K-State funds research on global food challenges

K-State Communications and Marketing

Through Global Food Systems Innovation Grants, Kansas State University awarded $500,000 last spring to faculty members who are taking on some of the world's food challenges created by the rapidly increasing population. (Photo: K-State Communications and Marketing)

The world's population could increase to an estimated 9.6 billion people by the year 2050, and Kansas State University researchers report that the world’s farmers will need to grow as much food in the next 35 years as they have in the history of the world.

From its location in the heart of agricultural country in the Midwest, K-State is working to address local and international food concerns. Through Global Food Systems Innovation Grants, the university awarded $500,000 last spring to faculty members who are taking on some of the world's food challenges created by the rapidly increasing population.

"Given the importance of food production to the Kansas economy, the innovative technologies and knowledge generated from this initiative will lay a solid foundation for economic development within the state and help Kansas remain a leader in food production," said Karen Burg, vice president for research.

The funds were provided by the Kansas Department of Commerce and directed through K-State President Kirk Schulz's Global Food Systems Initiative, announced in January 2014. Grant requests were evaluated by an 11-member panel of faculty members and students from disciplines across the university. Burg said the awards help to continue a robust research engine that is critical in K-State's quest to become a Top 50 public research university by the year 2025.

Some of the common features of funded projects include multidisciplinary approaches to addressing needs in the global food system; helping create jobs and wealth in the state; and involving students.

The following are Global Food Systems Innovation Grant projects:

• Mobile Drip Irrigation for Water Limited Production, $45,000. Mobile drip irrigation is a new technology that combines the efficiency of drip irrigation with the economic advantages of center pivot sprinkler irrigation. Researchers say their work will help farmers maximize net returns per unit of water applied.

• Tapping the Potential of Ribonucleic Acid Interference for Agriculture, $59,000. This project will develop technology to combat plant and animal disease, which in turn will increase productivity in agriculture. It involves both nanotechnology and consumer acceptance of food technology.

• Applications for the Probiotic Bacterium, Megaspaera elsdenii, in Monogastric Farm Animals, $90,000. K-State researchers have formed a partnership with a Kansas-based company to expand a beneficial food additive beyond cattle, to include poultry, pigs and horses.

• Experiential, Multidisciplinary Career-Development Investment for Kansas, $75,445. This project builds on the university's successful Frontier program, which provides experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students throughout the global food system.

• Development of a National Genetic Evaluation System for Feet and Leg Conformation in Beef Cattle, $22,858. Improving hoof, foot and leg structure of beef cattle will enhance farm and ranch profitability, which in turn increases the vibrancy of rural communities across Kansas.

• Developing Novel Starch-based Ingredients with Controlled Enzyme Digestibility and Health Benefits, $68,530. This project will provide information to help commercialize a patent-pending technology to ultimately design foods that are more easily digested in animals and humans.

• Guanidinoacetic Acid as a Source of Creatine for Cattle, $39,998. Researchers are hoping to improve the efficiency of beef production by evaluating the effect of guanidinoacetic acid on lean growth rate in cattle.

• Beefing up the Beef Transport System, $60,000. Transportation failures in the beef cattle industry have significant negative consequences. Researchers will build computer models of beef production and transportation to help lessen potential threats to these systems.

• An International Symposium on Urban Food Systems, $39,169. The Kansas City metro area is a catalyst for change that is leading the national movement in urban food systems. Faculty at Kansas State University Olathe will host a three-day symposium to increase education about food production in urban settings. By 2050, it is estimated that 7 billion people will live in cities worldwide.

Read more about the program in the Fall 2015 issue of the K-Stater

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