Fresh from the Field, April 12, 2018

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

Editor: Falita Liles                                                                                                 April 12, 2018

Success Stories 

Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts USDA photo

Apples and Pears, Men and Women

When it comes to fat accumulation, men tend to carry more weight around their abdomens (apple-shaped) while women tend to carry more weight around their hips and thighs (pear-shaped), but the mechanical reason for the difference has remained a mystery.

A team of Virginia Tech researchers has found that a fat cell remodeling (termed as autophagy) pathway was regulated by an estrogen receptor that sits on the cell membrane and plays a major role in the difference among men and women when it comes to fat build-up.

“Our results highlight the importance of considering sex difference in biomedical research and also shed light on why breast cancer patients who receive treatment in the form of estrogen receptor inhibitors may find that they gain visceral fat directly after treatment,” said Dr. Zhiyong Cheng, a researcher at Virginia Tech.

NIFA supports this project through the Hatch Act.

Read the full story at VA Tech News. USDA photo.

News Coverage 

Cameron McIntire Photo Isabel Munck, U.S. Forest Service Fresh From the Field NIFA Impacts

White Pine Needle Damage Slowing Growth, Hampering Health of New England’s Trees

White Pine Needle Damage, a complex of foliar diseases that is being accelerated by the region’s warmer, wetter springs, is slowing the growth and hampering the health of New England’s Eastern white pines, according to new research.

“This new disease impacts one of New Hampshire’s most widespread and economically important tree species. Eastern white pine composes more than 500,000 acres of New Hampshire forest land. Of the estimated 30 billion board feet of saw timber, 31 percent is white pine. This disease is of great concern because it consists of native fungi that are behaving in new ways. Prior to 2010, White Pine Needle Damage fungi were not considered a significant forest health issue. However, recent changes in the regional climate, namely a trend of warmer and wetter springs, have facilitated the spread and severity of this disease complex,” said University of New Hampshire (UNH) researcher Dr. Heidi Asbjornsen.

NIFA supports this research with the McIntire Stennis Capacity Grant Program.

Read the full article at the UNH News. Photo: Cameron McIntire, a doctoral student in natural resources and the environment at UNH, cores an Eastern white pine to assess the impact of White Pine Needle Damage. Photo Credit: Isabel Munck, U.S. Forest Service.

The Library 

Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts USDA photo

Microbial Control of Insect Pests

While many insects are important to agriculture and society, some are serious pests that harm crops, livestock, humans, and the environment. The damage they inflict and resources to control them cost the United States over $120 billion each year. Heavy reliance on chemical pest control has led health and safety risks, environmental contamination, unintended harm to other animals, pest resistance to the chemicals, and other problems. Safe, cost-effective alternatives are needed. Land-grant university researchers are working with USDA and industry partners to advance the use of microbes to infect and kill insect pests without harming humans, the environment, or other organisms.

Microbial control of pests could reduce the use of chemical pesticides and enhance the safety, sustainability, and productivity of U.S. agriculture and natural and urban areas.

NIFA supports this research through the Multistate Research Fund.

Read the Research Highlights at the Multistate Research Impacts Page. USDA photo.

MichelWattiaux2018 UW Madison photo Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts

Dairy Cows’ Carbon Footprints from Barn to Field

Greenhouse gases, which collect in the atmosphere and trap the sun’s radiation, are a big issue for the dairy industry. Methane is a concern because it’s particularly potent — it traps about 30 times as much radiation as carbon dioxide. A dairy cow generates a lot of methane in her rumen, the huge stomach chamber where microbes ferment as much as 200 pounds of plant material. Also worrisome is nitrous oxide, another potent greenhouse gas that manure releases during storage and after it’s spread in the field.

Michel Wattiaux, a University of Wisconsin–Madison researcher, began using a specialized device to measure the methane being exhaled or belched by a group of Holsteins and Jerseys. It was the first step in an ongoing study by dairy scientists, engineers, and agronomists to see how a cow’s breed and forage consumption affect the greenhouse gases generated by her gut and her manure.

Wattiaux said this is the first time where the nutrition, manure storage, and field application parts are conducted sequentially. Data is then put together to give the Wisconsin dairy industry a solid number for how much methane and nitrous oxide comes out of their farms, depending on the breed, diet, and amount of forage in the diet.

This work was funded by a NIFA Hatch grant and through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Read the full story at UW-Madison News. Photo: UW-Madison.

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Fresh From the Field NIFA Impacts April 12