We have all seen the news articles. SIU's enrollment went down again. The budget crisis is sending students away from Illinois. There are all kinds of larger, more successful institutions to go to, why stay in Southern Illinois? As a current student at the fine Southern Illinois University Carbondale, I can give you all kinds of personal reasons that I love this campus. However, for most people, that isn't enough. I don't blame them. With all the bad press this campus has been getting, it's easy to see why some students wouldn't want to come here. As a proud Saluki, I'm taking it upon myself to show the side of this campus that I love. We are a Tier 1 Research Institution, and there is a lot to brag about, especially in the College of Agricultural Sciences. While every college has their proud projects, here are some of my favorites from my favorite college.
In 2007, a team of researchers from the Department of Animal Science, the Meyer's Institute for Interdisciplinary Research in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry, and the Department of Physiology teamed up to create a synthetic compound to cut the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. This syndrome leads to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 1 diabetes, and a plethora of other diseases. When injected in mice, the mice had greatly decreased risk factors for all of these diseases. Now, the team is looking for an industry partner to send the drug through clinical trials.
One of SIU's Associate Professors of Animal Science helped a team from Chile domesticate San Pedro, a type of small, flat-bodied fish, back in 2011. He traveled to the country and helped them take stress samples on the fish after crowding them in small spaces, netting them, and putting them through similar events that they would go through in a domestic aquaculture setting. It was thanks to him that Chile will potentially be able to use this fish in their every day meals.
Soybean Cyst Nematode, or SCN, is a huge problem for soybean growers across the nation. The disease isn't bacterial, but is caused by a parasitic animal. Pesticides don't help, so farmers rely on crop rotation and resistant varieties to ward off these pests. One researcher at SIU in Plant, Soil, and Agircultural Systems has been breeding up soybeans to be resistant to SCN since 2008, and is still in pursuit of better strains to this day. She has released two strains that ranked in the top five advanced strains, according to the USDA.
The next soybean disease that most farmers have to deal with is Sudden Death Syndrome, or SDS. This fungal disease attacks they soybean and causes severe wilting and rotting of the stem and leaves. One of SIU's professors of Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems developed a cheap and effective test that labs can use to determine if a plant had resistance to the disease or not. Until his founding of this test, diagnostics were very hit or miss. He founded the test back in 1966, but is still in works of patenting his product. When he applied for a patent, they said it would have to be broken down into four different patents, and he is working on paperwork for the third patent of four. He has been selling this test to industry companies since the patents have gone through.
SIU does a lot of work with soybeans, and each one is as captivating as the last. One of SIU's researchers in Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems, in conjunction with a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has discovered two genetic regions that code for oil content in soybeans. Adding this to the three already discovered, and you get a bean that is perfect for biofuels. The sold their first line of soybeans for biofuels to breeders in 2008.
SIUC, along with three other American Universities, traveled to Afghanistan back in 2008 to help farmers grow crops with the little water they have. In Afghanistan, population is increasing, and the forests that help preserve water are being chopped down. These Universities traveled to Afghanistan to help create a national water management plan and promote sustainability.
SIU's turfgrass expert created a more sustainable version of grass in 2010. It grew thick and short without the use of fertilizers, and cut back on mowing times in the spring and fall, conserving gas that would be used in lawn mowers. It also grows thick enough that no weeds can penetrate, and it is great at resisting drought. He believes this grass, known as Zoysia, is going to be a great tool in cutting down pesticide and herbicide applications, and in turn, prevent superweeds that can withstand pesticides.
SIU's Department of Forestry took to Kentucky to save the landscape in Fort Knox. The area has a brittle limestone landscape that is prone to sinkholes. Mix that with tanks running over the surface every day, and you have problems. SIU was the University that came to the rescue and created a sustainable management plan for the military base.
One of SIU's Associate Professors of Equine Science is working on a project to cure Colic, the leading cause of death in horses around the world. She is using cannulation- a process of placing a hole in the side of the animal to expose healthy bacteria to sick animals. She currently has 8 cannulated horses and is working on perfecting her treatment methods.
A bioprocess engineer at SIU in Plant, Soil, and Agricultural Systems is using Infrared and Ultra-violet light to kill organisms on food that cause spoilage. Through these methods and many more, he hopes to greatly reduce the amount of preservatives used in food today, without sacrificing taste or nutrition.