FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Univ. of Arkansas poultry science researchers will collaborate with Cornell Univ. after receiving a $9.95 million federal grant to enhance poultry nutrition and well-being, improve water use and prepare students for careers in the poultry industry. 

Both universities received the grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) which is part of the US Dept. of Agriculture. The Univ. of Arkansas’ System Division of Agriculture, home of the John Tyson Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, will be heavily involved with the research. The Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences in Arkansas will also conduct research.

“This is an enormously important project for the poultry industry, and especially for Arkansas, where the poultry industry is so important to our economy,” said Mark Cochran, vice president of agriculture, for the Univ. of Arkansas System. “This project draws on the strengths of all the participating institutions in a way that we believe will be transformative in the industry.”

Along with the Univ. of Arkansas and Cornell, Univ. of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Mississippi State Univ. and Iowa State Univ. will all have faculty helping with the grant.

Walter Bottje, professor of poultry science at Arkansas who served as the co-principal investigator for the grant, explained how his researchers would collaborate with their counterparts at Cornell on water efficiency from genetic and dietary studies. Both schools will also look at heat tolerance and water use and its effects on the poultry microbiome. New poultry house evaporations systems will be reviewed by researchers as well. 

“Arkansas’ Center for Excellence in Poultry Science is arguably the best place in the country to do poultry biology,” Bottje said. “Partnering with Cornell’s Dr. Xingen Lei, co-project director, brought together a perfect mix of expertise for this project. We’ve all been working on innovations and through this grant, we can bring all of those together in ways that haven’t been attempted before. We are hopeful that some of what we do will have global implications.”

Arkansas and Cornell researchers plan to investigate microalgae in animal feed. The schools are looking to see if it is possible to convert poultry litter into biofuels and vegetable oil, which could produce other valuable products like omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin D and enzymes.

Finally, educating the next generation will also be a vital element of this grant. Arkansas and Cornell plan to develop a summer student internship program to integrate research and ongoing collaboration with the grant members.

Cornell will develop a Masters in Professional Studies in Sustainable Agriculture Systems. Arkansas plans to offer more opportunities for minority students who want to pursue a poultry career.