THERE IS A BROAD LOVE FOR HORSES, WHETHER FOR FUN AND RECREATION, OR FOR WORK. GEORGE TALKS TO THE ARIZONA LIVESTOCK INSPECTOR ABOUT HIS CONNECTION WITH HORSES, AND A DISEASE HE WANTS HORSE OWNERS TO WATCH FOR.
Video From the Field with NAFB Farm Broadcaster George Gatley
THURSDAY, AUGUST 28th, 2014
"This program is brought to you by ..." Those words, or ones close to them, were heard on this date 92 years ago in what is believed to be the first commercial broadcast on the new medium of radio. Station WEAF in New York City carried that first ad -- not for soap or automobiles -- but for a group of apartment buildings in Queens. The cost was $100 for 10 minutes of programming. At the time, there were just 30 stations in the whole country, and only 60,000 households had receivers. Now, there are some 15,400 radio stations in the nation, and two thirds of Americans over the age of 12 access the medium daily.
TO THOSE THAT VISIT THIS PAGE!!!!!
THIS IS A VERY SAD WEEK FOR ME, GEORGE GATLEY, BUT AFTER 56 YEARS IN RADIO AND TELEVISION BROADCASTING, I AM HANGING UP THE MICROPHONE AFTER FRIDAY'S FARM AND RANCH NEWS PROGRAMS. FRIDAY'S WEBSITE WILL BE MY LAST UPDATE. IT'S BEEN A WONDERFUL JOURNEY FOR A DEDICATED HEART FOR AMERICA'S STRENGTH, AGRICULTURE. I TRULY WANT TO THANK MY RADIO STATION AFFILIATES WHO HAVE PUT UP WITH ME SINCE 1979 IN THIS ADVENTURE, AND I WANT TO THANK THE MANY, MANY LISTENERS AND VIEWERS TO MY PROGRAMS, AND THE THOUSANDS OF YOU THAT COME TO THIS WEBSITE FOR THE INFORMATION I PUT TOGETHER ON IT. THIS IS GEORGE, READY TO SIGN OFF, AFTER THIS FRIDAY'S FARM RADIO PROGRAMS.
AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION COMMENTARY
By: Stewart Truelsen
We can only guess how the decision was made to ban food imports from most of the Western World. Stewart Truelsen says perhaps it went something like this:
(Right Click to Download MP3 File )
(Click Here for The Produce News)
“Justice Department Requires Tyson Foods
to Divest Sow Purchasing Business.”
The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday that it will require Tyson Foods to divest Heinold Hog Markets in order to proceed with its $8.5 billion acquisition of The Hillshire Brands Company. The department said it would require the sale of the sow purchasing business because the transaction with Hillshire would have combined companies that account for more than a third of sow purchases from U.S. farmers, thereby likely reducing competition for purchases of sows from farmers. Tyson Foods, along with Hillshire, announced they have agreed with terms of the settlement. Under the terms, Tyson must divest Heinold Hog Markets in its entirety to a buyer approved by the Antitrust Division. State Attorney Generals of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri joined the department in the civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed transaction. The acquisition of Hillshire by Tyson Foods would combine two major purchasers of sows from farmers in the United States and eliminate the benefit farmers have received from the competition between Hillshire and Tyson’s Heinold Hog Markets. said Bill Baer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, stated “Without the divestiture, the proposed acquisition would have eliminated a significant customer for farmers’ sows and likely would have resulted in less competition in this important agricultural market.”
WOTUS Proposal Maps.”
The Environmental Protection Agency released maps detailing the extent of the Waters of the U.S. proposal on Wednesday. The maps were handed over to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Similar maps were made by tthe National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other agricultural organizations. NCBA alleges the maps show individual states facing upwards of 100,000 additional stream miles that could be regulated under the proposed regulation. NCBA’s Ashley McDonald called the maps “the smoking gun” for agriculture. She stated “These maps show that EPA knew exactly what they were doing and knew exactly how expansive their proposal was before they published it." Knowledge of the maps came as the Committee was doing research in preparation for a hearing regarding the proposed Waters of the United States rule. The maps were kept hidden while the Agencies marched forward with rulemaking that fundamentally re-defines private property rights, said Chairman Representative Lamar Smith. He stated “Given the astonishing picture they paint, I understand the EPA’s desire to minimize the importance of these maps.” You can see the maps online at science dot house dot gov. (www.science.house.gov.)
“Net Farm Income Forecast
To Fall in 2014”
USDA has forecasted net farm income for 2014 will be $113.2 billion, down 13.8 percent from 2013’s forecast of $131.3 billion. If that holds true, 2014 net farm income would be the lowest since 2010, but would still remain more than $25 billion above the previous 10-year annual average. Net cash income is forecast at $123 billion, down 6 percent from 2013. Net cash income is projected to decline less than net farm income primarily because it includes the sale of more than $10 billion in carryover stocks from 2013. Net farm income reflects only earnings from current calendar-year production. The forecast was released earlier this week. After adjusting for inflation, 2013’s net farm income is expected to be the highest since 1973. The 2014 net farm income forecast would be the fifth highest. Total production expenses are forecast to be 4 percent higher in 2014, which would be the fifth consecutive increase since last falling in 2009. Livestock receipts are expected to increase by more than 15 percent in 2014, due to a 21-percent increase in dairy, a 20-percent increase in hog, and a 15-percent increase in cattle receipts. Crop receipts are expected to decrease 7 percent in 2014, led by a $12.8-billion decline in corn receipts.
(AgriMarketing Weekly News Here)
Argentina Restricts Beef Exports
as Price Control”
Argentina has placed restrictions on beef exports for 15 days in hopes to stem the rise of prices on the countries domestic market. The Cattle Site reports the decision sparked criticism by business leaders in the sector with some voices saying the strategy will have "no positive effects." The Argentine government claims beef prices have climbed 54 percent since the beginning of the year and, over the past two weeks cattle prices have increased 10-15 percent. The Head of the Argentine Beef Trade Chamber Miguel Schiariti criticized the government's decision and said that the rise in cattle prices follows a restriction in the supply due to roads' "bad conditions,” according to Meatingplace. Schiariti stated "This is no way to fix the situation.” Further, he states it is the repeat of the policies that lead Argentina to lose 10 million cattle head, to having 135 slaughterhouses closed and losing 16,000 jobs
Ag Web News
DROVER'S CATTLE NETWORK
It’s only natural, but what does that mean?
What does “natural” mean when it appears on a food label? A recent survey shows consumers really don’t know.
FULL STORY »
RESEARCH in AGRICULTURE
Web Addresses from Research in Agriculture stories:
Renewable Energy for America Program or REAP - www.rurdev.usda.gov
RCDI GRANTS - www.grants.gov (Scroll through to find RCDI)
Teachers' & Students' fun, learning about Agiculture at: http://www.myamericanfarm.org
ARS scientists are using special high resolution photography to improve identification and taxonomic descriptions of tiny Trissolcus wasp species that parasitize stink bug eggs and could have potential as biological control agents. Click the image for more information about it.
Aid Studies of Beneficial Wasps
Using specialized digital photography methods, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are producing high-resolution images of members of the wasp superfamily Platygastroidea.
Of particular interest is using the images to improve the identification and taxonomic description of one- to two-millimeter-long Trissolcus wasp species that parasitize stink bugs and could have potential as biological control agents. The wasps' larvae hatch and feed inside the bug's eggs, killing them in the process. Some species attack the eggs of the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), an invasive pest from Asia that's become established in 39 U.S. states and, in 2010, inflicted $37 million in damage to corn, soybeans, grapes and other crops.
According to Elijah Talamas, a post-doctoral scientist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Systematic Entomology Laboratory in Washington, D.C., the photographic process begins with positioning a wasp specimen under a specialized camera with a single-column lens attached to a vertical joist, and then taking stacks of photographs throughout the depth of the specimen.
Each photograph contains a small part of the insect in focus due to the small depth of field at high magnification. The "slices" are then combined into a single, highly detailed digital image magnified up to 100 times the specimen's original size. The image is uploaded to online databases operated by university cooperators and linked to interactive keys, which guide users to specimen descriptions and other information.
Each specimen has a unique identification number—a collecting unit identifier (CUID)—which allows a user to determine the specimen's origin on a species distribution map. Taxonomists can refer to a specific specimen via its CUID without ambiguity, according to Talamas.
His efforts provide valuable taxonomic support to ARS researchers in Newark, Delaware, who are examining the host specificity and safety of several Asian Trissolcus species with potential use in biocontrol release programs against BMSB.
Read more about this work in the August 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
ARS has developed and licensed the first sensor that can test peanut moisture levels in the shell and on the fly when farmers take their peanuts to local "buying points." To sell, peanuts must be dried to a kernel moisture of less than 10.5 percent to prevent fungal growth.
Moisture Meter Technology
for In-shell Peanuts Licensed
A new meter that measures the moisture of peanuts inside the shell has been developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and licensed by a manufacturer of instruments for use in agriculture. The moisture-sensing meter was invented by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineers Samir Trabelsi and Stuart O. Nelson (retired) in the ARS Quality and Safety Assessment Research Unit at Athens, Georgia.
ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priorities of promoting international food security and ensuring food safety.
Peanuts need to be dried to a kernel moisture content of less than 10.5 percent for storage purposes because higher moisture levels can lead to fungal growth. The meter is based on patented low-power microwave sensing technology and an algorithm that produces a crop-specific moisture calibration equation, also developed by Trabelsi. The equation is used to customize an individual meter for use with a specific crop type.
When a sample material is exposed to microwaves, part of the wave is transmitted and part is reflected, providing the individual "electrical signature" of the sample material being tested. The patented calibration method uses this information to produce a moisture calibration equation that is programmed into the meter.
U.S. peanuts are required by the USDA to be inspected at local peanut "buying points," and farmers take their peanuts there to be weighed, cleaned, inspected, graded, and ultimately purchased. During peanut grading, inspectors determine quality factors such as peanut size, shell size, peanut damage, levels of foreign material, , and kernel moisture levels. If the kernel moisture level is too high, the sample is marked "no sale," and the corresponding lot of peanuts has to be further dried.
Trabelsi worked under an agreement with Dickey-John Corporation, based in Auburn, Illinois, a wholly owned subsidiary of TSI Incorporated, based in Shoreview, Minnesota, to build a working prototype of the latest version of the patented in-shell peanut moisture sensor. Marketing research and evaluations are being conducted to get a better sense of what more is needed to bring the meter to commercial markets, according to Beau Farmer, chief technology officer with TSI.
ARS scientists have developed a more efficient way to test for Marek's disease and a new vaccine, called CVRM2, to protect chickens against the viruses that cause it. Click the image for more information about it.
Test Alteration Simplifies Diagnosis
of Poultry Diseases
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have found a way to make it easier to detect two serious poultry diseases by modifying an already available test.
The two diseases, avian reticuloendotheliosis and Marek's disease, are highly contagious and can cause cancer-like diseases, production losses and death in birds. Marek's disease usually affects young adult chickens, while reticuloendotheliosis infects chickens as well as other poultry—turkeys, ducks, geese and quail.
Aly Fadly, research leader of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory (ADOL) in East Lansing, Michigan, modified a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay to detect unique genetic sequences of the viruses that cause the diseases.
Diagnosing diseases involves taking tissue from the bird's affected organs, preserving it, and identifying the virus by microscopic examination, which most laboratories are equipped to do. However, if a definitive diagnosis cannot be reached, fresh or frozen tissue from affected birds must be obtained and sent to the laboratory for further testing.
The modified PCR allows diagnostic laboratories to extract virus DNA from preserved tissues to detect the two diseases. It offers an effective alternative to current cumbersome biological and molecular tests that require frozen or fresh tissue samples, according to Fadly. In addition, there is no need to rush more expensive frozen tissues to laboratories. That's because samples are preserved in formalin, a cheap, readily available solid. Samples preserved in formalin can be shipped by ground mail, making the process less expensive.
In other research, ADOL scientists are developing vaccines to help prevent the spread of Marek's and other avian diseases. They have developed a new vaccine, called CVRM2, which effectively protects chickens against Marek's disease viruses. ARS recently approved a license agreement with a private company to make CVRM2 into a commercial vaccine.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA's priority of promoting international food security.
ARS researchers have found insect-killing nematodes like this small roundworm tend to move together as a group like a school of fish or a pack of wolves, behavior that may contribute to the patchy distribution, or clumping, of natural or applied entomopathogenic nematode populations that is seen in crop fields. Click the image for more information about it.
Ins and Outs of Beneficial Nematode Movement
Tiny worms called nematodes don't move randomly through the soil, but instead find their way around by relying on electrical fields, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
A research team led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist David Shapiro-Ilan and plant pathologist Clive Bock at the agency's Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Georgia, found that the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae was attracted to an electrical current they applied to an agar dish. Based on that lab study, they concluded the worms rely on electricity, or electrical fields, to help them navigate in the soil. They then hypothesized that the nematodes may also use magnetic fields for the same purpose.
ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
They tested their theory of magnetic fields by placing magnets on opposing sides of a petri dish containing agar and S. carpocapsae nematodes. One magnet was oriented toward the North Pole and the other magnet was oriented to the South Pole. The research team noted a directional response of the nematodes, with more of them moving toward the South Pole than the North.
This movement in response to magnetic fields, called magnetoreception, can be important in facilitating or enhancing foraging ability in various organisms. The research was published in the International Journal for Parasitology.
The scientists also looked at the movement of six different entomopathogenic (insect-killing) nematode species and found that their movement was not random. Instead, the worms moved together as a group. According to Shapiro-Ilan, this type of movement was like group behavior in other animals, such as a school of fish or a pack of wolves.
Based on these findings, the researchers contend that aggregated movement behavior may further contribute to a patchy distribution, or clumping, of natural or applied entomopathogenic nematode populations that is seen in crop fields. These findings were also published in the International Journal for Parasitology.
The studies have implications for understanding nematode foraging behavior and improving natural pest control tactics. Knowledge of how and why beneficial nematodes find their prey is essential to optimizing their use in biocontrol programs in the future.
James Bolton, with no formal training in taxonomy or art, drew so accurately that, for the first time, mycologists in different countries could be sure they were discussing the same mushroom, making his book an essential reference until cameras became practical, about 100 years later. Left: Bolton's watercolor of Agaric violaceus, drawn about 1784. Right: Agaric violaceus, photographed in 2008. Copyright 2008 Dan Molter.
Artful Work of Fungi
at the ARS National Agricultural Library
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Library (NAL) probably does not come to mind as a place to go mushroom hunting, but it is the place to find a great mycological treasure.
The library features James Bolton's original hand-drawn manuscript of An History of Fungusses Growing about Halifax, 1784-1791, or Icones Fungorum Circa Halifax Sponte Nascentium [Halifax, England], as it was titled as the first English-language work devoted to the fungi more than 200 years ago.
The manuscript is six volumes with 242 exquisite watercolors of mostly life-size mushrooms, with extravagant detail about what Bolton discovered of their life stages and biology. He described many new species or new British records, although the number was later reduced by taxonomic reclassifications.
Because of the exactness of his depictions, the volumes became a standard resource for mushroom identification. It is as regularly quoted today as it was in the early 1800s, according to Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh head of mycology (retired) Roy Watling.
Exactly what brought the manuscript to NAL's attention remains a mystery, although famed USDA plant pathologist and mycologist Cornelius Lott Shear wrote in a 1932 Transactions of the British Mycological Society article that NAL purchased the manuscript for 1,000 Swiss francs from "an old bookseller in Zurich, Switzerland."
Some think it could have been John Stevenson who discovered the Bolton manuscript or advocated for its purchase. Stevenson was in charge of the National Fungus Collections at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, from 1927 to 1960. Stevenson was known for collecting all things mycological.
The manuscript has significance far beyond its prized historical value. One unquestionable extra is that its pages preserve three actual specimens of fungi. Except for a specimen preserved at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a few very recently uncovered in a brown paper packet at the Sunderland Museum in England, these are the only fungi collected by Bolton known to have survived.
According to Shear, the last mention of the original manuscript before 1932 was in The Halifax Naturalist in 1902 that said, "It is doubtful whether the originals for the History of Fungusses are still in existence. They were probably destroyed by fire when the old hall at Exeton [the Earl of Gainsborough's family seat] was burned in 1810."
But those who possessed it during the 141 years between the final volume's publication and its 1932 purchase by NAL must have cared for the manuscript well, as it is in excellent condition.
Read more about Bolton's manuscript in the August 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Liberty, a new type of switchgrass developed by the Agricultural Research Service, can potentially yield as much as 75 to 160 more gallons of ethanol per acre than previously possible, a landmark breakthrough. Photo courtesy of Ben Fann, ARS.
New Switchgrass Variety
Promises More Biofuel at Lower Cost
The release of a new type of switchgrass specifically designed for bioenergy generation has been announced by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers and their partners. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have spent decades working on different projects that contributed to the development of the cultivar "Liberty," which can yield eight tons of biomass per acre.
ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research contributes to the USDA priority of developing new bioenergy sources.
The release of the new cultivar is a significant milestone for ARS. It's also a key accomplishment for CenUSA Bioenergy, a project funded by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which is tasked with developing perennial bioenergy production systems in the Midwest. An announcement about Liberty was published in the Journal of Plant Registrations in June.
ARS researchers who contributed to Liberty's development include retired geneticist Ken Vogel, agronomist Rob Mitchell, molecular biologist Gautam Sarath, and geneticist Michael Casler. Mitchell and Sarath work at the ARS Grain, Forage and Bioenergy Research Unit in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Casler works at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
Liberty contains traits from southern lowland switchgrass types that result in high yields, as well as traits from northern upland switchgrass types that support winter hardiness. In a 16-year breeding study, the new cultivar increased biomass production by as much as 43 percent compared to the parent lines.
Another plus with the new cultivar is that gains in yield were achieved without an increase in nitrogen fertilizer use, which helped lower expected production costs on the farm by approximately $20 to $30 per ton. With the increased yields, each acre of switchgrass could potentially be used to produce 75 to 160 more gallons of ethanol.
The development of Liberty followed several ARS investigations into the evolutionary patterns of switchgrass, which is a native North American perennial with a highly complex genome. This work has resulted in the identification of eight regional gene pools with traits that could be useful in developing switchgrass varieties for different production environments.
Results from these studies have been published in Genetica and Crop Science.
Read more about this work in the August 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS scientists are analyzing the DNA of apple tree rootstocks to identify specific genes that provide better nutrient uptake and therefore enhance tree health and productivity. Click the image for more information about it.
Rooting Out the Best Genes
in Apple Rootstocks
By studying the nutrient content of leaves and the DNA of apple trees, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Geneva, New York, have identified key genes that could boost the nutrient uptake, productivity and dwarfing characteristics of rootstocks critical to the nation's $3 billion apple industry.
Gennaro Fazio, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist, produces new rootstock varieties in collaboration with Cornell scientists at the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit in Geneva. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Most commercial apple trees are bred in two parts: the fruit-bearing scion above ground, and the rootstock that forms the roots and foundation below ground. The scion determines the variety of apple, but the rootstock determines the tree's size, when it will begin to bear fruit, and how well it resists soil diseases and transports nutrients to the scion.
Fazio and his Cornell partners analyzed genetic markers in two populations of rootstocks that had been studied and characterized for more than seven years to see if genes associated with certain markers play a role in dwarfing, early bearing and fruit productivity. Dwarfing produces trees that are smaller, increasing yields per acre. Early bearing reduces the wait required for a young tree to begin producing fruit. In recent years, Geneva rootstocks have reduced the time from five to two years.
The results showed the location of a new genetic marker (Dw2) and described its relationship to a previously discovered marker (Dw1), shedding light on how genes associated with both markers and their locations affect dwarfing, early bearing and productivity. The results, published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, will boost efforts by researchers and breeders to improve apple rootstocks.
In another study, the scientists measured nutrients in the leaves of Gala apple trees grafted to one set of rootstocks, and the nutrients in leaves of Golden Delicious trees grafted to another set. Nutrient uptake is a key to tree health and productivity. They also analyzed the DNA of the rootstocks to search for genes associated with enhanced nutrient uptake. The results, published in 2013 in Aspects of Applied Biology, showed that certain genes are likely to enhance the uptake of key nutrients, such as calcium and phosphorus.
ARS researchers have discovered there is a one-cell taste receptor located on the mouthpart of mosquitoes that reacts to DEET, the most common active ingredient in insect repellents, as well as the better known smell (olfactory) receptor cells. Click the image for more information about it.
Stimulate Mosquito Taste Receptors
Mosquitoes not only have a sense of smell for certain insect repellents, but they also have a sense of taste for these chemicals, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Joseph Dickens, an entomologist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) in Beltsville, Maryland, discovered for the first time that a taste receptor located on a mouthpart of mosquitoes is sensitive to DEET, the most common active ingredient in insect repellents.
Scientists have known for some time that DEET works by interacting with the mosquito's smell (olfactory) receptor cells, causing the insect to become confused and to fly away. Dickens' findings, published in Naturwissenschaften, demonstrate that DEET also interacts with a specific mosquito taste (gustatory) receptor, which could indicate the existence of a sensory pathway for taste that deters blood feeding by the insects.
Dickens and his colleagues, working in BARC's Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory, recorded responses of yellow fever mosquitoes to six different chemicals. They tested a feeding deterrent, quinine and various insect repellents: DEET, citronellal, picaridin and IR3535.
The experiments involved pinpointing the pair of tiny flaps located at the tip of the mosquito's proboscis or "beak." These flaps, which have tiny hairs that serve as chemical sensing organs, make contact with a human's skin. Electrodes were placed on a single hair to record the electrical impulses from nerve cells within the hair.
Scientists discovered that three sensory cells were activated in the hair. One cell was activated by salt, a second cell was activated by sugar, and a third cell was activated by either quinine or the insect repellents tested, including DEET.
Mosquitoes can sometimes transmit pathogens that cause harmful diseases like malaria, yellow fever and West Nile virus. Learning more about their sense of taste and smell could help scientists develop better protection methods and management techniques for mosquitoes, other insects and arthropods.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
Decades of ARS research on weather and range conditions shows up to two-thirds of variation in Hereford cattle production can be explained by seasonal weather variations, information that may help producers deal with future production challenges associated with global climate change. Click the image for more information about it.
Finding Long-term Links
between Weather and Cattle Production
Decades of data kept by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are providing valuable information about how seasonal weather patterns affect cattle production.
These findings are the result of a series of studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers Justin Derner, Justin Reeves and others, and could help cattle producers improve management strategies for dealing with future production challenges associated with global climate change. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of responding to climate change.
In one project, the team determined the effects of seasonal weather variables on cow-calf production in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The cattle production data they used were obtained from records kept from 1975 to 2012 on Herefords and Red Angus crossbreeds.
The scientists found that over the study period, up to two-thirds of the variation in Hereford cattle production could be explained by seasonal weather variations, with wet winters and springs increasing production.
The team also looked at 30 years of data from yearling steers at Cheyenne to determine if seasonal precipitation and temperature affected beef production at light, moderate, and heavy stocking rates. They found that cool, wet springs and warm, wet summers increased beef production at moderate and heavy stocking rates, with no strong weather effects seen for light stocking.
The scientists also used data collected at Mandan, North Dakota, from 1936 to 2005 on yearling Hereford steer production at light and heavy stocking rates both before and after the native rangeland vegetation was invaded by non-native Kentucky bluegrass in the 1980s. Models that the researchers developed with the Mandan data suggested that up to three-fourths of the variation in cattle production could be attributed to seasonal weather conditions. Interestingly, cattle production became more sensitive to seasonal weather fluctuations after the invasive grass arrived.
Derner and Reeves work at the ARS Rangeland Resources Research Unit in Cheyenne. Other ARS scientists who collaborated on the work include Matt Sanderson, Scott Kronberg and specialist John Hendrickson, who work at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan; and Mark Petersen and Lance Vermeire, who work at the ARS Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, Montana.
These research findings have been published in Rangeland Ecology & Management, Livestock Science, and Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment.
ARS scientists have found that tannic acid, a plant compound, can bind to the proteins in peanuts, potentially reducing the physical reaction if an allergic person ate peanut residues accidentally contained in food products. Click the image for more information about it.
Tannic Acid Has Potential to
Reduce Allergenicity of Peanuts
A phytochemical compound called tannic acid may be an effective scavenger of peanut allergens, according to a study by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. The study was conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food technologist Si-Yin Chung and support scientist Shawndrika Reed, in the agency's Food Processing and Sensory Quality Research Unit in New Orleans, Louisiana. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The researchers wanted to see if tannic acid can react with peanut allergens in a way that would help reduce or prevent allergic responses that are induced when people accidentally ingest peanut residues contained in food products. Tannic acid, or tannin, is a phenolic antioxidant commonly found in legumes, coffee, tea, and certain tree barks. It has been shown to bind to allergenic protein fragments.
Chung and his colleagues studied whether mixing tannic acid with major peanut allergen proteins (Ara h 1 and Ara h 2) would form stable complexes (pellets) that could prevent release of the peanut allergens in the human stomach and gut. If so, the allergen complexes could be excreted and an allergic reaction could be reduced or possibly prevented. Allergic reaction occurs when an antibody called immunoglobulin E binds to the allergenic protein fragments, leading to the release of histamines.
For the study, Chung mixed four different levels of tannic acid in peanut butter extract. The pellets that were formed and collected were each tested in a solution at the acidic level of the human stomach (pH 2) and then in another solution at the alkaline level of the intestines (pH 8). The solutions were analyzed for allergens that might be released from the pellets under those pH conditions. Results showed that the pellets formed at tannic acid concentrations greater than 0.5 milligrams per milliliter of peanut butter extract did not release major peanut allergens at either pH level.
The study shows that tannic acid holds promise as a scavenger that binds to allergenic peanut proteins and keeps those proteins from being released in the stomach and gut after ingestion.
An ARS scientist and his cooperators have devised a tractor-mounted system that uses compressed air and grit particles of dried corn cobs to shred small annual weeds to give organic growers an efficient way to remove weeds growing between rows of corn, soybean and other row crops. Click the image for more information about it.
Pelting Weeds with Particles
Instead of Spraying Them with Herbicides
It takes real grit to control tenacious weeds. Although determination is an important attribute in farmers, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agronomist Frank Forcella is counting on grit of another kind in his approach to battling weeds.
In collaboration with university researchers, Forcella has devised a tractor-mounted system that uses compressed air to shred small annual weeds like common lambsquarters with high-speed particles of grit made from dried corn cobs. Ongoing field trials may confirm the system's potential to help organic growers tackle within-row infestations of weeds that have sprouted around the bases of corn, soybean and other row crops.
Current organic weed control methods include scorching, soil tillage and hand-pulling, among others. Still, weeds remain a chief agronomic concern requiring new approaches, according to Forcella, with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris, Minnesota. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
Dubbed "Propelled Abrasive Grit Management" (PAGMan), the weed control system Forcella is testing disperses 0.5-millimeter-sized grit particles in a cone-shaped pattern at the rate of about 300 pounds per acre using 100 pounds per square inch of compressed air.
This summer will mark a second round of field trials of PAGMan on multiple rows of silage corn grown on 10-acre plots of certified organic land in Minnesota. Field trial results from 2013 showed season-long weed control levels of 80 to 90 percent in corn using two treatments of the abrasive grit-one at the first leaf stage, and the second at the three- or five-leaf stage of corn growth. Corn yields also compared favorably to those in hand-weeded plots used for comparison.
The crop plants escape harm because they're taller than the weeds during treatment and their apical stems (growing points) are protected beneath the soil by thick plant parts.
Results from small-plot studies have been published in Weed Technology and other journals.
ARS scientists have discovered two genes, one in the confection sunflower line HA-R6 and one in the oilseed line RHA 397, that confer resistance against all rust strains they have been tested against to date. Click the image for more information about it.
Rust-resistance Genes in Sunflower
Two genes that protect sunflowers against rust disease have been discovered by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) molecular geneticist Lili Qi at the agency's Sunflower and Plant Biology Research Unit in Fargo, North Dakota, and her collaborators discovered that the genes, R13a and R13b, confer resistance against all rust strains tested to date. Her collaborators include Thomas Gulya and Brent Hulke at the ARS Fargo unit, and Li Gong and Samuel Markell with North Dakota State University. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
The R13a gene was found in the confection sunflower line called HA-R6, while the R13b gene was in the oilseed line RHA 397. The USDA inbred line HA-R6 is one of the few confection sunflower lines resistant to rust.
Rust is a serious fungal disease of sunflowers grown around the world. The disease can significantly reduce sunflower yields and has been increasing in severity in North America in recent years. In 2013, U.S. farmers produced more than 2 billion pounds of sunflowers, worth more than $757 million.
Sunflower seeds are predominantly grown as an oilseed crop, but some varieties are specifically grown as "confection" varieties, meaning their kernels are for eating, either raw or roasted.
An economic and environmentally friendly method to control rust is to use resistant cultivars and hybrids. Developing genetically resistant hybrids is the preferred approach for disease management, but few widely effective resistance sources to sunflower rust have been identified.
In an annual field survey conducted by the North Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service and the U.S. National Sunflower Association, sunflower rust was found in 60 to 70 percent of surveyed fields. Kernels infected by rust can be damaged and discolored and are therefore unlikely to meet grading standards established by the industry for confection sunflower seeds.
The rust resistant lines should be very useful to breeders who want to develop rust-resistant commercial sunflower hybrids.
The research was published in Theoretical and Applied Genetics.
ARS scientists have synthesized an attractant pheromone of the brown marmorated stink bug, a serious threat to apples, soybeans and other crops and a nuisance for the home and garden, which opens the door for traps and lures to control this pest. Click the image for more information about it.
Identify Stink Bug Attractant
WASHINGTON—U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers have deciphered the chemical signals the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) uses to attract other stink bugs, opening the door to development of traps and technologies that should help keep the invasive pest out of backyards, gardens, homes and agricultural operations.
A study detailing the chemical structure of the stink bug's "aggregation pheromone," how this attractant can be synthesized, and results of field trials has been published in the Journal of Natural Products by scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and their partners. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
"The stink bug is a widespread nuisance and a serious threat to producers of apples, peaches, corn, soybeans and a number of other important agricultural products," said ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young. "This research demonstrates how the dedication, skill and commitment of ARS researchers is addressing the changing needs of society and the problems faced not only by the agricultural community, but the public at large."
The BMSB is native to Asia. Since its discovery in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 2001, it has devastated orchards, crops and fields and become a terrible nuisance in gardens, backyards and homes. It has an appetite for up to 300 different plants. Estimates of economic damage vary, but in 2010 it was blamed for causing an estimated $37 million in losses in the Mid-Atlantic region to apples alone. It also has spread to more than 40 states and parts of Canada.
As part of the study, ARS researchers collected airborne extracts released by the BMSB to search for the pheromones the bug uses to attract its fellow stink bugs to feeding sites. They found two attractant chemicals produced exclusively by adult males, synthesized them and counted the number of stink bugs caught in traps supplied with those attractants as lures. Results showed the compounds were effective throughout the summer at capturing males, females and nymphs, and were three times more effective when combined in one trap than when used individually.
The identification and synthesis of the chemicals was led by Ashot Khrimian, and the field trials were overseen by Don Weber, both ARS scientists in the agency's Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. Coauthors include ARS researchers Aijun Zhang, Karl E. Vermillion, Shyam Shirali, Filadelfo Guzman, Tracy C. Leskey and Jeffrey Aldrich (ARS, retired).
Weber led another group that has published a companion paper in the Journal of Economic Entomology on the synergistic attraction of the newly discovered pheromone with another attractant. The combination attracted more stink bugs than either lure on its own, and it could be used in commercial lures and traps throughout the growing season. Project partners included researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the Institute of Cellular and Organismic Biology in Taipei, Taiwan.
A patented new process turns barley into a perfect high protein feed for carnivorous fish like salmon and rainbow trout as a plant-based alternative to fishmeal, which is made from small ocean fish. Click the image for more information about it.
Process Turns Barley
into High-protein Fish Food
A process that improves the nutritional value of barley for use in fish feed has been developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Montana Microbial Products LLC (MMP) of Missoula, Montana.
Barley typically contains about 10 to12 percent protein, but 40 to 60 percent protein is needed in diets of carnivorous fish like rainbow trout and salmon. The new enzymatic process patented by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and MMP concentrates protein by removing the carbohydrates in barley and turning them into an ethanol coproduct, utilizing all the nutrients in the grain.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
The new high-protein product produced by this technology should help fill the gap for more plant-based protein sources as alternatives to fishmeal, which is made from small ocean fish, according to fish physiologist Rick Barrows, with the ARS Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit in Aberdeen, Idaho. In addition, barley protein concentrate has less variability in composition and is less expensive than most fishmeals.
Barrows, who works in Bozeman, Montana, and his team tested barley protein concentrate in rainbow trout and found digestibility—the percentage of nutrients available to the fish—to be as high as 95 percent. The product also was tested in Atlantic salmon by research leader William Wolters and fish physiologist Gary Burr at the ARS National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center in Franklin, Maine.
Atlantic salmon were fed a diet containing either 11 percent or 22 percent barley protein concentrate. The growth of those salmon was not significantly different from salmon fed a standard fishmeal diet. Also, the fish that ate the 22 percent barley protein concentrate diet had significantly greater energy retention compared to fish fed the other diets. Higher energy retention demonstrates that the fish are using the feed more efficiently.
MMP has built a commercial prototype plant in Montana to produce barley protein concentrate for trout feeding trials. The company also plans to build a commercial facility in the near future.
An ARS soil scientist has developed a more precise test for how much fertilizer a farmer needs to add to a field, reducing costs by about $10 to $15 per acre and the chances there will be excess running off into surface water. Click the image for more information about it.
Reducing Fertilizer Use
with a More Accurate Soil Test
Soil tests that determine fertilizer needs measure nitrate in the soil, but they don't sufficiently account for soil microbes, which mineralize organic nitrogen and make more of it available to a crop. As a result, farmers often apply more fertilizer than they need.
Richard Haney, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) soil scientist in Temple, Texas, has developed a soil test that replicates some of the natural processes that occur in a field and accounts for that microbial activity, along with measuring nitrate, ammonium (NH4), and organic nitrogen.
Haney is with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Temple. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
The new soil test is known as the Soil Health Tool. It involves drying and rewetting soil to mimic the effects of precipitation. It also uses the same organic acids that plant roots use to acquire nutrients from the soil. The tool measures organic carbon and other nutrients, accounts for the effects of using cover crops and no-till practices, and will work for any crop produced with nitrogen or other types of nutrient fertilizer.
Haney has made it available to commercial and university soil testing laboratories and has worked with farmers to promote it. Growers who use it receive a spreadsheet that shows the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium available to crops. On average, they reduce fertilizer costs by about $10 to $15 per acre. With less fertilizer applied, there is less of it running off into surface water.
Haney and Daren Harmel, an ARS agricultural engineer at the Temple lab, evaluated the tool in fields where they raised wheat, corn, oats, and grain sorghum at nine Texas sites over four years. They applied traditional fertilizer rates; no fertilizer; and the amounts dictated by the Haney soil tests. They planted and harvested on the same dates at each site, and kept track of fertilizer costs and application dates, crop prices, and overall profits.
They found that the tool reduced fertilizer use by 30 to 50 percent and reduced fertilizer costs by up to 39 percent. The enhanced testing methods had little effect on corn production profits, but increased profits by 7 to 18 percent in wheat, oat, and sorghum fields. The results were published in the Open Journal of Soil Science.
ARS scientists have developed a way to replace most of the salt in pickle processing with calcium chloride, solving one of the industry's major environmental problems. Click the image for more information about it.
Calcium Makes for
an Environmentally Friendly Pickle
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed a way to help pickle producers replace most of their pickling salt with calcium chloride. This is helping turn an environmental problem into an environmental plus for the pickle industry.
The U.S. pickle industry has been facing growing environmental troubles with disposing of the salty brining solution used to turn cucumbers into pickles. Americans consume nine pounds of pickles per capita each year. Brine disposal was one of the factors that helped push the California olive pickling and processing industry out of that state and overseas in the 1980s.
But microbiologist Ilenys Pérez-Díaz, food technologist Suzanne Johanningsmeier and chemist Roger F. McFeeters (now retired) at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Food Science Research Unit in Raleigh, North Carolina, have developed a way to replace most of the sodium chloride in the brine—the pickling liquid—with calcium chloride. Used calcium chloride solution can be a desirable soil amendment rather than a pollutant disposal problem.
ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Using calcium chloride not only retains desirable firmness in cucumbers as they pickle, but also speeds up the microbiological work of fermentation, according to the researchers.
The technology has already been put to work commercially at the Mt. Olive Pickle Company of Mt. Olive, North Carolina, the largest independent pickle company in the United States, where 66,000 bushels of cucumbers were turned into hamburger dill chips and several flavors of pickle relishes and salad cubes in 2013, using the calcium chloride. While that represented only a small part of the company's annual production, it proved there is a workable answer to at least part of the industry's environmental problem.
The lowered salt is strictly a processing issue and has no impact on the dietary salt content of a pickle.
Now Pérez-Díaz and Johanningsmeier are modifying the calcium chloride technology as a way to preserve gherkin pickles that are imported in acid solution from India. Currently, gherkins undergo a 40-day Atlantic transit packed in vinegar, salt and sulfite; the last ingredient has come to be considered an undesirable ingredient, as some people are sensitive to it. Sulfite would not be needed with new brine formulation.
The United States is a major gherkin market, but India also supplies gherkins to many other countries, so improving the health and environmental circumstances of this product could have worldwide impact.
ARS scientists have identified factors affecting the measurement of soil carbon sequestration, which is important in assessing how farming practices can reduce carbon emissions. Photo courtesy of NRCS-USDA.
ARS Scientists Help Improve
Soil Carbon Calculations
A potential source of error in calculating soil carbon budgets has been identified by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Hero Gollany has used these findings to refine methods for assessing farming practices that retain carbon in the soil and thus mitigate carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and these findings support the USDA priority of responding to climate change.
Rates of soil carbon retention, known as sequestration, are often measured and estimated by tracking changes in total soil carbon over time. Carbon from crop residues or other decaying plant material is present in soil samples collected for these sequestration studies. But this "accrued" carbon is not actually sequestered in the soil until after the carbon becomes attached to soil mineral particles, a process that can take several decades.
Until that happens, the accrued carbon from decomposing plant material can readily be lost from the soil, because it is not bound or associated with soil particles. Inadvertently adding the accrued carbon to measurements of sequestered carbon results in overestimates of how agronomic practices affect sequestration levels.
Gollany and Washington State University soil microbiologist Ann-Marie Fortuna used data from another soil carbon field study to see how levels of a specific type of carbon called "light-fraction" carbon affected measurements. Using this method, the scientists determined that carbon sequestration levels measured in the study included carbon from fine crop residue materials that passed through sieves during sample processing—carbon that had accrued in the soil, but was not yet sequestered via decomposition.
This accrued carbon ranged from 13 percent to 19 percent of the total soil carbon in the samples. This, in turn, skewed attempts to use carbon data from the samples to model soil carbon sequestration levels.
Gollany, who works at the ARS Soil Conservation Research Unit in Pendleton, Oregon, published her findings in 2013 in the Soil Science Society of America Journal.
Orange-fleshed honeydew melon and cantaloupe are both comparable sources of dietary provitamin A, on par with carrots, which are known to be a major source of provitamin A. Click the image for more information about it.
Ripe for Beta-carotene Analysis
Orange-fleshed honeydew melon is a cross between cantaloupe and green-fleshed honeydew. Orange-fleshed honeydew melon is sweeter and stores longer than the typical cantaloupe. To learn more about the melons, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant physiologist Gene Lester and his colleagues measured the beta-carotene concentrations in orange-fleshed honeydew and cantaloupe melons grown under the same greenhouse conditions.
Carotenoids such as beta-carotene are also known as provitamin A. Beta-carotene is the most potent precursor of vitamin A for humans, which means the body breaks down beta-carotene into vitamin A.
Lester is with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Office of National Programs in Beltsville, Maryland. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
The team found that orange-fleshed honeydew had significantly higher beta-carotene concentrations than cantaloupe, but the two melon types had similar beta-carotene bioaccessibility. Before the human body can make use of a fruit's nutrients, the nutrients must first be released from the fruit tissues, becoming "bioaccessible," and then the nutrients can be absorbed into the circulation, becoming "bioavailable." This means that both melons appear to be comparable sources of dietary provitamin A for humans, on par with carrots, which are known to be a major source of provitamin A.
When testing orange-fleshed melons, the team also noticed indications of compounds not seen before, so they used more sophisticated instrumentation to show that these compounds were apocarotenoids. This is significant because apocarotenoids are metabolized directly into vitamin A. Previously, the researchers did not know apocarotenoids were in orange-fleshed melons.
Lester's team detected and measured levels of the apocarotenoids beta-apo-13-carotenone, beta-apo-14-carotenal, beta-apo-12-carotenal, beta-apo-10-carotenal, and beta-apo-8-carotenal in the orange-fleshed melons.
Funding support for the study was provided by USDA and by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
ARS scientists have developed a new coating, beginning with either a bovine protein or a wheat protein as a building block, that keeps water from beading up on windows. Click the image for more information about it.
Helps Stop Water from Beading
Rainwater pounding on the glass windows of an office building or a home is less likely to bead up and reduce visibility if the windows are treated with a new, transparent coating from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) chemist Sanghoon Kim and his colleagues.
Besides its potential use on windows, the coating might also be applied to solar panels to help keep dirt from interfering with their performance, Kim notes.
What's more, Kim and his colleagues have observed that the coating works well on other materials, including Plexiglas and metals such as stainless steel.
Kim, along with research chemist Atanu Biswas and physical scientist Kervin Evans—all with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois—created the coating's nanoparticles by using only a few off-the-shelf laboratory chemicals, including a protein from agriculture.
From start to finish, production of the nanoparticles takes less than an hour, involves simple procedures with inexpensive chemicals, and doesn't require specialized equipment or costly heating.
In a proof-of-concept experiment, the researchers used bovine serum albumin, which is a cattle industry byproduct, as the protein, and ethyl cyanoacrylate, a major component of "super glue," as the starting material that is key to creating the nanoparticles.
Applying the coating is quick and easy. All that's needed is to spray it onto clean glass or other recommended surfaces, then rinse with water.
In a follow-up study, Kim and his colleague Yeon Seok Kim of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, used gliadin, a protein from wheat, to demonstrate that their process for making the coating is applicable to both plant- and animal-derived proteins.
Peer-reviewed scientific articles published this year in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research and in 2013 in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces have details about the work.
Informal cost estimates suggest that the new coating, made with either a plant or an animal protein, could be produced at the same or less cost than coatings already on the market.
The Peoria coating is rain-ready in about a minute, a feature that apparently makes it unique. ARS is seeking a patent for the research; the scientists are looking for industry partners to commercialize it.
ARS is the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
A new environmentally friendly deworming agent derived from Bacillus thuringiensis was found to be effective against intestinal roundworms in pigs, according to new research. Click the image for more information about it.
New Class of Animal Deworming Agent
After two moderate doses of a bacteria-derived protein were fed to worm-infected swine in an experiment, all intestinal roundworm larvae in the swine were damaged or destroyed and the infection was nearly completely eliminated, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and University of California-San Diego scientists.
The research team included microbiologist Joseph Urban and his colleagues at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, and Raffi Aroian and Yan Hu at the University of California-San Diego. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The parasitic roundworm that commonly infects pigs is Ascaris suum, which is genetically similar to A. lumbricoides, a roundworm species that infects about 1 billion people worldwide. A. suum infection in pigs is considered a good model for A. lumbricoides infection in humans because of its similar migration through the body and to the intestines.
During the experiments, the team used a crystal protein called "Cry5B," provided by Aroian's group, which is derived from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Cry5B protein is considered nontoxic to vertebrates and mammals.
The dosage the team provided in the study is comparable to the dose range used in existing commercial antiparasitic drugs. The results show the potential of Cry5B to treat Ascaris infections in pigs and other livestock and to work effectively in the human gastrointestinal tract, according to authors. The team described the research in a 2013 article published in PLOS: Neglected Tropical Diseases.
There is a need for more practical delivery systems for antiparasitic drug treatments, according to the scientists, and further cooperative research is planned.
Tannins from the quebracho tree may be able to quell the smell of swine manure pits, according to research by ARS microbiologist Terry Whitehead. Click the image for more information about it.
Using Tree Tannins
to Target Manure Odor
Tannins from the quebracho tree can control the production of compounds that cause manure odors, according to studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. This research may someday give livestock farmers options for odor control that help protect animal health and restore harmony between rural producers and nearby residents.
The study was done by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Peoria, Ill. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Hydrogen sulfide and other sulfur compounds make up about half of the offensive odorants from swine manure. Scientists have determined that a group of microbes called sulfate-reducing bacteria generate these compounds as part of the process of breaking down manure. Bacterial activity in manure pits also generates methane and nitrous oxide, which are both greenhouse gases.
Research conducted by scientists elsewhere indicated that tannins-compounds naturally present in tree leaves and other feed materials-can block bacterial activity in the guts of ruminant livestock. Drawing on this research, ARS microbiologists Terry Whitehead and Mike Cotta, who work at the agency's Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, conducted a laboratory study to see if quebracho tree tannins could suppress odor-generating bacterial activity in manure.
The scientists incubated swine manure under laboratory conditions that mimic on-farm conditions, which allowed them to monitor gas emissions and sulfate-reducing bacteria populations. Seven days after the researchers added quebracho tannins to the manure, they found hydrogen sulfide and methane production had been reduced more than 90 percent and that production continued to dwindle for another three weeks. Populations of sulfate-reducing bacteria also significantly declined, by 70 percent to 90 percent, in the tannin-enriched mix.
Field studies are now needed to determine if using quebracho tannins in manure pits can significantly reduce the activity of sulfate-reducing bacteria and hydrogen sulfide and methane levels under commercial conditions. If successful, this approach would provide producers with a cost-effective method of mitigating odors and greenhouse gas emissions, and the added tannins would not pose a risk to the environment when the manure is eventually spread onto the fields as fertilizer.
Whitehead and Cotta published their results in the December 2012 issue of Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. Read more about this work in the May/June 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
Warming temperatures linked with global climate change may mean that growers will need to use more pesticides to hold off pests and maintain soybean production levels, according to new ARS research. Click the image for more information about it.
USDA Research on Climate Change,
Effects of Warmer Winters Published in PLOS ONE
WASHINGTON, June 11, 2014—Findings from research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist Lewis Ziska and published today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE project changes in crop production as air temperatures increase due to climate change. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and the research supports the USDA priority of responding to climate change.
In the study published today, researchers observed one of the effects that agricultural producers may see as air temperatures increase is a corresponding increase of insects, weeds and fungal pests because of milder winter temperatures. One possible result is growers may need to increase their pesticide use to respond to these pests and maintain soybean production levels.
"One of our most crucial challenges is finding ways to maintain and increase crop production levels in the face of climate change," said ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young. "These studies underscore the importance of conducting research that helps us confront these challenges and facilitates the development of cost-effective options for the environmentally sustainable production of food, feed, and fiber."
In temperate regions, the distribution and survival of agricultural pests is often kept in check by low winter temperatures. Ziska, who works at the ARS Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, examined average pesticide applications since 1999 for commercial soybean grown over a 1,300-mile longitudinal transect from Minnesota to Louisiana. Minimum daily temperatures in this study area ranged from -20 degrees Fahrenheit to 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
Although soybean yields per acre did not vary by state, increases in total pesticide applications were positively correlated with increases in minimum winter temperature. This suggested that rising minimum temperatures could be a good proxy for increased pesticide use.
Ziska determined that from 1977 through 2013, minimum winter temperatures were increasing throughout the transect, although the rate of increase was greater for northern states like Minnesota than for southern states like Louisiana. This observation is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections regarding enhanced warming with increasing latitude.
Using these findings to project future pesticide use, Ziska determined that if these temperature trends continue, soybean pesticide use by region in the next 10 years may also change, with herbicide use increasing in the north and insecticide and fungicide use increasing in the south. Overall, according to Ziska, these results indicate that increases in pesticide application rates may be a means to maintain soybean production in response to potential increases in pest pressures associated with rising minimum daily temperatures and climate change
ARS plant pathologist Shuxian Li has made the fungus that causes a serious disease in soybeans glow under ultraviolet light so researchers can now study how the infection process unfolds within the tissues of the seeds for the first time. Click the image for more information about it.
New Approach to Studying Fungus' Attack
A new laboratory technique developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists could speed the search for soybean plants with resistance to the fungus that causes Phomopsis seed decay (PSD) in the legume crop.
A disease primarily caused by the fungus Phomopsis longicolla, PSD physically degrades soybean seed and reduces the quality of its protein and oil. In 2012, outbreaks of PSD and other fungal diseases cost soybean producers in 16 southern states more than 2 million bushels in losses.
Applying fungicides, rotating soybeans with nonhost crops and tilling the soil are among strategies used by growers to prevent PSD. However, breeding for resistance to PSD is the most effective long-term strategy, according to Shuxian Li, a plant pathologist with the ARS Crop Genetics Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi.
As part of a Phomopsis resistance program there, Li has sought to learn more about how the fungus inflicts harm at the cellular level. Towards that end, she and colleagues enlisted the aid of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a species of soil bacteria commonly used in genetic engineering procedures to endow plants with new traits.
In this instance, the team used the bacterium to "shuttle" genes for an antibiotic marker and green fluorescent protein (GFP) into the nucleus of the fungus' cells. This resulted in new P. longicolla strains that produce the protein and emit a green glow when exposed to light in the blue-to-ultraviolet range.
Li plans on inoculating soybean seedlings with the modified strains to study how the infection process unfolds within the tissues of both resistant and susceptible soybean germplasm lines. The approach should also facilitate the identification of sources of PSD resistance that may escape detection using conventional disease-screening methods, such as those requiring field observation of symptoms.
The research was published in the Journal of Microbiological Methods.
Read more about this research in the May/June 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief intramural scientific research agency.
ARS scientists have developed the first fast, easy, reliable way to tell young yellow perch females from males, a boon to both researchers and producers. Click the image for more information about it.
Distinguishes Yellow Perch Females from Males
Identifying juvenile and adult yellow perch females from males is no longer an obstacle for aquaculture producers of this high-value fish, thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. A new step-by-step procedure developed by the scientists makes it easier to separate fish by gender for growth performance, physiological studies and to manage broodstocks for reproduction and genetic selection.
Physiologist Brian Shepherd and his colleagues at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Dairy Forage and Aquaculture Research Unit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, developed the systematic method to segregate yellow perch females from males during early growth stages. Because females tend to grow faster and larger than males, females could often be mistaken for males when being selected for genetic improvement prior to reproductive maturity. Previously, it was extremely difficult to identify gender until fish matured (up to two years).
The method involves an algorithm—a checklist that includes the size of the fish and the shape and color of the anal and reproductive openings. The process is fast, easy, reliable and more than 97 percent accurate in fish above three inches in length.
Factors such as size and geographical origin can affect external characteristics related to yellow perch gender. Therefore, scientists examined yellow perch strains from four different geographical areas, while considering body size and reproductive maturity. They then identified female and male characteristics that could be confirmed in yellow perch of various sizes from the four geographical strains.
The new system allows producers as well as scientists to identify the largest females and males for producing the next generation of yellow perch. Because fish are unharmed during the process, the method also can be used to identify females from males when wild yellow perch field surveys are taken.
ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
ARS plant physiologist Autar Mattoo and his colleagues recently launched samples of a green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii (top) into space on board a Russian-made Soyuz space (bottom) capsule as part of an international effort to study the photosynthetic machinery of crops. Photo courtesy of Dartmouth College
Photo courtesy of European Space Agency.
Sending Algae into Space
to Probe Plants in Extreme Environments
By sending algae into space, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his cooperators will be able to study some of the key mechanisms that control plant growth and photosynthesis.
The work by plant physiologist Autar Mattoo with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is part of an international effort, largely funded by the European Space Agency, to improve the photosynthetic machinery of crops so they produce higher yields and grow in extreme environments. Mattoo works at the ARS Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
During photosynthesis, a protein-pigment complex known as Photosystem II (PS II) must constantly be repaired to fix damage caused by sunlight and ultraviolet radiation. As part of that repair process, a protein known as D1 is continuously being replaced. Research has shown that mutations of the D1 protein in the PS II complex can either increase or decrease photosynthetic activity.
The researchers wanted to assess the effects of microgravity, cosmic rays, high-energy particles and the ionizing radiation of space on the PS II complex, photosynthesis and plant growth. They also wanted to see if the effects would differ in a simple model for photosynthesis, an alga, with the D1 gene altered in specific ways.
The researchers placed samples of the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in airtight "photo cells" and had them launched in a Russian-made Soyuz space capsule in Kazakhstan. The C. reinhardtii, often studied as a model for photosynthesis, spent 15 days in orbit getting doses of cosmic radiation while under light and temperature conditions that would ensure growth on earth. They also sent up four mutants of C. reinhardtii with alterations in the D1 protein gene.
They found that some aspect of the space environment inhibited the ability of the control C. reinhardtii and two of the four mutant strains to photosynthesize and grow, both in space and later when they were brought back to Earth. However, two other mutant strains flourished, both in space and when they returned to Earth. The results, published in PLOS ONE, shed new light on the importance of the D1 protein both in photosynthesis and as a target of environmental signals.
The Ossabaw breed of swine turns out to be an excellent model in which to study the metabolic changes that occur in people eating a high-fat diet. Photo courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy.
Pig Breed Serves as Ideal Model
for Human Obesity Research
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers have conducted a series of studies showing that the pig is instrumental as a model for human obesity-related research. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) microbiologist Gloria Solano-Aguilar has found that using swine as a biomedical research model was useful for studying
metabolic effects induced by a high-fat diet.
Solano-Aguilar worked with Kati Hanhineva of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio to study metabolic
changes that occur in pig tissues and biofluids after the pigs consumed a high-fat diet. Solano-Aguilar works at
the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) in Beltsville, Maryland. ARS is USDA's chief
intramural scientific research agency.
The researchers studied the Ossabaw pig because it has a greater tendency than other pig breeds to deposit
excess fat and develop obesity-related diseases when fed a high-calorie diet. The emphasis was on using
juvenile pigs as a model for obesity in children. In general, it is difficult to evaluate obesity-related metabolic
disturbances in children, according to the scientists.
The researchers wanted to study diet-induced metabolic changes taking place in the tissues they collected from the pigs—liver,
pancreas, brain and intestine. They also wanted to compare whether the changes they found in the tissues were present in the pig's
urine and plasma, which are biofluids typically collected during human clinical studies.
Pigs in the study were fed either a maintenance diet or a high-fat diet. The researchers found changes in lipid metabolites in all of the
analyzed host tissue samples from the pigs fed the high-fat diet. Some tissue-dependent changes were not reflected in the biofluids.
Being able to look at organ tissue helped them target changes that are indicative of both disease and poor response to diet.
This study was published in the Journal of Proteome Research in 2013.
Ongoing research analyzes formulas, mother's milk
Pacific Northwest farmers who control slug pests in high-value crop fields with slug bait can end up losing much of the bait to worms that eat the pesticide with no ill effects, according to new ARS research. Click the image for more information about it.
From Bad to Worse:
Scientists Confirm Worms Are Eating Slug Bait
Nocturnal monitoring by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists has confirmed that voracious worms
in the Pacific Northwest are behind the disappearance of field pesticides used to control equally voracious
slugs. These findings by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agronomist George Mueller-Warrant and others
could help producers better manage their applications of slug bait, an effort that costs around $3.7 million
every year. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The grey field slug population in the Pacific Northwest is thriving, thanks to no-till management and other
practices that enhance soil quality and prevent erosion. So producers apply around 3 million pounds of slug
bait—often in the form of iron phosphate pellets or metaldehyde pellets, granules, or liquid—every year.
Mueller-Warrant, who works at the ARS Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit in Corvallis, Oregon, conducted a
study to determine how much and how quickly slug bait was being lost to worms. His team salted 15 grass
seed production fields and greenhouses with different types of slug bait and then spent four hours every night
observing the foraging behavior of the worms. Averaged over all observations, half of the bait pellets
disappeared in less than 2.5 days.
The worms approached bait pellets the same way they approached all other potential food sources, and 20
percent of the time ate it on the spot. But they usually took the pellet back into their burrows, sometimes at the rate of three every
hour. The scientists noted that the worms strongly preferred the less-expensive metaldehyde and iron pellets to other forms of the
Oregon producers currently apply around 10 pounds of slug bait per acre two to five times a year to more than 185,000 acres of grass
seed fields. But since much of the bait in pellet form is quickly consumed by worms, Mueller-Warrant believes that in fields of high-
value crops, it might be more cost-effective to apply the more expensive granular and liquid bait, which the worms typically ignore.
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