Category Archives: Agricultural Research

RAP student uses research to hone design skills, meet a need

A decade ago, when Mikaili McNeill was 7, her mother let her watch “Project Runway.” She loved seeing how competing designers responded to the reality show’s challenges, and she started to dream about becoming a professional clothing designer.

This summer, McNeill, a rising high school senior from Knightdale, tackled a design challenge of her own during the four-week Research Apprenticeship Program at A&T. Her father, who participated in the program 26 years ago, had encouraged her to apply.

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NIFA Seeks Applications for Small Business Innovation Research – Phase II

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is seeking applications for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) – Phase II program from previous Phase I awardees.

The SBIR program is carried out in three separate phases. Phase I determines the scientific or technical feasibility of ideas submitted by applicants on research topic areas solicited. Phase II requires a more comprehensive application, outlining the proposed effort in further detail. Phase III’s focus is to stimulate technological innovation and return on investment from research carried out in Phases I and II. Continue reading NIFA Seeks Applications for Small Business Innovation Research – Phase II

Yu’s peanut allergen research helps agricultural supporters in ‘Retaking the Field’

Peanut allergen research by CAES research scientist Dr. Jianme Yu is one of 11 featured stories highlighted in the recent release of the new report, Retaking the Field—Strengthening the Science of Farm and Food Production, produced by the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation.

SAES research scientist Dr. Jianmei Yu's contributions that led to a patented procedure "that is significantly reducing or virtually eliminating two key allergens from peanuts without affecting the flavor."

The publication explores research projects funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) at each institution.

Publicists for Retaking the Field — the second in SoAR’s series — note that: “Scientists are solving some of the thorniest questions in food production despite the USDA’s limited research budget. Even as the research budget for all federal agencies has climbed, USDA’s share has nearly been cut in half.”

The story of Yu’s groundbreaking work on reducing allergens in roasted peanuts that has been  patented and is being readied for the commercial marketplace, is the only report in the series  featuring an 1890 institution.

“Researchers are solving some of the most important problems that farmers face,” said Thomas Grumbly, SoAR Foundation president. “Too often, their success hinges on whether they secure enough funding to keep the lab doors open. Too much top quality, high-impact research is unfunded and left on the cutting room floor.”

The SoAR Foundation leads a non-partisan coalition representing more than 6 million farming families, 100,000 scientists, hundreds of colleges and universities as well as consumers, veterinarians, and others. SoAR educates stakeholders about the importance of food and agricultural research to feed America and the world and advocates for full funding of USDA’s Agriculture Food and Research Initiative (AFRI). SoAR supports increased federal investments to encourage top scientists to create agricultural solutions that improve public health, strengthen national security, and enhance U.S. economic competitiveness.

To download the report, visit .   A limited number of hard-copy reports are also available in the Agricultural Research Division.



CAES faculty member helps company with breakthrough truffle harvest

Mycorrhiza Biotech, a Burlington company with ties to N.C.  A&T, has achieved a breakthrough harvest in truffles, the hard-to-grow, mushroom-like, underground, edible fungus associated with upscale restaurants and gourmet cooking, in only two years.151105Truffles006ed2 copy

CEO Nancy Rosborough credits her partnership with A&T – especially the Mushroom Biology and Fungal Biotechnology laboratory, led by Dr. Omon Isikhuemhen – and the N.C. Biotechnology Center, as being instrumental in the company’s success.

“If not for their support, we would have closed our doors years ago,” says Rosborough, whose company, Mycorrhiza, takes its name from the mutually beneficial relationship between the fungus from which the truffle grows, and the root system of the tree on which it depends.

“This company is running on the science we did together,” Isikhuemhen says, noting the inoculated seedlings his lab provided the company several years ago. “We did the lab research, then moved to the field, and now, we have truffles.”

With the recent harvest, the company has become the first to gather expensive white truffles from the roots of loblolly pine trees, and in such a short time; truffles usually take four to six years to mature. Both the truffle and the tree repressent a significant step forward in the development of what Rosborough and Isikhuemhen say could become an important cash crop for North Carolina. The truffle’s high market price – more than $500 per pound, compared with historically-lucrative tobacco’s $2.70 per pound – makes it worth cultivating, while loblolly pines are the most commercially important tree in the southeast and the second most common tree in the nation.

“Truffles only need an acre or two,” Rosborough says. “If there are 500 trees on an acre, a grower only needs to use some of them for truffles to make more money than he or she could by timber-harvesting the entire acre – and the grower still has the trees.”

As lucrative as they can be, truffles have struggled to catch on as a commodity crop because of the difficulty growing them. Soil and water conditions, and the condition of the tree host, must be managed. 151105Truffles014ed2 copyCertain climate conditions must be present: truffles like hot summers and cold winters. Since they grow underground, determining the size of the harvest – and whether it is present at all – can be difficult.  Research is ongoing to overcome some of these difficulties, Isikhuemhen said.






Stink bug is focus of more research

Scientists are one step closer to understanding the biology of the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive pest that has cost U.S. agriculture millions of dollars in lost crops since its accidental introduction into the United States in the 1990s, thanks to research being performed by the team of Drs. Beatrice Dingha and Louis Jackai of the CAES.

Dingha and Jackai have developed a method of continuously rearing the bugs in the laboratory, thereby providing other researchers with a steady flow of bugs upon which to experiment. Their findings have been recently published in the journal The Canadian Entomologist.

The stink bug originated in Asia, but has no major predators here. With little to keep their population in check, the pest has spread rapidly and is currently present in 42 states and 63 North Carolina counties, where its voracious appetite for vegetables and fruits – the bug has been shown to feed on more than 100 plant species – cost growers in the mid-Atlantic region more than $35 million in 2010 alone.


Right now, researchers depend on finding the bugs in the field, an imperfect system for an insect with a five-stage developmental cycle that also hibernates in the winter. Dingha and Jackai have found a mix of foods, temperature and humidity that keep the bugs active in the lab, and available to scientists, year-round.

Research faculty advise agencies to fund Extension overseas

A meeting of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) at A&T brought attention to pressing global issues of poverty and hunger, as well as some advice for funding agencies from faculty members who regularly work in agricultural development overseas. The seven member board, which advises the United States Agency for International Development, includes Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr., and met on campus May 18-20.

A panel from SAES included Dr. Manuel Reyes, Dr. Osei Yeboah, and Dr. Anthony Yeboah, who all suggested that funding agencies find ways to translate research data into action on the ground.
Reyes buttressed an impassioned plea for conservation agriculture with photos of rain forest destruction from all over the globe, often the result of cash-poor nations engaging with multinational corporations to plant monocultures, such as pineapple, which are chemical dependent and can deplete soils. Conservation agriculture, on the hand, protects soil while providing income, he said, and advocated more investment in infrastructure to educate farmers.

“What we need to do is scale up, because we know it (conservation agriculture) works,” Reyes said.

Both Drs. Anthony and Osei Yeboah advocated for more funding for Extension personnel in developing nations, to insure that the research-based innovations are more widely adopted, and so that the host countries will have a sense of ownership over implementation.

“Extension will provide the means for ownership,” Dr. Anthony Yeboah said.

More about the BIFAD conference can be found here:

FSU schedules Student Research Conference

documents_iconAbstracts are due Feb. 29 for Fayetteville State University’s 4th annual Student Research Conference, scheduled for April 1-2, 2016. The conference, “Students Changing Our World Through Research,” is open to all graduate and undergraduates representing all academic disciplines. Abstracts may represent either poster or paper presentations.

Dr. Valerie Giddings, interim dean for research, says the conference is a great opportunity for SAES students to practice their presentation skills to the community of science, and encourages anyone who is ready to report his or her research results to attend. All who present at the conference must also register ($35 for early birds, $45 after March 13). Registration includes a dinner and lunch. More details and registration forms are available by emailing, or by contacting Dr. Doreen B. Hilton at 910-672-1680.

Research presentations on consumer behavior and growing season extensions


research_iconThe Agricultural Research Program’s 2015-16 seminar series will be inaugurated on Thursday, Oct. 29 with a program that will begin at 11 a.m. in Room A-14 of the C.H. Moore Agricultural Research Station. The seminar presentations are open to all A&T faculty, staff and students. Dr. Sanjun Gu, horticulture specialist with the Cooperative Extension Program at A&T, will present a “High Tunnel Vegetables and Strawberry Research Update.” An overview of “Relative Thinking Impact on Consumer Food Choice” will be presented by Dr. Terrence Thomas of the Department of Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agriscience Education. Thomas will be joined by Cihat Gunden and Bulent Miran from the Department of Agricultural Economics at Ege University in Izmir, Turkey.

Undergraduate research could be starting point for trip to DC

The Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) annual effort to give members of Congress a firsthand look at the range and significance of undergraduate research — Posters on the Hill — is accepting abstracts through Nov. 4. The authors of 250-word abstracts whose posters are selected for Posters on the Hill (a yet to-be-determined date in the spring of 2016) will be notified in early February. Abstracts must be accompanied by a letter of recommendation, on institutional letterhead, from the student’s research advisor. Abstracts should describe policy issues that the research addresses as well as the background of scholarship that inspired it.

The support staff for the Agricultural Research Program has a warm invitation for principal investigator and project directors:

research_icon“As the days get shorter and the temperatures get just a bit cooler, you know it must be time to start planning to submit progress and/or termination reports. And if you’re slightly intimidated by NIFA’s REEport portal, then Thursday, Nov. 5 is for you. A brief 45-minute refresher class will be held in A-16 of the C.H. Moore on that date, beginning at 11a.m. Help us help you make your reports shine!”

Call for abstracts has been issued

calendar_iconThe North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (NC-LSAMP) will host its Annual Research Conference 8 a.m.–3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 31, at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The conference will include poster presentations, seminars, informative speakers and admissions representatives from graduate schools. Students who have registered for the conference are eligible to submit abstracts for poster presentations in research or scholarship in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The deadline for submitting abstracts is Friday, Oct. 2.

The North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation was established by A&T and seven other institutions in the UNC system to increase the number of minority students pursuing advanced degrees in scientific and technical fields.

Biotech research proposals due Oct. 7

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center will be taking grant applications until Oct. 7 for proposals, with cost projections of less than $200,000, for projects that will strengthen infrastructure for biotechnology research at North Carolina research institutions. The Biotechnology Center’s Institutional Development Grant program funds research equipment and facilities upgrades that serve multiple investigators. While proposals from the three North Carolina universities currently recognized as “research extensive” (Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State) must serve at least six principal investigators, those from A&T and other universities that aren’t currently research extensive need only three principal investigators for a biotech infrastructure-upgrade proposal to qualify.

Undergraduate research projects can be ticket to Congressional review


The Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) annual effort to give members of Congress a firsthand look at the range and significance of undergraduate research — Posters on the Hill — is accepting abstracts through Nov. 4. The authors of 250-word abstracts whose posters are selected for Posters on the Hill (a yet to-be-determined date in the spring of 2016) will be notified in early February. Abstracts must be accompanied by a letter of recommendation, on institutional letterhead, from the student’s research advisor. Abstracts should describe policy issues that the research addresses as well as the background of scholarship that inspired it.

Opportunity for undergrads to showcase research coming to Triad

SAES sophomores have until Oct. 16 to submit their research work for George Barthalmus Undergraduate Research Grants. Awards of $100 to $500 will be presented as part of the eighth annual State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research & Creativity Symposium. Applications for a Barthalmus Grant require a 500-word description of the research and its role in the student’s future plans. The grants will be awarded for research work that comes to a conclusion before September 2016.

High Point University will host the Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium on Saturday Nov. 14. Freshmen, juniors and seniors (and sophomores not competing for a Barthalmus Grant) have until 5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, to register abstracts for displays, and poster and oral presentations covering research work that they would like to present at the conference.

As autumnal as the equinox

info_iconThe Agricultural Research Program’s fall meeting for principal investigators and project directors is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 10 from 11 a.m. to noon in Room A-16 of the C.H. Moore Agricultural Research Station. Among the topics on the agenda are updated operational procedures, an expanded activity calendar and staff changes.

Dr. Valerie L Giddings, the interim associate dean for the Agricultural Research Program, also has a reminder for faculty planning to submit preproposals for the 2016 Capacity Building Grants: The deadline is Sept. 30.

Agricultural research and development fund accepting proposals until Sept. 9

research_iconThe US-Israel Binational Agriculture Research and Development Fund (BARD) has a window for proposals that closes Sept. 9. BARD is looking for research projects with agricultural objectives that will be conducted jointly by scientists from the United States and Israel. Among the research areas that BARD is now especially interested in are sensors and robotics, water quality, increased agricultural production efficiency, and food safety and food-supply security. BARD grants are typically for three-year projects, and average $320,000.