and functional foods Numerous diet-derived agents are included among the >40 promising agents and agent combinations as chemopreventive agents nols, phytic acid, soy and lycopene. isoflavones, curcumin, that are being evaluated in the Nutritional Biochemistry labo ratory in the Department of Food and Animal Sciences for the colon, a major cancer target. A fraction of the foods evaluated include inulin, cranberries, peaches, grapes, nuts, green tea polyphe isothiocy anates, spices, herbs, sorrel, red palm oil, sulforaphane Student Involvement: The program is committed to educating undergraduate and graduate students in research principles and practices, and keeps them engaged and involved. Current and past students have been given national exposure and are expected to become recognized scientists. They complete research projects and present their findings in local, regional, national meetings. More than thirty-five students have conducted research in the laboratories since 2005, graduated with MS and PhD degrees, and are currently gainfully employed in government, industry or academia. Community Benefit: Heart disease and colon cancer are the 1 st and 2 nd leading causes of deaths in the United States, respectively. The use of phytochemicals /functional foods in the prevention of diseases, especially colon cancer, is very rewarding because millions of lives can be saved by proper nutrition education. Chemoprevention of tumorigenesis is expected to be one major strategy to decrease the death and suffering from cancer, particu larly colon. Diets and phytochemicals are the major resources of identifying chemopreventive agents against tumorigenesis. Research Recognition: treatment). The research breakthroughs in the use of functional foods/neutraceuticals have led to a better understanding of colon cancer (prevention and This research which, focuses on the use of prebi otics in colon cancer prevention and chemo therapy, has been groundbreaking. Based on the program’s research, the use of prebiotics (inulin) is now in the human clinical trial Phase III.
Research focusing on lycopene (pigment in tomatoes) has shown that consuming tomatoes can suppress genes related to colon cancer (first time).
Our program has increased the visibility of SAES through participation in national and international conferences, and by publishing our research findings in national and international peer reviewed journals.
continued S A E S M a g a z i n e 11
• • • • • •
In 2010, Graduate student researchers in AAMU’s Nutritional Biochemistry (Verghese, PI) Laboratory won 1 st , 2 nd and 4 th places against the major players such as Cornell University, Purdue University, Rutgers, North Carolina State, Ohio State University, University of Georgia and other institutions of higher education.
won 1 st , 2 nd and 4 th places (3 of the 4 awards)
In 2008, won two of the three awards (2nd and 3rd places). In 2007, three of the four awards presented—cap turing 1st, 3rd and 4th places. In 2006, won 4 of the 5 awards (1, 3, 4 and 5th places) In 2005, won the 1st and 3rd places (2 of the 3) in the same competition. Winning since 2001 Students/Advisees Recognitions • • • • • • Graduate Student won the
1 st place
at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Chicago, IL 2010 Graduate Student won the IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Chicago, IL 2010 Graduate Student won the 2010
2nd place 4 th place
at the National at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Chicago, IL Graduate Student won the STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2010 Graduate Student won the STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2010 Graduate Student won the University, April, 2010
2 3 1 st nd rd place place place
at the 4th at the 4th at the 4th STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M 12 S A E S M a g a z i n e • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Undergraduate Student won the
1 st place
at the 4th STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2010 Undergraduate Student won the 4th STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2010 Undergraduate Student won the University, April, 2010 Graduate Student won the
3 2 rd nd place place
at the at the 4th STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M 2009 Graduate Student won the 2009 Graduate Student won the 2009
Graduate Student won the
st th place
IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Anaheim, CA,
2nd place place
at the National at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Anaheim, CA, at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Anaheim, CA,
1 st place
at the 3 rd STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2009 Graduate Student won the
2 nd place
at the 3 rd STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2009 Graduate Student won the 3rd
at the 3 rd STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2009 Undergraduate Student won the 1
at the 3 rd STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2009 Undergraduate Student won the 3 rd
at the 3 rd STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April, 2009 Graduate Student won the Graduate Student won the
at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Chicago, 2008
3 rd place
at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Chicago, 2008 Graduate Student won the
1 st place
at the 2 nd STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April 11, 2008 Graduate Student won Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April 11, 2008
2 nd place
at the 2 nd STEM
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • Graduate Student won the Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April 11, 2008
3 rd place
2 undergraduate Students won the at the 2
STEM at the 2 nd STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, April 11, 2008 Graduate Student won the IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Chicago, IL July 2007 Graduate Student won the
1 st place
at the National 2007 Graduate Student won the 2007 Graduate Student won the
3rd place 4 th place
at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Chicago, IL July at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Chicago, IL July Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, March 30 th , 2007
1 st place
Two Graduate Students won at the 1 st STEM
2 nd place
at the 1 st STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, March 30 th , 2007 Graduate Student won the
3 rd place
at the 1 Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, March 30 th , 2007 Undergraduate Student won the 1
st STEM at the 1 st STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, March 30 th , 2007 Undergraduate Student won the 2 nd
at the 1 st STEM Day Poster Competition, Alabama A&M University, March 30 2006 th , 2007 Graduate Student won the IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Orlando, FL, June Graduate Student won the
1 st place
at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Orlando, FL, June 2006 Graduate Student won the IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Orlando, FL, June 2006 Graduate Student won the 2006
3 4 5 rd th th place place place
at the National at the National at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Orlando, FL, June • • • • • • • • • Graduate Student won the
2 nd place
at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, New Orleans, LA, July 16-20 LA, July 16-20 competition, th , 2005 Graduate Student won the IFT Graduate Paper Competition, New Orleans, th , 2005 Undergraduate student won
3 1 rd st
Undergraduate Student Awards
at the National at the National Association of Research Director’s Symposium paper
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
Atlanta, GA, April, 2006 Undergraduate student won the Symposium paper competition,
the National Association of Research Director’s
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health Undergraduate Student Awards
at , Atlanta, GA, April, 2006 Graduate Student Won IFT Paper Competition, Las Vegas, Nevada, July 2004 Undergraduate student won competition,
3 rd place 1 st
Undergraduate Student Awards
at the National
Association of Research Director’s Symposium paper
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
at the National Atlanta, GA, April, 2003 Undergraduate student won the Symposium paper competition,
3 rd place
at the National Association of Research Director’s
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health Undergraduate Student Awards
, Atlanta, GA, April, 2003 Graduate Student won the Association of Research Director’s Symposium paper competition,
Graduate Student Awards,
Graduate Student won the July 2001
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
Atlanta, GA, April, 2003
1 st place place
at the National at the National IFT Graduate Paper Competition, Anaheim, CA, S A E S M a g a z i n e 13
14 S A E S M a g a z i n e T he SAES Department of Food and Animal Sciences is involved in Food Safety & Microbiology Research, led by Dr. Partik Banerjee. The mission of this research is to reduce food-borne illnesses, (such as E-coli, listeria, salmonella, etc.) and to enhance the safety of the US food supply. This is done by providing helpful expertise in food safety to the federal government, food processors, scien tific organizations, and consumers. Meeting the growing demands of food safety in federal and state agencies is critical.
The research is being carried out through students who are involved in many projects that focus on techniques used to develop a platform to detect harmful pathogenic cells, disease causing microbes, and active toxins from food samples. This includes an extensive study of cell biology
and innovative cell-based biosensor technology, as well as finding ways to destroy pathogens from meat and produce using pulsed ultra-violet light and anti-micro bials from natural sources. Rigorous laboratory-based experiments are conducted, earning students skills in modern molecular and microbiology fields. The training that the students receive also gives them an extra edge in their professional development and their future careers. These research findings are published in high-impact scientific peer-reviewed journals and are recognized as high quality by scientific communities.
Since food safety is a public health concern, the research that is taking place will, for the community, reduce the number of food recalls and create highly skilled food safety professionals to cater to the community’s needs.
Research efforts will continue, in order to develop timely and better intervention processes in the food industry, and in understandings of rapid detection of disease causing organisms in our food supply. S A E S M a g a z i n e 15
Dr. Koffi Konan and Dr. Hortense Dodo
D r. Koffi Konan and Dr. Hortense Dodo are taking the lead in biotechnology research for the SAES Department of Food and Animal Sciences. Dr. Konan holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biotechnology and Generic Engineering, and Dr. Dodo holds a Ph.D. in Food Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. One aspect of their research is to enhance minority presence, participation and career development in the US and world economies, through educating and training students in the cutting-edge and fast-growing field of nano biotechnolgy. Other research topics include developing hypoallergenic peanut varieties to reduce food allergy risks, and to enhance the use of the root crop yam to help feed the world population.
Many students are heavily involved in all aspects of the research performed in the Food Biotechnology laboratory. This includes literature searches, hands-on training and performance in the lab. Each graduate student conducts a research project under the guidance of Dr. Konan and/or Dr. Dodo, who are the responsible faculty scientists for the prog ress of the projects. Not only do students gain knowledge, confidence, 16 S A E S M a g a z i n e
and experience as junior scientists, they also receive recognition through many newspaper articles, maga zine publications, online articles, and our University’s very own AAMU TV Show. Most recently, during the Department of Justice and USDA Poultry workshop hosted at Alabama A&M University, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made mention of some of the department’s research efforts and achievements toward future farming practices.
Tremendous positive impacts in the community are expected from the research projects conducted in food biotechnology laboratory. Reducing peanut allergy risks can save millions of adults and children who suffer from allergic reactions to the peanut. Food security can also be increased to sustain the growing world population and to enhance minority groups in the world economy. Future research is expected as the needs of the world’s population continue to increase.
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18 S A E S M a g a z i n e Research Overview: Our research program is to study microbial and community diversities in response to agronomic and forest management, as well as to inventory microbes involved in C, N, S, and P biogeo chemical cycling, their molecular phylogenetic profiles and biomass degrading enzymatic potentials involving C, N, S, and P mineralization and sequestration in plants and soils.
The research includes investigation of the soil microbial community using molecular, biochemical, and traditional techniques. Molecular tech niques involve DNA fingerprinting. Traditional approach is culturing various organisms in specific media; whereas, biochemical techniques involve enzymes activities and processes. Other studies involve screening for specific fungi involved in biomass degradation.
Research Highlights: Our research is well-recognized, both nation ally and internationally. Research findings have been presented at local conferences (STEM Day, Alabama Academy of Science) and national meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America (ASA, CSSA, SSSA). We have also received invitations to present our research findings at international settings. Much of our outcomes have been published in
peer reviewed journals, and in book chapters. We collab orate with professors and professionals from various universities, including Alabama A&M University and government agencies; particularly USDA, and EPA. Our scientific contributions have exposed the School of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (SAES) to the scientific community, as one of the top research schools in soils and environmental sciences in the US.
Student Involvement: Both graduate and undergraduate students are instrumental in the development and success of our research program. The undergraduates are provided with hands-on training in soil microbial analysis. Graduate students, as well as undergraduates get experience on instrumentations, wet chemistry anal ysis, and clean chemistry and biological techniques for modern laboratory, data collection, data interpretation, and presentation. Students also benefit from working in a professional environment, and at the same time acquire solid work ethics.
Other Benefits: The use of biogeochemical research will help community leaders and policymakers develop and implement best management practices in agriculture, forestry, and environmental sciences. This may improve agricultural production, forestry and environmental sustainability, as well as mitigate environmental contam ination. As this research is among the core activities within SAES, the collaborative work with other faculty and the training of students within SAES, helps to meet and strengthen the goals and objectives of the School.
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20 S A E S M a g a z i n e D octors Srinivasa Mentreddy, Regine Mankolo, and Leopold Nyochembeng are spearheading the research development of Sustainable Organic Production Systems for Summer Vegetable Crops here at the SAES of Alabama A&M University. This project has an excellent team approach as Mentreddy provides agronomic expertise, Mankolo deals with soil productivity, and Nyochembeng studies plant disease management, using various biocontrol measures. Its purpose is to provide informa tion on how to sustain summer cash crops for small farms with limited
resources, such as building healthy productive soil using fall/winter cover crops.
SAES students are fully involved with the team of experts through hands-on experiments. They have set aside a 6-acre block of land, used exclusively for organic research. The land is divided into sub-blocks, so that cover crops and cash crops are rotated spatially each year, to avoid buildup of pests and diseases. Each year, different fall/winter cover crops, either solo or in mixtures, are evaluated for their effects on weed densi ties, soil productivity, and cash crop productivity the following summer. Furthermore, organic mulches and biofungicides are evaluated for weed control and disease management, respectively. Each experiment is repeated every two years to obtain data on cover crop biomass, weed species, disease severity, soil moisture & nutrient levels, and the cash crop growth and yield. Beneficial insects and insects that should be repelled are also evalu ated in these experiments. Research results have brought in-depth knowledge of cover crop management, soil/water and nutrient anal ysis, and crop physiology benefits to the SAES students. Gaining hands-on experience in the field has also resulted in many of the students obtaining part-time employment. The opportunity to team up with other institutions on the project, such as Auburn University, has also been of great benefit. Because of research efforts of the SAES, one of its doctoral students was able to participate in ASA and STEM competitions, winning second place awards. A showcase of the School’s organic production research was also featured in the
, while attracting more than 80 farmers and exten sion service professionals.
This research project will further help the SAES of Alabama A&M University stand out as an academic institution, being able to provide vital information to help small farm owners. This will, in turn, help establish environmentally friendly production of vegetables for the benefit of the community and lead to other studies, such as carbon sequestration and minimizing green house gas emissions to help keep our environment healthy.
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22 S A E S M a g a z i n e Research Mission: The importance of carbon sequestration to mitigate climate change is a key component of the research project.
silvopasture production system in south Alabama.
The overall goal of our carbon sequestration research is to develop and evaluate agroforestry systems to increase productivity, profitability, and sustainability on small- and medium-sized farms in the Black Belt Region of the United States. We are investigating soil carbon sequestration and storage in a loblolly pine/goat Research Overview: A long-term research project is being conducted at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Epes, Alabama, a city in the Black Belt Region of the state. The study site is in an area surrounded by small farms owned and operated largely by minority and limited resource landowners. An existing 6 ha, 12-year-old loblolly pine (
plantation has been mapped, thinned, pruned, and fenced into paddocks for raising meat goats (
Capra aegagrus hircus
) within the forest plantation. The treatments under study consist of: 1) native (existing) vegetation without grazing (control); 2) native vegetation + 4 goats/acre (low stocking rate); 3) native vegetation + 6 goats/acre with forage enhancement (medium stocking rate); and 4) an existing vegetation + 8 goats/acre (high stocking rate).
Forage enhancement, in the fall of 2007, involved light disking the paddocks and planting white (ladina clover) clover (
) and red clover (
Trifolium prat ense
). A browse species, lespedeza ( in the soil.
, was seeded in the enhanced paddocks in spring 2008. To correct the low soil pH, pelletilized dolomitic lime was also applied in spring 2008. The enhanced paddocks received a 13:13:13 fertilizer to improve soil fertility in spring 2008 and 2009. Soil samples are being collected from the forest plots under the above treatments using hand operated soil sampling augers each year. The soil samples are brought back to the laboratory where they are processed before chemical analyses for total and organic carbon to assess carbon sequestration and storage Other chemical measurements done on the soil samples include pH, soil nitrogen and soil phosphorus content. Soil temperature and soil water content in the study plots in the loblolly pine forest at Epes, Alabama are also being measured to assess the impact of the treatments on forage production, tree growth, and soil carbon sequestration. Student Involvement: mitigation.
income from timber.
Graduate and undergraduate students are involved in various project activities such as project set-up, treatment application, tree and animal data collection, soil and plant sample collection, and sample processing. They also perform laboratory analyses of collected samples. Students acquire experiential learning in carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation research by participating in project activities. Hands-on training prepares students for careers in the high priority areas of sustainable natural resource management and environmental sciences, specifically those careers relating to developing and evaluating strategies for climate change Community Involvement: The agroforestry system being developed in this study is aimed at providing an economically attractive sustainable timber/livestock/ forage production package for struggling landowners, by providing annual income from meat goats and sustain able browse systems while they raise pine trees for future Carbon Sequestration Research and SAES: Carbon sequestration research in agroforestry systems notably contributes in enabling SAES to fulfill its research, teaching, and extension mandates. First, the research aspects of this project help SAES to provide current and science-based information on strategies for increasing agricultural productivity through the use of improved and sustainable technologies. These technologies are designed to conserve natural resources such as soil and water, while improving environmental quality through increasing soil carbon sequestration. Secondly, the development of such technologies, which have a direct benefit of helping rural farming communities to make a viable living off the land through sustainable agriculture, will undoubtedly make SAES extension activities visible to various stakeholders in the United States. Thirdly, the graduate and undergraduate student training activities contribute to the School’s goal of providing a trained workforce in sustainable natural resource management and environmental sciences. Finally, this project serves as a model for researcher-farmer-stakeholder participa tory extension projects being conducted at a site, which provides training to local farmers, who are struggling to make a profit from conventional agriculture and traditional forestry practices, and are therefore, facing viability problems. The Future of NRES and Carbon Sequestration: is likely that the results of this research will lead to further research needs pertaining to more detailed social, economic, and environmental studies on agroforestry systems for small- and medium-sized farms.
It S A E S M a g a z i n e 23
Rufina Ward, and Mr. LaMar Hauck
24 S A E S M a g a z i n e Research Mission: Current research involves the evaluation and develop ment of feedstock to identify species of plants, which can be used to produce biofuels (Biodiesel and Ethanol), without creating a conflict with food crops. Once certain plant species are identified, it is necessary to understand what it takes to obtain optimum output from the crop by developing manage ment protocols for growers. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries have created a “Biodiesel Classroom on Wheels,” which provides a mobile educational tool to citizens of Alabama who are interested in the production of biodiesel.
Research Overview: Our research has been a source of guidance to the commu nity in the area of bioenergy. Partnering with other universities, government agencies and private industries has been vital in carrying out the Department’s
current research project. Researchers and students have been extremely successful in promoting winter canola as a feedstock for biodiesel, and several farmers in the area are producing the crop. The Department is also evaluating pearl millet as a potential alternative to corn for ethanol and the USDA has provided some of its genetic lines to support the evaluation at the AAMU’s Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station(WTARS) in Hazel Green. The USDA’s castor bean collection is being evaluated at the WTARS research station. Sweet sorghum, sweet potato, tropical sugar beet and jatropha are some of the other crops being evaluated.
Student Involvement: Graduate students are the primary individuals completing these research projects, but undergraduate students are involved in the process as student workers and learn the concepts of the research as part of their training. The research projects also incor porate involvement from high school and middle school students. Student researchers regularly visit schools to introduce the concept of renewable energy to students, teachers and administrators, as well as provide many demonstration sessions for students during the school year.
Community Involvement: Our concept of creating a
“Biodiesel Classroom on Wheels” to promote and educate people about biodiesel was the first of its kind in the nation, and was recognized by the USDA with an award to the School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Our success with canola has opened up the opportunity for a processing facility to be located in northern Alabama. The facility will be a partnership between local farmers and a private company from Georgia. The facility, in full operation, should generate several million dollars in additional revenue for the region. We are also working with several community partners to produce biodiesel from waste cooking oil, which can be used in school buses, sanitation trucks and other fleets of diesel oper ated equipment and vehicles. The Future of NRES and Bioenergy Research: industry.
We have several long-term goals; (1) create a Renewable Energy Center at Alabama A&M University, (2) investigate alternative sources of energy to decrease our dependency on petroleum, and (3) train the next generation of workers that will be in demand by the developing green
26 S A E S M a g a z i n e Research Mission: The purpose of the Aluminum Stress research is to identify genes associated with economically important traits using molecular approach. This research aims at genetically engineered soybeans to tolerate aluminum stress; thereby, reducing production costs and improving the environment. This research has the potential to benefit consumers by reducing food costs and is part of the SAES mandate to address agricultural issues at state, federal and international levels. The research is currently in phase one of a continuing process. Once phase one is completed we will move to phase two with the ultimate goal of producing transgenic soybean that is tolerant to aluminum stress.
Student Involvement: agriculture scientists.
Students are very involved in designing the experi ments, analyzing the results, and preparing the results for publication. The students get training in molecular biology and learn to solve problems facing Research Recognition: (Soybean).
The research being addressed is a cutting-edge research, and our laboratory may be the only lab in the nation addressing aluminum problems in one of the most economically important crop species
4925 Moores Mill Road Huntsville, Alabama 35811 256-859-5896 Office 256-859-7813 Fax (dates subject to change) S A E S M a g a z i n e 27
28 S A E S M a g a z i n e D r. Ramesh Kantety, of the SAES Department of NRES, is taking the lead in the Department’s research on Genomics of the Plants, Pathogens, and the Environmental Organisms. One of his major focus areas is to study the plant and nematode genomes, the molecular basis of nematode pathogenesis, plant disease susceptibility, and plant immunity. These studies are vital for finding ways to control damaging pests that harm plant life. The main goal is to use the knowledge gained to develop plants with increased resistance to diseases and reduce dependency on pesticides. The plant genomes that the research program focuses on are cotton, tomatoes, small grains, as well as bio-energy crops. A model plant system, such as tomato, is used in many studies because it serves as an excellent system for understanding plant pathogen interactomes, and many resources are available for conducting such detailed studies.
Dr. Kantety and his students design focused projects to answer targeted questions about the structural and func tional make up of reniform nematode and its interac tions with plants. Further research interests include - the development of innovative strategies in uncovering the secrets of its genome, understanding the genome orga nization and genetic mechanisms underlying phenotypic traits, development of high-throughput marker systems for identification of superior alleles for gene banks, and facilitating the plant breeding programs. While leading many research projects in many diverse areas, the emerging technologies in Genomics and Bioinformatics remain in the forefront. Dr. Kantety is instrumental in establishing the Alabama A&M Genome Institute (AAGI), and currently serves as the director for this centralized facility. and Microsoft Corporation, to name a few. Prizes have been won in various PBR(Partnership for Biotechnology Research-a local initiative with UAH and HudsonAlpha Institute), STEM and ASEF (Alabama Science and Engineering Fair) regional competitions and awards have been received in recognition of their outstanding contri butions in Genomics and Bioinformatics.
The research efforts that are being made now will open up many new possibilities to the small farmer in his planning choices, with inexpensive costs in maintaining plant life. The more quantity and quality of plant life, the better the livelihood of our community. Also, when the results of the research are published or made public, other collaborators and the community of scientists working in plant or nematode biology/genetics, with an interest in rhizosphere ecology, will benefit from this work.
The student body of this research team includes under graduates and graduates, specialized technicians, bio-in formaticians, and post doctoral trainees. They are heavily involved in data collection, analysis, and interpretation, while they also develop problem-solving skills. Because of this research, new and emerging technologies are brought to the fields of agriculture, genetic & genomic science and biology. Many of the students are also involved with public and private cooperative research projects with USDA-ARS Mississippi State, Cornell University, Dow AgroSciences, Cotton Incorporated, S A E S M a g a z i n e 29
Research Mission: The purpose of our research is to better understand wildlife biology and ecology, and their diversity and distribution, which is beneficial in managing the forest for wildlife biodiversity and conservation. Through small scale and landscape experiments and statistical modeling, we explicitly test hypotheses directly related to the factors and mechanisms that contribute to the wildlife biodiversity and abundance changes. At AAMU, we have been conducting studies that focus on amphibians, reptiles, and birds and their relationship with forest management practices such as logging and prescribed burning. We have conducted large scale field experiments and surveys to examine factors and mechanisms that contribute to the wildlife species’ occurrence and population dynamics. We use traps to capture animals and radio-telemetry to track animals and we also measure forest habitat structures and micro-climate changes before-after forest management practices. Geographic information, remote sensing technology and statistical tools have been used for modeling and predicting the distribution patterns, population dynamics, and changes.
Research Overview: The forests of north Alabama are largely owned by Non-Industrial Private Forest (NIPF) landowners. Approximately 85% of the land area in forest cover belongs to this group, while commercial and public interests combined oversee 15%. Some of the largest and least fragmented tracts of mature upland forest are in private industrial and govern ment-held forests and are very important for sustaining wildlife populations. Nevertheless, great amounts of forested land under private ownership, as is the case in Alabama, can be instrumental to the conservation of forest wildlife. As owners of smaller NIPF tracts are marginalized in a more competitive, industrial timber industry geared toward large volume opera tions and markets, these people look toward other values of their property and how to enhance them. One of these values is wildlife habitat. As some Alabama foresters can attest, this has become an increasing management consideration in the region. It is possible that while managing for timber and game, wildlife too, could benefit from management.
30 Alabama has the second largest commercial timber industry in the nation. As a result, the motives and operations of forestry in the region have a significant impact on the habitat of wildlife animals. Foresters often have conservation and management goals for the timber resources under their stewardship; but water, wildlife, air and soil issues have increased in importance through a shift toward a more holistic approach to ecosystem management. S A E S M a g a z i n e
The industry-based Sustainable Forestry Initiative of the American Forest and Paper Association provides a measure of incentive to practice sound forest management in the commercial sector. This framework of objectives and evaluation requires partici pating companies to “manage the quality and distribution of wildlife habitats and contribute to the conservation of biological diversity” and “improve the science and understanding of wildlife management.” To meet the stipulation of “improving the science and understanding of wildlife management,” members can support, conduct, or assist with wildlife research that explores new ways to provide for both wildlife habitat: a forest ecosystem value, and timber production: an economic value.
The Wildlife Program and SAES: The wildlife program at AAMU is one of the most comprehensive teaching and research programs at any of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country. Our wildlife related research is probably the most active program among the HBCUs in term of the numbers of research grants received, graduate students trained, research papers published, and the presentations at professional meetings. Our research strengthens the educational program by providing direct hands-on opportunities for training students in wildlife and forest management related fields. Our wildlife related research and educational activities also have enhanced our collaborations with other universities and govern ment agencies, such as the Forest Service of the US Department of Agriculture, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Fish and Wildlife Services of the US Department of Interior. We also have extensive international collaborations, particularly with China. Four of our graduate students have conducted research in other countries with the scholarship support from National Science Foundation. Student Involvement: The undergraduate, master and PhD students are involved with all phases of research including research design, experiment implementation, field data collec tions and analysis, and publications. Graduate students have used these studies as their thesis and dissertation research projects to fulfill the master and doctoral degree requirements. We have published 24 peer reviewed manuscripts in professional journals and presented our research results frequently at international and national conferences. Several students received national and regional awards for their research work and presentations. Last year, we organized an international workshop on “Forest management and wildlife conservation from China and inter national perspectives – seeking harmony of wildlife biodiversity and human demands for forest resources” in China with partici pants from all over the world. Several of our students presented their research at the workshop. Community Benefit: Our research directly helps the commu nity in conserving the wildlife biodiversity through appropriate management of natural resources. The study results provide guidelines for the management of forest and other resources. Biodiversity is important to human beings because we are one of the components in the system; our sustainability depends on the biodiversity of the earth. Our study will demonstrate the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on wildlife community structure and function. Specifically, our studies examine the mechanisms that contribute to animal population fluctuations in ecosys tems. Identification of these mechanisms is essential, because more wildlife species are declining than previously noted. For example, at least 43.2% of all amphibian species are experiencing population declines. Population declines of this magnitude are alarming because wildlife species function as indicator species, signaling the presence of an existing environmental problem. By recognizing factors that affect wildlife species, natural resource managers can develop plans that address these factors. Research Recognition: Our program is relatively young. However, four graduate students have received US Environmental Protection Agency Graduate Fellowships; four students have been awarded National Science Foundation EPSI Scholarships; and several students received awards from other organizations and agencies. These student accomplishments are rare, even at larger and better supported wildlife programs in the nation. We have received research grants from National Science Foundation, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Agriculture, the State of Alabama, The Natural Conservancy, etc. Several, at least five (5) students have won awards for their presentations at national and regional conferences. Dr. Wang was awarded “Researcher of the Year” twice (2004 and 2007) by Alabama A&M University; and his expertise is well-recognized by peers in US and in China. The Future: Our research is designed with long-term vision through a systematic approach. The findings from our earlier studies have led to our current more in-depth hypothesis driven research. In future studies we will continue to pursue our overall goal, to better understand wildlife ecology and the effect of anthropological disturbance on their population dynamics and diversities. We will focus on the mechanisms that lead to the wildlife population changes, and provide much needed data for establishing effective management and conservation strate gies for the wildlife species. We will continue and expand our collaborations with other institutions and agencies in the US and in the world to address questions that are otherwise difficult to answer. Student training will always be our priority; through our program, we will diversify the research and work force in the fields related to forestry, wildlife and biodiversity conservation. 31 31
32 S A E S M a g a z i n e Research Mission: The three primary objectives of our research are to: (1) investigate the water quality status of several streams within the Wheeler Lake Basin of Northern Alabama, (2) assess the cumulative effects of drought and urbanization on the Flint River Watershed, which covers 350,000 acres in Madison County, Alabama, and Lincoln County, Tennessee, and (3) investi gate the quality of drinking water in north Alabama, particularly in the City of Huntsville and Madison County. Research Overview: The SAES promotes research efforts that will safeguard our environment and the ecosystem in which we live. Getting everyone who lives and resides within the watersheds, involved in the water quality research, is crucial to the success of the program. We are currently collecting soil and water samples from several locations within the watersheds. The students collect samples every two weeks from several locations and the samples are transported to the lab for further analysis.
The research provides training to minority students in the area of water resources and environmental sciences. The students get
hands-on experience in both the field and laboratory protocols to collect, analyze and measure heavy metals and nutrient concentrations in samples. They also get practical experience in processing and interpreting data and in writing their theses and dissertations. Community Benefit: The community will benefit in multiple ways if the watershed is free of pollutants. Our goal is to identify ways to reduce the contaminants that get into our streams and rivers in order to provide safer water for recreation, swimming and drinking. When we improve the quality of the water, air, and soil we also improve the well-being of the society, public health and property values. Safer water also leads to an improve ment in the quality of the stream habitats. and new and innovative materials are always coming to our environment. We must continuously watch for such materials in the environment and assess their impact on the quality of the water in our streams and tap waters. Research Recognition: Because of the significant water quality research that we have accomplished in our north Alabama watersheds, we are one of the five centers designated by the USEPA as a Center of Excellence for Watershed Management. Our students who have graduated from the program are currently working in the federal, state, and private sectors. The Future: Water quality research is an on-going effort, S A E S M a g a z i n e 33
tion in Alabama. Nearly 38% of North America’s fish species, 43% of its freshwater gill-breathing snails, 51% of its freshwater turtle species, and 60% of its freshwater mussel species are native to Alabama’s rivers. There are over three million acres of wetlands in the state. North Alabama has some of the most diverse surface and ground water interactions and yet it is an active center of production agriculture. Management of such dynamic interrelationship, requires sound watershed management practices and the utilization of hydrology and remote sensing techniques. Expanding and strength ening the research, extension, and outreach capability of Alabama A&M University by introducing new science and technology concepts further expands the role of AAMU in the urban and rural community.
Research Mission: The success or failure of many enter prises, especially in agriculture, depends on the weather and the availability of high quality and near real-time data and information. Therefore, it only makes sense to have the best weather technology available to Alabama’s agricultural producers. There are significant agricultural and non-agricultural sources of pollution that degrade water quality in Alabama. The major source of agricul tural pollution in Alabama mainly comes from eroded sediments and animal wastes (ADEM, 1988).
Management of environmental quality in Alabama is a multifaceted challenge. For example, streams, rivers, and reservoirs supply drinking water to 56% of the popula It has been proven that precise information about weather conditions, including both soil and atmospheric parameters, is very useful to farmers and numerous other stakeholders such as utility companies.
ALMNet Overview: Alabama Mesonet (ALMNet) is also part and parcel of the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Soil Climate Analyses Network (USDANRCS-SCAN) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service (NOAA-NWS). Part of the funding came from NASA, USDA, and NOAA-NWS to establish this network. These weather stations are solar powered with a battery backup. Because they do not depend on the availability of electricity for their location, they can help transmitting during severe storms, which disable conventional weather networks. The ALMNet provides a high-density cyber-infrastructure. 34 S A E S M a g a z i n e
In the last 8 years, Alabama A&M University has installed 24 agricultural weather stations and 13 soil profile stations in Alabama and Southern Tennessee. Most are in the Tennessee Valley; however, there is one each at the University of West Alabama, Tuskegee University, Auburn University Horticultural Station at Cullman, and in the following counties: Baldwin, Escambia, Houston, Pickens, Dallas, Houston, Randolph, Winston, Montgomery, and Macon. Data collected at these stations include soil moisture and temperature at five depths, soil heat flux, air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, and rainfall. The soil and atmospheric data are accessible in real time to any farmer with internet service. Each observing station includes a suite of environmental sensors that measure: l air temperature l precipitation l solar radiation l relative humidity l wind speed l wind direction l soil moisture l soil temperature, and l depth of water table (at selected sites)
Other ALMNET benefits are as follows:
Fifteen minute observations averaged over one hour are collected at each site and transmitted to AAMU via a secure communications link then processed and displayed through the ALMNet website (http://wx.aamu.
Community Benefit: The data collected by the ALMNet has been used by farmers to manage pesticide and fertil izer applications, prescribed burning, confined animal operations, and irrigation scheduling. Furthermore, ALMNet is also helping K-12, undergraduate and grad uate students by providing scientific mentorship, custom data display software, award-winning web pages, unique learning activities, an annual Mesonet Science Fair and an online support system.
1- Provides continuous and long-term data sets 2- Provides near-real time data that can be used by envi ronmental (air, water, & soil) modelers 3- Provides near-real time data for research, training, and outreach activities for local and state government as well as private sectors.
4- Provides site-specific data for end-users (County agents, Farmers, FEMA, Insurance and Real Estate agents, etc…) The Future: We have had much positive feedback from this program and are convinced that it should be expanded to all Alabama counties with one and prefer ably two stations per county. We are anticipating adding 124 stations throughout Alabama. The cost is about $20,000.00 per station for equipment and installation. The annual maintenance cost is just a few hundred dollars per site. Thus far, we have relied on landowners to make a dedicated site which can be available for the weather station. S A E S M a g a z i n e 35
36 S A E S M a g a z i n e
Dr. Robert W. Taylor Theresa McCants, Administrative Assistant to the Dean
Diann H. Anderson, Academic Advising Coordinator
Dr. Zachary N. Senwo Martha Palmer, Administrative Secretary
Public and Media Relations Coordinator
K. Renée Johnson
Research Programs Coordinator
Phyllis S. Campbell
M. Carleen Bailey
Dr. Willie Cheatham, Chair
Denise Fountain, Secretary
Community Planning and Urban Studies
Dr. Chukudi Izeogu, Chair
Heidi Weaver, Secretary
Family and Consumer Sciences
Dr. Cynthia Smith, Chair
Sharon Moore, Secretary
J. Diana Grigsby, Secretary
Food and Animal Sciences
Dr. Martha Verghese, Chair/Interim
Sharon Steele, Secretary
Sonya Bynum, Secretary
Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Dr. Teferi Tsegaye, Chair
Vanessa Curry, Administrative Secretary
J. Lacy Milan, Senior Secretary
Kimi Sangalang, Budget Analyst
Donna Gilbert, Senior Secretary & Center Contact
Winfred Thomas Agricultural Research Station
Gokul Ghale, Station Manager/Interim