Hot Research Topics 2009A collection of articles from Agricultural Research magazine featuring research conducted at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.
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As CO2 Levels Rise, Plants and Humans Respond - Agricultural Research Service plant physiologist Lewis Ziska has found that poison ivy is thriving—and becoming more toxic—because of increased carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. And when pollen wafts through the air, science pundits cite Ziska’s work showing that global climate change is ramping up the production of ragweed allergens.
Real-Life Time Tunnel Looks 50 Years Ahead - In Maryland, ARS plant physiologist Lew Ziska has findings that show that noxious weeds like ragweed are already outcompeting more desirable plants.
Extreme Weather Boosts Antioxidant Levels in Soybean Seeds - New findings suggest that weather and climate play key roles in the antioxidant levels of soybeans. Tocopherols are a family of antioxidants that protect biological membranes. In this family, alpha-tocopherol is the active form of vitamin E in humans, and soybean seeds are a major source of dietary tocopherol. Researchers analyzed the content of tocopherols in soybean seeds grown at several locations in Maryland between 1999 and 2002.
Caffeine-Containing Botanicals in Dietary Supplements - An estimated 50 percent of adults in the United States report that they consume dietary supplements on a regular basis. Some of these supplements contain caffeine—even if it is not listed on the label as an ingredient. To explore caffeine levels in segments of the U.S. dietary supplement market, researchers with the ARS Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) analyzed a number of caffeine-containing products in 2004-2005.
New Values for Vitamin D in Foods - Vitamin D is essential for maintaining strong bones. And researchers continue to explore additional ways that vitamin D is important to human health. Now the scientific community is focusing attention on the need to assess the dietary intake of vitamin D in the United States.
Database of Isoflavones in Foods Updated - A newly updated food composition database of plant chemical compounds called “isoflavones” has been launched. Isoflavones are found mainly in soybeans and soybean products and have mild estrogenlike properties and other biological attributes that may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. The new database provides analytical values for three individual isoflavone compounds—genistein, daidzein, and glycitein—in nearly 550 foods.
Spying on Crop Residue - Craig Daughtry and Paul Doraiswamy are developing techniques to figure out from satellite sensors how much of America’s croplands are being farmed using conservation tillage or reduced tillage. They are also developing techniques for using satellite sensors and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to identify farm fields that can sustain more residue removal for ethanol production without harm.
Hairy Vetch Boosts Tomato Phytonutrients - Members of the Vicia genus known as “hairy vetch” are viny, moderately winter-hardy legumes that are often grown to stabilize roadbanks or to serve as forage for grazing animals. Since they fix atmospheric nitrogen, they are a rich source of that critical plant nutrient.
Breeding and Genetic Change in the Holstein Genome - The average American dairy cow produces more than 20,000 pounds of milk every year. Most of these cattle are Holsteins, a breed whose naturally high milk yield has been enhanced by decades of selective breeding.
Research to Save the Chesapeake Bay
Cleaning the Chesapeake - Planting winter cover crops is an important management practice for reducing agricultural nutrient losses into the Chesapeake Bay and improving ecosystem health. The State of Maryland alone has doubled its budget for its cover crop cost-share program to $18 million in 2008-2009. This will provide for more than 387,000 acres of cover crops with no fall fertilization. Complete Article (scroll down to "Cleaning the Chesapeake")Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, Tech Transfer Briefing
Combating the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, A New Threat for Agriculture, a Nuisance for Homeowners - Halyomorpha halys, a native of Asia, has been expanding its range since its U.S. discovery in Allentown, Pennsylvania, 8 years ago. It has since been detected in portions of Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, and Oregon, has infested houses in Maryland, and is showing up in increasing numbers in ARS traps in Beltsville, Maryland.
Working After Hours, A Nighttime View of Insect Predation - Growers have much to consider when protecting crops from insect pests. Determining which insects are threats to a crop entails effective sampling to get a good count of the species and life stages of pests and the beneficial insects that prey on them. Natural enemies of crop pests can help growers when efforts are made to conserve and increase their numbers.
Feathers Can Be for More Than Pillow Stuffin' - ARS chemist Walter Schmidt, in the Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, develops practical uses for discarded chicken feathers. About 4 billion pounds of feathers are generated each year during the poultry production process.
Knowing Where To Look for Infestations of Leafy Spurge - Using NASA’s advanced hyperspectral sensor, the Airborne Visible Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS), Raymond Hunt and colleagues have developed and tested a new method for locating leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), a noxious invasive weed that causes more than $200 million a year in losses in the Great Plains and western United States.
Why Rye Cover Crops Are Great Natural Weed Killers - John Teasdale is trying to answer a question that might seem obvious: Why does rye work as a cover crop? Rye suppresses weeds without herbicides, making it a common cover crop on organic farms.
The Poultry Pantry: Plums, Probiotics, Safflower, and Tea - Agricultural Research Service immunologist Hyun Lillehoj has been working with colleagues in the agency and around the world to find ways of strengthening the poultry immune system with dietary supplements.
Conserving Crop Diversity and a Way of Life in Ecuador - Can conservation of traditional crops, in an area considered one of the cradles of world agriculture, contribute to the livelihoods of the local people? An ARS researcher is working with an international team of scientists to do just that in rural indigenous communities in Ecuador.
Gender Evolution in Strawberries, The Doorway to Enhanced Productivity - It’s no surprise that strawberries are the most popular type of berry fruit in the world. This sweet, juicy, refreshing fruit is the perfect snack or end to any meal, especially on a hot summer day. But have you ever wished you could eat locally grown strawberries all year round? Well, new Agricultural Research Service research brings us one step closer.
A Multifaceted Focus on Farms and Food - The project is a cartographer’s dream: a map that melds layer upon layer of digital information to compile a comprehensive picture of the potential for local food production all along the eastern seaboard.