Official Nebraska Government Website

Current Research

3D Printing Using Corn Kernel Fiber:

The goal of this project is to develop an innovative 3D printing technology to manufacture lightweight and high-strength products using corn kernel fiber as feedstock. Corn kernel fiber is a natural, renewable, and low-cost feedstock candidate for 3D printing. A problem with 3D printed cellulosic materials, like corn fiber, is low mechanical properties (e.g. tensile strength). One solution to this problem may be the addition of ceramic fibers to cellulosic material to strengthen and reinforce. This project will develop the process for printing using corn fiber as a feedstock and test the mechanical properties of the products to determine the feasibility for use in various applications such as medical devises, models, and use in the automotive/aeronautic industry.

 

Cover Crop Impacts on Soil Health and Cropping System Yields:

Over the last 4 years, a project jointly funded by the Nebraska Corn Board and Soybean Board explored the feasibility of including annual winter cover crops in no-till corn-soybean rotations, with promising results (i.e. cover crops provide ecosystem services without lowering soil water, or affecting crop yields in most situations). This project proposes to leverage this research and move to on-farm cover crop research to fine-tune management and cropping strategies. The project will assess rye cover crop suitability for varying landscapes and goals, determine optimum cover crop biomass yield, investigate underling mechanisms for yield reductions, weed suppression potential of cover crops, assess soil health parameters, and evaluate farmer opinions and concerns about planting cover crops. On-farm collaboration will help verify what has been found in small-plot research. This project will collaborate with the UNL On-Farm Research program.

 

Development of a New Food Ingredient from Corn Starch to Improve Human Health:

The main objective of this project is to develop nanoporous corn starch bioaerogels to improve the function and efficacy of water-insoluble bioactive compounds. Curcumin (active ingredient in turmeric spice) has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. However, because this ingredient is insoluble in water, when added to foods it is not able to be absorbed and used by the body. Initial research has shown that when curcumin is infused into corn starch bioaerogels, it’s bioavailability to the body increased 173 fold. This project will develop a novel ingredient for food and nutraceutical industries to improve the health benefits of many water-insoluble bioactives – creating a new market for corn and corn co-products. No chemical is used in the process, which means the product can be labeled as “clean” and is suitable for food and pharmaceutical applications, and increase consumer acceptance.

 

Feeding the Metabolic Race Car: Understanding Corn, the Superior Fuel to Support the Production of Milk Protein in Lactating Dairy Cattle:

The goal of the proposed research is to simultaneously manipulate and study the supply of both energy and amino acids in lactating dairy cattle to more clearly define the nutrients needed to support lactation. Currently, emphasis and research has been placed on understanding the link between the supply of amino acids to milk protein, but much less is known about the interrelationships between amino acids and energy source.   This project aims to establish the relationships between glucogenic (corn) and lipogenic (tallow) energy sources, and the supply of amino acids (namely lysine), and describe the effects on milk yield and production of milk protein. Lysine is the amino acid of focus as it is known to be the limiting amino acid when cows consume high concentrations of corn, silage, and corn co-products. The hypothesis is that utilizing lysine to synthesize milk protein is dependent on the source of energy (corn vs. tallow). In cases where energy balance is negative but cows consume a diet supplemented with lysine, the glucogenic (corn) diet will result in increased milk protein. This research will yield timely and accurate feeding recommendations for the nation’s feed and dairy industries and doing so should help us further highlight and understand the powerful nutritional value of corn, thereby leading to greater use by the dairy industry.

 

SENSE Nitrogen Management: Promoting Adoption of Sensor-Based Nitrogen Fertilization of Corn through the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network:

SENSE Nitrogen Management is the next evolution of Project SENSE, with a continued emphasis on sensor informed, in-season N management for corn. SENSE N Management will use a range of sensors to inform timing and rates of N fertigation through center pivot irrigation systems. This approach will reduce or eliminate the need for individual growers – or fertilizer dealers – in irrigated areas to invest in high clearance applicators and sensors. The focus of SENSE N Management will shift to take advantage of the growing capacity of service providers using drones, manned aircraft, and satellites equipped with sensors to detect N stress in the crop canopy. SENSE N Management will continue some use of sensors mounted on high clearance applicators, especially for consideration in rainfed systems. This will continue to be a component of the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network and will collaborate closely with NRDs, especially those with groundwater quality concerns. The project promotes the adoption of in-season nitrogen fertilization for corn as a key component of increasing N use efficiency of corn production, increasing profitability of corn production, and reducing environmental impact on groundwater quality.

 

UNL – Testing Ag Performance Solutions (UNL-TAPS):

The goal of the TAPS program is to engage ag research, technology, industry and producers in an interactive real world way to increase productivity, sustainability and profitability. The program hosts a farm management competition where participants compete in the production and marketing of corn for three possible awards: most profitable farm, followed by efficiency for water and N use, and finally for highest yield. Competitors make input and management decisions for plots under a variable rate pivot, and choices are made in an environment were real time information regarding field conditions are available using new and emerging technologies. A large part of the contest is opportunities for stakeholders to meet and discuss outcome, challenges, and to share their experiences. The TAPS program allows growers to try new tools/techniques without the threat of negatively affecting their farming operation if they do not work. With data collected on replicated plots, researchers will be able to determine the reliability of these tools/techniques and make appropriate recommendation to growers across Nebraska.

 

Benchmarking Irrigation, Nitrogen, and Economic Efficiency:

The project objective is to develop an economic decision model and analytical framework to benchmark and improve statewide irrigation and N use efficiency to ensure environmental sustainability and economic viability. The assessment will provide a solid foundation to justify current corn production practices in NE and identify opportunities to further increase yields and/or efficiencies, while ensuring long term sustainability.

 

Implementation of Cover Crops in Nebraska Corn and Soybean Cropping Systems:

The specific objective of this project is to provide baseline research and recommendations on cover crop establishment, in association with representative crop rotations under irrigated and rain-fed conditions. The sub-objectives to determine a.) how to successfully establish cover crops, and b) if there are measureable benefits once the cover crop is established in terms of soil quality, crop yield, and profit. Do cover crops affect crop production and soil quality parameters and short-term system performance?

 

Determining Fertilizer N Substitution Value for Land:

Numerous organic resources are land applied for disposal and corn crop production in Nebraska but predictability of organic N availability to crops is poor because of variation in their properties and in field and weather conditions. Current recommendations estimate availability conservatively to avoid situations of under applying in cropping systems. Over-application of N therefore typically occurs. In this study, 8 organic resources (manure, bio solids, etc.) will be evaluated to determine their fertilizer N substitution values to improve predictability of N release.

 

Field to Market Implementation:

Targets the development of a robust database to summarize and create regionally specific benchmarks for the Nebraska corn industry, based upon the Fieldprint Calculator. The project will support 3 interns. Ag Sustainability interns will be working with agri-businesses to pilot the Fieldprint Calculator with a group of farmers identified by the business. Students will provide the services for entering field data into the Fieldprint Calculator, creating the reports resulting from the farmer’s data, and instructing the agri-business representative on applying this tool into the future. Agri-business representatives will also provide project team with feedback on the reports and value to their farmers.

 

Genomes to Fields:

There are two specific objectives in this proposal: 1) Collecting data on corn hybrid performance under both eastern and western Nebraska field conditions in 2018 as part of a collaborative effort with researchers in 18 other states who will be collecting data on many of the same varieties. These data will assist in the overarching goal of understanding how genetic variation within the corn genome influence different traits under different growing conditions found both across the United States and in the same location from one year to the next. 2.) Collecting and analyzing high throughput phenotyping data from the test pots throughout the growing season using both ground-based and drone-based technologies. This data will be used to identify traits that can be quantified earlier in the growing season that have significant predictive value for grower relevant phenotypes at harvest such as yield and test weight. This project was initiated by Iowa Corn, and receives funding from other corn states and NCGA

 

Innovative Youth Corn Challenge:

Program to engage youth in crop science based education through the opportunity to work with agronomic professionals, extension educators, and/or agricultural educators to learn skills essential to assess crop production and I.D. attributes that limit production.

 

Integrating Cover Crops in Sloping and Sandy Soils:

Sloping and sandy soils and silage or grain cornfields may benefit from the addition of cover crops to reduce erosion and improve water quality and soil health. Inclusion of cover crops in these cornfields may have more positive and rapid impacts than in non-sloping or low sand content cornfields. However, data to test this hypothesis are limited, particularly in Nebraska. This project is designed to address this gap of information and provide valuable recommendation for producers to make soil and water quality management decisions.

 

NE On-Farm Research Program:

Network for corn growers to conduct on-farm research that contributes to a greater understanding of applied crop production questions critical to farmer’s economic and environmental sustainability.

 

Linking Lesion Nematode Reproduction to Rotation and Cover Crops by DNA Barcoding:

This proposal addresses the goal of improving pest (nematode) management using effective, affordable, and environmentally-sound integrated pest management approaches. Management practices such as crop rotation and use of cover crops are integral to the soil health, but reliable information on pest responses are limited. The research will establish the linkage between molecular markers that recognize distinct genetic lineages within nematodes and their host/non-host plant associations, to effectively apply IPM strategies that suppress nematodes.

 

Development of a Succinic Acid Production Process Using Corn Fiber:

Succinic acid is a versatile product that can be used in variety of products that are currently produced from petroleum. This project will develop a process to produce succinic acid from corn fiber.

 

Xanthomonas Bacterial Disease of Corn:

A bacterial pathogen, Xanthomonas, has been confirmed in Nebraska corn plants. Little is known about the pathogen – this research is to determine distribution, spreading capability, and yield impact, to insure effective management recommendations.