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Center History
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Center for Grain and Animal Health Research (CGAHR) is part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service (ARS).  ARS is the chief scientific in-house research agency of USDA and delivers scientific solutions to national and global agricultural challenges.  

Center Mission

To ensure a safe, abundant and high-quality food supply through innovation research and technology development for plant and animal health.

Research Units

CGAHR consists of four units which each have a unique research focus. 


Arthropod-Borne Animal Diseases Research Unit (ABADRU)

Identify and solve major endemic, emerging, and exotic arthropod-borne disease challenges in U.S. livestock


Hard Winter Wheat Genetics Research Unit (HWWGRU)

Develop molecular markers and mechanisms for resistance to stresses; improved germplasm (disease resistance and environmental tolerance)

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Grain Quality and Structure Research Unit (GQSRU)

Grain composition and quality traits related to genetics and environment

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Stored Product Insect and Engineering Research Unit (SPIERU)

Biology and management of stored product insects; methods to rapidly evaluate grain quality; post-harvest management practices

 CGAHR is also home to the (1) Hard Winter Wheat Quality Laboratory (in the Grain Quality Structure Research Unit) which is one of four USDA ARS wheat quality laboratories that test end-use quality help in advancing new wheat breeding lines; and the (2) Central Small Grain Genotyping Laboratory (in the Hard Winter Wheat Genetics Research Unit) which is one of four USDA genotyping labs and grains covered include hard winter wheat, spring and whiter oat and winter barley.


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Photographs by USDA ARS CGAHR Scientist, Scott Bean.


CGAHR is located in Manhattan, Kansas.  Manhattan is a city of more than 50,000 people located at the confluence of the Kansas and Big Blue Rivers in the beautiful Flint Hills. 

Manhattan is home for Kansas State University (KSU) and one of CGAHR’s research units is housed on the KSU campus.  Most of our scientists are adjunct faculty members at the University.  Many undergraduate and graduate students from the KSU conduct research at CGAHR.

CGAHR has more than 90 permanent employees, including 30 research scientists, and typically has more than 130 people working at the location.

The Center has many unique research capabilities including a pilot scale grain elevator (which is visible from many locations in town), plant germplasm improvement building, flour mill and bake lab, and insectary and cell culture building.  


Highlighted Recent Research Publications

Classification approaches for sorting maize (Zea mays subsp. mays) haploid using single-kernel near-infrared spectroscopy  
Citation: Gustin, J.L., Frei, U.K., Baier, J., Armstrong, P.R., Lubberstedt, T., Settles, A.M. 2020. Classification approaches for sorting maize (Zea mays subsp. mays) haploid using single-kernel near-infrared spectroscopy. Plant Breeding. 139(6):1103-1112.

Interpretive Summary: Doubled haploids (DHs) seeds have become an important breeding tool for creating maize inbred lines. However, several bottlenecks in the DH production process limit wider development, application, and adoption of the technique. Haploid kernels are typically sorted manually from a much larger pool of hybrid siblings which introduces time constraints on DH production. Automated sorting based on the chemical composition of the kernel can be effective but have not achieved the necessary sorting speed to be cost-effective replacement over manual sorting. Single kernel near-infrared reflectance (skNIR) spectroscopy was evaluated as a platform to accurately identify haploid kernels. The skNIR platform is a high-throughput device that acquires a NIR spectrum and weight from each kernel to sort DH from hybrid kernels. With this system we were able to enrich the haploid selection pool to above 50% haploids which would make the final manual sort be performed on a substantially smaller lot of kernels.


Long-lasting insecticide treated netting affects reproductive output and mating behavior in Tribolium castaneum (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) and Trogoderma variabile (Coleoptera: Dermestidae)

Citation: Gerken, A.R., Campbell, J.F., Abts, S.R., Arthur, F.H., Morrison III, W.R., Scheff, D.S. 2021. Long-lasting insecticide treated netting affects reproductive output and mating behavior in Tribolium castaneum (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) and Trogoderma variabile (Coleoptera: Dermestidae). Journal of Economic Entomology.


Interpretive Summary: Preventing insects from infesting post-harvest products is one of the key tenets of a good integrated pest management (IPM) plan. Among prevention techniques is the use of netting, which can be used to exclude insects from entering facilities or products. However, netting that serves as a complete barrier to insect movement may not provide sufficient air flow and can become easily clogged in dusty environments. Long-lasting insecticide treated netting (LLIN) has a larger mesh size and rather than being a physical barrier uses a chemical insecticide to reduce insect ability to disperse and colonize after exposure. In evaluating the sublethal effects of short duration exposure to LLIN a significant reduction in number of offspring produced was found when either male or female red flour beetle were exposed to netting for five minutes. There was no difference in how long adult red flour beetles lived after a short 5-minute exposure to the netting, but due to the reduced progeny production overall population size was predicted to decrease over time. For the warehouse beetle, exposure to the netting as larvae did not significantly decrease the number of offspring produced for females or males exposed to LLIN, but there was a predicted significant decline in population growth over time for insects exposed to LLIN due to trending declines in offspring output. Exposure to the netting had impacts on red flour beetle male mating behavior, but not female behavior, with netting exposed males attempting to mate for longer. The results from this study support the use of LLIN within post-harvest facilities as part of an IPM strategy to reduce insects entering and colonizing.


Detection of vesicular stomatitis virus Indiana from insects collected during the 2020 outbreak in Kansas, USA

Citation: McGregor, B.L., Rozo-Lopez, P., Davis, T.M., Drolet, B.S. 2021. Detection of vesicular stomatitis virus Indiana from insects collected during the 2020 outbreak in Kansas, USA. Pathogens. 10(9):1126.


Interpretive Summary: Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) causes an economically important disease in horses, cattle, and pigs throughout the Americas that can be spread by infected insects. Outbreaks usually occur in the western and southwestern United States on a 5-10 year cycle and can result in significant financial losses due to animal movement restrictions and health impacts to infected animals. In 2019-2020, a large outbreak of VSV occurred with positive cases reaching as far east as Kansas and Missouri. The insect species responsible for spread of VSV in these states is poorly studied because VS outbreaks are very rare, but in other parts of the country, biting midges and black flies are known to transmit the virus. In this study, insects on two farms with confirmed VSV-positive horses were collected and tested for VSV. Three biting midge species pools and one black fly species were positive for virus. Some of the VSV-positive midges had never taken a previous blood meal. This is important since taking a first blood meal is how most insects pick up viruses. Based on this information, it is possible that either transmission is occurring from mother to offspring or sexual transmission of this virus is happening during mating. This has never been shown in wild populations and could be an important way that this virus may be maintained through winter periods. This is also the first report of field detections of this type of VSV from two of the species. Overall this study helps us better understand VSV outbreaks in the central part of the United States and improves our ability to detect and control target insect species and outbreaks in the future.


Mechanical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by house flies

Citation: Balaraman, V., Drolet, B.S., Mitzel, D.N., Wilson, W.C., Owens, J.L., Gaultiero, N.N., Meekins, D.A., Bold, D., Trujillo, J.D., Noronha, L.E., Richt, J.A., Nayduch, D. 2021. Mechanical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by house flies. Parasites & Vectors. 14:214.


Interpretive Summary: SARS-CoV-2 is a recently emerged coronavirus that is the causative agent of the global COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 in humans is characterized by a wide range of symptoms ranging from mild to severe illness that can result in death. SARS-CoV-2 is highly contagious and is transmitted to new hosts via the respiratory route through aerosols, or after contact with items contaminated by infected persons. House flies transmit various bacterial, parasitic, and viral agents to humans and animals as mechanical vectors. Previous experimental studies have shown that house flies can mechanically transmit turkey coronavirus; however, the house fly’s role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission has not yet been explored. Therefore, the goal of this work was to determine whether house flies can acquire and transmit the SARS-CoV-2. virus. The objectives of this study were to systematically assess whether house flies can acquire SARS-CoV-2, from a substrate, harbor infectious virus, and mechanically transmit the virus to naïve substrates and surfaces. Two independent studies were performed to address these objectives. The first study aimed to determine fly acquisition of virus. Flies were exposed to SARS-CoV-2-spiked culture media or 10% milk substrates and tested for virus at either 4 or 24 hours after exposure. In the second study, flies were exposed to a substrate containing virus for 24 hours (as well as positive and negative control substrates). Flies were transferred to a clean container with naive substrate, and after 4 and 24 hours flies, container swabs and the naive substrate were removed and tested for SARS-CoV-2-. All flies exposed to SARS-CoV-2- inoculated media or milk were positive for viral RNA at 4 hours and 24 hours post-exposure. However, infectious virus was detected only from the flies exposed to virus-spiked milk. Moreover, the virus' nucleic acid (e.g., viral RNA) was detected in environmental samples (swabs, naive substrates) after contact with SARS-CoV-2 exposed flies, but no infectious virus was recovered. Under laboratory conditions using high amounts of virus, house flies were able to acquire and harbor infectious SARS-CoV-2 for up to 24 hours post-exposure. In addition, the flies were able to mechanically transmit SARS-CoV-2 to the surrounding environment up to 24 hours post-exposure. Further studies are warranted to determine if house fly transmission occurs naturally and to assess the potential public health implications of these results.


Effect of wheat quality traits and glutenin composition on tortilla quality from the USDA Southern Regional Performance Nursery  
Citation: Zhang, P., Tilley, M., Bai, G., Harmer, S.E., Seabourn, B.W., Zhang, G. 2021. Effect of wheat quality traits and glutenin composition on tortilla quality from the USDA Southern Regional Performance Nursery. Cereal Chemistry. 98/1227-1237.

Interpretive Summary: Once considered an ethnic specialty, wheat flour tortillas have become a popular component of mainstream American diets. The highly versatile nature of tortillas contributes to their position as the second most popular bread product after white bread. Hard winter wheat (HWW), has been bred to produce flour that is appropriate for bread and little research has focused on the functionality requirements for optimal tortilla quality. Desirable characteristics of tortillas include large diameter, high flexibility, opacity, light color and long shelf stability. Flour for tortillas should produce doughs that are highly extensible with a resilient gluten network which will retain flexibility in the final product. Evaluation of wheat quality attributes is a basic approach to predict tortilla quality in breeding programs. The USDA Southern Regional Performance Nursery (SRPN) serves the largest wheat growing region in the USA, mainly aimed to screen good quality wheat for white pan bread production. However, the tortilla quality of germplasm in the SRPN has remained unknown. Thus, the objectives of this study were to: (1) evaluate the tortilla making quality of germplasms in the SRPN, and screen the wheat lines for tortilla quality; (2) to investigate the effect of wheat quality traits on tortilla making quality, and figure out the optimum wheat quality properties necessary to produce good quality tortilla. One hundred and forty-nine winter wheat cultivars or advanced lines from the SRPN were selected and tested for wheat and tortilla quality parameters based on diverse dough rheological properties. A wide variation of wheat and flour tortilla quality traits was found among these wheat lines. Increased protein content and gluten strength significantly decreased tortilla diameter, but improved tortilla shelf life. Medium protein content and gluten strength should be aimed to produce good quality tortilla. The 1RS translocation and Glu-D1 loci significantly affected tortilla quality, and manipulation of HMW-GS composition or the 1RS translocation is an effective approach for improving tortilla quality. 


Effect of tempering conditions on white sorghum milling, flour, and bread properties

Citation: Yoganandan, M., Bean, S.R., Miller-Regan, R., Dogan, H., Pulivarthi, M.K., Siliveru, K. 2021. Effect of tempering conditions on white sorghum milling, flour, and bread properties. Foods.


Interpretive Summary: Compared to grains such as wheat and corn, methods for milling sorghum grain are not well established. To improve the production of sorghum flour, this research tested the effect of using room temperature or hot water to temper sorghum grain before milling. Tempering sorghum grain with room temperature water before roller milling was found to lead to improved milling properties of the grain with no negative effect on the final sorghum flour. Sorghum flour produced from grain that was tempered for 24 hours at room temperature was found to produce higher quality bread as well. This means room temperature tempering could improve sorghum flour production and flour end-use quality for baked foods.


Identification of a major QTL for Hessian fly resistance in wheat cultivar ‘Chokwang'

Citation: Zhang, L., Xu, Y., Chen, M., Su, Z., Liu, Y., Xu, Y., La, G., Bai, G. 2021. Identification of a major QTL for Hessian fly resistance in wheat cultivar ‘Chokwang'. The Crop Journal.


Interpretive Summary: Hessian fly is an important insect pest of wheat that causes stunting and lodging. We evaluated progeny of the cross of cultivars ‘Chokwang’ and ‘Ning 7840’ for Hessian fly resistance and constructed a genetic linkage map using 1,147 DNA markers. One major gene for Hessian fly resistance was identified on chromosome arm 6BS of Chokwang. Four Kompetitive Allele Specific Polymerase Chain Reaction (KASP) markers were developed and validated in a U.S. winter wheat panel. The marker KASP-6B112698 is diagnostic, and can be used to screen for the gene in breeding populations.


Development of the Wheat Practical Haplotype Graph Database as a Resource for Genotyping Data Storage and Genotype Imputation

Citation: Jordan, K., Bradbury, P., Miller, Z., Nyine, M., He, F., Guttieri, M.J., Brown Guedira, G.L., Buckler Iv, E.S., Jannink, J., Akhunov, E., Ward, B.P., Bai, G., Bowden, R.L., Fiedler, J.D., Faris, J.D. 2021. Development of the Wheat Practical Haplotype Graph Database as a Resource for Genotyping Data Storage and Genotype Imputation. G3 Genes/Genomes/Genetics.


Interpretive Summary: Developing and using large numbers of DNA markers is rather difficult and expensive in wheat. The Practical Haplotype Graph (PHG) is a new bioinformatic tool that leverages existing high coverage DNA sequencing data to accurately impute marker data on additional lines with inexpensive low coverage input data. We provide evidence that a custom-built database that represents the diversity in US wheat breeding programs accurately (93%) predicts over 1.4 million variants of the DNA sequence with as little as one-one hundredth coverage input data. The PHG had significantly higher accuracy than the currently popular marker imputation tool called Beagle. The PHG has the potential to become an accurate, expandable, flexible, inexpensive imputation tool for marker genotyping in wheat.   

History of the Center