SciPride 2019 - Wednesday, June 19, 2019

June 10, 2019

starting at 7 pm

Bell Museum, Nucleus

SciPride celebrates the scientific contributions of the UMN LGBTQA community.  We will hear a series of short scientific presentations that illustrate our impact on food, agriculture, and natural resource sciences. Congratulations to the students, postdocs, and staff presenting this year and Happy Pride!


Nickolas Anderson, Jason Cepela, David Eickholt, Tyler Tiede, Amanda Waters, Gabe Gusmini (Agronomy & Plant Genetics / PepsiCo)

Making healthy oats even healthier

Oats are a healthy food contributing to high-quality fibers and protein to our diets.  In the US, many oat products have been labeled as "Heart Healthy" under an FDA-approved claim for many years.  However, Avena spp. (oat being Avena sativa) are widely diverse genetically and hold the potential of greater contribution to human diet than currently achieved.  Our team works on understanding the genetics of improved nutritional content of oat and to generate new oat varieties to deliver such an advantage throughout the food value chain.  Our team is part of PepsiCo R&D and is conducting the majority of its research on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota in various cooperative activities with university faculty, the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute, and the University of Minnesota Genomics Center.

Marie Schaedel (Horticulture)

What is a climate-smart forage?

Products derived from livestock such as meat and dairy contribute as much as 27% of agricultural GDP in the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region.1 One major constraint to dairy production is the adequate supply of quality forages throughout the year.2 The Rwandan Agricultural Board (RAB) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) launched a ‘climate-smart’ dairy project in 2018 to investigate the yield capacities of the perennial forage grass Brachiaria decumbens and legume Desmodium intortum in a variety of planting systems across three regions in Rwanda with different biophysical conditions. Besides increasing milk production, perennial forage crops offer numerous benefits, and most include microbially-mediated soil processes. For instance, the reduction of agriculture-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, carbon sequestration, and improved soil nutrient availability. In this lightning talk, I will discuss the emerging importance of climate-smart forages to address climate change and improve livelihoods in East Africa.

Vincenzo Averello IV, Changbin Chen (Horticultural Science and Applied Plant Science)

Developing a Vitamin D3 Enriched Tomato through Gene-Editing

Vitamin D3 is an essential nutrient that is important for the maintenance of skeletal health, particularly in the young and the aged. Vitamin D3 is mainly available from animal products so such cod-liver oil, dairy products, and enriched foods like many breakfast cereals. A vegetable source of Vitamin D3 has remained elusive, however, a precursor of Vitamin D3 is present in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.). It is hypothesized that if 7-dehydrocholestrol reductase-2 (7-DR-2) is knocked-out by gene-editing using CRISPR-Cas9 provitamin D (also called 7-dehydrocholestrol) will accumulate and be converted to vitamin D3 by UVB exposure. Normally, 7-DR-2 converts provitamin D into cholesterol in Solanaceaous plants like potato and tomato. This work will be performed in a new breeding line developed at the University of Minnesota for growth in a cool, short-season climate like the Upper Midwest. 

Seth Wannemuehler, Chengyan Yue, James J. Luby, R. Karina Gallardo, Vicki A. McCracken (Applied Plant Sciences, Department of Horticultural Science)

Apple, Berry, and Peach Oh My: Developing Cost-Efficient Breeding Practices

DNA-informed breeding techniques allow breeders to more quickly select and breed crops with desired traits and genes as compared to conventional breeding methods. Incorporation of this technology requires additional costs for reagents, machinery, and labor. In order to elucidate cost-effectiveness of DNA-informed breeding in perennial crops with multi-year generations; we conducted a cost-benefit analysis examining the incorporation of marker-assisted selection (MAS), a type of DNA-informed breeding, in an apple breeding program. Annual production costs for a Midwest apple breeding program were used to construct a simulation using itemized costs and per unit costs for each procedure in the program. Simulations using these costs compared MAS at the greenhouse growth stage with cull rates of high (50%), medium (25%), and low (10%) to conventional breeding methods without MAS. The break-even point where cost-savings associated with MAS equals the additional costs incurred was then calculated. Additional sensitivity analyses were conducted exploring decreases in MAS laboratory costs, seedling maintenance costs, and seedling evaluation costs. These results have important implications for breeding programs of perennial crops considering incorporation of DNA-informed breeding.

Nick Greatens, Klara Peterson, Melissa Lim, Les J. Szabo, and Yue Jin (Plant Pathology, USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Lab)

Biology and biocontrol potential of a rust fungus affecting two Minnesota invasives

Glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) and reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) are highly invasive plants of wetlands, meadows, and riparian areas across Minnesota. Eradication of the plants is difficult and costly, but effective management is imperative to protect our natural resources. Previously, few pests or pathogens were known to reduce the competitiveness of these naturalized invaders, but in 2017, we observed a rust fungus parasite of F. alnus that caused severe infection on leaves, stems, and flowers, drastically reducing seed production. Field and laboratory testing identified the grass host as P. arundinacea, on which infection could be significant. Our preliminary studies have established that the rust is a form belonging to the crown rust species complex (Puccinia coronata). Our project seeks to investigate the biology and taxonomy of the rust and its impact on its two highly invasive hosts. Based on information generated from this study, we will develop novel management strategies for the biological control of P. arundinacea and F. alnus so that we can better protect our wetlands and the many vulnerable organisms they sustain.

Dr. Kathryn Draeger (PI), Dr. Hikaru Peterson(co-PI), Ren Olive, Greg Schweser, Ryan Pesch, Constance Carlson, Dojin Park, Annalisa Hultberg, Dr. Cindy Tong, Big Stone Garlic, Mason-Brothers Wholesale, Russ Davis Wholesale, Bonnie’s Hometown Market (UMN Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships; NRSM)

Connecting Small and Medium-Sized Farms to Existing Wholesale Markets through Backhauling from Rural Grocery Stores

The University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships worked with a diverse team of partners (including Extension educators, University of Minnesota economists, grocery store owners, professors, post-harvest handling specialists, on-farm safety educators, wholesale distributors, and farmers) to research, develop and test a new supply chain model for farmers to access wholesale markets. This talk will give a short overview of the research aspects of the "Farm to Rural Grocery to Wholesale" (F2G2W) model. The F2G2W model is a breakthrough development in producing wholesale market access through existing distribution infrastructure, namely the network of 250 rural grocery stores throughout Minnesota and their wholesale suppliers’ trucks.  

Peter Marchetto, Francisco Gomez, Atena Haghighattalab (UMN Phenomics Initiative)

What's the Frequency, Kenneth? Measuring Stem Structural Integrity using Rainbow Snap Bracelets

Every year stalk rot diseases and stalk boring insect infestations can result in serious damage to corn crops and significant yield losses. Current methods to evaluate the resistance of corn varieties to stalk rots and borers require manual splitting of stalks and visually assessing or measuring the amount of internal stalk damage. These methods are not only labor and time intensive, but also can result in qualitative scoring and the destruction of valuable plant material. The ability to assess the internal integrity of corn stalks and the level of resistance to disease infection or insect damage in a rapid, non-destructive manner in the field would accelerate the generation of new resistant corn varieties. We developed a portable device, attached to snap bracelets, that collects acoustic data and can be deployed in any field condition without destroying the plant. This method uses resonant frequencies and stem geometry to determine stem density measurements of the corn stalks. These measures would ultimately determine if stems are hollow or have any significant stem structural damage caused by stem-boring insects. This device would be capable of collecting data in real-time in a high-throughput manner.

Gail Celio, Thomas Pengo, Claudia Neuhauser, Mark Sanders, Adam Jaspersen, Trace Christensen, Jeffery Salisbury (University Imaging Centers)

Serial Block Face Electron Microscopy: An Introduction

An overriding question in science and technology today is, “How do things work and, especially in medicine, how can it be fixed when it’s broken?” This question is important at all scales, down to the smallest functional unit. The University Imaging Centers (UIC) at UMN, in partnership with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, are providing cutting-edge technology that researchers are using to better understand the relationships between tissues, cells, and organelles at high-resolution: Serial Block Face Scanning Electron Microscopy (SBF SEM). For conventional electron microscope studies, tissue preparation involves embedding in resin and sectioning followed by painstaking examination of the individual slices under a transmission electron microscope.  With SBF SEM, the embedded tissue is imaged, then the imaged region is cut within the microscope. The slice is discarded, revealing the subsequent tissue surface for imaging. The images can be aligned to view as a high-resolution three-dimensional volume on a computer and studied from multiple angles. This technique is already being used to investigate health issues including diabetes, cancer, and developmental disorders.

Ismael Ramirez, George, E., Heimpel (Entomology)

Can a wasp save Darwin's finches from possible extinction?

The recent invasion of the vampire fly (Philornis downsi) into the Galapagos Islands has caused the decline of several native species of birds including Darwin's finches. The vampire fly finds active bird nests and lays its eggs inside the nest. Once hatched, the fly larvae feed on the blood of the nestlings causing anemia, blood loss and eventually death. If the vampire fly populations are not controlled, we could experience local and global extinctions of some species of Darwin's finches within the next century. To avoid such an outcome, biological control - the use of natural enemies to control the fly- has been considered. We have found a natural enemy, a parasitoid wasp, in mainland Ecuador. The wasp has proven to be efficient in attacking and killing the fly pupae in laboratory and field studies, thus a promising natural enemy to control the vampire fly in the Galapagos Islands.