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A Message from Dean Bill Brown

As I write this letter, the beautiful Smoky Mountains are still smoking, and the people of East Tennessee are still reeling from weeks of devastating fires. Our hearts go out to the many families who have experienced loss. We’re especially concerned for the community of Gatlinburg, a special place to so many people, including many in the UTIA family. What should be a joyous time of year has been marred by widespread destruction of property, businesses, and loss of life.

We were not immune to fire damage at AgResearch. Flames scorched nearly 1,000 acres of the Cumberland Forest Unit on the Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center…a substantial loss, although one that pales in comparison to the loss of lives, homes, and businesses. In the days and months to come many landowners will be struggling to manage fire-damaged and drought-stricken forests. If there is a bright spot, it’s that the damages at the Center may provide us with research opportunities that will address these needs.

While we reflect on the losses of the last few weeks, we would be remiss to forget the successes of 2016. I’m proud of the great strides UTIA faculty and staff have made in advancing the mission of the Institute this year. The number of faculty articles appearing in refereed publications increased 23 percent. Grant funding was also up significantly. These papers and dollars have real impact. Each paper published is a contribution to science that leads to practical application in agriculture and natural resource management. Each grant dollar awarded allows us to better serve our clientele…finding real life solutions for farmers, businesses, and families.

Outreach efforts have increased in 2016 as more visitors came to our AgResearch and Education Centers for field days, plant sales, and other educational events. We’ve made facility improvements at several of these Centers. An equipment program has supplied faculty and staff with new and improved scientific and field equipment.

Finally, I’d like to commend our department heads for making some excellent new faculty hires this year. It is always exciting to see a new faculty member come on board and go on to have a spectacular career. I’m sure our new additions will do similarly. They certainly have some great mentors to model here in AgResearch. Thanks for all you do for UTIA. As always, we welcome your comments and questions. Happy Holidays to all!


Ames Amateur Field Trial
January 2, 2017–
Ames Plantation, Grand Junction

Senior Bull Sale
January 19, 2017–
Middle TN REC, Spring Hill

West TN Forester's Tour
February 8, 2017 2016–
West TN AgResearch and Education Center,

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Trending Now

The Financial Education Association (FEA) has awarded Dr. Carlos Trejo-Pech the prestigious 2016 Best Paper Award in academic research. Trejo-Pech co-authored the paper and is an assistant professor of agribusiness finance in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC). Read more about his paper and award here.

Is something noteworthy happening in your department? Email and your accomplishment might be featured in the next issue of this newsletter.

2016 By the Numbers

As the year winds down, we're reviewing 2016 by the numbers. These figures show how we’re making impacts at UT AgResearch. Grant dollars were up significantly, allowing us to do more for our clientele. Articles appearing in refereed publications increased 23%, advancing both science and our standings among land grant universities. Growing outreach to audiences is evident in the number of scientific presentations and visitors to UT AgResearch and Education Center field days, plant sales, and other educational events. Click here to enlarge 2016’s notable numbers.

Fire at the Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center

Recent wildfires burned almost 1,000 acres at the UT Forest Resources AgResearch and Education Center (FRREC). Fire first reached UT property on November 14 on the North Tract of the Cumberland Forest Unit. On November 23, a separate fire hit the Unit’s South Tract. Welcomed rains, that Center Director Kevin Hoyt called a “God send,” finally extinguished the flames five days later. Read more..

UTIA Priorities Poise Institute for Future Success

The UTIA Priorities Committee was assembled to identify key issues facing agricultural and rural Tennessee. The group sought input from constituents across the state, and from this, three outcome areas were identified as most important: economic, health, and environmental. UTIA faculty and staff were invited to submit interdepartmental, interdisciplinary, or multidisciplinary program ideas that address these outcomes. Twenty-one proposals were received. Click here to read more about the UTIA Priorities and plans for the future.

Faculty 360 | Eric Walker

Faculty 360 is an all-around look at a UT AgResearch faculty member. In this issue we feature Eric Walker, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Sciences. Walker joined UTIA in August of 2014. His research focuses on tobacco and specialty crops, and he also has Extension responsibilities in these areas. Dr. Walker received his PhD from the University of Arkansas in 2005. He is a native of Robertson County, Tennessee, and enjoys spending time with family and friends and riding the roads.

Learn more about Eric in this Q & A.

New Ventures | Center to Provide Weed Diagnostic Tests
Variety of Services for Professional and Consumer Clientele

The Weed Diagnostics Center is a new diagnostic arm of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture opening in 2016. An initiative supported by both the UTIA Office of AgResearch and UT Extension, the mission of this Center is to provide end users from across the United States diagnostic tests tailored to weeds of crop production systems as well as turf, ornamentals, and urban landscapes.

Serving both the consumer and professional industries, the Center will complement ongoing disease and insect pest diagnostic efforts conducted at the Soil, Plant and Pest Center in Nashville.

All test results are complemented with research-based control recommendations to promote proper weed management practices in the field. Additional information about the Center can be found online at or via Twitter (@WeedDiagnostics) and Instagram (@weeddiagnostics). More...

The Science Behind the UTIA Sensory Science Center

Dr. Curtis Luckett began working in the Department of Food Science in August 2016 as an assistant professor and director for the Sensory Science and Innovation Center. Known colloquially as the sensory lab, the lab's focus is to assist industry partners to gauge the consumer perception of their products. Luckett takes us behind the scenes to share about sensory science and the 25-year history of the sensory lab. More...

Be Effective in Leading "Big Science"

Dr. Feng Chen (left) is a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences. Dr. Chen participated in LEAD21, a leadership development program hosted by USDA/NIFA, during the 20112012 class. In this guest post, he shares his thoughts on the development of his leadership skills and his recent successes publishing with the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Read his full post here.

Beef Heifer Development Center—One Year Later

The goal was to help Tennessee producers rebuild the beef cattle herd. To do this, UTIA joined with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Tennessee Farmers’ Co-op to tackle one of the most costly (and perhaps most critical) components of beef cattle production–replacement heifer development.

It’s been one year since the gates officially opened at the Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center in Lewisburg. The inaugural class of roughly one hundred heifers completed the eleven-month program in September. Another ninety heifers were consigned to the program in October.

Despite a tough cattle market and crippling drought, Kevin Thompson, director of the UT Dairy AgResearch and Education Center and codirector of the Beef Heifer Development program, says year one was a success. More on the first year and the future in this Q & A.

2016 Director's Awards Recipients Announced

Each year, UT AgResearch honors employees who exhibit outstanding support service at our AgResearch and Education Centers. The recipients are selected by our Center directors. A panel of three directors across Tennessee select award honorees based on their work performance, communication skills, and abilities in implementing and reporting research projects.

Through the quality of their contributions, these individuals are judged central to the research missions at their Centers. This year five deserving staff members received this distinction. Meet them here.

Dean Bill Brown Recognized by Peers for Leadership

Dr. Bill Brown, dean of UTIA AgResearch, was awarded the Experiment Station Section (ESS) Excellence in Leadership Award for the Southern Region. This award is given annually to recipients who personify the highest levels of excellence through their leadership to their experiment station and regional association. The ceremony was held November 13 in Austin, Texas. More...

In Memoriam

Walter "Marty" Clark, 58, senior farm equipment operator at the Middle Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. Clark was a member of the Center's staff for more than twenty-six years.

Jamie Jordan, 37, research specialist in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology since 2013.

Jordan was based at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center and was also a doctoral student majoring in plant pathology in CASNR.

Lisa Vito. Vito was a research associate in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and member of the department for more than sixteen years. She worked with pathogens of numerous ornamental plants, supervised undergraduate students, and aided graduate students and postdocs from various departments with their work. She also maintained the country's largest isolate collections of Geosmithia morbida and Puccinia emaculata.

Historic View | Milan No-Till

Visitors to the Milan Experiment Station examine a no-till planter in the early 1980s. Much has changed since then, but we still value the opportunities to interact with clientele in-person to provide education on new technology or discoveries.

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