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College of Agriculture

Success Stories

The K-State College of Agriculture and Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station is built on a legacy of success. Here you will see why our university system and the state of Kansas are among the top leaders in agricultural research.

Improving safety of feed protects pigs from deadly disease

Kansas State University researchers have found that feed and feed ingredients can act as a vehicle to transfer the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), a disease that claimed an estimated 8 million pigs in 2014.

PEDv is thought to be so viral that even a thimble full of feces from an infected pig contained enough of the virus to infect 20, 24-ton trucks of feed.

Researchers have conducted trials that indicate an inclusion level of 1 percent medium chain fatty acids in feed formulations will provide protection from PEDv, and is reasonable for producer’s feed budgets. Additional work is being done to eliminate PEDv contamination in fecal material during ingredient receiving, manufacturing, and feed delivery.

Amino acids can cut swine feed costs, benefit environment

Kansas State University scientists have tested diet formulations with amino acids and have shown that pigs will build muscle and grow efficiently.

By reducing the amount of soybean meal and other plant-based protein fed to swine, the scientists have reduced the amount of nitrogen and ammonia from swine waste on the farm.

Additional trials show that farmers supplementing swine diets with amino acids use less water because pigs drink and urinate less when they are eating lower protein diets, further reducing pollutants. One study showed that a 1 percent reduction in dietary protein reduces ammonia emissions from swine manure slurry by 10-12 percent.

Amino acids are essential in swine feed to help the animal build muscle and grow efficiently. Soybean meal and corn are good sources of amino acids but often are not in the perfect balance to meet the animals’ needs.

baby pigs
‘Aspirin’ for Cows? Reducing inflammation improves health, helps profits

Despite increased energy needed to produce milk, many dairy cows will stop eating shortly after giving birth. The self-imposed starvation causes ketosis, a metabolic response that is initially beneficial, but over the long-term, leads to poor productivity and poor fertility in the cow.

Kansas State University researchers have discovered that inflammation caused by giving birth is at least partly to blame for the cow’s fussy eating.

One promising finding indicates that giving the cow a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug – similar to an aspirin for humans – on the first day after birth increased the cow’s milk production by 7-10 percent in one year.

Reducing inflammation more quickly after birth will help the dairy cow return to normal eating sooner and improve the cow’s health over the course of her life, which also boosts the producer’s profits.

Cattle on grass
Consumers’ taste for beef varies by brand name

Kansas State University meat scientists have found that the brand name on grocery store beef makes a difference to consumers when it hits the dinner plate.

Taste tests conducted on the Manhattan campus found that consumers rated steak and ground beef products higher for flavor, texture, juiciness, tenderness and overall liking when the packaging included the terms ‘Certified Angus Beef,’ ‘Angus’ or ‘USDA Prime.’

The findings are important to help the beef industry better understand how to correctly sell beef to consumers. Future work may focus on expanding the taste tests to consumers in other parts of the country.

meat science

Cover crops help reduce nutrient loss, protect public waterways

Kansas State University researchers are studying the effects of agricultural production systems on surface water. The scientists are using 30 acres of research land dissected into 18 plots, each about the size of a football field.

Researchers are measuring rainfall, nutrients applied, and runoff from the land. The researchers are tracking exactly how phosphorus and nitrogen move under different agricultural systems and during various rainfall events.

Early indications are that planting cover crops as a winter crop will reduce phosphorus and sediment loss by more than 50 percent. Similarly, cover crops reduced the loss of fall broadcast fertilizer by 60 percent.

Phosphorus and nitrogen are common nutrients in crop fertilizers and are important for growing crops and maintaining agricultural competitiveness, but runoff from farm fields can carry phosphorus and nitrogen into local waterways.

Poor water quality affects nearby land values, and when cities pay more to clean waterways, it ultimately means a bump in homeowner’s water bill.

nathan nelson

Safeguarding U.S. Wheat: Researchers staying ahead of blast disease

Kansas State University researchers discovered a gene, called 2NS, that provides resistance to wheat blast disease, which has ravaged wheat in Bolivia and Brazil for more than two decades.

Researchers are searching for additional resistance genes to establish ongoing protection from the fungus. Kansas State University has developed collaborations for field tests in South America.

A single case of wheat blast was found in Kentucky in 2011, but otherwise, the U.S. crop has successfully been protected from the disease. Kansas State University researchers are studying wheat blast at the Biosecurity Research Institute, a biosafety-level 3 facility. The scientists have received $6.5 million over 7 years from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help safeguard U.S. wheat.

Understanding crop hybrids will help improve yields

Kansas State University researchers successfully finished the first-ever complete study of a chromosome in a tertiary gene pool.

Tertiary genes are distant relatives of current wheat varieties. Very little research has been done to understand the genetic makeup of tertiary genes, which could help scientists develop varieties that are more resistant to disease, heat and drought.

Kansas State University researchers studied a chromosome, known as 5M(g), and developed genomic resources and markers that could be transferred during conventional wheat breeding.

The chromosome has many important agronomic genes. Three in particular will be useful in helping to breed for resistance to wheat pathogens and diseases, particularly stem rust diseases.

greenhouse work

Featured Researcher:
Jesse Poland

Jesse Poland

A Kansas State University wheat genetics researcher is a leader of a project producing an improved whole genome assembly of bread wheat, the most widely grown cereal in the world.

"Having the whole genome sequence is like providing an instructional manual for building better plants. Until now, the pages in the manual were out of order and 40 percent of them were missing. Having a complete manual, with everything in the right order, will allow us to quickly identify genes responsible for traits such as pest resistance, yield and quality. With this genomic information we could potentially make the breeding cycle two to three times faster, and bring better varieties to farmers in a fraction of the time."

Jesse Poland, assistant professor of plant pathology and assistant director of the Wheat Genetics Resource Center at Kansas State University