Egg-citement, No Rose so Sweet, and Other Success Stories Fresh from the Field

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Fresh from the Field is a weekly album showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Oct. 19, 2017

Success Stories

Image provided by Penn State Catchmark Fresh from the Field Oct 19 2017

Crab Shells Could Greatly Reduce Pollution

An inexpensive biomaterial that may be used to sustainably replace plastic barrier coatings in packaging has been developed by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) researchers, who predict its adoption would greatly reduce pollution.

The completely biodegradable material is comprised of nearly equal parts of treated cellulose pulp from wood or cotton, and chitosan, the primary ingredient in the exoskeletons of crabs, lobsters, and shrimp.

According to Penn State scientist, Jeffrey Catchmark: “These environmentally friendly barrier coatings have numerous applications ranging from water-resistant paper to food coatings to seal in freshness. The potential reduction of pollution is immense if these barrier coatings replace millions of tons of petroleum-based plastic associated with food packaging used every year in the United States.”

NIFA supports the research through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, and the Hatch Act funding.

Read the full story at Penn State. Image provided by Penn State.

Image provided by Kathleen Phillips TAMU Fresh from the Field NIFAImpacts SCRI

Rose Disease Is Not Sweet

Scientists at Texas A&M University (TAMU), USDA’s Agricultural Research Service USDA-ARS), University of Arkansas (UK) and other research institutions are investigating a deadly rose disease called Rose Rosetta Disease. According to David Byrne at TAMU, Rose Rosetta Disease was first observed on wild roses as early as the 1940s, but it was not until 2011 that scientists definitively identified the cause as being from a new virus in the novel genus Emaravirus transmitted by the microscopic eriophyid mite. Today, the virus is killing commercial rose varieties and wild roses.

Symptoms, which can show up as early as 17 days from exposure to infected mites or as many as 279 days after include excessive thorniness, malformed leaves and flowers. Ultimately, all rose plants are vulnerable to the disease and massive monitoring efforts are needed.

“The field trials planted the first year are just now providing data that could lead to developing resistant varieties. We’re up to about 500 different roses planted for evaluation, and previous varieties thought to be resistant are turning out to be susceptible.”

NIFA supports the research through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

Read the full story at AgriLife Today. Image provided by Kathleen Phillips-TAMU.

News Coverage 

Fresh from the Field Hugh Smith Oct 2017 NIFA Impacts

Predatory Insect May Help With Whitefly Control

Scientists at the University of Florida (UF) have found an insect predator that may help greenhouse tomato growers manage populations of the sweet potato whitefly when used as part of an integrated pest management system (IPM).

UF scientist Hugh Smith, with a NIFA IPM Enhancement Grant, observed the feeding habits of the whitefly predator Dicyphus hesperus to see how effective it would be at controlling whitefly in greenhouses. He also evaluated its activity in conjunction with biopesticides commonly used on whitefly in greenhouse tomatoes.

Bemisia tabaci, also known as the sweetpotato whitefly or silverleaf whitefly, attacks a range of plants, including sweet potato, squash, tomato and poinsettia. The biotype B species has been established in the United States since the late 1980s. It transmits tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV). Young tomato plants infected with TYLCV are stunted and unproductive.

Greenhouse tomato growers try to grow as sustainably as possible to compete in a crowded tomato market. Avoiding synthetic insecticides often gives their crop an edge over field-grown tomatoes, so many growers turn first to biological control.

Read more at IPM in the South. Image provided by Hugh Smith-UF.

The Library 

Image provided by Jun Fresh from the Field NIFAImpacts

Nano-Engineered Surface Guards Against Biofouling

Microbes colonize every natural or artificial surface on Earth. In some cases, these microbial communities (known as “biofilms”) can be benign. However, most biofilms are undesirable: they corrode surfaces (from teeth to oil pipes), and serve as a refuge for pathogens. Learning to prevent or disrupt biofilms, and thus minimize their undesirable impacts, remains one of the goals of industrial microbiology. 

NIFA-funded researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UH) and their colleagues are a step closer to reaching this goal. They learned that nano-engineered aluminum discourages microbes (including pathogens) from settling on surfaces and biofouling them. To build such a “nano-patterned” surface, the scientists first treated aluminum with oxalic acid to create nanopillars or nanopores, then etched them with phosphoric acid, and coated the structure with a nano-thick layer of Teflon. The scientists were also able to impregnate oils into the nanopores to make surfaces slippery. These self-cleanable nano-features were effective in dissuading microbes from settling in. This reduced microbial settlement by up to 99 percent.

NIFA supports this research through the Agriculture and Food and Research Initiative.

Read the ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces articleImage provided by Soojin Jun-UH.


Fresh from the Field NIFAImpacts USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

Youth Learn Ag in the Classroom

The National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix is an approach to promote agricultural literacy among K-12 students. The Matrix, managed by Utah State University (USU) extension and part of the National Agriculture in the Classroom’s (NAITC) program, is an online collection of educational resources that are relevant, engaging, and designed to meet the educational requirements and agricultural literacy outcomes for formal educators. The Matrix also serves the needs of NAITC programs within each state by providing a system where teachers can find quality materials that meet educational standards. The site, available 24-hours-a-day worldwide, supports teachers regardless of state program, funding, or size.

Watch the USU video to get egg-cited about Ag in the Classroom. 

Image provided by Lance Cheung-USDA.

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