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Team streamlines DNA collection, analysis for elephant conservation

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A new DNA-collection approach allows scientists to capture genetic information from elephants without disturbing the animals or putting their own safety in jeopardy. The protocol, tested on elephant dung, yielded enough DNA to sequence whole genomes not only of the elephants but also of the associated microbes, plants, parasites and other organisms – at a fraction of the cost of current approaches.

The researchers report their findings in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.

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All in the planning: State policies working to fix Gulf nutrient pollution

URBANA, Ill. – Tackling nutrient pollution in the Gulf of Mexico is a big job, requiring coordination between dozens of states whose waters flow into the Mississippi. Although a 2011 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency memo set a framework for each state to reduce its nutrient load, it was up to the states to set their own policies in motion.

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How college students cope with episodic and persistent food insecurity

URBANA, Ill. ­– College students, especially first-generation and minority students, are more likely to experience food insecurity than the general population. This can contribute to social inequalities and make degree attainment more difficult for those students, University of Illinois researchers say.

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Want a natural food dye? Amaranth delivers, according to Illinois study

URBANA, Ill. – Artificial food dyes have been linked to multiple health concerns, including hyperactivity in children, allergies, and certain cancers. The science isn’t settled and the Food and Drug Administration says color additives are safe, but consumers are nonetheless clamoring for natural alternatives.

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New parents benefit from participating in family education program, study shows

URBANA, Ill. – The birth of a child is a major life transition, and it can be a stressful time for new parents. Family and relationship education programs are available to help individuals and couples deal with these challenges. But do such programs work as intended?

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Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations extends RIPE funding with $34M grant

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations has awarded a grant of $34 million to the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency project, an international research effort led by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In its 10-year history, RIPE has demonstrated large increases in crop productivity in replicated field trials on the university farm.

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Cover cropping up to 7.2% in U.S. Midwest, boosted by government programs

URBANA, Ill. – Cover crops, with their ability to reduce erosion and promote soil health, are being planted across more Midwestern land than ever. That’s according to new University of Illinois research showing cover crop adoption reached 7.2% in 2021, up from just 1.8% a decade prior. The finding is the result of sophisticated satellite-based remote sensing efforts that accurately detected cover crops across 140 million acres of cropland and tracked their expansion over 20 years.

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Study: Canada geese beat humans in longstanding territory battle

URBANA, Ill. – Canada geese collide with aircraft, intimidate unassuming joggers, and leave lawns and sidewalks spattered with prodigious piles of poop. They’re widely considered nuisance birds, and municipalities invest considerable time and money harassing geese to relocate the feisty flocks. But new University of Illinois research shows standard goose harassment efforts aren’t effective, especially in winter when birds should be most susceptible to scare tactics.

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Gully erosion prediction tools can lead to better land management

URBANA, Ill. – ­Soil erosion is a significant problem for agricultural production, impacting soil quality and causing pollutants to enter waterways. Among all stages of soil erosion, gully erosion is the most severe phase, where large channels are carved through the field. Once gullies develop, they are challenging to manage through tiling; they require a more comprehensive approach along the impacted area. 

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New monounsaturated soybean oil works well in pig diets

URBANA, Ill. – Adding a fat source to the traditional corn-soy swine diet is common practice, but the type of fat can make a difference both for growing pigs and carcass quality. Polyunsaturated fats, the primary type in distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS), can reduce fat quality and complicate processing of pork bellies and bacon.

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