sealPurdue Ag & Vet Medicine Briefs

July 1997

New CD-ROM details corn growth, development, diagnostics

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Corn growers, crop consultants and agronomists faced with tough production challenges can identify problems and find appropriate solutions using a new CD-ROM developed at Purdue University.

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Created by the agronomy, entomology, and botany and plant pathology departments at Purdue with support from Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., the multimedia program focuses on corn growth from germination through its early stages. Common corn diseases, insects, nutrient deficiency symptoms, plus herbicide and weather-related injury problems are identified and explained in detail, along with appropriate management recommendations. The information is presented using color photography, digital video, sound, text and animation.

"Corn growers everywhere will find this program a tremendous help, particularly when diagnosing problems in the field," said Paul Carter, agronomy support manager for Pioneer. "The program has been put together with great care and attention to detail to address early corn growing problems regardless of geography, so it can be used virtually anywhere, by anyone."

"Corn Growth, Development and Diagnostics -- Germination to Knee High" features a diagnostics key that allows the user to match symptoms to pictures within the program. By doing so, the user is guided to possible causes and appropriate solutions.

The program also includes crop management tools such as economic threshold tables for pests and replant decision-making tools. Using the program, farmers will be able to make their own on-the-spot diagnosis. Then, they can work with their agronomist, chemical representative or Extension educator to confirm the diagnosis and find solutions.

Hundreds of color photographs and video clips are used to represent field conditions, making the program appropriate for training as well as an on-farm agronomics reference library.

Developed under the direction of Lee Schweitzer, professor of agronomy at Purdue, the program began as a teaching tool.

"It is very difficult to effectively teach diagnostics and give students and farmers learning environments in February that pertain to early May corn," Schweitzer said. "It's also difficult to accurately represent problems specific to a certain geography."

Students who used the CD-ROM for classroom exercises showed at least 10 percent to 15 percent improvement -- a letter grade or more -- on quizzes over 87 corn problems, he said.

The CD-ROM requires a minimum 486 processor with 8 MB of RAM and one of the following operating systems: Windows 95/Window NT or Windows 3.1. A Pentium processor with 16 MB or more RAM is recommended for optimum performance. A Power Maintosh version also is available.

"Corn Growth, Development and Diagnostics -- Germination to Knee High" is available for $80 through the Purdue University Media Distribution Center, 301 S. Second St., Lafayette, Ind. 47901-1232, phone (888) 398-4636.
CONTACT: Schweitzer, (765) 494-4789; e-mail,; Arthur, Pioneer, (515) 334-6908.

El Niño returns, could upset nation's weather

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The weather pattern known as El Niño is re-emerging in the Pacific Ocean, and that could bring a change for Indiana weather for next winter, and perhaps for the next few years. The near record-setting cold seen in the Eastern Corn Belt off and on for the past few years could be replaced by unseasonable warmth.

Ken Scheeringa, acting state climatologist for Indiana, stationed at Purdue University, says that the last major El Niño 15 years ago caused memorable changes in our weather.

"It appears that El Niño is roaring back, and this one is showing signs it could become more intense than the one in 1982-83," he says. "That year was when we had the Christmas day in the 60 degree range."

The effects of El Niño are always the most apparent near Christmas, and the name "El Niño" refers to the Christ child.

"What we're in now is the opposite of an El Niño," Scheeringa says. "In the Eastern Corn Belt we're feeling the influences of a weather pattern known as 'La Niña.' With this the ocean surface temperatures are cold, and since the end of last year and the beginning of this year we have been in a predominately cool weather pattern. That's why we've seen such cool temperatures this past winter and into the spring. That appears to be changing, perhaps in a very intense way.

According to Scheeringa, the El Niño weather pattern could bring unusually warm and dry weather to the Midwest, especially in the winter months.

El Niño weather patterns occur every few years, most recently during the winters of 1994-95 and 1987-88. The last major El Niño occurred during the winter of 1982-83. That winter, storms caused damage in California and the Gulf States resulting in an estimated 100 deaths and more than $2 billion damage.

Early predictions by the National Weather Service say that this El Niño is even more severe than the 1982-83 episode.

Dayton Vincent, professor of atmospheric sciences at Purdue, says there is some disagreement among researchers about what causes El Niño, but there some characteristics that all weather scientists agree on.

Vincent says two events happen nearly simultaneously to create the weather pattern known as El Niño. "Water over the eastern Pacific, especially just south of the equator, becomes much warmer than normal during December and January," he says. "The second occurrence is that low-level winds from the region stretching from the western Pacific to east of the International Dateline become more westerly or, at least, less easterly than normal. This actually causes upwelling in the ocean circulation, and warmer waters come to the surface over the central Pacific to join those already over the eastern Pacific."

According to Vincent, wind changes in the lower atmosphere and in the Pacific Ocean cause a change in upper atmospheric circulation patterns. It's this upper atmospheric weather pattern, near jet stream levels, that ultimately influences weather in the United States, he says.

"It's well established that the southeastern part of the United States will see more cyclonic activity, and the northern Great Plains and south-central Canada will have more high pressure, so there are fewer storms and less rainfall," Vincent says. "In the Midwest, we lie in a zone that makes it difficult to tell if El Niño affects our weather. This spring we've had a lot of storms to the south while northern Minnesota and northern Michigan had better than normal weather. This could well be associated with the beginning El Niño conditions."

Ralph Gann, U.S. Department of Agriculture State Statistician for Indiana, says for farmers in the Eastern Corn Belt, the El Niño weather pattern could be good news. "The years El Niño was in effect in the 1980s we had record-setting yields, except in 1988 when we had a major drought," he says. "What's unsettling to many farmers is the increasing volatility of the weather. The past decade has been more erratic than the previous two decades, and that makes it hard to plan for the crops."
CONTACTS: Scheeringa, (765) 494-8105; e-mail,; Vincent, (765) 494-3290; e-mail,; Gann, (765) 494-8371

New curriculum challenges future veterinarians

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue University has added a new twist to a recent trend in training veterinarians.

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It's called problem-based learning, and Purdue is the first school of veterinary medicine to successfully integrate the format into a traditional curriculum.

"Conventional wisdom says it's 'all or nothing' when it comes to this type of teaching and learning," says Dr. Robert "Pete" Bill, assistant professor of clinical pharmacology who helped design the curriculum. "That's why Cornell and Mississippi State universities converted a large portion of their curriculums. We've done it with a very specific portion of our veterinary program and created a hybrid of sorts."

Purdue students take a new problem-solving class over four consecutive semesters during the first half of their academic careers.

"I think we're offering our students the best of both worlds," Bill says. "They get traditional classroom instruction and an opportunity to put it to use at the same time. It helps them realize that they are learning for their profession, not just next week's test."

The new course of study forces students to solve problems rather than just memorize information for exams.

"Force is the right word for it," Bill says. "Many students are very uncomfortable with the course initially because it asks them to speculate upon possible answers before they have all the facts."

Students are divided into groups of six or seven and given a case on paper -- such as a horse with a deformed limb or an incontinent cat. They start with only the most basic information about the animal, such as its physical appearance and the owner's description of its behavior.

The students then speculate what might be wrong with the animal and make a hypothesis. This is where the real, practical learning begins.

"The students not only have to apply what they're getting in their major science classes like physiology and anatomy, but they also have to figure out what they don't know and go find it," Bill says.

"These classes liven up a course load that some students find a bit dry during their first two years," Bill says. "It helps them understand how important the basic sciences are to becoming a good clinical veterinarian. Students are going to be much more attentive to a lecture on kidney function if their study case involves a kitten in kidney failure."

Or an incontinent cat.
CONTACT: Bill, (765) 494-8636: e-mail,

Purdue, World Vision deliver life-saving seed to Africa

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Color photo of Professors Larry Butler and Gebisa Ejeta and some of the sorghum seed is available. The photo is called Ejeta/Sorghum.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Sorghum seed created to benefit African farmers was just a minor laboratory success story until two Purdue University researchers teamed up with a nonprofit organization to go the extra 8,000 miles to deliver the life-saving seed.

Purdue scientists, who bioengineered sorghum to resist infestation by a parasitic weed, striga, have delivered seed for the new crop to farmers in 12 African countries. By 1999, 200,000 farm families in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to benefit from the new seed.

Striga, also known as witch weed, is a parasitic plant that attacks sorghum. Although this isn't a problem in the United States, striga destroys 40 percent of Africa's annual sorghum crop, which is worth about $7 billion. In Ethiopia and Sudan, the losses are as high as 100 percent in some areas.

For the past 10 years Purdue has been working to develop striga-resistant sorghum. The research was conducted by Gebisa Ejeta, professor of agronomy, and the late Larry Butler, professor of biochemistry, who died unexpectedly in February.

Ejeta and Butler successfully created several striga-resistant varieties of sorghum, field-tested them in Africa and found eight varieties that showed promise for production.

At this point the research project was a success. The varieties had been successfully bred, identified and tested. But the farmers in Africa didn't have any of the life-saving crops.

"I realized that if we sent the farmers in Africa five grams of seed that it would take several years for them to grow enough generations of plants to have enough seed to raise crops," Ejeta says.

Ejeta and Butler worked to grow one ton of seed for each of the eight varieties. So now they had eight tons of sorghum seed, but no way to deliver the seeds to Africa. The funds available to Purdue through the U.S. Agency for International Development were for research only.

"Finally I contacted World Vision, which worked with the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Relief to arrange to ship the seeds to Africa," Ejeta says. World Vision is a Christian foreign-relief organization based in Monrovia, Calif.

World Vision picked up the seed at Purdue and shipped it to four sites in Africa. The organization also arranged for Ejeta to travel to Kenya to meet with World Vision agronomists from the various countries to explain the optimum crop management techniques for the new varieties. "That's more than we planned for an organization to do originally," Ejeta says.

He adds that working with World Vision had benefits beyond just shipping the seed to Africa: "As a Christian organization, they tend to be more grassroots than we are. They work with local farmers, while we work only with researchers."

In the 1995-96 crop season, the striga-resistant sorghum seed was sent to 3,750 farm families in nine countries: Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Niger, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

For the 1997 harvest, World Vision is expanding the program to Chad, Kenya and Zaire. "Chad and Zaire have big problems with hunger right now, both because of poor crop conditions and because of political problems," Ejeta says.

According to Mark Hermodson, head of the Department of Biochemistry, the application of the research was a source of pride for the 63-year-old Butler before he died. "Larry repeatedly said that these last years were the happiest and most satisfying of his career, and that he wished that he could be at the beginning of it, not the end," Hermodson says. "This was in large part because he was seeing the results from his years of research being brought to bear on some very daunting problems in the poorest parts of the world. He always had a deep concern for the poor and powerless of the world, and assisting them in a direct way gave him great satisfaction."

Ejeta says: "Larry was an outstanding scientist who had a remarkable ability to focus on research that had the potential to make a difference for many people. I'm sad that he didn't live long enough to see his work have an effect on the lives of the poor in Africa over the next year or two."
CONTACTS: Ejeta, (765) 494-4320; e-mail,; Hermodson, (765) 494-1637; e-mail,

Book celebrates Indiana barns

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of Don Scott in an old barn is available. The photo is called Scott/Barns.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- "Barns of Indiana," a book written by Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service plant pathologist Don Scott, is a bit of Indiana history and a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Scott spent 30 years crisscrossing Indiana back roads, meeting with farmers and analyzing disease problems in fields of corn and soybeans. As he took in the landscape, he always noticed the old barns.

"Some of those old barns had character, even when they were falling down," Scott says. It bothered him to watch these castles of the countryside disappear, one by one.

"I'd see a beautiful old barn one day only to find the next day that it was bulldozed down," Scott says. "It was a part of the history of Indiana that was disappearing, something that my grandchildren would know nothing about."

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To save some memories for his grandkids, Scott started taking his camera on his travels. As he crisscrossed the state, he took pictures of barns built between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s -- 700 or so of them. More than 270 full-color photos ended up in the book, which was sponsored by Beck's Superior Hybrids Inc., of Atlanta, Ind. The Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association is selling the book for $39.40, which includes taxes, shipping and handling. The association will use the proceeds to help fund scholarships for agriculture students.

Scott says he feels that he was more than adequately paid just by the process of collecting photos and information: "The most interesting part for me was the people I've met and the history I've learned. I regret I don't have a history on every barn."

Scott gives a detailed history on a handful of barns in the book, and he provides snippets of history in most photo captions. For every barn pictured, he records the location. Photos are organized by region, so that the book can serve as a guide for a driving tour. Barring a bulldozer, fire, tornadoes or high winds, many of the barns should still be there. Scott says most old barns could stand for another 200 years, "although four or five of the barns have disappeared since I took their pictures last year."

Copies of the book became available in July. To place an order, contact the Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association, 1140 AGAD Bldg., Room 1, West Lafayette, Ind. 47907-1140; phone: (765) 494-8593. Or e-mail Donya Lester at
CONTACT: Scott, (765) 494-4627; e-mail,

Parenting course helps fathers say 'It's my child, too'

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Photo of a young father holding his child is available. Ask for the photo called Robbins/Fathering.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Young fathers, barely more than children themselves, are learning how to be good dads thanks to a Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service class on fathering called "It's My Child, Too."

"Many of the young men who need the program have no idea of what a father is, because they didn't have a role model," says Extension specialist Pam Robbins.

The fathering curriculum was developed at the request of judges who were seeing a growing number of paternity cases involving teen fathers. "They were telling us that these men simply had no concept of what it is to be a father," she says.

"In addition to those sent by the courts, we have those who volunteer for the training," Robbins says. "Some judges have told them that if they take the course, the courts may look more favorably on them with regard to decisions such as visitation and custody of their children."

During one session in a small-town community center, seven fathers sat around card tables and poured out heart-felt thoughts, frustrations, and hopes as they talked about being fathers.

"I get to see my son for three hours, two days a week. That's it." one young father says with a nervous, hand-wringing gesture and his head hanging low. "If his mom is late, the time comes out of my three hours." Another father adds, "My daughter is adorable, I just can't see her enough."

Robbins says young men like these want to know more about parenting including potty training, disciplining and handling confrontations with the mothers.

Robbins is state coordinator for Indiana Community Systemwide Response, an initiative that partners local Extension educators with their juvenile court judge or prosecutor. The idea is to steer troubled youngsters into Extension programs that might help them and to develop a communitywide plan for dealing with problems associated with teen-agers.

If fathers take more responsibility, something that "It's My Child, Too" is designed to encourage, Robbins believes that it will reduce taxpayer costs associated with fatherless children and will produce children who are more responsive to growth and education.

However, this program is just the starting point in bolstering commitment to fatherhood. "Research clearly indicates that long-term, intensive programs are needed for significant change in parenting beliefs and behaviors in high-risk populations." says Douglas Powell, professor of child development and family studies who put together the curriculum.

Maurice S. Kramer, head of Purdue's Department of 4-H/Youth, agrees: "This is not an instant cure, which we often want in this society. But these problems did not happen overnight, and they won't go away overnight. Once a young father goes through the program, though, he is more likely to begin to take responsibility and see how he can contribute. From there, it will take the support of the community."

For more information about "It's My Child, Too" call 1-888 -EXT-INFO (398-4636).
CONTACTS: Robbins, (812) 967-3738; Powell, (765) 494-9511; e-mail,; Kramer, (765) 494-8422.

Compiled by Chris Sigurdson, (765) 494-8415; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Photo Captions

Purdue University's "Corn Growth, Development and Diagnostics -- Germination to Knee High" CD-ROM packs bushels of corn and crop problem information and pictures onto one disk. Useful for corn farmers and crop consultants, the multimedia program also has proven its worth in the classroom. (Design by Sharon Katz and Russ Merzdorf)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Schweitzer/CD
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Dr. Pete Bill (far left) and some of his first-year Purdue veterinary medicine students examine a specially preserved equine digestive tract in their Applications and Integration case. Dr. Bill's class utilizes problem-based learning techniques. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Bill/Vetcourse
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Purdue Professors Larry Butler (left) and Gebisa Ejeta not only developed pest-resistant sorghum for African farmers, they also grew eight tons of seed and arranged for it to be distributed in Africa. The seed is expected to aid 200,000 farm families by 1999. Butler, who died in February, told colleagues that the effort was the happiest and most satisfying of his career. (Purdue Ag Communication Service Photo by Dave King)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Ejeta/Sorghum
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Purdue plant pathologist Don Scott travels camera-in-hand, capturing bits of Indiana history as he photographs old barns. Now his photos are available in a book. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Scott/Barns.
Download Photo Here

Teaching young men how to be good dads is the goal of a Purdue Cooperative Extension course called "It's My Child, Too." Jamie Knierim of Valparaiso, shown hugging his daughter Rachel, is working hard to be a part of his daughter's life. (Photo courtesy of the Gary Post Tribune.)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Robbins/fathering<
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