Tag Archives: K-State

The Kansas Livestock Association (KLA), a trade organization protecting the business interests of livestock producers, has been selected to receive the 2019 Don L. Good Impact Award.

The award, presented by the Livestock and Meat Industry Council, is named in honor of Good, the former head of the Kansas State University Department of Animal Sciences and Industry. It is given each year to recognize positive impact on the livestock and meat industry or agriculture.

KLA will be recognized during the ASI Family and Friends Reunion on Oct. 4 at the Stanley Stout Center in Manhattan.

KLA, with headquarters in Topeka, was formed in 1894 when a group of more than 100 Flint Hills ranchers met in Emporia to discuss cattle theft problems and unreasonable railroad freight rates. Today, KLA works toward a better business climate for ranchers and feeders by representing members’ interests on legislative and regulatory issues and helping to enhance their ability to meet consumer demand.

Members of the association are involved in many aspects of the livestock industry, including seedstock, cow-calf and stocker cattle production, cattle feeding, dairy production, swine production, grazing land management and diversified farming operations. The association’s work is funded by voluntary dues paid by more than 5,500 members.

KLA is one of the nation’s most respected state livestock organizations. The leadership of KLA was instrumental in recommending and implementing the merger between the National Cattlemen’s Association and National Livestock and Meat Board.

Through the creation of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in 1995, the industry streamlined operations at the national level, mirroring a unified organizational structure that has served KLA for more than 100 years.

KLA represents the state’s multi-billion-dollar cattle industry at both the state and federal levels.

“For 125 years, KLA members have positively impacted the Kansas and U.S. livestock industry,” said Matt Teagarden, KLA chief executive officer. “KLA is honored to join the distinguished group of prior recipients of the Don L. Good Impact Award.”

He added: “KLA values the partnership we have with the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry at Kansas State University. Both organizations have been serving the needs of Kansas livestock producers for more than 100 years. That partnership continues today in providing scholarships for K-State students, supporting the educational experience for ASI students and providing timely educational programs for KLA members and livestock producers.”

More information, along with registration, is available online for the Oct. 4 K-State ASI Family and Friends Reunion at www.asi.k-state.edu/familyandfriends.

A project that aligns the efforts of four Midwestern universities and two other groups dedicated to improving grazing practices for beef cattle in the Great Plains has received national recognition for its work.

 

The Great Plains Grazing project has been selected for a Partnership Award for Multistate Efforts by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which cited the group’s “outstanding efforts to strengthen the stewardship of private lands through technology and research.”

“This award is a testament to the significant efforts of all the collaborators involved in Great Plains Grazing,” said Dan Devlin, project leader and director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment (KCARE) at Kansas State University. “This research is important not only for projecting how climate change will affect the beef grazing industry but also how to manage that industry more successfully through future drought conditions.”

Devlin noted that protecting the nation’s vital beef production from the stresses of climate variability is a key method to ensure the success of ranchers in the Southern Great Plains as well as to protect food security for the country.

The project fostered partnerships between K-State faculty and researchers from Oklahoma State University, University of Oklahoma, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Noble Foundation, and Tarleton State University.

The interdisciplinary project included 45 scientists, and more than 50 graduate students and post-doctoral researchers assisted with the research. Together, they successfully measured the net greenhouse gas emissions of grazing cattle in the Great Plains and were able to develop and quantify the impacts of improved grazing management practices on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Along with Devlin, K-State faculty and staff who played significant roles in Great Plains grazing work in the Department of Agronomy, Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, KCARE, the Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation, the Western Kansas Research-Extension Center, and the Southeast Kansas Research-Extension Center.

Martin Draper, K-State College of Agriculture interim associate dean for research and graduate programs, will join Devlin to accept the NIFA Partnership Award on behalf of Great Plains Grazing on April 25 in Washington, D.C.

The annual NIFA Partnership Awards were established in 2007 to recognize achievements and contributions by partners at land grant universities and other organizations and institutions.

Against the hum of backhoes and bulldozers, a fortress of concrete and steel buildings gradually rises on the north end of Kansas State University’s campus.

The top-level federal biocontainment laboratory is designed to study the most infectious, exotic animal diseases — lethal to humans and capable of crippling the country’s livestock. They could hitch a ride from animal to animal or human to human. Hostile nations might even use the diseases to trigger mass chaos and possibly upend the U.S. food supply chain.

But, right now, there aren’t any animals around here. Just the construction site, a self-contained utility plant and a bunch of trailers belonging to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and McCarthy-Mortenson Joint Venture, a contractor that’s building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

“NBAF is on schedule, on time and on budget,” said Tim Barr, who’s the on-site DHS project manager, and a native of McPherson, Kansas.

Well, not exactly. There’s at least three years to go before NBAF even opens; it was supposed to in 2018. The $1.25 billion project has overrun its initial cost by hundreds of millions of dollars, partly due to needing stronger walls and barriers to prevent diseases from escaping. This is Tornado Alley, after all.

Funding and safety aside, NBAF had the backing of an influential congressman from Kansas, as well as others who saw the facility as an anchor for the area’s animal health corridor and for the regional economy.

Kansas won the project in 2009 after a fierce nationwide competition against five other locations, Harvest Public Media reported. It didn’t take long for one of the losing competitors, a Texas consortium, to sue Homeland Security, claiming the decision was political and ignored the risk of those tornadoes.

The suit was later dismissed by a federal judge, but there’s no question Kansas had a man in its corner. Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts had been shepherding NBAF toward the state ever since DHS was created in the wake of Sept. 11, and on through 2004, when then-President George W. Bush issued a directive about needing to protect against a terrorist attack on the nation’s food supply.

“All you do is put a handkerchief under the nose of a diseased animal in Afghanistan, put it in a Ziploc bag, come to the U.S. and drop it in a feed yard in Dodge City. Bingo! You’ve got a problem that could endanger our entire livestock herd,” Roberts said in a 2006 interview with KCUR.

Even now, Roberts, who has chaired both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, said the threat remains as urgent as ever, even if al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have all but disappeared from the headlines.

“It’s got super bipartisan support,” said Roberts, who noted that his recent decision to retire after his term is up in 2020 won’t affect the project or its funding. “And even though we’re not hearing anything about terrorism, it’s still front and center of our security concerns.”

Those security concerns were top-of-mind after a 2010 congressionally mandated review of the risk assessment stunned local and scientific communities.

Ronald Atlas chaired the National Academy of Sciences committee tasked with that work. He said at the time that there was a 70% chance over 50 years that foot-and-mouth disease would escape from NBAF. He estimated that would cause “$9 (billion) to $50 billion” worth of damage.

In response, DHS fortified the concrete walls and steel barriers in its plan. That, plus other extra measures, drove up the original price to more than $1 billion, but reduced to less than 1% the risk of a disease getting out and infecting either humans or the 6 million head of cattle in the state of Kansas.

An updated 2012 report, which cited the unavoidable risk of a release due to simple human error (e.g. a microbe escaping on the sole of a researcher’s shoe), was still criticized by the National Academies of Sciences as politically biased and methodologically flawed.

But financially, and from a federal standpoint, NBAF was a go. Kansas even kicked in more than $300 million, thanks to Sam Brownback, who was an early supporter when he was in the U.S. Senate and later as governor.

There’s always a question of what a given White House occupant prioritizes. In perhaps another sign the government is worrying less about what was once considered a major threat, future funding for the lab won’t be Homeland Security’s problem.

The Trump administration decided to move oversight of NBAF to the U.S. Department of Agriculture once construction is complete; the proposed 2019-20 fiscal year budget eliminated DHS’ ongoing operational funds for NBAF and added them to the budget of USDA.

Former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, an NBAF supporter from the start, worried that moving control to the USDA could jeopardize future funding.

“Crop insurance, food stamps always get the focus,” Carlin said. “And whether the operating money for NBAF would be a high enough priority that would always be funded, that remains to be seen.”

In addition, scientists who oversee regulation of biocontainment labs say federal commissioning, which involves an external review of processes and procedures before a biocontainment lab can be certified as secure, typically leads to cost overruns. But K-State veterinarian Marty Vanier, the government’s contracted liaison between NBAF and the Manhattan community, brushed off those worries.

“We’ve got a team, not only the design team but also folks that are part of the program office in the project who’ve been thinking about those kinds of details and working on those details for years,” she said in the lobby of the Kansas State University Foundation, just around the corner from NBAF site.

When pressed, she added that “we’re not planning” cost overruns.

Biocontainment labs of NBAF’s size and importance are astronomically expensive to maintain once in operation. Already, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking Congress for $400 million to replace a 14-year-old facility where scientists study Ebola and emerging flu strains. It was supposed to last 50 years.

“(NBAF) is going to get built,” said former USDA chief scientist Brad Fenwick, who helped define the United States’ biosafety response to Sept. 11. “Now the question is just how costly is it to certify to maintain and the research to be conducted in it, (is it) actually a priority?”

“Would it be our first choice as opposed to doing other types of research that (might be more) important to agriculture?”

In 2001, an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease rapidly spread through the United Kingdom. The highly infectious disease causes cattle, pigs, goats and sheep to get high fevers and painful blisters in their mouths and on their feet. It’s often fatal.

UK officials had to take drastic measures. Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration? Canceled. Rugby matches? Canceled. Transportation of livestock? Cut off. More than 6 million animals had to be slaughtered, too.

All told, the outbreak lasted more than six months and cost the UK economy between $10 billion and $15 billion.

Researchers in the United States point to that outbreak as a reminder of how devastating an animal disease can be. It’s also partly why some experts argued for, and continue to support, NBAF. When it’s open, it will dramatically increase the number of state-of-the-art labs available to researchers and enhance their ability to develop detection tools and vaccines for deadly diseases such as foot-and-mouth, African swine fever and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a federal research lab on an island off the coast of New York state, is the only place in the United States where scientists are allowed to research live foot-and-mouth disease viruses. Their main mission: prevent it from coming to the U.S. by controlling and checking trade, and if that happens, quickly stop it from spreading.

“With current trade and illegal movement of animals, or even people, around the world, the probabilities of foot-and mouth disease entering a free country have increased,” said Luis Rodriguez, Plum Island’s director of foreign animal disease research. “And will probably continue to increase over time.”

But it’s an aging facility, open since 1954, and will be replaced by NBAF, with pretty much everyone from New York relocating to Manhattan. NBAF is the new Plum Island, and then some.

It’s a decision that didn’t make much sense to Nancy Connell, the senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security who’s supervised high-level security labs for 25 years at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

She has been a part of the review process overseeing certification of biocontainment labs around the U.S., and was part of the expert committee that evaluated NBAF ahead of construction.

“I remember being disappointed that they couldn’t figure out a way to rebuild Plum (Island) and keep this kind of work … off the mainland,” she said. “Why, if so much money was going to be spent on a new laboratory, why that money couldn’t be spent on upgrading Plum?”

What really worried her was NBAF’s actual location, right in the middle of the mainland, in a state where, as one Kansas rancher described it, cattle outnumber people 2 to 1.

It’s a valid concern, especially because Plum Island hasn’t had a perfect record of containing foot-and-mouth disease. Since 1978, there have been three incidents of it spreading to animals and places it wasn’t supposed to. Two of those were in 2004, and in both instances, animals inside of the secure biocontainment area were found to be infected with the disease. It illustrates how easily it can spread because of human error.

The U.S. mainland already has more than 1,000 biosafety level-3 research labs (BSL-3) used to study dangerous diseases, including 14 at K-State’s Biosecurity Research Institute. BSL-3 labs are some of the most secure around, specifically designed to contain the potentially deadly diseases and viruses.

To get inside, a researcher must start in a small locker room, where street clothes are removed and replaced with scrubs. A researcher then must put on a disposable gown and two sets of gloves before moving to the next room. Here, if required, the researcher gets into either a full-body hazardous-materials suit or a mask with a respirator that blows air down and over the face.

Only then can a researcher enter the lab, where air flows in from the outside to ensure any airborne diseases inside the lab stay there.

“We all live here, too, and we care probably more than anybody else about this stuff getting out,” Biosecurity Research Institute officer Julie Johnson said. “Because we’re more likely to be directly exposed if something bad happens.”

The BRI was completed in 2008 and its scientists work on diseases such as African swine fever and Rift Valley fever — two infectious diseases on NBAF’s priority list. But the BRI and other facilities can’t develop and test potential vaccines on dozens of animals at a time.

“We can do a lot of the research but not at that sort of scale,” BRI Director Stephen Higgs said. “Especially with foot-and-mouth disease, which, again, is very complicated. There are multiple different types, and you need that capacity.”

Of the thousands of BSL-3 labs in the U.S., most are only capable of studying small animals, such as mice and bats. That’s true of the BRI, too, where only five labs are capable of handling large animals like cattle or swine. But NBAF’s massive scale will provide space for 46 labs big enough for that type of livestock.

NBAF also will have the holy grail of livestock research labs: BSL-4. Only Canada, Australia and Germany have them. BSL-4 labs are where scientists can study highly contagious, airborne, zoonotic diseases — diseases that can pass between humans and animals — that have no known vaccination or treatment. In starker terms, they’re killers.

Currently, coordinating with the other BSL-4 labs can take months, even years, according to Jurgen Richt, a K-State researcher who specializes in zoonotic diseases.

“So if we have an emergency . we have to ask other countries to help us to work in these environments,” he said. “I don’t think this is feasible.”

Plus, most researchers say emerging diseases that’ll kill humans, like MERS or Nipah (which is transmitted through infected bats or pigs, or through another infected person), have origins in large animals. That’s why it’s critical to have BSL-4 labs in the U.S.

“You just can’t study pigs under the proper setting anywhere in the United States in any laboratory,” said Washington State University professor Terry McElwain, who led the 2012 study by the National Academies of Sciences looking at potential alternatives to NBAF. “It has to be very specific conditions.”

The bottom line: Plum Island and other research facilities across the U.S. are inadequate when faced with the increasing threat of a severe disease outbreak, such as foot-and-mouth disease or African swine fever, which over the last several months in China has led to the culling of almost 1 million pigs.

“(Foot-and-mouth) still remains one of the biggest threats to animal agriculture in the United States,” McElwain said. “And it’s not the only one.”

Drivers sometimes slow down to gawk at the massive biocontainment lab rising up at Denison and Kimball streets in Manhattan. The towering cranes and battalion of trucks cut an impressive silhouette on the hill. It’s safe to say many in this college community of 53,000 are excited by NBAF’s promise of prestige and jobs, an estimated 2,600-plus in the lab’s first 25 years.

But looming in others’ minds is fear that one of the contagious or deadly pathogens could escape — say on a football Saturday in the fall, when tens of thousands of people pack nearby Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Even after all of these years of planning and construction, critics say that health officials, law enforcement and government officials aren’t as prepared as they should be.

For example, once NBAF opens, only one infectious disease doctor will visit Manhattan’s Ascension Via Christie hospital once a week from Wichita, about two and a half hours away. Ascension Via Christie is the city’s main hospital, and has just 12 isolation rooms to hold patients who are exposed to an infectious disease.

The rooms, outfitted with specialized air filters to protect pathogenic microbes from escaping, are for “anybody with a contaminant that is airborne,” said Carolyn Koehn, the hospital’s regional director of safety and emergency response. “Right now, our primary use would be if we had a patient come in” with tuberculosis.

And NBAF researchers will study far more exotic — and toxic — diseases than TB.

Carrying a 4-inch-thick binder of emergency response strategies, Koehn said she isn’t worried. Long before Kansas was awarded NBAF, the hospital had been rehearsing coordinated exercises with local and state emergency responders.

“I have a lot of confidence in our emergency operations plan,” she said. “If we’re able to respond well to an infectious disease outbreak, we’d be able to respond very well to something at NBAF.”

An escaped virus won’t just be the hospital’s problem. Another of the first responders is likely to be the Riley County Police Department.

Chief Dennis P. Butler said his department has the highest emergency response certification of any law enforcement agency in the state, as well as having a detective on staff who is a liaison to Homeland Security and a member of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Butler said he’s been thoroughly briefed on NBAF, and after an exhaustive tour that he can’t talk much about due to security restrictions, he’s confident that the facility is secure.

“I have never seen anything like it,” he said. “The closest thing I can (compare) this facility to was when I took a tour of a nuclear power plant.”

Just behind NBAF, there’s a wheat-colored building that houses the Kansas Department of Agriculture. That’s intentional: As part of the preparation for NBAF, Brownback moved the agency from the capital city of Topeka to Manhattan.

Justin Smith, the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s chief veterinarian, said having NBAF across the street is a plus.

“(It) brings in a tremendous intellectual knowledge right out our back door as well as allowing us our response time. We’re gonna be able to walk across the parking lot and hand them samples rather than put them on a plane and ship them to Plum Island, New York,” Smith said.

The state’s ag department also takes part in statewide simulations of how to respond to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, even involving cowboys and feed-truck drivers.

It’s important not to be alarmist, said Dr. Ali Kahn, who helped establish the bioterrorism program at the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention in 1999. Still, he said, city and state officials need to make sure communities know the protocol in the event of a disease release.

“Have you made sure the individuals in the community understand what the risks are, what the pathogens are and what they should worry about if they get sick?” he said. “(Have you) had a good set of conversations with physicians and health care practitioners so you have early signals if something does happen?”

“If (NBAF officials) haven’t, then that’s not a good practice,” he added.

There’s been a small but vocal group of opponents asking the same questions as Kahn ever since the government awarded NBAF to Kansas. This loose coalition of researchers, citizens and ranchers has dwindled in an almost inverse pattern to the tangible lab.

Biologist Bill Dorsett and entomologist Sylvia Beeman were among the most active of the opposition coalition but are now resigned to living in NBAF’s shadow. Beeman wondered whether she could have had an impact if she’d only worked harder.

Dorsett believed they never had a chance, not against the twin juggernauts of government and the livestock industry: “We were pebbles in the path. We weren’t speed bumps.”

Donn Teske’s deeply ingrained in that livestock industry, raising 100 Angus cattle in Pottawatomie County, about 35 miles from Manhattan. He’s also the vice president of the National Farmers Union, an organization that pushes for environment-focused policies and often holds opposing positions to the American Farm Bureau’s more conservative views.

Teske has insisted for years that building a lab to study foot-and-mouth disease in a state where cattle vastly outnumber people is a head-scratcher.

“It just shouldn’t have been built here,” he said. “I knew it would be built with utmost care, but I’m still not convinced there won’t be any escapes. I hope it doesn’t happen, but I suspect it will.”

But as Teske’s cattle huddled against the bitter February wind, he admitted NBAF is benefiting his family in one way — at least before it opens. His 27-year-old son is helping build it.

A research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for nearly $1.2 million is supporting work at Kansas State University toward combating a disease that affects cattle in the U.S. and globally.

Kathryn Reif, assistant professor in the diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department in the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said the project focuses on optimizing antimicrobial use to control active infection of the hemoparasitic pathogen, Anaplasma marginale, the causative agent of bovine anaplasmosis.

“Different strains of the pathogen are actively circulating in the U.S.,” Reif said. “We are using a combination of A. marginale strains, some of which we recently isolated from Kansas cattle herds, to help determine how strains differ in their susceptibility to tetracycline antimicrobials, specifically chlortetracycline, the most common antimicrobial used to control anaplasmosis. We hope that by looking at three different chlortetracycline treatment protocols for cattle, we can provide practical recommendations for the Food and Drug Administration and ultimately for cattle producers toward controlling this disease.”

Reif said that treatment policies should be based on a firm understanding of how antimicrobial therapeutic effect can be maximized while minimizing risk of resistance development.

“Cattle producers in Kansas and beyond are concerned that the current FDA-approved anaplasmosis treatment regimens are not sufficiently controlling diseases,” Reif said. “Also, there is no fully USDA-approved vaccine for anaplasmosis, and the experimental vaccine, available in some states, does not prevent infection. Efficacy concerns over the current anaplasmosis control measures underscore the need for updated science-based recommendations to help cattle producers manage this disease.”

While Reif specializes in vector-borne disease research, her research team at Kansas State University consists of experts in many other disciplines, including molecular biologists, clinical pharmacologists, an antimicrobial resistance specialist, extension agents, livestock veterinarians and experts in the development and delivery of innovative decision support tools.

“With these combined skill sets, our team is uniquely qualified to conduct the proposed program of research,” Reif said. “Together, we have the capability to answer these innovative research questions and communicate the outcomes effectively to the scientific community and stakeholders in the livestock industry.”

Toward the latter effort, Reif said her group will host an anaplasmosis outreach event on May 20 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manhattan, which will include a number of invited speakers and a producer panel to discuss strategies and best practices for managing anaplasmosis. Producers and other individuals interested in learning more about anaplasmosis can register for atvet.k-state.edu/education/continuing/conferences/Bovine-Symposium/index.html

We have how much time to get out? No one wants to think about it, but spring flooding in the heartland and the prospect of summer storms remind us of the harsh toll that disasters can take.

Nebraska sustained more than $1 billion in estimated property, crop and livestock losses from flooding early this year. Other states also suffered significant losses. And that doesn’t count the emotional and physical toll.

We can’t control the weather affecting our homes, businesses and communities, but we can prepare ahead, which can make recovery after a catastrophe easier.

Kansas State University serves as a source for emergency preparedness education and disaster recovery resources through several K-State Research and Extension initiatives, including the Prepare Kansas blog, the annual Prepare Kansas online challenge in September and through its affiliation with the national Extension Disaster Education Network, or EDEN.

When disaster preparedness comes to mind, many of us think about having a grab-and-go kit at the ready, but thinking about financial readiness is also important.

“We will all likely experience a weather disaster or other emergency at some point,” said Elizabeth Kiss, extension financial management specialist and author of the Prepare Kansas blog, adding that your ability to respond and recover can go more smoothly if you:

  • Prepare for a disaster or other emergency by accumulating emergency savings. Small amounts add up over time and can make a big difference.
  • Understand and regularly review your insurance coverage. For example, flood damage is typically not covered by homeowner’s and renter’s policies yet only one inch of water can cause thousands of dollars of damage.
  • Collect and secure important documents. Start or update a household inventory.

Kiss and a team of extension colleagues created a factsheet: Get Financially Prepared: Take Steps Ahead of Disaster and noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has good information on its Financial Preparedness page.

In support of their communities, many agents in county and district K-State Research and Extension offices across the state provide programs on emergency preparedness for individuals and families, plus farmers and ranchers. Some serve on their county’s emergency planning committees or in similar roles.

Andrea Burns, a K-State Research and Extension agriculture and natural resources agent in Ford County, said she believes it’s a natural fit for her to work with others locally to help keep the community as prepared for disasters as possible.

Burns serves on the Ford County Local Emergency Planning Committee, attends emergency-preparedness training and participated in a recent statewide exercise conducted by the Kansas Department of Agriculture. She is working with the LEPC staff and Ford County Fair Association to write an emergency plan for the Ford County Fair and to organize a “Hometown Heroes” event at the 2019 fair.

K-State’s affiliation with EDEN links it to a network of universities across the country that works to reduce the impact of disasters through research-based information. Made up of specialists in disciplines such as community development, food safety, financial management, youth development, engineering, crops, livestock and more, EDEN offers preparedness courses for extension educators and the public such as Ready Business, Family Preparedness and others. The network is a resource for extension educators across Kansas and the country.

Service climatologist and Kansas Weather Data Library manager Mary Knapp provides weekly Weather Wonders, which are short audio messages about weather and sometimes emergency preparedness, available online through the K-State Radio Network.

“At this time of the year, remember to review your emergency plans, including your emergency kit,” Knapp said. “Check that everyone in your household is familiar with the plan and prepared to take action if needed. Test your methods of receiving alerts – whether from your phone, a weather radio, or email – to make certain that everything is still working properly. A few minutes invested in preparations now can go a long way in the case of an emergency.”

The Kansas Weather Data Library on K-State’s Manhattan campus is a repository for Kansas weather and climate information and is home to Kansas Mesonet.

MANHATTAN, Kan. — A flawed study that takes aim at the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was discussed in a Congressional staff briefing today in Washington DC hosted by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Kansas Corn Growers Association leaders said they were disappointed in the study funded by NWF, a long-time opponent of ethanol and the RFS. The study makes flawed assumptions about ethanol production, crop planting choices and the environment.

KCGA was especially disappointed to see a K-State researcher playing a major role in the study that judges corn and ethanol production with such a narrow scope. The study claims that the RFS has caused an increase in corn acres leading to environmental harm. The RFS provides market access for ethanol into a fuel market controlled by Big Oil.

“Our corn producers, through their checkoff, fund research at K-State, but we certainly did not fund this questionable study,” Kansas Corn CEO Greg Krissek said. “The corn commission actually funds efforts with K-State that provide their ag educators with needed lab supplies to use in their classrooms to demonstrate the clean air benefits of ethanol. I think our growers will be dismayed to know that K-State Researcher Nathan Hendricks had a hand in this study and that he is on Capitol Hill today with the NWF, an organization that is suing EPA to dismantle the RFS.”

Krissek noted that many factors impact planting decisions. Corn and other commodities have experienced a multi-year economic downturn, and growers make decisions based on what crop offers the greatest economic return. The NWF study failed to take into consideration many factors that affect planting decisions including improved biotech corn varieties that have allowed corn to be planted in areas where it could not be grown well before. In fact, while corn production in Kansas has doubled over the past 20 years, nearly all of the increase is in non-irrigated acres. Other factors include weather patterns that affect planting decisions, as well as changes in markets for other crops.

“The statement that ethanol has driven corn prices up is laughable in view of the low corn prices and profitability our growers have been experiencing for the past few years,” Krissek said. “Many factors figure into planting decisions including weather, improved seed varieties, market demand and profitability. Our Kansas farmers aren’t plowing up virgin prairie to plant $3 corn.”

A recent study by University of Illinois and Auburn University agricultural economists showed that although ethanol production more than doubled between 2007 and 2014, total cropland acres in 2014 were very similar to those in 2007.

“Corn farmers led the charge to create the ethanol industry to build needed market demand for our crops. Those ethanol plants have brought sustained economic growth to our rural communities. Looking at today’s corn prices, I’d hate to think what our price would be without the ethanol industry,” Krissek said. “Ethanol, livestock and exports are the three-legged stool that corn sits on. Without any one of these three, we’d be looking at $2 corn, and farmers would definitely be planting fewer acres. In fact, there would most likely be fewer farmers. I’m sure NWF would like that outcome.”

Kansas Corn Growers Association President Steve Rome, Hugoton, questioned the narrow scope of the study, which ignores environmental efforts from growers, and environmental benefits of ethanol blended fuels.

“Through checkoff funding of conservation research, and conservation efforts our growers are carrying out on their own farms, corn producers in Kansas and across the nation are heavily invested in many efforts that strive to conserve water, protect pollinators and promote soil conservation” Rome said. “We are puzzled how a study can reach these incorrect conclusions about the environmental impact of ethanol production, but at the same time can ignore proven facts about the substantial environmental benefits from the use of ethanol in our fuel which greatly reduces emissions for cleaner air.”

Studies show the use of ethanol in fuel provides many positive environmental advantages reducing auto emissions for cleaner air. The use of ethanol in gasoline in 2018 reduced CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 55.1 million metric tons. That’s equivalent to removing 11.7 million cars from the road for an entire year or eliminating the annual emissions for 13 coal-fired power plants.

HAYS, Kan. —  A Kansas State University researcher is reporting the first-ever study confirming that Palmer amaranth has developed resistance to the herbicide 2,4-D, findings that may signal an important step in developing future controls for the pesky weed.

Vipan Kumar, a weed scientist at the Agricultural Research Center in Hays, said that since 2015 a few farmers had reported poor control with 2,4-D, but until now, researchers were not able to confirm the resistance levels to 2,4-D in Palmer amaranth.

“Historically, Palmer amaranth was not a problem weed in western to central parts of Kansas, but over the past 10 to 15 years, it has become a major problem and it is present in all crop situations, and even in non-cropland situations,” Kumar said.

Palmer amaranth is extremely aggressive and thus considered the No. 1 weed problem in U.S. agriculture. It is commonly found in Kansas cropping systems and negatively affects soybean, corn, sorghum, sunflower, cotton, wheat, and fallow fields. It is also a serious problem in wheat stubble.

Kumar and his research team have recently tested one strain of Palmer amaranth – known as a biotype – and the results, Kumar says, are sobering.

That biotype has been confirmed with low levels of resistance to 2,4-D, as well as resistance to glyphosate (Roundup PowerMax), chlorsulfuron (Glean), atrazine (Aatrex), and mesotrione (Callisto).

In addition, Kumar said the biotype showed less sensitivity to fomesafen (Flexstar) herbicide, a commonly used herbicide in soybeans. He added that more research is underway to confirm if this biotype has developed resistance to fomesafen.

“This discovery confirms the first case of 2,4-D-resistant Palmer amaranth biotype that has also developed multiple resistance to four other herbicide modes of action,” Kumar said.

“We have been seeing a lot more populations with multiple resistance, especially with glyphosate, atrazine and HPPD inhibitors. There is increasing concern about Palmer amaranth’s ability to resist multiple modes of action.”

That situation has left farmers with few options to manage the weed.

“I would recommend growers use some of the pre-mixes, or tank mixes, that are still effective to control those biotypes so that they don’t get into seed,” Kumar said, noting that one female Palmer amaranth plant can produce as much as one-half million seeds.

“In addition to using effective herbicide programs, growers should look at crop rotation as a foundational practice of weed control. Grow those crops that are highly competitive with Palmer amaranth and try to grow some cover crops if you can in the fallow land. Don’t leave fallow – that’s the weakest link in this whole system where these weed species have been gaining resistance.”

Kumar also suggests that farmers consider pre-emergent herbicides, depending on the crop being grown.

“Including PRE herbicide options can help growers manage some of these multiple-resistant weed biotypes, and delay the development of resistance in this weed,” he said.

Kumar’s research group is currently studying about 200 biotypes of Palmer amaranth collected in Kansas fields to determine the extent of multiple resistant Palmer amaranth throughout the state. He said the group expects to continue their work well into the future.

“My idea is to determine the distribution of these multiple resistant Palmer amaranth biotypes in Kansas, and based on that biological information, what we can do in terms of alternate strategies to manage this problem weed in a cost-effective manner,” he said.

“If we are losing these tools, like 2,4-D or glyphosate, which are the key tools to control these weed species, then this is going to be economically expensive for growers. So we have to bring more tools into our toolbox to tackle these problems.”

Kumar’s findings have been published in the journal, Pest Management Science. The article, titled “Confirmation of 2,4‐D resistance and identification of multiple resistance in a Kansas Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) population, is available online.