WASHINGTON—Three U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have earned places in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Science Hall of Fame for discoveries that provide solutions for infectious animal diseases, improve breeding for beef production, and enhance perennial grass breeding and bioenergy production systems. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.
Veterinarian Donald Knowles, animal geneticist Larry Cundiff and plant geneticist Kenneth Vogel will be honored tonight at a ceremony in College Park, Md. ARS established its Science Hall of Fame in 1986 to recognize agency researchers for their outstanding lifelong achievements in agricultural sciences and technology. Nominees must be retired or eligible to retire to receive the award.
"The extraordinary contributions of Knowles, Cundiff and Vogel have had a significant impact on food and agriculture worldwide," said ARS Administrator Edward B. Knipling. "Their outstanding accomplishments demonstrate commitment, knowledge and perseverance. They have paved the way for future research that influences national and international agricultural programs and policies."
Knowles, a veterinary medical officer who heads the ARS Animal Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Wash., is being recognized for his scientific leadership on multiple infectious animal diseases that impact national and global food security. Under his leadership, disease control methods and diagnostic tests, some of which have been licensed and are used worldwide, have been developed for infectious diseases that affect horses, sheep, cattle, goats and bison. He has created critical partnerships with industry, government and universities in the United States and internationally to address lentiviruses, anaplasmosis, malignant catarrhal fever, equine and bovine babesiosis, and prion diseases that cause mad cow disease and scrapie in sheep.
Cundiff has developed internationally recognized programs of excellence in beef genetics. He has made essential contributions that impact beef production and substantially increase global use of crossbreeding. From 1975 until his retirement in 2007, Cundiff led a multi-disciplinary research team that characterized 37 diverse breeds of cattle in the comprehensive Germplasm Evaluation Program at the ARS Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb. He and his colleagues were the first to show that genetic variation among breeds was comparable to variation within breeds for most bioeconomic traits, but no single breed excelled in all important traits.
Vogel, a plant geneticist and research leader of the ARS Grain, Forage and Bioenergy Research Unit in Lincoln, Neb., began researching perennial grasses for bioenergy when little was known about their genetics and agronomic traits. Since then, his innovative and strategic research has led to the development of switchgrass, a previously obscure prairie grass, as a bioenergy crop. He improved switchgrass establishment and developed and validated new research tools and methods to manage perennial grasses for pasture and biomass. Vogel's breeding and evaluation research has resulted in the release of widely used cultivars of switchgrass, intermediate wheatgrass, big bluestem, indiangrass, prairie sand reedgrass, Canada wildrye and forage triticale. Vogel developed two switchgrass cultivars, Trailblazer and Shawnee, which are the most widely used of these species in the Great Plains and Midwest.
ARS scientists conduct research to help provide solutions to agricultural issues that affect the lives of Americans each day. They work to ensure high-quality, safe food and other agricultural products; improve nutrition and health of children; enhance development of new bioenergy sources; and support agricultural sustainability and rural wealth creation.