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State of Success: Indiana

Nifa Author
Rachel Dotson, Public Affairs Specialist (Social Media)

To celebrate National Indiana Day on November 16, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is highlighting the innovative NIFA-funded research conducted by Purdue University’s College of Agriculture.

Learn more about the state’s history and the agriculture challenges researchers are working to combat. 

Hybridizing wheat image from 1910. Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections.
Hybridizing wheat image from 1910. Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections.

Historical Background

In accordance with the Morrill Act of 1862, Purdue University was founded with a focus on agricultural and industrial education. In 1879, the first professor in Agriculture was hired, and the first Bachelor of Science in Agriculture degree was conferred in 1895.  The new century brought steady growth to Purdue’s agricultural program. Purdue awarded its first Master of Science in Agriculture in 1908, and Ph.D. of Science in Agriculture in 1928. The School of Agriculture, as well as the Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, enjoyed increased state and federal funding beginning in the 1910s, which solidified Purdue’s place as the center of Indiana agriculture. Enduring a significant decrease in student enrollment during World War II, Purdue Agriculture rebounded in the post-war years and began to offer fresh areas of study in such fields as agricultural meteorology, environmental science, farm and business management, feed, fertilizer, machinery development, food engineering, landscape agriculture, pest control and resource conservation.

Successes and Innovations

Tar spot is an emerging disease in Indiana’s corn crop, and researchers in Purdue’s Botany and Plant Pathology department are looking into how it spreads in a field and the optimal timing of fungicide application to help Indiana farmers manage the disease. The research is supported in part by the Hatch Act.

Bovine respiratory disease affects approximately one in five beef or dairy cattle in North America and costs producers as much as $900 million annually. Quickly diagnosing the illness could improve animal well-being and save producer significant money. Mohit Verma, assistant professor in Purdue’s Agricultural and Biological Engineering department, is developing technology to reduce diagnosis time from four or more days to about 30 minutes. This research is supported by NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Drone equipment being utilized at Purdue University's College of Agriculture. Image courtesy of Purdue.
Drone equipment being utilized at Purdue University's College of Agriculture. Image courtesy of Purdue.

NIFA-Funded Research

NIFA-funded research in Purdue University’s College of Agriculture serves Indiana’s 92 counties through Purdue Extension efforts across four program areas: 4-H Youth Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Community Development and Health and Human Sciences. Purdue Extension plays an integral role in workforce development, helping communities become attractive to businesses through educational and training programs.

Unique Agricultural Challenges

Purdue University addresses challenges facing food and agricultural on state, regional and global levels. To name a few, Purdue focuses on the following critical issues through NIFA-funded research: childhood obesity; climate change; food safety, global food security; human, family and community health; natural resources and sustainable energy.

Future Research

Purdue envisions addressing some of Indiana’s most pressing issues through:

  • Developing new treatment approaches for diabetes and fatty liver disease.
  • Informing the public of the impact of cover crops on sustainable corn and soybean production and downstream water quality.
  • Demonstrating the cost and potential benefits/risks associated with cover crop adoption.
  • Building climate change expertise in Purdue Extension personnel to enhance delivery of educational programs to those in agriculture and the community.
  • Increasing knowledge of climate-durable turfgrass insect management and put decision-making tools in the hands of turfgrass practitioners.
  • Becoming a leading resource in food safety training and on topics such as plant-based proteins.
  • Improving understanding of the economic value of farm data and precision farming technologies.
  • Expanding efforts to include the effects of rural broadband on technology use and productivity on Indiana farms and rural communities.
  • Improving management of dairy cattle and the economy of the feedlot industry through animal health
  • Identifying and understanding mechanisms of plant disease resistance.
  • Detecting and managing field crop diseases sooner.
  • Improving the dietary intake of the food insecure.
  • Identifying emerging protein sources and understanding the health benefits.
  • Improving pest management strategies in fruit and vegetable crops.
  • Facing food security and hunger head on through programs that support beginning farmers, small-scale meat processors, next-generation farmers and small farms in Indiana.
  • Understanding substance abuse among young Indiana adolescents and supporting community and family health and wellbeing.
  • Finding beneficial use of by-product residuals to improve soil health and protect public health.
  • Improving conservation tree planting with increased knowledge and connection to professional foresters.
  • Expanding resources for community planning of solar, wind and other sustainable land-use decisions.

Top photo: United States of America lights during night as it looks like from space. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products;
Agriculture systems and technology;
Animal health and production and animal products;
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health;
Agriculture economics and rural communities
U.S. States and Territories
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