USDA

New Berries from ARS

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 04/22/2015 - 07:01
New Berries from ARS / April 22, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Two ripe red and two immature strawberries on the vine of Sweet Sunrise, an ARS cultivar. Link to photo information
Sweet Sunrise strawberry is new high-yielding, June-bearing cultivar from the ARS breeding program in Corvallis, Oregon. Click the image for more information about it.


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New Berries from ARS

By Sharon Durham
April 22, 2015

Two new berries have been developed thanks to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists at the Horticultural Crops Research Unit in Corvallis, Oregon, and their collaborators.

Berries of all types are wonderful additions to a healthy diet, providing nutrients, fiber and flavor. Sweet Sunrise (U.S. PP 25,223) is a new strawberry cultivar from the Corvallis breeding program, which is led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticist Chad Finn. This strawberry was released in cooperation with the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station (OAES) and Washington State University’s Agricultural Research Center.

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

Sweet Sunrise is a high-yielding cultivar that ripens in June. It produces large, firm attractive fruit having excellent quality. According to Finn, Sweet Sunrise was high-yielding in every trial and location. Yields are comparable to, or higher than, those of other recent releases such as Charm, Valley Red, and Sweet Bliss or the industry standards Tillamook, Totem, and Hood. In all evaluations, Sweet Sunrise was rated excellent and comparable to Totem for commercial processors.

Finn also developed Columbia Star (U.S. patent applied for), a thornless, trailing blackberry cultivar from the same breeding program as Sweet Sunrise. Columbia Star was released in 2013 in cooperation with OAES.

The new blackberry is a high-quality, high-yielding, machine-harvestable blackberry with firm, sweet fruit that when processed is similar in quality to, or better than, fruit from the industry standards Marion and Black Diamond.

Both of these new berry cultivars will be good additions to the fresh- and processed-fruit markets, according to Finn.

Read more about this research in the April issue of AgResearch magazine.

Categories: USDA

USDA Scientists, International Colleagues Sequence Upland Cotton Genome

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 12:03
USDA Scientists, International Colleagues Sequence Upland Cotton Genome / April 21, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Upland cotton boll.
ARS scientists and their partners have sequenced the genome of Texas Marker-1, the genetic standard for upland cotton, the world's most widely cultivated and genetically complex species of Gossypium. Photo courtesy of Russell Kohel, ARS (retired).


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USDA Scientists, International Colleagues Sequence Upland Cotton Genome

By Dennis O'Brien
April 21, 2015

Resulting "roadmap" could help improve yields, fiber quality and plant resilience

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their partners have sequenced the genome of the world's most widely cultivated and genetically complex species of cotton, a milestone that will make it easier to address increasing threats to cotton by tapping into its natural defenses. The results were published today in two Nature Biotechnology reports.

Sequencing the genome of Upland cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) will help breeders develop varieties of cotton that are better equipped to combat the pests, diseases and higher temperatures and droughts expected to accompany climate change. Cotton growers have experienced a plateau in yields since the early 1990s, and most commercial varieties lack genetic diversity, making cotton vulnerable to natural threats. The findings will help researchers and breeders in the years ahead develop cotton varieties with improved fiber qualities, higher yields and more tolerance to heat, drought and diseases anticipated due to climate change. Cotton is grown on 12 million acres in 17 states and is a $6 billion crop in the United States.

"There is a vast, untapped reservoir of genes in wild cotton plants that could offer us stronger and more effective defenses to the numerous challenges faced by cotton growers. Sequencing of a genetic standard in cotton gives us the roadmap to identify and tap into that reservoir of genetic variability," said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

The studies are the result of nearly a decade of international collaboration. ARS scientists Richard Percy and Russell Kohel (retired) are coauthors and John Yu is corresponding author of one publication. They are based in College Station, Texas. ARS scientist Brian Scheffler, based in Stoneville, Mississippi, is a coauthor of the other. The two teams sequenced the genome of the genetic standard of Upland cotton, Texas Marker-1, which is often used in studies and in developing new genetic lines.

Upland cotton is the result of millions of years of evolution and thousands of years of domestication. The sequencing efforts were made possible because several of the scientists involved in today's studies recently sequenced the two "parent" species of most commercial cotton varieties—an Old World cultivated cotton and a New World wild cotton.

The results will allow scientists to analyze two sets of extensive DNA data, compiled independently of each other, compare the results and exploit cotton's genetic diversity by tapping into the potential of genes found in the 10,000 accessions of exotic and wild cotton plants in the ARS Cotton Germplasm Collection in College Station, Texas.

The papers, with a list of the contributing authors, can be found at:

http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nbt.3207.html

http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nbt.3208.html

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting American agriculture by conducting cutting-edge research and expanding markets at home and abroad.

Categories: USDA

New Procedure to Test NDV Vaccines

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:32
New Procedure to Test NDV Vaccines / April 15, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Chickens. Link to photo information
ARS scientists have improved methods for evaluating vaccines against Newcastle disease virus, which could lead to better protection from this virulent poultry disease. Click the image for more information about it.


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New Procedure to Test NDV Vaccines

By Sandra Avant
April 15, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed an improved Newcastle disease virus (NDV) vaccine evaluation procedure that could be used to select better vaccines to treat the disease.

Newcastle disease, one of the most important poultry diseases worldwide, can cause severe illness in chickens and other birds. Severe, or virulent, strains rarely occur in poultry species in the United States, but they are regularly found in poultry in many foreign countries.

Available commercial NDV vaccines perform well in chickens infected with virulent NDV under experimental conditions. They also perform well under field conditions where virulent virus is not common. However, they often fail in countries where virulent viruses are endemic.

At the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Georgia, microbiologist Claudio Afonso and veterinary medical officer Patti Miller have updated the traditional vaccine evaluation method, which does not compare vaccines or take into account suboptimal field conditions.

Under perfect conditions, vaccines should work, but conditions are not always perfect in the field, according to Miller. Chickens sometimes get less than the required vaccine dose and don't always have the minimum amount of time required to develop an optimum immune response.

The improved vaccine-evaluation procedure compares vaccines made using genes from the same viral strain-or genotype-that the birds are exposed to in the field to vaccines made with a strain that differs from the virus birds are exposed to.

Using the improved procedure, scientists inoculated chickens with different vaccine doses before exposure to a high dose of virulent NDV. Birds given the genotype-matched vaccine had reduced viral shedding, superior immune responses, reduced clinical signs, and increased survival than the birds vaccinated with a different-genotype vaccine. By using genotype-matched vaccines, viral shedding and death were significantly reduced.

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

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

Categories: USDA

Fast New Approach to Formulating Pest-Killing Fungi on Tap

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 04/08/2015 - 07:39
Fast New Approach to Formulating Pest-Killing Fungi on Tap / April 8, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 ARS microbiologist Mark Jackson examining a fungal culture in a glass container. Link to photo information
ARS microbiologist Mark Jackson and his colleagues have improved mass-production of beneficial fungi so they can be more effective and more economical biopesticides. Click the image for more information about it.


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Fast New Approach to Formulating Pest-Killing Fungi on Tap

By Jan Suszkiw
April 8, 2015

Technological advances by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are continuing to improve the way beneficial fungi are formulated for use as biopesticides.

Traditionally, biopesticide makers have cultured beneficial species of Beauveria, Isaria, Metarhizium and other fungi on moistened grains like rice or other solid substrates to coax them into forming specialized spores called "conidia." These conidia are then harvested and formulated into biopesticide products, which can be applied to field- or greenhouse-grown crops as alternatives to synthetic pesticides or used in conjunction with them to delay the pests' development of insecticide resistance.

Over the past decade, however, microbiologist Mark Jackson and colleagues at USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have experimented with the use of liquid culture fermentation (LCF), an approach that's enabled them to mass-produce stable, effective spore forms called "blastospores" and resting structures such as "microsclerotia."

The researchers' studies have shown that microsclerotia are especially durable, long-lasting during storage, and effective as bioinsecticides and bioherbicides. LCF has also proven to be faster and more economical to use, yielding blastospores or microsclerotia in two to three days versus the ten to fourteen days needed to produce conidia using the traditional culture methods, says Jackson. He is with the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois. Replacing hydrolyzed casein and other expensive nitrogen sources with low-cost cottonseed flour also reduces production media costs by 80-90 percent, he adds.

Jackson's recent collaborations with visiting scientists Gabriel Mascarin (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, a.k.a. "EMBRAPA") and Nilce Kobori (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) showed that LCF can also be a cost-effective way to produce spores of U.S. and Brazilian strains of Beauveria, Isaria, and Trichoderma fungi.

In trials, the blastospores proved more effective than conidia generated by commercial production methods. For example, blastospores from LCF cultures of Beauveria killed silverleaf whitefly nymphs 25 percent faster than the conidia. Fewer blastospores were also required. Their studies also demonstrated, for the first time, that under appropriate LCF conditions, Trichoderma can form microsclerotia suitable for use as a seed coating or soil-incorporated granules to guard against plant diseases.

Read more about their findings in the April issue of AgResearch magazine. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Categories: USDA

U.S. National Arboretum To Re-Open to the Public Seven-Days A Week

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Thu, 04/02/2015 - 10:41
U.S. National Arboretum To Re-Open to the Public Seven-Days A Week / April 2, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
U.S. National Arboretum To Re-Open to the Public Seven Days A Week

Schedule Resumption Possible Through Friends of the National Arboretum Donations

By Sharon Durham
April 2, 2015

WASHINGTON, April 2, 2015 — On April 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) will once again be open to the public seven days a week, its original operating schedule. USNA continued a full research schedule but reduced the public schedule by three days a week in 2013 due to reduced funding, closing to the public Tuesday through Thursday. The Arboretum is operated by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

"We are very pleased that the U.S. National Arboretum will return to its normal operating schedule on April 14," said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS Administrator. "In addition to the vital plant research conducted there, the Arboretum is also a source of relaxation and enjoyment for the public and visitors to Washington, D.C. We are thankful for the support of the Friends of the National Arboretum in helping us to restore the Arboretum's normal operating schedule. It is a great example of well-functioning private/government partnership benefiting the public."

Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) is the principal private, nonprofit partner of USNA. FONA began raising funds following the 2013 schedule reduction to facilitate resuming USNA's seven-day schedule. The funds raised by FONA will help pay for custodial, security, and public information services for the three days of operations over the next three years.

The 446-acre Arboretum is USDA's research and education facility and a living museum. The Arboretum enhances the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of ornamental and landscape plants through long-term, multi-disciplinary research, conservation of genetic resources, and interpretative gardens and exhibits.

It is dedicated to serving the public and improving our environment by developing and promoting improved floral and landscape plants and new technologies through scientific research, education programs, display gardens, and germplasm conservation.

This year, the Arboretum is also home to a nesting pair of bald eagles, the first since 1947. Staff first noticed the nesting pair in early January on the south side of Mount Hamilton, in the Arboretum's Azalea Collection, watching the pair make trips back and forth to the nest site. The eagles' behavior changed towards the end of January, when one started sitting on the nest at all times, while the other searched for food to feed its mate. This was an indication that the pair was now caring for eaglets. It is unknown at this time how many eaglets are in the nest.

The USNA is taking steps to protect the nesting pair of eagles and minimize disturbances. People, noise, and related distractions in the vicinity of a bald eagle nest can cause the nesting pair to abandon their nest and eaglets. USNA has restricted access to an area within approximately 660 feet around the nesting site during the critical nesting period, ending around mid-June.

Each season provides new experiences for visitors. Spring arrives with the appearance of woodland wildflowers. From magnolia blossoms to miniature daffodils to cherry blossoms, fragrance graces the grounds. Summer brings daylilies and crape myrtles, welcoming the heat of summer with showy, resilient blooms. In the fall, tree leaves transition from summer green to a range of rich yellows of tulip poplar and hickory to the bright red of black gum and the purplish red of sweet gum and dogwood. While many think of winter as cold and remote, it also brings calm and quiet. Snow and ice transform the gardens into a jeweled landscape. The 'Sparkleberry' hollies (developed by scientists at the USNA) sparkle with brilliant red berries.

There are a number of specialized collections at USNA including the Asian Collections, Fern Valley, The Native Plant Collection, and the ever-popular Azalea Collections. The public is encouraged to visit the USNA Web site to learn more about hours of operation, visitor services, collections, and upcoming USNA events and activities.

Categories: USDA

USDA Agency Retools Its Monthly Science News Magazine

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 07:19
USDA Agency Retools Its Monthly Science News Magazine / April 1, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Screenshot of main page of the new AgResearch magazine web site. Link to web site.
ARS has launched its newly redesigned and reformatted AgResearch magazine.

USDA Agency Retools Its Monthly Science News Magazine

By Jan Suszkiw
April 1, 2015

Agricultural Research has been a flagship publication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) since 1953. This month, ARS debuts a new, all-digital version of the magazine called AgResearch that will make better use of information delivery and technology to meet the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy, time-pressed global audience.

In this and subsequent monthly issues, "Site visitors will encounter a new look and content layout to complement the ag-research reporting that's come to define the magazine over the years," according to ARS Administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.

The monthly magazine is designed for a diverse, lay, non-scientific audience. The information will be useful for those interested in food and agriculture, including farmers/ranchers, commodity and industry groups, Federal and private researchers, policymakers (including Congressional members), regulatory agencies and the American public.

Jacobs-Young says AgResearch's digital layout is a "responsive" one, automatically adjusting to the site user's browser window or mobile device for optimal viewing. In addition to high-resolution images, articles are accompanied by call-out boxes summarizing key facts to help users quickly access information.

The site's intuitive design makes it easy to find links for additional resources, including videos, subject-matter experts and published scientific works. AgResearch also boasts "sharing" capabilities for the social-media-minded.

Jacobs-Young says ARS will continue to assess this and its other communications products to address customer and stakeholder needs and demands, with a focus on mobile users who want their news and information on the go.

Most importantly, though, AgResearch continues the tradition of excellence in reporting the latest research endeavors of the agency's nearly 2,000 scientists to the public, producers, stakeholders and industry.

The new AgResearch magazine can be found at http://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov. Users are encouraged to sign up to receive email alerts when a new issue is posted each month by sending an email that says, "Subscribe" in the subject line to agresearchmag@ars.usda.gov.

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Slavin Delivers ARS 2015 W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture at Experimental Biology

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 05:28
Slavin Delivers ARS 2015 W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture at Experimental Biology / March 31, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

 Joanne L. Slavin
Joanne L. Slavin presents the 2015 ARS W.O. Atwater Lecture "Food Is Not a Talisman: Reflections on the Science and Practice of Nutrition" at Experimental Biology 2015.


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Slavin Delivers ARS 2015 W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture at Experimental Biology

By Kim Kaplan
March 31, 2015

BOSTON, March 31, 2015—"Food is not a talisman: Reflections on the science and practice of nutrition," is the subject of Joanne L. Slavin's 2015 W.O.A. Memorial Lecture, which she delivers today at the Experimental Biology meeting in Boston.

Slavin is an internationally renowned expert on the role of fiber and whole grains in the diet and their bearing on human health. She is currently a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, and she served as a member of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture was established by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in 1968 to honor the memory of Wilbur Olin Atwater (1844-1907) and to recognize scientists who have made unique contributions toward improving the diet and nutrition of people around the world. Atwater, considered the father of modern nutrition research and education, was the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) first chief of nutrition investigations. ARS is USDA's chief in-house scientific agency.

Slavin is known not only for her scientific contributions but also as a courageous voice for supporting scientific evidence underpinning discussions on human health and nutrition.

She summed up her presentation as discussing that "current obsessions on nutritional bad guys—saturated fat, added sugar, sodium—have left the science arena. Nutritional guidance must be based on strong science or we mislead the public with hollow promises of the magical properties of foods."

For more information about the W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecture, see http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/lectures/atwater.htm

Categories: USDA

Strategies to Control Cravings

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 05:10
Strategies to Control Cravings / March 30, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A bowl of barley soup. Link to photo information
A diet of moderately low carbohydrates rather than very low is best for weight control without triggering cravings, according to an ARS-funded study, making foods like barley soup a practical choice. Click the image for more food items.


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Strategies to Control Cravings

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
March 30, 2015

An expert in healthy weight-loss interventions funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is studying complex brain responses to the dramatically changed U.S. food supply. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) report that during the past four decades, the amount of food on hand to purchase from the U.S. market-in terms of average daily caloric availability—has increased by 600 calories per person.

Susan B. Roberts emphasizes interventions with a high-fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrate intake—at the lower end of the recommended range rather than below it—for weight control because that is a good level where people can enjoy some carbs without having so many that they trigger food cravings and eating-control issues.

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.

Roberts emphasizes a moderately low carbohydrate intake, rather than a very low carb intake, in keeping with the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrates of 130 grams, or 520 calories, per day. Based on Roberts' studies, another dietary key to managing body weight is getting ample food fiber, which is a subset of the carbohydrate group.

The daily adequate intake for fiber is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. But significantly—dietary fiber intake among U.S. consumers averages only 16 grams per day. Fiber is a weight-control cornerstone of Roberts' intervention studies because it helps achieve the feeling of fullness after eating.

Good sources of dietary fiber include legumes (beans and peas), vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and whole grains (unlike refined grains, whole grains contain the entire grain kernel, meaning bran, germ, and endosperm).

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

Categories: USDA

Beneficial Insect Virus Gets Boost as Crop Pest Fighter

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 13:53
Beneficial Insect Virus Gets Boost as Crop Pest Fighter / March 27, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 A mature codling moth larva on a sliced apple. Link to photo information
Adding brewer's yeast and brown sugar improves the effectiveness of a natural insect pathogen that is in a commercial spray to kill codling moth larvae to prevent damage to apples, pears and other orchard crops, according to ARS research. Click the image for more information about it.


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Beneficial Insect Virus Gets Boost as Crop Pest Fighter

By Jan Suszkiw
March 27, 2015

Common baking ingredients may offer a way to bolster the effectiveness of Cydia pomonella granulovirus (CpGV), a natural insect pathogen that’s been commercially formulated to kill codling moth larvae—the proverbial worms in the apple (and pear, walnut and other orchard crops).

Studies by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) entomologist Alan Knight and his Swedish colleague Peter Witzgall show that adding two feeding stimulants to the spray formulations—brewer’s yeast and brown sugar—can increase the pests’ ingestion of the lethal insect virus, sparing more fruit from harm.

The scientists’ investigations are part of a broader research effort to incorporate novel ingredients, or “adjuvants,” that will improve CpGV’s performance as a biobased alternative to broad-spectrum insecticides, which can be costly to apply and harmful to beneficial insects, including parasites or predators that keep secondary pests in check.

Currently, CpGV is used on more than 370,000 acres of apples worldwide. However, its effectiveness as a bioinsecticide can be diminished by exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) and the larvae’s tendency to burrow into fruit to feed shortly after hatching, according to Knight, who is with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Wapato, Washington.

In 2 years of field trials, the addition of sugar and brewer’s yeast to sprays of CpGV killed more larvae (83 percent) than virus-only formulations (55 percent) and water-only controls (17 percent). The treatments also reduced feeding injury to the apples in 1 of the 2 test years, reports Knight, with the ARS Fruit and Vegetable Insect Research Unit (also known as the “Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory”) in Wapato.

Besides sugar and brewer’s yeast, Knight and Witzgall are evaluating other natural adjuvants to make the virus more effective. These include feeding stimulants such as pear ester, unpasteurized corn steep liquor and certain wild yeast species.

Even with improvements, CpGV isn’t likely to become a stand-alone codling moth control for all growers in the industry, but rather a part of an integrated approach to managing the pests using a variety of measures, such as sex pheromone-based mating disruption.

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

ARS is USDA’s principal intramural scientific research agency.

Categories: USDA

Spotting Problems and Targeting Treatments to Where They Are Needed

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 15:49
Spotting Problems and Targeting Treatments to Where They Are Needed / March 23, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 An aerial infrared image of a cotton field showing areas with cotton root rot in green. Link to photo information
An ARS researcher has developed an aerial infrared camera system that lets growers identify areas within their fields that have cotton root rot so they can target fungicide treatment. Click the image for more information about it.


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Spotting Problems and Targeting Treatments to Where They Are Needed

By Dennis O'Brien
March 23, 2015

An agricultural engineer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a practical, cost-effective approach for taking aerial images of cotton fields that are detailed enough to show patches of large fields in need of special attention.

Small aircraft have been used for years to survey fields and treat crops for pest infestations, plant diseases and other problems. But Chenghai Yang, who is with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in College Station, Texas, began evaluating whether aerial imagery could spot problem areas within cotton fields when growers started using a new fungicide to control cotton root rot. Root rot infections are usually limited to 20 percent to 30 percent of a field. But many growers treat entire 150- and 200-acre fields, wasting a fungicide that costs about $50 an acre.

Working with Texas A&M AgriLife scientists, Yang mounted two digital cameras on the underside of a small airplane, equipped them with GPS, and took images of cotton fields to see whether they could identify areas with cotton root rot. One camera took standard color images. The other was filtered to shoot in near-infrared. Yang tested the system for 2 years in about 40 flights at altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 feet on sunny and cloudy days.

Yang’s results, published in Remote Sensing (June 2014), show that the equipment could detect the presence, location and the disease progression of cotton root rot, as well as invasive weeds and areas affected by drought stress. The dual-camera system they used cost about $6,000, but Yang says that a $1,500 system with a single camera will also suffice. The camera can be attached to the bottom of an aircraft with minimal modifications. Fees for aerial surveys should be more than offset by reduced pesticide costs, and fewer chemicals will get into soils and waterways, he says.

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

Categories: USDA

A New Vaccine to Fight Poultry Diseases

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Fri, 03/20/2015 - 09:03
A New Vaccine to Fight Poultry Diseases / March 20, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

Microbiologist Qingzhong Yu examining recombinant Newcastle disease virus vaccine candidates in infected cells. Link to photo information
ARS microbiologist Qingzhong Yu and his colleagues have created one vaccine that is effective against both infectious laryngotracheitis and Newcastle disease, two of the most economically important infectious diseases of poultry. Click the image for more information about it.


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A New Vaccine to Fight Poultry Diseases

By Sandra Avant
March 20, 2015

A vaccine that protects chickens against two infectious poultry diseases has been developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Microbiologist Qingzhong Yu and his colleagues at the Agricultural Research Service's Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Georgia, created a vaccine that is effective against infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) and Newcastle disease (ND). ILT and ND are two of the most economically important infectious diseases of poultry. They cause sickness and death in domestic and commercial poultry as well as in some wild birds throughout the world.

By using reverse genetics technology, Yu was able to generate new dual vaccines by inserting a gene from the infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV) into the Newcastle disease virus (NDV) LaSota vaccine strain, which has been used for more than 50 years to protect poultry from ND.

Vaccines were tested in more than 100 1-day-old chickens and 120 3-day-old commercial broilers. All vaccinated birds were protected against both ILTV and NDV challenges. They showed little or no clinical signs and no decrease in body weight gains. Vaccines were found to be stable and safe in chickens of all ages.

According to Yu, the new vaccines are safer than the current live-attenuated ILT vaccines. They can be safely and effectively given by aerosol or drinking water to large chicken populations at a low cost.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and this research, which was published in the Journal of Virology, supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

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

Categories: USDA

Sniffing Out Overwintering Stink Bugs

USDA Agricultural Research Service - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 06:06
Sniffing Out Overwintering Stink Bugs / March 18, 2015 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service
Read the magazine story to find out more.

 Brown marmorated stink bugs on the bark of a dead tree. Link to photo information
Stink bugs tend to overwinter in dry, dead trees, preferably oak and locust trees, according to a survey by ARS scientists. Click the image for more information about it.


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Sniffing Out Overwintering Stink Bugs

By Sharon Durham
March 18, 2015

In 2013, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists surveyed forests in Maryland and West Virginia and found that stink bugs prefer to overwinter in large, dry, dead trees having a circumference of more than 23 inches.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) entomologist Tracy Leskey and her team at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia, surveyed the forests and found that oak and locust trees seem to be the favorite stink bug overwintering sites. According to Leskey, the porous dead tissue and peeling bark make a great place for the bugs to crawl into and hide. She found stink bugs in 33 percent of the trees fitting those parameters.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

The 2013 survey team included two detector dogs. The dogs were first trained to recognize the odor of adult stink bugs. Then, in indoor trials, they were guided by their handlers to find bugs hidden in cardboard boxes. Next, the dogs were trained in the field, where bugs were hidden beneath pieces of bark attached to living trees. In both indoor and outdoor trials, the dogs accurately detected target insects with greater than 84 percent accuracy.

Finally, the dogs were taken to woodland areas along the Appalachian Trail in Maryland. In these real-world conditions, the detector dogs were able to find wild overwintering stink bugs.

As part of a project known as the "Great Stink Bug Count," citizen volunteers from the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest regions of the United States recorded daily counts of stink bugs, along with their locations on residences and the time of each tally.

Landscape type seemed to have the greatest influence on overall stink bug numbers arriving at specific homes, according to Leskey. Homes located in mixed agriculture and woodland sites had the greatest number of stink bugs. On average, these homeowners counted over 3,000 stink bugs. Suburban and urban dwellers counted fewer stink bugs.

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

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