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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Issue: March/April 2006
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Current Issue: March/April 2006


The Northern PlainFacts from the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, Montana, offers brief updates on research, personnel and events at the lab, and includes contact names and e-mail addresses for those interested in further details.
 

In This Month's Issue:

ARS researchers invited to speak at regional conference 

ARS researcher to aid biocontrol effort in Republic of Georgia
ARS lab hosts speakers on irrigation, fertilizer markets, range forage dynamics
ARS lab distributes interactive ag history CD to area schools
ARS Mormon cricket research reported in "Science" and "Nature"

Ft. Keogh scientist to discuss management of cow herds on range forage
College students tour ARS molecular lab

Montana ARS lab hosts weather spotter training
Ft. Peck Tribal College reps tour Montana ARS facility
ARS participates in NPS’ “Fur Trade Life” education program

ARS rep instructs WSWS weed management biocontrol course
ARS lab participates in "Marketplace for Kids" event

ARS lab participates in "Marketplace for Kids" event

NPARL Biological Science Technician Laura Senior participated in the annual Marketplace for Kids Day held April 25, in Williston, ND. Senior staffed a booth highlighting various aspects of the Sidney, MT ARS lab’s grasshopper / Mormon cricket research. Marketplace for Kids, which targets 4th through 6th grade students, is designed to encourage innovative thinking and problem-solving skills in students and includes a showcase for student inventions and problem solving projects and a number of mini classes. In addition to posters highlighting the biology, benefits, and problems associated with the insects, students visiting the ARS booth viewed pinned grasshoppers and Mormon crickets as well as petri dishes containing grasshoppers killed by two different experimental fungicides. Students could also smell vials of raw canola oil, which NPARL Entomologist Stefan Jaronski is using to help apply the fungicides in the field. The cannibalistic insects are attracted by the smell of the oil’s fatty acid compounds (similar to that of decomposing grasshoppers) and pick up the fungicide spores on their legs and torsos as they move toward it. Senior also demonstrated a GPS radio tracking device used to track Mormon crickets in the field to help determine why the insects band and migrate. Both Senior and Jaronski are members of NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit. NPARL has participated in the Marketplace for Kids event for the past six years. Marketplace for Kids is sponsored by Kent Conrad (U.S. Senator, North Dakota), Roger Johnson (North Dakota Commissioner of Agriculture) and Wayne Sanstead (Superintendent of Public Instruction). The Williston, ND event typically attracts between 500-700 students from Western North Dakota and Eastern Montana.

(Stefan Jaronski, 406.433.9486, sjaronski@sidney.ars.usda.gov)
(Beth Redlin, 406.433.9427, bredlin@sidney.ars.usda.gov)
(Laura Senior, 406.433.9498, lsenior@sidney.ars.usda.gov)

 

ARS rep instructs WSWS weed management biocontrol course

NPARL Biological Science Technician Mary Mayer has been asked to conduct a hands-on workshop session on biological control of saltcedar and spotted and diffuse knapweeds April 24-27 at Chico Hot Springs in Pray, MT. Mayer’s presentation is part of the annual Noxious Weed Short Course sponsored by the Western Society of Weed Science. The short course was developed for public and private land managers that want to gain a better understanding of noxious weed management. The course supports and teaches ecologically sound management practices for invasive plants. Weed management professionals from throughout the West conduct the traini ng program designed to encourage interaction between instructors and participants. Lab and field exercises, in addition to classroom sessions, are used as teaching methods. Mayer, a member of NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit, has participated as a short course instructor in biocontrol for the past 10 years.

(Mary Mayer, 406.433.9426, mmayer@sidney.ars.usda.gov)

 

ARS participates in NPS’ “Fur Trade Life” education program

NPARL Biological Science Technician Kimberly Mann participated in the National Park Service’s “Fur Trade Life” outreach program at the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site near Williston, ND, April 8. Approximately 50 middle schools students from around the area participated in the hands-on activities, which included a nature trail hike with discussion of native and introduced plants; buffalo hide tanning; trade transactions; tipi setup; blacksmithing; Indian games; bead sewing and traditional food preparation. For her portion of the program, Mann discussed characteristic s of native and introduced grasses in the area, along with information on the competitive nature of introduced weeds such as leafy spurge and the use of biological control to manage them. Mann, a member of NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit, works in the Sidney, MT lab’s weed biocontrol program.

(Kimberly Mann, 406.433.9428, kmann@sidney.ars.usda.gov)

 

Ft. Peck Tribal College reps tour Montana ARS facility

Three representatives from Fort Peck Community College (FPCC) on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Eastern Montana visited NPARL April 4 to discuss possible collaborations between the tribal college and the ARS research facility. Tribal college visitors included Ruth Short Bull, director of the school’s Rural Systemic Initiative program; Jason Payne, a data analyst for RSI, and Brent Vinger, a project coordinator with the school’s agriculture department. RSI is part of the college’s K-12 outreach effort to provide specialized resources and training to local public schools on the reservation, including the promotion of early college preparation for students and parents, math, science, diabetes curriculum development and special educational training designed especially for teachers and paraprofessionals. Short Bull is currently planning a summer professional development program for middle and high school teachers in science, math and technology and was interested in exploring ways to work with ARS in that area. Among the other topics discussed were methods for developing internships research projects involving Ft. Peck students and encouraging FPCC students to apply for summer positions at the Sidney lab. NPARL Research Leaders Tom Shanower (Pest Management Research Unit) and Robert Evans (Agricultural Systems Research Unit) conducted the tour of the lab.

(Robert Evans, 406.433.9496, revans@sidney.ars.usda.gov)
(Thomas Shanower, 406.433.9405, tshanower@sidney.ars.usda.gov)

 

Montana ARS lab hosts weather spotter training

Four NPARL employees participated in two different Severe Weather Spotter Training Sessions (SKYWARN) hosted by the Sidney, MT ARS facility April 3. The sessions were sponsored by the National Weather Service, in conjunction with the Richland County Department of Disaster and included certification for participants. NPARL Biological Science Technician Deb Waters was certified under the program. Waters is a member of NPARL’s Pest Management Research Unit. Participants in the session were provided information about how storms work and what to do in the event of severe weather. Certified participants and others will serve as spotters for the National Weather Service, which along with Emergency management officials, greatly relies on the reports they get from the public during severe weather events to help with decision making. Under the direction of NPARL Safety Officer Jackie Couture, the Sidney lab has hosted several storm training sessions over the past few years to educate the public and its employees about proper measures to take during severe weather.

(Jackie Couture, 406.433.9422, jcouture@sidney.ars.usda.gov)
(Deb Waters, 406.433.9491, dwaters@sidney.ars.usda.gov)

 

College students tour ARS molecular lab

NPARL hosted the Biotech 101 class from Williston State University - Williston, ND on Tuesday, March 28. As part of the tour, NPARL Botanist John Gaskin gave a presentation on DNA genetic tools, describing the various equipment and techniques employed by research scientists at the lab studying invasive species and their origins through the use of DNA sequencing. Dr. Gaskin’s talk was followed up with a visit to the molecular lab where Biological Science Technician Kim Mann and Aide Jeannie Lassey guided the students through some hands-on lab techniques including proper pippetting, pouring gels, running PCRs and defining data from the lab’s DNA sequencing equipment.

 

Ft. Keogh scientist to discuss management of cow herds on range forage

On Friday, March 24, at noon, NPARL will host Dr. Elaine Grings, a research animal scientist with ARS’s Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, in Miles City. Dr. Grings’ presentation is entitled “Management Strategies for Dealing with Range Forage Dynamics” and is the last in NPARL's Brown Bagger series for this season. Range livestock production systems in the Northern Great Plains require an understanding of the interactions between the changing nutritional requirements of the cow herd and the naturally occurring dynamics of the rangeland vegetation in response to yearly climatic conditions. In her talk, Dr. Grings will discuss how alterations in management of the cow herd can impact weaned calf production along with subsequent impacts on post-weaning performance of both replacement heifers and steers going into finishing programs. She will also share study results evaluating the impact of calving in late winter, early spring, and late spring on beef cows and their offspring during the pre-weaning and post-weaning periods.

 

ARS Mormon cricket research reported in "Science" and "Nature"

ARS Mormon cricket research first reported in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has drawn the attention of writers with "Science" and "Nature" magazines, two of the nation’s major science publications. NPARL Research Ecologist Greg Sword (now with the University and fellow researchers Stephen Simpson of the University of Sydney, Patrick Lorch of Kent State University in Ohio and Iain Couzin of the University of Oxford in the UK have discovered first that Mormon crickets form bands to shield themselves from predatory birds and mammals, and secondly, that food deprivation brought on by a competition for certain nutrients (salt and protein) within the bands, led the crickets to cannibalism. Turns out, the crickets themselves are perfect packages of the desired nutrients. The novel study indicated that in many instances, hungry migratory bands of Mormon crickets are not so much being led as being pushed from behind in a "forced march" for fear of being eaten by those coming from the rear! The researchers’ findings will be used to help develop models for predicting band movement and should lead to more environmentally-friendly control tactics, including reduced insecticide use and new natural baits.
 

 

ARS lab distributes interactive ag history CD to area schools

In recognition of National Agriculture Day, March 20th, and National Agriculture Week, March 19-25, the USDA ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney distributed free CDs of "Growing a Nation: The Story of American Agriculture" to area schools. The interactive CD, intended to be a companion resource for U.S. history teachers and their students, tells the story of American Agriculture, its contributions and impact on our history and quality of life. The CD was developed at the request of U.S. Under Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Jen in collaboration with Utah State University Extension and complements existing American history textbooks and high school history curricula. National Agriculture Week is a time to celebrate the contributions of the American farmer and the more than 15% of the U.S. population employed in farm or farm-related jobs. The Sidney, MT ARS lab chose to mark the annual event by distributing this unique teaching tool to more than 20 schools in eastern Montana and western North Dakota.

 

ARS lab hosts speakers on irrigation, fertilizer markets, range forage dynamics

NPARL is hosting two speakers during National Agriculture Week March 19-25. Both events are open to the public and include refreshments to celebrate the occasion. First up on Monday, March 20, is Neal Christensen, a regional agronomist with Agriliance, LLC, who will discuss his work using soil moisture probes for irrigation control, as well as provide some practical insights into how world market globalization is impacting fertilizer markets. Headquartered in St. Paul, MN, Agriliance is an agronomy marketing joint venture between Land O'Lakes, Inc., and CHS Inc. and provides producer-owners, local cooperatives and regional cooperatives with crop nutrients, crop protection products and services. Also speaking on Friday, March 24th, is Dr. Elaine Grings, a research animal scientist with ARS’s Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, in Miles City. Her presentation is entitled "Management Strategies for Dealing with Range Forage Dynamics" and is the last in this season’s NPARL Brown Bagger series. In her talk, Dr. Grings will discuss how alterations in management of the cow herd can impact weaned calf production along with subsequent impacts on post-weaning performance of both replacement heifers and steers going into finishing programs.


 

ARS researcher to aid locust biocontrol effort in Republic of Georgia

ARS Research Entomologist Stefan Jaronski will travel to Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, March 17-29 to assist the Georgian Institute for Plant Protection in setting up the infrastructure needed to screen entomopathogenic fungi for development as a biocontrol of locusts in that country. The trip is part of a US Agency for International Development (USAID) grant awarded to Dr. Jaronski and his collaborators with the Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization of Israel (ARO), and the University of Wyoming. The project is designed to teach the Georgians how to find and evaluate potential biocontrol agents for use against locusts in their country. Dr. Jaronski's visit follows a February visit to the Sidney, MT ARS lab by Dr. Eleanora Abashidze of the Georgian institute. During her stay, Dr. Abashidize received training from Dr. Jaronski in all necessary methods for screening and developing entomopathogenic fungi. USAID is funding the equipping of the Georgian lab, while Dr. Jaronski and Dr. Alex Latchininsky (U of Wyoming) will help set up the lab and provide additional training.

(Stefan Jaronski, 406.433.9486, sjaronski@sidney.ars.usda.gov
)
 

 

ARS researchers invited to speak at regional soil fertility conference

Three NPARL researchers gave presentations at the Great Plains Soil Fertility Conference held in Denver, March 7-8. Presenting talks and posters during the conference were: ARS Soil Scientists Jed Waddell and Upendra Sainju and ARS Agronomist Bart Stevens. Dr. Waddell’s presentation addressed joint research done with NPARL Ecologist Andy Lenssen and was entitled "Impact of P fertility on dryland legume N production." NPARL poster presentations at the conference included: "Irrigation system effects on soil carbon and nitrogen under sugarbeet and barley rotation in the Northern Greta Plains," by Dr. Sainju and NPARL Agricultural Engineer Robert Evans, and "Effects of alternative mid-season side dress nitrogen application methods on sugarbeets," by Dr. Stevens and collaborators Sara Skalsky, James Jacobs and Dale Menkhaus. Waddell, Sainju and Stevens are all members of NPARL’s Agricultural Systems Research Unit. The soil fertility conference, held every two years, was sponsored by the Potash & Phosphate Institute and Potash and the Phosphate Institute of Canada.

(Upendra Sainju, 406.433.9408, usainju@sidney.ars.usda.gov)
(Bart Stevens, 406.433.9476, bstevens@sidney.ars.usda.gov)
(Jed Waddell, 406.433.9402, jwaddell@sidney.ars.usda.gov
)
 


 


Last Modified: 9/25/2008