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Articles from 2014 In March

Iowa Senate Resolution Celebrates Cooperative Extension

Iowa Senate Resolution Celebrates Cooperative Extension

At the State Capitol in Des Moines, the Iowa Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution on March 27, 2014 celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act, the founding legislation of the nationwide Cooperative Extension System.

"We are honored and humbled that the Iowa Senate took this action," said Cathann Kress, vice president for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. "With this resolution the Iowa Senate encourages Iowans to observe and celebrate the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, focused on continuing an innovative and sustainable future for extension education in Iowa and nationally."

CENTENNIAL: Iowa State University Extension specialists and state Extension and Outreach leaders gathered at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines last week, meeting with state legislators. The Iowa Senate issued a proclamation celebrating the 100th anniversary of the nationwide Cooperative Extension System.

In 1914 Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act, which established Cooperative Extension, the nationwide transformational education system operating through land-grant universities in partnership with federal, state and local governments. In Iowa, Cooperative Extension is part of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Iowa was the first in the nation with Extension
Extension work in Iowa first began in 1903, when a group of Sioux County farmers cooperated with Iowa State University to improve seed corn. They were first in the nation, establishing the "extension idea" — taking the land-grant university out to the people.

Iowa counties began organizing for extension work in 1912, two years ahead of the Smith-Lever Act. Today elected extension councils in every county partner with ISU Extension and Outreach to bring research-based education to their citizens.

"ISU Extension and Outreach is university-wide. This allows us to focus the total resources of the university on issues that affect all of Iowa, rural and urban," said Kress. "Our programs in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Community Economic Development, Human Sciences and 4-H Youth Development allow us to bring a wide array of educational programs to our citizens across the state. We're extending even more of Iowa State to Iowans as we expand our ability to provide research-based education that meets their needs.

The Iowa Senate resolution was passed during ISU Extension and Outreach Week, March 23-29. County celebrations of Extension have been taking place across the state. On March 29 the "Young Iowans Speak" forum was hosted in Ames – the first of 13 state-level events planned across the country to learn how extension services can best meet the needs of citizens over the next 100 years. Twenty-five young Iowans, ages 18–35, were invited to engage in a conversation about the future of Iowa.

WHO IS IN THE CENTENNIAL PHOTO?—In the photo accompanying this article, from left to right, are: Steve Johnson, farm management extension specialist; Jeff Macomber, 4-H youth program specialist; Barb Anderson, nutrition and health extension specialist; Frank Owens, community economic development extension specialist; Joseph Murphy, state relations officer, Iowa State University; Cathann Kress, vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach; Sen. David Johnson; Terry Maloy, Iowa Association of County Extension Councils; Sen. Herman Quirmbach; Harold Hommes, Polk County Extension Council member.

4-H Ag Innovators Initiative Keeps Youth Engaged in Agriculture

4-H Ag Innovators Initiative Keeps Youth Engaged in Agriculture

The National 4-H Council and Monsanto Company last week announced a new initiative piloting in eight Midwestern states that aims to make agriscience relevant and fun for youth, and help young agriculturalists develop the professional skills needed to meet rising global demand for food.

The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience will be implemented on a pilot basis this year in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio, and Michigan.  Teen leaders will lead thousands of their peers in an interactive agriscience activity.

Monsanto and National 4-H develop Ag Innovators Experience to make agriscience relevant and fun (provided photo)

Agriculture students and faculty at Ohio State University designed this year's activity, the "Fish Farm Challenge," which challenges participants to engineer a food-distribution system that evenly dispenses soy-based fish food over a 3' x 3' vinyl mat. The system design can then be transferred to an aquaculture tank on a tilapia farm.

The goal is to help participants recognize the value of aquaculture, while stimulating innovative approaches to ensuring farm-raised fish have equal access to food.

"There are more than one billion people between the ages of 12 and 24, and we believe the young people of today are the farmers and ag leaders of 2050," said Christina Alford, executive vice president, External Affairs, National 4-H Council.

Related: CME Group, 4-H Take a 'Fair' Approach to Teach Commodities

Earlier this month, teen leaders received extensive activity training at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md. In April and May, they will share the activity with other teen leaders and local 4-H clubs.

More than 8,000 youth will implement the activity in June.  After completing the activity, participants can create a video to demonstrate potential applications in their local communities. Four winners will be chosen and each will receive a $2,500 award.

"Monsanto recognizes that 4-H members are already providing ag solutions on a global scale, and we hope that the Ag Innovators Experience will sharpen existing skills to ensure the long term health and growth of agriculture," said Elizabeth Vancil, customer advocacy outreach manager, Monsanto Company. "We believe that today's participants will provide tomorrow's foundation for a prosperous, knowledgeable and innovative agricultural workforce."

For more information, contact these State 4-H offices or county extension agents.

There is Still Time to Take Part in Nebraska On-Farm Research Projects

There is Still Time to Take Part in Nebraska On-Farm Research Projects

Carl and David Sousek farm about 900 acres of corn and soybeans near Prague, Neb.  Like most grain producers, experience plays an important role in their operation.  But they also have come to rely on the importance of research, especially research on their own farm.

The Souseks are participating with a network of growers in the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network (NOFRN). Research is typically conducted with the producer's equipment, on the producer's land, using the producer's management practices.

There is Still Time to Take Part in Nebraska On-Farm Research Projects

Carl Sousek said he liked the idea of tailoring a research project to meet specific questions about practices on our farm and then having access to university extension personnel who possess the expertise needed to plan the project and analyze the results.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension soil fertility specialist Charles Shapiro is part of a team of UNL Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources faculty involved in the on-farm research project. Shapiro noted that on-farm research participants say the research is relevant to their operations. "Combining the strength of University personnel with producers' interests is a cost-effective and practical system to answer 'real world' questions," he says.

Tom Hoegemeyer, professor of practice in UNL's Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, and other UNL Extension faculty give guidance to design experiments for scientific and statistical validity, as well as making sure the research can be done with typical ag equipment.  "Participants value cooperating with other producers in the network and studying the same questions.  This allows comparisons over a range of real environments – giving participants more confidence in the results and conclusions," according to Hoegemeyer.

NOFRN is sponsored by UNL Extension in partnership with the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and the Nebraska Corn Board. The goal of the network is to implement a statewide on-farm research program addressing critical farmer production, profitability and natural resources questions.

UNL Extension Educator Keith Glewen has worked with farm operators conducting on-farm research for many years. "The farm operator makes the final decision as to the research topic to be evaluated. We encourage growers to give careful thought as to what production practice may be limiting profitability or could enhance the use of soil and water resources on their farm," Glewen.

Some of the current research includes irrigation, nitrogen management in corn production, corn population and cover crops.

For more information on the project or how to participate, contact Glewen at 402-624-8030 or, their local Extension office, the Nebraska Corn Board at 402-471-2676 or Nebraska Corn Growers Association at 402-438-6459. The NOFRN website.

USDA Urges Farmers to Register Early for FSA Programs

USDA Urges Farmers to Register Early for FSA Programs

Going to take part in a Farm Service Agency program this year? Then why wait to sign up?

The FSA is strongly encouraging early sign-ups. Advance registrations will help get a leg up on reporting farm records and business structure changes to their local FSA office, with the some program sign-ups getting ready to go on April 15.

Enrollment for the disaster programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, including the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program will begin on that date.

Make sure your records are updated as you prepare to file an application for federal farm funding beginning his month.

"We expect significant interest in these programs," notes FSA Administrator Juan Garcia. "Early registrations should help improve the sign-up process and allow us to expedite implementation of the programs.

"I strongly encourage producers complete their paperwork ahead of time."

Examples of updates or changes to report include:

•New producers or producers who have not reported farm records to FSA.

•Producers who have recently purchased sold or rented land. Those producers need to ensure that changes have been reported and properly recorded by local FSA county offices. Reports of purchased or sold property should include a copy of the land deed, and if the land has been leased, documentation should be provided that indicates the producer has or had control of the acreage.

•Producers that have changed business structures, such as forming partnerships or LCCs, need to ensure that these relationships and shares are properly recorded with FSA. Even family farms that have records on file may want to ensure that this is recorded accurately as it may impact payment limits.

Farm records can be updated during business hours at FSA Service Centers that administer the county where the farm or ranch is located. Producers can contact their local FSA Service Center in advance to discover what paperwork they may need.

Bank account information should be supplied updated to ensure that producers receive payments as quickly as possible through direct deposits.
Monsanto Awards Six Corn Rootworm Knowledge Grants

Monsanto Awards Six Corn Rootworm Knowledge Grants

Monsanto has announced that six new recipients will be awarded research grants as part of the Corn Rootworm Knowledge Research Program. 

The program, which started in early 2013 and recently was extended to 2016, provides merit-based awards of up to $250,000 per award per year for up to three years for outstanding research projects that address specific aspects of corn rootworm biology, genomics and management issues.

Monsanto Awards Six Corn Rootworm Knowledge Grants

"The program is extremely beneficial to the research and academic community as its goal is not to examine product-specific issues, but rather look at the broader challenges farmers face when dealing with corn rootworm," explains Dr. Spencer, entomologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, who received one of this year's grants. "I'm honored to receive this grant, which will help further my research into the behavioral, physiological and ecological factors that contribute to the western corn rootworm's adaptations to a variety of pest management strategies."

The CRW Knowledge Research Program is guided by a 10-person Advisory Committee that is co-chaired by Dr. Steve Pueppke, Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and AgBioResearch Director at Michigan State University, and Dr. Dusty Post, Monsanto's global insect management lead. Additional committee members include experts from academia and agricultural organizations, and were selected based on their expertise in corn rootworm biology and insect management practices.

"The valuable research that is being generated through this program is continuing to improve our understanding of this challenging pest and provide economical, practical and sustainable solutions for farmers," notes Post.

The six awards granted focus on a number of items from evaluating how best to manage corn rootworm under current production practices to evaluating strategies to delay the onset of resistance evolution. The award recipients are:
•Joseph Spencer, University of Illinois
•Nicholas Miller, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
•Paul Mitchell, University of Wisconsin
•Blair Siegfried, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
•Douglas Golick, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
•Mike Caprio, Mississippi State University
•Christian Krupke, Purdue University

A listing of the winners and background on their projects is available on the Monsanto Corn Rootworm Knowledge Program Web page.

"The Corn Rootworm Knowledge grant has enabled field and laboratory research on western corn rootworm that would not have been possible without this support," says Aaron Gassmann of Iowa State University and Kenneth Ostlie of the University of Minnesota, two recipients of last year's grants. "Bt corn for management of western corn rootworm is a valuable tool for farmers in the Corn Belt. Information gained through this research will help to preserve the efficacy of Bt corn for management of western corn rootworm, and will enhance the ability of farmers to effectively manage this pest."

For more information on the program and Monsanto's commitment to steward corn rootworm-protected traits, visit

Source: Monsanto
New Computer Tool Helps Discover Best Recipe For Composting

New Computer Tool Helps Discover Best Recipe For Composting

Successful composting can be tricky but with the right tool, you can have improved results. Compost is a mixture of organic materials undergoing aerobic biological decomposition. These materials are mixed, piled and perhaps moistened to maximize that decomposition. The finished compost is a carbon-rich product, sometimes called humus. Its nutrients are readily available for release into the soil for plant uptake.

New Computer Tool Helps Discover Best Recipe For Composting

A successful composting process is an active process resulting in rapid decomposition under mostly aerobic conditions. The more active the composting process, the faster the process will reach completion. The term "stable" is often used to describe the nutrients in finished compost. Good compost will not tie up nitrogen in the soil nor inhibit the growth of plants. Active composting minimizes greenhouse gas production and odors, and effectively destroys pathogens. A key to successful composting is dynamic management that promotes rapid decomposition.

Managing the composting process begins with a good compost recipe consisting of the right ingredients in the right proportions. Compost ingredients are commonly referred to as materials, amendments, bulking agents or feedstocks. A good recipe or mix of amendments will target a carbon-to-nitrogen ratio within a range of 15:1 to 35:1, moisture percentages within a range of 40 to 60%, and a particle size range between 0.1 to 2 inches. Keeping the mixture within these ranges will result in robust compost activity.

Heat production with temperatures ranging from 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit indicates an active compost process. Be sure to monitor the temperature within the composting mass. A decrease in temperature indicates that activity has decreased. Aerating, adding moisture or doing both will reactivate the composting process and the temperature will rise again. Properly timed aeration and moisture management will allow active composting to continue in repeated cycles for months.

If the compost recipe characteristics fall outside of the suggested ranges, the growth and reproduction of the microorganisms performing the main role in composting may be restricted. Typical problems with on-farm composting of manures and other organic amendments include:
•Too much nitrogen (unbalanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratio)
•Too dry (less than 40 percent moisture)
•Too wet (greater than 60 percent moisture)
•Too coarse (particle size greater than 2 inches)


Recognizing the importance of a balanced compost recipe, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension released a computer tool in 2007 called the Spartan Compost Recipe Optimizer. It assists composters in assembling mixtures of organic materials that actively compost. In 2014, MSU Extension released an improved version, Version 1.04.

The Spartan Compost Recipe Optimizer is a Microsoft Office Excel application that simplifies the planning of compost recipes. This computer application uses Excel's Solver Add-In to automate the process of developing or formulating a compost recipe. Users can determine the amounts of materials they will use in compost mixes based on meeting the compost performance constraints or variables described above (such as percent moisture, carbon-nitrogen ratio and particle size) while minimizing cost. Material constraints and costs are set to limit the amount of individual amendments incorporated in the compost mix. The user sets performance constraints, or targets, for percent moisture, carbon-nitrogen ratio and particle size or bulk density. The user can manage both the material and performance constraints or set them to default values. Spartan Compost Recipe Optimizer incorporates a large library of commonly available amendments to choose from when developing a compost mix. Users may also easily add materials to the library or change the composition of existing library materials to fit their situations.

The 2014 version of Spartan Compost Recipe Optimizer contains an even larger library of materials than the previous version for users to select from when developing a recipe. In 2013, MSU Extension educators identified and collected samples of useful composting amendments available on Michigan dairy farms. Each material was analyzed tfor their compost qualities. Results were added into the library of ingredients. These materials represented waste feeds, manures and other products that producers might have readily available on their farms.

The material analyzed includes:
•Corn stover
•Pen pack manure
•Calf hutch-pack bedding/manure
•Aisle-scraped cow manure
•Maternity pen bedding
•Sawdust or wood waste
•Spoiled or rotten feed
•Refused feed or orts
•Raw sugar-beet chips

Spartan Compost Recipe Optimizer is the only tool available that automatically finds the least cost compost recipe that will actively decompose. Other computer spreadsheets available on the Web for making compost recipes require that the user manually set amounts for amendments in a compost mix. This time-consuming and confusing trial-and-error process does not provide the user with the tools or adequate information to reduce amendment costs. Producers can use the Spartan Compost Recipe Optimizer to analyze composting manures, organic and crop residues and animal mortalities. Using this tool program will lead to greater composting success and conservation of more nutrients and greater protection of the environment, and animal and human health.

Download the free Spartan Compost Recipe Optimizer from MSU Extension. Go to Click on "Composting Tools." You'll find the tool at the top of the list.

Dale Rozeboom is an MSU professor of animal science and an MSU Extension specialist. You can reach him at

Is Your State Ag-friendly? Surprise, New Hampshire Tops The Northeast

Is Your State Ag-friendly? Surprise, New Hampshire Tops The Northeast

New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont ranked among the top 10 agribusiness-friendly states in America, according to a new report issued by Colorado State University Ag Economists Greg Perry and James Pritchett.

The researchers ranked states according to an Agribusiness Friendliness Index that gauges the economic climate for agriculture. The index used 38 variables, representing regulatory policy, tax policy, government efficiency, impact of key government services, and the overall business climate.

PROMISING SIGN: New Hampshire agriculture earned a rainbow – a top-five rating as an agribusiness-friendly state in this 50-state study.

Ag activities were divided into four categories – ag inputs, crop, fruit and vegetable production, meat and livestock products and first-level ag processing. States fared differently across all four categories depending on their base agricultural industry.

As you might guess, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states didn't make the top seven for meat and livestock products. But most New England states earned an A or B grade in all categories.

New York State pulled a failing grade in all categories, ranking 49th in all but ag inputs, where it came in 48th out of the 50. California ranked 50th in all categories.

Where they ranked
Overall index: New Hampshire, 4th; Massachusetts, 7th; Vermont, 9th; Maryland, 12th; Maine, 13th; Pennsylvania, 26th; Delaware, 28th; New Jersey, 31st; Connecticut, 34th; Rhode Island, 35th; and New York, 49th.

Ag inputs: New Hampshire, 2nd; Vermont, 7th; Massachusetts, 8th; Maine, 14th; Maryland,16th; New Jersey, 29th; Rhode Island, 31st; Pennsylvania, 34th; Delaware, 35th; Connecticut, 38; New York, 48th.

Ag processing: New Hampshire, 1st; Vermont, 5th; Massachusetts, 6th; Maine, 13th; Maryland,15th; Delaware, 17th; Rhode Island, 27; New Jersey, 31; Pennsylvania, 37; Connecticut, 42; and New York, 49th.

Crops, fruits and vegetable production: Maryland, 6th; Massachusetts, 9th; Vermont, 10th; New Hampshire, 13th; Maine, 15th; Pennsylvania, 17th; Connecticut, 27th; Delaware, 30th; New Jersey, 32nd; Rhode Island, 42nd; and New York, 49th.

Meats and livestock products: Massachusetts, 8th; New Hampshire, 10th; Vermont, 11th; Maine, 14th; Pennsylvania, 20th; Maryland, 22nd; Connecticut, 29th; New Jersey, 32nd; Delaware, 33rd; Rhode Island, 42nd; and New York, 49th.

For more details on how the ranking were made and to view each state's indexes, click here.
Vermont Joins Northeast States With The PEDv Swine Plague

Vermont Joins Northeast States With The PEDv Swine Plague

A week ago, Vermont had not had a single confirmed case of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus. That changed on Wednesday, March 26, with a positive diagnosis in a Rutland County swine operation, reports Vermont State Veterinarian Kristin Haas.

At latest count, pork operations in 28 states have been impacted. The numbers are still rising, according to National Animal Health Laboratory Network officials.

As of March 15, New York had four cases; Pennsylvania had 68 cases, and Maryland had one. But neighboring states with larger hog industries were impacted substantially more. Ohio had 202 confirmed PEDv farms. North Carolina had 502 cases.

UP YOUR HOG BIOSECURITY: Young pigs are most vulnerable to the coronavirus sweeping the country.

PEDv is a coronavirus affecting pigs only, says Haas. It's similar to Transmissible Gastroenteritis. It doesn't make people sick or affect other livestock species.

The most common sign of PEDv is severe diarrhea. Mortality rates in pre-weaning piglets approach 100%.

Take preventive measures
Older animals generally survive the infection, but can shed the virus in their feces and through their respiratory tracts for an extended period.

Haas encourages farmers with swine institute strict disease prevention measures to cut down risk of introducing the disease to their herds. "Consult with your veterinarians to develop disease prevention plan tailored to your swine herd."

Swine producers are encouraged to monitor for information coming from national industry groups such as the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the National Pork Board.

More information on disease prevention and other facts about PEDv can be found on the following websites: 



If you see any signs of illness in your pigs, notify your herd veterinarian immediately.
Foreigners Holding U.S. Ag Acreage Due to Report

Foreigners Holding U.S. Ag Acreage Due to Report

If you are not a U.S. citizen but have farmland holdings in this country, your registration with USDA is required within three months after transactions.

Farm Service Agency offices in the West issued the call for registration of all foreigners holding U.S. farmlands with the USDA.

"Any foreign person who acquires, transfers or holds any interest, other than a security interest, including leaseholds of 10 years or more, in agricultural land in the United States is required by law to report the transaction no later than 90 days after the date of the transaction," explains Montana FSA State Director Bruce Nelson.

Foreigner ownership of U.S. farms must be reported to the USDA.

Foreign investors are required to complete an FSA-153 Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act Report with the FSA office which maintains reports for the county in which the land is located, he adds. The FSA-153 form is available at FSA offices, or can be downloaded online.

Failure to comply, or filing late, or filing an inadequate report can result in a penalty with fines up to 25% of the fair market  value of the agricultural land, warns Nelson.

The AFIDA describes agricultural land as any property used for farming, ranching, orchards, vineyards or timber production on tracts of 10 acres or more.

Disclosure reports must also be filed if there are changes in how the land used. For example, reports are required when use of the land changes from non-agricultural to agricultural, or if the farm land is changed to non-agricultural use.

Foreign investors must also file a report when there is a change in the status of ownership of the land, such as when the owner changes from foreign to non-foreign, from non-foreign to foreign, or from one foreign country to a different foreign nation.

Data from the disclosures will be used to prepare an annual report to the President of Congress concerning the effect of such holdings upon family farms and rural communities in the United States.

Study Looks at Suppressing Ragweed with Soil Microbes

Study Looks at Suppressing Ragweed with Soil Microbes

Using high-powered DNA-based tools, a recent study at the University of Illinois identified soil microbes that negatively affect ragweed and provided a new understanding of the complex relationships going on beneath the soil surface between plants and microorganisms.

Study Looks at Suppressing Ragweed with Soil Microbes

"Plant scientists have been studying plant-soil feedback for decades," explains U of I microbial ecologist Tony Yannarell. "Some microbes are famous for their ability to change the soil, such as the microbes that are associated with legumes—we knew about those bacteria. But now we have the ability to use high-power DNA fingerprinting tools to look at all of the microbes in the soil, beyond just the ones we've known about. We were able to look at an entire microbial community and identify those microbes that both preferred ragweed and affected its growth."

Although it would seem that the logical conclusion would be to simply add anti-ragweed microbes to soil, Yannarell says that adding microbes to soil hasn't been successful in the past. An effective strategy, however, to suppress weeds might be to use plants that are known to attract the microbes that are bad for ragweed, and in so doing, encourage the growth of a microbial community that will kill it.

The study used Manhattan, Kan. (sunflower) and Urbana (ragweed) and conducted trials independently at agricultural research facilities in Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, South Dakota, and Oregon, using local soils gathered on site. These particular weeds were selected because ragweed is a more common weed east of the Mississippi and sunflower is more common in the West.

The experiment allowed Yannarell and his colleagues to observe how three generations of ragweed and sunflower interacted with the microbial community in the soil. The plants interact with each other indirectly due to the differing effects they each have on the microbes in the soil.

"We used the same soil continuously so it had a chance to be changed," Yannarell says. "We let the plants do the manipulation."

Interestingly, they did not find the same ragweed-preferring microbe across all five states. "The microbial communities are different in each of these states, and yet we found the same overall patterns in each state individually," Yannarell says.

Illinois, Oregon, Kansas, and South Dakota (and in about 50% of the data from Michigan) each had local microbes that preferred ragweed and had a negative effect on its growth.

"That was a take-home lesson for me," he says, "that the actual organisms can be different in different locations, but they still may be performing the same functions."

Yannarell adds that currently one of his graduate students is studying ways to use what they learned as a method for weed control. "What we're looking at now is the use of different cover crops, many of which are not harvested but just turned under into the soil," he says. "We're looking for specific cover crops that can make the microbial community bad for weeds as opposed to spraying. Can we create weed-suppressive soils?"

"An Affinity–Effect Relationship for Microbial Communities in Plant–Soil Feedback Loops" was published in the January 2014 issue of Microbial Biology. Others who contributed to the research are Yi Lou, Sharon A. Clay, Adam S. Davis, Anita Dille, Joel Felix, Analiza H.M. Ramirez, and Christy L. Sprague.

Source: University of Illinois