August 12, 2005 | By: Terri McLean
LEXINGTON, Ky.

For the second year in a row, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture has collected a record amount of funding for research and other projects – nearly $23.5 million in grants for fiscal year 2005, which ended in June. 

“We’ve really seen dramatic growth,” said Nancy Cox, associate dean for research. “We’ve almost tripled where we were in the year 2000.”

The phenomenal growth in funding, especially in the past two years, can be attributed to a combination of faculty commitment and economic necessity, Cox said. 

“We have been very fortunate in the last few years of hiring very committed, intelligent faculty members who are comfortable in the world of writing grants and thus extend the efforts of many other highly competitive faculty who have developed large, well-funded programs,” she said. 

In addition, “the economic reality is that state budgets for colleges of agriculture have declined in relative terms, and the federal funding available to us also has not grown,” Cox said. “So it becomes increasingly important to be able to get other outside funds to run the type of program we think we need to run.”

The biggest growth in 2005 was in the federal competitive category, with the college receiving $7.4 million. Those grants represented 31.3 percent of the overall funding for the year, up a little more than 4 percent from the previous year.

“We’re growing in federally competitive grants, and we really want to do that because it reflects on the national prominence of the College of Agriculture scientists,” Cox said.

Scientists such as Bernhard Hennig, animal and food sciences department, under whose leadership the college received a National Institutes of Health grant of more than $6.6 million, its largest single grant ever. The grant will enable the college and its collaborators to study the toxicity of environmental pollutants with a focus on nutrition, health and disease.

“The college is particularly proud of having the leadership of this grant, through Dr. Hennig, because so many other colleges are involved in this important biomedical research area,” Cox said.

Also notable are scientists such as Reddy Palli, entomology department, who received grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Research Institute all in the same year. And Peter Nagy, plant pathology department, who received not one but two NSF and two NIH grants in 2005.

“We think that’s really important,” Cox said. “Even though those are often lower dollars than some other grants, they’re very prestigious.”

Cox is quick to point out, however, that while the College of Agriculture eagerly goes after funding at the national level, it never loses sight of Kentucky and its needs.

“We do want to bring in the bucks, but we also want the research done to benefit Kentucky as well as the nation,” she said. “To us it’s the best of both worlds – to compete at the federal level but to also conduct programs that have relevancy here.”

The college was successful in other grant categories as well, including attaining funding from commodity groups, state agencies and organizations. Among other things, this funding furthered research on beef cattle, including a project by Amy Alderton, animal and food sciences department, and enabled Ernie Bailey, veterinary science department, to study the genes that control different functions in the horse.

Industry was also generous in helping fund the college’s research. David Harmon, animal and food sciences department, received $115,000 from a major pet nutrition company to further his research on companion animal nutrition, in this case nutrient utilization in the dog.

Researchers weren’t the only college personnel responsible for bringing in grant money, Cox said. The Cooperative Extension Service was likewise successful in attaining funding for projects such as the National eXtension Project, headed by Carla Craycraft and Craig Wood, agricultural communications services department, and the Kentucky Food Stamp Nutrition Program, under the guidance of Pam Sigler, family and consumer sciences department.

“It would be a mistake to say it’s just the researchers who are bringing in this money,” Cox said. “In fact, we’re all working together to do it.”

The College of Agriculture’s success in garnering money for its projects mirrors UK’s overall success in 2005. The university collected a record $273.9 million in research grants, up 15 percent from the year before. 

“Our success at the national level shows that we’re competing,” Cox said. 

Although it’s too soon to predict how successful the College of Agriculture will be in funding for 2006, Cox said she expects to continue in a positive direction. Already, the department of family studies in the College’s School of Human and Environmental Sciences has been awarded a more than $1 million Healthy Marriage Grant through the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children.

“We are off to a good start,” Cox said.

Contact: 

Writer: Terri McLean 859-257-4736, ext. 276

Contact: Nancy Cox, 859-257-3333