Peek Under Purdue's Tent Shows Awesome Future

Hoosier Perspectives

Roundtable lets key leaders see research in action.

Published on: March 14, 2011

It was Beth Bechdol who coined the phrase in responding to Dean Jay Akridge's question about what she thought of Purdue's first annual roundtable discussion last week. Bechdol, a farmer's daughter form DeKalb County who has held important roles in government and private sector organizations, now has the task of redirecting the Ag Resources Council, made up of the feed dealers and grain buyers associations.

"I felt like we just got a peek under the tent today at what you have going up here in the way of both applied and basic research," she says. The select crowd was broken into groups, and attended six of 12 total presentations during the day. They varied from Otto Doering talking about climate change and its impact on Agriculture to two corn breeders explaining why orange corn might have a fit around the world.

One reason for the roundtable, says Dean Jay Akridge, was to see what commodity and industry leaders thought Purdue was doing right and what they could do better. The research on display was astonishing; from Brian Richert and John Spoonmaker in animal science trying to determine how much DDGS from ethanol byproducts can be fed to hogs and cattle without affecting meat structure, to Sylvia Brouder and Jeff Volenec discussing the effects of agroecology on agriculture.

The latter pair deals with issues that often fire people up—usually people with more emotion and little information. Their mission to do the science and have the numbers and scientific understanding to explain the issues in scientific yet understandable terms, with the emotion stripped away.

What Bechdol and the Roundtable participants concluded was that there is much going on at Purdue—much more than most people realize. The Dean, Jay Akridge, picked as many brains as he could, looking for ways to get the message out about what Purdue does. It's a fascinating story of meeting both practical and far-reaching, future needs, but everyone does their daily job without tooting their horn.

From action in the Indianan General Assembly so far, when there is action and not hiding out in Illinois, maybe legislators need a peek under that Purdue tent too. There's no way to calculate what the projects underway on the ag campus could amount to in terms of dollars generated in state income through more jobs and revenue in 10 to 20 years. And that's not counting the education of bright young students who will come up with more ideas and produce more income.

Purdue's state funding comes in three line items: County Agriculture Extension educators, at $7.2 million; Agricultural Research and Extension, including support of outlying farms, at $7.2 million, and the Animal disease diagnostic laboratory on the Vet School campus, at $3.4 million.

According to Dean Jay Akridge, Governor Daniels original budget slashed all three by 15%! Friends in the House have restored half of the cut, to a 7.5% cut, for the first two, but not the diagnostic lab. Stories are breaking about PRRS in pigs and tuberculosis in a cow found in Indiana. It would seem like the absolute wrong time to cut the budget for the agency that can address those issues.

Why don't you ask your legislator, if you can find them, to take a peek under the Purdue tent, and a look inside their own heart, and then apply some common sense? The return generated from these three line items is one or the thing that makes this state attractive to businesses—technical support from Extension and basic research that can be applied to their systems.

Sometimes you can cut the fluff. But when you start cutting into the seed corn, the crop is going to be smaller and less productive. Let's hope legislators take time to understand what Purdue is doing and what Purdue agriculture means to the state of Indiana before they go forward with what could be devastating cuts.