The Ag Research Spotlight shines each month on an individual whose work reflects our commitment to the six strategic themes that guide Agriculture I Research at Purdue. Our spotlight for November 2015 underscores the theme, “Facilitating informed decision making to improve economic and social well-being;’ THE RESEARCHER: Janna Beckerman credits her early interest in plants to her grandmother’s bountiful
garden. Beckerman grew up in a Cleveland suburb as a self-described “nerdy kid” who thrived in the Future Scientists program at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and a doctorate in plant pathology at Texas A&M University. Her affinity for extension grew in the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab, where she applied her strong background in ecology and expertise in disease management to assisting a wide range of commercial and residential growers. After completing postdoctoral work in genetics at the University of Minnesota, Beckerman joined the Purdue faculty in August 2005. Her broader work with specialty crops led to an unconventional research subject-hemp, which hasn’t been grown legally in the U.S. in 80 years.
“This isn’t like corn or beans; hemp is a unique crop that could be used in a broader agricultural scheme. Were trying to fill in the information gaps to develop an industry.” Janna L Beckerman, Professor of Botany and Plant Pathology
“As a research opportunity, it was too tempting to pass up;” she says. ”This is the first new crop in our lifetime, and it’s fascinating to be on the ground floor;” THE RESEARCH: Beckerman works with hemp that’s used in fiber and food products, not the marijuana variant. Industrial hemp contains much lower levels of the compound THC than marijuana. Beckerman collaborates with the Office of Indiana State Chemist, which tests for THC, the Drug Enforcement Agency, state police, and seed suppliers to ensure the university’s research plots are legal.