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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Issue: May/June 2011
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Issue: May/June 2011


The Northern PlainFacts electronic newsletter offers brief updates on research, personnel, and events from both the Agricultural Systems Research Unit and Pest Management Research Unit at NPARL, and includes contact names and information for those interested in further details. 
 

In This Month's Issue:

Montana ARS lab to host tour for Boys and Girls Club

ARS administrative employees do their own kind of research to save taxpayer dollars

ARS scientist to lead student field tour to National Grasslands

ARS employees help coordinate rural recycling effort

ARS scientist earns Friend of Education award

ARS Irrigation Expert Speaks at third International Water for Food Conference

Collaborative paper outlines use of novel molecular techniques in weed biocontrol

 

 

Montana ARS lab to host tour for Boys and Girls Club

Members of the Boys and Girls Club of Richland County (MT) will tour the Sidney, MT, ARS laboratory June 30th to learn more about agriculture and science careers in their own back yard. Approximately two dozen students, ranging from kindergarteners to 5th graders, will participate. School and youth groups visiting the lab now have a number of specialized tour options on different topics to choose from in addition to a general tour of the facilities thanks to the efforts of summer student Tamara Ruffatto, a junior at the University of Montana in Missoula studying elementary education. Ruffatto has worked at NPARL for the past four summers, beginning her senior year in high school. During that time she’s worked for the lab’s grasshopper research program, the dryland cropping systems program and most recently with Technical Information Specialist Beth Redlin helping with Community Outreach and administrative duties. The tour offerings being developed by Ruffatto under Redlin’s direction include hands on activities, games and short presentations looking at irrigation types and technology; cropping rotations and diversification, and molecular genetics and DNA sequencing. Other planned tour topics will focus on biological control of weeds and insect pests and grasshopper ecology and management. All presentations incorporate elements of research currently underway at the Sidney, MT ARS lab in many different fields including entomology, botany, plant and insect ecology and pathology, molecular and microbial biology, agricultural engineering, agronomy, and soil sciences. For the June 30th tour, youngsters will learn about the different types of irrigation used in the region, as well as about new and existing irrigated and dryland crops grown in the region.

 

(Beth Redlin, 406.433.9427, beth.redlin@ars.usda.gov)

 

 

ARS administrative employees do their own kind of research to save taxpayer dollars

Attention to detail allowed Sidney, MT, ARS Purchasing Agent Kelly Roberts to save significant amounts of money in recent weeks on varied purchases. As research dollars have become stretched, Roberts has taken an aggressive approach to purchasing, doing significant market research on all items, even for those where it’s not required. He’s also not averse to doing some plain old-fashioned haggling with suppliers to get the best deal for researchers (and taxpayers) at the two Montana ARS facilities he serves in Sidney and Miles City. His negotiating skills have led to recent savings totaling several thousand dollars, including a $1,000 savings on a collection of items for the Sidney lab’s insect rearing room originally priced at $3,000; a $1,300 savings on the purchase of two DNA Spectrophotometers for the Sidney and Manhattan, KS, locations; an $800 savings on a minus 85C freezer for the Miles City, MT location, and ongoing savings for both Sidney and Miles City on much used petri dishes whose pricing he discovered ranged from a high of $89 per case to a low of $45 depending on the merchant. Needless to say he’s purchasing items from the latter. But Roberts is not the only penny pincher at the Sidney location, Agricultural Systems Research Unit Secretary Nikki Dahl recently researched the lab’s postage costs back to 2008 to determine whether the current meter rental system was cost effective. It wasn’t so she did some research and identified an alternative system that not only had a lower up front cost, but also eliminated the $630 the lab had been paying in annual rental and cartridge costs. Robert’s and Dahl’s aggressive approach to purchasing has allowed the lab to direct more dollars to its core research mission, a goal shared by the lab’s entire administrative staff.

 

(Kelly Roberts, 406.433.2020, kelly.roberts@ars.usda.gov)

(Nikki Dahl, 406.433.2020, nikki.dahl@ars.usda.gov)

 

ARS scientist to lead student field tour to National Grasslands

ARS Entomologist Dave Branson will be leading an annual spring field trip for Sidney, MT Middle School eighth graders to the National Grasslands outside Watford City, ND, on Friday, May 20. As part of the tour, Dr. Branson will discuss the plants, animals and insects found in the area and their ecological relationships, along with discussions on the geology of the area and the processes leading to the formation of the badlands landscape and a unique natural rock concretion bridge found there. This is the eighth year that Dr. Branson has led the tour of approximately 100 students. His involvement with the spring tour and other activities at the school also led to his recent selection as a 2011 Friend of Education award recipient by the local teachers organization.

 

(Dave Branson, 406.433.9406, dave.branson@ars.usda.gov

 

 

ARS employees help coordinate rural recycling effort

Sidney, MT ARS Safety Officer Jackie Couture and Technical Information Specialist Beth Redlin are helping to coordinate a series of summer-month electronic waste recycling events, as part of their community’s annual “E-rase your E-waste” recycling program. The ARS employees helped to initiate the e-cycling program in 2005 and still remain active on the organizing committee. To date the program has collected more than 74 tons of e-waste for recycling in this sparsely populated rural community. The new summer collection events will be held on the third Thursday of every month through August, beginning May 19. In addition an annual weekend collection event is planned for September 9-10. UNICOR is the e-cycler, with this year’s collection effort coordinated by the Sidney ARS lab, Richland County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), Richland Opportunities Inc. and volunteers with the Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP). The “E-rase your E-waste” program is a way for everyone to dispose of their old, obsolete electronic products in an environmentally friendly manner. Several local businesses and city, county and state government agencies also provide equipment, supplies and promotional funding for the event. The innovative rural recycling program has earned a number of recognitions including an honorable mention in the 2009 White House “Closing the Circle” Award program for its electronic stewardship and partnering efforts. More information about the program is available at the Sidney ARS website at http://www.ars.usda.gov/npa/nparl/ewaste 

 

(Jackie Couture, 406.433.9422, jackie.couture@ars.usda.gov)

(Beth Redlin, 406.433.9427, beth.redlin@ars.usda.gov)

 

ARS scientist earns Friend of Education award

ARS Entomologist Dave Branson was awarded the 2011 Friend of Education award from the Sidney (MT) Community Education Association for his work with the Sidney Middle School. Over the past seven years, Dr. Branson has volunteered helping judge science fairs, sharing resources and ideas with both teachers and students and leading and presenting on an annual spring field trip for eighth graders to the nearby National Grasslands. During the latter, Dr. Branson discusses the plants, animals and insects found in the area and their ecological relationships, along with the discussions on the geology of the area and what processes led to the formation of the badlands landscape and a unique natural rock concretion bridge found there. He also invites other ARS scientists on the tour to share their knowledge with students. In addition to Dr. Branson’s personal recognition this year, the Sidney (MT) ARS research facility also received a Friend of Education Award in 2009. The nominations for both Dr. Branson and the lab were made by Sidney Middle School Science Instructor Mark Halvorsen.

 

(Dave Branson, 406.433.9406, dave.branson@ars.usda.gov

 

 

ARS Irrigation Expert Speaks at third International Water for Food Conference

An internationally recognized authority on water management, ARS Agricultural Engineer Dr. Robert Evans, is among the invited speakers at the third annual international Water for Food conference, being held in Lincoln, NE, May 1-4. Dr. Evans is Research Leader of the Agricultural Systems Unit at the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Research Laboratory in Sidney, MT and will be speaking as part of the “Maximizing Water Use Efficiency in Agriculture” session, Wednesday, May 4th. The Water for Food: Paths to Solutions conference is hosted by the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and brings together more than 400 participants from 25 different countries to explore new ways to feed the world’s growing population with increasingly limited water resources. The conference features plenary addresses by Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Anil Jain, managing director, Jain Irrigation Ltd. of India; Anders Berntell, executive director, Stockholm International Water Institute; Pasquale Steduto, principal officer, United Nations/FAO Water; András Szöllösi-Nagy, rector, UNESCO-IHE; and others. The Water for Food conference is designed to foster international dialogue on key issues related to the use of water for agriculture and provides opportunities to learn from speakers with extensive experience and perspectives from diverse cultures. The Water for Food Institute is a research, education and policy analysis institute committed to helping the world efficiently use its limited freshwater resources, with particular focus on ensuring the food supply for current and future generations.

 

(Robert Evans, 406.433.9496, robert.evans@ars.usda.gov)

 

 

Collaborative paper outlines use of novel molecular techniques in weed biocontrol

Representatives from most of the world’s top research institutions working on classical biological control of weeds have completed a significant new paper to be published in the journal “Biological Control” entitled “Applying molecular-based approaches to classical biological control of weeds.” ARS Botanist John Gaskin, Leader of the Pest Management Research Unit at the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, MT is among the eleven collaborating authors spanning seven countries and representing USDA ARS in USA and France, CABI United Kingdom and Switzerland, CSIRO Australia, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Biotechnology & Biological Control Agency of Italy, University of Rome, Italy and Colorado State University. The publication is a comprehensive “how-to” manual for wedding new molecular techniques to tried-and-true classical weed biocontrol programs. The paper discusses new molecular tools and their role in providing for improved and speedier identification of invasive weeds and their origins, as well as aiding identification of more host-specific and ultimately effective biocontrol agents. The latter, in turn, significantly reduce the risks of non-target and indirect effects on desired plant communities. The paper also explores future trends in the field, including the use of molecular techniques in revisiting earlier weed biocontrol efforts to better understand (and improve) the results, and to identify new lines of research for target weeds for which no successful biocontrol solutions have yet been found. A final publication date has not yet been announced, but the article is currently available on line at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocontrol.2011.03.015.

 

(John Gaskin, 406.433.9444, john.gaskin@ars.usda.gov

 

 

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Last Modified: 12/27/2011
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