SBC Update: Fall 2017

Update from the Co-Director: The SBC Can Support Your Research and Outreach Goals

By: Co-Director Jim Bradeen

Welcome to the first SBC newsletter. This quarterly newsletter will highlight SBC activities and impacts and give you insights into things to come.

Some of the toughest problems in agriculture and environmental sciences today require multidisciplinary perspectives and approaches. UMN faculty, staff, and students have amazing disciplinary depth and provide impactful research and outreach. The SBC aims to support and expand these efforts by providing additional capacity in networking and relationship building, grant discovery and submission, communications, outreach and education, and project management--especially for interdisciplinary projects. The SBC focuses on sustainable plant health in its many forms including reducing biotic and environmental stresses in crops, forests, and prairies; building knowledge and capacity that leads to economical and environmentally-friendly changes in crop production practices; and pursuing systems approaches that ensure supply chain continuity for end users while incentivizing science-based best practices for producers. We support a portfolio that emphasizes sustainable crop production practices in Minnesota and across the globe; leverages crop genetic resources for improvement of plant health; and expands public awareness of and appreciation for plant health research. The SBC continues to evolve as we take advantage of emerging opportunities and respond to emerging threats to plant health. We are working hard to position the SBC as a resource for UMN (and collaborators) to expand and elevate our collective impacts.

For questions or general inquiries, please email the SBC at

Global Sustainable Crop Production Update

By: Collaborative Research Specialist Britta Hansen

Oat Rust Forum 2017

Photo from the Oat Rust Forum 2017

The SBC's international projects portfolio continued to grow in 2016/17, with the addition of a new staff member dedicated to collaborative research, Britta Hansen focuses on project design and grant writing as well as serving as a resource for SBC affiliated faculty working on international projects. In early 2017 we saw the refocusing of Oat Global under the management of the SBC. Oat Global is a public-private partnership committed to improving resilience, quality, and value of oat by coordinating precompetitive research, breeding and extension on a global scale. Led by the SBC and directed by SBC Co-Director Jim Bradeen, Oat Global will be launching a variety of new initiatives over the next year, and the board will be meeting in October of 2017.

This year PI Ben Lockhart made strides in Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) research through a project in collaboration with CIMMYT, IITA, and USDA-ARS. His research set out to determine the post-harvest persistence of residual Maize chlorotic mottle virus (MCMV) infectivity in maize field soil in order to define the duration of the maize-free period required to eliminate soil-borne transmission of MCMV. Once completed this team hopes to be able to identify ways to control the spread of the MLN-causing viruses MCMV. MLN has led to total crop loss for many of the affected smallholder growers throughout rural Kenya, and until now scientists had very little knowledge about how this virus was transmitted. Lockhart will be in Nigeria in September for the opening of a new quarantine facility that was funded with support from this project and USAID.

To keep up with our international efforts and to learn more about global funding in agriculture, join our new email list "Global Ag Updates." We send out monthly funding opportunities, internationally focused events and relevant news articles. Sign up for these updates here.

For more information or questions about our international projects portfolio, contact Britta Hansen at

Outreach and Education Update

By: Outreach and Education Coordinator Mohamed Yakub

Plant Health for Pollinator Health Initiative

Flowers for Pollinators, Plant Health for Pollinators SBC

Photo taken from Julie Weisenhorn's Flowers for Pollinators project

One of the SBC’s priority areas is the Plant Health for Pollinator Health Initiative, which brings together an interdisciplinary group of scientists, working to integrate science outreach and education into research that focuses on plant health for pollinator health in an organic setting. This work takes place at the Horst Rechelbacher “Farm” in Osceola, Wisconsin, though this site is far from a farm; rather this site houses a greenhouse, an art gallery, field hexi-plots where UMN Bee Squad have set up research projects, alpaca, and more. This summer the group started setup of four projects, each of which integrates some aspect of science outreach or citizen science, while working with scientists across departments. Current projects include:

  • testing pollinator preferences for varieties of annuals (Julie Weisenhorn, University of Minnesota Extension)
  • characterizing soil management for organic production (Julie Grossman, Horticultural Science),
  • evaluating pollinator visits on high protein alfalfa to be used for production of fish food (Debbie Samac, USDA)
  • assessing pollinator visits to grapes (Matt Clark, Horticulture).

In our recent strategic planning meeting, we discussed expanding our portfolio of projects, engaging more scientists at this site, and a finalized name (more information to come with naming as branding decisions are made at future group meetings). If you are interested, we would love to show you the site, which is approximately one hour away from the St. Paul campus. Lastly we submitted a grant proposal to engage high school education at this site.

Girls in Ag

This summer SBC hosted the first summer Gopher Girls Agricultural STEM Scholars program, engaging 7-10th-grade women in activities that integrate science and agriculture. Among the many activities they participated in, these young women conducted genetic crosses in corn learning about heterosis, mixed animal feed to understand the role of nutrition and measurement in animal health, discovered how to use drones to collect data, and participated in a scavenger hunt across the St. Paul campus learning about other opportunities and college life. This program, funded by the Minnesota Agricultural Education Literacy Council (MAELC), and overseen by Dr. Candice Hirsh (Agronomy and Plant Genetics), also provided undergraduate students with an opportunity to mentor these young women. Many of these young women spoke of how much they learned about the role of science, math, and technology within agriculture, and we look forward to potentially continuing and even expanding this program.

Workshops in Ethiopia

Working with Dr. Matt Rouse (USDA- ARS/Plant Pathology) and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), we are conducting the first workshop focused on genomic technologies for plant breeding in Holeta, Ethiopa. This workshop, focused on microsatellite markers and sequence technology, will support researchers with genotyping wheat as well as other crops to select lines to use in their breeding programs that indicate pathogen resistance and potentially higher yield. Currently, Ethiopian scientists send samples to be genotyped to other countries; this program will work to provide them with an understanding of these technologies that can be done locally within Ethiopia, with the goal of making Holeta the biotechnology center of Ethiopia.

In addition to this workshop, last month, Plant Pathology Research Assistant Professor Pablo Olivera visited Ethiopia to participate as a trainer at the Wheat Rust Pathology Training organized by the Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat (DGGW) Project at Cornell University and the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR).  In collaboration with local and international scientists, Pablo was responsible for developing and implementing a five days theoretical and practical training on wheat rusts. For more information about this training please visit this website

From Field to Foam: An afternoon to learn about CFANS barley research

On Saturday, September 30, at Insight Brewing we helped organize an event with CFANS barley researchers, and partners Insight Brewing, University of Minnesota Extension, and Sprowt Labs to showcase how University of Minnesota research helps improve beer. During the day, there were various activities, including trivia, how to pollinate barley plants, and information about how malting occurs. There also was a malty and mild English-style beer brewed by Insight from barley researched, developed, and harvested right on the St. Paul campus.

For questions about outreach and educational programming, contact Mohamed Yakub at