sealPurdue Ag Briefs

February 1998

Hoosier farmers hold the line

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Indiana's agricultural production rankings among the states showed few fluctuations in the past year, according to Ralph Gann, state statistician for the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service.

Indiana's ag production rankings
First Popcorn, Ducks, Egg-type chicks hatched
Third Tomatoes for processing
Fourth Soybeans, Chickens (excluding broilers), Total eggs produced, Peppermint
Fifth Hogs, Corn for grain, Cantaloupes, Spearmint
Sixth Pig crop, Ice cream production, Watermelons
Seventh Turkeys, Blueberries, Snap beans for processing
Eighth Tobacco
Ninth Cucumbers for processing
14th Winter wheat, Sweet corn
15th Cattle on feed
16th Tomatoes for fresh market
17th Milk cows, Milk production
18th Commercial apples, Oats
20th Rye
22nd Lamb crop
24th Freestone peaches, Potatoes, Wool production
27th Hay
28th Sheep and lambs
30th Beef cows
33rd All cattle and calves, Calf crop
34th Honey production
In crop production, Indiana's ranking improved for tobacco, winter wheat, oats, rye, potatoes and hay. The ranking dropped for fresh-market tomatoes and peaches. As for livestock, Indiana moved up in milk cows and lamb crop and dropped in cattle on feed, beef cows, sheep and pig crop.

"Livestock numbers have dropped somewhat," Gann says, "while they're increasing in other states. There's been a shift in where these enterprises are."

For instance, he says, as Indiana's pig crop went down 2 percent, Missouri's increased by 8 percent, allowing it to pass Indiana in state rankings. The Hoosier pig crop now ranks sixth.

"Indiana producers decreased farrowing by 35,000 sows during the first half of the year, while Missouri remained unchanged," Gann says. In the second half of the year, Indiana's pig crop remaining unchanged, while Missouri's rose.

Purdue Extension agricultural economist Chris Hurt says overall hog production in the primary Midwestern states has been declining throughout the past decade, and there has been a redistribution of the industry toward North Carolina and the southwestern and western fringes of the Corn Belt. Concern about the environment has caused production to grow in more sparsely populated areas, where there are fewer disagreements about land use.

"There's a great deal of concern about conflict between hogs and people in our region -- more so than in other areas," Hurt says. "Our trend in Indiana has been to remain stable."

Indiana's higher ranking in tobacco production was due to increased acreage and a return to near-average yields, which led to the largest total production of tobacco since 1992, Gann says.

"Winter wheat acreage was reduced, but yield returned to the fourth-highest on record. There was a 20-bushel-per-acre increase over the '96 crop," he says.

Purdue Extension wheat specialist Ellsworth Christmas says absence of head disease in the '97 winter wheat crop was the No. 1 reason yields went to 58 bushels an acre.

"It was a direct result of the weather," he says. "It was relatively dry during flowering, which reduces head disease."

On Indiana's 23,200,000 total acres, there are 62,000 farms with 13,366,000 acres in cropland. Total land in farms equals 15,900,000 acres. The average farm size is 256 acres. Most farming operations -- 85 percent -- are individually owned.

CONTACT: Gann, (765) 494-8371; e-mail,

Cricket-spitting contest to reappear at '98 Bug Bowl

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of a family at the 1996 Bug Bowl is available. It's called Bug Bowl '96. For b-roll from the 1997 event, contact Grady Jones (765) 494-2079; e-mail,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Cockroach racing, a traditional favorite at Purdue University's annual Bug Bowl, will get a run for its money from the latest popular insect activity -- cricket spitting.

Traditionally, the stars of Purdue's annual Bug Bowl have been the cockroaches in the "Roach Hill Downs" race. But at last year's Bug Bowl, many of the 10,000 visitors were equally interested in crickets -- and the people who spit them.

According to Tom Turpin, professor of entomology and Bug Bowl co-founder, the cricket-spitting contest was so popular in its debut at the '97 Bug Bowl that it will reappear for the 1998 event, April 18-19.

Visitors also will be able to taste foods cooked with insects, visit a honey bee exhibit and taste some honey, stop by an insect petting zoo, and watch the famous cockroach race. This is the eighth year for the Bug Bowl, which has gained national exposure for its combination of entomology, education and entertainment.

People find the idea of spitting dead crickets for distance to be intriguing and fun, Turpin says. "Last year, there were so many who wanted to do it that we had to draw names out of a hat," says Turpin, who ran the event much like an Olympic shot put throw. "People who weren't picked were really distraught."

Even children were able to join in the cricket-spitting contest. Participants were split into four groups: junior and senior categories for both men and women. As competitors, adult women exhibited the most reluctance, but there was no shortage of volunteers, Turpin says.

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"Little kids are very interested," he says. "One of the very small ones, she was very brave. She marched up to the front of the circle and just spit it out." Last year's popularity means this year's cricket spitting will be more organized, he says. It will include field judges wearing official uniforms, bleachers for the spectators and medals for those who launch their crickets the farthest.

"This is a formal type of activity. This is very serious business. We like to bill it as the sport of cricket done outside," Turpin quips.

Actually, the only serious goal of Bug Bowl is to give everybody a chance to learn a little bit more about insects.

"While they're here, people can pick up good information on the role of insects in nature and entomology. When we do the cockroach races, we always talk about the roaches' role in nature, roaches as pests, and roaches and allergies," Turpin says. "People will come up to me and say, 'Hey, I didn't know that there were 3,000 species of cockroaches in the world.'"

The event is free and open to the public. It runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 18, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 19, in and around Entomology Hall on the Purdue campus. More information is available on the Web at

CONTACT: Turpin, (765) 494-4568; e-mail,

It's a good time to be a Purdue Agriculture grad

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- If 1997 was any indication, Purdue Agriculture's May graduates should fare well in the job market.

Placement was strong and salaries up for May 1997 graduates, according to an annual placement survey.

Purdue Agriculture Assistant Dean Allan Goecker surveyed 334 out of 336 graduates, asking for information on employment and salaries. As of last fall, 75 percent were employed, 16 percent were headed for graduate schools, medical schools and other forms of continuing education, 2 percent were not seeking employment, and 7 percent still were looking.

"For the most part, many Purdue Agriculture departments have 'sold out' signs posted," Goecker says.

Average salary for all programs of study in the agriculture school went from $24,803 in 1996 to $27,621 in 1997. The average in agricultural and food process engineering increased to $38,378, up $971; food science was up $1,780 to $31,947; and natural resource jobs were up $2,583 to $24,274. Agribusiness salaries dropped from a four-year high of $27,015 to $26,065, Goecker said.

Increased competition for graduates and a positive outlook for the agribusiness sector are reflected in the number of companies recruiting graduates. Purdue Agriculture annually attracts recruiters from firms such as Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, Kimball International, Swift and Co., and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While many companies look for traditional agriculture graduates, food processors, marketers, wood product makers and financial service companies also are represented.

Competition for the right graduate is intense, says Greg Manjak, regional sales manager for Crow's Hybrid Corn Co. in Indiana, who dropped placement services in favor of doing his own scouting for new hires. "I just wasn't getting the people I need," says Manjak, who interviews at one other college. He says he's considering starting an internship program to identify and test potential employees.

Mike Thurow, president of Spectrum Technologies Inc., an Illinois manufacturer and marketer of analytical equipment, says he welcomes the chance to evaluate students for personality and poise -- characteristics you can't get from a resume.

Identifying the right people has become critical for businesses as profit margins are going down, expenses are going up, and the cost of hiring the wrong candidate has gotten too high, says Cenex Land O Lakes staffing coordinator Daniel Jensema of Milwaukee, Wis., who looks to fill positions that require a mix of technical, business and personal skills.

"We can provide the additional technical training," he says. "They need the business sense, because everything has to tie back to 'Will it save money?' We're also looking for the person who can work with others, who knows how to communicate." Jensema says.

Goecker says several programs at Purdue added business components to their scientific fields of study starting about 10 years ago. With the help of Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics, those majors include animal agribusiness, horticultural production and marketing and agronomic business.

"We also stress international experiences, communications and humanities," Goecker says. "We want to make sure our students have the best shot possible when they start that career for which they've been working so hard."

CONTACTS: Goecker, (765) 494-8473; Manjak, Crow's Hybrid Corn Co., (815) 875-1063; Thurow, Spectrum Technologies Inc., (815) 436-4440; Jensema, Cenex Land O Lakes, (800) 286-0707

Purdue's new-crops center is one of a kind

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The Center for New Crops and Plant Products at Purdue University is unique in that it's a center for plant research on new crop development and an information clearinghouse.

"We are the only fully integrated center in the nation that has research, education and Extension components," says James Simon, the center's research leader and Cooperative Extension Service horticulturist in Purdue's Department of Horticulture. "While other centers serve primarily as information centers, we also conduct research and work closely with growers and processors to facilitate economic opportunities."

The center's staff also maintains a comprehensive World Wide Web site filled with both scientific and practical information on new crops. Staff members provide educational outreach programs, conduct field demonstrations, provide technical support for growers and processors, and work to introduce new crops to Indiana producers.

The center's staff developed a new lemon basil, "Sweet Dani," that was named a 1998 All-America Selection. It has a strong lemon scent, light green leaves and small white flowers. It has a distinctive upright growth habit, larger leaves and rounder shape than most lemon basils. According to Simon, it can be used as an ornamental, a culinary herb, dried for use in potpourris, or used fresh in floral arrangements.

"It's a pleasure to see this new cultivar in all the major seed catalogs," Simon says. "We hope it's the first of many releases to come." He adds that current research includes development of a cinnamon basil, a rose-like basil, and others for either ornamental use or for extractable essential oils.

Another success of the center, an "electronic sniffer," was an interdisciplinary project with the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. The device nondestructively tests fruit ripeness, maturity and quality.

"In addition, a real success of the center is NewCROP, the New Crop Resource Online Program" Simon says of the center's extensive Web site. "Hundreds of people visit it every week."

NewCROP can be accessed at Center director and horticulture Professor Jules Janick and Simon are responsible for start-up of the site, and Janick directs its continued growth. One full-time and one part-time employee maintain it. The site provides crop information, scientific and common plant names, reference materials on crops, a directory of resource personnel, the center's newsletter, events, a listserv, a list of farm markets, import/export information, unconventional food sources, and other links. The site is primarily research-oriented, but work is under way to make it more grower-friendly.

Grower outreach is an important component of the Center for New Crops and Plant Products. In particular, the center provides support to the Indiana mint industry. Mint studies examine crop management and culture issues and the relationship between plant growth, plant stress and essential oil production. Information gleaned from the studies directly benefits the growers. Indiana ranks fourth in the nation in peppermint production and fifth in spearmint.

Other research of benefit to growers focuses on the feasibility of collecting and domesticating plant species for their extractable secondary products; identification of new natural sources of industrially or medically useful compounds; and identification of novel compounds.

"We're one of few places that works with botanicals," Simon says. "We started 14 years ago, before these plants hit mainstream America. We hope to open opportunities for growers to raise botanicals for companies."

Botanicals are plants believed to have health-promoting properties. He explained that with consumers becoming more interested in botanicals, it could create a new market niche for savvy growers. Some plants that researchers at the center are studying are echinacea, goldenseal, St. John's wort, black cohosh and ginseng.

Other selection and breeding projects by Janick and Simon include artemisia as an anti-malarial drug and for its essential oil; cilantro for late-bolting, high vigor and continuous summer production; botanicals and medicinal plants for processing; basil for ornamental and culinary use; oregano for fresh and dry markets; thyme for fresh market; and Ancistrocladus korupensis , as an anti-AIDS agent.

CONTACT: Simon, (765) 494-1328; e-mail,

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

David Fisher and Liz Grauerholz of West Lafayette share daughter Lara's amazement at the size of a New Guinea stick insect at Purdue's 1996 Bug Bowl. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Bug Bowl '96
Download here.

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