HAVING A CREW OF
SKILLED WORKERS', THIN THE LETTUCE CROP JUST AFTER IT GETS EMERGED
AND STARTED, HAS BEEN THE THE WAY THE JOB HAS BEEN DONE FOR DECADES
WORKERS ARMED WITH AN EIGHT INCH HOE BLADE. AS SEEN IN THE MAIN
PHOTO, SPACE THE LETTUCE PLANT THAT DISTANCE APART, BY REMOVING
THOSE PLANTS IN BETWEEN. WHILE THIS MAY SEEM A WASTE OF SEED
AND PLANTS, IT IS THE TRIED AND PROVED METHOD OF GETTING A GOOD
STAND THAT PRODUCES A HEALTHY, FINE STAND OF LETTUCE PLANTS.
WHILE THIS HAND HELD HOEING METHOD HAS BEEN THE WAY IT'S BEEN DONE
FOR ALL THESE YEARS. THE U.S. CONGRESS HAS MADE IT HIGHLY
DIFFICULT TO COME UP WITH A WORKABLE PLAN TO GET THESE WORKERS, SO,
AS HAS BEEN DONE FOR OTHER AGRICULTURE JOBS IN THE FIELD,
RESEARCHERS HAVE DEVELOPED A MECHANICAL LETTUCE THINNER AS SEEN IN
THE LOWER ROW AT THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE. THIS MACHINE HAS
BEEN IN USE SEVERAL YEARS NOW, AND MOST OF THE 'KINKS' ARE CORRECTED
AND NOW IT'S BEING USED QUITE A LOT HERE IN THE WEST. JUST
LIKE THE HAND HELD SICKLY WAS USED TO HARVEST WHEAT, AND THAN A
MECHANICAL SICKLE BAR ON A TRACTOR DOES THE JOB TODAY, THINNING
LETTUCE MECHANICALLY, AND THIS MAY END THE NEED FOR MANUAL LABOR TO
DO THIS JOB. HOWEVER, MANY GROWERS DON'T THINK SO.
VIDEO FROM KANSAS CITY
ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF MY 55+
YEARS IN RADIO AND TELEVISION HAPPENED A YEAR AGO LAST MONTH.
AND FOR THE KIND EMAILS WE ARE RECEIVING FROM OUR VIEWERS, THIS IS
THE STORY ABOUT ME, AND THE HONOR BESTOWED ON ME, NOVEMBER 2012.
THIS FEATURE SHOULD TELL YOU A LOT ABOUT THIS FARM BROADCASTER, AND
MY LOVE FOR THE AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY. FOR THOSE THAT MIGHT
HAVE SEEN THIS FEATURE, YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED SOMETHING, OR JUST
SKIP ON DOWN, THERE IS A LOT OF CURRENT ARGRICULTURE NEWS HERE.
December 10th, 2013
With just two
weeks left before Christmas, the holiday shopping is entering its
high stress period. The upcoming days promise to be the busiest time
of the season as anxious crowds of shoppers descend on malls and
shopping centers across the country. Faced with the hassle of
getting to and then finding a parking place at these facilities, a
growing number of people have turned to mail-order catalogs and
ordering gifts online. These businesses sell more than $234.5
billion worth of goods each year. Close to half of that annual total
comes from people searching prices and selections on a computer or
smart device and ordering merchandise online. Each year, Americans
spend a total of more than $3.6 trillion at the nation's retail
to Budget Deal,
Congressional budget negotiators have until Friday to finish their
work for the year - and they are reportedly closing in on a proposal
for next year. But according to the Washington Post - the deal would
not include any significant tax or entitlement reforms - nor would
it seriously deal with the sequester cuts. Aides told the Post the
emerging plan would raise agency spending to just over a trillion
dollars for the next two fiscal years - aiming to offset spending by
cutting federal worker pensions and with other modest changes. The
deal would do nothing to trim the debt. It’s reported the
negotiators hope to finish the bill in a matter of days and take it
straight to the House and Senate floors - rather than taking it to
the conference committee. Lawmakers have until January 15th to pass
a budget bill.
UP TO PLAY 60 WEBSITE:
THE CORNELL U. CLIMATE CHANGE WEBSITE:
Wants a Farm Bill
As negotiations for a new farm bill continue - the U.S. Cattlemen’s
Association continues to urge members of the conference committee to
leave the country of origin labeling program alone. USCA is strongly
opposed to any amendment that would alter or repeal COOL. The group
says legislative action on COOL is unwarranted - as USDA and the
U.S. Trade Representative have stated the revised regulations bring
the U.S. into compliance with our international trade obligations.
According to USCA President Jon Wooster - it wouldn’t be appropriate
for Congress to disrupt the ongoing process at the World Trade
Organization. What USCA does want to see - Wooster says - is
Congressional passage of a final farm bill that provides U.S.
agricultural producers with the long-term, comprehensive safety nets
they need as they prepare for the new year.
Ministerial Provides Pathway
Members of the World Trade Organization have agreed to adopt
multilateral agreements on efforts to reduce barriers at borders as
well as several agricultural provisions. U.S. Grains Council
Director of Trade Policy Floyd Gaibler - who was at the WTO Bali
Ministerial - says trade facilitation measures that reduce
transaction costs and red tape should improve overall trade benefits
- including agriculture related products. An agreement was reached
on provisions that will improve the administration of tariff rate
quotas and reconfirm the commitment to complete elimination of
export subsidies and reductions in export guarantee programs that
were agreed to at the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial. Most importantly -
Gaibler says the 9th Ministerial agreement provides a pathway for
broader post-Doha multilateral negotiations. He says these will
encompass the remaining agricultural pillars - domestic subsidies
and market access - that have been delayed since the suspension of
the Doha negotiations in 2008.
WTO members also established an interim food security program that
will allow countries with existing food stockholding programs to
continue to operate those existing programs even if they exceed or
will result in exceeding their allowable domestic subsidies for an
interim period until a final agreement is reached. While the
agreement sets a target for reaching a final solution in four years
at the 11th WTO Ministerial - Gaibler says it’s not a binding
duration. He says the agreement does require strong transparency and
safeguard provisions - including protections to ensure that the
operation of food stockholding programs will not distort trade or
food security of other countries. According to Gaibler - countries
will be allowed to participate in the work program to ensure that
the transparency and safeguard provisions are met - and they will
have input in development of a permanent solution.
CROPS and WEATHER NEWS
CROPS and WEATHER NEWS
Bureau's "Fill Your Plate"
Farmers' Markets Listings to Make it
According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative -
the multilateral agreement reached by the WTO membership in Bali
takes important steps to address some key issues with regard to
agricultural trade. One new decision will provide developing country
members in danger of breaching their domestic support limits for
food stockholding programs freedom from legal challenge in order to
give them time to bring their policies in line with their WTO
commitments. The USTR notes the United States worked to ensure this
freedom from challenge is only available to members if their
programs do not distort trade and if they meet certain transparency
conditions to share the details of their support mechanisms. A new
decision on export competition will require transparency to help
members understand how their trading partners are proceeding toward
the commitment of preserving well-functioning markets by
facilitating competition amongst market actors. According to USTR -
this result will ensure a balanced approach across all forms of
export competition and provide an important impetus for members to
resume the WTO agriculture negotiations - addressing the other
pillars of these negotiations – market access and domestic support -
along with export competition.
An understanding on the administration of Tariff Rate Quotas -
according to USTR - facilitates increased opportunities for U.S.
farmers, ranchers, workers and food processors to enhance exports to
a number of WTO member countries. USTR says this understanding
provides American agricultural producers more market access by
addressing the issue of chronically low fill rates in members’ WTO
IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU!!!!!
Courtesy of the California Farm Bureau
to Improve Housing
USDA is making changes to a popular loan program for rural
homebuyers. The changes are part of an extensive overhaul designed
to strengthen rural housing markets, increase the availability of
rural home loans and spur the construction of new homes in rural
areas. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the changes will
help create jobs and enable more people to participate in the loan
guarantee program. In addition - he says the changes will add
significant capital to rural areas and give rural Americans more
opportunities to make financing decisions that lay the groundwork
for the future prosperity of their families. Among other things -
the changes expand the types of lenders who are eligible to
participate and allow borrowers to choose home loan terms shorter
than 30 years. The improvements to the Rural Development Single
Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program will take effect September
1st of 2014. Public comments on the changes are welcomed. The
deadline to submit comments is January 8th. Additional details are
available on page 73927 of the December 9 Federal Register.
Holiday Use of Real Dairy Foods
ARLINGTON, VA – ’Tis the season to
enjoy real dairy products such as butter, cheese, whipped cream, and
eggnog, according to DairyUS, the animated character based on the
iconic REAL® Seal logo, who shares that perspective in a new video
that was released today by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF).
Visitors to the REAL® Seal website
will be greeted by an animated DairyUS throughout the holiday
season. Flying over snowy rooftops in a sleigh pulled by festive
dairy cows instead of reindeer, DairyUS and his industrious little
elf remind consumers that December is the perfect time to
incorporate real dairy products into their holiday recipes.
was created earlier this year to help a new generation of consumers
distinguish between genuine U.S. dairy products and a growing list
of list of imitations. A contest was held in the fall to select his
name, with the winner being announced at NMPF’s annual meeting in
Phoenix last month. In addition to his presence on the REAL® Seal
website, he also has made appearances on the
REAL® Seal Facebook page
will help both kids and adults learn about foods made with real
dairy products,” NMPF’s incoming President & CEO Jim Mulhern
explained. “The REAL® Seal means a product is a real dairy product,
made with milk from cows on U.S. dairy farms and without imported,
imitation, or substitute ingredients. That’s an important
distinction consumers can make when they’re browsing the grocery
animated character has already appeared in other short videos this
year. He will continue to do so in 2014 to highlight topical and
seasonal events, such as holidays and sporting events, providing
consumers with easy tips to incorporate more real dairy foods into
their everyday meals.
National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), based in Arlington, VA,
develops and carries out policies that advance the well-being of
dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. The members of NMPF’s
cooperatives produce the majority of the U.S. milk supply, making
NMPF the voice of more than 32,000 dairy producers on Capitol Hill
and with government agencies. Visit
www.nmpf.org for more information.
“Veteran Calls EPA Proposal
in the Face”
Veteran Darrell Rakestraw sees the Environmental
Protection Agency’s proposed 2014 renewable fuel volumes
for the Renewable Fuel Standard as a slap in the face to
every veteran and the men and women still serving.
Rakestraw - who works for Patriot Renewable Fuels in
Illinois - says he thinks Big Oil is dancing on the
graves of all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives.
He stresses the country must get less dependent on
foreign oil. Rakestraw has created a White House
petition in support of the RFS and is encouraging all
people with skin in the game to support the country and
veterans by signing the petition. The petition currently
has more than 880 signatures. Visit petitions dot
whitehouse dot gov slash petitions (http://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petitions)
and search for renewable to find Rakestraw’s petition.
Patriot Renewable Fuels President Gene Griffith says his
plant has infused more than 18-million dollars in salary
and benefits into the local economy and buys 40-million
bushels of corn per year as a new market for Illinois
corn. The biorefinery also has contributed more than
400-million dollars to the U.S. balance of trade while
creating an export market to China in the form of DDGs.
Finally - by producing 550-million gallons of ethanol -
Patriot replaced 1.2-billion dollars of foreign oil
Report Since Merger
Smithfield Foods Inc reports losses of 4.2-million
dollars in the company’s second fiscal quarter on
decreased operating profit in its pork segment and
52-million dollars in costs associated with the merger
with Shuanghui (shawn-way) International Holdings. The
loss compares with net income of 10.9-million dollars in
the year-earlier period. Pork segment operating profit
decreased 123.8-million dollars. Sales in the quarter
did rise to 3.4-billion from 3.2-billion dollars.
Sysco to Buy US Foods for $3.5
Billion, Uniting Distributors
Sysco Corp. agreed to acquire
closely held US Foods for $3.5 billion, adding brands from
Cattleman’s meat to Devonshire desserts, in the largest
food-distribution deal in eight years in North America.
Corn Market Won't Find Its
Knight in Shining Armor
The demand picture heading
into 2014 will be familiar to those who saw the 1970s and 1980s,
Bob Utterback tells the U.S. Farm Report Market Roundtable.
Milk: The Double-edged Sword
of the Beef Cowherd
Milk is clearly a good thing
in the beef cowherd. Heavier milking cows produce heavier
calves. But at what cost?
Get Current on the Soybean
There's no carry in the
soybean market, explains one Pro Farmer market analyst. With the
expected record production in South America, she advises farmers
to take advantage of the pricing today.
National Dairy Council, NFL
Renew Commitment to Fuel Up to Play 60 Program
Commitment renews the program,
which reaches 14 million students, for another five years.
Pre-Report Analysis of Dec. 10
Find out what the big news
could be with Tuesday's USDA World Agricultural Supply and
Demand Estimates and Crop Production reports.
to Debut at Super Bowl in Major Ad Push
Chobani says it will air its
first Super Bowl ad this February, a move intended to make the
Greek yogurt company more of a household name.
Wheat Climbs on Import Demand
and Concern Cold May Damage Crops
Wheat for delivery in March
added 0.2 percent to $6.52 a bushel by 7:44 a.m. on the Chicago
Board of Trade.
2014 Outlook: China Holds All
the Cotton Cards
What China decides to do with
its massive reserves, and whether Chinese growers pick up
production, will determine the direction of cotton prices in
After slow holiday week,
feeder market springs back to action
After a slow Thanksgiving holiday week, feeder cattle and calf markets were active last week with price trends in the Southeast and Southern Plains mostly steady to lower while calves Midwestern and Northern Plains were fully steady to 2.0 higher on more attractive offerings, according to USDA Market News Reporter Corbitt Wall. FULL STORY »
RESEARCH IN AGRICULTURE
ARS scientists have developed blends of cotton gin waste that industry partners are transforming through fungi into custom-shaped packing materials that are similar in appearance to polystyrene foam. Click the image for more information about it.
from Cotton Waste
Proprietary agricultural waste blends provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists to industry partners are being used in a new process that literally grows custom packaging products to protect computers and other breakables during shipping.
These biodegradable blends were developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Greg Holt and his colleagues at Lubbock, Texas. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The process involves combining cotton gin waste and fungi inside a cast, called a "tool," where the two ingredients become one, resulting in a spongy-looking material similar in appearance to polystyrene foam. The custom-shaped end product is providing a cost-effective "green" alternative to extruded polystyrene foam packaging—an estimated $2 billon market.
Holt works at the ARS Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Lubbock. His industry partner, Ecovative Design of Green Island, N.Y., developed the patented method that uses fungi as a workhorse.
Woody cotton waste is blended, pasteurized, and embedded into a customized cast tool. Then the tool is injected with the fungus, which grows onto, in, and around the cotton waste, eventually forming a new, consistently textured, solid mass. Once the tool is opened, a custom-shaped solid mass emerges, which is biodegradable, compostable and flame retardant, but has the cushioning strength of synthetic packing material.
To learn which blends meet or exceed the same characteristics of extruded polystyrene foam, the lab evaluated the physical and mechanical properties of six different cotton-byproduct blends as a substrate for the fungal colonization.
Each blend was inoculated with a single fungus using two different inoculation methods, for a total of 12 treatments that were evaluated for numerous physical and mechanical properties. Overall, the treatments tested well, and the results indicated that the blend and inoculation method needed are based on the end-use of the product.
The study was published in September 2012 in the Journal of Biobased
ARS scientists are helping catfish farmers increase production by breeding hybrid catfish—crosses between channel catfish and blue catfish like these. Click the image for more information about it.
|Listen to a podcast
Lending a Hand
in Hybrid Catfish Production
In the catfish industry, it's well-known that hybrid catfish—a cross of the channel catfish with the blue catfish—generally have better growth, higher survival rates and better meat yield than purebred channel catfish. Although production has increased from 30 million hybrid fry in 2007 to about 150 million in 2012, these fish are not easy to breed.
Thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists, producers are getting help learning how to produce hybrids. Using hybrids instead of channel catfish could increase their production by 20 to 30 percent.
Unlike channel catfish that spawn naturally, the hybrid catfish is a cross between two species that rarely mate with each other. Hybrid fry production involves hormone-assisted reproduction. Geneticists Brian Bosworth and Nagaraj Chatakondi in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit in Stoneville, Miss., work with their Mississippi State University colleagues at the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center to give hands-on training to farmers who are learning about the hybrid breeding process. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
In addition, ARS scientists study catfish nutrition, genetics and management practices to produce a better catfish, whether it's channel, blue or hybrid. Research includes improving hybrid embryo production by determining the effects of the calcium content of the water on the hatching success of eggs, and developing a method to identify poor-quality eggs before they hatch.
Geoff Waldbieser, a ARS molecular biologist at Stoneville, is developing DNA markers for channel and blue catfish to determine genetic diversity, produce pedigree populations and identify markers associated with important traits like meat yield and disease resistance. Also at Stoneville, ARS physiologist Brian Peterson is investigating the relationship between gene expression, catfish growth and immune function.
While great improvement has been made in catfish breeding, one goal is to provide research to help U.S producers grappling with a slow economy, high feed costs and fish imports from foreign countries. Studies are under way to determine desirable heritable traits, improve germplasm, identify crucial water-quality factors, and develop better production systems.
Read more about this research in the November/December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS scientists have demonstrated that giving interferons (proteins produced by cells to stop viruses) can be used to protect animals immediately against foot-and-mouth infection in the window before vaccination provides protection.
Click the image for more information about it.
to Fight FMD (Foot & Mouth Disease)
Proteins called interferons are among the latest weapons U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are using to combat foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). These proteins kill or stop viruses from growing and reproducing.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit, located at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Orient Point, N.Y., have demonstrated that interferons can be used to protect animals immediately against FMD infection. This rapid protection gives vaccines time to induce the animal's immune response needed to fight the disease.
Interferons consist of three families—type I (alpha-beta), type II (gamma), and type III (lambda). Retired ARS chemist Marvin Grubman discovered that type I is very effective in controlling FMD virus infection. Pigs inoculated with a viral vector containing the gene coding for swine type I interferon and challenged with FMD virus were protected for five days.
To cover the seven-day window it takes for vaccines to start protecting against FMD, Grubman combined type I and II in an antiviral vaccine-delivery system, which quickly blocks the virus in pigs. In combination with a vaccine, this patented technology provided thorough protection from day one until the vaccine immune response kicked in seven days later.
These methods work well in pigs, but not in cattle. However, ARS microbiologist Teresa de los Santos, computational biologist James Zhu and Grubman have identified a type III interferon that rapidly protects cattle against FMD virus as early as one day after vaccination. In laboratory tests, disease was significantly delayed in animals exposed to FMD virus after previously being treated with bovine type III interferon, as compared to a control group that did not receive treatment.
In other experiments, the type III interferon treatment was found to be even more protective in cows that were naturally exposed to FMD, according to de los Santos.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
Read more about this research in the October 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS scientists used an automated dietary survey tool they developed to accurately estimate how much sodium volunteers consumed as part of their daily diets. Click the image for more information about it.
Assessing the U.S. Population's
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists used an automated dietary survey tool they developed to accurately estimate how much sodium volunteers consumed as part of their daily diets.
The scientists, with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), found that the volunteers' sodium intake estimates were 90 to 93 percent accurate among men and women. Sodium intake has become a hot topic as public policymakers address regulatory proposals aimed at lowering sodium in foods. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine issued a report recommending that new national sodium standards be implemented by the federal government.
ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
Researchers at the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md., developed the Automated Multiple Pass Method (AMPM), an innovative surveying tool used to obtain information on the amounts of foods and beverages consumed by a survey volunteer during a 24-hour period.
Several major food manufacturers have long been implementing sodium-reduction strategies through self-regulation. The usefulness of proposed regulatory steps will depend on accurate and practical methods to monitor the U.S. population's sodium intake.
The accuracy of sodium intake was calculated as the ratio of reported dietary intake to that estimated from urinary sodium excretion. The results showed that the dietary sodium intake estimates reported by volunteers derived using the ARS survey interview method were accurate when cross-checked against the urinary sodium excretion data.
Results from this study are significant because they demonstrate that the dietary survey method is a valid tool for estimating sodium intake as well as energy intake. The current ARS national food and nutrient intake survey uses the automated tool for both in-person and telephone interviews.
The automated tool will continue to accurately estimate the population's sodium intakes from foods as food composition databases produced by ARS are routinely updated to reflect changes in the salt content of foods consumed, according to the study's lead author Donna Rhodes, a nutritionist at the Beltsville center.
The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Children who ate breakfast were better able to tackle dozens of math problems in rapid-fire succession than kids who didn't have a morning meal, an ARS-funded nutrition study has shown. Click the image for more information about it.
A "Plus" for Kids' Math Performance, Study Shows
Eating breakfast—or choosing to skip it—may significantly influence a child's ability to solve math problems, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded nutrition study suggests.Scientist R. Terry Pivik's work with 81 healthy children has indicated that those who ate breakfast were better able to tackle dozens of math problems in rapid-fire succession than peers who didn't have a morning meal.
Pivik directs the Brain Function Laboratory at the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center, and is also a research professor in pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Both the center and the university are in Little Rock. In his study of 8- to 11-year-old volunteers, each child took two morning math tests, with a 40-minute break in between. Half of the kids ate breakfast during the break; the others did not.
During the math tests, Pivik used EEG (electroencephalographic) sensors to harmlessly record electrical activity generated over regions of children's brains that are involved in solving math problems. The sensors were fitted into a soft cap that the kids wore as they viewed simple math problems presented to them on a computer monitor, calculated the answer in their head, then selected one answer from among three onscreen choices.
EEG data showed that youngsters who had skipped breakfast had to exert more effort to perform the "mental math" that the tests required, and to stay focused on the task at hand, according to Pivik. In contrast, those who had eaten breakfast used less mental effort to solve the problems, stayed more focused on the tests, and improved their scores in the post-breakfast test.
Previous studies by researchers elsewhere have shown an association between nutrition and academic performance. However, the design of the Arkansas study had some important differences. For example, the researchers carefully controlled the time at which the kids ate breakfast, as well as what they were served. The study is apparently the first published investigation, with 8- to 11-year-olds, that controlled the time and content of the morning meal and used EEG technology to monitor brain activity while the children were solving math problems.
Pivik and nutrition center colleagues Yuyuan Gu and Kevin B. Tennal, along with Stephen D. Chapman—formerly at the center—documented their findings in a peer-reviewed article published in 2012 in the scientific journal Physiology & Behavior.
The research supports the USDA priority of enhancing children's health and nutrition. ARS is the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The study is described in the November-December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
Baby's obesity risk: What's Mom's influence?
ARS scientists have developed a two-gene strategy that can boost production of the beneficial phytochemical pterostilbene in crops like blueberries that already produce it and also add it into crops that don't commonly produce it such as grapes. Click the image for larger verison.
Ramping Up Pterostilbene
A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists has developed a way to boost production of a beneficial plant compound called pterostilbene.
The discovery by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists enables crop species to produce or increase production of pterostilbene. Stilbenes are a subgroup of beneficial plant phytochemicals called "polyphenols." The approach could pave the way for ramping up levels of potentially healthful pterostilbene in crops that normally produce it, such as grapes and berries.
ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
ARS molecular biologists Scott R. Baerson and Zhiqiang Pan and chemist Agnes Rimando headed the study. They and plant physiologist Franck Dayan, a coauthor, are with the ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Unit in Oxford, Miss. Another coauthor, ARS plant pathologist James Polashock, works with the agency's Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Lab in Beltsville, Md., but is based in Chatsworth, N.J.
There are two stilbenes—resveratrol and pterostilbene—which may possess similar purported beneficial health properties. During their work, the team showed that a previously characterized and patented gene called SbOMT3, which they had isolated from the sorghum plant, is capable of converting resveratrol to pterostilbene. They then built on that conversion activity by co-expressing SbOMT3 with a stilbene-synthase gene, AhSTS3, that had been isolated from the peanut plant.
For the proof-of-concept study, both genes were successfully incorporated into the chromosomes of two different model host plants, Arabidopsis and tobacco. The two-gene strategy generated transgenic plants that were able to produce pterostilbene, the authors reported. The study results were published in Plant Biotechnology Journal in 2012.
An ARS patent, issued in 2010, describes the ability of SbOMT3 to produce transgenic plants that express pterostilbene, and describes the two-gene strategy.
Read more about this research in the November/December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS scientists have developed a nearly 100 percent biodegradable kitty litter made from dried distiller's grains, left over from corn-ethanol production.
Potential New Use for Spent Corn Grains
Kitty litter that's nearly 100 percent biodegradable can be made by processing spent grains left over from corn ethanol production. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant physiologist Steven F. Vaughn and his colleagues have shown that litter made with these grains as the starting material may prove to be more environmentally friendly than popular but nonbiodegradable clay-based litters. After use, clay litters mostly end up in landfills.
Spent grains are also known as DDGs, short for "dried distiller's grains." A DDGs-based litter may provide a new and perhaps higher-value market for the tons of DDGs that corn ethanol refineries now primarily market as a cattle feed ingredient.
In preliminary studies, Vaughn's group tested "x-DDGs." These are DDGs that, after being used for ethanol production, are treated with one or more solvents to extract any remaining, potentially useful natural compounds.
The team's laboratory experiments yielded a suggested formulation composed of the x-DDGs and three other compounds: glycerol, to prevent the litter from forming dust particles when poured or pawed; guar gum, to help the litter clump easily when wet; and a very small amount of copper sulfate, for odor control.
The resulting litter is highly absorbent, forms strong clumps that don't crumble when scooped from the litter box, and provides significant odor control, according to Vaughn. He's based at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The idea of using corn or other grains as the basis of an environmentally sound cat litter isn't new. But the Peoria team may be the first to extensively study the potential of x-DDGs as the primary component of a litter, and to make their results publicly available.
Their peer-reviewed scientific article about the litter appears in a 2012 issue of Industrial Crops and Products.
Vaughn did the work with ARS chemists Mark A. Berhow and Jill K. Winkler-Moser at Peoria, and Edward Lee of Summit Seed, Inc., in Manteno, Ill.
The kitty litter research is highlighted in the October 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS scientists and their collaborators have developed new garden- and dry-pea breeding lines that are resistant to Aphanomyces root rot, a disease that can cause crop yield losses of 20 to 100 percent. Photo, Rebecca McGee, ARS.
Developed for Release
New garden- and dry-pea breeding lines developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their collaborators may offer growers added insurance against Aphanomyces root rot, a disease that can cause crop yield losses of 20 to 100 percent.
The mold-like pathogen that causes the disease, Aphanomyces euteiches, infects the roots and underground stems of susceptible pea plants and other legumes, rotting them and causing stunted growth, lesions, wilted leaves and other symptoms. Fungicides aren't an option, so growers must either avoid planting in fields with a history of the disease or switch to growing non-host crops until pathogen numbers drop to acceptable levels.
However, avoidance and crop rotation may not always be economically feasible. Furthermore, breeding peas for resistance to Aphanomyces has proven difficult because multiple genes are involved, according to Rebecca McGee, a plant geneticist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
The resistance genes are also associated with undesirable traits, which cultivated varieties can inherit when crossed with wild germplasm sources, adds McGee, at the ARS Grain Legume Genetics Physiology Research Unit in Pullman, Wash.
As an alternative, McGee, ARS geneticist Clare Coyne and other colleagues sought to develop pea germplasm lines that naturally tolerate the pathogen, but do not suffer the same ill effects as susceptible plants—particularly not significant yield losses. Coyne is with the ARS Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research Unit, also in Pullman.
The pea lines are descendants of an inbred population of plants derived from an ARS cross made in 1993 between the cultivar Dark Skin Perfection and germplasm line 90-2131. Besides their tolerance of Aphanomyces root rot, the lines were also chosen for their acceptable agronomic characteristics.
Incorporating the tolerance trait into elite varieties could prove especially beneficial to growers in Pacific Northwest and North Central states, where Aphanomyces outbreaks threaten the valued role that peas and other legumes play in cereal-based crop rotation systems.
Read more about this research in the November/December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS scientists are using GIS technology to map how nutrients, antibiotics and microorganisms from cattle feedlots can sometimes end up in nearby surface and ground waters so that cleanup resources can be better targeted. Click the image for more information about it.
Tracking the Fate of Feedlot Contaminants
with GIS Has Benefits
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) researchers in Bowling Green, Ky., have found that a unique approach to cleaning up feedlot operations—the use of geographic information system (GIS) spatial mapping technologies to track how contaminants flow through the soil—offers its own set of benefits.
Cattle feedlots can produce excess concentrations of nutrients, antibiotics and microorganisms that sometimes end up in surface and ground waters. Cleaning up such damage is costly, and the question is how to apply resources to the right areas.
Scientists Kimberly Cook and Karamat Sistani with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Animal Waste Management Research Unit, in Bowling Green, along with collaborators at Western Kentucky University, used GIS technology to measure nutrients, bacteria and pharmaceuticals given to cattle that were found in soil samples collected from a 5-acre feedlot used to grow out weaned calves. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.
The researchers analyzed the soil for nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous, antibiotics used to treat cattle diseases and enhance growth, and microorganisms commonly used to indicate fecal contamination in waterways and soils: Escherichia coli, Bacteroides, and Enterococcus. The study was one of the first to simultaneously measure all three types of contaminants—nutrients, antibiotics and indicator microorganisms—and use GIS technology to map contaminant distribution patterns.
The results, published in the Journal of Environmental Quality (2013), showed nutrients, microorganisms and antibiotics all largely stayed in the feeding area at the top of the site's 4-degree slope. They were distributed in a similar manner with no distinct flow patterns.
Results also showed that GIS mapping is one of the best tools available for determining how contaminants have spread, identifying contaminated areas and deciding on which areas need attention. The findings also suggest that cleaning up the site may be more manageable than previously thought, with efforts focused on remediation of the feeding and nearby grazing areas where contaminants were concentrated.
Palmer amaranth is an aggressive weed of the south that can grow at the rate of two inches a day and outcompete many crops. Photo courtesy of Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org.
ARS plant pathologist Doug Boyette has found a fungus that can be grown in a fermentor which may be able to control Palmer amaranth, a weed that is becoming resistant to some herbicides. Click the image for more information about it.
Fungus May Offer
Natural Weed Control
A naturally occurring fungus may prove useful in the fight against Palmer amaranth, an aggressive southern weed that can grow at the rate of two inches a day and outcompete corn, cotton, soybean and other crops for resources, potentially reducing their yields.
To make matters worse, some biotypes of the weed have become resistant to glyphostate herbicides. As a possible alternative, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Stoneville, Miss., are exploring ways to formulate Myrothecium verrucaria, a fungus which attacks Palmer amaranth's leaf and stem tissues, causing wilt, necrotic lesions, loss of chlorophyll, and other disease symptoms that can kill young plants and weaken older ones.
Studies by Robert Hoagland, Doug Boyette and others at the Jamie Whitten Delta States Research Center operated by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Stoneville, indicate Myrothecium can wreak similar havoc on biotypes of Palmer amaranth that resist glyphosate and other herbicides such as triazines.
To test Myrothecium's infectivity, the researchers used a filamentous growth stage known as mycelium and sprayed a special formulation of it onto two batches of four-week-old Palmer amaranth seedlings: those with glyphosate resistance and those without. They repeated the same procedure with six-week-old plants. All groups were visually checked for symptoms over the experiment's seven-day (168-hour) period and then weighed for reductions in shoot growth.
Seedlings were most susceptible, with all plants exposed to a full-strength application of the fungus showing disease symptoms. By 48 to 72 hours, nearly 100 percent had died. In six-week-old plants, symptoms progressed more slowly, but there was no significant difference in injury between glyphosate-resistant and glyphosate-susceptible plants. Both groups showed disease symptoms, most notably chlorosis, some necrosis, and stunted growth.
The findings, published in Allelopathy Journal, mark the first report of Myrothecium's bioherbicidal activity against a weed species with glyphosate resistance.
Read more about this research in the November/December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
ARS scientists and their collaborators have identified three compounds in tropical breadfruit trees-capric, undecanoic and lauric acids-that can repel mosquitoes significantly better than DEET. Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org.
Studies Confirm Breadfruit's Ability
to Repel Insects
Breadfruit, used as a folk remedy in Pacific regions to control insects, is an effective mosquito repellent, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have found.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their collaborators at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada, identified three breadfruit compounds—capric, undecanoic and lauric acids—that act as insect repellents. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.
In the study, chemist Charles Cantrell and his colleagues at the ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Unit (NPURU) in Oxford, Miss., and the University of British Columbia scientists collected smoke extracts by burning sun-dried clusters of flowers in the traditional method used by people in Pacific regions.
Capric, undecanoic and lauric acids, which are saturated fatty acids, were found to be significantly more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the primary insect repellent used against biting insects. For the first time, breadfruit was shown to actually work as a repellent, confirming it as a valid folk remedy, according to Cantrell.
These same compounds found in breadfruit and other folk remedies were shown to be highly active and the most repelling in a different study that examined a variety of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Cantrell teamed with Uli Bernier, a chemist in the Mosquito and Fly Research Unit at the ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Fla., and scientists at the University of Mississippi to evaluate the compounds. The test involved cloth treated with different concentrations of compounds and worn by volunteers. Again, these compounds were shown to provide effective protection against mosquitoes.
Funding for these studies was provided in part by the Deployed War-Fighter Protection Research Program. The program focuses on developing public health insecticides and improving technologies to protect U.S. military personnel from disease-transmitting insects such as mosquitoes that spread serious and deadly diseases including malaria, yellow fever and dengue