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WRRC Update June 29, 2007
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News from the Western Regional Research Center

Pacific West Area / Agricultural Research Service / United States Department of Agriculture

Number  3

Friday, June 29, 2007   

Rev. (Monday, July 2, 2007   11:56:26 AM)

Table of Contents

Biomass and biorefining the focus of WRRC-hosted "Tetrapartite 2007"
illuminationDrs. Knipling and Seiber (USDA-front), Betschart (USDA-middle right) Pai-Yei Whung (USDA OIRP-middle left) and Hackett (USDA, NPS-top left) with some of Tetrapartite international delegation. Canada, France, Britain, and the United States regularly hold high level meetings on issues of importance to Agriculture. This meeting, the Tetrapartite, met this year at the Center with a primary focus on research efforts towards improving lignocellulosic biomass from switchgrass and other potential biomass candidates and on means being developed for the biorefining of these and other feedstocks. A complete list of delegates and more about the meeting is provided at the "More information" link below.

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THE CENTER     ethanol     straw     grain     cellulose     Seiber, James N.     WRRC     
Record ID # 39      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
Energy research tour led by California State Secretary of Agriculture
illuminationJeff Van Houten (PWA-USDA), Dawn Glover (California Legislature), James Seiber (USDA), A.G. Kawamura and Eric Stein (California Department of Food and Agriculture). Energy-related research was the focus of a tour attended by California Secretary of Agriculture A.G. Kawamura, Cynthia Cory (California Farm Bureau), Eric Stein (California Department of Food and Agriculture), George Gough (Monsanto), Dawn Glover California Legislature), and Betsy Peterson (California Seed Association). The broadly conceived Center efforts on bioenergy feedstocks, bioenergy conversion, biorefining, and biobased products were the central focus of the tour.

THE CENTER     ethanol     Seiber, James N.     BCE Bioproduct Chemistry and Engineering     CIU Crop Improvement Utilization     GGD Genomics and Gene Discovery     WRRC     
Record ID # 52      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
Pacific West Area Early Career Scientist of the Year Award
illumination Please join us in congratulating Dr. Zhongli Pan who was recently awarded the USDA, ARS, Pacific West Area Early Career Scientist of the Year Award. Dr. Pan joined USDA-ARS in August of 2003. Since then, Dr. Pan has developed innovative processing methods to improve the value and healthfulness of a wide range of specialty crops and commodities. His research has also been successful in reducing the energy required to process agricultural products, thereby lessening the environmental impact of processing. In addition, Dr. Pan has been able to extend the benefits of his research further to improve food product safety. His research has not only resulted in 103 publications, but has also attracted over $1.7 million in extramural support from commodity organizations, state energy commissions and industrial partners.

THE CENTER     food engineering     food science     agricultural engineering     Pan, Zhongli     PFR Processed Foods Research     
Record ID # 60      Mon, 2 Jul 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
Partnering with USDA
illumination WRRC and the Agricultural Research Service actively seek partners for technology transfer to ensure effective use of the science and technology that we create. Most research programs described in this newsletter would benefit from, and are available to, commercial partners. Partnerships can take multiple forms as described in the link "More Information" below.

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PARTNERING OPPORTUNITIES     Nicholson, David     
Record ID # 48      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
New Compounds in Castor
Jiann-Tsyh Lin was lead author on a scientific paper describing the discovery of an entirely new subclass of fatty compounds in castor oil, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. This new class of compounds has a variety of potential commercial applications.

BIOBASED PRODUCTS / INDUSTRIAL CROPS     castor     oils     molecular biology     Lin, Jiann     Whalen, Maureen     CIU Crop Improvement Utilization     
Record ID # 54      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
US-Pakistan grant for fertilizer formulation
illuminationDr. Imam demonstrates BCE-commercialized products. Grants: Syed Imam received a 3-year grant (US$ 300,000) under the U.S. – Pakistan Cooperative Science and Technology Program. The grant, titled “Development, Optimization, and Application of a High-Performing Engineered Fertilizer”, is a multidisciplinary project that combines fundamental knowledge of plant growth and development with polymer science and engineering to create a novel, high-impact fertilizer of superior functionality with an inherent sustained delivery mechanism.

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BIOBASED PRODUCTS / INDUSTRIAL CROPS     fertilizer     chemistry     Imam, Syed     Orts, William J.     BCE Bioproduct Chemistry and Engineering     
Record ID # 46      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
American Oil Chemists' Society Meeting
Three CIU scientists delivered invited talks at the Annual Meeting of the American Oil Chemists' Society in Quebec City, Canada in May 13-16, 2007. Presentations included identification of specific fatty compounds in castor oil (Jiann-Tsyh Lin), synthesis of novel compounds for analysis of enzymes involved in oil production in oilseed crops (Thomas McKeon) and development of a safe source of castor oil (Grace Chen, Thomas McKeon and Jiann-Tsyh Lin).

BIOBASED PRODUCTS / INDUSTRIAL CROPS     castor     oils     chemistry     molecular biology     Chen, Grace     Lin, Jiann     McKeon, Thomas     CIU Crop Improvement Utilization     
Record ID # 56      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
Featured scientist: Kurt Wagschal, researches novel enzymes for the breakdown of biomass leading to biofuels
illumination Find out more about Kurt at the link for "more information" and the link for "Wagschal, Kurt" below.

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BIOFUELS     cellulose     ethanol     hemicellulose     molecular biology     chemistry     Wagschal, Kurt     BCE Bioproduct Chemistry and Engineering     
Record ID # 50      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
Finding beneficial effects of rodents following range fires
illuminationKangaroo rats may be beneficial to rangeland grasses. Effect of Prescribed Fire on Two Species of Kangaroo Rats in the Western Great Basin, Nevada. American Midland Naturalist. (ARIS log #206501) Murray, A.L., W.S. Longland, S.M Ostoja, and E.W. Schupp.
Cheatgrass and other weedy exotic annual plants currently dominate many areas of the Great Basin that were formerly sagebrush dominated. Prescribed fires have been used by range managers to remove cheatgrass before re-seeding these areas with plants that provide more desirable forage for livestock and wildlife. Local rodent species constitute a generally unappreciated variable that can influence the success of such re-seeding efforts. Most rodents are seed-eaters, but some types of rodents, such as kangaroo rats, also cache numerous seeds just beneath the soil surface, providing the main source of new seedlings for some plants. Because of the potential for rodents to influence plant populations and for fire to influence both plants and rodent activities, we studied how kangaroo rats respond to a prescribed fire at a cheatgrass infested site in western Nevada. More kangaroo rats were captured, and a higher proportion that had been marked before the fire were recaptured after the fire, in locations that were burned than in adjacent locations that were not burned. This occurred because kangaroo rats in burned areas increased their activity following fire, perhaps due to recovering and re-distributing seeds they had cached in the area. This behavior can ultimately affect post-fire recovery in plant communities, and is thus important for managers to understand.

ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY / INVASIVE SPECIES     invasive alien weed     biological control     Longland, William     EIW Exotic and Invasive Weeds     
Record ID # 45      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
New biological control agent for yellow starthistle
illuminationCeratapion basicorne, a Turkish weevil for bio control of yellow starthistle. Yellow starthistle is one of the most damaging weeds in California, infesting over 14 million acres. Development of effective biological control agents will provide self-sustaining control of the weed without harming non-target species, and will reduce application of herbicides. The safety and potential impact of releasing Ceratapion basicorne, a weevil from Turkey, for biological control of yellow starthistle was evaluated by Dr.Lincoln Smith. All the information available regarding the potential benefits and risks of releasing this insect was summarized in a "petition" that was reviewed by the Technical Advisory Group (TAG). TAG, which includes representatives from all the federal land management agencies, recommended approval to release Ceratapion basicorne. USDA-APHIS-PPQ, which regulates the introduction of such insects, is currently reviewing a release permit application from Dr. Smith. Ceratapion basicorne attacks the root-crown of yellow starthistle rosettes and should help other previously released flowerhead insects to reduce the size and abundance of yellow starthistle.

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ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY / INVASIVE SPECIES     invasive alien weed     entomology     Smith, Lincoln     EIW Exotic and Invasive Weeds     
Record ID # 40      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
CRADA with J.R. Simplot Company
illumination William Belknap completed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the J.R. Simplot Company in April 2007. This agreement furthers commercial development of "intragenic" crop plants, plants improved by introduction of new traits using DNA only from the host species. This technology allows application of biotechnological approaches to crop improvement, without employing any foreign DNA. The function of this CRADA is to develop "intragenic" disease-resistant potato plants.

FOOD AND CROP IMPROVEMENT FOR PRODUCTION /PROTECTION     potato     molecular biology     Belknap, William     Whalen, Maureen     CIU Crop Improvement Utilization     
Record ID # 55      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
Improved wheat
illumination The scientific paper "The wheat and barley vernalization gene VRN3 is an orthologue of FT" co-authored by Ann Blechl appeared in the prestigious journal Proceedings National Academy of Sciences USA in the December 19, 2006 issue. This research resulted in the identification of a gene (VRN3) that determines whether wheat and barley seeds require exposure to winter cold to promote flowering, a process called vernalization. This research gives wheat and barley breeders a valuable new tool for optimizing flowering for different varieties grown under different climate conditions.

FOOD AND CROP IMPROVEMENT FOR PRODUCTION /PROTECTION     wheat     barley     molecular biology     Blechl, Ann     Whalen, Maureen     CIU Crop Improvement Utilization     
Record ID # 53      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
International grant to PMR scientists
illuminationThe former Soviet Union. A research collaboration involving Dr. Bruce Campbell, Research Leader of the Plant Mycotoxin Research Unit, and two Russian scientists, Dr. Vitaly Dzhavakhiya (All Russian Research Institute of Phytopathology) and Dr. Radii Khomutov (Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow) will be funded by the ARS Office of International Research Programs (OIRP). The project is established under OIRP's Former Soviet Union Scientific Cooperation Program. The research will focus on novel approaches to reduce fungal infection and mycotoxin biosynthesis by using new, safe methods that target polyketide synthase and antioxidative stress-response systems of fungi.

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FOOD PROCESSING AND SAFETY     plant physiology     microbiology     Campbell, Bruce     PMR Plant Mycotoxin Research     
Record ID # 47      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
New findings relate to delay of disease symptoms for BSE
illumination Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) includes serious diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans. TSEs remain poorly understood. They are inevitably fatal, and there is no known cure or effective treatment. We are investigating a biocompatible hydrogel that generates a very unusual response in a rodent TSE model. When hydrogel is co-administered with a disease challenge, most subjects show a remarkable delay in the onset of disease symptoms and a significant increase in survival time. We are currently preparing a manuscript for publication, describing these extraordinary observations in more detail.

FOOD PROCESSING AND SAFETY     animal pathology     Carter, John Mark     Hnasko, Robert     FCR Foodborne Contaminants     
Record ID # 44      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
New test for detection of possible contamination of crude ricin
illuminationCastor beans are a source of important industrial oil but also contain the potent biotoxin ricin. The US food supply is generally safe and secure. But if terrorists were to stage an attack, we expect that they might use relatively crude biological toxinsthat they could acquire more easily than more potent purified material. We have developed sensitive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests for the castor bean genetic material that typically contaminates crude ricin. We recently published a manuscript describing the first half of this work: X He, D L Brandon, G Q Chen, T A McKeon, J M Carter (2007) “Detection of castor contamination by real-time PCR,” Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Vol 55, pp 545-550. A second manuscript: X He, J M Carter, D L Brandon, L W Cheng, T A McKeon (2007) “Development of a real time PCR method for the detection of castor contamination in spiked food samples,” has been accepted by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The Food Emergency Response Network has shown interest in validating our PCR assays for use in civil defense emergencies.

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FOOD PROCESSING AND SAFETY     beans     oils     molecular biology     Chen, Grace     McKeon, Thomas     Carter, John Mark     He, Xiaohua     FCR Foodborne Contaminants     CIU Crop Improvement Utilization     
Record ID # 43      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
Safety of residues from novel biodiesel technology
illuminationPost-Doctoral Research Chemist Cathrin Bruederle conducts biodiesel method development at WRRC. The epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Europe has led to a world-wide drop in the market for beef by-products, such as meat-and-bone-meal (MBM), an oily non-food commodity. We are testing a simple chemical method that produces biodiesel directly from MBM. In collaboration with experts on fats and animal co-products at the USDA ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, we hope to show that, in addition to producing valuable fuel the method also destroys any infectivity present, while simultaneously producing a value-added solid residue. To study infectivity we spike MBM with scrapie, a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) similar to BSE, but endemic in sheep and not known to be transmissible to humans. Preliminary results using biochemical methods to assess the treated products for infectivity suggest the TSE is completely destroyed. Definitive in vivo tests for infectivity are pending and feeding trials are planned.

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FOOD PROCESSING AND SAFETY     cattle     beef     fats     microbiology     Carter, John Mark     Bruederle, Cathrin     FCR Foodborne Contaminants     
Record ID # 42      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP
San Francisco Federal Employee of the Year award for food safety research
illuminationMichael Cooley, Rob Mandrell and Diana Chao collecting samples in the field. On May 11, Michael Cooley, Diana Chao and Robert Mandrell, Produce Safety and Microbiology Research Unit received the award at the 29th Annual San Francisco Bay Area Federal Employee of the Year Awards Program. The recognition was for food safety research on Escherichia coli O157:H7 related to multiple outbreaks associated with leafy vegetables grown on the Central California Coast.

FOOD PROCESSING AND SAFETY     leafy vegetables     cattle     microbiology     Cooley, Michael     Mandrell, Robert          PSM Produce Safety and Microbiology     
Record ID # 41      Fri, 29 Jun 2007 10:0:0 PDT        TOP

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