Powerful Partnerships (12 minutes, 41 seconds)
Narrator American agricultural productivity is the envy of the world. A key reason is that US farmers and ranchers enjoy fast and effective scientific solutions to their production problems. Those solutions are the product of a national system more than a century in the making. It's a system built upon teamwork and powerful partnerships.
At the center of America's extraordinary agricultural research system are agencies of the US Department of Agriculture, USDA, and the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, NASULGC. The Agricultural Research Service, ARS, has been the scientific arm of USDA for more than fifty years.
Edward B. Knipling, Administrator, USDA Agricultural Research Service We have within ARS, over a hundred different laboratory locations and most of these are co-located with the land universities. ARS considers our university friends to be our strongest partners, cooperators, and stakeholders. We can certainly accomplish more than either one of us could alone.
Narrator Partnering with ARS from within the USDA is the Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service, CSREES.
Colien Hefferan, Administrator, USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service We have ongoing support to the base programs in research, education and extension and agriculture at each one of those land grant universities across the country. We've really focused on co-funding and co-supporting the work of collaborators from universities and ARS through our competitive grant programs and other mechanisms.
Narrator The histories of these USDA agencies and the nation's land grant institutions are happily intertwined.
C. Peter Magrath, President, National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges It's a great story. It's a fifty year collaboration since ARS came into existence. The relationships with the Department of course go back before that. The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges is the oldest higher education association going back to 1887 and we represent the national interests of our great universities and land grant colleges so that we receive the resources needed to do the job that we think is critical to the United States.
John Patrick Jordan, Director, Southern Regional Research Center, USDA Agricultural Research Service In 1862, agriculture had a remarkable year under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. The first thing that happened is there was established early in that year the US Department of Agriculture. Later in that year, the Justin Smith Morrill Act was passed which has provided the basis for the land grant university system and in that very same year we began seeing research reports out of the USDA. By 1875, some of the states began to have experiment stations of their own and by 1887 Congressman Hatch established the experiment station system for the United States.
Jose Amador, Director, Texas A & M Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Weslaco That also was part of Lincoln's legacy. He created the university that could go to the people. This is where the universities come in with the experiment station and extension service. They do research that is more local in nature and the extension service can take that information out to the producers so there's a continuum between the work the ARS does and that of the universities and the land grant colleges.
John Patrick Jordan, Director, Southern Regional Research Center, USDA Agricultural Research Service But the story isn't over there because by 1890 another set of land grant universities was established essentially for African Americans. This brought a great deal of diversity to our program as well.
Now by 1914, there was the Smith Liber Act that established a cooperative extension system to bring the latest information about scientific research in terms of farming.
By 1953, the in-house laboratories of the US Department of Agriculture began to function under the Agricultural Research Service. Now many of the ARS scientists were housed on land grant campuses.
R. James Cook, Interim Dean, Washington State University, Former Research leader, USDA ARS As an ARS scientist located at a land grant university, which is it's very common in the United States, when it came to doing my work I was shoulder to shoulder with state people. It brings a diversity of approaches and resources to solve complex problems.
I'm a plant pathologist. I developed the ARS program for root diseases of wheat and barley and at least three major changes in the direction of my program were made possible by breakthroughs through grad student thesis research.
Clinton Bristow, President Auburn State University The greatest scientists in the world are at ARS and when you add those scientists' expertise with what we have on our campuses then you are able to really look at a problem and come up with a solution.
Small farmers require a lot of assistance. What we do in the 1890 community is focus on how we can come up with alternative crops for them that can produce a higher economic yield per acre.
ARS with its expertise can utilize biotechnology, plant genetics, animal genetics you are able to come up with what we call boutique crops that are higher value and value added crops.
Narrator The collaboration has help the 1890s and other land grant institutions focus on regional problems that go beyond the farming and ranching communities.
Clinton Bristow, President Auburn State University We have had an opportunity to work with the ARS scientists on a Delta nutritional initiative. That's a very important initiative for addressing obesity.
Narrator In the early 1990s ARS partnered with 1890 institutions to establish centers of excellence.
Clinton Bristow, President Auburn State University The center of excellence is a focusing of resources bringing together the scientific expertise of ARS with the expertise on an 1890 campus to be very specific in a research area.
Narrator The first was located at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. It proved to be the catalyst for progress in the UMES food science program. In 2003, a new state of the art center for food science and technology opened and the university's first agricultural PhD program was born.
Thomas Oscar, Research Food Technologist USDA ARS University of Maryland Eastern Shore The original vision was that ARS would provide a real strengthening of the research component of the PhD program in the center of excellence where as UMES would provide the real strength in the academic part of the program but that each would make contributions to the teaching and research. In our research what we are really focused on is predicting the level of risk of getting salmonella infection from chicken that's been mishandled. The building, the new PhD program, was a direct result of the center of excellence concept. It really would not have happened without both sides of the partnership working close together.
Narrator Ames, Iowa is home to the National Animal Disease Center of ARS and to Iowa State University. Their proximity and partnership continue to pay dividends.
Jake Petrich, Professor of Chemistry, Iowa State University What ISU has developed in collaboration with ARS is a device that is capable of detecting instantaneously contamination on meat surfaces.
Thomas Casey, Microbiologist, USDA ARS, National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa We think that the device takes the subjectivity out of detection of fecal contamination on carcasses. This will detect a lower levels than you can see by eye and it's also not subject to fatigue or any human error.
Mark Rasmussen, Research Leader, USDA ARS, National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa This whole project became a good example of partnership between Iowa State and ARS in getting this done. This project could not have happened without all of us working together because we have different expertise and different experiences.
Narrator A private company is now marketing a device based on this research which has the potential to greatly improve meat inspection and strengthen the fight against food borne illness.
Mark Rasmussen, Research Leader, USDA ARS, National Animal Disease Center, Ames, Iowa It's recording data on every carcass that goes by so that the food safety and quality people at the plants have read outs of information on each day's production and how they're doing and if they need to make improvements.
Narrator Central California's San Joaquin Valley produces many of the fresh fruits and that vegetables in US food supply but not without some challenges.
Tom Trout, Research Leader, USDA ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Services Center This is the desert. We have essentially no rain from May until October so all of the water that the crop needs we have to provide by irrigation. You have to use that water very efficiently.
Narrator One of the crops being studied is peaches.
Tom Trout, Research Leader, USDA ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Services Center In our unit, we have agricultural engineers and we have soil scientists. We know a lot about irrigation. We don't know that much about peaches as a crop.
This cooperative project with the University of California has been great because they have the pomologists who specialize in growing peaches and we get the best both worlds.
Scott Johnson, Extension Specialist, University of California It's been a great collaborative effort for, well I've been here twenty two years and that's whole time we've done work together.
The ARS center in Parlier, California is right next door to a University of California research farm. The two neighbors share key resources such a subterranean system to measure irrigation efficiency in peach tree groves.
Scott Johnson, Extension Specialist, University of California I'm standing twelve feet underground in the lysimeter system and this is the lysimeter box which has twenty five tons of soil and two peach trees planted in it and it's sitting on this very sensitive truck scale and so we use this system to measure the loss of water from the two peach trees.
Tom Trout, Research Leader, USDA ARS San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Services Center In this field we are standing in here we are using micro-irrigation which is a precise way of delivering the water right to the tree so you know you aren't wasting any water.
Narrator Cooperative crop production and other research is happening across America, continuing a long tradition for ARS and its NASULGC partners.
John Patrick Jordan, Director, Southern Regional Research Center, USDA Agricultural Research Service The story continues you bet. You haven't seen the best yet. It's coming.
Jose Amador, Director, Texas A & M Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Weslaco The cooperative research again we can summarize in the old saying that says two heads are better than one.
Clinton Bristow, President Auburn State University What I see in the future is that we will be able to get ARS facilities on the campuses of the 1890s universities. Not only does that bring additional scientific expertise but it also leads to economic development.
R. James Cook, Interim Dean, Washington State University, Former Research leader, USDA ARS Clearly if what I've seen in forty years of increase in complexity and challenges in solving problems continues as a trend we're going to need to work together in the future more than ever.
Edward B. Knipling, Administrator, USDA Agricultural Research Service The partnership will endure very sustainable, got a very sound foundation. We have so many opportunities for public benefit and the public is the ultimate beneficiary of our agricultural science.
Colien Hefferan, Administrator, USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service
American citizens don't know who's solving their problem. They just know that they have issues where science can be of help and we all need to work together to solve those problems.
C. Peter Magrath, President, National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges Don't take for grant this great partnership. Let's keep working on it and let's celebrate it, but let's also work even smarter than we have to let our fellow citizens know what wonderful return they're getting on their investment related to a whole arena of food that serves not only the United States but it's critical for the whole world.