sealPurdue Agricultural Briefs

February 2001

Learn biotech basics online from Purdue

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – People looking for information on agricultural biotechnology can log onto a Purdue University Web site that takes them step-by-step through the basic science and fundamental issues surrounding biotechnology.

"There is a lot of confusion about agricultural biotechnology, and we thought we could help by trying to explain the basics of the science in accessible terms," says horticulture professor Peter Goldsbrough, a member of the team that created the Web site. "We wanted to create a resource for high school teachers and students, but we also wanted it to be accessible to anyone looking for more information on the subject."

Goldsbrough and Natalie Carroll, a professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, settled on the Internet as their teaching tool for Introduction to Agricultural Biotechnology, a university course for high school teachers. Teachers who took the course worked their way through a Web-based tutorial, took tests online, then came to campus to present lesson plans and projects produced to meet course requirements. Last summer four teachers took the class for credit and took home lesson plans to use in their classes.

In October, when a group of teachers visiting campus took a quick tour of the Web part of the course, they asked if their students could log onto the Web tutorial. In response, Goldsbrough and Carroll opened up the Web site to the public. The public site, a slightly pared-down version of the original, includes 19 lessons as well as short self-tests to help reinforce main points.

You can visit the Web site by following the link from the Biotechnology Education page of the Purdue School of Agriculture's News Backgrounders site.

A continuing education course based on the Web site will be offered again in 2001. For more information or to sign up for the course, contact Kathryn Orvis (765) 494-8435,

CONTACTS: Peter Goldsbrough, (765) 494-1334,

Natalie Carroll, (765) 494-8433,

Corn fungus a deadly threat to crop and man

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A fungus that attacks corn threatens more than just the crop itself. Diplodia ear rot can create dangerous working conditions for farmers trying to remove infected corn from storage facilities.

Farmers can be injured or killed attempting to break up clumps of moldy grain blocking unloading equipment in grain bins, says Doug Kingman, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service farm safety specialist.

"In the last 30 years in Indiana, an average of one farmer a year has died in a grain bin," Kingman says. "Three-quarters of those deaths occurred during the unloading of a grain bin. And in 53 percent of those cases, the farmers were working with corn, much of which was out-of-condition."

Most grain-related accidents occur in the winter months, as grain is unloaded to sell or feed livestock. In a typical scenario, a farmer enters a storage facility with the unloading equipment running and is pulled into the grain flow. Unable to escape, the farmer is buried alive. Death often comes from suffocation.

One way to ensure corn is safe for unloading is stopping Diplodia in its tracks, Kingman says.

"You'll be in better shape if you can catch the molding problem before it occurs," he says. "The routine inspection of grain and grain sampling are two good preventative measures."

More information about grain bin safety can be found in Purdue Grain Quality Task Force Fact Sheet 8, "Grain Storage Problems Are Increasing the Dangers to Farm Operators." The fact sheet is available through county Extension offices or online.

To learn more about Diplodia, refer to Grain Quality Task Force Fact Sheet 45, "Diplodia Ear Rots in Indiana." The fact sheet can be downloaded online.

CONTACT: Doug Kingman, (765) 494-5013;

New Web site offers news stories,
extension pubs on ag topics

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A new Purdue University Web site provides news and information on hot topics in agriculture.

"Backgrounders" offers information on nine subject areas. Each of the topic sites provides an archive of past Purdue news stories, a list of Purdue experts on the subject, links to related online Purdue extension publications, and links to other online resources.

Topics covered on the Backgrounders Web site are: biotechnology, farm income and economics, farm safety, food safety, genomics, seasonal and holiday information, precision agriculture, waste management, and water quality.

Some of the backgrounder topics sites have other helpful features. For example, the biotechnology backgrounder site includes quizzes so that you can test your knowledge of biotechnology, and even a link to a self-directed university course on biotechnology.

CONTACT: Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809;

Compiled by Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page