University of Illinois joins national initiative to demonstrate impact of agricultural research

April 18, 2018

URBANA, Ill.—A new effort to boost federal investment in agricultural research—FedByScience—launched in Washington, D.C., bringing together the University of Illinois with 15 other public and private universities.

The initiative, timed with the release of the 2018 House Farm Bill, focuses on demonstrating to the public and policymakers the many ways that USDA-funded universities and researchers are creating a safer, healthier, and more productive food system.

“Food matters to everyone. Research investments in food and agriculture keep us ahead of critical problems and ahead of our competition in the fast-changing food and agricultural landscape. Federal investment is a vital component of the total food and ag research picture, effectively complementing private, state, and local investments at Illinois and in our research universities across the country,” said Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois.

FedByScience launched with two briefings for Senate and House of Representatives staff. The effort tells stories in which scientific discoveries and innovations have improved the way food is produced and distributed.

One of U of I’s contributions highlights the work of Kaiyu Guan, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, housed in the College of ACES. Guan’s USDA-funded research uses cutting-edge computational tools and advanced satellite technology to improve our understanding of how a changing climate has impacted and will impact crop production.

Guan commented, "We've reached a point that supercomputers and rich satellite data are needed to revolutionize agricultural research. In my program, by intimately working with computer scientists and engineers, we are developing technology to see every field in the U.S. Corn Belt every day, knowing the crop growing conditions and crop water demands, forecasting crop yield, and providing optimal management suggestions to farmers."

FedByScience co-chair and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green, said, “U.S. farmers are confronted by turbulent commodity markets, extreme weather, and an uneven economy. A stronger investment in agricultural research can provide the science and innovation that farmers need to navigate these obstacles. Universities are now joining together to ensure that our stories about the value of food and ag research are heard.”

Another U of I success story is from Dan Shike, associate professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, housed in the College of ACES. Shike’s research improves beef cow and calf nutrition, leading to more efficient and sustainable beef production. In a recent USDA-funded study, Shike worked with breed associations to improve feed efficiency testing, reduce feed waste, and improve producers’ bottom line. 

“We, as a cattle industry, have gotten very good at tracking our outputs,” Shike said. “We know how they grow, what their carcass characteristics are, and we can predict those very well in the next generation. But we don’t have a good handle on the input; really just a handful of feed intake records existed prior to this project.”

Thomas Grumbly, President of the SoAR Foundation, which organizes FedByScience, said, “There is so much that federally funded food and agriculture research has accomplished, but these stories need a broader audience. We are delighted to collaborate with our university partners to make this initiative a reality.”

Participating universities include Colorado State University, Cornell University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, New Mexico State University, North Carolina State University, Purdue University, Texas A&M University, University of California at Davis, University of Florida, University of Georgia, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Washington University in St. Louis.

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