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Fellowships Help Fund Relevant Research

DornYliojaTwo agriculture researchers at Kansas State University have received two-year federal fellowships totaling $246,660 to study issues that affect local and worldwide food systems.

Kevin Dorn, associate scientist in plant pathology, was awarded a $151,660 postdoctoral fellowship to key genes that underlie the difference between annual and perennial plants — a finding that uncover could lead to the development of new perennial grain crops while improving the environment.

Caroline Ylioja, doctoral student in animal science, Canada, received a $95,000 predoctoral fellowship to study strategies that could improve the health of replacement dairy animals and their lifetime milk production.

“K-State’s global reputation for leadership in plant and animal science is a direct result of our ability to attract bright people like Kevin and Caroline,” said John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension. “It’s pleasing to see them learning and doing meaningful research that affects not only the Kansas economy but also has worldwide impact.”

Dorn’s research project aims to shed light on the mechanisms underlying some crops’ perennial growth cycles and inform long-standing efforts to perennialize major annual crops like wheat. This project builds upon Dorn’s ongoing research of intermediate wheatgrass genomics, which he and his advisor, Jesse Poland, associate professor of plant pathology, are exploring in collaboration with The Land Institute and several other academic partners.

“By keeping living roots in the ground year-round, perennials help restore soil health and protect our waterways from pollution,” added Dorn.

Ylioja’s research project concerns colostrum, which is the first milk a cow produces for its calf after giving birth. Typically, the quality of colostrum is measured by its antibody levels, but Ylioja proposes additional strategies, such as assessing the presence of molecules that carry messages between cells, organs, and tissue to boost immunity.

“Any way we can help make calves healthier and prevent disease will be beneficial both for the health of the cattle and for our milk supply,” Ylioja said. “Ideas that may benefit our food production systems or the sustainability of our agriculture systems are worth pursuing.”

She works closely with her advisor Professor Barry Bradford and mentor Research Assistant Professor Laman Mamedova.

“Caroline’s innovative research takes a different approach to improving the resilience of dairy cattle to disease, which could aid in both increasing milk production and enhancing animal health,” Bradford said.

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative fellowships were awarded through the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences Education and Literacy Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Institute of Food and Agriculture.