New event showcases students’ work in areas that impact pork production
The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) research committee and the Iowa Pork Industry Center (IPIC) have announced the winners of a research poster competition, organized by the two groups and sponsored by Cargill. The winning posters included swine-related research on gene editing, sperm fertility, and airborne virus transmission.
The new event took place during the 2022 Iowa Pork Congress, in Des Moines the last week of January. Participants were students at Iowa State University (ISU) in Ames who are studying a variety of areas that impact pork production.
The first-place award for $1,000 went to Blythe Schultz, a doctoral student in animal science. Along with several collaborators, he used gene editing to increase naturally occurring growth hormone in pigs, helping the pigs gain weight more efficiently. According to Schultz, pig farmers can meet the growing demand for high-quality pork in a more sustainable manner.
“They would decrease the environmental footprint because the animals would grow faster and bigger in the same amount of time,” said Schultz, of Santa Fe, Texas.
Alexandra “Alex” Keller won the $500 second-place prize for a study that explored artificial intelligence methods to more quickly and accurately detect the most fertile sperm from boar studs (male pigs kept for breeding).
In addition to increased conception and performance rates, Keller noted the findings could allow farmers to spread desired genetics across more sows—female pigs—by decreasing the sperm dose during artificial insemination, a popular method of breeding swine.
A native of Clarion, Keller is in her first semester as an animal science doctoral student focused on genetics and genomics. She worked with Dr. Karl Kerns, an assistant professor in ISU’s Department of Animal Science, who specializes in reproductive physiology.
Peiyang Li, a first-year doctoral student in ISU’s Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, received third place and $500. He, along with nine others, are named on the research that determined certain types of ultraviolet (UV) light can effectively kill porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) in fast-moving air.
The virus has become one of the largest negative economic impacts on the swine industry, and can travel a few miles by air and still be infectious, according to Li. His team is currently in talks with a major UV manufacturer, to take the technology out of the lab and test it in a farm-scale application.
“We’re excited about the future of UV in agriculture applications,” said Li, from the province of Shandong in China.
Another round of judging was determined by Iowa Pork Congress attendees. The Producer’s Choice winner was Will Taylor, Flora, Ind., an animal science graduate student. He received $500 from IPPA, along with swag items. Placing second and third, respectively, were Erika Johnson, Waukon, an animal science graduate student concentrating on animal physiology, and Schultz, the overall contest winner; they each received $20 in pork coupons and IPPA swag items.
A total of 12 research projects were in the contest. The posters were displayed at the IPIC booth during both days of the Iowa Pork Congress trade show. Poster presenters were available at the booth for a few hours during judging, for anyone to stop and ask questions.
Judges for the contest included Mike Paustian, a past IPPA president; Brett Kaysen, senior vice president of sustainability at the National Pork Board; and Brent Frederick of Cargill.
Other participants in the contest were:
- McKenna Brinning, Keota, veterinary medicine;
- Ezra Butcher, De Soto, Mo., economics;
- Daniel Moraes, Ames; Meredith Petersen, Mason City; Gaurav Rawal, Ames; Emiline Sundman, Windham, N.H.; and Jinhui Zhu, province of Anhui in China, all students in ISU’s Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine.
Editor’s note: Photos of all participants are available by request.