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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

October 7, 2005

Research briefs

Keeping the Air Force flying

Can the Air Force be assured that older jets are still safe and reliable? Iowa State's Center for Nondestructive Evaluation is working on techniques to answer that question. This spring, the center received $1 million to continue a $6.5 million project to study various techniques for testing and evaluating aircraft. R. Bruce Thompson, the center's director, said the tests could mean certain parts don't have to be replaced as often.

Researchers are working to develop X-ray techniques capable of taking stress measurements deep within a part. They're also working to develop computer simulations that determine the best ways to test for defects.

"If we're successful, the Air Force would be able to extend the life of engines," Thompson said. "And if we're successful, the Air Force would save hundreds of millions."

Getting the numbers on niche pork

Iowa hog farmers who have entered niche markets for organic meat or meat from animals farrowed outdoors must document production costs to support higher prices for their products (expected to be more than $5 per animal, according to one Iowa State study). And they find little integrated technical and research support for production or herd health issues. A $400,000 USDA grant will pair ISU researchers, veterinarians and extension field specialists with niche pork producers to help them better manage their herds. As part of the two-year project, 80 swine producers will keep extensive records of their feed, facility and labor costs. And ISU's Vet Diagnostic Lab will analyze pigs from antibiotic-free farms.

"Alternative swine enterprises hold great promise for beginning farmers because of their lower start-up costs," said John Mabry, director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center, which will oversee the project. "We think that what we learn from this project will enhance the business expertise and potentially improve the long-term prosperity of small and mid-size farms."