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Air Pollution Researchers Meet May 19-22 in Asheville

BOONE – They are known as the NE-1013.

They are not a secret organization, but rather May 19-22, to discuss their research on ozone’s effects on plants.

The researchers, some of the top in the country, are associated with USDA agricultural research stations along the east coast and California. Their name is derived from the designation of the USDA grant that funds their work.

“The grant was developed to foster interstate cooperation in ozone research,” said Dr. Howie Neufeld, an Appalachian State University biologist who is heading the conference.

In addition to researchers from the United States, the conference will draw researchers from England and Germany.

Sessions begin Thursday, May 19, at 8 a.m. in the hotel’s Victoria Room.

Neufeld’s research looks at the effects of ozone on wildflowers growing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Another research project being promoted by the group will create bio indicator gardens at elementary schools in Buncombe County. Students will plant strains of green beans-one sensitive to ozone and one that is insensitive-and monitor crop yield. The project is being coordinated by Susan Sachs, education coordinator with the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob.

Fitz Booker with the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service at N.C. State University is part of a group looking at ozone toxicity and its effect on growth and yield on crops.

“A USDA program conducted 10 years ago called NCLAN, or National Crop Loss Assessment Network, focused on ozone’s effects on a variety of sensitive crops, such as soybeans, cotton, wheat and peanuts,” Booker said. “Ambient ozone reduced the annual yield of those crops 5 to 15 percent.”

The group is looking at the range of sensitivity in crops, how to improve plant resistance to ozone, and ways to reduce ozone levels, Booker said.

Guest speakers attending the conference include the U.S. Forest Service’s Bill Jackson, who will speak on ozone in the southern Appalachians, and representatives from the NASA-sponsored GLOBE program, a science program for students in grades K-12 that can be found in 3,000 schools across the country.

Researchers also plan to visit air pollution research stations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Contacts:

Howie Neufeld, 828-262-2683

Susan Sachs, 828-926-6251

Fitzgerald Booker, 919-515-9495