Research of Southern Regional Research Center & its Benefit to Citizens of America
Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture physically and/or administratively houses about 200 staff mostly from Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Tammany parishes, but with significant numbers also living in surrounding parishes such as St. Bernard, St. Charles, Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Lafourche, Tangipahoa, and St. John the Baptist. The approximate $14,000,000 payroll represented by these staff and the $22,000,000 (FY 2012 level) total SRRC budget has had a significant impact through infusion of federal dollars into the local economy, research and development to support agricultural industries, and training of future scientists, in order to better the lives of U. S. citizens.
Scientists of SRRC have served the needs of a multitude of agricultural industries (Cotton Inc. and commodity groups such as the Natl. Cotton Council, American Sugarcane League, Delta Council, USA Rice Federation, etc.) for 70 years, including the past development of durable press and flame retardant cotton fabrics that literally saved the cotton industry which was under intense market pressure from synthetic fibers. It was estimated that the market impact at the time wrinkle-free cotton clothing was first marketed paid for the cost of doing all of the research at SRRC many times over. SRRC’s research continues to provide a high market impact to offset costs of research and development of technologies and products. A few of the more important technology transfers by SRRC are described in detail:
Development of Sunbutter. SunbutterTM is available in many grocery food chains/health food stores/discount wholesalers. It is used by several school systems and some of the largest national and international food companies, and has been classified as an official commodity of the USDA school lunch program. Overall sales from this technology have more than tripled (to more than $25,000,000 per year). Development of this technology expanded the U.S. sunflower market through increased production and value, increasing sunflower farmers’ profits, creating new jobs, and providing an alternative product to those allergic to peanuts.
Intermediate and Hot Lime Clarification Technology for Sugar Industry. 92% of Louisiana factories have adopted intermediate or hot lime clarification processes as a result of SRRC research. Two factories in Florida have adopted hot lime clarification, and one in Texas. Sugar loss and lime consumption savings are about $3,800,000 per year in La. from the impact of this research.
Optimization of Factory Acidity of Evaporator Syrups in Louisiana Sugarcane Factories to Minimize Sucrose Losses. This research has had considerable commercial impact on the U.S. sugar industry through optimizing acidity in the final syrup which reduced seasonal sucrose losses, equivalent to at least a savings of $1,655,000 dollars per year in LA sugarcane factories.
Standardization of International Cotton Quality Measurements. An SRRC scientist of Chinese heritage ensured the transfer of a quality measurement system developed by USDA to China. The Chinese system now requires the utilization of the U.S. cotton measurement system which makes U.S. cotton more favorable relative to imported cotton produced by other countries. Before the use by China of the U.S measurement system, the sale of this cotton to China would have only occurred with a 30-50% reduction in price, representing a value of 1.2 to 2 billion dollars in losses that are now being recouped. U.S. cotton growers & Cotton Inc. stated that the quality measurement system that was going to be used before the alternative U.S. system would eliminate our ability to export cotton to China.
Development of Low Oil Uptake, Rice-based Batter. CrispTek’s ChoiceBatter line builds from SRRC innovations to offer rice batter that absorbs less oil when fried and still maintains a crispy texture. The company was formed in 2007, entered into a licensing agreement with the ARS Tech Transfer Office in 2008, and entered into a CRADA with SRRC/ARS in 2009. Products were first sold in 2009. By 2010, ChoiceBatter was being sold in over 400 stores across the US, including four major grocery store chains, and Year 5 sales are anticipated to be $4.7 million.
Development of use of DHA in Infant Formula. Discovery at SRRC of the use of docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid naturally found in breast milk that can help with fetal and infant development, in infant formula which is having a world impact on human health. SRRC worked with Martek to help them bring this product to market. In 2003 this represented a $400 million dollar market for the company. This material is utilized by Mead Johnson infant formula which had a sales of about two billion dollars in 2009 in infant formula which incorporated this additive. The infant formula market is about $8 billion dollars a year and this product is now incorporated in almost all that material.
Phytase Research. The basic research conducted by SRRC scientists (from 1985-1991) led to the commercialization of phytase as a feed supplement for poultry and swine. The phytase industry's estimated value is $350 million, as of 2010.
Formosan Subterranean Termite Research (terminated). The Formosan subterranean termite (FST) is currently one of the most destructive pests in the U.S. with estimates of losses reaching $300,000,000 in the New Orleans area and over $2 billion in the U.S. annually. A large area pilot test began in 1998 to treat French Quarter properties using Area Wide Management to reduce densities of termites. Results to date from use of in-ground monitoring stations show that termites declined by 95%, alate numbers decreased by 44% to 76%, and the number of colonies in one area were reduced from the initial 13 colonies to only 2 colonies. A conservative estimate of 50% reduction of the termite population would result in approximately $150 million savings annually in New Orleans alone. The strategies to impose Area Wide Management and lessons learned are being transferred to other municipalities for early intervention to reduce termite populations below economically significant thresholds. Patents that form the basis for less toxic, environmentally friendly compounds to control FST are pending as a result of the basic research conducted at SRRC. Early FST detection techniques developed by SRRC are utilized by various pest control companies.
Phytoestrogen Research (terminated). Anti obesity/anti cancer compounds known as glyceollins were induced in soybean and certain of the purified glyceollins were discovered to have anti obesity and a broad anti cancer spectrum in animal systems. Reduction in the incidence of these diseases in humans consuming glyceollins could reduce medical costs by billions of dollars. Information on the use of the glyceollins has been submitted as patent applications and published in the scientific literature, and commercial interest in these compounds identified.
Short Term Future Impact.
Projects which have recently begun to provide benefits which could potentially greatly offset costs of doing the research, such as:
Elimination of the Carcinogen, Aflatoxin, from Crops using Biotechnology.
Breeding Genetically Altered Cotton with Longer and Stronger Fibers.
Development of New Cotton-based Non-Woven Products in an Expanding Market.
Reduction in Peanut and other Nut Allergies through Targeting Allergenic Proteins.
SRRC Fact Sheets
SRRC Facilities. Long term recovery of SRRC after Katrina is complete resulting in a state-of-the- art research facility entirely equipped to meet our stakeholders’ needs.
RAPID RECOVERY/Stabilization (10 months): air handlers, dehumidifiers, scrubbers, air movers, DX units, mold remediation, emergency electrical repairs – fire alarm repairs, green house repairs, raise main switchgear, roof repairs, elevator repairs. – Total $10,862,000
INTERMEDIATE PROJECTS (2 years): 2 chillers (@ 1,000 tons ea.), cooling towers, boiler, pumps, piping, and electrical, replace dumbwaiters, main telephone switch, replace LAN, replace main building roof, replace pilot scale cotton processing equipment. – Total $ 9,769,000
LONG TERM RECOVERY (contract awarded 2009, complete Jan. 2011): textile wing repairs, house facility mechanical/electrical equipment above flood line, install new, gravel free, roof on the Textile & Service Buildings, replace old Industrial Wing windows with hurricane resistant windows, renovate the basement floor Admin. Wing to house the mail room, emergency room, receiving/ shipping and cafeteria, renovate ground floor of Textile Building, Chemical Wing and Industrial Wing to house the in-house contractor, machine shop and material storage, construct an exterior stair tower to meet the applicable fire codes. – Total $20,000,000
Grand Total $40,631,000
CLEMSON EQUIPMENT INSTALLATION. All equipment is relocated from Clemson to SRRC, and with the exception of the new spinning frames, has been placed, lined, and leveled in the Textile Mill. Electrical connections in the Card Room are complete. Duct work connections are complete with the cooperation of the Stoneville Gin Lab. Celta and VT coordinated the needed ceiling modifications to fit the spinning frames into the Spinning Room which are complete. Pre-existing spinning frames are still in operation. Miniature-scale spinning is fully operational and has processed over 300 samples during the mill renovation with several hundred more samples ready to be processed. The Textile Mill is now fully operational. Receiving the Clemson equipment not only replaces older cotton textile processing equipment at SRRC but also will allow cotton fiber processing and testing of as little as 50 grams to the size of bales.
KODIAK ALASKA EQUIPMENT. Both laboratory instruments and pilot plant processing equipment are being transferred from the ARS Subarctic Research Unit in Kodiak, Alaska to the Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. This transfer of equipment and instruments is to support new research efforts at the Southern Regional Research Center to add value, create new products and increase utilization of catfish fillets and byproducts. The instruments will be used to determine the chemical properties and quality of catfish products and include a GC/MS, LC/MS, texture analyzer, micro calorimeter, protein and lipid analyzers, color meters and other instruments. Pilot plant equipment being transferred for fish and byproduct processing, include grinders and homogenizers, freeze dryers, processing vessels and mixers, a breading and battering unit, smoker, dryers and a centrifuge. The transfer of equipment and laboratory supplies will help this important research program get off to a quick start.
SRRC Science Quality & Productivity Measures.
In the last 3 years, 18 research project plans/proposals (80% of SRRC projects; > $24M in funding) were subjected to scientific review by outside, mostly university, panelists with an 89% pass rate in the first round of review (ARS rate is about 75%). SRRC scientists received 18 prestigious outside awards and recognitions in the last 2-3 years.
Average of 5 co-authored manuscripts per scientist destined for peer reviewed journals (2 year average). 212 technology transfer events over span of one year showing high stakeholder interest.
SRRC Human Capital.
SRRC has achieved recruitment of one of the most multi-disciplinary workforces of any modern research institution comprising about 60 Ph.D. level scientific positions: Physicists, Molecular Biologists, Plant Physiologists, Plant Pathologists, Entomologists, Chemical Engineers, Material Science Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Microbiologists, Analytical Chemists, Biochemists, Organic Chemists, Geneticists (Plant, Microbial), Taxonomists, Food Technologists, and Biologists.
Workforce Diversity statistics (higher than ARS average in all categories) comprise: 52% Female, 17% African-Amer., 18% Asian-Amer., 5% Hispanic, 0.5% Native Amer., and 60% Caucasian.
Very strong special emphasis programs at SRRC sponsored by the Human Relations Committee aimed at gaining a better understanding of our cultural differences: African American, Native American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Disability Awareness, Women’s History, Hispanic Program, Caribbean Celebration, Sons and Daughters in Workplace, and Cultural Diversity Day. Active Student Programs (grooming future scientists, technical and administrative support): 30 to 40 Summer Students each year and year-round research and administrative programs for students attending New Orleans-area universities including Xavier, UNO, LSU, SUNO, and Tulane.