Cultivating corn, Renville County.

2018 Research Highlights: Global Food Security and Hunger

Research related to Global Food Security and Hunger includes a broad range of efforts to support the viability and success of Minnesota's crop and animal production systems. Highlights for 2018 include:

  • Researchers have developed eight potential vaccine candidates for highly pathogenic avian influenza. They have successfully concluded primarily tests and, in 2019, they will test the vaccine candidates in animals. 
  • Researchers compared the genetics of 1960s Holstein (housed at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, MN) to modern dairy cows. Results showed contemporary Holsteins have a less robust immune system. They will use this information to help identify and select genes for improved immunity from the 1960s Holsteins that can be incorporated into gene assisted selection programs to enhance immune performance of contemporary cows. 
  • A multistate project on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) looked at seven years of PRRS incidence data to describe temporal patterns of PRRS outbreaks on farms in five states. Results showed a difference in PRRS seasonality among states. Previous descriptions of PRRS seasonality only held up in three of the five states (Minnesota, North Carolina and Nebraska). But for Iowa and Illinois, they detected seasonal peaks every six months. These results show epidemic patterns are not homogeneous across the U.S. and highlight the need for coordination of alternative control strategies in various regions. 
  • Researchers are developing oral alternatives to antibiotics that commercial turkey farms can use to maintain both growth performance and health in their birds. This work will help assist turkey farmers who may struggle with the phase out of antibiotic rations for poultry.
  • Research on DNA fingerprints revealed the rate of genetic gain for complex traits, like yield, is potentially doubled through targeted recombination, which is the ability to induce or select for chromosomal recombinations precisely where a breeder would want recombination to occur. Researchers found this doubling of predicted gain is possible not only in maize but also self-pollinated species such as wheat and soybean.  
  • Researchers are using hyperspectral imaging to identify soybean diseases residing in soil, such as sudden death syndrome and brown stem rot, before the naked eye can detect them. And, therefore, possibly in time for farmers to take action before it is too late. Pilot studies are underway. 
  • A camera-tracking system was piloted that allows researchers to record real-time plant traits at different locations in the experimental field. This technology enables plant breeders to collect lodging data, which will help improve lodging resistance of cereals. During the pilot study the camera system captured lodging in approximately 15 minutes, saving hours of time compared to measuring it manually.