Foundation helps get research underway

Aliya Hall/For the Capital Press Russ Karow, executive director of Agricultural Research Foundation, has worked with the foundation since July 2015. He's a retired professor and Crop and Soil Science Department Head who has been with OSU for 30 years.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Jean Hall has experienced firsthand the impact that receiving a competitive grant from the Agricultural Research Foundation has had on her studies.

Hall is researching the effects of feeding selenium-fortified hay to cattle as a method of improving their health. The outcome of her research is expected to influence how cattle health issues are addressed, according to the foundation’s Annual Report.

“Funding I have received through the ARF Competitive Grant Funding has played a significant role in helping my colleagues and I advance this frontier to discover best practices in (selenium) supplementation,” Hall said in an email.

Hall has received six grants from the foundation over the last decade.

The importance of selenium has been known for decades, but the most effective method of delivery to cattle is still being investigated. Hall said in the report that she believes “increasing the bioavailable concentrations of selenium in forage through the use of selenium fertilizer is the most economical and practical method to provide supplementation to cattle.”

Located on the Oregon State University campus, the foundation was established in 1934. It awards short-term funding to researchers, each year giving out a maximum of $12,500 to about 23 applicants.

“We focus on younger faculty, associate professors who aren’t tenured yet and it helps launch careers,” said Russ Karow, executive director of the foundation. “If you’re brand new, $12,500 isn’t a small amount and it launches effort to find background data. You need background data before applying for more grants.”

Karow has worked with the foundation since July 2015. He’s a retired professor and Crop and Soil Science Department head who has been with OSU for 30 years. As a professor he worked with the foundation and was familiar with its operations, and because of his involvement it was an easy fit for him.

The foundation has received and managed over $190.8 million in donor gifts and grants to support research across all categories of agriculture, and has provided $8.1 million of its funds through the Competitive Grants Program.

The foundation generates its operational and special program support funds through investments, Yanli Zhang, manager of finance and research, said in the annual report.

State commodity commissions also provide grants to researchers, Karow said. Especially for the smaller commissions, it makes sense for them to work with the foundation.

The foundation is made up of 23 board members representing many commodities. Members serve three-year terms, but there isn’t a limitation on the number of times people can be re-appointed.

“We’ve had people involved for 15 to 20 years,” Karow said. “Wheat production, melons, livestock, university emeritus, lawyers, investment people. A spread of people who would be helpful in the review process.”

Although the foundation helps commission grants, it also works with board members to clarify budgetary questions in proposals and work with younger faculty to form their proposal.

Karow said that he has worked with other universities outside Oregon who want to create a similar foundation.

“We’re unique in the nation,” Karow said.

Hall is using her 2016-2018 grant on the focus of feeding selenium-enriched alfalfa hay to weaned beef calves for eight weeks to see if it improves performance and health.

In the report, Hall said she “believes (selenium supplementation) can be readily adapted to Oregon cattle production systems.”

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