AFTER THE NOVEMBER ELECTIONS, THE YUMA ARIZONA AG COUNCIL (YAAC), INVITES NEW AND CURRENT MEMBERS OF THE ARIZONA LEGISLATURE TO VISIT ARIZONA'S 3.5 BILLION DOLLAR RICH AGRICULTURE, YUMA COUNTY. THE YAAC RAISE FUNDS TO BRING THE LEGISLATORS FROM PHOENIX TO YUMA COUNTY, TO HOUSE THEM AND TO FEED THEM. IN THE MAIN PHOTO ABOVE, OUR CHARTERED BUS ARRIVES AT THE SECOND DESTINATION, ON THE WAY INTO YUMA, WE STOP AT THE YUCO GIN, WHERE THE MANAGER CARRIES OUT HIS SHOW, TELL, AND QUESTIONS. FOLLOWING THE VISIT, OUR GUESTS ARE TAKEN TO THEIR HOTELS TO FRESHEN UP, AND A HEARTY DINNER IS SERVED THAT EVENING. THE NEXT MORNING WILL BE COMING UP QUICKLY AS WE WANT OUR GUESTS LOADED ON THE BUS, BY 6:00AM, FOR OUR VISIT TO THE ARIZONA/MEXICO BORDER WHERE WE WILL WITNESS WORKERS COMING ACROSS THE BORDER TO WORK IN THE YUMA, AND ADJOINING CALIFORNIA FIELDS FOR THE DAY.
SOME YEARS AGO, I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT WITH A TOP FARMER, THE LATE PAUL RADEMACHER. PAUL AND I DID MANY OF THESE VIDEO VENTURES IN THE FIELDS, AND I AM ALWAYS AMAZED AT THE EFFORTS UNDERTAKEN TO PREPARE FIELDS FOR THE PLANTING OF CROPS. WHILE PLANTING TIME IN THE DESERT SOUTHWEST WON'T START TILL THE LATE WEEKS OF AUGUST, PREPARATION OF THOSE FIELDS ARE ALREADY BEGINNING. THIS IS MY VISIT WITH PAUL ABOUT THOSE PREPARATIONS
Video From the Field with NAFB Farm Broadcaster George Gatley
MONDAY, JULY 28th, 2014
The nation's love affair with automobiles is generations old, and our devotion can be traced down through the decades by looking at advertising, as cars progressed from romantic if noisy new playthings to a daily necessity. The first known national ad about a car appeared at the end of July 1898 in the Scientific American magazine for the Winton Motor Carriage with the headline "dispense with a horse." Americans did just that, and competing car companies increased spending on advertising. By 1906, 57 car companies spent over a half million dollars advertising in 12 national magazines. Today, cars and trucks are a major part of the nearly $107 billion spent last year at advertising's 13,000 establishments.
“Grains Council Says
It’s Time for China to Approve MIR 162”
Following an announcement by the Chinese import inspection authority last week - the U.S. Grains Council is calling for China to approve the biotech trait MIR 162. The announcement - effective immediately - requires new biotech certification from the point of origin for distiller’s dried grains with solubles guaranteeing the shipment is free of MIR 162. For U.S. shipments - that certification would have to come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USGC President and CEO Tom Sleight says the certificate the Chinese are asking for doesn’t exist. The Council is working to address the new disruption to DDGS trade with the U.S. government, U.S. ambassador to China and MAIZALL. Council staff and consultants around the world also are working with other markets interested in DDGS - particularly Mexico, Taiwan, Canada, Korea and the rest of Latin America. Sleight says it's time for China to approve this trait - as the lack of approval is becoming an undue impediment on trade.
CALIFORNIA FRUIT AND NUT REPORT
“Ethanol Reaches Significant Milestone
NASCAR and American Ethanol partnered in 2011 to bring E15 to the sport - and since then - Sunoco Green E15 has fueled every car and truck in all of NASCAR’s national race series. This weekend - racers reached the 6-million mile mark of racing on E15. NASCAR CEO Brian France says this renewable fuel stands up to NASCAR’s rigorous racing conditions while significantly reducing the impact on the environment. These 6-million miles are significant because they mirror the 6-million miles of testing conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy to initially approve E15 for all model year 2001 and newer light duty cars and trucks. Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis says NASCAR validates what a great performance fuel E15 is. Buis says teams and owners say they’ve increased horse power, increased performance and have a cleaner burning fuel with E15.
(Click Here for The Produce News)
for RFS Decision”
Minnesota Senator Al Franken said White House counselor John Podesta reported Friday the EPA’s announcement of volumetric requirements for the Renewable Fuel Standard this year is imminent - according to The Hagstrom Report. Podesta suggested the volumetric requirements will be higher than EPA’s initial proposal - but not as high as they would be if requirements established in the law were followed. During a meeting with Podesta - senators told him the administration should retain higher standards because biofuels are domestically produced and create jobs. They also told him the oil industry’s arguments against higher blends are wrong. He says NASCAR has already proven E15 works - that oil companies just don’t like ethanol and are doing everything they can to prevent the infrastructure from going into place. National Biodiesel Board Vice President Anne Steckel says her organization is encouraged by these discussions - but the biodiesel industry remains concerned that the administration still appears to be considering a proposal that would backtrack from last year’s proven production and threatens biodiesel plants around the country. Steckel says this is a critical decision for the future development of clean, American-made renewable fuels that will help reduce the nation’s dependence on petroleum.
Little Five Star Seeks Sponsors to Help Give
Every Third Grader in Arizona a Copy of
‘Arizona Agriculture: Bee’s Amazing Adventure’
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in Southern San Joaquin Valley
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“Court Rules Regarding
FDA Oversight of Animal Antibiotic Use”
According to Food Safety News - the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled last week by 2 to 1 that the Food and Drug Administration isn’t required to hold hearings regarding the safety of feeding antibiotics at sub-therapeutic levels. The Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups argue FDA is required by statute to hold hearings to determine whether to withdraw approval for the use of penicillin and tetracyclines in animal feed after it declared sub-therapeutic use of those drugs wasn’t safe in the late 1970s. Not requiring hearings means FDA doesn’t have to consider banning the practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy animals - according to the NRDC. Judge Robert Katzmann wrote in his dissent this decision allows FDA to openly declare a particular animal drug is unsafe - but then refuse to withdraw approval of that drug. Katzmann wrote it also gives FDA discretion to ignore a public petition asking it to withdraw approval from an unsafe drug - and he doesn’t believe the statutory scheme can be read to permit those results.
Milk Producers Council
“U.S. House Subcommittee
Looks at SNAP”
Last week - the House Ag Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight and Nutrition held a public hearing on SNAP’s role in relation to other federal assistance programs. The subcommittee took the time to learn more about the program - of which participation has grown from 28.2-million to 47.6-million in five-years. Members examined how SNAP addresses hunger, how it is linked to other federal programs and how opportunities or barriers impact the ability of low-income families to secure employment and job training to take themselves off of SNAP. Chairman Steve King says everyone can agree on the importance of SNAP in helping those in need - but with soaring deficits and an out-of-control national debt - Congress must be mindful of this grave fiscal situation. King says Congress has a responsibility to the American people to oversee federal programs paid for by the taxpayer to ensure they are operating in the most efficient, cost-effective manner.
Land Sale of the Week: Cass County, Nebraska
Danone First-Half Earnings Decline 20% on Surge in Milk Costs
The maker of Actimel yogurt has raised prices to offset an 18% increase in milk costs, leading consumers to pare back on dairy purchases.
Wall Street CEO Says Rural Investments Offer Big Value
"Rural infrastructure projects have built-in advantages that should be attractive to financiers. For starters, investment dollars go farther," McGraw Hill Financial CEO Douglas L. Peterson wrote in an opinion piece for CNBC this week.
AgWeb Radio: Weekly Dairy Market Wrap 7-25-14
Robin Schmahl, Hedge and Marketing Specialist with AgDairy says this week cheese was lower and butter higher. Cold storage report was about the same as last year. Butter is about $1.20 above world price and holding.
Cattle Market In A Frenzy
Friday morning live cattle sales were reported by USDA’s Market News service at $164 to $166.
Up to 10% Chance Corn Yields Will Slow, Research Says
Meanwhile, there is a 5 percent probability wheat yields will slow because of human-caused climate change, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Oilseed Profits Might Best Corn in Next 10 Years
Soybeans and corn are seeing a price correction in 2014/15, but a new 10-year global forecast says oilseed profitability will be superior to coarse grains moving forward.
Cropp Foresees a Slow Decline in Milk Prices but Remains Bullish
Prices may glide to the $18 level, but here's why the University of Wisconsin economist doesn’t foresee bearishness for U.S. dairy producers.
AgWeb Radio: Midday Commentary 7-25-14
Kevin Van Trump of Farm Direction says in summary it appears with extra acres this year and apparently better yields than normal prices are likely to pull even lower.
“USDA NASS Releases
According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Cattle report released Friday - the U.S. cattle inventory is the lowest since the series began in 1973. NASS surveyed more than 10,000 operators across the U.S. during the first half of this month asking all participating producers to report their cattle inventories as of July 1st and their calf crop for 2014. This year’s calf crop is expected to be 33.6-million. Cattle on feed has decreased six-percent from 2012 to 11.6-million. To view the full report - visit NASS dot USDA dot gov (www.nass.usda.gov)
ARIZONA CATTLE ON FEED
Cattle health during the dog days of summer: Fly control
Frustrating and at times hard to kill, fly control offers many benefits to cattle producers. The buzzing pests are the carriers of bacteria and disease, such as anaplasmosis – a cow killing, weight dropping, aborting and bull infertility nightmare. FULL STORY »
RESEARCH in AGRICULTURE
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.
USDA Researchers 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