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Dean's Message   |  Spring 2006

Basic research an investment plan for Indiana agriculture

A century ago, Purdue Agriculture was just beginning a program of research that would help revolutionize agricultural production. With about 40 percent of the population involved in food production, the discoveries were essential to feeding a growing nation and freeing more workers to diversify the U.S. economy.

The early agricultural research carried on at Purdue and other land-grant universities helped make the United States the most efficient food producer in the world. And Indiana rose to the top, becoming one of the leading production agriculture states in the nation. Today, Purdue Agriculture researchers are still expanding our understanding of the world around us.

Like most research universities, we rely on both public and private funding sources for support. But in this era of declining federal and state budgets, we must increasingly seek out external funding sources. Our researchers do well in this arena, securing competitive grants from such funding agencies as the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, NASA, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy, as well as private organizations such as the Indiana Soybean Board.

This issue of Agri cultures highlights research that these grants make possible—improving the efficiency of alternative energy sources (“Waste not, want not,”); preventing the spread of avian influenza and other zoonotic diseases (“National defense,”); and discovering new applications for nanotechnology (“The nano revolution,”).

Purdue Agriculture has nearly 300 principal scientific investigators. Last year, these researchers garnered more than 1,000 grants for a record $55 million in extramural funding. Awards for the current academic year continue at near-record levels.

The Office of Agricultural Research plays a vital role in helping researchers identify and compete for extramural funding opportunities. In January, we welcomed Sonny Ramaswamy as director of our research programs. His leadership in the research community will help faculty pursue these opportunities and identify new sources of financial support.

Basic research is fundamental to our mission as a land-grant university. Purdue's agricultural research programs are the R&D arm of Indiana's agricultural industry. The scientific discoveries made in our labs provide the foundation for applied research and, ultimately, the transfer of technology for commercial and public use.

Increased levels of funding are critical for research to ensure a safe and nutritious food supply, to make advances in human and animal health, to develop biobased products, and to protect and manage our natural resources.

Just as it was for our predecessors, agricultural research is an investment in the future.

 

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