THE DULCINEA COMPANY OF CALIFORNIA, TAKES PRIDE IN THE MELONS THEY HARVEST. HERE IS A FAVORITE OF CONSUMERS, THE MINI OR BABY SEEDLESS WATERMELONS. HAND-CUT FROM THE VINE IN THE FIELD, AND PLACED UP ON THE HARVEST RIG, WHERE THE MELONS ARE PACKED IN CARTONS, AND LABELED WITH GROWER, HARVESTER AND FIELD LOCATION AND DATES OF THESE EVENTS. THIS FIELD IS IN BARD, CALIFORNIA AREA OF IMPERIAL COUNTY.
A RESEARCH SCIENTIST WORKS TO COMBAT BLACK ROT
WE MEET DR. MIKE MATHERON, A RESEARCH SCIENTIST AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA COOPERATIVE EXTENSION CENTER, YUMA, AZ., AND AMONG ONE OF MANY DISEASE PROBLEMS FARMERS FACE IS BLACK ROT IN CAULIFLOWER. DR. MATHERON IS WORKING TO COMBAT THE DEADLY VIRUS.
FRIDAY, APRIL 18th, 2014
For urban dwellers, the difficulty — or at least the expense — of doing their laundry began to ease on this date in 1934 when the first public, self-operated laundry in the U.S. opened its doors in Fort Worth, Texas. The first name was "Washateria," eventually replaced with the now familiar "Laundromat." Early facilities were not necessarily coin-operated, and there was always an attendant on duty. The automatic washing machine came along in 1937, and by the late 1940s, the first unattended, 24-hour Laundromats were opened. Now, there are nearly 11,000 coin-operated Laundromats across the country, and they do nearly $3.4 billion of business annually.
to Make Fertilizer Deliveries Priority”
Last week - the U.S. Surface Transportation Board ordered BNSF Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway to direct all railcars to make fertilizer deliveries to avoid planting delays this spring. The railroads were ordered to report their delivery plans by last Friday - along with weekly status reports on deliveries for the next six-weeks. National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says farmers have faced prolonged delays in transporting ag commodities by BNSF and CP - but this decision will ensure timely delivery of much-needed fertilizer for farmers in the upper Midwest. Johnson says it’s a step in the right direction - and he is pleased STB is requiring railroads to report on their fertilizer delivery performance.
“Food Manufacturers Say
Proposed Animal Feed Rule Costly, Bad Policy”
Food manufacturers send a lot of their waste to be turned into animal feed - including expired marshmallows, broken crackers and orange peels. Bloomberg reports the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed animal feed rule under the Food Safety Modernization Act could make it too expensive for these businesses to recycle un-used food in this way. The Grocery Manufacturers Association says the proposed rule would be costly, bad for the environment and provide little or no food safety benefit. In 2011 - nearly 44-billion pounds of food was kept out of landfills - with nearly 70-percent of the waste stream from manufacturers becoming animal feed and only five-percent being dumped into landfills. But if the proposed rule becomes law - GMA says as little as 22-percent of food waste would become feed and almost 28-percent would enter landfills to save manufacturers money. Overall - GMA says the new rule would cost manufacturers nearly 444-million dollars each year. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri urges FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to revise the proposed animal feed rule to give more consideration to food byproducts used in animal feed. Blunt says we don’t just need to think about how to produce more food - but also how to effectively use the food and food products available.
“Specialty Crop Block Grants
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has made available nearly 66-million dollars in Specialty Crop Block Grants to state departments of agriculture for projects helping support specialty crop growers. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is designed to enhance markets for specialty crops. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says these grants help sustain the livelihoods of American farmers while strengthening the rural economy by contributing to food safety improvements, increased access to healthy food and new research to help growers increase profitability and sustainability. For more information
(Read More Here)
NATIONAL SORGHUM PRODUCERS:
the voice of the sorghum industry
“Tips to Prevent and Treat Scours
Scours - a disease caused by bacteria, viruses or protozoans and leads to diarrhea and dehydration in calves - is the Number One neonatal calf disease producers fight each year - according to K-State Veterinarian Gregg Hanzlicek. So far this spring - Hanzlicek says scours has been a common problem. He says E. coli and salmonella are the two bacteria involved in causing scours. Rotavirus and coronavirus are two viruses that cause the disease - and crypto and coccidium are two protozoans that cause scours. Except for salmonella - Hanzlicek says the rest of the organisms are likely on every cow-calf operation in the country. He suggests producers obtain a manure sample and get it tested to see what organisms are causing the scours. If salmonella or crypto is involved - he says producers must use extra caution because they can be picked up by humans.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to determine a calf is affected - but those that are slow and lethargic can be easily tested by pulling the skin off the neck and counting how many seconds it takes for the skin to flatten. Hanzlicek says the skin should snap back flat within a second. If it takes two or more seconds - the calf is mildly to moderately dehydrated and will need two quarts of an electrolyte solution twice a day. Hanzlicek says to never give more than two quarts of the electrolyte solution at one time. He recommends producers work with their veterinarian to determine which electrolyte product to use. Producers can assess the calf’s urination to see if the solution is working - as frequent urination indicates calves are receiving proper amounts of fluids. Calves also should be kept with their mother during the fluid regimen because the milk keeps calves strong.
Hanzlicek says protecting the colostrum - the first milk produced by the cow containing essential nutrients - can prevent scours. He says it’s important for calves to consume colostrum from their mother in the first two to six-hours after birth to be protected from a variety of diseases. Even if the calf is protected with colostrum - he says it’s important for producers to keep calving areas clean and free from manure as much as possible to further help prevent scours.
“Researchers Find Way
to Effectively Treat E. coli”
Purdue University Researchers infected fresh spinach and ground beef with nearly 10-million cells of E. coli and treated the food with a combination of three types of viruses selected for their ability to kill E. coli quickly and efficiently. The treatment killed about 99-percent of the bacteria within 24-hours in ground beef stored at room temperature. For refrigerated ground beef - the number of E. coli decreased by nearly 68-percent. It decreased by 73-percent in undercooked ground beef. For spinach stored at room temperature - the bacteria was reduced by more than 99.8-percent at different time intervals. Purdue professor of animal science Paul Ebner says this treatment is a way of harnessing the natural antibacterial properties of phages to limit E. coli and other important foodborne pathogens. He says this therapy will make contaminated foods safer.
Getting cattle down the road safely
Whether it’s a cattle tractor-trailer load of stocker steers being hauled to a feedyard, or a stock trailer moving cows to summer pasture, precaution must be taken into consideration when transporting cattle. FULL STORY »
RESEARCH in AGRICULTURE
ARS scientists have patented a new pyrolysis process that is more cost-effective at turning wood chips and switch grass into bio-oil, which can be used as a "drop-in" substitute for conventional fuels. Photo courtesy of Warren Gretz /National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
USDA Researchers Simplify
Pyrolysis Processes for Bio-oil Production
Innovations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are bringing researchers one step closer to developing "green" biofuel production systems farmers can use to meet on-farm energy needs, or to produce renewable fuels for commercial markets. These findings by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Charles Mullen and Akwasi Boateng promote the USDA priority of finding new bioenergy sources. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Fast pyrolysis is the process of rapidly heating biomass from wood, plants and other carbon-based materials at high temperatures without oxygen. Using pyrolysis to break down tough feedstocks produces three things: biochar, a gas, and bio-oils that are refined to make "green" gasoline.
The bio-oils are high in oxygen, making them acidic and unstable, but the oxygen can be removed by adding catalysts during pyrolysis. Although this adds to production costs and complicates the process, the resulting bio-oil is more suitable for use in existing energy infrastructure systems as a "drop-in" transportation fuel that can be used as a substitute for conventional fuels.
In 2013, the ARS team filed a patent application for a new pyrolysis process called Tail Gas Reactive Pyrolysis (TGRP), which removes much of the oxygen from bio-oils without the need for added catalysts. The team conducted a pilot-scale study using three types of biofeedstock with different characteristics: oak, switchgrass, and pressed pennycress seeds.
The researchers modified the standard pyrolysis process by gradually replacing nitrogen gas in the processing chamber with the gases produced during pyrolysis. The TGRP process was very effective in lowering oxygen levels and acidity, and no additional catalysts were needed.
Bio-oils produced from oak and switchgrass by the new process had considerably higher energy content than those produced by conventional fast pyrolysis. The energy content of the oak bio-oil was 33.3 percent higher and contained about two-thirds of the energy contained in gasoline. The energy content for switchgrass was 42 percent higher, slightly less than three-fourths of the energy content of gasoline.
The scientists, who work at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa., published results from their research in 2013 in Energy Fuels.
ARS has released Anna Bella, the first ornamental tung tree that produces virtually no nuts, which are toxic if ingested and pose a mowing hazard if left on the ground. Click the image for more information about it.
New Ornamental Tung Tree Available
Anna Bella may herald a new generation of ornamental tung tree varieties suitable for landscape uses in the U.S. Gulf Coast region.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) molecular geneticist Timothy Rinehart, Anna Bella marks a first in ornamental tung releases because it is sterile and produces virtually no nuts, which are toxic if ingested and pose a mowing hazard if left on the ground.
From the late 1920s to early
1970s, tung trees had been grown commercially on plantations across the Gulf Coast area as a nut-based source of high-quality oil for paints, varnishes, lacquers, wood finishes and other industrial products. A convergence of factors ultimately scuttled the tung oil industry there, but nostalgia for Vernicia fordii, as the native Chinese tree is known scientifically, has lingered to this day.
The downside to planting tung as an ornamental has been the nuts, which are no longer harvested for their oil, notes Rinehart, with the Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Research Laboratory operated in Poplarville, Miss., by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Anna Bella, which is adapted to conditions in the South, can reach nearly 40 feet tall and opens into an umbrella-shaped canopy of lush, heart-shaped leaves. It blooms in late spring, producing clusters of white, long-lasting flowers tinged in the centers with yellow or red. The new variety requires little maintenance, bounces back well from pruning, and can withstand common insect pests and diseases.
It is ideal for both single specimen and row plantings, such as in backyards and along roadsides or property boundaries. Because it produces no seed, the variety is unlikely to persist beyond intended planting sites, a characteristic that may encourage wider acceptance of the tree species as an ornamental offering.
Rinehart has already received requests from a few specialty nurseries interested in propagating the variety.
ARS scientists have found blocking a fire ant neuropeptide that triggers the pheromone used to mark food trails through a technique called RNA interference (RNAi) can delay development or kill fire ants, marking it as a potential control method. Click the image for more information about it.
On the Trail of Fire Ant Pheromones
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are developing innovative techniques to combat one of the world's worst invasive species, the red imported fire ant.
In the United States, fire ants cost $7 billion in control, damage repair and medical care each year. They infest millions of acres in urban, agricultural, wildlife, recreational and industrial areas.
Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Fla., are investigating chemicals called pheromones that are secreted by the ants. Pheromones signal alarm, mark trails to food, attract workers to brood and the queen, and unite males and females for mating.
Entomologist Man-Yeon Choi and chemist Robert Vander Meer at the Gainesville center have shown for the first time that a neuropeptide called pheromone biosysnthesis activating neuropeptide (PBAN) activates production of trail pheromones in ants.
PBAN was first discovered by ARS scientists in Beltsville, Md., in the 1980s. They found that the hormone regulates sex pheromone production in female moths. Since then, scientists have found that other insects, including cockroaches, have this type of PBAN family peptides made of two or more amino acids.
Choi injected fire ant workers with PBAN peptides and found a significant increase in pheromone production. He and Vander Meer also identified the DNA sequence of both the PBAN gene and receptor gene, which allowed them to test the function of PBAN in trail pheromone production using a new technique called RNA interference (RNAi). This involves taking normally single-stranded RNA from a gene and making double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that can be used to suppress that gene's expression.
When scientists injected dsRNA of either the PBAN gene or receptor gene into ants, they found that ants produced less trail pheromone. They also discovered that adult ants and larvae injected with PBAN-RNAi had significant mortality, compared to ants that didn't receive the injection. Pupae that received the treatment had delayed development and a high death rate.
Scientists plan to investigate whether other pheromones are activated by PBAN, and if dsRNA can be used for fire ant control.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
ARS scientists have found a gene in einkorn wheat, an ancient variety still cultivated in parts of the Mediterranean, that appears to offer near immunity to Ug99, a stem rust that is a serious threat to 90 percent of the world's wheat. Photo courtesy of Matthew Rouse, ARS.
Looking to Wheat's Wild Ancestors
to Combat an Evolving Threat
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have pinpointed the location of a gene in a little-known ancient grass that could help save one of the world's most important cereal crops from an unrelenting fungus.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Matt Rouse and Yue Jin, with the agency's Cereal Disease Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., found the gene while studying the DNA of ancient grasses. They were searching for genes that could make wheat more resistant to Ug99 (Puccinia graminis), a type of stem rust that is constantly evolving. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
Ug99 has not yet been found in the United States, but it is spreading overseas and is considered a potential threat to up to 90 percent of the world's wheat. Genes in wheat that seem to offer immunity one growing season become susceptible to newly developed "races" the next. Ug99 was first reported by scientists in Uganda in 1999, and controlling it has since become an international priority.
Scientists often study a crop's wild relatives for genes that will confer resistance to pests and pathogens. But what makes the efforts of Rouse and Jin noteworthy is the diversity of grasses being studied. They include einkorn wheat, an ancient variety still cultivated in parts of the Mediterranean; emmer wheat, found in archeological sites and still growing wild in the Near East; and goatgrass, a wild relative of wheat with genes that breeders have tapped to boost immunity in commercial wheat varieties.
In one study, Rouse and his colleagues at Kansas State University and the University of California at Davis focused on locating a gene in einkorn wheat that confers near immunity to Ug99. They focused on locating a gene, known as Sr35, which was previously discovered in einkorn. But the exact location of this gene in the plant's vast genome remained a mystery. The wheat genome is huge, containing nearly two times more genetic information than the human genome.
To find Sr35's position, the researchers sequenced areas of the plant's genome where they suspected it was located. In one set of mutant plants, they knocked out the cloned sequences and found it made those plants susceptible to Ug99. In another set they inserted the same sequences into previously susceptible plants and found it made them resistant.
The results, published in Science in 2013, marked the first time that scientists managed to isolate and clone a Ug99 resistance gene. The achievement should make it easier to insert useful genes into wheat varieties.
USDA researchers, collaborators sequence genomes of fungi that threaten wheat, poplars
Nursery is new tool in fight against Ug99 wheat stem rust
ARS scientists have developed a very low temperature process to make a shelf-stable nut-butter-like extract from rice bran oil as a trans fat free replacement for some of the margarine, butter or shortening in certain baked goods. Click the image for more information about it.
Scientists Develop New Way
to Make Food Ingredient from Rice Bran Oil
Some of today's popular baked goods might tomorrow contain a butter-like extract, derived from rice bran oil, as a partial replacement for margarine, butter or shortening. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) chemist Erica L. Bakota and her colleagues with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Peoria, Ill., developed a process for making the extract, which somewhat resembles a nut butter.
The product's texture and composition are apparently unique, according to Bakota.
In preliminary experiments at the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Bakota and her colleagues used the extract in place of some of the butter called for in standard recipes for granola and for white bread. Feedback from taste testers who participated in these preliminary experiments indicated that the substitutions did not detract from the taste or texture of either the granola or the bread.
Unlike some shortening and margarines, the extract is free of trans fats, which contribute to increased risk of heart disease. Another plus: The product is shelf-stable and resists oxidation that could otherwise result in off-flavors and unpleasant odors.
The extract consists primarily of unrefined rice bran oil and rice bran's natural wax, which is used in confections. It also contains minor amounts of vitamin E; plant sterols, including some that are of interest to medical and nutrition researchers because of their potentially health-imparting properties; and gamma-oryzanol, shown to lower levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol in humans.
The Peoria team's extraction procedure evidently differs from other approaches for making a butter-like product from rice bran oil in that it uses very low temperatures. ARS, the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, is seeking a patent for the procedure. Bakota is looking for collaborators interested in developing new uses for the product.
A staple at Asian food markets or other specialty or gourmet grocery stores, rice bran oil has a mild flavor and is high in vitamin E, an advantage that many other well-known cooking oils don't offer. The oil comes from the outer layers that are removed when rice grains are milled and polished to produce white rice.
Bakota and teammates Michael J. Bowman, Hong-Sik Hwang, Sean X. Liu, Debra L. Palmquist, and Jill K. Winkler-Moser, all with ARS at Peoria, described the research in a 2013 article published in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, and in a new article accepted for publication in that journal. The studies are highlighted in the April 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
Researchers determine beneficial compounds in whole-grain rice varieties
New soybeans bred for oil that's more heart-healthy
An ARS-led research team has used radio frequency heating as the basis for a better, faster way to pasteurize raw, in-the-shell eggs without hurting important qualities. Click the image for more information about it.
Tactic for Pasteurizing Raw Eggs
Kills Salmonella, Doesn't Harm Egg Quality
Classic Caesar salad, old-fashioned eggnog, some homemade ice cream—and many other popular foods—may contain raw eggs. Now, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-led research has produced a faster way to pasteurize raw, in-shell eggs without ruining their taste, texture, color or other important qualities.
The pasteurization procedure targets Salmonella. That's because an estimated one out of every 20,000 chicken eggs produced in the United States has a high risk of being contaminated with Salmonella, notably S. enteritidis. That pathogen has been associated with eating raw or undercooked eggs, and can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, and—in some instances—death.
USDA chemical engineer David J. Geveke and his colleagues have shown that their pasteurization process, currently in the prototype stage, killed 99.999 percent of the Salmonella that they injected into raw in-shell eggs for their laboratory tests.
When commercialized, the pasteurization procedure would provide an alternative to an hour-long hot-water-immersion process. That technique is apparently the only one already used commercially in the United States to pasteurize fresh shell eggs.
The procedure that Geveke's team developed begins with positioning each raw egg between two electrodes that send radio waves back and forth through it. While that is happening, the egg is slowly rotated, and is sprayed with water, to offset some of the heat created by the radio waves.
Unlike conventional heating, the radio-frequency (RF) heating warms the egg from the inside out. That's critical to the success of the process. It enables the dense, heat-tolerant yolk at the center of the egg to receive more heat than the delicate, heat-sensitive egg white.
A comparatively brief hot-water bath comes next. The warmth of the bath helps the yolk retain heat to complete the pasteurization. The bath also pasteurizes the egg white without overprocessing it.
From start to finish, the treatment takes approximately 20 minutes, making it about three times faster than the hot-water-immersion technique.
The idea of using RF heating to kill pathogens in foods isn't new. But using RF heating to kill pathogens in eggs apparently is novel. Geveke and his colleagues are evidently the first to pair RF heating with a hot-water bath to pasteurize raw, in-shell eggs.
Geveke works at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa. He collaborated on the research with ARS chemical engineering technician Andrew B.W. Bigley, Jr. at Wyndmoor, and with Christopher D. Brunkhorst of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in Plainsboro, N.J.
ARS, the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, is seeking a patent for the RF-based pasteurization process.
The pasteurization studies, highlighted in the March 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, support the USDA priority of improving food safety.
Pigs fed a new probiotic as part of their diet reduced manure output by 20 percent, gained more weight and had better blood cholesterol and glucose levels, according to research by ARS scientists.
Click the image for more information about it.
A New Probiotic
Improves Pig Health, Reduces Manure Output
A new probiotic for pigs could mean less manure to manage, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists conducted the first published investigation of the use of bacteria as a probiotic to increase fiber fermentation rates and reduce manure output in pigs that consume high-fiber diets. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Pig producers would like to supplement livestock feed with dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) and other agricultural coproducts generated from biofuel production. But adding hard-to-digest fiber to livestock diets also increases the production of manure.
Microbiologist Cherie Ziemer and animal scientist Brian Kerr at the ARS Agroecosystems Management Research Unit in Ames, Iowa, fed the pigs in their study either a typical diet or a high-fiber diet. The high-fiber diet contained 10 percent soybean hulls and 20 percent corn DDGS.
The pigs were also given one of three bacterial supplements the scientists developed from different strains of Bacteroides ovatus, which had been obtained from human fecal samples and cultured in fiber-rich media. The three bacterial supplements were designated Bacterium B, C, and D.
Pigs that received the bacterial supplements designated as Bacterium B reduced their manure output by 20 percent. These pigs also gained more weight and had improved blood cholesterol and glucose levels, both indications of an improved energy status, compared to pigs not given probiotics.
Ziemer believes the probiotic could improve pig performance and reduce manure volumes, which in turn would increase producer profits and reduce the environmental footprint of pork production. She thinks the bacterium could be fed in a liquid supplement or possibly freeze-dried and mixed with feed.
This work was supported by a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as part of the Intestinal Fortitude Program, which investigates how to help people obtain more energy from fiber. Results were published in the Journal of Animal Science in 2012.
Taking aim at deadly swine diseases
Pig stress syndrome linked to gene defect
ARS researchers have developed new information to help improve protection of poultry from Newcastle disease viruses, including when to vaccinate chicks. Click the image for more information about it.
Improve Newcastle Disease Classification System
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have given the Newcastle disease classification system a much-needed update, making it easier to identify virus types.
Exotic Newcastle disease, an extremely virulent form of the virus, is not found in poultry in the United States but is widespread in Asia, Africa, Mexico and many countries in South America. It affects chickens and other bird species, and is often fatal, killing about 80 to 100 percent of unvaccinated infected birds.
At the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Ga., microbiologist Claudio Afonso, veterinary medical officer Patti Miller and their colleagues examine genetic differences in Newcastle disease viruses from other countries, characterize them, make sure existing tests and vaccines are effective, and work on strategies to develop better vaccines. In addition, they evaluate systems used to classify virus isolates.
Afonso recently proposed a new classification system to group Newcastle isolates. Traditionally, two systems were being used simultaneously to classify isolates into lineages or genotypes. This caused confusion and sometimes incorrect classification of isolates.
The new single system, which is detailed in research published in Infection, Genetics and Evolution, is reliable and consistent and can be used by any laboratory worldwide.
SEPRL scientists also evaluate the ability of current vaccines to protect against emerging Newcastle viruses and help the poultry industry test improved vaccines. In other research, Miller is studying the role a bird's immunity plays in virus transmission, protection against disease and relationships between genotypes. Her recent finding, published in Developmental & Comparative Immunology, suggest that an earlier onset of immunity may be necessary for future vaccines to protect against transmission and spread of Newcastle disease.
New vaccine developed for Newcastle disease
USDA scientists, cooperators create the first genomic map of the domesticated Turkey
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
ARS scientists didn't find any significant amounts of real African mango (AM) when they analyzed five AM dietary supplements and three AM seed extracts. Photo courtesy of FAO, Ignace Fokou Sakam FO-7163.
Some are Under-researched, Over-marketed
While surfing the Web, consumers often see ads promising "one tip to a flat belly." But the real tip is accurate consumer information about the products that are being marketed.
African mango (AM) supplements are among the various products that appear at the end of these "one tip" ads. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have studied African mango supplements and found that none of the labels on the ones they tested provided accurate information for consumers.
All of the labels of African mango dietary supplement products sold in the United States list African mango seed extract as the major ingredient, according to chemist Pei Chen and postdoctoral associate Jianghao Sun. Chen and Sun conducted the research at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Chen and Sun noted a lack of past chemical analyses of AM seeds, seed extracts and dietary supplements in the scientific literature, and conducted the studies to find out whether the supplements contain what they say they contain. The team obtained AM seeds that had been imported directly from Africa for the study. The samples came with a voucher verifying their authenticity, and were further authenticated by a U.S. Pharmacopeia scientist. The team also obtained three AM seed extracts and five different AM dietary supplements to analyze.
During testing, Chen and Sun identified a group of major components in the verified AM seeds: ellagic acid; mono-, di-, and tri-O-methyl-ellagic acids; and their related glycosides. These components can be used as authentication markers when testing the contents of AM extracts and related AM dietary supplements for quality control.
Among the five AM dietary supplements tested, only one contained trace amounts of AM seed. The other four supplements and the three AM seed extract samples did not contain any detectable amount of authentic AM seed.
Better analysis methods for vitamin D
Monitoring the population's food and supplement intakes
ARS botanist John Wiersema (shown) and University of Texas taxonomist Blanca León have published an update of World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference, which links scientific and popular names with geographic origins and uses of more than12,235 plants. Click the image for more information about it.
New Reference Book
Lists Uses and Origins of Important Plants
A new reference book written by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his university colleague should prove to be an invaluable resource for researchers, plant breeders, librarians or anyone who wants basic, accurate information about important plants.
World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference took more than two years to complete and was reviewed by more than 150 experts. At 1,336 pages, it is more for professionals and scientists than for casual readers. It was written by John Wiersema, a botanist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and Blanca León, a University of Texas taxonomist.
The authors link the list of scientific names of 12,235 plants with their geographic origins and uses. They also provide more than 50,000 common names for those plants in 27 languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Plants often have different names and uses in different countries.
The book is an update of an edition published ikn 1999 that inventoried 9,500 plants, according to Wiersema, who works in ARS' National Germplasm Resources Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
The updated version was requested by the publisher CRC Press. Along with including 25 percent more plants, the new version indicates more "use classes," such as whether a plant is a food source or has been used medicinally. Some of the most common use categories are ornamentals (5,361), medicines (2,997), food and food additives (2,212), and weeds (2,136).
Information in the book and its sources can also be found in the ARS Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), which is part of the ARS National Plant Germplasm System and is publicly available online.
The book can be ordered online at: http://www.crcpress.com/product/isbn/9781439821428.
Updated plant genebank system available soon
ARS preserves plants and animals for future needs
ARS research has found ozone gas can disinfect honeycomb of chalkbrood and foulbrood—diseases that may persist for years on beekeeping equipment—as well as degrade pesticide levels. Click the image for more information about it.
Disinfecting Honey Comb
Sometimes even honey bees need help with "housekeeping," especially when it comes to cleaning their honeycombs once the honey's been removed. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research has shown that fumigating honeycombs with ozone gas can eliminate pests and pathogens that threaten honey bee health and productivity. Now, ozone fumigation may also help reduce pesticide levels in honeycombs.
The findings come from a two-part study led by entomologist Rosalind James with the Pollinating Insects-Biology, Management, and Systematics Research Unit operated in Logan, Utah, by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Results from the first part of her team's study, published in 2011 in the Journal of Economic Entomology, demonstrated that fumigating honeycombs with ozone gas at concentrations of 215 to 430 parts per million (ppm) killed all life stages of the greater wax moth, depending on length of exposure.
Ozone, a highly reactive state of oxygen, also destroyed spores of the chalkbrood fungus after 24 to 36 hours of exposure using 1,500 ppm. Another honeybee pathogen, the American foulbrood bacterium, required substantially longer exposure times and an ozone concentration twice as high.
Both pathogens can persist for years on beekeeping equipment and in hives as dormant spores. They germinate when conditions are optimal, and attack the colony's larvae. Methyl oxide and gamma irradiation are among treatments that have proven effective for disinfecting honeycombs, but these treatments can be costly and impractical, according to James. An ozone fumigation chamber is something beekeepers can set up on their own.
In January 2013, James' team published results from the second part of the study in the journal Agricultural Science. That paper details ozone's breakdown of coumaphos, fluvalinate, and several other pesticides that can accumulate in hives.
Higher ozone concentrations and longer exposure times were required to reduce pesticide concentrations in wax and honeycomb samples. The treatments also degraded the pesticides better in new honeycombs (less than three years old) than in older ones (more than 10 years old).
Read more about these findings in the March 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Honey bees selected by ARS toss out varroa mites
Pathogen loads higher in bee colonies suffering from colony collapse disorder
Helping fish get rid of "ich"
Coating seeds with a thin polymer covering to protect them from cold, wet soil could help northern Corn Belt farmers get a jump-start on their spring planting, according to ARS research. Photo courtesy of NRCS-USDA
Coated Seeds Could Encourage
an Early Start for Spring Planting
Seedling success sometimes depends on a good coverup, according to research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist Russ Gesch has determined that sowing seeds protected by a thin polymer layer can help northern Corn Belt farmers optimize spring planting schedules. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
In Minnesota and other northern U.S. states, early spring planting in cold and wet soils can damage seeds. When farmers plant later in the season, a cold snap can interfere with seed response and result in poor plant emergence and poor yields.
Gesch, who works at the ARS Soil Management Research Unit in Morris, Minn., conducted several field studies comparing the performance of coated and uncoated seeds planted in early spring and late spring. The coated seeds were covered with a temperature-activated polymer that prevented water from reaching the seed until the soils were warm enough for germination and emergence.
In one study, the coated seeds planted in early spring had a significantly greater level of emergence and establishment than uncoated seeds planted at the same time. The rate of emergence—how long it took for 50 percent of the seeds to emerge and become established—was also faster for coated seeds than uncoated seeds.
However, coated seeds planted in late spring generally had slower emergence rates than uncoated seeds planted at the same time. According to Gesch, these findings strongly indicated that farmers could use coated seeds to get a jump-start on their spring planting because the seeds would be protected from cold, wet soils until conditions favored germination and emergence.
Gesch also examined how till and no-till cultivation affected seed response of corn and soybean seeds, and didn't find any significant differences in germination and emergence between coated seeds planted in conventional-till systems and seeds planted in no-till systems. But coated soybean seed planted in late spring was less successful because this left the seed exposed to soil temperatures that were too high for successful germination and establishment.
Gesch has published his findings in Agronomy Journal, Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, and Field Crops Research.
Nematodes encapsulated to better battle corn pests
Calibrating corn production in potato country
ARS and University of California-Riverside researchers are identifying key avocado compounds that contribute to ideal flavor and may serve as "markers" that breeders could use to select new avocado varieties. Photo courtesy of the California Avocado Commission.
of Hass Avocados Probed
What makes an avocado delicious? U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant physiologist David M. Obenland and a team led by University of California-Riverside colleague Mary Lu Arpaia are collaborating in a series of studies to answer that question.
Their focus is Hass avocados, the kind that's the most widely sold in the United States, and is known for its smooth, buttery texture and rich, often nutty flavor.
Of course, aroma is part of what is perceived as flavor, and scientists already know that Hass avocados have at least 25 aroma compounds, known as "aroma volatiles." But for the most part, the precise contribution of each of these aroma volatiles has not been well studied. That's why Obenland and Arpaia are determining the kinds and concentrations of aroma compounds that are essential to the classic Hass avocado flavor.
With further work, these key compounds might serve as "markers" that breeders could use in pinpointing the most promising new kinds of avocados. Growers and packers of the future might be able to use the markers to determine the best times to harvest the fruit, or to develop new tactics that better protect these compounds or their precursors during storage and ripening.
In preliminary studies, the scientists used two well-established analytical procedures—solid phase microextraction and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry—to extract, identify and determine changes in the concentrations of individual aroma volatiles as avocados matured and ripened.
In all, the scientists worked with samples from about 850 domestic and imported avocados, and analyzed more than 4,500 observations from 15 to 20 taste-testers.
The studies, described in an article in Postharvest Biology and Technology in 2012, are apparently the first to report the levels of aroma compounds sampled during Hass avocado maturation and ripening, according to Obenland. He works at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier, Calif. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Among other findings, the scientists confirmed that three chemicals prevalent in the early growth of the fruit (hexanal; (E)-2-hexenal; and 2,4-hexadienal) were probably responsible for a grassy flavor, and that the "likeability" of the fruit, from the taste testers' point of view, increased as the levels of these compounds decreased in the maturing fruit.
The work differs from most prior avocado flavor studies, which primarily focused on the flavor contribution of the fruit's natural oil.
ARS, the University of California-Riverside, the California Avocado Commission, and the Pinkerton Avocado Growers Association funded the research, which was conducted with the help of Mission Produce, Inc., and Del Rey Avocado Company.
Beneficial fungi examined for battle against destructive beetles
ARS scientists devising new ways to protect avocados
An ARS microbiologist has developed a less expensive and more efficient way to test chickens for the presence of avian influenza virus, something that must be done to all meat chickens and turkeys before processing. Click the image for more information about it.
New Avian Influenza Sampling Method
A number of poultry industry groups are using a less costly method to collect avian influenza virus samples, thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Avian influenza is a foreign disease that infects poultry and other bird species. Viruses identified as highly pathogenic cause severe disease, killing more than 90 percent of infected birds. Low pathogenic viruses are not as severe, but can cause sickness in birds as well as financial losses.
At the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Ga., scientists conduct studies not only to identify various avian influenza virus strains, but also to determine their origin and whether current tests and vaccines are effective against them. In addition, the scientists investigate the best methods for collecting virus samples from poultry for testing.
In the United States, all meat chickens and turkeys must be tested for avian influenza before processing. Sample collection is an important component of this process.
A certain number of swab samples, taken from inside the birds' mouths, are needed per flock to get a reasonable virus sample, according to microbiologist Erica Spackman, who works in SEPRL's Exotic and Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research Unit. The current method used to determine if virus is present works well, but requires placing only one to five swab samples in a tube.
Spackman found that improvements could be made by switching the type of swab used and increasing the number or swabs in each tube. As many as 11 swab samples can be pooled together in a single tube without inhibiting or affecting the sensitivity of the test used to detect avian influenza virus. In addition, Spackman demonstrated that this method can be used to collect Newcastle disease virus samples. The process reduces the amount of tubes needed and, more importantly, the number of individual tests that are run, which decreases the cost to poultry producers.
This research, which was published in BioMed Central Veterinary Research in 2013, supports the USDA's priority of promoting international food security.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
New vaccine developed for Newcastle disease
USDA scientists, cooperators create the first genomic map of the domesticated Turkey
ARS-funded researcher Jin-Ran Chen has shown that bone development of unborn young of mother lab rats (dams) fed high-fat rations to induce obesity was significantly impaired when compared to bones of fetal young of dams that were given lower-fat rations. Click the image for more information about it.
Effect of Mom's Obesity
on Baby's Bone Health Explored
Does obesity during pregnancy impact the baby's chances of developing strong, healthy bones? No one knows for certain, but ongoing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded studies at the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center in Little Rock are helping to provide clues.
In an early investigation, Jin-Ran Chen, a principal investigator with the center's Skeletal Development Laboratory, showed that bone development of the unborn young of mother lab rats (dams) fed high-fat rations to induce obesity was significantly impaired, in contrast to the bones of the fetal young of dams that were given lower-fat rations.
Analysis of fetal bone cells from the skull and vertebrae suggests that changes in the functioning of a gene, HoxA10, may help explain this difference in early bone formation, according to Chen.
Studies by scientists elsewhere have already established that HoxA10 is important to bone formation and growth. But Chen's investigation, documented in a 2012 article in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's FASEB Journal, is apparently the first to suggest that obesity, induced by the high-fat regimen, may turn off or "downregulate" this gene, thus suppressing robust bone development.
Chen and his team found that HoxA10 was downregulated as a result of high levels of DNA methylation, a biochemical process also referred to as gene methylation. If the results seen in rats hold true for humans, elevated DNA methylation of HoxA10 may increase the baby's risk of developing bone disease, such as osteoporosis, later in life.
The results also suggest that it is critical to start early in ensuring that a mother's nutrition benefits the developing child's bone health.
Chen collaborated with Thomas M. Badger, Michael L. Blackburn, Ping Kang, Oxana P. Lazarenko, Martin J. Ronis, Kartik Shankar, and Jian Zhang, all with the nutrition center and with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, also in Little Rock. The nutrition center is a partnership of USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the university, and Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.
Read more about the research in the February 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency. This bone health research supports the USDA priority of improving children's health and nutrition.
FOR FURTHER READING:
Ongoing research analyzes formulas, mother's milk
Blueberries help lab rats build strong bones
Potatoes produced more tubers when exposed to higher carbon dioxide levels and erratic drought conditions in recent ARS growth chamber studies that replicated potential changes in climate. Click the image for more information about it.
Potatoes Could Step Up Performance
under Climate Change Pressure
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer David Fleisher and his colleagues conducted studies to measure how potato plants would respond to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the increasingly erratic rainfall patterns expected to result from global climate change. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of responding to global climate change.
The team conducted two outdoor chamber studies to evaluate effects of short-term drought cycles at current and elevated carbon dioxide levels. The studies were conducted using soil-plant-atmosphere research chambers that provided precise control over carbon dioxide levels, air temperature, irrigation and humidity. The chambers contained sensors that monitored air, soil, and canopy temperatures, relative humidity, and solar radiation above and below the canopy.
The quantity of solar radiation in the first study was about twice as much as in the second. Having two different study periods allowed the scientists to evaluate how variations in solar radiation during the drought periods affected plant response. In both studies, 11-day drought cycles were applied before tuber formation began and around 10 days after tuber formation began.
The researchers observed significant differences in plant response that they attributed to the variation in solar radiation, which in turn affected plant water-use efficiency and dry matter production. With all other growth factors being equal, the plants in the first study had a 30 percent to 200 percent increase in total dry matter production, depending on carbon dioxide levels and water availability.
The team also noted that the cyclic droughts resulted in lower levels of dry matter and leaf area production. They concluded that drought stress before tuber formation probably enhanced the future delivery of carbon, water and plant nutrients to tubers instead of to stems or leaves—and that this response increased under elevated carbon dioxide levels. Averaged across all drought treatments, tuber yield from plants growing under elevated carbon dioxide levels was as much as 60 percent greater than tuber yield from plants growing under current carbon dioxide levels.
Fleisher, who works at the ARS Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., published the study results in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology.
FOR FURTHER READING
USDA irrigation research: Good to the last drop
Using less water to grow more potatoes
A technology for detecting problems in stored apples turns out not to work well as an early warning system for Anjou pears kept in very-low-oxygen storage, ARS research shows. Click the image for more information about it.
Pampering Anjou Pears:
ARS Studies Explore Storage Ideas
Fresh Anjou pears, harvested in late summer from orchards in Oregon and Washington, will usually be available in supermarket produce departments through early spring of the following year. That's thanks to, in part, science-based, long-term-storage technologies that help postpone ripening.
In ongoing studies, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researcher James P. Mattheis and his colleagues are tackling some of the problems that may affect this popular pear while or after it has been kept in refrigerated, low-oxygen storage, also referred to as controlled-atmosphere storage.
Some of this research suggests that tactics that work well for keeping fresh apples free of plant diseases or other disorders while in controlled-atmosphere storage may not necessarily be quickly or easily applied to meet Anjou pears' storage needs.
In one early study, Mattheis and coinvestigator David R. Rudell, Jr., both with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Tree Fruit Research Laboratory at Wenatchee, Wash., and former postdoctoral research associate David Felicetti, tested chlorophyll fluorescence monitoring as a candidate "early warning system" for keeping an eye on the quality of stored pears.
According to Mattheis, the technology is used successfully to detect problems in stored apples. That's because an increase in the fluorescence levels in the chlorophyll in a stored apple's peel apparently correlates well with an increase in problems linked to low oxygen levels.
When apple chlorophyll levels go up during storage, storehouse managers know to raise the oxygen level slightly to prevent damage to the fruit.
But the Anjou research, documented in scientific articles in Postharvest Biology and Technology in 2011 and 2013, showed that the monitoring system didn't work well in detecting either black speck or pithy brown core in Anjou pears that were stored, experimentally, in extremely low oxygen conditions.
The scientists found that black speck and pithy brown core occurred despite the fact that there were no detectable changes in the affected pears' chlorophyll fluorescence levels. For that reason, Mattheis is—for now—advising packers to use caution before relying on chlorophyll fluorescence for monitoring stored Anjou pears in very low oxygen conditions.
Black speck is an unwanted speckling of the pear's skin; pithy brown core, as its name implies, discolors the pear near its core and changes the pear's texture from delectable to unpleasantly fibrous.
This and related ARS-led Anjou pear research at Wenatchee is described in the January 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. ARS is the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
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Catch the subterranean slug-fest-now, live on video
ARS scientists and their colleagues have developed a new chick vaccination system that puts vaccines inside gelatin beads, which are fed to birds, protecting them against intestinal diseases like coccidiosis. Click the image for more information about it.
Delivering Vaccines Chicks
Can Gobble Up
An alternate vaccine delivery system for newborn chicks has been developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to improve vaccination against intestinal diseases like coccidiosis.
A common and costly poultry disease, coccidiosis is caused by tiny, single-celled parasites that belong to the genus Eimeria. Infected birds spread disease by shedding oocysts, the egglike stage of the parasite. The infected birds are slower to gain weight and grow, and sometimes die.
Traditional poultry vaccine methods involve vaccinating chicks in trays on a conveyor with an electronic sprayer. However, some chicks may be missed by these methods and consequently have little defense against diseases.
The alternate system, developed by scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Beltsville, Md., and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, involves putting low doses of live Eimeria oocysts inside gelatin beads, which are fed to birds.
Microbiologist Mark Jenkins and zoologist Ray Fetterer, in BARC's Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, examined the gelatin bead vaccine effectiveness in chicks of layer hens and broilers. One-day-old chicks were immunized by ingesting gelatin beads or with a hand-held sprayer. The group that swallowed the gelatin beads had a greater vaccine uptake than the group that received the vaccine in spray form, and was better protected against coccidiosis.
In another experiment, chicks were reared similarly to birds in a poultry house, vaccinated with the gelatin beads and later given a dose of Eimeria oocysts. The vaccine-bead-fed chicks had greater weight gains than an unvaccinated group and were more capable of converting feed into body mass.
ARS and SwRI scientists have filed a patent application for this research and are working on a gelatin bead vaccine delivery device for commercial poultry houses.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
FOR FURTHER READING:
Egg yolk loaded with antibodies boost poultry immunity
ARS scientists have calculated the dissolved oxygen level that catfish need for growth, giving producers an objective management measure rather than having to rely on when the fish are observed at the surface in distress. Click the image for more information about it.
USDA Pond Management Research
Catfish Industry Embraces
The aquaculture industry is taking notice of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research that gives the precise levels of dissolved oxygen needed to keep pond-raised catfish alive and growing.
Traditionally, fish farmers relied on daily observations to determine if fish were getting enough oxygen. If farmers saw fish sucking air at the water surface, they turned on aeration equipment. If no fish were seen, it was assumed that enough oxygen was being provided.
Les Torrans, a fish biologist in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit in Stoneville, Miss., pinpointed the dissolved oxygen concentrations needed to keep fish alive and growing. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
Dissolved oxygen is the most critical water quality factor in aquaculture. If oxygen gets too low, fish can die or become partially asphyxiated. Lack of air causes fish to lose their appetite. When they eat less, they do not grow as quickly. As a result, instead of fish reaching market size in two years, it may take four to five years.
Torrans, together with his ARS and Mississippi State University colleagues at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center in Stoneville, studied the effects of dissolved oxygen concentration on catfish growth, yield, food consumption and feed conversion.
An oxygen monitoring system was used to maintain precise minimum dissolved oxygen setpoints—3.0, 2.0 and 1.5 parts per million (ppm). Results showed that the minimum dissolved oxygen concentration for optimum production is 2.5 to 3.0 ppm. At this level, catfish growth significantly improved, fewer fish died, feed conversion improved and the production cycle was shorter.
Farmers who use good oxygen management practices can double the growth rate of fish, according to Torrans. The exact amount of aeration needed to maximize fish food intake, growth and production is now available.
FOR FURTHER READING:
USDA researchers seek new ways to boost catfish production
Helping fish get rid of "itch"
ARS researchers and their colleagues recently tested 25 varieties of microgreens for their nutrient levels and found on average they had about five times greater levels of vitamins than their mature counterparts. Click the image for more information about it.
Pack a Nutritional Punch
"Microgreens" is a marketing term used to describe edible greens which germinate from the seeds of vegetables and herbs and are harvested without roots at the seedling stage. The plants at the seedling stage have two fully expanded cotyledons, or seed leaves. They are considered a specialty genre of colorful greens that are good for garnishing salads, soups, plates and sandwiches.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researcher has led a team of scientists who analyzed the key nutrients in 25 different varieties of vegetable microgreens. The study results could be used to estimate levels of vitamins and nutrients in microgreens, according to the scientists.
The study was led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist and national program leader Gene Lester at Beltsville, Md. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The team determined the concentration of essential vitamins and carotenoids in the microgreens. Key nutrients measured were ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), phylloquinone (vitamin K), and beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor), plus other related carotenoids in the cotyledons that are critical for human health and function.
The team showed that different microgreens contained widely differing amounts of vitamins and carotenoids. Total vitamin C content ranged from 20 to 147 milligrams (mg) per 100 grams of cotyledon fresh weight, depending on which plant species was being tested. The amounts of the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein/zeaxanthin, and violaxanthin ranged from about 0.6 mg to 12.1 mg per 100 grams of fresh weight. For comparison, an average apple weighs 100-150 grams. In general, microgreens contained considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids—about five times greater—than their mature plant counterparts.
Among the 25 microgreens tested, red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish had the highest concentrations of vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin K and vitamin E, respectively. Growing, harvesting, and handling conditions may have a considerable effect on nutrient content. Additional studies are being conducted to evaluate the effect of agricultural practices on nutrient retention.
Read more about this research in the January 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
FOR FURTHER READING:
Nutrient retention of safer salads explored
ARS researchers and their industry colleagues tested 10 plant-derived compounds as alternative binders to guar gum in hydraulically applied mulch—hydromulch—like the one being sprayed here. Click the image for more information about it.
Researchers Study Hydromulches
with Guar Gum Substitutes
Highway crews busily spraying a green coating on newly graded slopes may be working with a hydraulically applied mulch, or hydromulch. This temporary, porous layer can help protect newly sown seeds.
According to U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant physiologist Steven F. Vaughn, hydromulches typically contain water; a dye, so that crews can easily see where they've been; a mulch, such as wood fibers; and a binder, which is a compound that helps keep the mulch intact. In a series of laboratory tests, Vaughn and his colleagues have shown that half a dozen plant-derived compounds outperformed guar gum, a commonly used binder made by grinding beans of the guar plant into a powder. When water is added, the powder forms a viscous gum.
Importantly, the alternative binders may prove to be less expensive than guar gum, Vaughn notes.
Vaughn works at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research operated in Peoria, Ill., by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.
The list of top-performing binders, documented in a 2013 scientific article in Industrial Crops and Products, includes xanthan gum, made by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris, and gums extracted from seeds of two members of the mustard family, camelina and lesquerella.
Also making the list: a starch-based material, known as a high-amylose starch-lipid complex, that's made of cornstarch loosely bound to sodium palmitate, a fatty acid found in many everyday vegetable oils.
The panel of 10 compounds selected for the lab tests appears to be unique. And, although starch has been used commercially as a hydromulch binder, the high-amylose starch-lipid complexes, made with an eco-friendly method developed by Vaughn's ARS colleagues, apparently had not been previously lab-tested for this potential use.
Vaughn is now coordinating a series of outdoor tests as a follow-up to the indoor experiments. He collaborated in the research with ARS scientists Robert W. Behle, Mark A. Berhow, Steven C. Cermak, Roque L. Evangelista, George F. Fanta, Frederick C. Felker, and James A. Kenar, and with Edward Lee of HydroStraw, LLC.
FOR FURTHER READING:
USDA scientists use commercial enzyme to improve grain ethanol production
Researchers study benefits of barley as a biofuel crop
ARS researchers have developed a new high quality, long-grain rice that can stand up to barnyardgrass and other weeds without herbicides. Click the image for more information about it.
New Rice Competes with Weeds,
Offers High Grain Quality to Boot
Using conventional breeding methods, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed a new rice cultivar that can hold its own against barnyardgrass and other costly weeds, opening the door to reduced herbicide use.
David Gealy and colleagues with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture (UADA) at Stuttgart developed the new rice, STG061-35-061, by crossing standard U.S. long-grain varieties with indica types from Asia. Indica rices are known for their ability to outcompete many weeds using allelochemical root secretions and other defenses. But these rice types haven't caught on in the United States in large part because of their poor grain quality, notes Gealy, with the ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart.
Gealy, together with UADA rice breeder Karen Moldenhauer and ARS molecular geneticist Melissa Jia, tackled the problem by crossing two commercial tropical japonica rices, 'Katy' and 'Drew,' with PI312777, an indica germplasm line. They evaluated the offspring plants as part of multi-year trials that included comparisons to other rice crosses and chose STG061-35-061 as the top pick for high grain yield and quality, early maturity, stem strength, pest and disease resistance, allelopathy to weeds, and other desirable traits.
The team's trials included evaluations of the new cultivar in both weed-free and weed-infested plots, with barnyard grass as the dominant weed species. Several commercial cultivars, including 'Lemont,' along with indica lines, were also tested.
During the trials, conducted in 2008 and 2009, weed-suppression ratings for the new cultivar were 41 percent higher than 'Katy,' 68 percent higher than 'Lemont,' and about equal to PI 312777. In weed-free plots, the new rice averaged about 5,000 pounds of grain per acre versus 5,400 for 'Drew;' 4,000 for 'Katy;' and 4,300 for 'Lemont.'
According to Gealy, the new rice's combination of traits will make it especially suited to organic and low-input production systems.
Read more about the rice in the January 2014 issue of Agricultural Research.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
FOR FURTHER READING:
USDA links gene flow between weedy and domesticated rice to rising carbon dioxide levels
New rice varieties offer benefits to growers
Testing of wind and dust from dairies shows that they are not a significant source of bacteria, fungi, and endotoxins for nearby residential communities, according to ARS research. Click the image for more information about it.
Dust from Dairies
Not Likely to Pose Hazard to Nearby Communities
Studies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicate the dust stirred up by wind and restless cattle at dairies does contain bacteria, fungi and small bacterial remnants such as endotoxins. But these potentially problematic particles are not found at high levels far beyond the barnyard.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) microbiologist Rob Dungan is investigating dispersal patterns and transport of these bioaerosols. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of responding to climate change. Dungan works at the ARS Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Laboratory in Kimberly, Idaho.
In the western United States, dairy cows are kept in outdoor pens or in a combination of exercise pens and barns at open-freestall facilities. Residents in nearby communities want to know if their proximity to these facilities increases the potential risk of exposure to airborne microorganisms and endotoxins.
In one study, Dungan and his colleagues set up three sampling sites at a 10,000-cow open-freestall dairy to measure airborne endotoxins and culturable microorganisms like bacteria and fungi during fall, spring and summer.
The researchers found that overall average inhalable airborne endotoxin concentrations were 5 endotoxin units (EU) per cubic meter of air 655 feet upwind of the barn—their "background" levels"—and 426 and 56 EU per cubic meter of air 165 and 655 feet downwind of the barn, respectively.
Close to the barn, endotoxin concentrations at night were significantly higher than morning concentrations and similar to afternoon concentrations. The scientists attribute the higher levels to increased animal activity and lower windspeeds during these times. But at the other two sites, endotoxin concentrations did not vary significantly over 24 hours.
Samples of bacterial concentrations showed a similar pattern, with the highest counts—84,000 colonies per cubic meter of air—measured near the barn. The other two sites had less than 8,000 colonies per cubic meter of air. As with the daily endotoxin concentrations, bacterial concentrations near the barn increased significantly at night, but concentrations farther downwind did not.
Results from Dungan's studies have been published in Journal of Animal Science, Environment International, Journal of Environmental Quality, and elsewhere.
FOR FURTHER READING:
ARS scientists have developed blends of cotton gin waste that industry partners are transforming through fungi into custom-shaped packing materials that are similar in appearance to polystyrene foam. Click the image for more information about it.
from Cotton Waste
Proprietary agricultural waste blends provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to industry partners are being used in a new process that literally grows custom packaging products to protect computers and other breakables during shipping.
These biodegradable blends were developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Greg Holt and his colleagues at Lubbock, Texas. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The process involves combining cotton gin waste and fungi inside a cast, called a "tool," where the two ingredients become one, resulting in a spongy-looking material similar in appearance to polystyrene foam. The custom-shaped end product is providing a cost-effective "green" alternative to extruded polystyrene foam packaging—an estimated $2 billon market.
Holt works at the ARS Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Lubbock. His industry partner, Ecovative Design of Green Island, N.Y., developed the patented method that uses fungi as a workhorse.
Woody cotton waste is blended, pasteurized, and embedded into a customized cast tool. Then the tool is injected with the fungus, which grows onto, in, and around the cotton waste, eventually forming a new, consistently textured, solid mass. Once the tool is opened, a custom-shaped solid mass emerges, which is biodegradable, compostable and flame retardant, but has the cushioning strength of synthetic packing material.
To learn which blends meet or exceed the same characteristics of extruded polystyrene foam, the lab evaluated the physical and mechanical properties of six different cotton-byproduct blends as a substrate for the fungal colonization.
Each blend was inoculated with a single fungus using two different inoculation methods, for a total of 12 treatments that were evaluated for numerous physical and mechanical properties. Overall, the treatments tested well, and the results indicated that the blend and inoculation method needed are based on the end-use of the product.
The study was published in September 2012 in the Journal of Biobased
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Researchers develop fully cooked food-aid product
Cotton bests other spray-on erosion control mulches
ARS scientists are helping catfish farmers increase production by breeding hybrid catfish—crosses between channel catfish and blue catfish like these. Click the image for more information about it.
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Lending a Hand
in Hybrid Catfish Production
In the catfish industry, it's well-known that hybrid catfish—a cross of the channel catfish with the blue catfish—generally have better growth, higher survival rates and better meat yield than purebred channel catfish. Although production has increased from 30 million hybrid fry in 2007 to about 150 million in 2012, these fish are not easy to breed.
Thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists, producers are getting help learning how to produce hybrids. Using hybrids instead of channel catfish could increase their production by 20 to 30 percent.
Unlike channel catfish that spawn naturally, the hybrid catfish is a cross between two species that rarely mate with each other. Hybrid fry production involves hormone-assisted reproduction. Geneticists Brian Bosworth and Nagaraj Chatakondi in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit in Stoneville, Miss., work with their Mississippi State University colleagues at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center to give hands-on training to farmers who are learning about the hybrid breeding process. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
In addition, ARS scientists study catfish nutrition, genetics and management practices to produce a better catfish, whether it's channel, blue or hybrid. Research includes improving hybrid embryo production by determining the effects of the calcium content of the water on the hatching success of eggs, and developing a method to identify poor-quality eggs before they hatch.
Geoff Waldbieser, a ARS molecular biologist at Stoneville, is developing DNA markers for channel and blue catfish to determine genetic diversity, produce pedigree populations and identify markers associated with important traits like meat yield and disease resistance. Also at Stoneville, ARS physiologist Brian Peterson is investigating the relationship between gene expression, catfish growth and immune function.
While great improvement has been made in catfish breeding, one goal is to provide research to help U.S producers grappling with a slow economy, high feed costs and fish imports from foreign countries. Studies are under way to determine desirable heritable traits, improve germplasm, identify crucial water-quality factors, and develop better production systems.
Read more about this research in the November/December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
FOR FURTHER READING:
Vaccines could help what's ailing fish
ARS scientists have demonstrated that giving interferons (proteins produced by cells to stop viruses) can be used to protect animals immediately against foot-and-mouth infection in the window before vaccination provides protection. Click the image for more information about it.
to Fight FMD (Foot & Mouth Disease)
Proteins called interferons are among the latest weapons U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are using to combat foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). These proteins kill or stop viruses from growing and reproducing.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit, located at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Orient Point, N.Y., have demonstrated that interferons can be used to protect animals immediately against FMD infection. This rapid protection gives vaccines time to induce the animal's immune response needed to fight the disease.
Interferons consist of three families—type I (alpha-beta), type II (gamma), and type III (lambda). Retired ARS chemist Marvin Grubman discovered that type I is very effective in controlling FMD virus infection. Pigs inoculated with a viral vector containing the gene coding for swine type I interferon and challenged with FMD virus were protected for five days.
To cover the seven-day window it takes for vaccines to start protecting against FMD, Grubman combined type I and II in an antiviral vaccine-delivery system, which quickly blocks the virus in pigs. In combination with a vaccine, this patented technology provided thorough protection from day one until the vaccine immune response kicked in seven days later.
These methods work well in pigs, but not in cattle. However, ARS microbiologist Teresa de los Santos, computational biologist James Zhu and Grubman have identified a type III interferon that rapidly protects cattle against FMD virus as early as one day after vaccination. In laboratory tests, disease was significantly delayed in animals exposed to FMD virus after previously being treated with bovine type III interferon, as compared to a control group that did not receive treatment.
In other experiments, the type III interferon treatment was found to be even more protective in cows that were naturally exposed to FMD, according to de los Santos.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
Read more about this research in the October 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
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Children who ate breakfast were better able to tackle dozens of math problems in rapid-fire succession than kids who didn't have a morning meal, an ARS-funded nutrition study has shown. Click the image for more information about it.
A "Plus" for Kids' Math Performance, Study Shows
Eating breakfast—or choosing to skip it—may significantly influence a child's ability to solve math problems, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded nutrition study suggests.Scientist R. Terry Pivik's work with 81 healthy children has indicated that those who ate breakfast were better able to tackle dozens of math problems in rapid-fire succession than peers who didn't have a morning meal.
Pivik directs the Brain Function Laboratory at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, and is also a research professor in pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Both the center and the university are in Little Rock. In his study of 8- to 11-year-old volunteers, each child took two morning math tests, with a 40-minute break in between. Half of the kids ate breakfast during the break; the others did not.
During the math tests, Pivik used EEG (electroencephalographic) sensors to harmlessly record electrical activity generated over regions of children's brains that are involved in solving math problems. The sensors were fitted into a soft cap that the kids wore as they viewed simple math problems presented to them on a computer monitor, calculated the answer in their head, then selected one answer from among three onscreen choices.
EEG data showed that youngsters who had skipped breakfast had to exert more effort to perform the "mental math" that the tests required, and to stay focused on the task at hand, according to Pivik. In contrast, those who had eaten breakfast used less mental effort to solve the problems, stayed more focused on the tests, and improved their scores in the post-breakfast test.
Previous studies by researchers elsewhere have shown an association between nutrition and academic performance. However, the design of the Arkansas study had some important differences. For example, the researchers carefully controlled the time at which the kids ate breakfast, as well as what they were served. The study is apparently the first published investigation, with 8- to 11-year-olds, that controlled the time and content of the morning meal and used EEG technology to monitor brain activity while the children were solving math problems.
Pivik and nutrition center colleagues Yuyuan Gu and Kevin B. Tennal, along with Stephen D. Chapman—formerly at the center—documented their findings in a peer-reviewed article published in 2012 in the scientific journal Physiology & Behavior.
The research supports the USDA priority of enhancing children's health and nutrition. ARS is the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The study is described in the November-December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
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ARS scientists have developed a two-gene strategy that can boost production of the beneficial phytochemical pterostilbene in crops like blueberries that already produce it and also add it into crops that don't commonly produce it such as grapes. Click the image for larger verison.
Ramping Up Pterostilbene
A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists has developed a way to boost production of a beneficial plant compound called pterostilbene.
The discovery by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists enables crop species to produce or increase production of pterostilbene. Stilbenes are a subgroup of beneficial plant phytochemicals called "polyphenols." The approach could pave the way for ramping up levels of potentially healthful pterostilbene in crops that normally produce it, such as grapes and berries.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
ARS molecular biologists Scott R. Baerson and Zhiqiang Pan and chemist Agnes Rimando headed the study. They and plant physiologist Franck Dayan, a coauthor, are with the ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Unit in Oxford, Miss. Another coauthor, ARS plant pathologist James Polashock, works with the agency's Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Lab in Beltsville, Md., but is based in Chatsworth, N.J.
There are two stilbenes—resveratrol and pterostilbene—which may possess similar purported beneficial health properties. During their work, the team showed that a previously characterized and patented gene called SbOMT3, which they had isolated from the sorghum plant, is capable of converting resveratrol to pterostilbene. They then built on that conversion activity by co-expressing SbOMT3 with a stilbene-synthase gene, AhSTS3, that had been isolated from the peanut plant.
For the proof-of-concept study, both genes were successfully incorporated into the chromosomes of two different model host plants, Arabidopsis and tobacco. The two-gene strategy generated transgenic plants that were able to produce pterostilbene, the authors reported. The study results were published in Plant Biotechnology Journal in 2012.
An ARS patent, issued in 2010, describes the ability of SbOMT3 to produce transgenic plants that express pterostilbene, and describes the two-gene strategy.
Read more about this research in the November/December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
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