Tag Archives: KSU

MANHATTAN, Kan. — Just as an athlete can experience an injury in competition, so too can a bull when he is turned out in a breeding pasture where his athleticism is going to be tested.

“Bulls will be the busiest in the first month of the breeding season when there are a lot of females coming into heat (estrus),” said Kansas State University veterinarian Bob Larson during the weekly Beef Cattle Institute Cattle Chat podcast.

“At the beginning of the breeding season, about 5% of the cows that aren’t pregnant will be in heat daily,” Larson said, citing an example of a 1:30 bull to female ratio in which, on average, two cows can be expected to be showing signs of estrus each day.

Because of that, Larson said even if the bulls have passed a breeding soundness exam prior to turnout, producers still need to watch them closely once they are in the pastures with the cows.

Common injuries include lameness due to feet and leg issues as well as a broken penis, which can happen when he is mounting a female and another bull shows aggression towards him. Later in the summer when the flies are more active, pinkeye can be a concern.

“A good time to check the bulls is when you are checking on the salt and mineral in the pastures in the early morning or at dusk,” said Bob Weaber, beef cattle specialist with K-State Research and Extension. “If the bull isn’t with the cows but is off in another part of the pasture laying down that is a concern.”

Weaber added it is important to maintain personal safety when working around bulls.

“Mature bulls can be difficult so it is best to observe them from your ATV, pickup truck or on the back of a horse,” Weaber said.

Lameness is easy to notice when the bull first gets up and begins moving around, Weaber said, while Larson added that a bull with a broken penis will show swelling on his underline right in front of the scrotum.

As the breeding season goes on, the physical demands on the bull should lessen.

“After the first 21 days of the season, producers should expect at least half of the cows to be pregnant,” Larson said. “If it’s a month into the breeding season and you see a lot of cows riding each other, that would be the time to have the veterinarian check on him.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — A little more than 17 years ago, a devastating bacterium served as a glaring example of just how vulnerable the United States’ plant and food system had become to disease.

“At that time, the U.S. was receiving geranium cuttings from Kenya,” said Jim Stack, professor of plant pathology at Kansas State University. “One of the organisms that we were concerned about then was a specific strain of Ralstonia solanacearum, a bacterium that infects tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and geraniums.”

The bacterium was suspected in a shipment that had entered the U.S., causing a halt in movement of geraniums across the country. The horticultural industry, which plans and markets its products as much as 18 months in advance, was suddenly crippled as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service scrambled to stop the spread of the organism.

“The USDA lab in Beltsville (Maryland) was completely overwhelmed with samples, and it just couldn’t process them fast enough to clear the material to allow greenhouses to sell,” Stack said. “So, that lab had to hold them. It took three to four months to clear all of the samples.”

Stack notes that the delay cost individual greenhouses “$2 million to $14 million, and many of them went out of business.”

The incident highlights a crucial role of the National Plant Diagnostic Network, a network of diagnostic labs across the country which was in its infancy during the 2003 occurrence.

“We’re 18 years old now, having been started in the aftermath of 9/11,” Stack said, noting the day in 2001 when terrorists flew airplanes into buildings, alerting government officials and U.S. citizens to our vulnerabilities in many areas of American life.

Shortly after 9/11, “each federal department was tasked with doing vulnerability assessments, and when the USDA did theirs, they recognized they had serious deficiencies in diagnostics for both plant and animal systems,” Stack said.

Kansas State University, which at the time was working on plant diagnostic software, became one of the leaders in developing a national system to protect plants and farm crops from intentional and unintentional threats.

By 2003, the network had established five regional labs, hosted by K-State, Cornell University, Michigan State University, the University of Florida, and the University of California-Davis.

“Wisely, they decided to implement the National Plant Diagnostic Network through the land grant system,” said Stack, who is the past executive director of the national system. “The reason for that is most land grant universities already had plant diagnostics in place, to varying degrees. So, there was a presence in every state. And most states had reach to the county level. There was already an extension system in place that provided the template for this coordinated effort in plant diagnostics.”

While the network wasn’t fully ready to help with the 2003 introduction of Ralstonia solanacearum, it was able to show its capabilities soon after.

In 2004, the horticulture industry was hit by the same bacteria in a shipment of geraniums, this time from Guatemala.

With the national network in place – and each regional lab handling diagnostics for hundreds of samples – the end result was much different.

“In talking to the lab director at Beltsville, she said the difference was that (in 2003) she received thousands of samples to process, and in 2004, she received only about 150,” Stack said. “The reason was because our labs were able to clear the negatives so that the only ones they had to deal with were those that were likely positive. That’s one of the many benefits of NPDN: there are many labs that can clear out the negatives so that the APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) labs can focus on the positives.”

The 2004 incident, “went so smoothly that nobody went out of business and we were able to clear the negatives more quickly,” he said.

The system is being put to the test again, Stack said: “In April 2020, we are dealing with another introduction of the same bacterium that may have been introduced into 39 states. NPDN has partnered with APHIS and the PPFQ labs to rapidly determine which states are negative, thus allowing trade to proceed.”

Stack notes that NPDN’s importance has become more critical today as countries around the world struggle to deal with such issues as food security, growing population, and climate change.

“We are going to add at least 2 billion people to the planet in less than 30 years,” he said. “Although the percentage of people who are food insecure is declining, because of population increase, the total number of food insecure people is about the same as it was 30 years ago.”

NPDN will increasingly be called upon to protect food crops from diseases and pests, he said.

“Take the example of Bangladesh,” Stack said. “That’s a nation that is one-third the size of Kansas, yet while our state’s population is 3 million, theirs is 66 million. They can’t produce enough food to feed their people, so they import from other countries, including wheat.

Wheat blast disease emerged in South America and has threatened the world’s wheat crop since 1985. It recently was found in wheat imported into Bangladesh, causing widespread epidemics and devastating one of that country’s primary food sources.

“The government came in and burned the fields to stop the spread,” Stack said. “It drove farmers further into poverty. It’s not a good scenario.”

The United States is not immune from the same type of scenario. “We import a lot of our food,” Stack said. “We are moving plant materials and food crops over greater distances and in shorter periods of time than at any point in history. And while our inspection processes are very good, they aren’t perfect. They aren’t going to catch everything.”

Plant health, he adds, affects such well-known food crops as wheat, soybeans, corn and more, but it also can affect others such as citrus and legumes. In Eastern Russia, where the perma-frost is melting gradually, scientists are finding out that seeds and bacteria that have been frozen for 30,000 years are still viable – potentially creating new challenges for plant diagnosticians.

“So we need to have the infrastructure in place that allows us to catch things soon after they’ve been introduced,” Stack said. “Our job is to provide the diagnostic services that allow us to detect things early, identify them correctly and communicate critical information in a timely fashion to those that have the authority for response.”

Learn more about the National Plant Diagnostic Network and the five regional labs online at www.NPDN.org.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — A Kansas State University researcher is on the hunt for ways to improve the quality of soybean seeds so that the crop continues to maintain high levels of protein as crop yields increase.

Ignacio Ciampitti is leading a three-year study that involves six other U.S. universities and one private consultant. Their work is supported by the United Soybean Board, which has invested nearly $1.5 million for more than three years.

In addition to K-State, the project includes researchers at South Dakota State, Iowa State, Arkansas, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota. Dan Davidson, a private consultant in Nebraska, is also part of the project.

“What we are doing is looking at this idea of how we can improve seed quality,” said Ciampitti, a crop production and systems specialist with K-State Research and Extension. “We know that when soybeans have higher yields, such as 60 to 80 bushels per acre, protein levels in those plants decline. As agronomists, we are always trying to improve yields, but at the same time we want to preserve the quality of that seed because that is what end users are buying.”

Kansas farmers typically harvest just a little more than 200 million bushels of soybeans per year, at an estimated value of $1.6 billion, according to information from the Kansas Soybean Commission. Soybeans have hundreds of uses, including such industrial products as engine oil and biodiesel, but are mostly used for animal feeds and cooking oils.

Ciampitti said the research group found early in the project that protein and amino acids tended to decrease in U.S. soybeans from southern to northern regions, findings that were first reported in the journal, Scientific Reports.

The researchers also think that applying small amounts of applied nitrogen to soybean fields – less than 50 pounds per acre – might improve the composition of amino acids in the plant, “but more research on this is in progress,” Ciampitti said.

They found that diverse rotations with other crops can give soybeans a protein boost, and some agricultural management practices – no-till, early planting dates, lower seed populations and others – help the crop to maintain its protein content at harvest. That work was recently cited in another scientific journal, Frontiers in Plant Science.

Ciampitti noted that the researchers have found mixed results when testing inoculants, such as rhizobia, on soybean seeds. “We believe there may be possibilities for using inoculants, but so far we have only had one study in which we see positive results,” he said.

But, he added, “when we are trying to expand the soybean frontier, there may be possibilities to explore if inoculating seed could help farmers. Based on my past experience, I have seen inoculants improve yields by two to five bushels per acre, but this also depends on the interaction of such factors as soil and weather conditions.”

That work, too, has been peer reviewed and published, recently appearing in Scientific Reports, through the online journal Nature Research.

Additional studies have found that while protein content may decrease in some soybean fields, the level of carbohydrates and other complex sugars may be increasing. That could be beneficial in some livestock systems where farmers are feeding soybean meal to pigs, for example. Carbohydrates provide energy which help animals grow more safely and efficiently.

“We are exploring all the possibilities at this point,” Ciampitti said. “We have evidence for the first time that there has been a change in the composition of soybeans, which will lead to a new (research) effort on improving our understanding of changes in soybean seed quality.”