Thursday, April 16, 2015

Farmer 5k

Hi Everyone!

The week of April 12-17th is Ag Week at Purdue. During the week there are many different events for the entire campus to participate it. Many of the events are aimed to inform others about agriculture and then there are also quite a few that are community service centered.

To kick it off on Sunday there was a "Farmer 5k" hosted by Purdue Collegiate FFA. Myself and a fellow ambassador, Kole Kamman signed up for the challenge. The two of us along with about 60 other people ran or walked the course and learned about agriculture with interesting facts at each turn of the course. All participants are encouraged to dress up to the theme "Farmer 5k" and to enter in the theme wear contest. This year there were some very creative farm animal costumes!

All proceeds of this race went to Food Finders Twin Lakes Student Food Pantry. Not only was this a fun event to compete in but it was also a good cause! The race raised $720 for the organization that will be put towards supplying food insecure families with food.

It is hard to believe there are only three more weeks until summer break!    
Until next time..Kathryn Graf

Undergraduate Sorghum Research

Hello, again! The Spring semester is coming to an end, and summer is approaching! I will be working as a Production Research Intern at DowAgrosciences this summer, so stay tuned for a post regarding my internship. In the meantime, I'd like to give some insight into the opportunities for undergraduate research at Purdue University, and within the Agronomy Department specifically. 

Beginning last fall, I became an undergraduate researcher in the Weil Lab working with mutant sorghum and looking at the possible genetics causes of increased digestibility levels in mutant lines. I’ve been working on the project with another Plant Genetics undergraduate, we have made steady progress on the project. 

Sorghum is a drought-resistant, heat-tolerant cereal crop important to food production in regions of sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. Sorghum is consumed in these areas in the form of porridges and fermented breads, like injera pictured below. Unlike corn, wheat, rice and other grains, sorghum has a very low rate of protein digestibility when cooked. Findings ways to improve and increase this protein digestibility has potential to improve the nutritional qualities of this important African food crop! The project that I’m working on aims at doing just this. Some mutant sorghum lines developed in the 1970s at Purdue University showed increased levels of protein digestibility compared to other commonly used cultivars. 

Above: Sorghum grain growing in the field. The head of the stalk contains the edible sorghum grain, which is the portion of the plant low in protein digestibility.

Below: Injera is a fermented sorghum bread eaten in regions of Eastern Africa. The fermentation process contributes to the increasing digestibility levels and is a means for managing the nutritional qualities with chemistry in preparing the food.

This project has been a great opportunity to understand a new crop that I hadn’t previously worked with, as well as to better understand the genetic tools used to identify mechanisms responsible for desirable agronomic traits. It's also been a great experience for building my network with other undergraduate researchers, graduate students, and faculty!

Below: In the lab, we screen for seeds with high protein digestibility by digesting the sorghum with pepsin in order to imitate human consumption and digestion. We then measure the levels of protein remaining to determine which samples had the highest digestibility levels, and can use them in later breeding projects to introduce increased digestibility properties.

This upcoming fall, a paper describing this research progress and findings--authored by myself, Hailey Edmondson, and Michael Busche, will be published in the 2015 Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research, so keep your eyes open if you want to read more!