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Engineer Named Northern Plains Scientist of the Year for ARS / February 12, 2003 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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News story about Dowell’s research (Nov. 2000)


Engineer Named Northern Plains Scientist of the Year for ARS

By Linda McElreath
February 12, 2003

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 12—The Agricultural Research Service has named agricultural engineer Floyd E. Dowell the “2002 Senior Research Scientist of the Year” for the agency’s Northern Plains Area, which encompasses Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dowell, based at ARS’ Grain Marketing and Production Research Center (GMPRC) in Manhattan, Kan., has led the development, adaptation and transfer of single-kernel spectroscopy technology to rapidly measure attributes of grain and other products. Spectroscopy and near-infrared spectroscopy allow scientists to measure the visible and invisible light “signatures” of different commodities.

Dowell has shown that this technology can detect properties in wheat such as bunted kernels, color class, hardness, heat and scab damage, protein content and the presence of internal insects. He has also adapted the technology to detect the presence of toxins in corn and insect fragments in flour, the digestibility of sorghum, the quality of rice and soybean, and the staleness of bread.

“Dowell’s research has had a great impact on the wheat and barley industries,” said Edward B. Knipling, ARS Acting Administrator, who presented Dowell with a plaque at an awards ceremony today at the research agency’s headquarters in Beltsville. “He has provided quality control labs with instruments that can rapidly determine the distribution of protein within samples, the presence of internal insects and other characteristics that affect end-use quality.”

Before this technology was introduced, grain inspectors had to rely on subjective visual checks or use invasive chemical analyses to assess grain quality.

Dowell and cooperators from ARS, academia and other federal organizations have also adapted spectroscopic technology for use by entomologists. They have developed instrumentation that can detect the species of individual insects in stored grain and determine the pest’s age and whether it’s been parasitized.

By modifying high-speed grain sorters, Dowell has helped grain breeders, too, providing them with a rapid means of purifying white wheat stock. And, at the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Dowell has shown that high-speed sorters can detect and remove kernels infected with Karnal bunt from samples. APHIS now uses procedures Dowell developed to regulate and inspect wheat for Karnal bunt, a disease that can affect U.S. wheat exports.

In 1999, Dowell was named leader of ARS’ Engineering Research Unit at GMPRC, and the next year was chosen ARS Engineer of the Year. In 2000, he was also selected by the National Society of Professional Engineers as the Federal Engineer of the Year.

A Lamont, Okla., native, Dowell received a USDA Honor Award in 2002 as part of the Hard White Wheat Commercialization Team that expanded economic and trade opportunities for U.S. agricultural products. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural engineering from Oklahoma State University in 1984 and 1985, respectively, and received his Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1988. He is a member of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.

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Last Modified: 2/11/2003
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