For years, farmers have used beneficial insects like parasitoid wasps to control pest populations. However, selecting the most effective beneficial insect to control a pest is not always clear cut.
UK entomologist Jen White and her team are studying five species of parasitoid wasps to determine which provides the best biological control of certain pests. Pests in her studies include whiteflies, cowpea aphids, and soybean aphids.
Parasitoid wasps kill pests by injecting their eggs into them. However, some pest species have bacteria that help fend off the wasps. In addition, some wasp species have bacteria that make them less effective biological control agents.
“My lab is looking at pest populations that do and do not have bacteria and checking to see what can be parasitized,” White said. “We are also trying to determine whether a pest’s defense works on every type of parasitoid wasp and the frequency at which the bacteria are present in a population.”
Knowing if an insect has the bacteria may help producers make choices on which parasitoid to use to biologically control particular pests. An Encarsia inaron wasp injects its eggs into a sweetpotato whitefly nymph.
Alex Johnson has a passion for horses—and she doesn’t let the fact she’s legally blind stand in her way. Alex, a freshman at Woodford County High School, has qualified for the state 4-H horse show every year she has participated. She now competes as a hunter jumper with her horse Take Me There.
“She likes pushing herself further,” said Alex’s mom Lynn Johnson. “She loves the horses so much.”
Much of Alex‘s confidence has come from her involvement with the 4-H Youth Horse Program in her county.
The 4-H Youth Horse Program is one of the largest and fastest growing 4-H programs in Kentucky. Each year, the more than 6,000 young Kentuckians involved in the program find enjoyment and gain knowledge and confidence through their interaction with horses.
Fernanda Camargo works with the program. The University of Kentucky equine professor said it builds character, citizenship, and leadership skills, but more importantly, it teaches responsibility.
“It’s the best part of the program. The apex is not about a horse show, but a year-round commitment to good animal husbandry and responsibility.”
Partnerships also make the program successful, such as the joint effort between UK Cooperative Extension Service and Murray State University, which began in 2007 with the opening of the 4-H Horse Center at the West Kentucky 4-H Camp. The facilities include an outdoor working area, covered arena and large storage facility. Murray State provides horses and an equine instructor during 4-H summer camp.
“The horse center is a big plus for drawing more kids to 4-H camp,” said Paula Jerrell, Ballard County 4-H youth development agent and District 7 horse contact. “It has been a big recruiting tool.”
And young people don’t have to have a horse to be involved in the 4-H horse program. Many youth participate in “horseless” 4-H clubs, with activities that include hippology, horse bowl, crafts, photography, public speaking, and other competitions at the state 4-H contest.
As University of Kentucky horticultural researcher Seth DeBolt sees it, the key to sustainably increasing the efficiency and production of biofuels lies in plants’ cell walls.
“It’s all about efficiency–getting more biofuel with less energy inputs,” DeBolt said.
In two different research endeavors, he’s studying lignin and cellulose, potential biofuel sources found in the cell walls of plants. By looking at these compounds at the molecular level, he hopes to find a way to increase their biofuel-producing capacity.
In one research project, he seeks to understand the genes and proteins in plants’ cell walls and the metabolic process that occurs there during cellulose production. DeBolt is specifically interested in the shape of the cells, how they combine to form tissues, and how the cell wall is central to the biological and chemical interactions between the plant tissues and their surroundings. The study is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
In the other project, he works with researchers Rodney Andrews and Mark Crocker, UK Center for Applied Energy Research, and Mark Meier, UK Department of Chemistry, to study how lignin can be modified to increase a plant’s energy-producing density. Lignin, which provides rigidity to plants, is extremely difficult to modify, because it has developed resistance to chemical and biological attacks.
“We are studying how to chemically break down the lignin in a way that’s efficient, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly,” Crocker said.
Funds for this project came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act but are administered by the National Science Foundation. A view of a live plant cell, its colorful glow the result of being tagged with autofluorescent proteins.
HORSE RIDING is an activity enjoyed by all ages. Unfortunately, it is estimated that one in five riders will be seriously injured sometime during their careers. Novice riders, especially children and young adults, are eight times more likely to suffer a serious injury than professional riders. Many injuries are preventable.
To help riders more safely engage in their passion, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture’s Equine Initiative, UK HealthCare, and UK College of Public Health, along with local, state, and national organizations, launched Saddle Up Safely, a five-year program promoting safe practices for those who ride or work around horses. Its creators, by making a great sport safer, intend that the program will be a lasting legacy to the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games coming to Kentucky this fall.
The campaign includes brochures, continuing medical education opportunities, education-based programs, a volunteer-based speakers auxiliary, and a website featuring safety tips and stories from injured riders and a blog hosted by Fernanda Camargo, UK equine extension professor and head of Kentucky‘s 4-H Horse Program.
Getting handcuffed or standing in front of a judge isn’t the way typical high school students spend their school day, but it’s a reality for Clinton County freshmen as they learn about the consequences of abusing prescription drugs during UK Cooperative Extension’s activity, Truth and Consequences: The Choice is Yours.
Clinton County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent Christy Nuetzman started the role play event four years ago as a way to tackle the community’s prescription drug abuse problem.
“In a two-year span, we had a high number of youth overdoses, arrests, and convictions related to prescription drug abuse,” she said. “It’s something that kids need to be exposed to, so they can make positive decisions and avoid peer pressure.”
A 2006 federal study found Kentucky led the nation in the percentage of state residents who reported using psychotherapeutic drugs, prescription pain relievers, and prescription tranquilizers for nonmedical reasons within the past year. In a Health Education through Extension Leadership survey, extension agents identified prescription drug abuse as one of the most troubling issues facing their communities.
“It‘s important for our agents to help others become aware of this issue and provide them with knowledge that they can use to identify instances of abuse, address situations, and provide support to those recovering,” said Ann Vail, assistant director of family and consumer sciences extension.
In Truth and Consequences, students work through different scenarios dealing with prescription drug abuse. They talk about the consequences of their actions with representatives from community agencies, including hospital personnel, the county prosecutor, paramedics, and even the coroner. Parents also are encouraged to participate along with their children.
Clinton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jesse Stockton and Albany Police Officer Kent McDaniel see the effects of prescription drug abuse every day in their jobs and have participated in the event since its inception. As fathers, they want their children and others to understand the consequences of abusing prescription drugs.
“I’m hoping that through educating the kids we can break the bond that drugs have on this community,” McDaniel said.
“I’m for anything you can do to keep children off these things,” Stockton said. “We really have to change the culture around here.”
The Bluegrass Equine Digest delivers up-to-date information on equine research to more than 18,000 people—right on their desktops.
The monthly electronic newsletter from UK’s Gluck Equine Research Center and Equine Initiative, provided with the support of TheHorse.com and sponsor Pfizer Animal Health, features equine news, tips, and research findings from the College of Agriculture.
Sign up for the free newsletter at
Norm Taylor’s travels took him far from his native Bracken County. He has journeyed to communist Romania and Yugoslavia, Mexico, New Zealand, China, Japan, Scotland… the list goes on and on.
So does he.
You wouldn’t know Taylor retired in 2001. He loves his work and isn’t about to give it up. He comes in to work every day, continuing his research and overseeing the Clover Germplasm Center he started 57 years ago as a young assistant professor in agronomy.
The Clover Germplasm Center is one of three repositories for clover seeds in the world. The name of the center is grander than its facility. In an upright freezer in his laboratory, Taylor maintains the seeds of all the clovers in the world—206 species. To collect these seeds, he has spent much of his career as a plant explorer, climbing mountains and trekking across fields in this country and abroad.
“One of the first trips was to Romania. This was back during the communist regime, and so it was kind of an adventuresome trip all right,” he said, remembering how the government permitted him only in certain areas. His government-assigned driver tended to make two lanes into three.
“We never hit anybody, but we darn near did. Darn near killed ourselves,” Taylor said. “He killed a bunch of chickens; we called him the Chicken Killer.”
Still, Taylor survived to collect seeds from several native clover species.
Today, at 83, he stays closer to home. That doesn’t mean he’s taking it easy. He’s currently conducting a study on phenoic acid, the compound that turns red clover an unappealing black when it’s cut and exposed to dew. He’s also screening a population of clover for resistance to powdery mildew. And that’s only two of the five or six projects he currently is working on.
Don’t look for Taylor to be trimming that to-do list back any time soon. He’s not the type to call it quits. .
On farms, livestock deaths are a fact of life, but improper disposal of animal carcasses is detrimental to the environment, potentially polluting groundwater sources and, ultimately, our drinking water. That’s why farmers must plan for proper livestock disposal when developing their agricultural water quality plans.
In 2009 the Food and Drug Administration tightened their regulations on bovine carcass disposal. So the Agriculture Water Quality Authority, a state agency that includes personnel from the College of Agriculture, developed a new practice standard for disposal.
Fitting into that new standard is the work of Steve Higgins, director of environmental compliance of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.
His odorless method for safely composting livestock carcasses involves an inexpensive open-air facility and quickly breaks down the carcass while not attracting scavengers and keeping pollutants from the groundwater. The method also is self-sustaining, producing an end product that can be reused for additional livestock composting or as a nutrient- and microbe-rich compost for crops.
“It’s controlled, it’s managed, and it takes care of a lot of nuisance and water quality concerns,” Higgins said.