USDA

Wheat Varieties Make Way to Breads and Malt Beverages

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 03/13/2015 - 07:47
Wheat Varieties Make Way to Breads and Malt Beverages / March 13, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A field of USDA developed Appalachian White hard white winter wheat. Link to photo information
Appalachian White, a hard white winter wheat developed by ARS specifically for the eastern U.S., is now showing up in artisan flours, bread and beer. Click the image for more information about it.


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Wheat Varieties Make Way to Breads and Malt Beverages

By Sharon Durham
March 13, 2015

Two varieties of wheat, released for production in 2009 by a group led by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist, have now become valued ingredients in products of two North Carolina businesses. Appalachian White and NuEast are being used in bread and beer.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research leader David Marshall, of the ARS Plant Science Research Unit in Raleigh, North Carolina, worked with collaborators at North Carolina State University to develop the two wheat varieties. NuEast is a hard red winter wheat and Appalachian White is a hard white winter wheat.

ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

Mills and bakeries in North Carolina have used the wheat varieties in some of their products. The ARS unit has a long-running project with Carolina Ground, an artisan mill and bakery in Asheville, North Carolina. The bakery uses Appalachian White and NuEast in their artisan flours and baking recipes, according to Marshall.

Appalachian White is also in use by another local establishment, Riverbend Malt House—the first malt house in the eastern United States. The owners produce barley, wheat and rye malt, and their wheat malt is mainly made from Appalachian White wheat. The barley they use most is Thoroughbred, a 6-row barley developed and released by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Marshall is currently working with the malting industry on breeding a winter 2-row barley specifically for western North Carolina production.

The eastern United States is not hospitable to growing hard wheats, the type of wheat best suited for making breads and crackers, because the area’s humidity increases the incidence of disease in the fields. This in turn affects yield and quality of the grain. According to Marshall, NuEast has significantly higher grain yield than the check varieties over 4 years of field tests. It has good resistance to leaf rust and is moderately resistant to stem rust, including Ug99 races.

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

Categories: USDA

Shifting Out of High-Calorie Habits

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 03/06/2015 - 10:09
Shifting Out of High-Calorie Habits / March 6, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Legumes. Link to photo information
Eating instant-gratification foods is a hard habit to break but it is can be done with a diet that includes foods with slow-digesting carbohydrates and high fiber, according to an ARS study. Click the image for more information about it.


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Shifting Out of High-Calorie Habits

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
March 6, 2015

A new study suggests that it is possible to change the cycle of craving unhealthy foods by retraining the brain to stop activating its reward centers on exposure to a steady stream of high-calorie foods and visual triggers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded study addresses concerns among weight-loss experts that when people get used to eating instant-gratification foods, such habits may be nearly impossible to stop or reverse.

The study was conducted by senior coauthor Susan B. Roberts—an expert in developing programs for weight management—and co-investigators. Roberts is with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts. The center is funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency. Roberts is also professor of both nutrition and psychiatry at Tufts University.

The study volunteers were 13 overweight or obese men and women assigned to one of two study groups. One group was placed on an at-home weight-loss intervention of lower calorie foods for 6 months. The other was a no-intervention control group eating normally at home.

To satisfy brain areas linked with cravings—the intervention group's diet provided about 50 percent of daily calories from "slow-digesting" carbohydrates and high-fiber foods. High-protein foods and healthy fats each provided 25 percent of daily calories. The group received 1 hour of positive reinforcement support sessions most weeks and meal plans that centered on hunger reduction, portion-control, and high satisfaction. They were told to evenly space meals and snacks and to freely use foods from a list of those that could be eaten any time. These tips were designed to keep blood sugar levels even (versus spiking) and to control hunger.

The intervention group achieved significant weight loss—about 14 pounds each.

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

Categories: USDA

A New Spanish Peanut Variety for Consumers, Growers

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 05:38
A New Spanish Peanut Variety for Consumers, Growers / February 24, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 OLe', a new Spanish peanut variety, raw and in the shell. Link to photo information
OLé, a new Spanish peanut variety with high levels of both heart healthy oleic acid and disease resistance has been released by ARS. Click the image for more information about it.


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A New Spanish Peanut Variety for Consumers, Growers

By Sharon Durham
February 24, 2015

A new Spanish peanut variety that packs high levels of healthful oleic acid has been released by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and university cooperators. The new variety, called OLé, could provide producers and consumers with a peanut that has disease resistance, longer shelf life and heart-healthy qualities.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) biologist Kelly Chamberlin of the Wheat, Peanut, and Other Field Crops Research Unit in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and cooperators at Oklahoma State University developed OLé, which will be available for commercial production in 2015.

ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

Oleic acid is a beneficial monounsaturated fatty acid, and the high oleic acid levels in the peanut make its oil a heart-healthy one for consumers. Growers like the new variety because of its disease resistance and potential for high yield and grade.

According to Chamberlin, this is an important variety that will have a lot of impact on the peanut industry as a whole. Plus OLé has resistance to Sclerotinia blight, a fungal disease that can cause yield loss and is a particular problem for peanut growers in Oklahoma, Texas and the Virginia-North Carolina region. Depending upon severity of field infestation, yield losses due to such soilborne diseases may be as high as 50 percent.

Cultivated peanut is an economically important crop throughout the world. Peanut is susceptible to many pathogens, with most damage being caused by fungi. Soilborne fungi cause diseases that adversely affect peanut health and productivity throughout the growing areas of the United States.

Sustainable peanut production in the southwestern United States demands that cultivars grown there possess certain characteristics, including a high oleic/linoleic acid ratio, which increases peanut product shelf life, and resistance to multiple diseases, according to Chamberlin. In tests at three locations in Oklahoma, Chamberlin and her colleagues found that growing OLé reduced Sclerotinia blight infestation. This can save growers approximately $100 per acre in fungicide costs for Sclerotinia blight alone. The variety also has good pod rot resistance.

The first high-oleic Spanish peanut cultivar released, called OLin, was the result of collaborative efforts between Texas AgriLife Research, ARS, and Oklahoma State University. It was released in 2002. OLé produces higher peanut yields than OLin.

The OLé variety is now being grown for foundation seed before being made available commercially.
Categories: USDA

Killing Fish Egg Fungus with a Disinfectant

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 10:14
Killing Fish Egg Fungus with a Disinfectant / February 18, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Two hands holding a cluster of fungus-free channel catfish eggs. Link to photo information
ARS scientists have found peracetic acid—a stable mix of acetic acid (concentrated vinegar) and hydrogen peroxide—could kill fungus on catfish eggs without the residue issues of pesticides. Click the image for more information about it.


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Killing Fish Egg Fungus with a Disinfectant

By Sandra Avant
February 18, 2015

A disinfectant has the potential to treat fungus on catfish eggs, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research.

Peracetic acid—a stabilized mixture containing acetic acid (concentrated vinegar) and hydrogen peroxide—killed fungus on catfish eggs in a study conducted by toxicologist David Straus, who works at the Agricultural Research Service's (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.

Fungal infections in hatchery-reared catfish eggs can result in serious losses. Peracetic acid does not produce any residues that would harm young fish or the environment, according to Straus. At low doses, it safely and effectively breaks down rapidly into harmless residues.

In the United States, the compound is used to disinfect wastewater and sterilize items for hospitals and the food industry, but it has not been used yet for aquaculture. However, in Europe, peracetic acid is considered a safe and effective replacement for banned chemicals and antibiotics. It is used in Germany and Denmark to control fungus and other pathogens on adult fish and is very effective against several parasites.

In a study, Straus and his collaborator from Germany evaluated the effectiveness of five peracetic acid concentrations—2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 parts per million (ppm)—in preventing fungus from growing on catfish eggs. Fungal growth was severe in the group that received no treatment, resulting in 11 percent survival compared to 60 percent survival in the group treated with the low rate of 2.5 ppm, which was determined to be a safe treatment.

Straus and his colleagues are conducting toxicity studies in other species of fish to ensure that the compound is safe before treating them.

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

Categories: USDA

Controlling Stable Flies That Pester Zoo Animals

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 02/13/2015 - 09:50
Controlling Stable Flies That Pester Zoo Animals / February 13, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
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 Two zebras at the National Zoo. Link to photo information
ARS scientists are helping to find which traps are the most effective for managing stable flies in zoos. Click the image for more information about it.


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Controlling Stable Flies That Pester Zoo Animals

By Sandra Avant
February 13, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their collaborators at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., are setting traps to find out which ones are more effective at capturing and killing stable flies that annoy zoo animals.

Stable flies are typically considered farm animal pests, but their bite and blood feeding also cause painful open wounds on zoo animals such as tigers and foxes. Entomologists Gregory Ose, at the Smithsonian, and Jerome Hogsette, at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Florida, are looking at ways to reduce the number of flies at zoos. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

According to Hogsette and Ose, stable flies are not reproducing at zoos, which are very clean. These pests prefer habitats of decaying fibrous plant materials like silage and hay, so they are likely being carried to zoos on prevailing winds from miles away.

In one study, researchers compared blue-black cloth targets modified to act like sticky traps with Alsynite fiberglass adhesive traps that are traditionally used to capture and monitor stable fly populations. Traps were placed at different sites for nearly 4 months at a zoological park in Reston, Virginia. Fewer stable flies were captured with the modified traps than with the Alsynite traps.

Findings suggest that by modifying the blue-black cloth target surface, which scientists believe are similar to natural forest edges used by stable flies for flight navigation, traps become less attractive and ineffective. However, this research did provide valuable stable fly distribution and seasonality data that can be used to help manage stable flies at zoos by predicting the best times to put out traps.

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

Categories: USDA

USDA Research Yields Cotton Resistant to Top 20 Ag Threat

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 02/12/2015 - 09:32
USDA Research Yields Cotton Resistant to Top 20 Ag Threat / February 12, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Link to photo information
ARS has released two new lines of cotton as sources of genetic resistance to cotton leaf curl virus, a disease that is causing major cotton losses in Asia and Africa. Photo courtesy of Jodi Scheffler, ARS. Click on image for higher resolution.


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USDA Research Yields Cotton Resistant to Top 20 Ag Threat

By Jan Suszkiw
February 12, 2015

New germplasm releases highlight success of multinational effort

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12—Two new cotton germplasm lines developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are now available for use in safeguarding U.S. cotton from cotton leaf curl virus (CLCuV), a whitefly-borne disease that has caused significant yield losses in the parts of Asia and Africa where the crop is grown. Although it has not yet been reported in the United States, CLCuV disease ranks among the top 20 threats to U.S. agriculture, according to USDA's Office of Pest Management Policy.

"Our aim is to shore-up the defenses of the U.S. cotton crop by releasing sources of resistance to cotton leaf curl virus that our cotton breeders can readily incorporate into their variety development programs, should this disease arrive here from abroad," said Jodi Scheffler, a plant geneticist with ARS' Crop Genetics Research Unit in Stoneville, Mississippi.

Cotton leaf curl virus disease was originally identified in Africa and first reported in the Punjab region of Pakistan in 1967. The disease has since spread to other parts of the country as well as to India and China. Pakistan loses over one million bales of cotton each year due to CLCuV.

Starting in 2012, ARS researchers began sending seed shipments of their top selections to Pakistani cooperators for field testing at three sites in Pakistan's Punjab Province (Multan, Vehari and Faisalabad), where CLCuV disease has been especially severe. They also field tested seed at one location in the Sindh Province (Sakrand), where the disease been less severe.

GVS 8 and GVS 9, the new germplasm releases chosen from those field screening tests, highlight the success of the Pakistani—USA Cotton Productivity Program (CPEP)—an ongoing scientific partnership funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development with support from the USDA-ARS Office of International Research Programs and USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

In addition to CLCuV resistance, the two new germplasm lines were chosen for agronomic traits, including lint yield and quality. Scheffler is currently accepting seed requests (limited to five grams each). She can be reached by phone at (662) 686-5219 and e-mail at jodi.scheffler@ars.usda.gov.

Categories: USDA

ARS Study Shows No Damage to Soils from Grazing of Cover Crops

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 02/11/2015 - 07:25
ARS Study Shows No Damage to Soils from Grazing of Cover Crops / February 11, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A cow and calf grazing on a summer cover crop of pearl millet. Link to photo information
Contrary to conventional wisdom, grazing low numbers of cattle on cover crops does not compact the soil or cut down on the organic matter added, according to new ARS research. Click the image for more information about it.


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ARS Study Shows No Damage to Soils from Grazing of Cover Crops

By Dennis O’Brien
February 11, 2015

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist in North Carolina has found a way to encourage more growers to use cover crops in the Southeastern United States—allow cattle to graze on them.

Cover crops reduce soil erosion, boost organic matter, keep more moisture in soil and sequester carbon in the soil so less of it is released as a greenhouse gas.

Conventional wisdom holds that if cattle were allowed to graze on cover crops they would eat up and remove the nitrogen and carbon otherwise left on the soil in the cover crop plant residue. Allowing cattle to tread on the soil also could compact it, preventing air and water from passing through the soil to reach plant roots.

Alan Franzluebbers, an ecologist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Plant Science Research Unit in Raleigh, conducted a 7-year study to see if grazing on cover crops affects the health of soils typical in the Piedmont region. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting sustainable agriculture.

Franzluebbers and his colleagues grew winter or summer grains and used cover crops for both in the off-season. They also compared no-till versus tilling, and grazing versus no grazing. Cow/calf pairs were allowed to graze at a rate of one pair per 4 acres.

The researchers took periodic samples of the surface foot of soil. The study was the first in the region to analyze the practices for such an extensive period.

The results showed that the relatively low-level of grazing did not significantly affect the amount of organic matter in soil and did not compact the soil. They also showed that cover crops provided high quality forage and that the organic matter lost by allowing cattle to graze on cover crops was likely made up in the organic material supplied as manure. As in previous studies, they also found that no-till soils generally contained more carbon and nitrogen than conventional till soils.

Read more about this research in the February 2015 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
Categories: USDA

ARS Food and Nutrition Research Briefs Issued

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 02/10/2015 - 08:15
ARS Food and Nutrition Research Briefs Issued / February 10, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service E. coli O157:H7 in their manure." />

 FNRB logo. Link to latest issue.
Food and Nutrition Research Briefs

ARS Food and Nutrition Research Briefs Issued

By Kim Kaplan
February 10, 2015

New nutrition and health findings in the latest issue of the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Food and Nutrition Research Briefs include research showing that about 2 percent of the cattle grazing in a pasture or eating high-energy rations in a feedlot pen, on average, may be "supershedders"—shedding high levels of pathogenic organisms such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 in their manure.

It can be found at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/np/fnrb/fnrb0215.htm

The popular online newsletter reports discoveries from researchers at ARS laboratories nationwide.

Among other findings, the current issue reports —

• The latest update of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27, is now available including new and updated food-nutrient profiles and a reorganized Internet "dashboard" that users see after launching the online version of the database.

• The Ossabaw pig, a heritage breed, has been proven to be an excellent model for human obesity-related research and for studying metabolic effects induced by a high-fat diet.

• A new, more precise analytical method has been developed for detecting and measuring concentrations of phytochemicals called "polyphenols" in fruit and vegetables.

ARS Food and Nutrition Research Briefs is offered with color photos and illustrations on the Web. And by clicking the "subscribe" link on the newsletter's home page, readers can sign up for either of two e-mail options: They can receive the full text of the newsletter by e-mail or simply an advisory that a new issue has been posted to the Web.

ARS is the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

Categories: USDA

ARS Scientists Develop Higher Yielding Sorghum Plants

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 02/06/2015 - 06:29
ARS Scientists Develop Higher Yielding Sorghum Plants / February 6, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A new ARS-developed sorghum variety growing next to a conventional variety in a breeder's field. Link to photo information
ARS scientists have developed a new sorghum variety that produces 30 to 40 percent more seeds (right) compared to a conventional variety (left). Click the image for more information about it.


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ARS Scientists Develop Higher Yielding Sorghum Plants

By Sharon Durham
February 6, 2015

A new sorghum plant developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists can produce more seeds than conventional varieties currently grown by farmers.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) molecular biologist Zhanguo Xin and plant geneticist Gloria Burow at the Plant Stress and Germplasm Research Unit, along with lab director and research leader John Burke, at the ARS Cropping Systems Research Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas, developed a mutant sorghum plant that produces 30 to 40 percent more seeds.

ARS is the USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

The researchers developed the higher yielding sorghum by taking advantage of a plant part called a “spikelet.” A spikelet is a cluster of florets within the panicle, a type of flower cluster found in some other grasses, such as millet or rye. Sorghum produces two types of spikelets: the sessile spikelets and the pedicellate spikelets. Normally, only the sessile spikelets are fertile, but the ARS scientists developed a sorghum plant that produces seeds in both types of spikelets.

The team developed the productive sorghum line by inducing a mutation in sorghum plants that allowed infertile spikelets to grow and produce seed, according to Xin. An induced mutation is produced by treatment with a mutagen, like radiation or a chemical agent such as ethyl methane sulfonate. The mutation resulted in an overall increase in size and volume (length, width, and thickness) of the sorghum panicle.

All of the spikelets of the new sorghum plant develop into flowers and produce mature seeds, thereby significantly increasing seed production and yield in comparison to conventional sorghum. The mutants may be crossed with other sorghum lines, particularly elite large-seeded lines, to improve grain yield in sorghum and other related species. The mutation in the sorghum line we developed is stable and can be passed on to other sorghum lines through breeding, according to Xin.

A sample of at least 2,500 seeds of the new multiseeded sorghum has been deposited with the American Type Culture Collection for future research.

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

Categories: USDA

Research Shows Honey Bee Diseases Can Strike in All Seasons

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 02/05/2015 - 06:43
Research Shows Honey Bee Diseases Can Strike in All Seasons / February 5, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Honey bee on a flower. Link to photo information
New research by ARS scientists and their Brazilian collaborators has found that two bacterial pathogens are more common in honey bees than previously thought. Click the image for more information about it.


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Research Shows Honey Bee Diseases Can Strike in All Seasons

By Dennis O'Brien
February 5, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Maryland and their colleagues have found that two pathogens causing mysterious honey bee ailments are a problem not just in the spring, but they might pose a threat year-round. Ryan Schwarz and Jay Evans, entomologists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), have shown that two species of bacteria, Spiroplasma melliferum and S. apis, are more common than previously thought and infect honey bees in places as diverse as Brazil and Beltsville, Maryland.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting sustainable agriculture.

Both pathogens were discovered more than 30 years ago, but scientists are still unsure if they are factors in colony collapse disorder or major causes of other bee mortalities.

Schwarz and Evans, based at the ARS Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, and their colleagues at the Brazilian Honey Bee Laboratory in São Paulo analyzed the DNA of bees in Beltsville and Brazil between 2011 and 2013. Bees were collected from 11 states in Brazil and 2 areas in Beltsville. Schwarz had recently developed genetic markers that allow researchers to distinguish S. apis from other bacteria in bees. They used those markers and another recently developed set of S. melliferum markers to determine the year-round prevalence of the two pathogens.

As expected, the researchers found that both pathogens were prevalent in the spring. But they also found that they were common at other times of the year as well and that their prevalence rates varied depending on the location. In Beltsville, the pathogens were more prevalent in the spring, while in Brazil they were more prevalent in the fall. The results also showed that S. melliferum was the more prevalent of the two and that the presence of one pathogen made bees more susceptible to the other.

Schwarz says the results should help beekeepers and scientists monitor the health of honey bees by raising awareness about the year-round nature of the threat the pathogens might pose. Equipped with the new genetic markers developed for the pathogens, scientists also will be better able to screen bee colonies for the pathogens.

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

Categories: USDA

Modeling Nutrient Loss from Midwestern Crop Fields

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 02/04/2015 - 07:29
Modeling Nutrient Loss from Midwestern Crop Fields / February 4, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A winter rye crop in a no-till corn field in Iowa in the spring. Link to photo information
Planting winter rye in no-till corn and soybean fields in the Midwest could reduce nitrogen runoff by as much as 43 percent, according to a new ARS field-scale computer model. Click the image for more information about it.


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Modeling Nutrient Loss from Midwestern Crop Fields

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
February 4, 2015

Using cover crops in between corn and soybean crop production in the Midwest could significantly reduce nitrate load runoff via subsurface drains, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists. This reduction could support national efforts to reduce nitrate loads and protect water quality in the Gulf of Mexico.

Excess water laden with nitrates in many Midwestern crop fields drains into subsurface perforated pipes and then flows into surface streams and rivers. The nutrient-rich field drainage reaches the Gulf of Mexico and supports algal blooms that lower water oxygen levels and contribute to developing a devastating “dead zone.”

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Rob Malone, Tom Kaspar, and Dan Jaynes are using the Root Zone Water Quality Model to assess how using winter rye cover crops in corn–soybean rotations could mitigate nitrate loads in the field-drainage water. The researchers are with the ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames, Iowa. The ARS field-scale computer model was developed to simulate plant growth and the movement of water, nutrients and chemicals within and around the root zones of agricultural crops. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA goal of promoting agricultural sustainability.

The researchers ran the model simulation for several different planting scenarios at 41 sites across the Midwest from 1961 to 2005. Their results indicated that winter rye crops seeded in no-till corn–soybean systems when the cash crops were mature have the potential to reduce annual nitrate loss in field drainage by about 43 percent, or by 18 pounds per acre.

Malone and his colleagues used their findings in a larger regional simulation of nitrate losses from drained fields located within the Mississippi River Watershed. Results indicated that producers could introduce winter rye cover cropping on around 30 to 80 percent of the land used for corn and soybean production, and that the cover crop systems could potentially reduce nitrate loadings in the Mississippi River by approximately 20 percent.

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

Categories: USDA

Special Journal Issue Highlights New Perspectives on the Dynamics of Dry Lands

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Mon, 02/02/2015 - 10:54
Special Journal Issue Highlights New Perspectives on the Dynamics of Dry Lands / February 2, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Cover of February issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Link to 300 dpi cover.
Researchers are shifting the way they look at the complex ecosystems of semi-arid dry lands; these perspectives are highlighted in a special issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Click image for high resolution verison.


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Special Journal Issue Highlights New Perspectives on the Dynamics of Dry Lands

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
February 2, 2015

Vast acreage of dry lands may evoke images of desolate, scorched, uninhabitable desert. But the arid and semi-arid dry lands of about half of both the United States' and the world's land surfaces actually are complex ecosystems made up variously of grasses, shrubs, agriculture, and even urban-dwellers. Now, ecological education is taking a step forward with the publication of seven scientific papers on new paradigms for dryland ecology and management. The papers are in a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, now available to the public via open access [http://www.esajournals.org/toc/fron/13/1].

In the special issues, the articles' authors broaden the traditional framework for studying dry lands based on desertification to provide a comprehensive and improved approach for understanding, managing and predicting complex dryland dynamics. They provide new perspectives for the dynamics of how water and wind move material across dry lands in the context of historic environmental conditions, called "legacies," current climate extremes, and changing patterns of land use. The new framework can be used to assess dryland ecosystem services, inform land-management decisions, and improve the ecological literacy of future generations living on dry lands.

The special issue was organized by ecologist Debra Peters, who is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Senior Advisor for Earth Observations and Lead Principal Investigator of the Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Project. LTER is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and based at the Jornada Experimental Range ("Jornada") in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Peters' research unit is part of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)—USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

The articles were authored by ARS Long Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) Unit scientists at Jornada, including Peters and unit head Kris Havstad, and their colleagues at New Mexico State University (NMSU), Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the Asombro Institute for Science Education. The guest editorial was contributed by Ann Bartuska, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.

The special issue represents collaborations among partners at, and funding by, the USDA-ARS LTAR program, the NSF's LTER Program, and NMSU.

The special issue "Emerging Perspectives and Shifting Paradigms in Water-Limited Systems" was published February 2, 2015, in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. These findings support the USDA priority of responding to climate change.

Categories: USDA

A New 'Gem' of a Pear Released by ARS, Cooperators

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 01/30/2015 - 06:39
A New 'Gem' of a Pear Released by ARS, Cooperators / January 30, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Gem, a new fresh-market pear. Link to photo information
Gem, a new fresh-market pear. Click the image for more information about it.


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A New 'Gem' of a Pear Released by ARS, Cooperators

By Sharon Durham
January 30, 2015

A new pear cultivar, 'Gem', has been released jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Oregon State University, Michigan State University and Clemson University. Gem is ideal for the fresh market, combining high yields with excellent appearance, fruit quality and long storage potential. The new cultivar is resistant to fire blight and isn't prone to brown discoloration, called "superficial scald," that affects some pear varieties.

Horticulturist Richard Bell, at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia, and his colleagues describe Gem in the March 2014 issue of HortScience.

Gem requires at least 3 weeks of cold storage before normal fruit softening, but it will last for at least 28 weeks in cold storage without core breakdown or superficial scald. The fruit can also be eaten immediately after harvest without softening, as it has a crisp, juicy texture. Its flavor is sweet and mildly aromatic. When compared to Bartlett, a popular pear variety, sensory panelists rated Gem similar in appearance, flavor and purchase intent.

The original seedling tree of Gem was from a cross of 'Sheldon' and US62563-004 made in 1970. Bell selected Gem in 1981 from the seedling orchard at the ARS Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.

The source of Gem's fire blight resistance comes from the cultivar 'Barseck'. Subsequently, Gem was evaluated for fruit quality, fire blight resistance and productivity in replicated trials at the Kearneysville location and at research centers at Washington State University, Oregon State University, Michigan State University, Cornell University and Clemson University.

Gem is recommended as a fresh-market pear for both commercial and home orchards. While budwood of Gem is limited, genetic material of this release will be deposited in the National Plant Germplasm System, where it will be available for research purposes, including development and commercialization of the new cultivar.

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

Categories: USDA

Infrared-Based Peeling of Tomatoes May Improve Precision, Save Water

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 13:02
Infrared-Based Peeling of Tomatoes May Improve Precision, Save Water / January 29, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
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 A group of Roma or plum tomatoes on the stem. Link to photo information
ARS scientists have shown infrared heating can remove tight fitting peels from plum tomatoes using less water than conventional processing methods. Click the image for more information about it.


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Infrared-Based Peeling of Tomatoes May Improve Precision, Save Water

By Sandra Avant
January 29, 2015

Peeled tomatoes make a tasty, versatile and time-saving ingredient for hearty winter stews, homemade soups or classic casseroles. In experiments with more than 6,000 field-ripened Roma-style (sometimes called “plum”) tomatoes, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist Zhongli Pan and his industry and university colleagues have shown that using infrared heating to simplify removal of the tomatoes’ tight-fitting peels may offer advantages over other peeling technologies.

The researchers have demonstrated, for example, that infrared-based peeling is mostly waterless. That’s a benefit for canneries in sometimes-drought-stricken California, the state that produces the majority of the nation’s processing tomatoes.

Not only could the technique cut the cost of bringing water to canneries, but it might also reduce the expense of recycling the water or properly disposing of it.

Disposal is of particular concern to processors who use sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide to peel tomatoes. These substances can increase the cost of treating factory wastewater, according to Pan.

What’s more, the infrared process may help reduce wasteful “overpeeling” of tomatoes that can occur when too many layers of tomato are inadvertently removed along with the peel. In a study published in the journal Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies in 2014, Pan and co-researchers showed that peel-related loss was about 8 to 13 percent with infrared heating as compared to about 13 to 16 percent with sodium hydroxide-based peeling.

The infrared studies are apparently the most extensive to date of their kind for environmentally sound peeling of tomatoes.

Pan, who is based at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Western Regional Research Center in Albany, California, and coworkers Tara McHugh, research leader and research food technologist at the Albany center, Carlos Masareje of Precision Canning Equipment, and James Valenti-Jordan of Del Monte Foods recently received a patent for the peeling process. Pan hopes to have the system ramped up to match cannery operating speeds by 2016.

This technology, highlighted in the January 2015 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, supports the USDA priority of reducing food waste. ARS is the USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.
Categories: USDA
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