Hot Research Topics 2008A collection of articles from Agricultural Research magazine featuring research conducted at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.
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Food Safety and Security
Safe Leafy Greens: Before & After Bagging - Harried health-conscious eaters love the convenience of purchasing fresh, bagged salads. Today, sales of fresh-cut lettuce and leafy greens have reached $3 billion annually, according to industry experts, and the demand is increasing.
Bacteriophages as Novel Antimicrobials for Food Safety - Houseguests sometimes overstay their welcome to the point that their hosts are just dying for them to leave. Now, this is actually happening to foodborne bacteria after viruses called "bacteriophages" take up residence inside them and begin replicating. The progeny of these bacteriophages literally kill their bacterial hosts on their way out the cellular door.
Organic vs. Conventional Production: Measuring Microbes on Fresh Produce - Food safety is of paramount concern to today’s consumers and a guiding principle for producers of edible agricultural products. That’s why the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is working to ensure that the U.S. food supply remains safe and abundant.
Data That Works for Your Diet - The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans was published in 2005 to help folks choose diets that meet their nutrient requirements, promote health, and reduce risks of chronic diseases.
Weighing in on Fats - The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans included—for the first time—recommendations that folks in the United States limit their intake of fats and oils that are high in trans fatty acids. Landmark research conducted earlier by scientists at the Beltsville [Maryland] Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) contributed to that conclusion.
New Cranberry Hybrid High in Antioxidants - ARS scientists and colleagues are suiting up a wholesome cranberry variety with a newly isolated genetic trait. Using traditional breeding methods, they have created an experimental cranberry line with a high level of absorbable antioxidants.
Assessing Biofuels Sustainability: Economic and Biophysical Models Aid the Process - Over the past decade, the search for alternative fuels has absorbed increasing amounts of agricultural resources, raising questions about how biofuel production affects U.S. agriculture and consumers.
"Power PLants" Prevail at the National Arboretum - A new exhibit at the U.S. National Arboretum interweaves hundreds of plants in an adroit arrangement of foliage, blossoms, space, and light to captivate the senses—and tell a story.
New Vetch for Northern Climes and Organic Growers - Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) is a winter cover crop used to reduce weed competition and herbicide applications, improve soil quality and tilth, and provide symbiotically fixed nitrogen to nourish crops that follow it.
Cream of the Crop: Breeding Dairy Cattle - ARS scientists at Beltsville played a vital role in designing the BeadChip and are using it in genomics-based studies on dairy cattle. Beltsville geneticist Curt Van Tassell is leading development of a new genomic method to identify bulls that produce daughters with optimum milk production, calving ease, and other traits. Full text
Healthy Chickens - ARS research is also shedding light on poultry pathogens, such as the parasite Eimeria. Eimeria causes coccidiosis, a disease that costs U.S. poultry producers more than $700 million annually. ARS immunologist Hyun Lillehoj is using genomics to decipher the molecular interactions between poultry and several strains of Eimeria that commonly infect poultry. Full text
Mapping Blueberry Genes - ARS plant geneticist Jeannine Rowland and colleagues have produced and made publicly available an online blueberry genomics database, called "BBGD." Blueberry is now a major berry crop with significant nutritional and economic value, and plant breeders strive to create plants that can adapt to a wide range of soils, climates, harvest techniques, and environments. Full Text
Genotyping for Tomato Quality - ARS plant geneticist John Stommel, at the Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, is identifying genes in wild species of tomato that might increase the quality of cultivars. Full Text
Mapping Berry Fruit Genes - At the Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, ARS plant geneticist Kimberly Lewers is studying the genetic control of repeat fruiting in strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry. Repeat fruiting has been an extremely valuable trait to the strawberry industry in California and areas with similar mild climates. "The goal in these climates, and now also on the East Coast and in the Midwest, is to develop a combination of cultivars and production systems that together produce fruit nearly year round," she says. Full Text
Marking Genes for Better Beans - Soybeans, America’s second-biggest crop, generate $18 billion annually in farm sales. But about $1 billion worth is lost to soybean cyst nematodes.
Research to Save the Chesapeake Bay
CEAP Choptank River Watershed Project - The Choptank River Watershed Project is part of a larger network of watersheds across the nation called the Conservation Effectiveness Assessment Project (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/TECHNICAL/NRI/ceap/). The primary focus of this work is to evaluate how well USDA conservation practices are working on a watershed scale to protect or improve water quality. This project began in 2004, and it includes a number of USDA-ARS scientists, and partners from multiple federal and state agencies, universities, county extension, soil conservation districts, and local producers. Full text
Survival of the Honey Bee
Colony Collapse Disorder: A Complex Buzz - In the fall of 2006, a loud, new buzz began among beekeepers in a number of countries when managed honey bee colonies began to disappear in large numbers without known reason. By February 2007, the syndrome, which is characterized by the disappearance of all adult honey bees in a hive while immature bees and honey remain, had been christened "colony collapse disorder" (CCD).
Improving Honey Bee Health: Coordinated Areawide Program Is Under Way - The world's food supply depends on pollination by bees. So anything that causes a significant loss of honey bees would severely limit the foods available to us.
A Family Tree for Toxoplasm - Scientists use DNA to track ancient evolutionary lineages and genetic migrations for a range of animals—including modern humans. ARS zoologist Ben Rosenthal is tracing the family tree of one of the most widespread parasites of warm-blooded vertebrates, Toxoplasma gondii.
Why Are Chickens Getting Too Fat - Obesity is a problem for many American consumers—and now, even our chickens are getting fat!