USDA

Strip Tillage and Cover Crops Enhance Soil Quality in the Southeast in the Face of Climate Change

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 11/13/2015 - 06:49
Solid Fats and Added Sugars in Foods / November 17, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Beef patties and a variety of fruits, grains, vegetables and dairy products.  Link to photo information
A diet including low-fat dairy, lean meats, seafood, whole grains, and vegetables and fruits is recommended. Click the image for more information about it.


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Solid Fats and Added Sugars in Foods

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
November 17, 2015

A surprisingly high proportion of foods consumed in the United States contain some solid fats and added sugars, according to an analysis of U.S. food-consumption data. The study, which was based on an evaluation of food-intake data from a large sampling of the U.S. population, was led by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) nutritionist Lisa Jahns.

Solid fats are solid at room temperature, and added sugars are those added to foods—they are nicknamed "SoFAS" by some nutritionists. These SoFAS are also known as "empty calories," according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), because they provide few or no nutrients yet are high in calories.

Commercially available food group options may include SoFAS as ingredients aimed to boost flavor and desirability, although much solid fat is naturally occurring, such as in meat and milk. The researchers found that a high percentage of foods recommended for consumption by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) contained SoFAS particularly in their commercially available forms. Yet a key recommendation of the guidelines is to reduce the intake of calories from SoFAS.

Survey data of 4,046 foods consumed (2007-2008) was used to estimate the proportion of those foods that contained either solid fats or added sugars from within the major food groups (Vegetables, Grains, Proteins, Fruits and Dairy).

Consumer education about hidden fats and sugars in commonly consumed foods can help people make food choices that maximize diet quality while staying within calorie needs, according to the authors.

Jahns is with the ARS Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The study was published in Nutrition Journal.

Read more about this research in the November issue of AgResearch.

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

Categories: USDA

Strip Tillage and Cover Crops Enhance Soil Quality in the Southeast in the Face of Climate Change

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 11/13/2015 - 06:49
Strip Tillage and Cover Crops Enhance Soil Quality in the Southeast in the Face of Climate Change / November 13, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A young peanut crop growing in a strip-tilled field. Link to photo information
A young peanut crop growing in a strip-tilled field. Research shows that strip tillage, along with cover crops, can reduce erosion and increase water infiltration. Click the image for more information about it.


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Strip Tillage and Cover Crops Enhance Soil Quality in the Southeast in the Face of Climate Change

By Dennis O'Brien
November 13, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in Tifton, Georgia, are providing guidance to growers by showing that strip tillage and cover crops are important practices for reducing erosion from sandy soils in the Southeastern United States and for enhancing soil quality.

Dinku Endale, an agricultural engineer with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and his ARS colleagues David Bosch, Thomas Potter and Timothy Strickland compared surface runoff and sediment losses from two common tillage systems between 2000 and 2009, including years with severe drought and heavy rainfall. They collected runoff from fields rotated between peanut and cotton crops that were either conventionally tilled or strip-tilled.

Conventional tillage mixes all crop residues into the soil prior to planting while strip tillage does so only in narrow four-to-six-inch-wide strips where the seeds are planted. The remaining area is left undisturbed so that cover crop residues remain on the surface, providing protection from water and wind erosion. The researchers also used rye as a winter cover crop to protect the soil, increase organic matter and hold nutrients remaining from previous cropping seasons that otherwise might leach away.

The results provide a clear picture of the advantages of strip tillage. About 20 percent of the rain on conventionally tilled fields was lost in surface runoff compared with only 12 percent from the strip-tilled fields. The runoff from strip-tilled fields carried 87 percent less sediment than that from the conventionally tilled fields. Sediment losses exceeded the acceptable threshold for the soil in 3 of the 10 years on the conventionally tilled fields, but they never exceeded the threshold on the strip-tilled fields.

The ARS researchers also found that, with respect to reducing erosion and surface runoff, the benefits of strip tillage were enhanced with cover crops.

The study comes at a critical time. The increased prevalence of herbicide-resistant weeds has prompted some farmers to revert from strip tillage to conventional tillage as a weed control strategy. Climate change also is expected to bring more intense rainstorms that increase runoff and soil erosion from farm fields.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Read more about this research in the November issue of AgResearch.

Categories: USDA

Ag Utilization Centers Celebrate 75 Years of Innovation

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 10/29/2015 - 11:01
Ag Utilization Centers Celebrate 75 Years of Innovation / October 29, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Ag Utilization Centers Celebrate 75 Years of Innovation

By Jan Suszkiw
October 29, 2015

 75th Anniversary logo.


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Improved methods of ensuring product quality, detecting foodborne pathogens and creating biobased fuels are among technological innovations arising from 75-years of scientific excellence at four Agricultural Research Service (ARS) regional utilization centers spread throughout the country. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) chief scientific research agency.

The centers, which celebrate their 75th anniversaries during the remainder of 2015 and start of 2016, are the: Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania; Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, California; National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in Peoria, Illinois; and Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The centers were established circa 1940 to create new, value-added uses for surpluses of region-specific crops and their byproducts, notes Rob Griesbach, deputy assistant administrator for ARS in Beltsville, Maryland.

Today, the mission of the centers' scientists remains very much the same—albeit with an expanded list of crops, consumer expectations and marketing challenges.

Some recent advances from the four utilization centers, together with the dates of their 75th anniversary celebrations, are highlighted below.

ERRC (8/20):

  • A new mobile pyrolysis unit capable of converting two tons of agricultural biomass byproducts, such as crop residues, wood and switchgrass into bio-oil—a renewable transportation fuel and petroleum alternative.
  • An analytical method that detects six serogroups of the toxin-producing bacterium Escherichia coli O157:H7. The new method, called "latex agglutination," immobilizes antibodies onto latex particles and is now used in commercial test kits to ensure food safety.

WRRC (9/4):

  • Infrared emitter technology that rapidly peels tomatoes traveling on conveyor belts at food processing plants. Steam- or chemically based methods are now used. But tests suggest using infrared energy could save on water and could work with peaches and pears.
  • Test strip that offers same-day results on the presence of the bacterial toxin responsible for botulism in improperly processed foods and stored meats. Tests indicate the WRRC-developed strips are 100- to 1,000-fold more sensitive than similar products.

NCAUR (10/8 - 10/10):

  • Sucromalt, a low-glycemic-index syrup developed from corn, cane or beet sugars using bacterial enzymes. The sweetener digests slowly but completely in the body when consumed, helping stabilize blood sugar levels. Sucromalt has been commercialized and is being added to a variety of foods or beverages.
  • Estolides, fatty acids derived from high oleic-acid oilseed crops like canola and lesquerella that can improve the cold-weather performance and other desirable properties of biobased engine lubricants.

SRRC (3/8/2016 - 3/10/2016):

  • Biopesticides for controlling the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which produces a harmful crop contaminant called aflatoxin. The biopesticide's active ingredients are non-toxin producing Aspergillus strains that outcompete their aflatoxin-producing "cousins," helping reduce human exposure and avoiding costly losses in corn, cotton, peanuts and certain other crops around the world.
  • Technologies developed at SRRC to adapt cotton nonwoven fabric (unbleached and undyed) for disposable diapers were used by TJ Beall Company, the Seventh Generation Company, and Target stores in launching their new disposable diaper products. The Seventh Generation product—Touch of Cloth disposable diaper—was launched in 2014.

Read more about the utilization centers in the October issue of AgResearch online.

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