Fresh from the Field, May 17, 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                                                                                                May 17, 2018

Success Stories 

Fresh from the Field NIFAImpacts USDA photo

New App Will Help Montanans Identify Mystifying Plants, Pests and Diseases 

Montanans who might otherwise text, email, or send samples through the mail to the Schutter Diagnostic Lab at Montana State University may now use a phone app. The lab provides identification services for plant diseases, insects, weeds, native plants, and mushrooms.

Farmers who use the app could, for example, take a digital photo of an abnormal wheat stem, then upload the photo and fill out a form with their questions, extra details, and contact information. The app will direct the query to the proper expert to determine the cause and suggest possible remedies for the problem.

NIFA supports this project through the National Plant Diagnostic Network

Read the full story at MSU News. Photo: USDA.

Andrew Fister with cacao trees Ivory Coast Desire Pokou Fresh from the Field

Penn State Improving the ‘Chocolate Tree’

The cacao tree produces cocoa beans, the raw material of chocolate. Reliable productivity from cacao plants is essential to the multibillion-dollar chocolate industry, the economies of producing countries, and the livelihoods of millions of smallholder cacao farmers. 

But each year, several plant diseases severely limit global production, with 20-30 percent of cocoa pods destroyed preharvest. 

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is a tool to modify an organism's genome by precisely delivering a DNA-cutting enzyme, Cas9, to a targeted region of DNA. The resulting change can delete or replace specific DNA pieces, thereby promoting or disabling certain traits. 

Previous work in cacao identified a gene, known as TcNPR3, which suppresses the plant's disease response. The researchers hypothesized that using CRISPR-Cas9 to knock out this gene would result in enhanced disease resistance.

To test their hypothesis, they used Agrobacterium — a plant pathogen modified to remove its ability to cause disease — to introduce CRISPR-Cas9 components into detached cacao leaves. Subsequent analysis of treated tissue found deletions in 27 percent of TcNPR3 copies.

NIFA supports the research through the Hatch Act Program.

Read the article at Penn State News. Photo: Andrew Fister with cacao trees Ivory Coast  by Desire Pokou.


Fresh from the Field NIFAImpacts Getty Image

Dietary Patterns Related to Distinct Microbiota Composition in Children

Recent research has uncovered more and more about the human gut microbiome, including which microbes reside there and the functions they serve.

Nutrition researchers at the University of Illinois are looking at possible links between dietary patterns in children and their microbiota.  

A new study looks at the habitual dietary patterns of 4- to 8-year-old children and their microbiota composition. Findings show that there is distinct microbiota composition based on specific dietary patterns. A better understanding of how dietary patterns impact the microbiome could help in developing nutrition-based therapies for microbiota-related diseases.

NIFA supports this research through the Hatch Act Program.

Read the full article at the University of Illinois News. Photo: Getty Images.

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Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts TLU Team Rice May 17