SE Kansas farmers accelerate research at Farms '22 Conference

PITTSBURG, Kans. — They say great minds think alike, and luckily they can also lead to change.

Some of the so-called “Greatest Material Scientists in the Country” gathered in southeast Kansas this past week to take full advantage of that idea. Some of the experts who are hoping to use their research to help the Agriculture industry.

“How can we use the materials aspects of our research and apply it to real world problems that producers and farmers are facing?” asked Dr. Abby Whittington, Virginia Tech Chemical Engineering Department.

That’s the question bringing Whittington and dozens of other Materials Science experts to Pittsburg. Over the past few days, they’ve been listening to local farmers and producers at the Farms ’22 Conference, to help address issues in the Agriculture industry.

“They ranged everywhere from the areas of medicines and treatments for the animals, the livestocks and plants, to the physicality of their environment and providing more shade to protect their health or the waste streams that are generated,” said Dr. Kathryn Beers, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Waste has been a major problem experts have been working to address at the Pittsburg State Tyler Research Center — with experiments ranging from biodegradable plastics to batteries made out of coffee grounds.

“They have all these materials, they’re all basically single-use or a few uses that are accumulating,” added Beers.

“That is a big issue with the farmers, they got all this stuff piling up, having to burn, they don’t want to have to burn it. What do we do to make these materials reusable so we’re not just burning them, we’re not just throwing them in the waste?” added Dr. Tim Dawsey, Tyler Research Center Director.

The conference has helped share research between schools so new ideas could develop — and potentially one day change the world.

“I do a lot of medical-grade research, drug delivery for humans, or medical applications in tissue engineering, but I’m taking the materials there that I know and love that are degradeable and I’m trying to move them over to the agriculture space. So this kind of application applies to dairy cattle, crops and soils,” said Dr. Whittington.

“We got dairy farms, if they got problems here, they got problems with the dairy farms in Virginia. We’re not just going to solve it for Kansas, but oh yeah it will have a big impact in this area, but this will apply across the nation, some of it will apply across the world,” said Dr. Dawsey.

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