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WIU Faculty Assistant Mary Phippen with her research poster.
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Mary Phippen Honored for Outstanding Poster at National Conference

November 7, 2022

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MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University Faculty Assistant Mary Phippen recently captured the title of outstanding poster of the Oilseed Division at the 33rd annual Association for the Advancement of Industrial Crops conference in Bozeman, MT.

The poster outlines Mary's research done while working in the Alternative Crops Research Program in the School of Agriculture at WIU. The Alternative Crops Research Program has received multiple grants to fund research on the cover crop pennycress and its uses in biofuels.

Mary, who began working at WIU in 2001, and is a research chemist and statistician with WIU and the IPREFER and IPREP research projects. She was looking for a more cost effective way to test sinigrin levels in pennycress seeds. Sinigrin is a glucosinolate that helps protect plants against potential insect predators.

"Typically high performance liquid chromatography, coupled with a mass spectrometer (HPLC-MS) is used in the lab for glucosinolate analysis, but that can be expensive," said Mary.

Through her research, Mary found someone who had done similar testing with horseradish roots using a diabetic testing meter and accompanying strips to test the ground root for glucosinolates.

"During the development of the method, it was noted that glucosinolate levels in seeds varied with fertilizer input," said Mary. "This will be the basis for future studies on the connection between glucosinolate levels and fertilizer rates. The key to research is looking to find the best growing conditions with the smallest input. This method, which is both accurate and inexpensive with the testing supplies, will help us optimize our production protocols."

The glucose meter method costs about $1-$2 per sample. Since the lab lacks expensive HPLC-MS instrumentation, sending the samples out for HPLC-MS analysis would cost $100-$200 per sample.

"It makes a difference when we are testing thousands of samples," said Mary.

Mary put together the research poster for the national conference in hopes the idea could be useful to other researchers working on pennycress or other oilseed crops.

For more information about the pennycress research at WIU, visit

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