BAE sophomore receives award to research the production of biocontrol agents from soybean wastes

Ulalo, Chirwa, a sophomore in BAE

Ulalo Chirwa, a sophomore in BAE, has received a Kentucky NSF EPSCoR Research Scholars Award. With his faculty advisory, Assistant Professor Jian Shi, Ph.D., Ulalo will investigate the propagation and sporulation of Bacillus and Streptomyces (potential biocontrol agents) using soybean processing byproducts as substrates.

“It is important to look at how to produce biocontrol agents from cheap, renewable resources, and this project does exactly. It uses leftovers—soybean hull, meal, and stalks—byproducts, essentially,” Dr. Shi said.

Kentucky agriculture is diversified, with beef, corn, tobacco, wheat, and soybeans, among other crops, contributing to the state’s total agricultural production but, somewhat surprisingly, soybeans are a significant crop to Kentucky’s agricultural economy. In 2014, soybeans ranked first in Kentucky's crop receipts. Because of the significance of the soybean crop and the potential threat from diseases such as soybean rust, Dr. Shi anticipates strong potential for continued research on this subject. He said, “Biocontrol has a lot of potential because of the lagging interest in using agrochemicals and increased interest in finding alternatives that may be both cheaper and have less environmental impact.”

The Kentucky NSF EPSCoR Research Scholars Program will provide a stipend and lab supplies for Chirwa to work on his project in Dr. Shi's laboratory and fund his travel to the international ASABE conference this summer in a total amount of $7500. For more about Kentucky NSF EPSCoR, visit

members of Dr. Shi's lab