Keeping in Touch
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
University of Vermont
108 Morrill Hall, Burlington, VT 05405-0106
Phone: (802) 656-2980 FAX: (802) 656-0290
Volume 15, Number 3 Fall 2000

In this issue:

Mycotoxins research will help dairy farmers

Dr. Alan Gotlieb, Chair of the Plant and Soil Science Department, and Sarah Kingsley-Richards, Laboratory Technician, check for signs of mold in corn.
Mycotoxins--toxic substances produced by fungi--cause expensive problems for Vermont dairy farmers. They can contaminate feed, make cows ill, and throw off feed and depress milk production. A recent survey of 800 Vermont farms by UVM plant pathologist Dr. Alan Gotlieb found that about 20% are having problems with mycotoxins this year. That could cost a farmer, losing 10% of milk production, about $21,000 a year, Gotlieb estimates.

New methods of identification have made it easier in recent years to pinpoint such toxins. But determining whether they are the source of health problems in a dairy herd--and if so, which mycotoxins--is still difficult.

Earl Fournier of Swanton, Vermont, has had haylage test positive for mycotoxins in the past. He's added an adsorbent to counteract the effects and works at harvesting and storing feed better. But he says it's hard to tell how mycotoxins affect his 80-cow herd. "You can't really measure the effects because there are so many other factors involved," Fournier says. "It could be environmental factors, too."

Gotlieb is trying to solve part of that puzzle by studying the physiological systems of a dairy cow and how they are affected by fungi common in silage. The first system he is looking at is the rumen, the most important part of a cow's stomach. Thousands of different microorganisms flourish in the rumen, breaking down and digesting what the cow eats. Gotlieb's approach is to measure how one mycotoxin can affect those microorganisms and, therefore, the rumen's ability to digest forage.

Mycotoxins such as vomitoxin and fusarium have been shown to contribute to spoilage in cattle feed. But Gotlieb suspects that one of the most damaging culprits may be strains of penicillium resistant to the acid in silage. "If we can find the toxins with major effects, then we can look at management strategies to prevent spoilage," he says.

Penicillium fungi, like other destructive fungi, are already present in crops coming in from the field. If fermenting feed, called silage, isn't stored properly, the molds can continue to grow, eventually causing the feed to spoil.

Another management technique is to add an adsorbent to the feed on farms where there are possible mycotoxin problems. These adsorbents, such as sodium bentonite, can bind and remove some of the mycotoxins from the feed--but they don't always work.

UVM is the only place where the U.S. Department of Agriculture is sponsoring research on penicillium-related mycotoxins. But Gotlieb also collaborates with Dr. Peter Erickson, head of the Department of Animal Science at University of New Hampshire (UNH), on the research. First, Gotlieb isolated about 50 strains of penicillium from moldy silage found on Vermont farms and is growing these isolates on fermenting silage in his laboratory. Then, Erickson will test their effects on an artificial rumen in his laboratory at UNH. Gotlieb and Erickson are also investigating the ability of different adsorbents to counteract penicillium contamination.

Craig Altemose, UVM Extension crop specialist and a former master's degree student of Gotlieb, has also contributed to the effort to control mycotoxins. In his master's work, he found that if you reduce damage from the European corn borer in corn, you should see less incidence of fusarium mold and the mycotoxins like vomitoxin that are produced by the mold. As an Extension crops specialist, Altemose uses that knowledge to advise farmers on ways to fight off mycotoxins by controlling corn borer and other pests primarily through crop rotation, by harvesting and storing silage properly and by using adsorbents if they suspect a mycotoxin problem.

With such efforts, they are working to save the Vermont dairy industry as much as $60 million a year and to solve another piece in the mycotoxin puzzle.

--Susan J. Harlow

Donations for maples and Morgans are sweet success

Many of the charitable gifts to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) within the past 12 months have much in common. Of the 850 donations between October 1, 1999 and October 1, 2000, a significant number have been either for the Proctor Maple Research Center (PMRC) or the UVM Morgan Horse Farm. The response to special fundraising campaigns for each has been very strong, resulting in a robust finish to the PMRC Endowed Research Fund drive and a rousing start to the 50th anniversary campaign for the UVM Morgan Horse Farm.

A $2.5 million campaign for the PMRC was launched in 1997 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of its establishment. One of the campaign's objectives--a $500,000 endowment fund for maple research--has been completed ahead of schedule, thanks to the stimulus of a $200,000 challenge grant and a flurry of gifts of all sizes. CALS officials took pride in announcing the fulfillment of this goal before a receptive audience of 400 maple enthusiasts at the International Maple Syrup Institute and North American Maple Syrup Council convention in late October. Additional support is being sought to fund a $2 million endowed professorship in maple biochemistry.

Like PMRC, the UVM Morgan Horse Farm has a storied history that spans 50 years, a demonstrated commitment to excellence, and a need for more stable sources of funding. The UVM Morgan Horse Farm's $2 million campaign kicked off in fine fashion this summer with a fundraising dinner and benefit auction that honored director emeritus Dr. Donald Balch. Roughly $60,000 was raised at the dinner held in conjunction with the New England Morgan Horse Show in Northampton, Massachusetts. The 50th anniversary campaign for the UVM Morgan Horse Farm will encompass several special events at Morgan Horse events around the country over the next year, including a gala celebration in Weybridge, Vermont, next August. The UVM Morgan Horse Farm campaign seeks $1.5 million for endowment support (the fund named to honor Dr. Donald Balch), and $500,000 for facility improvements. Over $300,000 in cash and pledges has been received to date!

For more information about making a gift in support of these major campaign objectives or other projects of importance to CALS, please contact Howard Lincoln.

--Howard Lincoln

Alumni and Faculty honored at CALS Alumni and Friends Dinner 2000

More than 200 guests enjoyed the 7th Annual CALS Alumni and Friends Dinner held at Shelburne Farms on Saturday, May 13. Alumni who graduated from 1929 up to year 2000 were in attendance. This year we are proud to announce the following CALS alumni and faculty who were honored:

Ronald A. Allbee '67

CALS Outstanding Alumni Award

Ron, a native Vermonter, has had a significant impact on Vermont. He has worked with two Vermont governors as Deputy Commissioner and then as Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Agriculture, Food and Markets. In this role he established the Vermont Seal of Quality Program and helped initiate farmers markets within the state. Ron has held similar influential roles, such as Director of the Vermont Energy Office, Agricultural Advisor to U.S. Senator Leahy, and currently as Director of the Vermont Farm Service Agency. As a sideline, Ron has developed several businesses--a country store and a cheese brokerage firm--all which benefit Vermonters.

M. Pauline "Polly" Rowe '39

CALS Outstanding Alumni Award

Polly is known by 4-H students in Vermont and around the world. She was State 4-H Leader from 1939 to 1973. Under Polly's leadership, Vermont created the nation's first state 4-H Foundation to support training, awards and recognition to members, as well as trips to conferences for rural youths. Polly was key to Vermont's participation with the International Youth Exchange Program and placed many young Vermonters in this personal growth program. She opened Vermont 4-H camps to all youths, not just 4-H'ers, and brought youths from inner-city New York to participate. Polly's caring and commitment are well known to many; she continues to hear from and corresponds with her many 4-H'ers.

Alexander M. Kende '00

Lawrence K. Forcier Outstanding Senior Award

Alex is known on and off campus for his exceptional academic merit. He graduated top of his class in biological science and received an undergraduate research award for his work in molecular genetics. Alex is also warmly known for his civic and community involvement--including being a UVM Judicial Council member and Big Brother Program participant, and developing a transplant support group in the pediatric renal clinic at Fletcher Allen Health Care. Alex has been accepted into UVM's College of Medicine for Fall 2000.

Andrew B. Meyer '92

CALS New Achiever Alumni Award

Andrew grew up on a Vermont dairy farm and majored in Environmental Studies. As a student he was actively involved in the formation of the UVM CREAM Program, with which he maintains regular contact. Currently as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator James Jeffords, he often meets with agricultural policy class students when they visit Washington, D.C. Vermonters reap the benefits of Andrew's efforts through legislation aimed at improving agricultural and environmental issues--his forte. One example: Andrew was a lead staff member who helped in the passage and extension of the Northeast Dairy Compact.

Stephen J. Pintauro

Joseph Carrigan Award for Undergraduate Teaching

High quality undergraduate teaching and advising are a strong tradition and commitment in CALS. Stephen was recognized for his outstanding achievements in these areas for the past 20 years. Most recently he has been on the cutting edge of applying computer technology in the classroom to aid in student learning and has received instructional grants and awards both locally and nationally in this area. His students praise his work as an advisor and as an influential teacher.

Paula M. Fives-Taylor

Hubert Vogelmann Research and Scholarship Award

Paula began her career at UVM in 1968 as a graduate student, fresh from her previous roles as an elementary and high school teacher. Since receiving her Ph.D. in 1972, she has epitomized the teacher-scholar and has an outstanding record of research success and productivity. Her research on pathogenic bacteria of the oral cavity and its role in periodontal disease has led to over 60 research papers in prestigious journals and has received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health. Her awards and recognition range from UVM's George Kidder Outstanding Faculty Award to the Merit Award of the National Institute of Dental Research. Paula is sought after by many national advisory councils and blue ribbon committees, but notably by UVM students as a dedicated researcher and mentor.

Introducing new CALS faculty

Dr. Elizabeth "Betsy" Greene is Vermont's first-ever Equine Extension Specialist and will be based in the Animal Sciences Department. She will divide her time between teaching equine courses and traveling around the state to cover horse safety, care, and management. After receiving her Ph.D. from Kansas State, Betsy held a similar post at Washington State University.
Dr. Jeanne Harris comes to the Botany and Agricultural Biochemistry Department from a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford. Jeanne's interests are in plant-microbe interactions at the genetic and cell biological levels, with a focus on the role of the plant partner in the development of the rhizobium/legume symbiosis. Her responsibilities will involve research and teaching.
Dr. Tom Lewis joins the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department with expertise in molecular biology and microbial physiology. He spent 8 years at the University of Idaho where he worked first as a postdoctoral fellow then as project leader in one of the top toxicology/microbiology laboratories. Tom's long-range goals are to develop microbes for biomediation of toxic compounds in the environment.
Dr. Robert Parsons brings extensive farm management experience to the Community Development and Applied Economics Department. Bob's primary assignment will be in UVM Extension, where he will devote much of his time to the dairy industry. Raised on a dairy farm, Bob managed a dairy farm equipment dealership before receiving his Ph.D. and subsequently working as a senior research assistant at Penn State.
Dr. Markus Thali comes to the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department bringing experience from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and Harvard Medical School. Markus is a cell biologist whose interest and expertise lie in understanding the mechanisms in the cell-to-cell spread of lentiviruses. He has already received funding from the National Institutes of Health for his research at UVM.
Dr. Milton "Buddy" Tignor joins the Plant and Soil Science Department as an Assistant Professor of Horticulture. Buddy's time will be split between teaching undergraduate level courses in horticulture and focusing his research on environmental stress physiology on vegetable production. Before joining the faculty at UVM, he taught classes and conducted research in citriculture at the University of Florida.

Message from Dean A. John Bramley
Exciting progress made over the last year

Dean A. John Bramley
We have made some exciting progress over the last year due in no small part to the support and enthusiasm of many of our alumni. The capital campaign that we have launched for the support of the Proctor Maple Research Center (PMRC) has reached its initial target of $500,000 to support its research and outreach activities. We have also launched a fundraising initiative for major investments in the facilities at the Morgan Horse Farm, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in UVM ownership next year.

Several new faculty have joined us over the last year and are already making great contributions in their departments. We are further strengthening our first-year programs and have appointed Dr. Tom Patterson to take a special responsibility for this area to help maximize the success of our incoming students. Furthermore, we have totally revised our core curriculum around the knowledge, skills, and values required for our students to be successful in their future careers and contributions to society.

The UVM/Vermont Technical College (VTC) Dairy Management Program has really started to get off the ground under the leadership of Don Maynard. Last spring several of these students were the first to study for the intensive hands-on management semester at Miner Institute in Chazy, New York, and pronounced it a great success. We now have 18 Vermont students enrolled either at UVM or at VTC supported by scholarships from the Vermont legislature. However, we need to work hard to build our scholarship support programs, not only for this activity but for all our programs, to ensure that we not only attract the best students but also help make education affordable for all our students.

I would also like to congratulate our outstanding faculty on their research successes. In 2000, research funds increased 64% compared to 1999.

We still have lots to do and plenty of exciting plans. Thank you all for your great support and interest in the College and its future.

2001 CALS Alumni and Friends Dinner

Saturday, May 12, 2001
Radisson Hotel Burlington
5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Seeking nominations for:

  • New Achiever Alumni Award (a CALS grad from '86-'00)
  • Outstanding Alumni Award
Due on March 30, 2001

For nomination forms either:

Contact these individuals if you have questions or need information:

A. John Bramley

Associate Deans:
Rachel Johnson
Doug Johnson

Department Chairs:
Animal Sciences: Karen Plaut
Botany and Agricultural Biochemistry: David Barrington
Community Development and Applied Economics: Jane Kolodinsky
Microbiology and Molecular Genetics: Susan Wallace
Nutrition and Food Sciences: Robert Tyzbir
Plant and Soil Science: Alan Gotlieb

Program Heads:
Biological Sciences Program: Robert Ullrich
Family and Consumer Sciences Education: Valerie Chamberlain
Environmental Sciences: Alan McIntosh
Environmental Studies Program: Ian Worley, Interim

Coordinator: Robin Smith
Writers: A. John Bramley, Susan Harlow, Howard Lincoln, Robin Smith
Editor: Meg Ashman
Designer: Bob Fardelmann
Photos: UVM Photography

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