Fresh from the Field, Feb. 22, 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                                                                                                   Feb.22, 2018

Success Stories

Fresh from the Field NIFA USDA photo

New 'Tomato Expression Atlas' Dives Deep into the Fruit's Flesh 

Tomato has been used extensively as a model for studying fruit ripening. However, most researchers just grind up the entire fruit in their studies and do not consider the internal tissues where the ripening process actually starts. Scientists from Cornell University, Boyce Thompson Institute, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service used both old-fashioned (hand dissection) and state-of-the-art (laser microdissection and RNA sequencing) techniques to look at molecular and physiological basis of this process. They discovered that the ripening program consists of gradients of gene expression initiating in internal tissues then radiating outward, and from the bottom of the fruit to the top where it is attached to the stem. The work explained previously masked regulatory phenomena, including those associated with fruit texture, color, aroma, and chemical profiles.

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

Read the full story in the Cornell Chronicle. USDA photo by Preston Keres. 

News Coverage 

Fresh from the Field USDA Photo

Rooting for the Underdogs of the Pollination World

A couple of years ago while sampling bee biodiversity, Washington State University doctoral student Rachel Olsson noticed that bees seem to get all the credit for pollinating, but they don’t do all the work.

“The biggest question was, ‘What is here?’” she said. “What insects are visiting flowers? We looked at all the visits of bees and non-bees in several different crops on these farms, including cucumbers, sunflower, tomatoes, and buttercup to sample a weedy species.”

About a third of the insects visiting and potentially helping pollinate these crops’ flowers were non-bee species, primarily flies. Of those, most were syrphid flies, also known as hover flies, and they do more than pollinate plants.

“As juveniles, they are predators of aphids, which can be important pests on farms,” she said. “So, by recognizing their importance and providing habitat for these flies, growers can bolster their pest management and potentially their pollination at the same time.”

NIFA supports the research through the Western Integrated Pest Management Center.

Read the full article at the Western IPM Center. USDA photo.

The Library 

 Fresh from the Field NIFA Pecan fruits USDA photo

Biological Insecticide to Control Pecan Weevil

Pecan, a highly nutritious commodity, is the most valuable North American native nut crop, but insect pests and diseases have limited the ability of growers to produce organic pecans, particularly in the Southeastern United States. 

Researchers at the University of Florida discovered a biological insecticide to control pecan weevil. Their discovery, Grandevo, represents a breakthrough for organic and conventional producers because it is a much sought after substitute for carbaryl (Sevin). Use of carbaryl leads to secondary pest outbreaks and interferes with other available bio-based integrated pest management tactics for other pests.

NIFA supports this project through the Organic Transitions Program.

Read the full article at Environmental Entomology USDA photo.


Fresh from the Field Oregon State Barley Project

Barley in the Buff

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) are giving an ancient grain a new life: this barley is naked, but not in an indecent way. Most barley grains are covered rather than naked. Covered varieties have a hull or outer layer firmly attached to the grain. The hull on 'Buck'–as in "Buck-naked"–doesn't hang on to the grain. Instead, the hulls fall off during harvest.

Food manufacturers using covered barley grind off the unpalatable hull to produce pearled barley. But pearling removes part of the nutrient-rich bran, and pearled barley isn't considered a whole grain. Naked barley does not require pearling, allowing it to hold onto the bran and whole grain status.

The research team behind Buck crossed two barley varieties together, one from Oregon and one from Virginia. The Oregon parent contributed desirable traits like disease resistance, while the Virginian contributed the naked factor. The combined traits enable Buck to achieve high yields and flourish with less fertilizer and water than its more familiar naked cousin, wheat. Best of all, Buck is a multi-use barley. It can be used for human food, animal feed, and beer.

Buck is at the forefront because it has a modest beta-glucan level that meets food, feed, and brewing needs. If beta-glucan is too high, things get complicated for animal nutrition and brewers. Naked barleys can produce more beer per unit of malt used, which means breweries will get more bang for their buck.

NIFA supports this research through Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative program.

Watch the OSU video from 24H NewsPhoto credit: Oregon State Barley Project.

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Fresh from the Field NIFA Sarah P Church