Crop Sciences

Kidwell named College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences dean

Published July 15, 2016
Kimberlee Kae Kidwell
Kimberlee Kae Kidwell Photo: Courtesy of Washington State University

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Kimberlee Kae Kidwell will serve as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences effective Nov. 1, pending approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Currently the executive associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University – a diverse college with 15 reporting units ranging from apparel, merchandising, design and textiles to biological systems engineering – Kidwell is a nationally respected scholar of plant breeding and genetics. She served as the college’s acting dean in 2015-16.  

At Illinois, she also will hold the inaugural Robert A. Easter Chair.

“Professor Kidwell has excellent scholarly credentials, leadership experience and management skills,” said Edward Feser, interim provost at Illinois. “She has demonstrated a passion for students and teaching throughout her career, and she has developed her own leadership skills training program, which she plans to relocate to Illinois in partnership with WSU.

“From the exceptional quality of her extensive interactions with campus representatives throughout the search process, it’s clear that she will be an outstanding leader of ACES.”

Kidwell earned two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She joined the Washington State faculty in 1994.

Kidwell will succeed ACES Dean Robert Hauser, who has served in that role since 2010. He was interim dean of ACES for a year prior to that, and also served two terms as head of the department of agricultural and consumer economics, from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2009.

Hauser has developed and led exceptional U. of I. Extension programs, taught several undergraduate and graduate courses since he joined the faculty in 1982, and received numerous research and Extension awards.

“Dean Hauser has been a tireless advocate for the faculty, students and staff of ACES and a respected ambassador for its programs and achievements across Illinois and the U.S.,” Feser said.


News Source:

Robin Kaler, 217-333-5010

Atrazine alternatives in sweet corn

Published July 12, 2016
Nick Hausman, USDA-ARS Agricultural Sciences Technician, discusses the details of alternatives to atrazine in sweet corn weed management systems.
  • Atrazine, one of the oldest and most commonly used herbicides in sweet corn, is being phased out in some production areas, leaving growers searching for alternatives.
  • Research conducted in Illinois, Minnesota, and Oregon identified treatments that provide weed control and crop yield similar to atrazine.
  • Treatments including the herbicide tembotrione, an HPPD-inhibitor, performed consistently well across all environments.

URBANA, Ill. – Atrazine has been very good at killing weeds in corn fields for more than 50 years. But some of the properties that make it a successful herbicide, such as its persistence in the soil and ability to be transported in water, also lead to concerns about potential environmental impact. At both federal and state levels, increasing restrictions on atrazine use has the sweet corn industry wondering about alternatives.

“The list of herbicides available for use on sweet corn is much more limited than field corn, so historically sweet corn growers and processors have relied heavily on atrazine. They have been in need of alternatives, but the call for those alternatives has gone largely unanswered,” says University of Illinois and USDA Agricultural Research Service weed scientist Marty Williams.

Williams and a team of researchers from Oregon and Minnesota polled growers and processors to find out the weed management tactics they would consider using as alternatives.

“At the onset of this project, we engaged the processing sweet corn industry. We knew alternatives to atrazine had to be pragmatic. Are weed biocontrol agents an option? Would a cover crop solve the problem? Is handweeding cost-effective? In this case, no, no, and no. They wanted us to develop systems that integrated mechanical control with existing herbicide technology,” Williams recalls.

Most of the alternative herbicides they tried were already registered for use in sweet corn, and came from different herbicide classes than atrazine. The research team settled on 16 treatments, including three standard atrazine-containing treatments. Treatments were compared in sweet corn fields in Illinois, Minnesota, and Oregon over four years.

“Standard treatments containing atrazine and mesotrione applied postemergence provided the best control, and resulted in crop yields comparable to the weed-free check,” Williams states. “In our study, alternative treatments with tembotrione applied postemergence with or without interrow cultivation were similar in weed control and crop yield to atrazine-containing treatments.”

Interestingly, interrow cultivation sometimes stimulated weed emergence, thereby reducing effectiveness of the tactic in certain fields. The researchers also found that several other atrazine-free treatments worked well, but only in Oregon.

“Oregon fields were dominated by small-seeded weed species that were controlled by more products than the large-seeded weeds more common in the Midwest, such as velvetleaf and giant ragweed,” Williams explains.

Tembotrione was used to represent the HPPD inhibiting class of herbicides, which includes other efficacious herbicides such as topramezone, mesotrione, and bicyclopyrone. This mode of action was developed most recently, but some weeds are already becoming resistant to HPPD inhibitors.

“As with most herbicides, misuse of the alternatives to atrazine could select for herbicide resistant weed populations. Nonetheless, it is possible to grow sweet corn without atrazine using an approach that sweet corn growers and processors consider adoptable,” Williams notes.

The article, “Alternatives to atrazine for weed management in processing sweet corn,” is published in Weed Science. The research was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (grant no. 2012-03266).

News Source:

Martin Williams

Orr Center crop science field day July 20

Published July 7, 2016
field at Orr Center

URBANA, Ill. –The University of Illinois’s Orr Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center will host a field day on Wednesday, July 20. The event will begin at 8 a.m. with registration and refreshments.

“The format will be new this year,” says Mike Vose, coordinator of research at the Orr Center. “There will be three U of I Extension specialists making presentations in indoor classrooms.”

•             Weed scientist Aaron Hager will talk about weed management.

•             Agronomist Emerson Nafziger will discuss crop conditions and nitrogen management.

•             Agricultural economist Gary Schnitkey will discuss crop income projections.

Vose says the indoor sessions will be followed by a short wagon tour to look at crop conditions and some of the research trials underway at the center. The tour should be finished by 11 a.m. Continuing education units will be available for Certified Crop Advisors.

For more information, contact Mike Vose (217-236-4911;

The Orr Center is on State Hwy 104 approximately 4 miles west of the junction of IL routes 107 and 104 north of Perry, Illinois.

Visit the center’s website for more information.



News Source:

Mike Vose, 217-236-4911

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

35th annual field day at U of I research center in Monmouth

Published July 6, 2016
Monmouth field

URBANA, Ill. - University of Illinois’s Northwestern Agricultural Research Center and Demonstration Center will host its 35th annual field day beginning at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 15.

“Visitors to the field day can tour the 320-acre research farm and learn about the most current research to manage crops, nitrogen, and weeds,” says U of I Extension Educator Angie Peltier.

U of I speakers and topics at the event will include:

•             Future Herbicide Resistance Traits for Soybean: What are your questions? -  Aaron Hager, Extension Specialist, weed science

•             Are We Meeting the Corn Crop’s Nutrient Needs? -  Emerson Nafziger, Extension Specialist, crop production

•             Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy Practices: Every field needs at least one! - Laura Christianson, Extension Specialist, water quality

•             Evaluation of Variable Seeding Depth and Corn Yield - Eric Coronel, Ph.D. candidate

The research and demonstration center, established in 1980, is located one mile north and four miles west of Monmouth at 321 210th Avenue.  Each year, up to 10 project leaders and center personnel conduct more than 30 different projects.

 Continuing education credits are available in crop management, pest management, and nutrient management. Visit the center’s website for more information.

Those who need reasonable accommodation to participate in this program can contact Peltier (309- 734-1098;



News Source:

Angie Peltier, 309-734-1098

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension

Agronomy Day 2016 field tour topics announced

Published June 27, 2016
agronomy day location
New location of 2016 Agronomy Day at 4202 S. 1st St., Savoy IL

URBANA, Ill. – Have questions about pest resistance or curious about the use of drones in agriculture? Plan to hear more on these and other topics related to crop sciences at the 59th annual Agronomy Day at the University of Illinois on August 18.

Field tour topics and speakers for Agronomy Day 2016 were recently announced. Topics include:

TOUR A      

  • Cataloging the weapons arsenal of the Fusarium head blight pathogen
  • Genetic resistance for northern leaf blight and Goss’ wilt in corn
  • Stripe rust and scab resistance in wheat
  • Bt resistance in corn rootworm beetles
  • Nematodes: How does the worm turn?


  • Nitrogen management: Balancing profitability with sustainability
  • Economics of nutrient management
  • Land values
  • Six weed management predictions to keep you up at night
  • Investigating low crop emergence in edamame


  • The show must go on: Balancing water use under continuously changing environmental conditions
  • Cover crops for soybean and corn rotation
  • Soybean planting date and variety maturity
  • Managing soybeans for high yields
  • Drone information and demonstration


*Offered at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. (tentative) with limited availability, as attendees will be transported offsite to SoyFACE. Attendees will need to sign up in advance at the registration table. Tours will last one hour.

  • What is SoyFACE?
  • Improving maize tolerance in air pollution
  • CO2
  • Improving drought tolerance and water use efficiency in C4 crops

For a full list of this year’s speakers and topics, visit

Agronomy Day attracts more than 1,000 people each year seeking the latest information on technology and techniques to improve food and fuel production. This year, agronomy day will be held in a new location at 4202 South 1st Street in Savoy, Illinois. For more information on speakers, displays, and location, join Agronomy Day 2016 on Facebook or visit the Agronomy Day website.


News Source:

Bob Dunker, 217-244-5444

More reasons to eat your broccoli

Published June 22, 2016
  • Broccoli and related vegetables in the Brassica family are loaded with health-promoting compounds known as phenolics.
  • Researchers have identified a large number of candidate genes controlling phenolic compound accumulation in broccoli.
  • These genes will be used in future breeding programs to pack even more phenolic compounds into broccoli and other Brassica vegetables.

More reasons to eat your broccoli

URBANA, Ill. – Love it or hate it, broccoli is touted as a superfood, offering an array of health benefits. And it’s about to get even more super.

University of Illinois researchers have identified candidate genes controlling the accumulation of phenolic compounds in broccoli. Consumption of phenolic compounds, including certain flavonoids, is associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, asthma, and several types of cancer.

“Phenolic compounds have good antioxidant activity, and there is increasing evidence that this antioxidant activity affects biochemical pathways affiliated with inflammation in mammals. We need inflammation because it’s a response to disease or damage, but it’s also associated with initiation of a number of degenerative diseases. People whose diets consist of a certain level of these compounds will have a lesser risk of contracting these diseases,” explains U of I geneticist Jack Juvik.

The researchers crossed two broccoli lines and tested their progeny in terms of total phenolic content and their ability to neutralize oxygen radicals in cellular assays. They then used a genetic technique called quantitative trait locus analysis to search for the genes involved in generating phenolics in the most promising progeny.

By identifying the genes involved in accumulating these compounds, the researchers are one step closer to breeding broccoli and related Brassica vegetables like kale and cabbage with mega-doses of phenolic compounds.

“It’s going to take awhile,” Juvik notes. “This work is a step in that direction, but is not the final answer. We plan to take the candidate genes we identified here and use them in a breeding program to improve the health benefits of these vegetables. Meanwhile, we’ll have to make sure yield, appearance, and taste are maintained as well.”

The good news is that phenolic compounds are flavorless and stable, meaning the vegetables can be cooked without losing health-promoting qualities.

Once these vegetables are consumed, the phenolic compounds are absorbed and targeted to certain areas of the body or concentrated in the liver. Flavonoids spread through the bloodstream, reducing inflammation through their antioxidant activity.

“These are things we can’t make ourselves, so we have to get them from our diets,” Juvik says. “The compounds don’t stick around forever, so we need to eat broccoli or some other Brassica vegetable every three or four days to lower the risk of cancers and other degenerative diseases.”

The article, “QTL analysis for the identification of candidate genes controlling phenolic compound accumulation in broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. italica),” is published in Molecular Breeding. Lead author Alicia Gardner and Juvik are at the University of Illinois. Co-author Allan Brown is at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Tanzania. The research was supported by a grant from the Hatch Multistate Project.

The article can be accessed online at

News Source:

Jack Juvik, 217- 333-1966

Postemergence options for waterhemp control in soybean

Published June 21, 2016

URBANA, Ill. – Waterhemp is one of the most widespread and troublesome broadleaf weed species with which Illinois farmers must contend. Factors related to the species’ biology, such as prolonged germination and emergence, obligate outcrossing, and high seed production, contribute to management challenges. The evolution of herbicide resistance in Illinois waterhemp populations adds another very challenging obstacle for effective management.

“The topic of poor waterhemp control has constituted every phone call and email in the last week,” says University of Illinois weed scientist Aaron Hager.

Hager explains that prior to the evolution of herbicide resistance in waterhemp, ALS-, PPO-, EPSPS- and GS-inhibiting herbicides controlled waterhemp postemergence in soybean. Resistance to ALS-inhibiting herbicides (such as Raptor and Classic), first confirmed in Illinois during the mid-1990s, has become so widespread that this class of herbicides is largely considered functionally ineffective against waterhemp. Resistance to PPO-inhibiting herbicides (such as Flexstar, Cobra, and Ultra Blazer) was first identified in Adams County in 2001, and the first instance of resistance to the EPSPS-inhibiting herbicide glyphosate (Roundup, etc.) was confirmed in Fayette County in 2006. To date, no instance of waterhemp resistance to the GS-inhibiting herbicide glufosinate (Liberty, Interline, Cheetah) has been reported.

“The range of glyphosate-resistant waterhemp has expanded from 2006 to 2016, with resistant populations in almost every county last year,” Hager says. “The data used to track the distribution of glyphosate resistant were based on samples submitted to U of I for resistance verification with molecular marker assays.”

Waterhemp resistant to PPO inhibitors has been documented widely across the state as of 2015, as well. Hager points out that resistant populations could exist even if there has not been documentation of a resistant population in a particular county. “A better interpretation is simply that we have yet to test a positive sample from those counties. In other words, it is altogether likely resistance to glyphosate and PPO inhibitors occurs in all Illinois counties,” he says.

Waterhemp resistant to PPO-inhibiting herbicides can be controlled with glyphosate, and glyphosate-resistant waterhemp can be controlled by PPO-inhibiting herbicides. However, there are no effective herbicide options to control waterhemp resistant to both glyphosate and PPO inhibitors in conventional or glyphosate-resistant soybean varieties. As mentioned previously, ALS-inhibiting herbicides are ineffective, and 2,4-DB will not improve control.

“Inter-row cultivation or hand removal represent two options to control multiple-resistant waterhemp,” Hager says.

According to Hager, it remains very unlikely that a herbicide with a novel site of action will be commercialized in the foreseeable future. At the same time, the frequency of multiple resistant waterhemp will only increase.

“Many eagerly anticipate the ability to apply 2,4-D or dicamba to new herbicide-resistant soybean varieties, but the long-term utility of these herbicides to control multiple-resistant waterhemp will be compromised without thoughtful and implemented stewardship practices,” Hager notes.

For more details, visit The Bulletin at


News Source:

Aaron Hager, 217-333-4424

Does the corn crop need more nitrogen?

Published June 17, 2016
dark green corn

URBANA, Ill. – The 2016 corn crop is off to a very good start in Illinois; fields in most areas have excellent stands, good uniformity, and very good leaf color, according to University of Illinois crop scientist Emerson Nafziger.

“The dark green color is in contrast with what we saw with the high rainfall in June of 2015,” Nafziger says. “Conditions of low sunlight and saturated soils mean pale green leaves.”

This year, starting in mid-May, warm temperatures, bright sunlight, and soils with adequate—but not excessive—moisture have allowed the corn to grow rapidly and take up plentiful soil nitrogen. Nafziger reports that in plots at Urbana’s South Farm, corn without fertilizer nitrogen is slightly smaller than corn fertilized with 200 lb of nitrogen, but both show dark green leaves.

Nitrogen management

“With warm temperatures and the crop just entering its rapid growth and nitrogen uptake phase, it seems highly likely that the crop growing in soils with the normal (nitrogen rate calculator) amount of fertilizer nitrogen should be able to take up all the nitrogen it needs. If soils dry out, that might reduce the amount of nitrogen taken up, but at this point there is little danger of developing nitrogen deficiency,” Nafziger says.

In 2015, well-fertilized corn had a total of 45 lb of nitrogen per acre in the crop when it was about 30 inches tall. When it tasseled about four weeks later, it had nearly 160 lb of nitrogen in the crop. Soil nitrogen over this period fell from 240 lb to 93 lb per acre, and total (plant plus soil) nitrogen fell from 285 to 242 lb per acre. Nafziger clarifies that this was under wet conditions, with some 8 inches of rainfall during the same period. Even with the drop in soil nitrogen to a relatively low level by the time of pollination, the crop in this treatment yielded 235 bushels per acre.

“At the estimated 1 lb of nitrogen taken up for each bushel of yield, the 2015 crop would have taken up about a third of its nitrogen after tasseling,” Nafziger states. “Given the low amount of soil nitrogen at tasseling, this additional nitrogen had to have come from mineralization and, possibly, from nitrogen deeper in the soil profile as the crop drew up water during dry weather late in the season. In any case, it’s clear that low soil nitrogen at tasseling did not result in low yields due to nitrogen deficiency.”

Nafziger cautions that it is premature to draw a strong parallel between 2015 results and what we might expect this year, but a number of signs point to a lower chance for nitrogen loss, and little danger of deficiency this year.

Despite the dark green color of most Illinois corn fields and moderate rainfall amounts this year, Nafziger says he has been hearing about producers and retailers gearing up to apply more nitrogen, some in fields that have had a full amount of nitrogen applied and where soils have not been saturated this spring.

“In fields that have already received their full complement of nitrogen, with most or all of the nitrogen applied this spring, there is no justification for adding more nitrogen,” Nafziger warns. “This does not appear to be one of those years when ‘just in case’ justifies adding more nitrogen fertilizer. It’s highly unlikely that a corn crop that is deep green at knee- to waist-high will experience nitrogen deficiency due to lack of soil nitrogen.

“While fear that the crop will run out of nitrogen has been a common theme, nitrogen deficiency symptoms that develop in the late vegetative or reproductive stages usually result from the crop running short of water. What is called ‘firing’ and looks like a shortage of nitrogen is really loss of lower leaf area as the plant dries out. As lower leaves start to shut down, they move nitrogen out to younger parts of the plant, including the ear, to keep the plant going as long as possible. Adding more nitrogen neither prevents nor cures this,” Nafziger explains.

If some or all of the nitrogen was applied at modest rates last fall or in early spring in an area that has gotten wet several times since, and if soil nitrogen sampling shows less than 15 ppm of nitrate-N in the top foot, then adding more nitrogen might be indicated. But even if soil nitrogen numbers don’t look very high, a deep green and rapidly growing crop is getting enough nitrogen, and as its root grow it will continue to get access to what’s in the soil. So adding more nitrogen may not benefit the crop.

“The crop is always a better indicator of soil nitrogen sufficiency at a given growth stage than are soil nitrogen tests,” Nafziger says. “As long as leaves keep their good, green color through pollination, we needn’t be too concerned that the crop will run out of nitrogen this season.”

More detailed information can be found on The Bulletin, at

Weed science field research tour announced

Published June 17, 2016
Aaron Hager with weeds
Aaron Hager shows off waterhemp

URBANA, Ill. – Farmers with questions about weed management will find answers at this year’s annual weed science field research tour, hosted by the University of Illinois. The tour will be held Wednesday, June 29th at the U of I Crop Sciences Research and Education Center, located immediately south of the main Urbana campus at 2008 Wright St. Extended.

“Similar to past years, we will carpool to the fields where participants can join in a guided, but informal, tour. The tour will provide ample opportunity to look at research plots and interact with weed science faculty, staff, and graduate students,” says U of I weed scientist Aaron Hager.

Participants can compare their favorite corn and soybean herbicide programs to other commercial programs and get an early look at a few new products that soon will be on the market.

Coffee and refreshments will be available under the shade trees near the seed house beginning at 8 a.m. A catered lunch will follow the tour at noon. Cost is $10, which covers the field tour book, refreshments, and lunch.

Please call Aaron Hager at 217-333-9646 with any questions.

News Source:

Aaron Hager, 217-333-4424

Garlic mustard populations likely to decline

Published June 14, 2016
Garlic mustard invasion
An early invasion of garlic mustard can exclude all other plants. Photo courtesy of Pam Henderson.
  • Garlic mustard, an invasive plant affecting forested areas in the Midwestern and Eastern United States, secretes a chemical called sinigrin into soil to deter the growth of other plants and decrease competition.
  • Researchers have found that sinigrin concentrations decrease as garlic mustard populations age, demonstrating evolutionary change due to ecological processes.
  • Ecological-evolutionary feedbacks are assumed to occur, but are rarely observed. This is the first study to show a negative feedback loop for an invasive species.
  • Researchers predict that garlic mustard will decline and reach a balance with native species that re-colonize invaded areas.

URBANA, Ill. – Invasive plants are often characterized as highly aggressive, possessing the power to alter and even irreversibly change the ecosystems they invade. But a recent University of Illinois study shows that one such invader, garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), actually becomes less aggressive over time.

“One of the things we’ve seen over the last 20 to 30 years is that garlic mustard becomes less of an issue, and actually balances out over time,” says University of Illinois and USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist Adam Davis.

When garlic mustard arrives in a new location, it releases a chemical known as sinigrin into the soil. Sinigrin is toxic to other plants and to the mycorrhizal fungi community, which other plants depend on to facilitate uptake of certain nutrients and water. Without their fungal partners, and through direct competition with growing garlic mustard populations for physical space, native plants quickly die out. 

But when a garlic mustard population has been around for awhile, it produces less sinigrin.

“There’s a fitness cost to producing sinigrin. So, when the native competitors drop out, it makes sense for garlic mustard to slow its production of this chemical,” Davis explains.

In demonstrating the relationship between competition, an ecological phenomenon, and sinigrin production, an evolutionary phenomenon, the research team provided the first empirical example of a negative evolutionary feedback on an invasive species. That is, as garlic mustard populations become larger and more dense as a result of their superior competitive advantage, natural selection begins to act against the very mechanism that allowed for their initial success.    

“Even though you might expect ecological processes to influence genetic and evolutionary ones, it has been shown very few times. It’s an unusual thing to quantify, and, as far as we know, negative feedbacks haven’t been demonstrated for other invaders,” Davis says.

If garlic mustard becomes less aggressive over time, should landowners just leave it alone? Davis doesn’t recommend a completely hands-off approach, but thinks landowners and managers should take a more holistic view of the ecosystems that garlic mustard invades.

“It may be satisfying to pull garlic mustard, but the damage you’re doing to the herb layer by trampling it or by hosing it down with a chemical is probably worse than the garlic mustard itself. The main thing that creates space for garlic mustard is repeated disturbance. Landowners should try to minimize those disturbances and promote a healthy forest without micromanaging it,” Davis suggests.

It might take decades to see garlic mustard fade out after its initial invasion, but Davis thinks there’s reason to believe it will happen. “Ultimately,” he says, “our results tell us we should have some faith in the ability of the ecosystem to achieve a new balance.”

The article, “Evolutionary feedbacks on the ecology of the invasive plant Alliaria petiolata,” is published in Functional Ecology.

News Source:

Adam Davis, 217-333-9654
Additional Images:
  • garlic mustard