Innovation and Preservation
ne of the best advantages of the College’s publishing Perspectives is that it gives us an opportunity to answer the question “What’s new?” So much is continually “new” in our College, from breakthrough research discoveries to timely extension responses to innovative courses in topics that keep students in pace with our changing world.
Many of these new developments are as much evolutionary as they are revolutionary, because they are built upon traditional foundations.
In 1978, the College was instrumental in the creation of the Agricultural Weather Network (AgNet) which for years provided farmers with information on agricultural climate conditions. Now AgNet is the foundation for the newly developing North Carolina Environment and Climate Observing Network (ECO Net), featured in this issue. When its 100 stations across the state are completed, its hourly climatology reports will provide data that could save lives and millions of dollars each year for taxpayers, farmers and businesses.
“Back to the Future” is where the College’s Dr. Mike Boyette, an expert on the tobacco curing process, is leading tobacco farmers. Concerned that tobacco produced in the United States contains unacceptably high levels of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (carcinogens that can be formed during curing), tobacco companies announced that, beginning in July of 2001, they would no longer buy high-nitrosamine tobacco. In response, Boyette and Cooperative Extension tobacco agents are helping growers to retrofit their barns with heat-exchanger curing systems similar to those favored 60 years ago and which are now needed to produce low-nitrosamine tobacco. Reported here are their efforts to develop guidelines for barn conversion — efforts which may ultimately help preserve the industry.
Saving farmland is the subject of the feature “Partners for Preservation.” In September I joined Gov. Jim Hunt, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Bill Holman and Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham to sign a cooperative agreement to promote farmland preservation across the state. There is an urgent need for these efforts: From 1992 to 1997 in North Carolina alone, 506,600 acres of farmland and forest land were lost to development, and 2,400 farmers left the business. Read here how, through farmland preservation programs, we hope to protect the environment, to conserve open space and to preserve the state’s agrarian tradition.
The traditional has become trendy with the “rediscovery” of herbal treatments in recent years. Echinacea and ginseng sales show the growing popularity among consumers of medicinal plants, while, in the College’s Botany Department, Dr. Scott Chilton’s plant medicine course has become a favorite among undergraduates. “Natural Remedies” takes you into Dr. Chilton’s classroom and reports many of the College’s endeavors in the field, including Horticultural Sciences Extension Specialist Dr. Jeanine Davis’ research on cultivating the herbs that have become popular supplements, as well as botany graduate student Kathy McKeown’s development of the world’s largest collection of echinacea germplasm. As a result N.C. State is becoming recognized as a leader in the cultivation of woodland herbs.
Consumer concerns about biotechnology and food made the autumn Eloise S. Cofer Family and Community Issues Forum a timely one, as detailed here in “Noteworthy/News.” The forum, sponsored by the College’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, brought together experts to discuss the importance of educating the public about biotechnology and how it can improve food for a growing world population. Among the presenters was sociologist Dr. Tom Hoban, who has studied public opinion on biotechnology. His Washington Post article on recent controversies is reprinted in this issue.
Innovation, preservation and collaboration are dominant themes in this issue of Perspectives. We hope you will enjoy reading about what’s new.
Dean, College of Agriculture
and Life Sciences