USDA

A New Blueberry for Home Growers

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 05:29
A New Blueberry for Home Growers / June 19, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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 Nocturne blueberry. Link to photo information
The new winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry named Nocturne and developed by ARS. Click the image for more information about it.


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A New Blueberry for Home Growers

By Sharon Durham
June 19, 2015

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was recently awarded a patent for Nocturne, a blueberry cultivar developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists at the Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory.

The new cultivar came from a blueberry cross made by ARS plant geneticist Mark Ehlenfeldt in 1993, and the plant was subsequently selected and evaluated from 1996 to 2011. Nocturne, tested under the name “US 1056,” is a cross between US 874 (a mixed species hybrid) and Premier (a commercial rabbiteye blueberry). This cross incorporates germplasm from three different blueberry species, including one with extreme cold-hardiness.

Nocturne is a vigorous, winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry. This variety is intended to be a specialty market plant for home, landscape, and ornamental use, according to Ehlenfeldt. Nocturne is especially notable for having winter hardiness comparable to northern highbush blueberry cultivars and for being slow to break dormancy in spring, making it unlike any other rabbiteye blueberry hybrids currently available.

The new blueberry bears fruit reliably in New Jersey, averaging 12 pounds per plant. Although, it is self-pollinating, yields and size are likely to be improved by cross-pollination. Unripe fruit is vivid and red-orange, providing attractive landscape interest. Ripe fruit is black, sweet and medium-sized, with a flavor atypical of either rabbiteye or highbush blueberries. Fruit ripens in late midseason to late season. The scar quality—how cleanly the fruit separates from the stem—is fair, and the fruit has only moderate firmness, so Nocturne is not recommended for storage or shipping.

Nocturne plants may be available to growers within a year or two.

Read more about this work in the June 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

Categories: USDA

New Tracking Tool for Pathogen Investigators

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 06:16
New Tracking Tool for Pathogen Investigators / June 11, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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 A Salmonella enteritidis colony. Link to photo information
ARS veterinary medical officer Jean Guard has created a faster, less expensive and more accurate test to identify pathogenic strains of Salmonella. Click the image for more information about it.


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New Tracking Tool for Pathogen Investigators

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
June 11, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinary medical officer Jean Guard has developed a cost-effective diagnostic tool and dataset for identifying various strains of Salmonella. The tool, called Intergenic Sequence Ribotyping, or ISR, is helping improve poultry production and human health internationally, because it helps control Salmonella in the field and in consumer poultry products.

Guard is with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Egg Safety and Quality Research Unit at the Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Georgia.

At present, there are other sequence, or DNA-based, methods for serotyping Salmonella. The traditional method, called Kauffmann–White, or KW, is expensive and identifies a particular serotype in only 80 percent of cases, according to Guard. ISR is being used to serotype strains within a particularly virulent group called Salmonella enterica, which is the type associated with foodborne illness.

The ISR technology is available to specialized laboratories, producers or other qualified users who sign a proprietary Material Transfer Agreement (MTA). A producer’s lab technician can take a sample from the farm, amplify for Salmonella, and run a PCR assay to isolate the serotype from a single section or piece of DNA. The producer can then submit that sample to a specialized lab—also an MTA holder—that uses the ISR tool for sequencing the Salmonella. The lab then sends the sequence results back to the producer by entering the sequence into a private online account.

Producers and diagnostic consultants access their private accounts to download their sequences. They then compare their sequences to those in the ISR-based dataset for a perfect match. The ISR technology provides an earlier warning or detection system for farmers.

Read more about this work in the June 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine.

ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of improving food safety.

Categories: USDA

Yeasts on Plums Have a Plus Side

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 06/09/2015 - 05:32
Yeasts on Plums Have a Plus Side / June 9, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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 Plums. Link to photo information
ARS scientists have found some yeasts that have the potential to be biological controls of brown rot, the economically most damaging problem of stone fruits. Click the image for more information about it.


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Yeasts on Plums Have a Plus Side

By Sharon Durham
June 9, 2015

Some naturally occurring yeasts may be useful for protecting stone fruits against pathogens that attack after harvest. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) looked to the microflora on the surface of the plum to find potential biocontrol agents against brown rot.

At the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia, plant pathologist Wojciech Janisiewicz and his colleagues determined that the plum surface harbors several yeast species with excellent potential for use as biological controls against brown rot of stone fruits. Brown rot is caused by the fungus Monilinia fructicola.

Fruit surfaces are naturally colonized by a variety of microbes, including bacteria and yeast. Some of those native microorganisms have been shown to have a beneficial effect on reducing fruit decay after harvest.

In previous efforts, Janisiewicz developed a bacterium normally found on apples into a commercial biological control product that can be used instead of fungicides to control pome fruit diseases. The product is also allowed in organic marketing. A lot of information exists about the benefits of natural fruit microflora on grapes and apples, but for plums, the extent of their potential for biological control of fruit decay remains largely unknown.

The research team identified yeasts naturally colonizing plums from early fruit development until harvest and explored their potential for controlling postharvest brown rot, the most destructive disease of stone fruits.

Through multiple screenings, Janisiewicz and his colleagues found yeasts with a range of biocontrol activities against M. fructicola, including several isolates that provided complete control on plums from decay caused by this fungus.

Two of the best control candidate species were Aureobasidium pullulans and Rhodotorula phylloplana. Developing these yeasts into commercial products will provide growers with an alternative approach for combating brown rot after harvest, and this approach should be compatible with requirements for the rapidly growing organic market.

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

Categories: USDA

Growers Use Chart to Help Choose Cover Crops

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 06/05/2015 - 05:53
Growers Use Chart to Help Choose Cover Crops / June 5, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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 Rye cover crop. Link to photo information
ARS scientists have developed an interactive chart to help growers make the best choice among cover crops to meet their needs. A rye cover crop is shown here. Click the image for more information about it.


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Growers Use Chart to Help Choose Cover Crops

By Sandra Avant
June 5, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed a “Cover Crop Chart” that helps growers choose the best cover crop to meet their management and production needs.

Soil scientist Mark Liebig and his colleagues with the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory (NGPRL) in Mandan, North Dakota, created the Cover Crop Chart, which can be downloaded for free at www.mandan.ars.usda.gov. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

Cover crops—typically grown in the offseason—are becoming more popular to help reduce soil erosion, increase organic matter, improve early weed control and provide forage for animals. By providing these services, cover crops can create more resilient and efficient production systems.

The interactive chart, which was recently updated from its first release in 2010, gives growers a broad spectrum of potential options that could benefit their operations. The chart includes information on crop species that may be planted individually or in mixtures and gives specifics on growth cycle, water use, plant architecture, forage quality, pollination and more. Crops are categorized by similar attributes—cool season or warm season, grasses or broadleaf and legumes or non-legumes.

The updated chart now includes 58 cover crop species, along with new sections addressing salt-tolerant grasses and placement of crops within a cash-crop rotation.

The chart has been used by many growers in the United States and abroad, and has served as an educational resource by conservationists to raise awareness about cover crops, according to Liebig.

Read more about this work in the June 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine.

Categories: USDA

Smart Phone Apps Series to Help Maximize Lands Productivity, Protect Resources

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 05/29/2015 - 05:45
Smart Phone Apps Series to Help Maximize Land’s Productivity, Protect Resources / May 29, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Members of the N'gutuk N'giron Group Ranch and a New Mexico State University field technician are sharing soil data using an ARS developed phone app.
ARS researchers and their cooperators have developed easy-to-use mobile phone apps to help even non-scientists in Kenya (shown here) and around the world collect and share soil, land-cover and climate data. Photo courtesy of A. Beh, New Mexico State University.


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Smart Phone Apps Series to Help Maximize Land’s Productivity, Protect Resources

By Jan Suszkiw
May 29, 2015

Global Soil, Land-Cover and Climate Information Available

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2015—What do “cloud computing” and “terra firma” have in common? A suite of mobile phone applications ("apps") that, once all are released, will connect agricultural producers around the world and provide them with shared knowledge on ways to maximize the land’s productivity while protecting its resources for future generations.

The first two apps, dubbed “LandInfo” and “LandCover,” were released this month and will allow anyone using the mobile phone technology to collect and share soil and land-cover information as well as gain access to global climate data, said Jeff Herrick, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist. He and cooperators developed the apps as part of a five-year, multi-organization project called the “Land Potential Knowledge System” (LandPKS).

“The LandPKS is a global network of open-source databases and computer simulation models that anyone with a mobile phone and a wireless or cellular data connection will be able to access,” explained Herrick, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

LandInfo and LandCover are currently available on Android and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Availability on other platforms, including iPhones, is planned by the end of the year.

LandInfo’s primary objective is to make collecting soil data easier for non-soil scientists; however, the app does provide some useful feedback, including how much water the soil can store for plants to use, average monthly temperature and precipitation, and the length of the growing season based on the user’s location.

LandCover simplifies collecting data for land-cover inventories and monitoring. In fact, a yard or meter stick with five notches is all that’s needed to document tree, grass, bare ground and crop-residue cover. The app automatically generates basic indicators of these cover types on the phone. Once a connection is established, the app sends the data to servers, where it will be stored and accessible to users worldwide.

A future app (LandPotential) will use the LandInfo information together with Internet cloud-based models and additional knowledge bases to help users identify and select management systems that increase production while reducing soil erosion.

The mobile phone apps exploit the latest in digital soil mapping, GPS-enabled camera functions and other cloud-computing technology and require no special training thanks to picture-matching, drop-down menus, video explanations, and multiple-choice questions.

New Mexico State University, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), ISRIC-World Soil Information in the Netherlands, the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS), World Agroforestry Center, Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Kenya, and the U.S. Agency for International Development are among organizations that contributed to the apps’ development, testing and release.

In addition to land managers, these apps also should prove useful to extension service agents, farm consultants, policymakers, and soil inventory and monitoring specialists. Once the entire suite has been released, the apps will allow users to network with one another and exchange information about their experiences, challenges and successes.

Herrick said this shared knowledge will become especially important as agricultural producers seek to meet the food, fiber, fuel and feed needs of a growing world population projected to exceed 9 billion individuals by 2050. Visit the LandPotential.org website for more information and to sign up for updates on the availability of new apps.

ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting world food security.

Categories: USDA

Natural Enzyme Examined as Antibiotics Alternative

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 05/28/2015 - 07:21
Natural Enzyme Examined as Antibiotics Alternative / May 28, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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 Piglet. Link to photo information
ARS scientists are studying a natural antimicrobial enzyme as a possible alternative to antibiotics for promoting pig health and growth. Click the image for more information about it.


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Natural Enzyme Examined as Antibiotics Alternative

By Jan Suszkiw
May 28, 2015

Lysozyme, a naturally occurring antimicrobial enzyme, is used in food and beverage applications such as cheese- and wine-making. Now, it may also prove useful as an antibiotic alternative for improved feed efficiency and growth in pigs, according to studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Their research coincides with ongoing debate over whether using antibiotics in this manner contributes to the emergence of resistant bacteria strains, threatening the compounds’ availability and effectiveness as infection-fighters in both veterinary and human medicine. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria sicken more than 2 million people in the United States each year and kill over 23,000 directly.

Swine producers are currently under pressure to eliminate sub-therapeutic antibiotic use throughout the production cycle, according to William Oliver, a physiologist at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Clay Center, Nebraska. Finding safe and effective alternatives to traditional antibiotics will give swine producers viable options in the event the antibiotics are removed from use, he added.

Oliver and his ARS and university colleagues began investigating lysozyme in 2010. In a recently published trial conducted at Clay Center, they compared the growth rates and weight gains of two groups of 600 piglets placed on one of three diet regimens: a standard feed regimen of corn/soybean meal and specialty protein, a second regimen of the same with lysozyme added, and a third containing the antibiotics chlortetracycline and tiamulin hydrogen fumarate rather than the lysozyme.

The groups were also kept in weaning pens that had either been disinfected or left uncleaned since the last group of animals had occupied them. The latter was done to stimulate chronic, or long-term, immune activity, including the production of cytokines, which divert nutrients away from growth in swine and result in slower weight gain.

The results showed that piglets on lysozyme- or antibiotics-treated feeds grew approximately 12 percent faster than untreated pigs—even in uncleaned pens, suggesting that the treatments successfully ameliorated the effects of indirect immune challenge in the animals.

Read more about this research in the May 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine. ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.

Categories: USDA

How to Lure a Pest of Pistachio, Almond and Walnut

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 09:53
How to Lure a Pest of Pistachio, Almond and Walnut / May 26, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Adult navel orangeworm moth on almonds. Link to photo information
An ARS researcher is evaluating better ways for growers to monitor for navel orangeworms, the number-one pest of almonds and pistachios and a major pest of walnuts. Click the image for more information about it.


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How to Lure a Pest of Pistachio, Almond and Walnut

By Dennis O'Brien
May 26, 2015

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist in California is helping growers evaluate a new lure designed to monitor for infestations of navel orangeworms (NOW), the number-one pest of almonds and pistachios and a major pest of walnut. The work by Charles Burks, who is with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Parlier, could also help reduce insecticide use on the 1.3 million acres where $7 billion worth of almonds, pistachios and walnuts are grown each year.

Some growers use traps supplied with almond meal to attract NOW. Known as egg traps, they require growers to count eggs left by mated females who have visited the traps. But counting eggs is labor intensive and notoriously unreliable. Instead of almond meal, the new NOW BioLure® uses a complicated blend of synthesized female pheromones to attract males. It can be used with a variety of traps and is easier to use.

Burks and his colleagues compared the number of NOW captured in a commonly used trap baited with either the new lure or unmated females placed in mesh bags. The study involved experiments in almond and pistachio fields, each running about 2 to 3 months. Unmated females had to be replaced every 4 days to ensure they were alive—since they were being used as the bait. Results, published in the journal Insects in July 2014, showed the female bait captured more insects than the new lure (353 vs. 212 overall), but the lure attracted insects for 40 days.

They also compared capture results using three different types of traps baited with either the lure or live females. They placed traps at a variety of distances from each other and counted “single night” captures and capture rates over a four-month growing season. The results, published in the Journal of Economic Entomology in February 2015, showed that trap design and trap density, or the spacing between traps, are important factors.

Along with previous studies on egg traps, the work shows that the lure does not trap as many NOW as female-baited traps, but it is an improvement over egg traps. It also shows that the right trap and the optimal trap density will vary, depending on a grower’s needs.

Read more about these studies in the May issue of AgResearch magazine.

Categories: USDA

Lowering Risk of a Major Eye Disease

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 05/19/2015 - 06:28
Lowering Risk of a Major Eye Disease / May 19, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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 Outdoor scene with a dark blurry spot in middle. Link to photo information
Eating a diet high in vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, tomatoes, and seafood was associated with reduced odds of macular degeneration compared to a diet with more red meat and refined grains, according to an ARS study. Click the image for more information about it.


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Lowering Risk of a Major Eye Disease

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
May 19, 2015

Major U.S. dietary patterns are associated with the risk of developing an age-related eye disease, according to a study funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a chronic, progressive eye-disease and is a leading cause of blindness among people aged 65 and older. For the dietary-patterns study, researchers analyzed existing data from a major federal clinical trial known as the age-related eye disease studies (AREDS).

The AREDS study was led by epidemiologist Chung-Jung Chiu at the Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research, which is headed by Allen Taylor, an expert in dietary means to delay age-related eye disease. The laboratory is at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.

The macula is a 3-millimeter-wide group of light-sensing cells located near the center of the retina. As the eye ages, oxidized, damaged proteins and lipids—debris called “drusen”—begin to accumulate in the macula. This occurs when the damaged components are neither broken down by enzymes that control protein, lipid, and carbohydrate quality, nor detoxified via other mechanisms. Measurable drusen is one key indicator of AMD risk.

The team classified baseline data collected during AREDS on the eyes of more than 4,000 study volunteers into groups including little or no drusen, intermediate or large drusen, and advanced AMD. The researchers also analyzed the participants’ food-consumption data.

Two major food-intake patterns emerged from this analysis. Those who adhered to the “Oriental pattern” consumed relatively high intakes of vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, tomatoes and seafood. Those who adhered to the “Western pattern” consumed relatively high intakes of red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, French fries and refined grains.

The analysis showed that adherence to the Oriental pattern is associated with reduced odds of drusen and advanced AMD, and people who consumed the Western pattern had markedly increased odds. Read more about this research in the May 2015 issue of AgResearch magazine. ARS is the USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Categories: USDA

16 New Lettuce Breeding Lines from ARS

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 05/14/2015 - 06:56
16 New Lettuce Breeding Lines from ARS / May 14, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A Romaine lettuce line with resistance to dieback, which is caused by soilborne viruses. Link to photo information
ARS researchers have developed and released 16 new lettuce breeding lines, including 6 icebergs, 6 leaf lettuces and 4 romaine varieties with traits such as better disease or pest resistance or other consumer-oriented trait. Click the image for more information about it.



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16 New Lettuce Breeding Lines from ARS

By Sharon Durham
May 14, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in California have developed 16 new lettuce breeding lines. Lettuce production in the United States is concentrated mostly in California and Arizona, where it is grown year-round. Salinas, California, in fact, is often referred to as “the salad bowl of the nation.”

In field, greenhouse and laboratory experiments, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticists Ivan Simko, Ryan Hayes, and Beiquan Mou, and plant pathologist Carolee T. Bull, all in the Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit in Salinas, California, developed and tested the performance and resistance of the new lettuce breeding lines. These lines, now available to plant breeders, include 6 icebergs, 4 romaines, and 6 leaf lettuces. The Salinas researchers collaborated with Yaguang (Sunny) Luo, a research food technologist at the Food Quality Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, for testing of the lines, including postharvest evaluations of lettuce quality; size and shape of the heads; size, shape, and texture of the leaves; and core length.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

The research group’s goal is to develop and release lettuce lines with combined resistance to pests and diseases and with as many different traits as possible that are advantageous to producers and consumers. Of the six iceberg lettuce lines, five are suitable for salad-blend and whole-head markets, according to Simko. The one iceberg line not suitable for these markets can instead be used in breeding programs as a donor of genes for resistance to downy mildew, bacterial leaf spot and Verticillium wilt.

According to Simko, two of the romaine lettuce lines are appropriate for salad-blend, spring-mix and whole-head production. One of the other lines can’t be used for fresh-cut products because it decays rapidly after processing, but it is suitable for the whole-head market. Each of these three breeding lines has resistance to dieback, a plant disease to which most of the currently grown romaine cultivars are susceptible.

Each of the six leaf-lettuce breeding lines is acceptable for commercial production as a salad blend or spring mix. Three could also be used for whole-plant production, and two lines demonstrated very high field resistance to downy mildew, according to Simko.

This research was also supported by the California Leafy Greens Research Program and the California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

Limited samples of the lettuce seeds are available for distribution to those interested in conducting research or commercial production.

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