USDA

Studies Steadily Advance Cellulosic Ethanol Prospects

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 07:03
Studies Steadily Advance Cellulosic Ethanol Prospects / October 14, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Switchgrass. Link to photo information
ARS research is helping improve production of ethanol from switchgrass. Click the image for more information about it.


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Studies Steadily Advance Cellulosic Ethanol Prospects

By Ann Perry
October 14, 2014

The potential for producing cost-effective cellulosic ethanol that uses plentiful and sustainable cellulosic plant biomass continues to grow, thanks to research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at the Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, have recently completed studies on multiple approaches that could help streamline cellulosic ethanol production. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports USDA's priority of finding new sources for producing bioenergy.

In one study, a team led by ARS chemical engineer Bruce Dien looked at using switchgrass, a perennial grass native to the prairie, for ethanol production. The team concluded that biomass producers could optimize cellulosic ethanol production by planting Kanlow variety—a lowland ecotype—and harvesting at either mid-season or post frost. Results from this study were published in Environmental Technology in 2013.

ARS chemist Michael Bowman led another study of switchgrass xylans, which is challenging to convert to sugars with enzymes because of its complex chemical structure. Bowman determined that structural features of xylan remained the same as the plant matures, even though the amount of xylan changed with maturity. This is good news for biorefiners, because it suggests that they can use the same biomass hydrolyzing enzymes to break down xylans in all switchgrass biomass, no matter when the crop is harvested. Results from this study were published in Metabolites in 2012.

ARS molecular biologist Ronald Hector led work on the microorganisms needed to ferment xylose—molecules that make up xylans—into ethanol. Distiller's yeast used by corn ethanol producers does not ferment xylose. An enzyme called D-xylose isomerase, or XI, catalyzes the missing metabolic step for fermentation of xylose to ethanol. Hector's team isolated four novel XI genes encoding the enzyme from rumen and intestinal bacteria and expressed them in distiller's type yeast strains, conferring the ability for them to ferment xylose.

Then the scientists took the most promising yeast strain from this first round of trials and improved its growth and fermenting capacities through further adaptations. The result was a yeast strain that grew almost four times faster than other strains that contained XI enzymes and one that could produce ethanol at significantly greater yields than other yeasts engineered to ferment xylose to ethanol. The scientists published their findings in Biotechnology for Biofuels in 2013.

Read more about this work in the October 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

Update of USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Released

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 06:40
Latest Update of USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Released / October 10, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A woman using a laptop to access the nutrient database. Link to photo information
ARS has released the 2014 update to its USDA National Nutrient Database. Click the image for more information about it.


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Latest Update of USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Released

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
October 10, 2014

The 2014 update of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27, has been launched. Containing data for more than 8,600 food items, the database is compiled by scientists at USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) in Beltsville, Maryland.

Each year, new food-nutrient profiles are added to the database, and existing nutrient profiles are updated using data generated by USDA-ARS through its National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program and collaborations with the food industry and with others.

The Internet "dashboard" that users see after launching the online version of the database has been reorganized so that users can more easily select and view food-nutrient profiles from individual food groups. Another new consumer-oriented upgrade allows users to look up the amount of a specific nutrient within any one of the database's food items. For example, a person whose doctor recommends more dietary fiber might sort all foods by fiber content from highest to lowest. A consumer who wants to increase calcium intake might sort by calcium content of foods.

To use the new feature, click on "Start your search here" at ndb.nal.usda.gov. Next, select "Nutrients List" from the menu options at the top. Click "Select nutrient" in the "First Nutrient" box to see a drop-down list of more than 100 nutrients such as protein, calcium, carbohydrate, cholesterol, fats, caffeine and vitamin K. A second and third nutrient also can be selected. Then choose to search either "All Foods" or the "Abridged List," which includes about 1,000 commonly eaten foods in the United States. Next, for the "Food Groups" selection, click on "All Food Groups" or one of the 25 food groups available. Decide whether to sort by "Food Name" or "Nutrient Content" in the next box. Then choose between "Household" and "100 grams" in the "Measure by" box and hit "Go."

The database is managed by scientists at the ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

Read more about the USDA-ARS national nutrient data in the October 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

Protecting the Flavor of Mandarin Oranges

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 10/08/2014 - 06:17
Protecting the Flavor of Mandarin Oranges / October 8, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Sliced mandarin oranges next to a photo of vials of mandarin orange juice.
An ARS scientist and his colleagues are studying how storage temperatures and times affect the flavor of mandarin oranges.


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Protecting the Flavor of Mandarin Oranges

By Marcia Wood
October 8, 2014

Sweet, juicy mandarin oranges get their pleasing flavor from a complex blend of natural chemicals. In ongoing experiments, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist David M. Obenland and co-investigator Mary Lu Arpaia, with the University of California Riverside, are taking a close look at how storage temperatures and the amount of time in storage at packinghouses affect the flavor of these small, colorful oranges.

Their research is among the most extensive of its kind for this specialty fruit. To date, their tests have involved working with the peeled fruit or juice of more than 19,000 fresh mandarin oranges that were harvested from at least a half dozen research and commercial orchards in California. That state produces the bulk of the nation's harvest of tangerines, clementines, and other kinds of mandarins.

Most of that fruit probably spends at least some time in cold storage, followed by a period of warmer storage, according to Obenland, who is with Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Parlier, California. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

His research with Arpaia addresses each phase separately, an approach that apparently has made the studies unique among most other published mandarin flavor investigations.

One of their experiments has shown that cold storage temperatures influence the flavor of the classic W. Murcott Afourer oranges, often referred to simply as W. Murcott mandarins, but not the flavor of the Owari variety.

In other work, the researchers found that significant changes in several flavor-associated chemicals occurred soon after W. Murcott mandarins were brought out of cold storage. In brief, significant increases in three chemicals (ethyl acetate, ethyl propanoate and ethyl 2-methylpropanoate) that belong to a class known as ethyl esters occurred within the first 24 hours after the mandarins were moved from 41-degree Fahrenheit storage into 68-degree Fahrenheit storage. Significant increases in a fourth ethyl ester, ethyl 2-methylbutanoate, took place a day later.

All four ethyl esters are thought to contribute to a sweet, fruity aroma, which may have a role in what is perceived as flavor. However, it has been suggested that high levels of these four compounds may contribute to off-flavor. The team's ongoing studies might help pinpoint optimal levels of the four chemicals.

Read more about this research in the October 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Obenland, Arpaia, ARS statistician Bruce Mackey at Albany, California, and Arpaia’s University of California colleagues Sue Collin and James Sievert published these findings in the journal Postharvest Biology and Technology in 2011 and 2013.

Financial support for the research has come from the California Citrus Research Board, a grant from the U.S. Israel Binational Research and Development Fund, and ARS.

Categories: USDA

Detecting and Preventing Disease in Trout

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 06:14
Detecting and Preventing Disease in Trout / October 3, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Rainbow trout.
ARS scientists are field testing a new disease-resistant rainbow trout. Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey, Bugwood.org.


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Detecting and Preventing Disease in Trout

By Sandra Avant
October 3, 2014

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are taking their studies to the field to gauge the survival rate of a new line of rainbow trout that is resistant to bacterial cold-water disease.

The disease often kills young, smaller cold-water fish species and impairs growth and yield in larger, older fish. In addition to developing a disease-resistant trout line, researchers at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) National Center for Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture (NCCCWA) in Leetown, West Virginia, created a susceptible line and a control line to use in studies.

Molecular biologist Greg Wiens and geneticist Timothy Leeds at NCCCWA recently evaluated the three trout lines in field trials. Partnering with the aquaculture industry and government stakeholders, they measured performance of trout under farm conditions before and after natural exposure to the pathogen Flavobacterium psychrophilum, which causes bacterial cold-water disease. The rate of survival for the disease-resistant line was higher, and fewer disease-resistant fish harbored the pathogen in their internal tissues compared with the control and susceptible fish.

A highly sensitive real-time polymerase chain (PCR) reaction test, developed by Wiens and postdoctoral fellow David Marancik, was used to confirm that the resistant trout line did not harbor any detectable pathogen. The PCR recognizes a unique gene sequence found only in pathogen and accurately measures small amounts of it in fish tissue.

In other studies, scientists identified a genetic link between a physical trait—spleen size—and specific disease resistance in fish. Wiens and research geneticist Yniv Palti found common genetic regions in trout that influence both spleen size and disease resistance, and they are conducting further research to identify the genes that are responsible.

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

ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Categories: USDA

Sniffing Out the Source of Beef Manure Odor

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 06:16
Detecting and Preventing Disease in Trout / October 3, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Rainbow trout.
ARS scientists are field testing a new disease-resistant rainbow trout. Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey, Bugwood.org.


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Detecting and Preventing Disease in Trout

By Sandra Avant
October 3, 2014

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are taking their studies to the field to gauge the survival rate of a new line of rainbow trout that is resistant to bacterial cold-water disease.

The disease often kills young, smaller cold-water fish species and impairs growth and yield in larger, older fish. In addition to developing a disease-resistant trout line, researchers at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) National Center for Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture (NCCCWA) in Leetown, West Virginia, created a susceptible line and a control line to use in studies.

Molecular biologist Greg Wiens and geneticist Timothy Leeds at NCCCWA recently evaluated the three trout lines in field trials. Partnering with the aquaculture industry and government stakeholders, they measured performance of trout under farm conditions before and after natural exposure to the pathogen Flavobacterium psychrophilum, which causes bacterial cold-water disease. The rate of survival for the disease-resistant line was higher, and fewer disease-resistant fish harbored the pathogen in their internal tissues compared with the control and susceptible fish.

A highly sensitive real-time polymerase chain (PCR) reaction test, developed by Wiens and postdoctoral fellow David Marancik, was used to confirm that the resistant trout line did not harbor any detectable pathogen. The PCR recognizes a unique gene sequence found only in pathogen and accurately measures small amounts of it in fish tissue.

In other studies, scientists identified a genetic link between a physical trait—spleen size—and specific disease resistance in fish. Wiens and research geneticist Yniv Palti found common genetic regions in trout that influence both spleen size and disease resistance, and they are conducting further research to identify the genes that are responsible.

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

ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Categories: USDA

Tool Helps Track Insects Blowing In the Wind

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 07:44
Tool Helps Track Insects Blowing In the Wind / September 29, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Corn earworm on corn stalk (Helicoverpa zea). Link to photo information
ARS researchers have discovered that weather-reporting Doppler radar can also track corn earworms.


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Tool Helps Track Insects Blowing In the Wind

By Dennis O'Brien
September 29, 2014

Corn earworms, also known as cotton bollworms, migrate at night, making them notoriously hard to track. Farmers worried about controlling infestations have to make educated guesses about the pest's movements, based on reports from other areas and past experience. Guessing wrong can be expensive: The pest costs cotton producers an estimated $200 million a year.

U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in College Station, Texas, have shown that signals routinely collected by the National Weather Service's (NWS) Doppler radar network could serve as an early-warning system to track corn earworms and other nighttime traveling pests.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) meteorologists John Westbrook and Ritchie Eyster at the Southern Plains Agricultural Research Center in College Station focused on the capabilities of what is known as Next Generation Weather Radar, or NEXRAD.

With more than 150 ground-based installations across the United States, NEXRAD monitors weather conditions by sweeping the atmosphere every 5 to 10 minutes and reading the energy reflected by rain, snow and other precipitation. Algorithms normally remove energy reflected by flying insects, but scientists have used NEXRAD and other radar signals to track birds, bats, and insects.

Westbrook and Eyster obtained 15 days of NEXRAD data from the NWS installation at Brownsville, Texas, to see if they could use it to make aerial counts of corn earworm moths and determine their movement patterns during peak migration times from cornfields in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

The researchers measured radar properties associated with aerial concentrations of moths at heights of up to 3,900 feet, using archived NEXRAD data collected in 1996. They compared it with data from the same time period previously collected by Wayne Wolf, a retired ARS agricultural engineer, with a scanning "X-band" radar system. Unlike NEXRAD, which is constantly operating, the scanning X-band system is specifically designed to track insects, but must be set up and monitored each time it's used. NEXRAD data is publicly available and can be used without any positioning or monitoring cost, so it would be less expensive.

The results showed that NEXRAD was not only capable of tracking insect migration patterns, but also was superior to the X-band system because it offered a larger detection range and could determine the direction and speed of the insects. The results of this work were published in the International Journal of Biometeorology (April 2013).

More work is needed, but recent upgrades should make it easier to use NEXRAD radar to identify potential corn earworm infestations. Also, with refined algorithms, it should be able to track beet armyworms, grasshoppers, and other large-bodied insects.

Read more about this research in the September 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

Using Local Lakes to Safeguard Regional Water Quality

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 06:31
Using Local Lakes to Safeguard Regional Water Quality / September 26, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A metal weir constructed in a natural bendway of the Coldwater River. Link to photo information
Shallow oxbow lakes fitted with low dams called weirs to slow water flow can help trap pesticides, nutrients and sediment from field runoff. Click the image for more information about it.


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Using Local Lakes to Safeguard Regional Water Quality

By Ann Perry
September 26, 2014

Isolated lakes in the Mississippi Delta can be transformed into farmer-friendly landscape features that trap agricultural pollutants, according to research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These findings by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) ecologist Richard Lizotte and his colleagues can help producers control the impacts of field runoff on downstream water bodies as far as the Gulf of Mexico. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific agency.

Lizotte, who works at the ARS Water Quality and Ecology Research Unit in Oxford, Mississippi, led a series of studies that evaluated how effectively an experimental wetland along Mississippi's Coldwater River trapped common crop pesticides. The study watershed was developed in a small stretch of the river that had been cut off from the main channel. The resulting pool had two distinct sections: One was as deep as a small lake, and the other was a shallow wetland surrounded by natural vegetation.

The team installed small dams called weirs at either end of the wetland. Then they added three pesticides to the wetland at the upstream weir at rates that would simulate typical runoff rates from a 40-acre field.

After the researchers added the pesticide mix to the water, it only took 24 hours for pesticide concentrations near the upstream weir to drop almost 65 percent, while at the downstream weir, only trace amounts of the pesticide were detected. Pesticide concentrations became undetectable at the upstream weir 21 days later.

Lizotte also assessed how well the experimental wetland reduced concentrations of pesticides, nutrients, and sediment from a "catastrophic" runoff event that could result from sudden and severe storms shortly after fertilizers and/or pesticides are applied. He noted that sediment, phosphorus, nitrogen, and pesticide concentrations peaked within three hours after the event as far as 325 yards below the upstream weir.

But within 48 hours, loads of the sediment, nutrients, and pesticides had been reduced by as much as 98 percent. Twenty-eight days later, levels of all the pollutants had returned to—and sometimes even dropped below—pre-event levels.

Lizotte believes his findings show that these types of wetlands could become a very effective and efficient tool for reducing field runoff contaminants.

Results from his research have been published in River Research and Applications, Science of the Total Environment, and Ecohydrology.

Read more about this work in the September 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

Choosing the Right Season for Applying Chicken Litter in the South

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 09/24/2014 - 06:35
Choosing the Right Season for Applying Chicken Litter in the South / September 24, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Poultry litter being incorporated into the soil during disking of a field.  Link to photo information
ARS research shows that spring is the optimal season for applying poultry litter to corn fields in the South and Southeast and can improve crop yields. Click the image for more information about it.


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Choosing the Right Season for Applying Chicken Litter in the South

By Dennis O'Brien
September 24, 2014

Using poultry litter as fertilizer is a welcome trend in many southern states because that is where most of the U.S. broiler chickens are produced. The litter's nitrogen content helps boost crop yields, and also helps reduce farmers' expenses for commercial fertilizers. But a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agronomist has found that many farmers in Mississippi may be applying litter at the wrong time of year.

Farmers in Mississippi often apply poultry litter in the fall, months before planting cash crops in the spring, because it's cheaper then and they have more time than in the spring. But Haile Tewolde, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agronomist at Mississippi State, Mississippi, has found that spring is the optimal season for applying litter in the South and Southeast. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

Tewolde and his colleagues applied poultry litter in the spring and fall to test plots of corn planted each April for three years. They applied the litter at two rates—four tons per acre and eight tons per acre—and incorporated it into the soil by "disking," a process that turns the soil and pulverizes it so that the litter blends in with the soil. For comparison, the researchers applied nitrogen fertilizer to other test plots in the spring and fall.

The results showed that over three years, yields were cumulatively higher in plots with litter applied in the spring than in the fall, regardless of the application rate. At the four-ton rate, spring-application yields were 16.7 percent higher, and at the eight-ton rate, they were 12.8 percent higher.

The results also showed that while using litter produced less corn than using fertilizer in the first year, those results were reversed in the second and third years. Higher yields in the second and third years were likely because nitrogen in the litter applied during the first year stayed in the soil and benefited crops in subsequent years.

The results, published in 2013 in the Agronomy Journal, show that if growers stick with litter for more than a year, their yields will improve. Yields also will be enhanced if they apply that litter in the spring.

Categories: USDA

Fungi Eyed to Tackle Weedy Menace of American West

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Mon, 09/22/2014 - 07:40
Fungi Eyed to Tackle Weedy Menace of American West / September 19, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Russian thistle. Link to photo information
ARS researchers have identified two new biological controls for tumbleweed, which is a nasty problem in the American West. Photo courtesy of Forest & Kim Starr. Click the image for a 300 dpi download.


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Fungi Eyed to Tackle Weedy Menace of American West

By Jan Suszkiw
September 22, 2014

Beneficial fungi could become microbial marshals tasked with wrangling a weedy icon of the American West, Salsola tragus—also known as tumbleweed or Russian thistle.

Popularly depicted in movies and television tumbling through dusty towns of the Old West, tumbleweed is in fact one nasty hombre of the western American landscape, elbowing aside crops, clogging irrigation ditches, spreading insect pests, and even posing a driving hazard.

Large-scale infestations, especially on low-value agricultural lands, can make chemical or cultural control too costly or impractical, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant pathologist Dana Berner. He works at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Foreign Disease-Weed Science Research Unit in Frederick, Maryland. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

In studies at Frederick, Berner and his colleagues are evaluating certain fungi with potential to biologically control tumbleweed, an invasive species that entered the United States in the 1870s as a flax seed contaminant.

Their most promising fungal candidates, Uromyces salsolae and Colletotrichum salsolae, were originally isolated from infected thistle plants in Russia and Hungary and exported to the ARS Frederick lab under permit for quarantine study. In Biosafety Level-3 greenhouse containment, the researchers exposed plant specimens from 64 different species to U. salsolae and 89 species to C. salsolae and gauged the plants' reactions and disease symptoms, if any.

To broaden the scope of their host-range tests—critical to ensuring the fungi won't harm non-target plants or crops once released—the team used an approach called BLUPs, short for "mixed model equations that produce Best Linear Unbiased Predictors." Using a disease ranking system and matrix information, BLUPs predict a plant species' susceptibility based on how genetically similar it is to the targeted weed—Russian thistle, for example.

Based on the information, the researchers have submitted petitions seeking recommendation for release of the two fungi from the Technical Advisory Group for Biological Control Agents of Weeds, which comprises members from federal and state regulatory agencies, as well as from Canada and Mexico.

Read more about this research in the September 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

Compound from Bacteria Could Be Useful Against Pecan Scab

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 06:37
Compound from Bacteria Could Be Useful Against Pecan Scab / September 17, 2014September 17, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Pecan husks displaying black lesions caused by a fungus are shown beside a photo of pecan nuts.
ARS researchers have identified compounds from extracts of bacteria that live inside beneficial nematodes that can suppress pecan scab (shown on left), a major fungal disease affecting pecan production in the southeastern United States.


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Compound from Bacteria Could Be Useful Against Pecan Scab

By Sharon Durham
September 17, 2014

Bacteria that live inside the guts of tiny nematodes could hold the key to controlling pecan scab, a major fungal disease that affects pecan production in the southeastern United States.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists discovered nematode-dwelling bacteria that produce chemical compounds that control the fungus Fusicladium effusum, which causes pecan scab.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist Clive Bock, entomologist David Shapiro-Ilan, chemist Charles Cantrell, and plant pathologist David Wedge examined chemical extracts of the bacteria to identify the major components responsible for suppressing pecan scab. ARS is the USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Bock and Shapiro-Ilan work at the ARS Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Georgia. Cantrell and Wedge work at the ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Unit in Oxford, Mississippi.

The bacteria, according to Shapiro-Ilan, live in the guts of beneficial nematodes in the genera Steinernema and Heterorhabditis. The bacteria are critical in helping the beneficial nematodes kill their insect hosts, and can be grown in petri dishes. Extracts of the cultures contain antimicrobial metabolites that are active against a wide range of microbial pathogens of animals and plants, including bacteria and fungi.

The extract found to be most toxic to the pecan scab fungus was purified and found to contain trans-cinnamic acid. Laboratory test results showed that trans-cinnamic acid was toxic to the pecan scab fungus in amounts as low as 148-200 micrograms per milliliter in solid culture and 64 micrograms per milliliter in liquid culture.

Conventional chemical fungicides have been widely used to control pecan scab, but in some growing seasons, more than 10 sprays are required to ensure adequate control of the disease on susceptible pecan cultivars. As a result, F. effusum has now developed resistance to at least two classes of fungicide, according to Bock.

This work was published in the Journal of Pest Science in March 2014.

Read more about this research in the September 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

"2,000 Bull Project" Targets Cattle Traits

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 07:11
2,000 Bull Project Targets Cattle Traits / September 15, 2014September 15, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Cattle from the germplasm evaluation project at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska.  Link to photo information
As part of the "2,000 Bull Project," ARS geneticist Warren Snelling has identified genetic markers that make it easier to pinpoint cattle that have the hard-to-measure trait of meat tenderness, enhancing breeding decisions. Click the image for more information about it.


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"2,000 Bull Project" Targets Cattle Traits

By Sandra Avant
September 15, 2014

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are investigating methods to help beef cattle producers further improve genetic evaluations for routinely measured traits such as growth and calving ease. They are also targeting economically important traits like feed efficiency and disease resistance that are expensive or difficult to measure.

In 2007, scientists started the "2,000 Bull Project" at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska, to study relationships between genomic variation and economically important traits in 16 breeds. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

USMARC geneticists Mark Thallman and Larry Kuehn and their colleagues worked with U.S. cattle breed associations to obtain genomic profiles of 2,000 bulls from those 16 breeds to promote the development of genomic predictions. For each breed, the project provided the first substantial set of high-density genotypes, which are being used by breed associations as a starting point to incorporate genomic data into their breed improvement programs.

Growth is a routine and easily measured trait that is related to increased feed consumption, but an animal's feed efficiency-how much feed is required to produce a unit of growth-is more economically important to producers. However, individual feed intake is not practical to measure on large numbers of animals in commercial operations. Instead, a more feasible approach is to use research populations to develop genomic predictions for traits such as individual feed intake, disease resistance and meat tenderness that are expensive or difficult to measure.

At USMARC, thousands of cattle have been evaluated for such traits, and about 15,000 have been genotyped. The researchers' goal is to detect genomic regions that affect these traits to improve the accuracy of genomic tests available to producers. Also, the scientists are sequencing the genomes of bulls that have the most descendants in the USMARC population, which may lead to more accurate predictions across breeds and benefit the industry.

As part of this effort, geneticist Warren Snelling is focusing on identifying DNA sequence variation that affects gene function to help predict important traits consistently across many breeds. Snelling has demonstrated that this technique can be used to identify genetic markers predictive of meat tenderness.

Read more about this research in the September 2014 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Categories: USDA

Four Scientists Named to ARS Science Hall of Fame

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 11:23
Four Scientists Named to Agricultural Research Service Science Hall of Fame / September 10, 2014 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Perry Cregan
Perry Cregan
300 dpi image.

Jerry Hatfield
Jerry Hatfield
300 dpi image.

Hyun Lillehoj
Hyun Lillehoj
300 dpi image.

Ross Welch
Ross Welch
300 dpi image.

Four Scientists Named to Agricultural Research Service Science Hall of Fame

By Jan Suszkiw
September 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2014—Four scientists have been named to the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Science Hall of Fame for discoveries in soybean genomics, sustainable farming, poultry disease control and crop micronutrients. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Perry B. Cregan, Jerry L. Hatfield, Hyun S. Lillehoj and Ross M. Welch will be honored today in a ceremony at the ARS National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Md. ARS established the Science Hall of Fame in 1986 to honor senior agency researchers for outstanding, lifelong achievements in agricultural science and technology. Nominees must be retired or eligible to retire to receive the award.

"Our four inductees are being recognized today for exemplary research that has had significant impact on the agricultural sector and scientific community through their innovative approaches to problem solving and dedication to mentoring young scientists," said ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young. "They exemplify the values that have made ARS the premier agricultural research organization that it is today."

Cregan, research leader of the ARS Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., has been the driving force behind the development of new tools to identify, describe and map soybean, wheat and common bean genes for economically important traits, including resistance to pests and diseases, better tolerance to stresses such as drought, increased yield and improved seed quality traits.

Hatfield, director of the ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa, has conducted numerous field-scale research projects leading to the development of more efficient farming practices and strategies to prevent or mitigate the environmental impact of nutrient, sediment or chemical losses from crop fields through runoff, erosion or other processes.

Lillehoj, a research molecular biologist at the ARS Animal Biosciences and Biotechnology Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., has conducted basic and applied research that advanced the understanding of immunological responses in poultry to the enteric pathogens Eimeria and Clostridium, which together cost the U.S. poultry industry $5 billion annually in losses. Lillehoj also has developed alternatives to antibiotic approaches—integrating nutrition, health and disease research—to protect commercial chickens from important avian diseases.

Welch, a retired plant physiologist who worked at the ARS Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit in Ithaca, N.Y., conducted pioneering research on the roles of zinc, iron, nickel and other micronutrients in maintaining plant health and productivity. His discoveries illustrated the importance of using plant breeding and fertilization to bolster micronutrient levels in staple food crops, especially in developing countries where health problems associated with malnutrition is a concern.

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