Fresh from the Field, Jan. 18, 2018

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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.

Editor: Falita Liles                                                                                                   Jan.18, 2018

Success Stories

 USDA Image by Lance Cheung Fresh from the Field

CRISPR Mushrooms Coming Soon

Plant pathologist Yinong Yang at Penn State University used the versatile gene-editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9 to design a button mushroom that resists browning and may have a longer shelf life.

CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. It's a relatively new and revolutionary way to modify an organism's genome by precisely delivering a DNA-cutting enzyme — Cas9 — to a targeted region of DNA. The resulting modification can delete or replace specific DNA pieces, thereby promoting or disabling certain traits.

In this case, the gene editing reduces production of a specific enzyme that causes mushrooms to turn brown. The end product is a mushroom with longer shelf life that resists blemishes caused by handling or mechanical harvesting — but without DNA from a foreign organism.

NIFA supported the program through the Hatch Act funding.

Read the full article at Penn State News. USDA photo by Lance Cheung. 

News Coverage 

Photo by Melodie Putnam, Oregon State University. Fresh from the Field

Strange Case in a Nursery Setting

There are mostly benign species in the soil-borne, plant-associated genus of bacteria known as Rhodococcus, but a few species can be pathogenic. A team of researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) used genome sequencing to identify species of Rhodococcus that transition between beneficial and pathogenic – stimulating growth in some plants in the former case, while deforming tissues in the latter.

The key to Rhodococcus transitioning between being a “good” and “bad” bacteria is made possible by DNA molecules known as plasmids, said Jeff Chang, a microbial genomicist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences and leader of the study. A plasmid is a DNA molecule maintained separately from the chromosome of bacteria.

"We traced how the beneficial and pathogenic members of Rhodococcus are moving from plant to plant and nursery to nursery. Now we can inform the nursery industry to implement practices to limit its spread,” explained Dr. Chang.

NIFA supports this project through Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

Read the story in OSU Extension Service and Agricultural Research News. Photo courtesy of Melodie Putnam-OSU.

The Library 

(Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University) Fresh from the Field

The Hunt for Genetically Engineered Organisms

Similar to a Star Trek Tri-Corder device, physicists and biologists at the University of Notre Dame, Rice University, and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York have teamed up to develop a field-ready device to detect the genetic or protein signature of genetically engineered (GE) organisms in the environment. This device uses Light Transmission Spectroscopy (LTS) to measure the size of very small particles (nanoparticles). This is applied to detection, by coating the outside of these small particles with single stranded DNA or antibodies that will bind only to targeted DNA or proteins from GE organisms in the environment, thus growing in size, which is detectable by the LTS device. The LTS device can run off a car battery and links up to a laptop for real time detection in the field.”

NIFA supports this project through the Biotechnology Risk Assessment Research Grants (BRAG) Program.

Read the story at Rice University News & Media. Photo courtesy of Jeff Fitlow-Rice University.


USDA photo by Jack Dykinga Fresh from the Field Bison

American Bison Making a Comeback 

When President Obama named the American bison, also known as the buffalo, as America's first national mammal in 2016, he recognized the ecological, cultural, historical, and economic contributions of North America’s largest mammal.

Bison were a significant spiritual symbol and source of food, clothing, and shelter for American Indians, but the ravages of westward expansion depleted the bison population, and by 1885 an estimated 750 animals remained. Thanks to combined conservation efforts among public organizations, American Indian communities, non-profit organizations, and private citizens, the U.S. bison population has climbed back to more than 380,000 on farms and ranches, tribal lands, and federal and state lands.

"Bison restore the landscape they're being raised on when managed properly, which is the definition of regenerative and sustainable agriculture. Once you bring bison back to the prairie, other native species, from birds to plants and flowers, follow suit,” according to Jim Matheson of the National Bison Association.

NIFA supports this project with the Sustainable Agriculture and Research and Education (SARE) program.

Watch the video from North Central SARE. USDA photo by Jack Dykinga.

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