USDA

Probing Phosphorus Losses from Midwestern Crop Fields

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 09:06
Probing Phosphorus Losses from Midwestern Crop Fields / January 28, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A satellite image of Lake Erie from September 2011, overlaid on a map of the lake and its tributaries showing an algal bloom in green. Link to photo information
This image shows the algal bloom (green) covering the entire western basin and beginning to expand into the central basin. ARS scientists are monitoring phosphorus discharge from farms in surface runoff and tile drainage, so they can recommend best management practices to farmers. Click the image for more information about it.


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Probing Phosphorus Losses from Midwestern Crop Fields

By Dennis O'Brien
January 28, 2015

When runoff flows from farm fields into the Lake Erie Basin, phosphorus in that runoff contributes to the algal blooms that can contaminate drinking water supplies. Surface runoff is generally considered to be the most significant source of that phosphorus. But studies by two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists show that underground tile drains—commonly used by Midwestern farmers to drain excess water from crop fields—are also major contributors of phosphorus.

Since 2008, Doug Smith, a soil scientist at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory in Temple, Texas, has been monitoring phosphorus in surface runoff and tile drainage from farm fields in the St. Joseph River Watershed in northeast Indiana, which is part of the larger Lake Erie Watershed. Between 2008 and 2013, he found that 49 percent of dissolved phosphorus and 48 percent of total phosphorus in the watershed was discharged via tile drains.

From 2005 to 2012, Kevin King, an agricultural engineer at the ARS Soil Drainage Research Unit in Columbus, Ohio, monitored phosphorus levels in the discharge from six tile drains and the outlet of a headwater watershed in central Ohio. He found that tile drains contributed 47 percent of the phosphorus discharge.

Farmers in the region are generally careful to apply only as much fertilizer as needed, and King's measurements indicated that only around 2 percent of that phosphorus was lost through runoff. But phosphorus concentrations in the tile drainage and the watershed discharge often exceed concentrations recommended for preventing algal blooms, the researchers say. King's team concluded that reducing phosphorus losses will require practices that mitigate losses via tile drainage in the late fall, winter and early spring, when most of the phosphorus loading occurs

The findings support efforts to reduce phosphorus levels in the Lake Erie Watershed by highlighting the importance of managing nutrient losses in both surface runoff and the amounts transported to tile drains. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a goal of reducing phosphorus fertilizer runoff into the Great Lakes by more than 1,400 tons by 2019.

Read more about this work in the January 2015 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA goal of promoting agricultural sustainability.

Categories: USDA

Using Clay to Fight Fish Disease

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 08:08
Using Clay to Fight Fish Disease / January 14, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

  Channel catfish fingerlings clustered together in a tank.  Link to photo information
Kaolin, a white clay, has proven to be an alternative to antibiotics for treating columnaris disease in channel catfish fingerlings. Click the image for more information about it.


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Using Clay to Fight Fish Disease

By Sandra Avant
January 14, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have unearthed a natural material that helps prevent a deadly fish disease.

Kaolin, a type of clay found globally, significantly improved the survival of channel catfish with columnaris disease in a recent study conducted by fish physiologist Benjamin Beck, located at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Harry K. Dupree Stuttgart National Aquaculture Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

The soft white clay has been used for years in cosmetics, medicine and papermaking. It is also used in manufacturing china, porcelain and other products.

Beck and his ARS colleagues evaluated kaolin as an alternative to antibiotics sometimes used to treat disease in fish. Columnaris affects many commercially grown finfish species worldwide, but few treatments are available to prevent the disease caused by the bacterial pathogen Flavobacterium columnare. The disease affects the gills, skin and fins of fish, and often leads to death.

Experiments involved adding different sizes of clay particles to tanks of water that contained young catfish and then adding the disease-causing pathogen. Some tanks received no clay treatment.

Fish in tanks treated with kaolin had a 96 percent survival rate compared to untreated fish, which had a 79 percent survival rate. Treated fish had no lesions on their gills compared to untreated fish.

According to Beck, kaolin works by binding to the pathogen, preventing it from attaching to the fish and causing disease. The process potentially can be scaled up for commercial production to reduce the amount of pathogen in the water.

Kaolin not only offers producers an alternative to antibiotics, but it also provides an inexpensive treatment for a costly fish disease. In addition, the clay is plentiful, and the United States is one of its leading producers.

Read more about this research in the January 2015 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

NAL Unveils New Search Engine for Published USDA Research

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 06:36
NAL Unveils New Search Engine for Published USDA Research / January 13, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Two women working at a computer. Link to photo information
The National Agricultural Library's new literature search tool, PubAg, is user friendly and does not require the public to establish an account or a password. Click the image for more information about it.

NAL Unveils New Search Engine for Published USDA Research

By Kim Kaplan
January 13, 2015

The National Agricultural Library (NAL) has unveiled PubAg, a user-friendly search engine that gives the public enhanced access to research published by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. NAL is part of USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

PubAg, which can be found at PubAg.nal.usda.gov, is a new portal for literature searches and full-text access of more than 40,000 scientific journal articles by USDA researchers, mostly from 1997 to 2014. New articles by USDA researchers will be added almost daily, and older articles may be added if possible. There is no access fee for PubAg.

Phase I of PubAg provides access for searches of 340,000 peer-reviewed agriculturally related scientific literature, mostly from 2002 to 2012, each entry offering a citation, abstract and a link to the article if available from the publisher. This initial group of highly relevant, high-quality literature was taken from the 4 million bibliographic citations in NAL's database.

Phase II of PubAg, planned for later in 2015, will include the remainder of NAL's significant bibliographic records.

PubAg has been specifically designed to be easy to use and to serve a number of diverse users including the public, farmers, scientists, academicians and students. There is no requirement for a username, password or any other form of registration to use PubAg.

NAL has one of the world's largest and most comprehensive compilations of agricultural information available.

Categories: USDA

Physical Activity Intervention for the Elderly

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 01/07/2015 - 07:15
Physical Activity Intervention for the Elderly / January 7, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A group of elderly women participating in an aerobic exercise class.  Link to photo information
An ARS study of people aged 70 to 89 years with sarcopenia—age-related muscle loss—showed that their overall physical function improved with exercise. Click the image for more information about it.


For further reading

Physical Activity Intervention for the Elderly

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
January 7, 2015

The holidays are over, and the annual New Year's resolutions to get more exercise have begun. Now, as explained in this month's issue of Agricultural Research magazine, the elderly have more reasons than ever to join the ranks of those determined to get moving. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded scientists in Boston and co-investigators have reported that elders with relatively little muscle mass can benefit from preventive exercise.

The study was headed by geriatrician Christine Liu and co-authored by physiologist Roger Fielding, both with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston. They are with HNRCA's Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia Laboratory, which Fielding directs.

By age 80, an estimated 40 percent of the muscle mass that was present at age 20 is lost. Age-related muscle loss—which excludes disease-related muscle loss—is called "sarcopenia." This condition can lead to costly surgeries and hospital stays due to fractures after falls caused by weak muscles.

The researchers looked at data collected on 177 elders aged 70 to 89 years who were at risk of becoming disabled due to lack of mobility. The data were collected during the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders study. One group of volunteers participated in a physical activity intervention that included aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility training. The volunteers' body composition, including lean muscle and body fat, was measured—both before and after the intervention.

The results demonstrated that elders with sarcopenia are capable of improving their overall physical function, including balance, walking and strength, in response to physical activity. The study was published in January 2014 in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS)—USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency—supports the HNRCA through an agreement. Read more about this research, as well as newly developed tests for local healthcare practitioners' use to diagnose and treat sarcopenia, in the January 2015 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

New Test Counts Total Phenolics in Fruits and Veggies

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 12/24/2014 - 08:25
Physical Activity Intervention for the Elderly / January 7, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A group of elderly women participating in an aerobic exercise class.  Link to photo information
An ARS study of people aged 70 to 89 years with sarcopenia—age-related muscle loss—showed that their overall physical function improved with exercise. Click the image for more information about it.


For further reading

Physical Activity Intervention for the Elderly

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
January 7, 2015

The holidays are over, and the annual New Year's resolutions to get more exercise have begun. Now, as explained in this month's issue of Agricultural Research magazine, the elderly have more reasons than ever to join the ranks of those determined to get moving. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded scientists in Boston and co-investigators have reported that elders with relatively little muscle mass can benefit from preventive exercise.

The study was headed by geriatrician Christine Liu and co-authored by physiologist Roger Fielding, both with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston. They are with HNRCA's Nutrition, Exercise Physiology, and Sarcopenia Laboratory, which Fielding directs.

By age 80, an estimated 40 percent of the muscle mass that was present at age 20 is lost. Age-related muscle loss—which excludes disease-related muscle loss—is called "sarcopenia." This condition can lead to costly surgeries and hospital stays due to fractures after falls caused by weak muscles.

The researchers looked at data collected on 177 elders aged 70 to 89 years who were at risk of becoming disabled due to lack of mobility. The data were collected during the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders study. One group of volunteers participated in a physical activity intervention that included aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility training. The volunteers' body composition, including lean muscle and body fat, was measured—both before and after the intervention.

The results demonstrated that elders with sarcopenia are capable of improving their overall physical function, including balance, walking and strength, in response to physical activity. The study was published in January 2014 in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS)—USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency—supports the HNRCA through an agreement. Read more about this research, as well as newly developed tests for local healthcare practitioners' use to diagnose and treat sarcopenia, in the January 2015 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

Using Weedy Rice Traits to Boost Cultivated Rice Yields

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 12:56
Using Weedy Rice Traits to Boost Cultivated Rice Yields / December 10, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Taller weedy red rice scattered among cultivated rice in a field. Link to photo information
Genetic traits in the taller weedy red rice scattered in this field may help new varieties of cultivated rice adapt to climate change. Click the image for more information about it.


For further reading

Using Weedy Rice Traits to Boost Cultivated Rice Yields

By Sharon Durham
December 10, 2014

Genetic traits in weedy rice may someday be used to develop sturdy, high-yield varieties of cultivated rice that will flourish in the face of climate change, thanks to findings by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This work, conducted by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist Lewis Ziska and his colleagues.

Ziska, who is with ARS's Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, studied several rice cultivars to determine if changes in temperature and CO2 levels affected seed yields. He also looked for visible traits that could signal whether a plant cultivar has the genetic potential for adapting successfully to elevated CO2 levels.

The investigation included weedy red rice, which infests cultivated rice cropland. Despite the plant's downsides, previous assessments indicated that weedy rice growing under elevated CO2 levels had higher seed yields than cultivated rice growing under the same conditions.

Ziska monitored the different rice cultivars at current and future projections of atmospheric CO2 and a range of day/night air temperatures. He observed that on average, all the rice cultivars put out more aboveground biomass at elevated CO2 levels, although this response diminished as air temperatures rose.

For seed yield, only weedy rice and the rice cultivar 'Rondo' responded to elevated CO2 levels when grown at optimal day/night air temperatures of 84 °F and 70 °F. In addition, only the weedy rice gained significant increases of aboveground biomass and seed yield under elevated CO2 levels at the higher temperatures expected for rice-growing regions by 2050.

Seed yield is a trait linked to seed head and tiller production. Tillers are stalks put out by a growing rice plant. As the plant matures, the seed heads-where rice grain is produced-develop at the end of the tillers. This suggests that crop breeders might someday be able to use this weedy rice trait to develop commercial rice cultivars that can convert rising CO2 levels into higher seed yields.

These findings were published in Functional Plant Biology in 2013. This work supports the USDA priority of responding to climate change. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

Read more about this work in the November/December 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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