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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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ARS Annual Performance Report for FY 2005
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Introduction

AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH SERVICE

 

ANNUAL PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR FY 2005

  

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) was established on November 2, 1953, pursuant to authority vested in the Secretary of Agriculture by 5 U.S.C. 301 and Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1953, and other authorities.

 

ARS is the principal in-house research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Congress first authorized federally supported agricultural research in the Organic Act of 1862, which established what is now USDA.  That statute directed the Commissioner of Agriculture "...  To acquire and preserve in his Department all information he can obtain by means of books and correspondence, and by practical and scientific experiments..."  The scope of USDA's agricultural research programs has been expanded and extended more than 60 times since the Department was created. 

 

ARS research is authorized by the Department of Agriculture Organic Act of 1862 (7 U.S.C. 2201 note), Agricultural Research Act of 1935 (7 U.S.C. 427), Research and Marketing Act of 1946 (P.L. 79-733), as amended (7 U.S.C. 427, 1621 note), Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-113), as amended (7 U.S.C. 1281 note), Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-198) (7 U.S.C. 3101 note), Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-624) (7 U.S.C. 1421 note), Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-127), and Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-185).  ARS derived most of its objectives from statutory language, specifically the “Purposes of Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education” set forth in Section 801 of FAIR.

 

The ARS mission is to conduct research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provide information access and dissemination to:  ensure high-quality, safe food, and other agricultural products; assess the nutritional needs of Americans; sustain a competitive agricultural economy; enhance the natural resource base and the environment; and provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.

 

The Agency’s research focuses on achieving the goals identified in the USDA and Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area Strategic Plans.  The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) mandates each agency to establish general goals that will contribute to achieving beneficial societal outcomes that shape and drive the work of the Agency during the five years covered by the plan.

 

Verification, Validation and Program Evaluation:  ARS conducts a series of review processes designed to ensure the relevance and quality of its research work and to maintain the highest possible standards for its scientists.  This process involves customer input to help keep the research focused on the needs of the American food and agricultural system.  Each of the approximately 1,000 research projects, which are organized into 22 National Programs, undergoes a thorough independent external prospective peer review conducted by the Office of Scientific Quality Review (OSQR).  All ARS employees, including the scientific workforce, are subject to annual performance reviews.  Senior scientists undergo a rigorous peer review (Research Position Evaluation System-RPES) on a 3- to 5-year cycle.  These processes ensure the continuing high quality output of the ARS research addressing the needs of American agriculture.

 

ARS has also completed two program evaluations that are included in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA).  The PMA is designed to strengthen the management of Federal programs and increase program accountability.  In the FY 2006 budget cycle, ARS conducted a Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) analysis on all the research conducted under Strategic Plan Goal 1, Enhance Economic Opportunities for Agricultural Producers.  This Goal includes research on new and improved high quality value added products and processes, livestock production, and crop production.  In FY 2007 budget cycle, a PART analysis was conducted on Goal 3, Research on Protection and Safety of Agricultural Food Supply, covering research on Food Safety, Livestock Protection, and Crop Protection.  The PART assessment seeks to measure four aspects of a program: program purpose and design, strategic planning, program management, and program results/accountability.  The PART analysis for both Goals 1 and 3 received a “moderately effective” rating from OMB.  ARS is conducting two additional PART analyses during the FY 2008 budget cycle covering Goal 4, Nutrition and Health, and Goal 5, Natural Resource Base and Environment.

 

Beginning in FY 2005, ARS’ National Program Leaders (NPLs) and Area Directors reviewed more than 1,000 research projects by applying the Research and Development (R&D) Investment Criteria of relevancy, performance, and quality.  The information gained from this review helped the Agency to identify low performing and/or low priority research.  This information was used in shaping the FY 2007 budget; it will also be used to make future program management decisions.  The R&D investment criteria were applied as follows:

 

For relevance, the NPLs assessed whether ARS’ research is consistent with the Agency’s mission and relevant to the needs of American agriculture, as identified by the Administration and ARS’ customers and stakeholders. 

 

For performance, the NPLs reviewed the annual project reports submitted by each research unit.  Beginning with FY 2004, these reports provided information on how well each research project did in achieving the milestones in its Project Plan.

 

For quality, the Area Directors relied on data from the ARS OSQR reviews of each research project at the beginning of its 5-year program cycle.  OSQR conducts rigorous reviews of ARS’ research projects by independent external peer panels to ensure their quality.  In addition, the Area Directors used information from the RPES reviews of individual scientists in making this assessment.  RPES conducts rigorous peer reviews of ARS’ scientists on a regular schedule (i.e., every three, four, or five years).  The Area Directors also assessed the capacity (i.e., facilities, human and fiscal resources, equipment, etc.) of each project to meet its research objectives, an important consideration for intramural programs.

 

The National Programs focus the work of the Agency on achieving the goals defined in the ARS Strategic Plan 2003-2007.  The research priorities for each National Program are established with extensive input from customers, stakeholders, and partners, which is received, in part, at a series of National Program Workshops.  A detailed Action Plan developed for each National Program is available on the ARS home page, www.ars.usda.gov; open “Research” and select the National Program of interest.  The GPRA Annual Performance Plans, the GPRA Annual Performance Reports, and the National Program Annual Reports which serve to keep the work of the Agency focused on achieving the goals established in the ARS Strategic Plan are also available on this website.  The aggregate effect of these processes is a strengthened research program and an accountability system that measures more effectively the progress made towards achieving established goals and outcomes.

 

Key External Factors that Affect the Ability of ARS to Achieve its Goals and Objectives:  The future of American agriculture depends on its ability to respond to critical external factors.  Effective planning within ARS will take these factors into consideration when establishing and executing the Agency’s research programs.

 

Globalization:  The globalization of all aspects of the food and fiber system is having a major impact on American agriculture.  Profound changes are seen worldwide from competitive markets around the world, from diseases not limited to national boundaries, to population growth and evolving diets.  These changes have led to a dramatically new trade environment, threats of exotic diseases and pests to domestic production, and international controversies over the use of biotechnology.  To remain competitive, the food and agriculture sector needs to respond to these developments.

 

Information Access and Communication:  The explosion of information technology, the worldwide use of the Internet, and the major advancements of cyberspace communications are changing the way private industry, government, and individuals conduct daily business.  Vast amounts of information are available in “real time,” more people from around the world will be able to retrieve the information, and advanced computer software will make the information more useful and meaningful.  Advancements in communication technology offer benefits and opportunities for everyone involved in the American food and agriculture sector.

 

Workforce:  A very important employment issue is the need to recruit and retain a highly skilled and technically well trained Federal workforce.  The relatively low U.S. unemployment rate makes recruitment highly competitive.  This competitive environment is expected to require more employer emphasis on recruitment, retention, student employment, upward mobility, and training/retraining programs.  The public sector will need to recruit a diversity of people and to maintain a highly qualified and technically competent workforce.  Expanding job opportunities for women and minorities in science and engineering will help to tap the Nation’s human potential.

 

Technology:  Advances in technology--such as bioengineering, precision agriculture, remote sensing, and decision modeling--enable agricultural production to enhance nutrition, protect the environment, and continue to make the food supply safe.  Biotechnology offers great promise for increasing production efficiency, improving food quality, and enhancing nutritional value.  However, concerns about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have had a marked impact on international exports of affected commodities, and prompted questions about the potential benefits and risks.  Precision agriculture, remote sensing, and decision modeling will both increase production efficiency and mitigate adverse environmental impacts of agriculture.  Public concern about food safety has led to new rapid detection technologies that, when fully implemented, will make the food supply safer. 

 

Changing Demographics:  Growing global populations, demographic changes, and economic growth will substantially increase the demand for agricultural products, thus creating new markets for U.S. products. At the same time, however, increased agricultural competitiveness from other countries will force U.S. agriculture to become more efficient.  Because arable agricultural land is limited, the growing demands will increase pressure to maximize yields, protect marginal areas from unsustainable development, and minimize the harmful effects of agriculture on the environment and the natural resource base.

 

Changing Structure of Agriculture:  The structure of the food and fiber system--from farm to market--changed dramatically in the last decades of the 20th century, and is likely to continue.  Change can be seen all across the food and agriculture sectors.  An increasing share of U.S. food and fiber is being produced on fewer, larger, and more specialized farms.  Production and marketing are more vertically and horizontally integrated.  Concentration is greater causing sharp declines in the number of buyers and sellers of a product.  Consumer preferences, new technologies, and global markets bring about continuing changes that affect farmers, processors, marketers, and consumers.

 

Congressional Support:  The ability of ARS to respond to the diverse needs of producers and consumers is determined by the level of Congressional support.  As a consequence of inflation and higher operating costs associated with advances in research equipment and technology, the ARS scientific workforce, which reached a maximum of about 3,400 scientists in 1970, decreased by almost 40 percent during the ensuing 25 years.  More recently, appropriations have allowed the Agency to expand its research program and hire additional scientists to bring the current number of scientists to almost 2,200.

 

Drug-Free Workplace:  ARS will continue to use the applicable contract clauses and regulations to ensure compliance with drug-free workplace debarment and suspension requirements in all of its acquisition programs.

 

General Comments:  In January 1998, ARS requested a waiver from the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) requirement “to describe specific and tangible products, steps, intermediate goals, and/or accomplishments that will demonstrate that the Agency has successfully met each Performance Measure/Goal in a given fiscal year.”  With OMB’s concurrence, ARS is able to use narrative descriptions of intermediate outcomes and indicators of progress instead of numerical metrics as specified in GPRA.  The research and technology transfer activities listed in this report are not all inclusive of the Agency’s work.  The reported accomplishments reflect, but do not adequately capture, the broad range of basic applied and developmental research that underpins the Agency’s work. 

 

Only Federal employees were involved in the preparation of this report.

 


Table of Contents

 

 

Strategic Goal/ Management Initiative

 

ARS FY 2005 Annual Performance Report

 

Goal 1:  Enhance Economic Opportunities For Agricultural Producers

 

 

Performance Measure 1.1.1:  Develop cost effective and functional industrial and consumer products from agricultural and forestry resources.

 

Performance Measure 1.1.2:  Provide higher quality, healthy foods that satisfy consumer needs in the United States and abroad.

 

Performance Measure 1.1.3:  Improve efficiency and reduce cost for conversion of biomass to energy.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.1:  Provide producers with scientific information and technology that increase production efficiency, develop improved germplasm, safeguard the environment, improve animal well-being, and reduce production risks and product losses.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.2:  Develop needed information on the relationships between nutrients, reproduction, growth, and conversion to and marketability of animal products.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.3:  Identify genes responsible for economically important traits, including animal product quality, efficiency of nutrient utilization, and environmental adaptability.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.4:  Maintain, characterize, and use genetic resources to optimize and safeguard genetic diversity and promote viable, vigorous animal production systems.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.5:  Provide producers with scientific information and technology that increase production efficiency, safeguard the environment, and reduce production risks and product losses.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.6:  Improve the understanding of the biological mechanisms that influence plant growth, product quality, and marketability to enhance the competitive advantage of agricultural commodities.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.7:  Identify genes responsible for plant product quality and resistance to diseases, pests, and weather losses.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.8:  Maintain, characterize, and use genetic resources to optimize, safeguard, and enhance genetic diversity and promote viable and vigorous plant production systems.

 

 

Goal 3:  Enhance Protection and Safety of the Nation’s Agriculture and Food Supply

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance Measure 3.1.1:  Develop new on-farm preharvest systems, practices, and products to reduce pathogen and toxin contamination of animal- and plant-derived foods.

 

Performance Measure 3.1.2:  Develop and transfer to Federal agencies and the private sector systems that rapidly and accurately detect, identify, and differentiate the most critical and economically important foodborne microbial pathogens.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.1:  Provide scientific information to protect animals from pests, infectious diseases, and other disease-causing entities that affect animal and human health.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.2:  Identify, develop, and release to the U.S. agricultural community genetic markers, genetic lines, breeds, or germplasm that result in food animals with improved (either through traditional breeding or biotechnology) pest- and disease-resistant traits.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.3:  Develop and transfer tools to the agricultural community, commercial partners, and Federal agencies to control or eradicate domestic and exotic diseases that affect animal and human health.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.4:  Develop and release to potential users varieties and/or germplasm of agriculturally important plants that are new or provide significantly improved (either through traditional breeding or biotechnology) characteristics enhancing pest or disease resistance.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.5:  Provide fundamental and applied scientific information and technology to protect agriculturally important plants from pests and diseases.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.6:   Provide needed scientific information and technology to producers of agriculturally important plants in support of exclusion, detection, and early eradication; control and monitoring of invasive insects, weeds and pathogens; and restoration of affected areas.  Conduct biologically-based integrated and areawide management of key invasive species.

 

 

Goal 4:  Improve the Nation’s Nutrition and Health

 

Performance Measure 4.1.1:  Scientifically assess the efficacy of enhancements to the nutritional value of our food supply and identify, conduct, and support intramural and extramural research to develop, test, and evaluate effective clinical and community dietary intervention strategies and programs for modifying diet, eating behavior, and food choices to improve the nutritional status of targeted populations.  A special emphasis is to prevent obesity and promote healthy dietary behaviors.

 

Performance Measure 4.1.2:  Define functions, bioavailability, interactions, and human requirements (including effects such as genetic, health status, and environmental factors) for known, emerging, and new classes of nutrients.  Determine the abundance of known, emerging, and new classes of nutrients in the food supply and provide that information in databases.

 

Performance Measure 4.1.3:  Determine food consumption patterns of Americans, including those of different ages, ethnicity, regions, and income levels.  Provide sound scientific analyses of the U.S.  food consumption information to enhance the effectiveness and management of national and community food and nutrition programs.

 

 

Goal 5:  Protect and Enhance the Nation’s Natural Resource Base and Environment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance Measure 5.1.1:  Develop ecologically-based information, technologies, germplasm, and management strategies that sustain agricultural production while conserving and enhancing the diverse natural resources found on rangelands and pasture lands.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.1:  Develop the tools and techniques required to maintain and restore the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s watersheds and its surface and groundwater resources.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.2:  Develop agricultural practices that maintain or enhance soil resources, thus ensuring sustainable food, feed, and fiber production while protecting environmental quality.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.3:  Develop approaches that mitigate the impact of poor air quality on crop production and provide scientific information and technology to maintain or enhance crop and animal production while controlling emissions that reduce air quality or destroy the ozone layer.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.4:  Develop agricultural practices and decision support strategies that allow producers to take advantage of beneficial effects and mitigate adverse impacts of global change.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.5:  Develop management practices, treatment technologies, and decision tools for effective use of animal manure and selected industrial and municipal byproducts to improve soil properties and enhance crop production while protecting the environment.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.6:  Develop agricultural and decision support systems that assist in increasing the efficiency of agricultural enterprises and achieve economic and environmental sustainability.

 

 

Goal 6:  Management Initiative 0.1:  Ensuring the Quality, Relevance, and Performance of ARS Research (covers all research objectives)

 

Performance Measure 6.0.1:  Relevance—ARS’ basic, applied, and developmental research programs are well conceived, have specific programmatic goals, and address high priority national needs.

 

Performance Measure 6.0.2:  Quality—ARS research projects are reviewed by National Program by external peer review panels at the beginning of the 5-year program cycle.

 

Performance Measure 6.0.3:  Performance—ARS will monitor and measure the performance of each research unit and National Program.

 

 

Goal 6:  Management Initiative 1:  Provide Agricultural Library and Information Services to USDA and the Nation via the National Agricultural Library

 

Performance Measure 6.1.1:  Develop and deliver content for the NAL National Digital Library for Agriculture (NDLA).

 

Performance Measure 6.1.2:  Integrate the NAL AGRICOLA database into the NDLA.

 

Performance Measure 6.1.3:  Ensure long-term access to the resources of the NAL NDLA.

 

 

Goal 6:  Management Initiative 2:  Provide Adequate Federal Facilities Required to Support the Research Mission of ARS

 

 

Performance Measure 6.2.1:  Complete priority buildings and facilities projects on schedule and within budget.

 

Goal 6:  Management Initiative 3:  Advise and Assist the ARS Administrator on Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity Matters to Prevent Discrimination

 

 

Performance Measure 6.3.1:  Accountability of being proactive to maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment.

 

Performance Measure 6.3.2:  Implement proactive measures to maintain a work environment free from discrimination.

 

 


Goals 1 and 2

GOAL 1:  ENHANCE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS

 

Analysis of Results:  This goal is related to production agriculture, adding quality and value to agricultural products, new products, biobased products, and biofuels.  Under Goal 1, 24 Indicators (in Italics) are aligned under 11 Performance Measures.  As the National Programs evolve, the Agency will report more accomplishments achieved by collaborative research at multiple locations involving more than one scientific discipline.  Thus, we anticipate reporting fewer accomplishments, but accomplishments that are broader in scope that make greater contributions to American agriculture.  While it is not possible to report research accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in these Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2005.  Seventy-six significant accomplishments are reported below.

 

OBJECTIVE 1.1:  Provide the Science-Based Knowledge and Technologies To Generate New or Improved High Quality, Value-Added Products and Processes To Expand Domestic and Foreign Markets for Agricultural Commodities.

 

Performance Measure 1.1.1:    Develop cost effective and functional industrial and consumer products from agricultural and forestry resources.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop new or improved, or more environmentally friendly processing technologies.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  About 70 percent of cotton produced worldwide (about 16 billion kg, 75 million bales) is used in woven fabrics and warp yarns are the major components therein.  These yarns are coated (sized) with expensive chemicals during preparation, and later the woven fabrics are de-sized (chemicals are removed).  Scientists at New Orleans, Louisiana, demonstrated that size-free weaving was feasible on high speed weaving machines using long fiber cotton (called Acala) rotor-spun yarn stabilized with a high torque (or twisting force). 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Sizing and de-sizing add to costs and environmental concerns.  Eliminating sizing and de-sizing will enhance the use and competitiveness of cotton and reduce chemicals use.   

 

develop new or improved methods to measure or predict quality.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The global cotton market is increasingly demanding a NIST-traceable color standard for grading cotton (i.e., measurements can be referenced to unchanging absolute standards).  Calibration cottons covering a wide range of color values were compared to standard color tiles, using the Agricultural Marketing Service’s “master colorimeter” and a more precise spectrophotometer.  Spectrophotometric results were highly correlated with results of the standard method.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Use of a spectrophotometer for cotton color determinations will allow more accurate and precise descriptions based on absolute physical properties, rather than being referenced to a set of “calibration cottons,” which are themselves variable and unstable with time.  A NIST-traceable color standard will eventually be the uniform basis for determinations of cotton color around the world, removing variations from one location to another and allowing the marketplace to set a fair price.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Short fiber content (SFC, the percentage of fibers with lengths of less than ½ inch) of cotton is increasingly recognized as an impediment to processing and textile manufacturing.  Computer programs were developed to predict SFC from data on fiber length distributions, and factors affecting the accuracy and precision of SFC measurement were identified.  In addition to natural variation, they include sampling technique, sample preparation, and presence of neps.  The origin of SFC was hypothesized to be largely from fiber breakage during processing.  Mathematical analysis of the distribution of fiber lengths revealed it to have two components, indicating the important role of fiber breakage during processing in generating SFC. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Increasingly, users of cotton demand low SFC in cotton that they purchase, even though SFC is not one of the standard quality measurements.  Institutionalizing measurements of SFC and setting the schedule of price discounts or premiums requires a better method of measurement.  These studies are a first attempt to develop reliable, accurate, and precise methods to determine SFC so that buyers and sellers of cotton will have a common understanding of value and can reach a fair price.

 

develop technologies leading to new or improved products from renewable resources and agricultural residues and wastes.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  A soy oil-based metalworking fluid was developed by scientists at Peoria, Illinois, and tested in the private sector CRADA partner’s pilot plant.  The biobased lubricant outperformed the equivalent mineral oil lubes and is economically competitive.    

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The CRADA partner plans to conduct trials next year in large rolling mill plants in the United States and Europe.  This development could provide a new market for soybean oil.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Scientists at Peoria, Illinois, developed a commercially viable procedure to deposit thin layers of starch onto the surface of normally water repellant plastics such as polyethylene.  These starch coatings impart water receptive properties to the plastic surface, thereby facilitating the absorption of water-based dyes and inks, reducing electrostatic charging, and improving compatibility with aqueous agents and biological fluids. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This technology has applications in plastic containers, biomedical devices, and wrapping materials for sensitive electronic components.  ARS’ Peoria scientists have filed two patent applications in cooperation with a private sector CRADA partner who is interested in marketing the technology.  This development could open new markets for corn starch.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Using techniques initially developed by ARS scientists in Albany, California, an industrial manufacturer began the first large scale commercial production of latex from the guayule plant.  Researchers at ARS facilities in Albany, California, and Phoenix, Arizona, also developed methods for moist storage of harvested guayule that would increase latex yields. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This development provides a domestic source for rubber and new opportunities for Southwest farmers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  A cheaper, more efficient binder is needed for commercial production of charcoal briquettes.  A team of scientists from Albany, California, collaborated with engineers from an industrial partner to develop a corn-based binder that is much lower in cost than the currently used binder.  The corn binder also improved the strength of the briquettes. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research may save the company $5 million in material costs and could provide a new niche market for corn.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at Clemson, South Carolina, in partnership with a commercial textile mill, organized a commercial scale trial to demonstrate the use of cotton/flax blend yarns developed by ARS to produce commercial quantities of fabric for shirting material and denim.  The yarn was woven on high speed weaving machines at high efficiency and resulted in fabrics with a unique appearance and improved fabric breathability without compromising the fabric strength. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The success of this effort demonstrates that domestically grown flax fiber is a good alternative natural fiber source that provides enhanced fabric characteristics for domestic textile mills, will provide a competitive advantage in the global textile market, and should result in increased amounts of U.S. produced cotton sold for denim garments.   

 

Performance Measure 1.1.2:    Provide higher quality, healthy foods that satisfy consumer needs in the United States and abroad.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop new or improved methods to measure or predict quality, or to sort by quality.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Because StarLink is a genetically modified corn that produces an insecticidal protein, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits the use of StarLink corn to feed-use only and has established a zero tolerance for StarLink corn in the human food supply.  Since some StarLink corn has been found in the human food supply, FDA, USDA, and corn millers now inspect shelled and milled corn destined for human consumption for the presence of StarLink.  Sampling and analytical errors associated with measuring StarLink in corn meal and flour were determined and the effects of sample size, the number of analyses on reducing testing errors, and the number of lots misclassified were demonstrated. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Knowledge of the StarLink measuring errors will reduce both health risks to the consumer and economic loss to the processor.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS engineers at Athens, Georgia, consulted with a major manufacturer of farm equipment to develop a new grain moisture sensor for its grain combines, using principles developed by the ARS engineers.  Microwave moisture sensing equipment supplied by an instrument manufacturer in Iceland also utilizes principles developed by the ARS.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS technology has helped enhance moisture measurement technology, improving cost savings and food safety.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  A decision support system for managing peanut curing operations was developed by researchers at Albany, Georgia, and released for use by the peanut industry.  The software includes models to accurately predict peanut drying time in response to specific drying equipment, weather conditions, and dryer control parameters.  It also includes tools to manage the flow of peanuts at the drying facility from the time they are delivered by the farmer until they are graded and marketed. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Use of the decision support system will reduce labor, minimize overdrying, and document drying conditions for all peanuts cured at that facility.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at Manhattan, Kansas, developed an NIR (near infrared) sorting system that automatically scans individual wheat kernels and sorts them based on specific attributes such as protein content, hardness, amylose content, and other selected quality attributes.  The technology was commercialized through a CRADA with a Swedish-based company and is being publicly marketed. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The system is being used by breeders to select specific traits from early generation breeder samples.  This will significantly reduce the time and expense required to develop cultivars with specific end-use traits.

 

develop functional food ingredients and/or products.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers in Albany, California, discovered that soluble fibers reduce oxidative damage in test animal tissues.  In addition, fibers previously thought to be inactive were found to have significant beneficial activity.  The research is being done in collaboration with an industrial partner.  Two patent disclosures have been filed.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These results and the new fiber source will provide an alternative to pharmaceuticals to prevent dietary-related metabolic disease such as type II diabetes.   

 

develop improved or new methods to maintain quality of food products.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at Parlier, California, developed a method to enhance activity of the fungicide, imazalil, to control green mold while reducing its rate of use by 50 percent or more using sodium bicarbonate.  Also accomplished was partial control of imazalil-resistant isolates of the fungal pathogen which causes most of the postharvest losses in California.  The ARS researchers worked with commercial interests to optimize the combination treatment so that it could be incorporated into commercial use. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Decreasing fungicide use is valuable to reduce industry costs and residues in the citrus fruit ingested by consumers.  Some version of the method is now used in most California packinghouses.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Traditional honeydew melons (netted, orange flesh) have been linked to outbreaks of foodborne illness due to the presence of bacteria within the netting on the exterior surface of the melon.  Researchers at Weslaco, Texas, have developed a non-netted, orange flesh honeydew melon that has elevated phytonutrient content, longer shelf-life, better flavor, and greater consumer preference than the traditional honeydew melon. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This development will reduce the potential health risks associated with netted melons while providing the consumer with a better tasting, more nutritious melon.   

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers at Fargo, North Dakota, collaborated with researchers at North Dakota State University in the development of a high soluble fiber oat cultivar ‘HiFi’.  An organic food company will market oat flakes from the cultivar as a health food under an agreement with the University.  The company is contracting with several small organic farms to produce HiFi oats.  ARS is facilitating the smooth transfer of this technology to the marketplace.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This development will provide a new market for oats and offer improved nutrition for oats consumers.

 

Performance Measure 1.1.3:    Improve efficiency and reduce cost for conversion of biomass to energy.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop improved biomass plants, sustainable biomass production systems, and efficient handling and storage technology for biomass feedstocks.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS identified and characterized a gene that plays an important role in cell wall biosynthesis in alfalfa plants.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  There now is a capability to modify cell walls of alfalfa plants, thereby increasing the value of this important crop as a bioenergy feedstock.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS identified switchgrass germplasm characteristics that are correlated with valuable traits such as biomass yield, drought tolerance, and seed production.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  There now is a greater understanding of switchgrass genetics that will facilitate genetic modification of this plant for enhanced energy feedstock production.

 

develop technology and systems that improve the efficiency, economics, and sustainability of energy production from agricultural biomass.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS developed new enzymes and fermentation organisms that are more adapted to harsh industrial environments and that more efficiently and economically convert plant biomass to ethanol. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This development will result in improved process efficiency and economic competitiveness that will aid in the commercialization of the biological conversion of biomass into renewable fuels and coproducts, and in turn reduce the Nation’s dependency on imported petroleum. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS developed a high performance liquid chromatographic method for quantifying biodiesel blend levels of 1 to 30 percent in petrodiesel that can be completed within 20 minutes. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  A rapid blend level measurement procedure could become a much needed standard to help maintain quality control and remove a barrier to biodiesel use. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS genetically modified a strain of lactic acid bacteria which produced increased levels of ethanol from cellulosic biomass.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The researcher has demonstrated that metabolic engineering is a viable strategy for the development of new biocatalysts to convert agricultural materials to biofuels.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS determined that contaminants of biodiesel, such as free fatty acids and monoglycerides, possess better lubricity than neat alkyl esters and are largely responsible for the lubricity of low level blends of biodiesel with petrodiesel. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The research may result in new technology to design improved lubricity enhancing components of fuels that can increase biodiesel use. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS developed processes for dry fractionation of the field pea into enriched protein and starch streams, and for fermenting the pea starch to ethanol.  They found that ethanol yields from pea starch were comparable to that from corn starch.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  There now is an alternate feedstock for ethanol production that can benefit both farmers and ethanol producers. 

 

develop renewable energy technology and systems to meet on-farm and remote rural needs and to enhance the rural economy.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS developed a procedure to minimize noise and bearing wear encountered with the operation of wind powered helical pumps. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  An attractive pumping system that Farmers and ranchers have an attractive pumping system that can be used to supply water to livestock in remote locations.

 

OBJECTIVE 1.2:  Contribute to the Efficiency of Agricultural Production Systems.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.1:  Provide producers with scientific information and technology that increase production efficiency, develop improved germplasm, safeguard the environment, improve animal well-being, and reduce production risks and product losses.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will develop scientific information that contributes to improved efficiency and environmental stewardship of food animal production systems.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Collaborative efforts of the Noble Foundation, Forage Genetics, and the ARS U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center have resulted in alfalfa transgenics that were down-regulated in enzyme C3H, a crucial step of lignin synthesis.  They have shown that such plants produced lignin with dramatic changes in composition and structure.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Alfalfa is widely used as a fiber and energy source for dairy cow diets.  It is limited, however, by poor digestion of the structural carbohydrates (fiber components) limiting the energy recovered from the plant by the dairy cow.  Lignin (the glue that holds fiber together) is completely indigestible itself, and as a result of how it is made and incorporated into the fiber the structural carbohydrates also become less digestible.  One approach to solving the problem of poor fiber digestibility is to alter the lignin to decrease its negative impact.  This process provides a potential approach to improving plant fiber utilization in dairy and beef cattle, sheep, and goats.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS developed a method to reproductively rejuvenate (molt) laying hens maintained on a balanced diet.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The research was published in two peer reviewed journal articles, a patent application was submitted, and the results were communicated to industry.  This method of molting has potential for use by the industry to induce reproductive rejuvenation and maintain full feed of a nutritional balanced diet and avoid the negatives associated with limiting nutrient intake.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Perchlorate is a goitrogenic anion that competitively inhibits the sodium iodide transporter; has been detected in forages and in commercial milk throughout the United States.  The fate of perchlorate and its effect on animal health were studied in lactating cows, ruminally infused with perchlorate for five weeks by ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland.  Milk perchlorate levels were highly correlated with perchlorate intake; milk iodine was unaffected and there were no demonstrated health effects. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The results demonstrated that up to 80 percent of dietary perchlorate was metabolized, most likely in the rumen, which would provide cattle with a degree of refractoriness to perchlorate.  These results are important for assessing the environmental impact on perchlorate concentrations in milk and its relevance to human health, and provide important data for agencies assessing health risks of environmental perchlorate.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS conducted research that showed the optimal stocking density in broiler houses varies with weight required at market.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research provides the industry the basis for using different stocking rates to achieve maximum production efficiency of broiler chickens marketed at various weights. This technology was communicated to the broiler industry during several dialogue sessions across the region.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) reduce water use and place waterborne wastes into concentrated and relatively small discharges.  When a RAS is operated at high salinities for culture of marine species, recovering the saltwater contained in the backwash effluent would allow for reuse within the RAS and reduce salt discharge to the environment. Scientists at the Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, evaluated a pilot plant membrane biological reactor (MBR) for ease of operation and effectiveness at removing bacteria, turbidity, suspended solids, and nutrients from the biosolids backwash flow discharged from RAS’.  Results indicate the pilot scale MBR system removed in excess of 99 percent of the suspended solids, carbonaceous BOD, and bacteria, as well as more than 93 percent of total nitrogen contained within the backwash operated at salinity levels of 0 ppt, 8 ppt, 16 ppt, and 32 ppt.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  RAS’ for marine aquaculture species will become more important for the production of fish in the future.  There are numerous commercially operating freshwater RAS’, but few if any marine systems using saline water.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.2:    Develop needed information on the relationships between nutrients, reproduction, growth, and conversion to and marketability of animal products.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

identify underlying genetic and physiologic mechanisms impacting reproductive efficiency, nutrient conversion, and growth in food animals.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, implemented national genetic evaluations for calving ease of Brown Swiss and Holstein bulls that will be provided quarterly to the National Association of Animal Breeders for distribution to the U.S. dairy industry.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Calving difficulty (dystocia) has a major economic impact on productivity and profitability of dairy production.  Dairy producers are increasingly interested in crossbreeding as a tool to improve calving ease, health, fertility, and longevity.  Brown Swiss bulls appear to produce daughters that give birth more easily than those of Holstein bulls.  National genetic evaluations for calving ease provide the dairy industry with information to reduce losses from difficult births.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Athens, Georgia, utilized DNA microarray technology to identify 63 brain and 24 pituitary differentially regulated genes during pubertal development in swine.  The genes studied control the release of brain hormones which regulate luteinizing and growth hormone release from the pituitary gland.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These pituitary hormones play critical roles in determining growth and the onset of puberty.  Understanding these interactions is necessary in order to develop new methods to promote maximum growth while enhancing onset of puberty and reproductive function in the pig, critical components impacting efficiency of swine production.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  An experiment was conducted at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, Wisconsin, with lactating dairy cows to investigate the effect of the rumen degraded protein (RDP) on milk production and microbial protein synthesis in the rumen. Diets were composed of alfalfa silage, corn silage, and high moisture corn (typical feeds used for dairy cows in the United States), and contained a range of levels of RDP added from different proportions of soybean meal (a source of true protein) and urea (a source of non-protein nitrogen NPN).  There was decreased feed intake, milk yield, and body weight gain as more and more urea replaced soybean meal.  Replacing RDP from soybean meal with that from urea NPN also resulted in increased milk urea nitrogen (N) and ammonia in the rumen, and reduced microbial protein formation in the rumen.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Optimizing the amount of protein formed by the rumen microbes of dairy cows is important because this source provides more than half of the protein actually used by the animal.  It is widely believed by dairy nutritionists that NPN can replace true protein to meet the nitrogen requirements of the rumen microbes.  Farmers benefit from this research by knowing that replacing true protein with NPN will reduce milk production and impair N utilization in lactating dairy cows.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS demonstrated that feeding albuterol, a beta 2-agonist, had no negative effects on handling, but did improve growth rates and lowered carcass fat of market pigs.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These results will provide information allowing swine producers to select an alterative growth enhancer/carcass composition modifier that does not affect animal excitability.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Understanding the genetic components of nutrient utilization in trout is critical for the U.S. aquaculture industry to remain competitive particularly with higher feed costs, limited natural protein resources, and stricter environmental standards.  Scientists at the Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit, Aberdeen, Idaho, measured differential gene expression relating to growth, health, and metabolism of trout reared on a diet containing cereal grains or commercial ingredients.  Rainbow trout of distinct lineage were separated and reared on either a commercial diet or a diet containing a high level of barley (32 percent) for one year, after which tissue samples were taken and the changes in gene expression were evaluated using quantitative real time PCR for several genes and microarray hybridization.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This method will be imperative for selecting rainbow trout (and other fish) with improved performance traits for using nutrients from plant sources.  Fish with the capacity to use nutrients from non-fishmeal sources have a reduced cost of feeding advantage.

 

develop technologies leading to improved marketability of animal products.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Scientists at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska, in collaboration with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and five beef companies, produced a non-invasive beef tenderness prediction system on a broad sampling of cattle types that was validated in several packing plants. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Previously, the only method to accurately predict whether or not a beef carcass would produce tender or tough steaks was to remove a steak from the carcass and evaluate tenderness mechanically, resulting in a high cost from product devaluation.  The beef industry has sought the development of a non-invasive method for beef tenderness prediction.  Based on the current level of interest in adoption of this technology, it is expected to have an annual multi-million dollar impact on the beef industry and its consumers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  There is high potential to make milt meal from the large volumes of pollock and salmon in Alaska.  Today most of the milt is included in the production of fishmeal or discarded.  A study was conducted by a team of University of Alaska and ARS scientists at the Subarctic Agricultural Research Unit to develop an industrial scale extraction method for the production of high quality milt meal from both pollock and salmon.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The meals were found to have high concentrations of nucleic acids.  There are a number of potential new high value uses for these kinds of meals in diets of fish, farm animals, and pets.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  An ARS scientist at Newport, Oregon, in collaboration with an ARS scientist in Corvallis, Oregon, discovered significant levels of genetic variations for bioaccumulation of cadmium in Pacific oysters.  Ongoing international negotiations that could limit cadmium content in seafood may impact the marketability of Pacific oysters.  There is a possibility that selective breeding can modify this character.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These preliminary results suggest that the cadmium content of Pacific oysters can be modified by selective breeding to meet new market standards.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.3:      Identify genes responsible for economically important traits, including animal product quality, efficiency of nutrient utilization, and environmental adaptability.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

identify genes and their function leading to DNA tests for use in food animal genetic improvement programs.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Scientists in the ARS Bovine Functional Genomics Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Missouri-Columbia, have identified a mutation in the osteopontin gene promoter region of dairy cattle, which is a candidate quantitative trait nucleotide underlying a previously identified quantitative trait locus for protein percentage located on bovine chromosome 6. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The percentage of milk made up by the protein fraction is of critical importance to the dairy industry (e.g., for cheese production).  A provisional patent application for using this polymorphism information in marker assisted selection programs was submitted and has been licensed by a multi-national pharmaceutical company that is currently validating its effectiveness.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Previously, markers for two genes associated with differences in beef tenderness (u-calpain and calpastatin) have been proposed to improve meat quality.  It was not known if the effects of these two commercially available gene markers would add together or if the effect of one gene marker would be masked by the other.  ARS researchers at Clay Center, Nebraska, tested these markers in two diverse populations of cattle (both Bos indicus and Bos taurus) and crosses between these populations.  Regardless of the population, the effects of the gene markers on tenderness were nearly independent indicating that both markers can be used to genetically improve tenderness.  Additionally, a new u-calpain marker was developed and released to industry that allows use of the test across all breed populations.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Inadequate beef tenderness is the principal cause of consumer dissatisfaction. These DNA marker tests have been transferred to industry and are being offered commercially by several companies for genetic screening and improvement programs for seedstock breeders and their customers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENT:  AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an enzyme complex that plays a key role in sensing cellular energy (AMP/ATP) levels, maintaining intracellular energy homeostasis and, on the whole animal level, in regulating energy balance and food intake.  Scientists in the ARS Growth Biology Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland, have identified seven distinct chicken AMPK gene homologues and have studied their expression in different tissues.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Regulation of feed intake and energy balance is critical to profitable poultry production.  The expression of these genes confirmed, for the first time, the existence of a functional AMPK pathway in chickens and indicated that AMPK is likely to be a master cellular energy sensor/regulator.  These findings provide new information related to the regulation of feed intake, energy balance, and body weight in chickens at the molecular level.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENT:  The Inhibitor of DNA Binding/Differentiation (ID) proteins play a role in determining the number of muscle cells that develop in an organism.  ARS scientists at the National Center for Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture characterized the ID genes in rainbow trout.  Two additional ID genes were identified and all six known ID genes were characterized with respect to their expression throughout embryonic development and adult tissues.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These proteins’ impact on growth is of great interest to the aquaculture community for understanding growth efficiency.

 

develop genomics infrastructure and tools that will enhance efficiency and speed of gene identification, and utilization of DNA data in genetic improvement programs of food animals.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  A major international project has been underway since 2003 to sequence and analyze the bovine genome.  This project has been led by the research team at Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center (Houston, Texas).  An international consortium of researchers has been working alongside the Baylor team to develop and carry out this project.  Key ARS contributions include the development of a:  1) Scaffold onto which to assemble the bovine genomic sequence.  This scaffold will allow the fine mapping of genes and their function in the genome.  2) Multi-breed DNA panel for building the bovine haplotype map.  One of the major thrusts of the bovine genome project is to develop a large pool of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) for use in evaluating genetic diversity and in developing gene-based genetic improvement programs.  3) Large panel of full length complementary DNAs (cDNAs).  ARS scientists at Miles City, Montana, collected tissues from animals related to L1 Dominette 01449, the base DNA source for the bovine genome sequence.  A wide range of tissues were collected and are being used for construction and sequencing of a large number of cDNA libraries in collaboration with Genome Canada and others.  These tools will allow the determination of the function of genes in different tissues. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The annotated bovine genome sequence and associated tools will enable the full scale development of genetic diagnostics for the improvement of dairy and beef cattle for traits related to production efficiency, efficiency of nutrient utilization, genetic resistance to disease, and animal adaptation to production environments.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  A control panel of sheep DNA was created to increase the accuracy of prion genotyping by research and commercial laboratories. Variation in the prion gene is associated with susceptibility and resistance to scrapie, a neurological disease of sheep that is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle. ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, created a control DNA panel from sheep representing each of 15 prion genotypes associated with susceptibility and resistance to scrapie.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This DNA panel is used to detect genotyping errors and to improve the quality of genetic information.  This valuable resource is helping producers in the United States and other countries to correctly select for genetic resistance to scrapie and to achieve the industry goal of eradicating the disease from its flocks.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, identified a panel of 40 suitable single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) DNA markers for individual identification in swine.  This information has been released to 39 different investigators representing scientific and commercial genotyping laboratories around the world.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Individual animal identification is critically important for livestock biosecurity.  Until recently, DNA genotyping laboratories did not have access to a set of the most robust swine DNA markers to uniquely identify animals or accurately determine parentage.  SNP markers are easily typed with automated techniques that do not rely on human interpretation.  These markers will likely develop the framework of markers used by most commercial genotyping companies to determine individual animal identification in swine.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  An ARS scientist at Newport, Oregon, demonstrated that pedigrees of Pacific oysters can be reconstructed using a number of microsatellite DNA markers.  This is important because current selective breeding protocols require that genetic families be reared separately to maintain pedigree information, and experiments be highly replicated in order to account for small scale environmental variation, making oyster breeding costly.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The ability to mix oyster families and construct pedigrees will streamline protocols, reduce costs, and increase selection intensity, all contributing toward shortening the time to develop improved lines of Pacific oysters.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Leetown, West Virginia, in collaboration with researchers at West Virginia University and the University of California at Davis, applied a recently introduced DNA fingerprinting technique previously used for plant species to rainbow trout.  To complement the ongoing construction of a genetic map for rainbow trout, a project was initiated to develop a physical map of the rainbow trout genome using the Swanson 10X bacterial artificial chromosome library.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The integration of a physical chromosome map with the genetic map will greatly facilitate the identification of genes that affect aquaculture production traits. 

 

Performance Measure 1.2.4:    Maintain, characterize, and use genetic resources to optimize and safeguard genetic diversity and promote viable, vigorous animal production systems.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

continue to characterize germplasm of food animals for traits of importance.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The security of U.S. animal genetic resources was significantly enhanced in the past year.  Samples in the ARS National Animal Germplasm collection at Fort Collins, Colorado, increased 52 percent and the number of breeds or lines increased 63 percent. In addition, a total of 19 livestock, poultry, and fish populations met minimum collection requirements considered to be secure.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These achievements were made possible by the contributions of 170 different livestock producers, public institutions, and companies.  Conservation of germplasm resources will allow continued ability to maintain important levels of genetic variability in the Nation’s livestock, poultry, and fish populations.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Progress is being made with an additional year-class (2004) of Atlantic salmon from 5 different sources obtained from collaborators to continue the breeding program at the ARS National Cold Water Marine Aquaculture Center, Franklin, Maine.  Eyed eggs were disinfected, incubated, hatched, and fish reared as parr (juveniles) in indoor (greenhouse) tanks. Early growth evaluation of different genetic stocks during the parr stage was completed and data are being analyzed.  Parr from the 2003 year-class were pit tagged, vaccinated, and stocked into replicated communal tanks for evaluation of growth to smolts.  Smolts from the 2003 year-class were transferred into sea cages at an aquaculture lease site operated by industry collaborators.

  

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Fish will be reared through 2006 to market size, data collected on harvest weight, and analyzed to determine broodstock to be spawn as a selected line.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  First generation tetraploid male and female rainbow trout matured this year and produced a number of tetraploid and triploid crosses for further evaluation.  The tetraploid fish generated in this project by ARS scientists at the NCCCWA, Leetown, West Virginia, offer opportunity to produce 100 percent triploid offspring, which are desirable because they are sterile and potentially faster growing than typical diploid production animals.  Initial studies suggest that the triploid fish have the expected growth advantage at a very early age.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The trout industry is anticipating this technology to reduce production costs.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Leetown, West Virginia, exposed 75 full-sib families to a challenge with a pathogen, Flavobacterium psyhrophilum, the causative agent of bacterial coldwater disease.  This disease is of major concern to the trout industry.  The objective of the research was to determine genetic variation for resistance to this bacteria.  A standardized challenge was applied to 45 replicated and 30 unreplicated family groups.  Mortality ranged from 28 to 99 percent and was similar in replicates.  Genetic relationships among multiple families with low mortality indicate that there is a genetic component of resistance to this pathogen.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research demonstrates that rainbow trout can be selectively bred for enhanced disease resistance.

 

improve cryopreservation technology for storage of animal germplasm and continue to increase the stocks of germplasm stored within the National Animal Germplasm Program repository.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, have found that long-term storage and freeze-thawing did not prematurely increase capacitation or decrease acrosome integrity in viable swine sperm as previously suggested.  However, compared to fresh semen, the ability of sperm to undergo capacitation after specific lab treatment was greatly decreased by storage and freeze-thawing, and responses varied among individual boars.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Boar sperm that have been subjected to long-term low temperature liquid storage or freeze-thawing are less fertile after artificial insemination than freshly collected sperm. Two key physiological processes must occur in order for the sperm cell to be functionally fertile:  capacitation and release of enzymes from the acrosome.  However, low temperature liquid storage and cryopreservation are thought to prematurely increase lipid fluidity in the plasma membrane (an early sign of capacitation) and decrease the integrity of the acrosome rendering sperm less capable to survive in the reproductive tract of the female, making them less capable of fertilizing eggs.  Future work is addressing the differences among boars to determine if these differences are correlated with fertility.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.5:    Provide producers with scientific information and technology that increase production efficiency, safeguard the environment, and reduce production risks and product losses.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop technologies and strategies to manage or mitigate pests, pathogens, weather damage, and/or improve crop quality to strengthen the U.S. agricultural production base and provide higher-value products.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Although there is market demand for fresh strawberries in the fall and winter, most current strawberry production methods produce fruit only in the spring.  ARS scientists at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station, Kearneysville, West Virginia, have developed a new transplant propagation technique that causes strawberry plants to flower within four weeks after field establishment, and that can be used to grow strawberries that fruit in both the fall and the spring. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This propagation technique stretches the picking season to late fall when the price is greatest and also lessens the risk of weather-related crop loss. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Annotation is the process of taking raw DNA sequence and adding analysis and interpretation to determine the biological significance of the DNA code, i.e., what do the DNA sequences mean?  ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, and Weslaco, Texas, in cooperation with a large international effort, have annotated much of honey bee genome which had been sequenced by the Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center.  The honey bee is the first agricultural and beneficial insect to be sequenced.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The annotated genome will be used to improve bee health and pollination efficiency.  This effort is crucial since it comes at a time when the honey bee is being devastated by a variety of invasive parasitic mites (particularly varroa and tracheal mites) and diseases.  With further annotation, the honey bee genome project will enable scientists to effectively deal with the problems faced by beekeepers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Previously, ARS scientists at the Donald Danforth Center in St. Louis, Missouri, demonstrated how to remove the major human allergen in soybean (P34/Gly m Bd 30k) by genetic engineering.  The same scientists, in collaboration with the University of Illinois, have now discovered two accessions of conventional soybean in the USDA soybean germplasm collection in which nature has accomplished the same feat by a natural deletion of the gene that encodes the allergen. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This finding provides a basis for producing conventional soybeans with greatly reduced allergenicity and improved digestibility and nutritional value, especially for uses where genetically enhanced soybeans are not accepted. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS, in conjunction with its partner, Cotton Incorporated, released three improved lines of upland cotton to the public for use in breeding new varieties.  For the first time, these lines combine some of the excellent fiber quality of Acala-type cottons with the heat tolerance of Delta-type cottons. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The new germplasm will be used as a resource for breeders attempting to improve fiber quality of Mid-South and Southeast cottons, as well as for breeders attempting to improve heat tolerance of Acala cottons for the Western United States.  The outcome will be better yields and quality of cotton fiber in the United States.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Dawson, Georgia, in collaboration with the University of Florida, developed an innovative strategy for developing peanut germplasm resistant to the devastating impact of tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) infection.  Physiological and genetic responses under heavy TSWV pressure showed that the physiological gas exchange and drought responses of TSWV-infected plants were correlated with specific gene expression products throughout the growing season.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This finding will facilitate the improvement of production methods and breeding programs that increase the resistance of peanut to TSWV.

 

maintain genetic and genomic databases and make information accessible via standard software from the Internet.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  New computer tools for corn researchers have been developed by ARS researchers at the Maize Genetics Stock Center, Urbana, Illinois, in cooperation with the ARS Maize Genetics/Genomics Database, Ames, Iowa.  This new curational software enables data about corn genetic stocks to be entered directly into the ARS Maize Genetics/Genomics Database.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Corn breeders and other researchers now have faster and better access to all the data for corn genetic stocks at one easy-to-use website.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Ames, Iowa, constructed genetic maps of soybean and common bean from public databases and used CMap, a program that allows for the side-by-side comparisons of chromosomal maps of any species.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These new maps support the direct transfer of genetic progress in one species to another, without the time and expense required for additional research.  For example, genes for Asian soybean rust resistance in common bean may now be mapped, and the information can be immediately translated to soybean.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.6:    Improve the understanding of the biological mechanisms that influence plant growth, product quality, and marketability to enhance the competitive advantage of agricultural commodities.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

describe in model plants and crop plants the structure, function, and regulation of agriculturally important genes that control plant composition and yield.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Columbia, Missouri, discovered that three genes control the level of linolenic acid in soybeans.  The scientists have now developed molecular markers specific for the beneficial genetic mutations in two of these fatty acid desaturase genes (GmFAD3A and GmFAD3C). 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The use of these mutation-specific molecular markers to identify breeding lines homozygous for these alleles will expedite the development of elite soybean varieties with superior oil quality.  Commercial production of soybeans with genetically reduced linolenic acid concentration provides the oil supply that fuels an industry led drive to improve the nutritional quality of food products with low-trans isomer formulations and lower the use of hydrogenated soybean oil. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Plant architecture genes control plant structure and effect important traits such as number of flowers, fruit size, and tree shape.  ARS researchers at Albany, California, have cloned the Ultrapetala genes, which affect bloom formation and determined that these genes are key players in determining plant architecture. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The results can be applied to improve agriculturally important plants for many valuable traits from fruit size to developing fruit trees that are ideal for mechanical harvesting.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: ARS researchers and collaborators at the University of Wisconsin have demonstrated that feeding an oat antioxidant, called avenanthramide, reduced exercise-induced inflammation in rats. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Antioxidant compounds found in oats may have healthful benefits for specific cellular mechanisms.  Further research to characterize these oat antioxidants will provide consumers with new knowledge about the nutritional value of whole grains and enhance the use and value of oats.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The functional role of genes that encode invertase, a sugar-metabolizing enzyme found in corn cell walls, has been determined by ARS researchers at Gainesville, Florida, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Florida.  The scientists used biotechnology to examine the effects of eliminating genes for invertase.  Results showed a pivotal role for these genes that can be exploited to enhance the use and competitiveness of corn. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Enzymes that metabolize sugar affect the value of corn for food and non-food uses.  Identifying the functions of invertase in the plant is the essential first step in learning how to improve carbohydrate metabolism in corn. 

 

improve plant genetic transformation systems to expand their usefulness and improve exploitation of genome sequence information to identify valuable genes in raw germplasm collections.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  New genetic technology is needed that allows the removal of unwanted transgenes after their usefulness is ended (for example, antibiotic resistance genes used as selectable markers).  ARS scientists in Albany, California, have shown that recombination systems capable of accomplishing this removal, and previously demonstrated in yeast, also function efficiently in higher plants.  This technology is intended to be put in the public domain and made available for general use, so that access to this advance in genetic engineering methods is available to all.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Technology for removing unwanted genes will be available to all practitioners.  Some of the concerns of the public about safety of genetically engineered foods will be eliminated.  Consumers will have more confidence in their food supply and in the efficacy of science to improve foods.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.7:    Identify genes responsible for plant product quality and resistance to diseases, pests, and weather losses.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop new genetic methods and tools to identify specific genes that affect end-product traits desired by consumers, such as oil and grain quality, disease resistance, and stress tolerance in agricultural crops.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers characterized the first pea Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC) library, a valuable genetic tool for genomic and gene function analyses in this crop. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This new genetic tool will facilitate the discovery and cloning of genes governing economically important pea traits such as yield, disease resistance, plant architecture, and mineral content. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers in Beaumont, Texas, have identified DNA markers associated with resistance to rice blast for blast biotypes that occur in the United States.  The markers were then used in cooperation with other ARS researchers at Stuttgart, Arkansas, to identify accessions in the USDA rice collection that have blast resistance. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Rice blast is a fungal disease that causes significant crop losses for rice growers worldwide.  Use of these DNA markers will improve the speed and efficiency of breeding new varieties for U.S. rice growers with improved rice blast resistance.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, developed the only pinto beans in the world with four genes for resistance to the hyper variable bean rust pathogen, Uromyces appendiculatus, and two genes for resistance to the bean common mosaic (BCMV) and bean necrosis (BCMNV) potyviruses.  They have released six high yielding germplasm lines with rust disease resistance.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME: In the United States, bean rust occurs frequently on snap beans in Florida, Tennessee, and other Southern States, and on dry beans east of the Rocky Mountains.  This new germplasm will benefit public and private breeders in commercial seed companies, as well as bean producers and consumers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENT:  ARS scientists at Lubbock, Texas, established a desiccation tolerance EST (expressed sequence tag) collection and the bioinformatics tools required for the accompanying EST database.  A comprehensive profile of gene expression associated with desiccation tolerance revealed new insights into the role of late embryogenesis abundant proteins in cellular protection.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The ESTs and database have greatly enhanced our understanding of the genetic components associated with desiccation tolerance in plants.  They have provided numerous new candidates for dehydration tolerance genes that may enhance the drought tolerance capacity of U.S. crops.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In cooperation with the company, SePRO, ARS scientists at Oxford, Mississippi, determined the genetic basis for resistance of hydrilla (an aquatic invasive plant) to the herbicides flurideon, norflurazon, diflufenican, picolinafen, flurochloridone, beflubutamid, and flurtamone.  The inheritance gene mutations governing the activity of phytoene desaturase (PDS) enzymes conferred cross resistance to norflurazon and overall negative cross resistance (hypersensitivity) to these PDS-inhibitor herbicides.  Arabidopsis thaliana plants transformed with these mutated PDS genes from hydrilla had similar patterns of cross resistance to the herbicides.  These plants exhibited normal growth and development even after long-term exposure to herbicide.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This work has identified the basis for herbicide resistance in a noxious aquatic weed, one of the most serious pests of waterways in the United States.  The results provide a basis for research to overcome resistance and re-establish control of this invasive species. 

 

construct and maintain physical, genetic, and transcript maps to facilitate comparative analyses among plant genomes.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers at College Station, Texas, in collaboration with Texas A&M University researchers, have completed the cytogenetic map of sorghum.  The 10 chromosomes of sorghum were digitally imaged, revealing the architecture of each sorghum chromosome. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Mapping the sorghum genome provides a foundation for identifying the gene rich regions of the sorghum genome.  Results will advance the identification of valuable agronomic genes that can contribute to more environmentally adapted and disease resistant sorghum.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers established the first genetic map for the important spice crop garlic.  In doing so, they demonstrated that garlic gamete and progeny formation was strictly sexual, not asexual, and that diversity stemming from sexual reproduction could be exploited with classical crop breeding approaches.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Garlic breeding will be accelerated.  Before this, only random mutagenesis could be used to generate novel genetic variability and traits in two parental lines could not be combined via crossing and recombination

.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Fargo, North Dakota, in cooperation with researchers at North Dakota State University, have made advances in mapping the sunflower genome by developing a set of sunflower trisomic lines which each have one extra chromosome.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The large size of the sunflower genome makes it difficult to develop physical maps.  Sunflowers breeders will use this information to better understand the structure of the sunflower genome.

 

Performance Measure 1.2.8:    Maintain, characterize, and use genetic resources to optimize, safeguard, and enhance genetic diversity and promote viable and vigorous plant production systems.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will    

 

identify, acquire, and expand the genetic base of crops through new accessories to enhance the diversity of plant germplasm collections.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  During FY 2005, the 20-plus genebanks in the USDA/ARS National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) added about 9,000 separate samples of more than 1,000 plant species to its collections, bringing to a total of 465,000 samples from more than 11,300 plant species conserved by NPGS genebanks.  Scientific interest in this germplasm has increased significantly during the last few years, with the average number of samples distributed per year totaling about 120,000, 20,000 more than the average several years ago.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Crop genetic diversity is conserved and distributed to researchers.  These materials are keys for continued progress in crop genetics and breeding requisite for future food security.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Fargo, North Dakota, conducted an exploration to collect a rare and endemic wild sunflower, Helianthus niveus, subspecies tephrodes (Algodones, dune sunflower) in California and Arizona.  Five populations were collected and added to the Sunflower Germplasm Collection in the National Plant Germplasm System.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  More accessions of this rare, wild sunflower species are now available to search for novel genes for resistance to a multitude of insects and diseases that can be used to improve cultivated sunflowers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The U.S. corn germplasm base is narrow and only a small percent of U.S. maize germplasm is derived from exotic corns of tropical origin.  ARS researchers at Ames, Iowa; Raleigh, North Carolina; and both private and public cooperators in the ARS Germplasm Enhancement of Maize (GEM) project have developed new corn lines from exotic germplasm.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Corn breeders can exploit these new lines with high protein levels, unique starch properties, and increased disease resistance for developing new germplasm with a more diverse base and enhanced traits.

 

strengthen breeding and evaluating of minor agronomic crops that have increasing economic importance.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers developed and/or applied powerful new genetic markers to a broad spectrum of “specialty crops,” such as apples, pears, garlic, hops, beet, rye, wild rice, blueberries, hydrangeas, grapes, plums, apricots, pecans, walnuts, figs, and olives.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These valuable new genetic markers will enable rapid, inexpensive, and accurate assays of genetic variability which are key for accelerating progress in crop genetic resource conservation and breeding.  Some of the markers can be used for more rapid and accurate selection of specific high value traits, e.g., disease resistance in hops.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers developed superior new varieties and breeding stocks for an extremely broad spectrum of “specialty crops,” such as prize-winning ornamental peppers, table grape varieties, hardy winter peas, white mold resistant pinto beans, thornless blackberries, high yielding and rapidly maturing potatoes, disease resistant pecans, high-quality blueberries, high yielding sugarcane cultivars, novel southern pea varieties, disease resistant sweet potatoes, superior subtropical ornamental shrubs, and disease tolerant elm trees.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Development of superior varieties and valuable breeding stocks provides valuable new genetic resources for the U.S. “specialty crops” industry.

 

 

 

GOAL 2:  SUPPORT INCREASED ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES AND IMPROVED QUALITY OF LIFE IN RURAL AMERICA

 

The major thrusts of ARS’ mission are to conduct research that:  ensures high quality, safe food and other agricultural products; assesses the nutritional needs of Americans; sustains a competitive agricultural economy; and enhances the natural resource base and the environment.  In carrying out these research functions, ARS provides economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.  While ARS research has a large and very positive impact on rural America, the Agency has chosen to organize its research programs around the other four programmatic USDA/REE/ARS Strategic Plan goals.

 


Goal 3

GOAL 3:  ENHANCE PROTECTION AND SAFETY OF THE NATION’S AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SUPPLY

 

Analysis of Results:  This goal is related to food safety and the security of the U.S. agricultural production system (crop and livestock protection).  Under Goal 3, 17 Indicators (in Italics) are aligned under 8 Performance Measures.  As the National Programs evolve, the Agency will report more accomplishments achieved by collaborative research at multiple locations involving more than one scientific discipline.  Thus, we anticipate reporting fewer accomplishments, but accomplishments that are broader in scope that make greater contributions to American agriculture.  While it is not possible to report research accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in these Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2005.  Forty-one significant accomplishments are reported below.

 

OBJECTIVE 3.1:  Provide Science-Based Knowledge on the Safe Production, Storage, Processing, and Handling of Plant and Animal Products and on the Detection and Control of Toxin-Producing and/or Pathogenic Bacteria and Fungi Parasites, Mycotoxins, Chemical Residues, and Plant Toxins So As To Assist Regulatory Agencies and the Food Industry in Reducing the Incidence of Foodborne Illnesses.

 

Performance Measure 3.1.1:      Develop new on-farm preharvest systems, practices, and products to reduce pathogen and toxin contamination of animal- and plant-derived foods.

 

Indicators:

 

During 2005, ARS will

 

using new detection and quantitation methodologies, including genomic technologies, and through the study of epidemiology, ecology and host pathogen relationships, intervention strategies, and antibiotic resistance in food producing animals, develop practices, products, and information that will reduce preharvest pathogen and toxic residue contamination of animal-derived food products.  ARS will also ensure that these technologies can be utilized by regulatory agencies and/or producers to help assure safe food products.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Shiga toxin producing E. coli O157:H7 were isolated from various fair environments following human outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7.  Scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, collaborated with two State Departments of Agriculture and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the investigation of these human outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 at fairs and petting zoos in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Tampa, Orlando, and Plant City, Florida.  These scientists developed methodology to isolate E. coli O157:H7 from the various fair environments and thus helped determine the likely outbreak vehicle and sources.  In collaboration with State officials working at a contaminated fair site, these scientists determined that E. coli O157:H7 can survive for many months in agricultural soils and that environmental decontamination techniques against E. coli O157:H7 will probably not be 100 percent effective or may even worsen contamination.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This information developed by ARS was used for CDC recommendations to help keep petting zoo and fair sites safe for visitors, and particularly for very young children.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Engulfment of bacterial pathogens, such as Salmonella typhinurium DT104, by rumen protozoa in cattle, increases their virulence.  Easily available and effective substances are needed to kill the protozoa in order to increase both animal productivity and food safety.  Scientists in Ames, Iowa, developed an antiprotozoal screening assay to screen test compounds, particularly non-drug substances, for their ability to kill rumen protozoa.  These scientists found some natural plant extracts, i.e., yucca and rosemary, which effectively control protozoa in the rumen without harming the general fermentation. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Use of these plant extracts which kill protozoa could greatly reduce the incidence and shedding of Salmonella and other pathogens at critical time points in the production of both beef and dairy cattle.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Campylobacter contamination is a serious food safety issue and optimum production practices are needed to reduce the incidence in live poultry.  Scientists at Athens, Georgia, placed day-of-hatch chicks on wood shavings in high (approximately 80 percent) and low (approximately 30 percent) humidity controlled pens and challenged the chicks with C. jejuni (the most commonly found species of Campylobacter).  Significantly higher Campylobacter colonization rates were observed in chickens raised under the high humidity conditions.  Thus, the influence of relative humidity on transmission rates is an important factor influencing transmission of this poultry food safety pathogen.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This information demonstrating that high humidity enhances the transmission of Campylobacter jejuni could lead to practical applications in production practices to help reduce Campylobacter colonization in broilers.

 

using new detection and quantitation methodologies, including genomic technologies, and through the study of crop/fungal/toxin relationships, production practices and expert systems, breeding targets for resistant crops, biocontrol technologies, and chemical toxicity, develop practices, products, and information that will reduce preharvest fungal/toxin contamination of plant-derived food products.  ARS will also ensure that these technologies can be utilized by regulatory agencies and/or producers to help assure safe food products.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  New sources of genes that bring about aflatoxin resistance in corn are needed.  Insect damage and their associated ear mold toxins cause hundreds of millions of dollars in losses each year.  Thus, incorporation of new insect resistance genes into corn could reduce mycotoxins.  Scientists in Peoria, Illinois, found that plant derived genes that either killed insects or enhanced resistance to insects is in direct correlation to expression of the genes.  The corn plants that expressed both genes had significantly less damage by caterpillar and beetle pests.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Incorporation of these genes into corn through multigenic transgenic means could result in reduced levels of mycotoxins, thus increasing both the safety and the exportability of U.S. corn.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Genes encoding many different aspects of corn physiology must be identified and introduced for use in selective breeding of aflatoxin resistant corn.  Scientists in New Orleans, Louisiana, and their cooperators used proteomics, the study of proteins, to identify fungal resistance related and stress responsive proteins/genes in corn.  Genes encoding many of these resistance associated proteins (RAPs) have been cloned, and two have been further characterized.  Corn lines selected for superior agronomic traits, ear rot resistance, and aflatoxin resistance (in either temperate or tropical backgrounds) for 7 to 8 generations are now undergoing final testing for aflatoxin resistance.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This progress could lead to an official release in the next 2 to 5 years of these resistant lines which also will have superior agronomic performance.

 

Performance Measure 3.1.2:  Develop and transfer to Federal agencies and the private sector systems that rapidly and accurately detect, identify, and differentiate the most critical and economically important foodborne microbial pathogens.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop innovative methods and advanced technology systems that: rapidly and accurately detect, identify, and differentiate the most critical and economically important foodborne contaminants, such as bacterial, viral, and protozoan pathogens; drug and chemical residues; and pathophysiological and processing surface contamination.  ARS will also ensure that the technologies are transferred to the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); the Department of Homeland Security; and industry for implementation into Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) programs, and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) protocols for both large and small producers and processors.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  At the request of the FSIS, ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, evaluated the accuracy and reliability of temperature indicator devices used by consumers.  The thermometers selected were: digital probe, bimetal probe, forks/tongs, remote wireless, as well as disposable indicators that change color at specified temperatures.  None of the thermometers tested consistently reached the end point temperature within the manufacturer's recommended time and several models did not reach the end point temperature even after an extended time period.  At the manufacturer's recommended time, the remote wireless thermometers were the least accurate.  The accuracy of the other thermometers was dependent on the meat product and the cooking method.  Because the thermometers indicated that the temperature was lower than the actual temperature, consumers using these thermometers when cooking meat products would actually cook the product to higher temperatures ensuring food safety but reducing the quality of the product.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  FSIS is concerned that consumers cook meat products to safe end point temperatures before consumption.  As a result of this research, FSIS will revise their food safety information on consumer use of instant-read-thermometers to further reduce the potential for foodborne illnesses.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Efficient methods are needed by regulatory agencies to detect pesticide residues in foods to ensure their safety for the consumer.  However, a serious issue is the cost of maintaining the testing equipment to ensure it is in optimal condition for use.  Such costs are often prohibitive for routine testing laboratories.  Scientists at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, developed a different approach called automated direct sample introduction.  It reduces the need for frequent instrument maintenance by eliminating many contaminants before final analysis.  This step also improves the detection of the pesticides.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Regulatory agencies, such as FSIS, that implement this approach will benefit considerably through significant cost savings and ease of use, and by improved detection efficiency.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at various locations took the lead in developing new and better technologies that have regulatory, industry, and research use.  A variety of new, improved and innovative methods were developed to detect, differentiate, type, and quantify numerous foodborne pathogens.  For example: scientists at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, developed a portable fiber optic biosensor that can detect very low levels of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in ground beef within five hours.  Higher levels of contamination can be detected in even less time.  The biosensor and battery pack can be carried in a briefcase, allowing assays to be performed at the farm, processing plant, distribution center, and retail store.  ARS scientists at Dover, Delaware, developed a real-time molecular method to quickly and easily detect a broad spectrum of Noroviruses (NV), and hepatitis A and E viruses in the stools of infected individuals.  This method involves the detection of viral genes through the polymerase chain reaction.  The assay allows over 90 percent of the strains of NVs circulating in the world today to be detected within three hours.  ARS scientists at Albany, California, characterized over 300 Campylobacter strains through the identification of very specific proteins which are particular to certain species and sub-species.  The technology which can be used for any pathogen of concern, including E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, provides a fast, high throughput method for identifying and differentiating specific species and strains.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Technologies were transferred to the end users, mainly FSIS, FDA, CDC, and DHS who work with ARS to refine them for (automated) day-to-day use.  Methods for virus detection will find extended use since they are a problem in water and foods such as shellfish, and are commonly associated with outbreaks on cruise ships and Navy vessels, and among troops particularly in Operation Desert Storm.

 

determine the microbial ecology and transmission of human pathogens during animal, plant, and seafood (shellfish) processing, and identify the critical control points to reduce contamination. Develop innovative postharvest intervention strategies for improving the microbial and chemical safety of foods while reducing the impact on quality and consumer acceptance. ARS will also ensure that these technologies can be implemented into HACCP and GMP protocols and have efficacy for approval by FSIS and FDA.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Shell eggs are required to be cleaned/washed before packaging and marketing.  The current Federal guideline in the U.S. requires that the wash water be at least 90º F or 20º F warmer than the warmest egg entering the processing facility.  In the hot summer months using wash water at high temperatures can cause the egg to become too hot leading to conditions that allow bacteria in and on the eggs to grow.  ARS scientists at Athens, Georgia, in collaboration with scientists at Auburn University, examined the effects of using cool water washing of shell eggs on the microbial and physical quality of the final product. The research indicated to the regulatory agencies and industry that shell eggs can be commercially processed using cooler water without any reduction in their safety.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The research indicated that washing with cooler water enhanced the product quality. It also was more cost effective for the typical shell egg washing company to maintain the cooler wash water temperature during processing.  A commercial transfer study was conducted in two separate shell egg processing facilities showing the efficacy of the processing change.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, developed new washing procedures and sanitizer treatments for whole and fresh cut cantaloupe.  Hot water surface pasteurization with water at 170º F for three minutes using commercial scale equipment resulted in reductions of E. coli and Salmonella populations in excess of 99.999 percent. Experimental and simulation data on thermal penetration profiles indicated that the internal temperature of melons treated with hot water did not increase rapidly compared to the rind temperature.  Edible flesh 10 millimeters from the surface of the rind remained cool regardless of the process temperature.  The data clearly demonstrate the efficacy and utility of this treatment for reducing the risk of foodborne illness from consumption, while maintaining sensory qualities and extending the shelf life of fresh-cut cantaloupes.  Cut melon pieces could also be directly treated with nisin plus sodium lactate or sodium lactate plus potassium sorbate to effectively reduce pathogen populations without adverse effects on quality attributes.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Outbreaks of foodborne illness due to consumption of fresh and fresh-cut produce, especially cantaloupe, contaminated with bacterial pathogens continues to be a concern to regulatory agencies and industry.  This research will directly assist the FDA in developing good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices, and developing a Guide to Minimize Microbial Safety Hazards for Fruit and Vegetables for industry. 

 

undertake genomic and proteomic analyses of pathogens affecting food safety.  ARS will also develop bioinformatic databases and tools, and predictive user-friendly models to understand pathogen behavior and acquisition of virulence characteristics under various stress conditions.  In addition, the Agency will determine the key risk factors of human pathogens in foods, and evaluate systems interventions for their impact, which will allow regulatory/action agencies to make critical food safety decisions that impact public health and food security.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Genetic sequencing and annotation of microbial genomes yields fundamental information about the organism and is critical for definitive knowledge about pathogens.  ARS scientists from Albany, California, in collaboration with The Institute for Genomics Research (TIGR), sequenced the genomes of four different species of foodborne Campylobacter.  The sequence data revealed new information regarding the population structure, virulence factors, lateral transfer of DNA, gene regulation, and metabolism of Campylobacter species.  The Albany scientists subsequently developed a new genotyping system used to genotype about 500 strains of Campylobacter isolated from a variety of sources including humans, animals, and food.  A strong association between animal host and sequence type was identified that indicated potential biological fitness differences among Campylobacter strains.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The availability of new genetic information increases our understanding of why a bacterium can make you sick (pathogenicity and virulence), and how it can survive and grow in foods even under stressed conditions.  The information facilitates the development of better and more rapid detection technologies so that the human illnesses can be attributed to a particular food source.  Such research also increases our understanding of the epidemiology of outbreaks of foodborne illness, and furthers the development of data for risk assessment, which is used by FSIS, FDA, and other regulatory agencies worldwide to reduce foodborne diseases.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, produced robust models that now enable risk assessors and food safety managers to predict the activity of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat delicatessen salads at different storage temperatures and product formulations, and in commercially prepared cheeses.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Predicting L. monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods is a high priority for FDA/FSIS. The models developed by ARS directly assist Federal regulatory agencies in developing risk assessment information for consumers, and food companies in designing salad formulations that present lower health risks.  In addition, ARS’ research also helps U.S. food companies meet new Federal regulations.

 

OBJECTIVE 3.2:  Develop and Deliver Science-Based Information and Technologies To Reduce the Number and Severity of Agricultural Pest, Insect, Weed, and Disease Outbreaks.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.1:  Provide scientific information to protect animals from pests, infectious diseases, and other disease-causing entities that affect animal and human health.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

further determine partial and full genomic sequences of important animal pathogens (target four priority diseases) to better understand the evolution of new variants, determinants of virulence, host range specificity, and factors that enable evasion from host defense mechanisms.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, have successfully sequenced the full genome of the RB51 vaccine strain of Brucella abortus.  This sequence is currently being compared to its parent strain and other B. abortus strains to identify genetic differences which may influence protection, immunologic responses, and virulence.  Preliminary work has identified genetic differences when RB51 is compared to its parent strain or a sequenced field strain.  It is anticipated that this sequence will be valuable for identifying genes that mediate protection and assisting in development of new vaccines for wildlife or domestic livestock that induce greater protection.

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Comparative microbial genomics, studies to identify genetic variations associated with differences in phenotypic or biological traits, is a powerful way to identify genes and gene products that may be important in protection and may be useful in developing improved vaccines and diagnostic tests.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Bovine babesiosis is a tick borne, hemoparasitic protozoal disease.  The United States is currently free of the disease, but there is a significant threat of re-introduction into the United States from Mexico.  An effective vaccine would provide an important tool to alleviate this threat.  Babesial parasites have a complex life cycle, including sexual stages in tick vectors and asexual reproduction during the erythrocytic stage in the mammalian host.  Ideally, an effective anti-babesial vaccine will include parasite antigens of known function that will induce immune responses that prevent disease in the mammalian host and block transmission from tick vectors.  ARS scientists in Pullman, Washington, have successfully constructed 45,000 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) covering 35 to 60 percent of the genes (and 13,000 coding regions) of Babesia bigemina and Babesia bovis.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The lack of a vaccine for control of babesiosis leaves U.S. cattle vulnerable to this disease if it was re-introduced from Mexico.  Various estimates of the cost associated with a re-introduction have been made; a conservative estimate would be $500 million per year.  Babesia vaccine development requires the characterization of the protective immune mechanisms, the identification of protective antigens from the parasites, and the development of effective delivery systems.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Bordetella bronchiseptica is an important respiratory pathogen of pigs associated with the porcine respiratory disease complex.  When pathogenic bacteria encounter their host, they react by turning on specific genes which enable them to establish an infection and cause disease.  ARS scientists at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, successfully created a microarray of B. bronchiseptica genes.  Using the B. bronchiseptica genome sequence, a DNA microarray was designed on which each gene of the bacteria was represented.  As an initial experiment, this microarray was used to monitor which genes of B. bronchiseptica were expressed when the bacteria were grown at 37 degrees C and 23 degrees C, representing body temperature and room temperature, respectively.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Until recently, monitoring what genes are turned on or off in response to infection has been difficult.  With the advent of microarray technology and whole genome sequencing, ARS has been able to identify proteins that are produced during infection that are potential vaccine candidates.

 

further investigate the pathogenesis of important animal pathogens (target two priority diseases) to better understand tissue tropism, disease transmission, virulence and the identification of phenotypic markers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Intensive genetic selection for fast growing high yield birds has led to tremendous improvements in production efficiency.  However, selection pressure for rapid growth has negatively affected the normal development of the musculoskeletal system.  ARS scientists have been investigating the molecular mechanisms of tibial dyschondroplasia (TD), a common poultry skeletal problem, using a disease model that employs thiram (a fungicide) to disrupt chondrocyte growth and differentiation with the goal of finding whether this important skeletal problem can be prevented using nutritional means.  ARS scientists examined the changes in gene expression and the cellular and metabolic alterations in the growth plate during early periods of the onset of TD.  These studies revealed that TD was not induced by an aberrant pattern of gene expression in the growth plate, but was due to the death of endothelial cells that cause capillary vessel degeneration that leads to subsequent chondrocyte death. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These studies provide insight into the pathogenesis of TD.  They will be useful in identifying the nutritional factors that may help prevent blood vessel death and TD. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists have determined critical innate immune markers required for effective immune responses against porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS).  Ongoing genetic studies with University Nebraska-Lincoln scientists indicate that there may be correlations between levels of certain innate cytokines and resistance to PRRS associated pathologies.  ARS scientists have demonstrated that PRRS virus infection does not result in the induction of type I interferons in MARC 145 cells as would be expected with most ribonucleic acid viruses. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These results are significant because both IFNA and IFNB (type I interferons) are members of the innate immune system, which is typically viewed as the first responder of the immune system.  Activation of this response signals other branches of the immune system to become activated and mount a protective immune response.  The fact that PRRS virus is capable of suppressing the activation of this response may explain the general delayed immune response to PRRS virus infection.  Elucidation of the mechanism of PRRS virus suppression of the type I interferon response may provide targets for novel vaccination approaches to control this important disease.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) causes a disease in horses, cattle, swine, and occasionally sheep and goats that resembles foot-and-mouth disease.  Although generally self-limiting, it can have severe economic consequences by reducing production through recrudescence and secondary bacterial infection. Transmitted by a number of biting flies, the common biting midge of the Northern Plains is one of the important vectors in the United States.  ARS explored the physiology of the transmission of VSV by this biting midge vector, Culicoides sonorensis, by creating cDNA libraries of the insect’s midgut cells and salivary glands during the process of infection.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The creation of cDNA libraries provides a tool for determining which biting midge genes are involved in the infection process of the fly.  Beyond biological interest, an understanding of the physiological mechanisms of vector infection will provide additional targets for suppression of VSV transmission.  Potential mechanisms to disrupt transmission include genetic alteration of the biting midges to make them non-susceptible to VSV, creation of transmission blocking vaccines (administered to livestock) that disrupt the vector infection process, or the use of antiviral preparation administered to flies.

 

further investigate the epidemiology of important animal diseases (target two priority diseases) to better understand their ecology and life cycle and provide effective disease surveillance to facilitate the development of control strategies and prevent disease transmission.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists have discovered an avian rotavirus in specimens from turkeys with poult enteritis and broiler chickens with runting-stunting syndrome.  Rotaviruses are well known enteric pathogens that have been minimally characterized in poultry.  Initial pathogenesis studies were performed with clinical specimens containing rotavirus.  Identification of the viral agents associated with poult enteritis and the new similar condition in chickens, broiler runting-stunting syndrome, is critical to controlling the disease. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Poult enteritis mortality syndrome (PEMS) is a highly infectious disease of young turkeys. PEMS was first reported in North Carolina in 1991.  Since then, PEMS and similar disease conditions have been reported in most regions where turkeys are commercially produced and are costing the poultry industry millions of dollars annually.  The major impact of PEMS is due to mortality and decreased production as turkeys are stunted and grow poorly when affected by the disease.  Currently the agent or agents that cause PEMS are unknown. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  New methods were developed and validated by ARS scientists for geographically extensive and site intensive surveys and inventories of parasites in ungulate hosts based on the application of molecular sequence data.  Protostrongyle nematodes include pathogenic parasites that reside in the pulmonary system, skeletal musculature, or the central nervous system of their ruminant hosts.  Identification based on either adults in tissue and tissue spaces, or larval parasites in feces has remained problematic, and has hampered a detailed understanding of host distribution and geographic range.  Such information is critical in defining the potential for disease, and the degree to which parasites may be shared among a number of different ungulates.  A combination of comparative morphology and molecular analyses were applied to define the host and geographic range for Parelaphostrongylus odocoilei in North America.  Molecular identification of larvae indicates that the protostrongylid parasite occupies a broader geographic range in western North America than previously reported.  A total of 2,124 fecal samples from 29 locations from thinhorn sheep, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, woodland caribou, mule deer, and black-tailed deer were tested. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research provided significant molecular epidemiological data and represents the first study to combine extensive fecal surveys, comparative morphology, and molecular diagnostic techniques to comprehensively describe the host associations and geographic distribution of a parasitic helminth.  The development of such “epidemiological probes” will have significant applications in veterinary and conservation medicine.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) infects animals worldwide, with constant transmission in the tropics and seasonal, sometimes epizootic, transmission in temperate regions.  A variety of biting flies (black flies, sand flies, biting midges) are known to transmit the virus.  ARS has shown that in addition to the biting midge, Culicoides sonorensis, the sand fly, Lutzomyia apache, and grasshoppers (through ingestion by livestock) are important in the transmission of VSV.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The addition of Lutzomyia apache to the list of vectors is of interest because this sand fly is not generally targeted for vector control and also because it could become a vector of invasive pathogens like Rift Valley Fever virus.  The discovery that it is a vector of VSV should lead to additional studies of its basic bionomics so that entomologists can develop the means for its management. Infection with VSV from the ingestion of grasshoppers is a surprising finding.  It remains to be discovered whether or not this occurs over a broad enough area that it justifies control.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  West Nile virus (WNV) was suddenly introduced into the New York City area in 1999 and has since spread throughout the United States and most of the Western Hemisphere.  The virus is harbored in the wild bird population and is transmitted to horses and people by a number of different mosquitoes.  Most infected horses have to be euthanized and about 20 percent of infected people have the disease with mild to fatal complications.  Older and immunocompromised people are particularly at risk of neuroinvasive disease that can cause long term disability or death.  In 2005, there were 2,819 cases and 105 deaths, making a total of 19,525 cases and 771 deaths since 1999.  In 2002 alone, there were 14,571 equine cases.  ARS discovered that WNV transmission in Wyoming is associated with the production of methane from coal fields, a process that creates abundant larval habitats for the major vector species, Culex tarsalis.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  WNV transmission in Wyoming has been surprising intense, considering its high elevation and northern location.  Poorly drained prairie and flood plains of seasonal rivers create abundant sites for mosquitoes in the summer, so that identification of the vector of WNV in the State was not obvious.  ARS research definitely implicates Culex tarsalis as the major vector.  A major source for this species was found to be the water accumulated in an industrial process to extract methane from coal fields.  This knowledge will enable entomologists the means to design integrated control programs to suppress the populations of Culex tarsalis thereby reducing the risk of WNV transmission.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.2:    Identify, develop, and release to the U.S. agricultural community genetic markers, genetic lines, breeds, or germplasm that result in food animals with improved (either through traditional breeding or biotechnology) pest- and disease-resistance traits.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will continue to identify genetic markers and genes (target one marker, gene, or gene cluster) from food animals that can be used to identify animals with disease resistant traits.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in Pullman, Washington, in collaboration with Colorado State University and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, have described the distribution of the chronic wasting disease (CWD) prion protein in elk and the genotypes in elk susceptible to disease.  Their research also demonstrated the first confirmed case of CWD in an elk of the relatively rare genotype 132LL, thereby ruling out this genotype as conferring resistance to disease under field conditions.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Current control measures for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in livestock depend on identification of the most appropriate tissue for diagnostic testing and identification of candidate resistant genotypes.  The genetic analysis performed by ARS scientists provides the scientific basis for selecting the brain as the most reliable indicator of disease in elk, in contrast to the tests for deer, which rely on lymphoid tissue. 

 

Performance Measure 3.2.3:    Develop and transfer tools to the agricultural community, commercial partners, and Federal agencies to control or eradicate domestic and exotic diseases that affect animal and human health.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will continue to discover and develop novel technologies (target two high priority diseases) to detect and control diseases of food animal pests that impact animal and human health, animal production, and trade.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Research into live Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) vaccine administration to layer chickens has shown that the pressure (psi) utilized for spray administration is extremely important in impacting subsequent seroconversion (positive blood tests).  A survey of the layer chicken industry showed that pressure settings used for the administration of live MG vaccine varied from 35-70 psi.  Research conducted by ARS scientists using the CPJ Vaccinator to determine the optimum pressure setting to dispense live MG vaccine demonstrated dramatic increases in MG colony counts resulting from using the lower (40 psi) setting as compared to the higher 60 psi setting. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This information is important as it explains one factor (pressure setting of the vaccinator) that can impact the administration of live MG vaccines that may, in turn, result in poor vaccination results.  As a result of poor vaccine test results, re-vaccination must take place, which entails costs of additional vaccine (approximately $1,500 for a 75,000 bird house) and labor. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists, in collaboration with scientists at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and St. Jude's Children's Hospital, successfully used reverse genetics to develop a novel cross-protective vaccine for swine flu.  Preliminary studies indicate this vaccine may have a broader level of cross protection when compared to currently available swine influenza virus (SIV) vaccines that are inactivated or killed.  These studies have also demonstrated a virulence mechanism that will impact the design of future commercially available SIV vaccines. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Swine influenza is a re-emerging disease around the world as a result of several genetic changes in the viral populations being isolated from swine.  This has resulted in a reduced efficacy of current commercially available vaccines.  The availability of a highly effective vaccine for control and eradication may be the first line of defense against emerging swine flu outbreaks.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, have discovered a conserved protein named SZ-1 that is highly conserved in Eimeria tenella and two other important protozoans:  Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum. The full length gene from T. gondii was characterized, expressed in a bacterial system, and the cloned protein was used to make antibodies to T. gondii SZ1.  These antibodies are providing important functional genomics research tools that can be used to determine the function of the SZ1 protein, and determine whether this protein might confer cross-protective immunity across Eimeria strains.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Coccidiosis is a ubiquitous intestinal protozoan infection of poultry that seriously impairs the growth and feed utilization of infected birds.  This enteric disease is caused by several distinct apicomplexan species of obligate intracellular parasites of the genus Eimeria.  The use of anti-coccidial drugs is the primary control method, but the worldwide emergence of drug-resistant coccidia strains are limiting the effectiveness of existing therapeutics.  This problem is compounded by our lack of understanding of the mechanism(s) that confer(s) drug resistance and the host-parasite and environmental factors that influence coccidiosis susceptibility.  The discovery of highly effective vaccines may provide an important alternative to drug therapy.  Current vaccines, which are comprised of one or more live coccidian species do not provide cross-protection against all seven species of Eimeria.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.4:    Develop and release to potential users varieties and/or germplasm of agriculturally important plants that are new or provide significantly improved (either through traditional breeding or biotechnology) characteristics enhancing pest or disease resistance.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will continue to identify and characterize genes of insect resistance in crop plants, closely related non-crop species, and other species, to enhance opportunities for developing host plant resistance, and to incorporate such genes into commercially acceptable varieties.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at St. Paul, Minnesota; Aberdeen, Idaho; and other ARS locations have assessed the vulnerability of U.S. wheat lines to a new virulent wheat stem rust mutant that has spread across East Africa.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The results of greenhouse evaluations conducted under controlled conditions at St. Paul, Minnesota, indicated that many hard red spring wheat and soft red winter wheat lines from the United States are susceptible to the African race.  The results of these evaluations are being distributed to all U.S. wheat breeders so they can promptly begin to incorporate resistance into their breeding lines, thus reducing the vulnerability to this potentially threatening stem rust mutant.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in Frederick, Maryland, and Urbana, Illinois, evaluated nearly 20,000 soybean accessions from the USDA soybean germplasm collection for resistance to soybean rust.  Approximately 300 to 400 soybean lines showed some resistance and will be tested further with individual rust isolates. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Identifying sources of resistance is a key step in the development of rust-resistant commercial soybean cultivars that can be planted by growers thereby reducing potential losses due to rust.

 

Performance Measure 3.2.5:  Provide fundamental and applied scientific information and technology to protect agriculturally important plants from pests and diseases.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

continue to develop fundamental knowledge about insect biology and ecology that provides the foundation for strategies to exclude, detect, and mitigate pest infestations.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Most U.S. pests have been introduced from other parts of the world and cause billions of dollars in damage annually.  Scientists in Beltsville, Maryland, provided 11,145 insect identifications (5,083 of urgent priority) to a broad array of organizations.  In addition, a new species of fruit fly was described from Columbia.  Response to scale pests will now be facilitated by development of an online expert system, which has tools for accommodating a large amount of morphological variation in specimens.  In addition, a comprehensive analysis was completed that describes and illustrates all members of the genus Diuraphis, including the destructive Russian wheat aphid. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The vast majority of identifications are provided to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Plant Protection and Quarantine division.  APHIS reports that nine species identified by ARS scientists were new immigrants to the United States.  The new identification of the fruit fly from Columbia will facilitate trade in mangos and other fruit between Columbia and the United States. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The red flour beetle is the first agronomic pest species to be sequenced.  It represents the joint efforts of the ARS Grain Marketing and Production Center, Biological Research Unit, Manhattan, Kansas; Kansas State University; and the Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center.  The genome sequence scaffolds were merged with genetic and physical maps, resulting in map position assignment for 75 percent of the genome.  Planning and coordination of the genome analysis and annotation efforts were initiated at the International Tribolium Genomics Meeting in Gottingen, Germany, in August 2005. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The analysis of this sequence will have far reaching impacts on understanding physiological adaptations of pest and beneficial beetle species, and the identification of novel targets for pest control exploitation.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Radio transmitters have been used to track everything from antelope to zebra, but not insects.  Scientists from the ARS Northern Plains Area, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and University of Toronto-Mississauga, placed miniature radio transmitters on Mormon Crickets to study their behavior and movement.  Mormon Crickets are notorious for their huge and devastating swarms (or bands), and their ability to migrate hundreds of miles in the Western States.  Why and how these swarms are formed and maintained has been a mystery until now.  The researchers demonstrated that Mormon crickets form migratory swarms to avoid being eaten by their predators.  Once the swarms are formed, the movement of individual crickets within these groups is induced simply by contact with other crickets, thereby providing a mechanism to explain the constant long-term movement of these insect groups across the landscape.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research helps explain why insects around the world, such as the infamous desert locust in Africa, form migratory bands and provides important information on the movement of individuals within these groups.  This knowledge will form the basis for predictive movement models that will aid in managing Mormon crickets and desert locusts.

 

continue to develop fundamental knowledge about weed biology, ecology, and risk analysis that provides the foundation for strategies to exclude, detect, and mitigate weed infestations.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Intercrossing between rice and ecotypes of weedy red rice, a dominant weed in the Southern United States, may reduce yield when herbicide-resistant rice systems are used.  DNA/PCR microsatellite fingerprinting analyses were conducted to quantify rates of outcrossing between rice x red rice crosses (including imidasolinone-resistant rice cultivars), foreign rice cultivars, and red-seeded rice relatives from throughout the world at the ARS’ Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center, Stuttgart, Arkansas.  A method was developed enabling distinguishing crosses using DNA marker analysis. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These analyses may allow the rice industry to identify (or rule out) the parental lines that are responsible for the development of an unwanted population of herbicide-resistant rice x red rice hybrids, a key management consideration in herbicide-resistant rice systems.

 

continue to develop fundamental knowledge about plant disease biology and ecology that provides the foundation for strategies to exclude, detect, and mitigate pest infestations.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Scientists at Corvallis, Oregon, developed methods for trapping and identification of aerial borne spores of hop and grape powdery mildew pathogens that are suitable for PCR analysis.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These methods allow for highly accurate assessments of when an epidemic begins in a specific field and the timing of fungicide applications.  More accurate determinations of the environmental conditions favorable for spore movement can be determined leading to more accurate assessments of disease outbreaks.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS has developed rapid, reliable pathogen detection and identification procedures for accurate and timely disease diagnosis for soybean rust and other high profile pathogens on the USDA Select Agent List.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS has provided this assay to diagnosticians across the United States and Canada as part of a national surveillance system.  The detection assay was used by regulatory officials to accurately determine and identify a new outbreak of soybean rust in the Southern United States. 

 

Performance Measure 3.2.6:    Provide needed scientific information and technology to producers of agriculturally important plants in support of exclusion, detection, and early eradication; control and monitoring of invasive insects, weeds and pathogens; and restoration of affected areas.  Conduct biologically-based integrated and areawide management of key invasive species.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

continue to develop and demonstrate technologies for excluding, detecting, and mitigating native and invasive insect pests, including integrated pest management (IPM) and areawide approaches, and deliver IPM components and systems to ARS customers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Russian wheat aphid is a serious pest of wheat and barley in the Western States.  Resistant wheat varieties served as the cornerstone for managing Russian wheat aphid until 2003, when a biotype (AKA strain) of the aphid appeared that was able to feed on, injure, and kill the resistant wheat.  The aphid-resistance in these wheat varieties was based on the same wheat gene.  In 2005, ARS scientists at the Wheat, Peanut and Other Field Crops Research Unit in Stillwater, Oklahoma, discovered three new Russian wheat aphid biotypes differing in their ability to injure wheat with unique resistance genes.  One of the new biotypes is especially troublesome because it damages all commercially available sources of plant resistance.  While the new biotypes still occur in low numbers in the field, they may become numerous in the near future.  This information was quickly disseminated to wheat breeding programs in the United States. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Due to these population monitoring activities by the ARS, scientists in the United States have a head start in finding and developing new sources of Russian wheat aphid resistance before the new biotypes become abundant.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The tarnished plant bug is a serious pest of cotton that is becoming more resistant to insecticides, requiring growers to use higher and higher levels of chemicals to achieve the same level of control.  Within a few years, insecticides may no longer be effective against this pest.  The tarnished plant bug is being thwarted thanks to a program that includes use of alternative host destruction, host-plant resistance, fungal pathogens, and remote sensing technology by ARS scientists based in Stoneville, Mississippi, in cooperation with cotton growers and university scientists in Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Arkansas.  Grower adoption of the technology is 86 percent in the Mississippi Delta and 33 percent in Arkansas, a State where the technology was demonstrated for the first time in 2004.  Adoption of the technology is approximately 33 percent in Louisiana and Tennessee.  Across the four states, the technology is applied to approximately 1.47 million acres of cotton. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  A cost/benefit analysis of the program on over 21,000 acres demonstrated benefits of $10.28 for every $1 applied to using the technology.  Economists have determined the technology produced a $5.48 savings per acre in reduced insecticide costs.  The savings in reduced insecticide costs for the technology was $8.1 million.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Accurate and inexpensive methods are needed for monitoring wheat fields to determine the presence of Russian wheat aphid or greenbug infestations.  Wheat farmers and scientist cannot always easily detect aphid infestations or do not have the time to closely monitor their fields.  ARS scientists from the Wheat, Peanut and Other Field Crops Research Unit, Stillwater, Oklahoma, in collaboration with the cooperators at the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, developed remote sensing technology for identifying greenbug and Russian wheat aphid-infested fields.  Images obtained from aircraft enable the detection of Russian wheat aphid and greenbug infestations.  Fields with high aphid infestations can be differentiated from fields with low infestations by unique "spatial signatures".  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME: Ultimately, this technology could be applied for broad scale monitoring of wheat fields for greenbug and Russian wheat aphid infestations using existing satellites in the earth’s orbit.

 

continue to develop and demonstrate technologies, including risk analysis, for excluding, detecting, and mitigating native and invasive weed pests, including IPM and areawide approaches, and deliver IPM components and systems to ARS customers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In-crop herbicidal options, especially herbicides that can be applied to control a broad-spectrum of grass and broadleaf weeds at the start of a growing season when weeds have their greatest impact on sugar yields, are limited.  Scientists at the Sugarcane Research Unit in New Orleans, Louisiana, evaluated herbicides alone and in mixtures for control of Bermuda grass, itchgrass, morning glory, and seedling johnsongrass when applied as single and sequential applications.  They found that morning glory in particular could be controlled under sugarcane crop canopy. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Results of this research were used to support manufacturer petitions to the Environmental Protection Agency for two herbicides, which were received in time for the 2004 growing season.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Australian melaleuca tree (Melaleuca quinquenervia) is an extremely aggressive invasive plant that alters the drainage of South Florida, and affects natural areas, outcompeting valuable native species.  Restricting the invasiveness of melaleuca requires reducing its ability to produce massive amounts of seeds.  ARS scientists at the Invasive Plant Research Laboratory, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in collaboration with Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, South Florida Water Management District personnel, and other partners, released two biological control agents:  a tip-feeding weevil (Oxyops vitiosa; 1997) and a sap-sucking psyllid bug (Boreioglycaspis melaleucae, 2002). 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Both species are contributing to the successful biological control of melaleuca.  In particular, the psyllid has spread throughout the infestation of melaleuca, and is significantly affecting growth and survival of the weed.  In fact, melaleuca is almost gone from public lands.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Invasive saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) shrubs from Eurasia infest many Western U.S. waterways where they cause significant economic and environmental losses.  Detailed studies on foreign exploration and host specificity testing for natural enemies of saltcedar were conducted by ARS scientists at the European Biological Control Laboratory, Montpellier, France; the Western Regional Research Center, Albany, California; the Grassland Protection Research Unit, Temple, Texas; and the Crop Bioprotection Research Unit, Peoria, Illinois.  The first biological control agent for saltcedar, the beetle Diorhabda elongata, was released in 1999 at 10 sites in six States.  The beetle continues to cause widespread defoliation and death of saltcedar.  A pheromone trap was developed this year that enables detection of the leading edge of the spread of the beetle.  Additional populations of the beetle are being sought in their native range that are better adapted to areas where the beetle is not performing as well due to a climatic mismatch.  Impacts of the beetle continued on saltcedar and on native plant communities (cottonwoods and willows). 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research is important as it interfaces with on-going investigations of biologically based saltcedar control, provides revegetation strategies for land managers that are interested in removing and replacing saltcedar, and assists in evaluation of the impact of the program on an endangered bird.

 

continue to develop and demonstrate technologies for excluding, detecting, and mitigating emerging and re-emerging plant disease pests, including IPM and areawide approaches, and deliver IPM components and systems to ARS customers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Scientists from the Molecular and Plant Pathology Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland, identified candidate biomarkers that can distinguish strains and species of plant pathogenic phytoplasmas and spiroplasmas.  The biomarkers are potentially significant for survival of the pathogens in their hosts and in disease development. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This accomplishment provides new knowledge important for understanding the mechanisms involved in pathogenicity and transmission of these pathogens by insect vectors.


Goal 4

GOAL 4:  IMPROVE THE NATION’S NUTRITION AND HEALTH

 

Analysis of Results:  This goal is the focus of ARS’ research related to human nutrition and health.  Under Goal 4, 6 Indicators (in Italics) are aligned under 3 Performance Measures.  As the National Programs evolve, the Agency will report more accomplishments achieved by collaborative research at multiple locations involving more than one scientific discipline.  Thus, we anticipate reporting fewer accomplishments, but accomplishments that are broader in scope that make greater contributions to American agriculture.  While it is not possible to report research accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in these Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2005.  Seventeen significant accomplishments are reported below.

 

OBJECTIVE 4.1:  Promote Healthier Individual Food Choices and Lifestyles and Prevent Obesity; Improve Human Health by Better Understanding the Nutrient Requirements of Individuals and the Nutritional Value of Foods; Determine Food Consumption Patterns of Americans.

 

Performance Measure 4.1.1:  Scientifically assess the efficacy of enhancements to the nutritional value of our food supply and identify, conduct, and support intramural and extramural research to develop, test, and evaluate effective clinical and community dietary intervention strategies and programs for modifying diet, eating behavior, and food choices to improve the nutritional status of targeted populations.  A special emphasis is to prevent obesity and promote healthy dietary behaviors.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

identify dietary and lifestyle intervention strategies to prevent obesity and promote healthy food choices and eating behaviors.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS discovered that common mutations of a gene called “perilipin” modulate body weight in humans -- and more so in women.  This genetic predisposition to obesity has been demonstrated in white Americans randomly selected from the general population as well as in Indians and Malays residing in Singapore.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Identifying people with a predisposition to obesity will help in tailoring appropriate strategies for obesity prevention.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS found that low fruit and vegetable consumption and high sweetened beverage intake are independently associated with the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in young adults who participated in the Bogalusa Heart Study.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by abdominal obesity, hypertension and the inability to use insulin efficiently, is considered a precursor to type II diabetes that predisposes individuals to heart disease.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS found that short-term consumption of a diet containing whole grains in contrast to one with refined cereals and grains produced in women a blood lipoprotein profile associated with a lower risk for heart disease.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  If substantiated by a long-term feeding trial, this kind of diet, which is consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, could provide an important food-based strategy for reducing cardiovascular risk.

 

conduct research that enhances the nutritive value of the food supply.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS reported that consumption of barley rich in soluble fiber results in similar cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin-lowering effects in people as when oats are eaten.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The FDA approved an unqualified health claim for barley, that its consumption as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS found that cooking elevates absorption of some, but not all, of the red-purple pigments that function as antioxidants in specialty carrots and that the body is limited in its ability to absorb these healthful compounds.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These findings will help consumers and health professionals plan healthful diets to reduce the risk of chronic disease and avoid unneeded supplementation.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS demonstrated that inulin, a type of dietary fiber, enhances the absorption of iron from the intestine when fed to young pigs.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Inulin, already added to some brands of yogurt to increase absorption of calcium, may now be added to other food products fortified with iron, such as enriched bread or cereals, to enhance iron absorption.  Iron deficiency is the most prevalent nutritional problem world-wide, principally affecting children and women of child-bearing age.

 

Performance Measure 4.1.2:  Define functions, bioavailability, interactions, and human requirements (including effects such as genetic, health status, and environmental factors) for known, emerging, and new classes of nutrients.  Determine the abundance of known, emerging, and new classes of nutrients in the food supply and provide that information in databases.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

determine the functions, bioavailability, interactions, and requirements for known, emerging, and new classes of nutrients across the lifecycle.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS demonstrated that calcium and vitamin D supplementation, in frequently recommended amounts, lowers the risk of falls and resulting fractures for the elderly population.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Broad-based increases in consumption of vitamin D and calcium could help lower health care costs as well as improve the quality of life for older Americans.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS found that men and women with higher dietary and blood levels of vitamin K have fewer osteoarthritic joints and less abnormal calcification in their joints compared to people with lower dietary and blood levels. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Ensuring adequate vitamin K intake may potentially reduce this age related form of arthritis in older men and women.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS reported that rats fed marginally deficient levels of copper for a long time developed cardiovascular damage similar to that seen in animals fed severely deficient diets for a short period.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Not meeting dietary recommendations for copper by relatively small amounts for long periods of time may be more harmful than previously believed.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS showed that a higher intake of total fat appears to increase cataract risk but more frequent consumption of long chain omega-3 fatty acids and fish can reduce the risk.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Dietary prevention of commonly occurring health concerns is a cost effective and essential way of reducing health care costs in the United States.

 

develop new methods, conduct food composition analyses, and compile databases for known, emerging, and new classes of nutrients across the lifecycle.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS released National Nutrient Databank for Standard Reference, Release 18.    Information on up to 136 nutrients in over 7,100 food items is included.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This is the “gold standard” of nutrient composition databases for foods consumed in the United States.  It is widely used by USDA’s Research, Education and Economics, and Food and Nutrition Service agencies for research, evaluating food assistance programs, and policy formulation.  It is also used and by many other Federal agencies, such as for FDA’s food labeling and EPA’s pesticide monitoring programs.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENT:  ARS released the “What’s in the Foods You Eat Search Tool” on the ARS World Wide Web site.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  In contrast to other nutrient databases, this one contains nutritional information for foods most frequently eaten by Americans, as reported in the “What We Eat in America NHANES” survey.  Such information aids the consumer in making healthful food choices.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS developed a method for determining of the vitamin nicotinic acid and nicotinamide (the form used to fortify food) in wheat flour and cereal products.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Academia, government, and the food industry will use this new methodology for measuring the niacin content of foods and dietary supplements.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The USDA Beef Calculator was released. This software program enables users to select among multiple types of ground beef and cooking methods for a report on nutrients per serving of ground beef.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This calculator, while useful to consumers, also provides the beef industry with a means to calculate ground beef nutrient values, a requirement of the proposed Food Safety and Inspection Service labeling regulation on single-ingredient meat products.

 

Performance Measure 4.1.3:  Determine food consumption patterns of Americans, including those of different ages, ethnicity, regions, and income levels.  Provide sound scientific analyses of the U.S. food consumption information to enhance the effectiveness and management of national and community food and nutrition programs.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

survey and analyze national food consumption patterns of Americans. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS released on the Web, nutrient intakes of the U.S. population from the “What We Eat in America, NHANES 2001-2002” dietary survey.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This information, from the only nationally representative dietary survey, is widely used by government, academia, and private industry to monitor American food consumption trends and dietary nutritional adequacy.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS published on the Web, tables of Food Pyramid serving intakes in the United States as well as a search tool for this analysis.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Information on the adherence by Americans to the dietary recommendations set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides crucial information to USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and is essential for the development of sound nutrition education and food assistance programs by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. 

 

develop and modify dietary assessment and nutritional status methods.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS showed that a correction method based on measured energy expenditure and body weight can reduce measurement errors inherent in food frequency questionnaires, the dietary assessment method of choice for large scale nutrition studies.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Reducing the error associated with this method provides higher quality epidemiological research on the relationship of diet to health.  


Goal 5

GOAL 5:  PROTECT AND ENHANCE THE NATION’S NATURAL RESOURCE BASE AND ENVIRONMENT

 

Analysis of Results:  This goal focuses on a wide range of environmental issues related to agriculture.  Under Goal 5, 14 Indicators (in Italics) are aligned under 7 Performance Measures.  As the National Programs evolve, the Agency will report more accomplishments achieved by collaborative research at multiple locations involving more than one scientific discipline.  Thus, we anticipate reporting fewer accomplishments, but accomplishments that are broader in scope that make greater contributions to American agriculture.  While it is not possible to report research accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in these Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2005.  Thirty-one significant accomplishments are reported below.

 

OBJECTIVE 5.1:  Provide Science-Based Knowledge and Education To Improve the Management of Forest, Rangelands, and Pastures.

 

Performance Measure 5.1.1:  Develop ecologically-based information, technologies, germplasm, and management strategies that sustain agricultural production while conserving and enhancing the diverse natural resources found on rangelands and pasture lands.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

provide increased understanding of genetic resources, genomics, and molecular processes of grasses, legumes, and other herbaceous plants that affect establishment, persistence, production and use so improved germplasm and cultivars can be released for pasture, harvested forages, turf, biofuels, rangeland restoration, and conservation.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Gulf Coast cattle producers depend heavily on tropical grasses for forage, but the nutritional value of these grasses drops during the late summer and fall.  ARS scientists at Brooksville, Florida, have shown that the tropical forage legume, rhizoma peanut, can produce high cattle gains throughout the late summer and fall.  However, use of current cultivars is limited to the warmer, well drained sites in the Gulf Coast region.  Material better adapted to cold and wet conditions was needed to expand the impact of this forage species.  As the result of two plant collection trips (in 2003 and 2004) to Paraguay, 65 new accessions of perennial peanut have been identified and made available for cultivar development.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Expanding the range of use of this legume will help producers avoid feeding expensive supplements and increase profitability.  In addition to forage potential, some accessions appear to have potential for low maintenance turf and ornamental use.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The potential impact of using forage kochia, an arid land forb, for rangeland conservation and restoration was researched by ARS scientists at Logan, Utah.  They assessed forage kochia’s adaptation, potential weediness, and forage and reclamation values.  They found forage kochia is well adapted to the Western United States, will usually not spread into perennial plant communities, is distantly related to annual and native kochia, can improve the economic sustainability of livestock production, and can be used to stop the spread of wildfires.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Forage kochia can increase livestock producers’ profitability by extending the grazing season into the fall and winter, and help conserve and restore rangeland health by stabilizing soils, slowing the spread of invasive weeds, providing forages for wildlife and wild horses, and lowering the risk of wildfires.

 

provide forage and pasture management technologies and strategies that reduce inputs while improving livestock performance and sustaining the environment.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Farms in the Southern Plains often use a mixture of native rangeland, planted pastures, and croplands for livestock grazing.  Past research concentrated primarily on management of individual forage sources and not integrating the mixture of forage options.  ARS scientists at Woodward, Oklahoma, designed an integrated management system that allows for combining a variety of available forages to achieve an optimal combination for cow/calf operations.  Integrated systems reduced the land required to support a cow from 20 to 12.5 acres.  Beef production increased from 31 to 58 pounds per acre and net return doubled for rangeland versus complementary systems.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These findings will help improve the profitability of livestock producers by reducing inputs and increasing outputs.

  

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Nitrogen loss as ammonia gas from dairy barns can contribute to ecosystem fertilization and particulate formation that can adversely affect human health.  ARS scientists at Madison, Wisconsin, and St. Paul, Minnesota, compared nitrogen cycling in a classic confinement-based feeding operation where manure is deposited, scraped from barns, and land applied versus corralling heifers on cropland to directly deposit manure.  Ammonia losses are greater from the barn than corrals.  The higher nitrogen return to soil in corrals enhances subsequent crop production.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These findings will help producers improve economic returns by reducing fertilizer inputs and improve environmental sustainability by reducing air and water pollution.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Limited resource farmers often cannot use annual forage grasses because of the high costs associated with annual reseeding including planting, weed control, and fertilization.  ARS scientists at Langston, Oklahoma, evaluated alternative harvest practices for annual ryegrass to determine the harvesting dates for optimizing forage yields while leaving sufficient grass to mature and produce adequate seed for self-seeding next year’s stand.  The greatest seed deposition resulted in July following mid-April harvest.  Maximum forage yield resulted from mid-May harvesting but produced inadequate seed for reseeding.  Farmers need to evaluate the tradeoffs between seed production and forage yield in deciding when to harvest annual ryegrass.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This information provides producers with new options for balancing the tradeoffs between forage yield and planting costs to meet the economic limitations of their operations.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Pregnant mares consuming endophyte infected tall fescue are at severe risk of developing “Equine Fescue Toxicosis” characterized by prolonged gestation, agalactia, increased foal and mare mortality, dystocia, placental aberrations, weak and dysmature foals, and altered hormone profiles.  Solving these problems is limited by the lack of conclusive information concerning the identity and metabolic fate of potential toxins in horses.  ARS scientists at Lexington, Kentucky, in collaboration with the University of Kentucky, have compared initial exposure of naïve horses to ergovaline and lysergic acid to that of follow-on subacute exposures.  They found length of exposure had little to no effect on alkaloid retention or route of exposure indicating that metabolic pathways and tissues associated with alkaloid elimination were not compromised or enhanced by prior exposure.  Additionally, data indicated that approximately 60 percent of the ergovaline consumed was retained by the animal over a 24 hour period, whereas lysergic acid was eliminated from the animals in greater amounts (less than180 percent of intake) than consumed. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These findings indicate that the more complex alkaloids, such as ergovaline, are likely converted to lysergic acid for elimination.  Therefore, methods to enhance this conversion, especially if lysergic acid proves to be less toxic than ergovaline, should improve horse tolerance to endophyte-infected tall fescue.

 

provide rangeland management technologies and strategies that reduce inputs while improving livestock performance and sustaining the environment including reducing the risks of wildfires, invasive weeds, and other threats by stabilizing, restoring, and monitoring degraded rangeland in an affordable and sustainable manner.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Dubois, Idaho, with their university counterparts, have found that as the duration of grazing decreases and stocking density increases, sheep will graze reproductive parts of exotic and invasive leafy spurge (Euphrobia esula) more than stem and leaf portions. The current season long grazing strategies recommended to manage leafy spurge negatively impact native plant species and can promote recruitment of other exotic species.  Application of 480 sheep grazing-days equivalent during a 48-hour period caused a 50 percent decrease in standing leafy spurge flowers relative to 480 sheep grazing days during a 192-hour period; remaining total biomass and sheep performance was similar between the two strategies. Short duration, high density sheep grazing is a biocontrol tool that targets the reproduction of leafy spurge while minimizing negative grazing effects on native species.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These findings will improve the control of invasive weeds with fewer adverse impacts on desirable vegetation.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Decline of aspen stands in the Great Basin and Inter-Mountain region is a major concern; in some cases it is linked to the Western juniper invasion.  ARS scientists at Burns, Oregon, evaluated herbaceous, shrub, and aspen response to a combination of selective juniper cutting and seasonal prescribed fires aimed at restoring aspen woodlands.  Results showed: 1) selective cutting combined with fall burning was highly effective at removing juniper and stimulating aspen recruitment, but reduced understory productivity and diversity; 2) selective cutting combined with spring burning was less effective at removing juniper and stimulating aspen response, but increased herbaceous standing crop and diversity; and 3) spring burning safely removed high fuel loads without risk of fire escape. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Private and public managers can use these findings on the trade-offs between management options to select the option that best meets their management goals.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Milk yield in beef cows is a major determinant of growth rate in beef calves but the factors affecting milk yield were not fully understood.  ARS scientists at Miles City, Montana, evaluated the milk yield of first calf heifers born and raised within three calving systems and the impact on growth of their calves.  Heifers whose calves were born in late winter through early spring differed in their milk yield from those born in late spring.  Precipitation patterns for the year influenced whether the milk yield for heifers calving in late spring was greater or lesser than earlier calving heifers.  Calf growth rate was related to milk yield.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Using this information on the relationship between calving date and milk production, producers will be able to improve their economic viability by developing management systems to best match nutrient needs of cow-calf pairs in different calving systems.

 

OBJECTIVE 5.2:  Provide Science-Based Knowledge and Education To Improve Quality and Management of Soil, Air, and Water Resources.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.1:  Develop the tools and techniques required to maintain and restore the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s watersheds and its surface and groundwater resources.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

demonstrate how improved drainage management systems reduce nitrate-nitrogen runoff and improve the effectiveness of riparian areas and wetlands.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Nearly one-third of the farmers in the Midwest rely on underground or subsurface drainage to keep their plants healthy.  ARS scientists in Columbus, Ohio, have shown that controlled subsurface drainage systems can increase corn and soybean yields and reduce nitrate losses by 30 to 40 percent.  Under entirely different conditions, ARS researchers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found that improvements in water quality with controlled drainage systems depend highly upon climatic conditions and that deep-chiseling is required to reduce both nitrate losses from surface and subsurface drainage systems.  ARS scientists in Ames, Iowa, found that wood chips and other types of biological materials can act as filters when placed in shallow drainage systems to decrease nitrate losses under controlled drainage practices.  The biological filters increase de-nitrification once the water becomes ponded above the drainage tile.  All of these locations are currently cooperating on new experiments that compare these new technologies with conventional drainage systems to continue reducing water pollution hazards.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The new nitrogen management technique reduced applied nitrogen by 35 to 40 pounds and input costs by more than $6 per acre.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Irrigators want to reduce nitrate contamination of ground and surface water supplies and, at the same time, need techniques that increase the efficiency of nitrogen (N) fertilizer use beyond current best management practices.  A remotely sensed index (Nitrogen Reflectance Index calculated from crop reflectance in the green and near-infrared light spectrum) was evaluated to detect plant N deficiencies and recommend in-season N applications for a sprinkler irrigated cornfield in Eastern Colorado.  The N applied by fertigation during the growing season totaled 94 pounds per acre from four applications on the remotely sensed portion of the field; the farmer applied a total of 129 pounds per acre in six applications on the remainder of the field.  Average grain yields for the remotely sensed area and the remainder of the field was 214 and 205 bushels per acre, respectively. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research along with university drainage research was the basis for forming the Agricultural Drainage Management Systems Task Force, a technical work group of the USDA multi-agency Partnership Management Team.  In 2002, cost sharing for drainage water management did not exist in any of the States.  However, four Midwestern States are now cost sharing on controlled subsurface drainage in accordance with approved practice standards that met the conservation requirements of the FY 2002 farm bill.

 

develop at least one tool to enable farmers, ranchers, and Federal and State agencies to anticipate the initiation of drought and respond to ongoing water scarcity and drought through improved water management practices and understanding of climate forecasting.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was developed over the past 30 years by a team of ARS researchers at Temple, Texas, in cooperation with other ARS scientists across the Nation.  Over the past 4 years, the Environmental Protection Agency and ARS have made SWAT available to State agencies and consultants throughout the Nation to evaluate and assess water quality impairments and to assist in developing watershed plans for addressing specific problems like drought. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Recently, Texas legislators, water districts, and river authorities were impressed enough by SWAT to pay part of the costs for farmers in these areas to apply conservation measures where the SWAT model predicts increased surface flows in rivers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Over one half of the United States has been in persistent drought at least one time during the last decade.  USDA drought relief programs have allocated billions of dollars to assist farmers, ranchers, and rural communities cope with this natural disaster.  Analysis of the rainfall records over the Great Plains by ARS scientists has revealed decade-long oscillations in annual precipitation.  The characteristics of these variations were characterized for nine broad regions in the Great Plains.  Results show that in the final decades of the 20th century, the majority of the Great Plains experienced the largest and longest (up to 20 years) increase in precipitation over the past 105 years.  These findings have important implications for agriculture and rural communities because of their potential impact on the future productivity of agriculture in these regions and the potential for meeting the water requirements of these rural communities.  Research was also done to determine the variations in monthly, seasonal, and annual precipitation where the variation between locations was found to be significant. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This work has been adopted by the Oklahoma Climatological Survey as one of their operational data products and is used be producers and regional planners to mitigate drought impacts in the region.

 

develop at least one design and analysis tool to economically maintain water resource management flood control infrastructure and stream corridor management systems.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists have developed a low cost means of reducing gully and stream bank erosion, one of the major causes of soil loss and sedimentation within our Nation’s streams.  Traditional measures for controlling this type of erosion require costly stone or concrete structures.  The large woody debris structures, being studied by ARS scientists, provide shelter for fish and insects, restore riparian habitats, and cost less than traditional methods.  The structures consist of uprooted trees stacked in crossing layers and are anchored with steel cables to the streambed.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The structures reduce sediment transport, triggering natural deposition to heal channels enlarged by years of erosion.  They cost about $25 per foot of treated bank, or 20 to 50 percent of the cost of traditional stone bank stabilization projects in the region. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  New legislation directed toward the rehabilitation of aging dams and other hydraulic structures has forced the examination of problems associated with decommissioning aging hydraulic structures.  Many of the Nation’s 11,000 flood-control structures built by NRCS are being adversely affected by sediment buildup, which reduces a reservoir’s ability to hold back floodwaters.  There has been no established or accepted procedure for measuring streambed erodibility.  A jet test device suitable for measuring streambed erodibility in the field or laboratory was developed and patented by ARS scientists.  ARS has developed acoustic and geophysical technologies and procedures for characterizing the quality and quantity of the sediment impounded in such structures, based on tests conducted on flood control structures that are typical of western conditions. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This device may be used to evaluate stream channel stability for optimum placement of stream stabilization measures.  NRCS now has access to use these technologies for assessing, rehabilitating, and decommissioning aging hydraulic structures without adversely affecting the environment and downstream aquatic ecosystems when the situation warrants evaluation of potential release of stored sediment with decommissioning of aging structures or when rehabilitating flood ravaged streams.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.2:  Develop agricultural practices that maintain or enhance soil resources, thus ensuring sustainable food, feed, and fiber production while protecting environmental quality.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop management practices and decision tools which make more efficient use of plant nutrients from fertilizers and other sources while protecting the environment.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, increased nitrogen use efficiency of corn by nearly 50 percent compared with conventional recommended practices when a field was subdivided into a mosaic of “response zones” based soil properties, landscape position, and remotely sensed data sets.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This technique holds promise for reducing nitrogen applications based on the synchronization of the spatial and temporal variability of nitrogen demand with site-specific nitrogen applications in order to minimize nitrogen runoff and leaching impacts on the environment without reducing crop production.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists from Saint Paul, Minnesota, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, found that de-nitrification of excess nitrate nitrogen was enhanced under pastures compared to under corn cropland.  This enhanced de-nitrification is attributed to increased available carbon that serves as a food source for the bacteria.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Enhanced de-nitrification converts the potential pollutant nitrate to gaseous forms of nitrogen, thus reducing the environmental threat to ground and surface waters.  These results provide an additional example of how well managed agriculture can help protect public resources.

 

develop management practices and decision tools which improve soil conditions and crop growth.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Soil Management Assessment Framework was developed by ARS scientists at Ames, Iowa, to determine the sustainability of land management practices.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This tool can be used by the Natural Resources Conservation Service to determine the effectiveness of management practices supported by funds from USDA Conservation Programs.  This tool will enable producers to select practices that will protect soil, water, and air resources.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.3:  Develop approaches that mitigate the impact of poor air quality on crop production and provide scientific information and technology to maintain or enhance crop and animal production while controlling emissions that reduce air quality or destroy the ozone layer.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop methods to reduce emissions of harmful gases from crop production systems and postharvest/quarantine treatments.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Experiments to measure atmospheric emissions of soil fumigants are extremely expensive, difficult, and require significant expenditures of resources.  A microprocessor controlled automatic sampling system was developed by ARS scientists in Riverside, California, that reduces the cost of conducting field experiments and improves the measurement accuracy and provides representative samples.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  More data on emissions of gases from crop production systems will be acquired at a greatly reduced cost.  Data from the new system will enable a better understanding of soil fumigant emissions.  The sampling system is being further developed by a commercial firm under a USDA Small Business Innovative Research grant.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Parlier, California, in collaboration with the Golden State Bulb Growers, completed a 4-year, 2-location study to evaluate drip applied alternative chemicals for the replacement of methyl bromide for the production of calla lily rhizomes.  Significant disease control was achieved when using iodomethane, 1,3-dichloropropene, chloropicrin, and metam sodium, individually or in various combinations compared to non-treated control.  The test results were comparable to the standard methyl bromide treatment, although weed control may be lacking when these chemicals are applied by drip irrigation. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  As a result of this research, drip applied alternative chemicals are now used in some commercial production in lieu of methyl bromide.  Acceptance of these methyl bromide alternatives by growers will increase if results continue to show comparable efficacy to methyl bromide over subsequent harvest years.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Parlier, California, in collaboration with the National Hay Association, developed a phosphine fumigation quarantine treatment for the control of Hessian fly in hay exported to Japan.  The treatment involves the compression of the hay followed by the non-methyl bromide treatment, phosphine fumigation. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This phosphine fumigation quarantine treatment will help support the U.S. hay export market with Japan.  Certification of the quarantine treatment by the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestries, and Fisheries supports a $360 million market to the Pacific Rim countries.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Recent research by ARS scientists in Honolulu, Hawaii, showed that an irradiation dose of 150 Gy (the international system unit of radiation dose expressed in terms of absorbed energy per unit mass of tissue; the Gray (Gy) is the unit of absorbed dose and has replaced the rad - 1 Gray equals 100 rad.) is sufficient to provide quarantine security for sweet potato pests.  An interim irradiation treatment of 400 Gy for sweet potatoes was published as a final rule in the Federal Register, awaiting confirmation of the lower dose.  Formerly, sweet potato could only be exported from Hawaii to the mainland with a methyl bromide fumigation that resulted in economic losses and a shorter product shelf life. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Lowering the dose will reduce the costs of irradiation treatment and minimize any adverse effects on quality.  In the past two years, sweet potato production has more than doubled due to the availability of the irradiation treatment.  Approximately 2,500 tons of sweet potatoes are currently being exported annually using the irradiation treatment.

 

develop methods and control technologies which reduce particulate matter emissions from crop and animal production systems.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists from Manhattan, Kansas, formally delivered the Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS), a tool for forecasting wind erosion damage, to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for implementation across the Nation.  WEPS can be used to simulate weather, soil, and crop conditions, and wind erosion on a daily basis. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME: WEPS provides farmers and landowners with an advanced tool for formulating and assessing the effectiveness of specific wind erosion control practices.  WEPS can be used for a given location to help guide the selection of optimum wind erosion abatement procedures, such as planting soil-stabilizing crop cover, establishing wind breaks and barriers, or reducing soil erodibility by appropriate tillage practices.  Use of the tool is expected to result in decreased emissions of particulate matter that poses a risk to human health and the environment.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Animal rearing facilities emit significant amounts of ammonia and particulate matter.  An ARS researcher from Fayetteville, Arkansas, designed a small chamber for scrubbing ammonia and particulate matter from air blowing through ventilation fans of poultry or swine production facilities.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This system effectively reduces gas and particulate emissions from animal production systems, can be attached to barn ventilation systems, and provides additional benefits to producers: the nitrogen captured from the ammonia emissions has the potential for use as a fertilizer for crops that appears to cost less than commercial fertilizer nitrogen.  Further, the aluminum in the chamber solution has potential as a soil additive that can lower soluble phosphorus in soils, thus reducing phosphorus runoff and leaching. USDA-ARS is seeking a U.S. patent and an international patent for the system.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.4:  Develop agricultural practices and decision support strategies that allow producers to take advantage of beneficial effects and mitigate adverse impacts of global change.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

assess the potential risks and benefits to agricultural systems that may arise from global change, and develop agricultural management practices and decision support strategies that enable producers to take advantage of beneficial effects and mitigate adverse impacts.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers at Beltsville, Maryland, have identified six proteins in Arabidopsis plants that are affected by increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide.  These findings indicate that, in addition to increasing photosynthesis, the rising level of atmospheric carbon dioxide will directly affect genes involved in plant stress defense mechanisms, and the regulation of plant development.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Results from these experiments provide a basis for predicting plant responses to future increases of atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Identification of plant compounds altered by increased carbon dioxide also provides insights into areas of focus for plant breeders seeking to deal with increased plant resistance to herbicides that are expected to occur with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

 

identify processes that control the rate at which agricultural systems release and absorb greenhouse gases, and develop agricultural management practices that contribute to reductions in the Nation’s net greenhouse gas emissions.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS has developed a program known as GRACEnet (Greenhouse gas Reductions through Agricultural Carbon Enhancements network) involving laboratories in every major agricultural region of the country.  Scientists in the project are measuring changes in soil carbon and emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from contrasting farming systems.  At each site, one system is farmed using standard practices for the region, while a second system is managed with practices designed to maximize carbon storage, and a third uses methods intended to minimize total greenhouse gas emissions.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The information gained from GRACEnet will be used to develop regionally applicable guidelines for Best Management Practices (BMPs) to help increase storage of carbon in soils, and thus help decrease carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere from agricultural systems.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.5:  Develop management practices, treatment technologies, and decision tools for effective use of animal manure and selected industrial and municipal byproducts to improve soil properties and enhance crop production while protecting the environment.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will

 

develop management practices and treatment technologies which reduce gaseous and particulate matter emissions from animal production operations.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists from Fayetteville, Arkansas, developed a liquid alum spray system that reduces ammonia in high rise laying hen houses below levels that threaten bird or worker health.  Use of the system improves egg production and feed conversion.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The system provides egg producers with a cost-effective method to improve egg production while making a safer work place environment.

 

develop management practices and technologies which control pathogenic microorganisms in manure that may threaten human health.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Florence, South Carolina, have developed a system of swine wastewater treatment technologies that improves liquid/solid separation, reduces ammonia and odor emissions, and kills pathogens.  The system has been classified as environmentally superior in independent testing under the North Carolina Attorney General – Smithfield Foods Consent Agreement.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This system of treatment technologies will provide producers with an environmentally friendly alternative to anaerobic lagoons.

 

Performance Measure 5.2.6:  Develop agricultural and decision support systems that assist in increasing the efficiency of agricultural enterprises and achieve economic and environmental sustainability.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will develop new production practices and decision support tools that increase profitability and improve environmental quality.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENT:  Farmers need assurance that using new production practices will not put them at risk of financial loss.  The ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris, Minnesota, cooperating with the Brookings, South Dakota, North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, have addressed the problem.  They have analyzed long-term crop rotation and government programs and crop insurance.  Their research showed corn rotations including soybean, spring wheat, or alfalfa, instead of continuous corn production, were valuable risk management tools when government program payments and crop insurance are not available.  However, when growers chose to use both government programs and crop insurance, the relative benefits of crop diversification in reducing risk were decreased.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research is helping assure Northern Corn Belt farmers who want to adopt more sustainable production practices that diverse crop rotations can reduce economic risks and complement other risk management tools including government programs and crop insurance.  This research can also help policy-makers find creative ways to design programs that provide economic incentives for producers to adopt conservation practices.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENT:  Due to safety and health concerns, new production practices are needed for the 560,000 acres of Pacific Northwest perennial grass seed crops that have been burned after harvest.  The ARS Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit has completed a 10-year experiment in Western Oregon that has demonstrated perennial grass seed crops can be economically produced without burning, by using no-till seeding in combination with chopping back all of the straw onto fields after harvest.  Compared to conventional tillage establishment with straw removed by baling, the ARS conservation system reduces soil erosion 40 to 77 percent and nitrate leaching 50 percent.  Establishment costs $27 to $162 per acre, can increase seed yields, allow earlier spring planting times, and increase recreation time for farmers.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Oregon and Washington growers are experimenting with how to best use these new practices at the farm scale on 15,000 acres.  NRCS has adopted no-till seeding and full straw management as practices to help farmers qualify for USDA Farm Bill conservation program payments. This research is also helping the grass seed industry demonstrate how they can comply with the provisions of the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.  Farmers using these practices are reporting higher yields, increased profits, and more flexibility in their schedules that can be used for non-farming related activities.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENT:  Outdoor confinement areas on small dairies are “hot spots” for concentrating nutrients from manure.  Most uncollected manure accumulates in exercise lots and feeding areas, leading to excessive nutrient levels in the soil.  A study of fifty-four dairies across Wisconsin was conducted by the U.S. Dairy Forage Center in Madison to find what kinds of dairies could benefit most by developing conservation management plants.  The research showed that less manure is collected from farms with stanchions than free stall housing.  Also, small to medium sized herd farms collected less manure than large herd dairies.  There were differences in the amounts of manure collected in different regions of the State, with more manure collected in the hilly Southwest region, and less collected in the undulating South Central and flat Northeast regions in Wisconsin.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  With this research, manure management plans can be developed for different kinds of dairies based on knowing which kinds of dairies may have greater relative amounts of manure needing removal.  Added education efforts could be directed towards small to medium sized dairy herds to specifically help show those operations how to manage manure in outside confinement areas to reduce the risk of impairing surface and ground water quality.


Goal 6

GOAL 6:  MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE 0.1:  ENSURING THE QUALITY, RELEVANCE, AND PERFORMANCE OF ARS RESEARCH (COVERS ALL RESEARCH OBJECTIVES)

 

OBJECTIVE 6.0:  Provide Mechanisms To Ensure the Relevance, Quality, and Performance of the ARS Research Program.

 

Performance Measure 6.0.1:  Relevance—ARS’ basic, applied, and developmental research programs are well conceived, have specific programmatic goals, and address high priority national needs.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will track and report the number of National Program Workshops, meetings, other workshops, and conferences that were designed, in whole or in part, to review the research focus of each National Program or to establish the research focus for the next 5-year program cycle.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS conducted or participated in eighteen National Program Workshops or other major meetings, workshops, or conferences that helped to confirm, refine, or direct the research focus of a specific National Program or Programs.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS’ continuing interaction with its customers, stakeholders, and partners ensures the relevancy of the Agency’s research in addressing the needs of American agriculture.  Meetings at the beginning and during the 5-year program cycle either confirm the direction of the research or allow the Agency to refine the direction.  National Program Workshops with customers, stakeholders, and partners, at the beginning of the 5-year cycle, help ARS establish that National Program’s research agenda.  These processes help enable ARS to fulfill its mission statement to:  “conduct research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provide information access and dissemination to ensure high quality, safe food, and other agricultural products, assess the nutritional needs of Americans, sustain a competitive agricultural economy, enhance the natural resource base and the environment, and provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.”

 

Performance Measure 6.0.2:  Quality—ARS research projects are reviewed by National Program external peer review panels at the beginning of the 5-year program cycle.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will report:  summary information on the number and percentage of projects reviewed for prospective quality, and the number in each Office of Scientific Quality Review (OSQR) category; summary data from the Research Position Evaluation System (RPES) peer reviews of Agency scientists; and the number of on-site expert reviews (location reviews) conducted to ensure the ongoing quality and performance of the research program. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  OSQR conducted prospective peer reviews on 93 Project Plans with the following results:

 

No Revision                       8        8.60%

Minor Revision                 24       25.81%

Moderate Revision           37       39.78% 

Subtotal              69       74.19%

 

Major Revision                 18       19.35%

Not Feasible                     6        6.45%

Subtotal              24       25.80%

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS’ OSQR external independent peer review process has strengthened the overall ARS research program.  ARS, as part of its PART analysis, has set a goal of gradually increasing the number of projects that receive a rating of No Revision, Minor Revision, or Moderate Revision to 80 percent by 2010 and is taking steps to promote improved scores in future reviews.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  RPES peer panels reviewed 392 ARS scientists with the following results:  181 (46.2 percent) were upgraded, 203 (51.8 percent) remained in grade or were referred to the Supergrade Panel, 3 (0.8 percent) had insufficient factual basis, and 5 (1.3 percent) had grade/category problems.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  RPES reviews of Agency scientists on a 3-5 year cycle contributes to maintaining a high quality, high performing, productive scientific work force.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS conducted twenty-eight location reviews.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The use of location reviews has evolved since the development of the National Program structure, National Program Workshops, OSQR, and other mechanisms for establishing the direction, relevancy, quality, and performance of ARS’ research program.  Location reviews are now largely used to selectively address issues at a specific location.  Use of location reviews helps ensure the quality and performance of ARS research.

 

Performance Measure 6.0.3:  Performance—ARS will monitor and measure the performance of each research unit and National Program.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will report summary information that measures specific activities that indicate, to some extent, how well the overall ARS research program is performing.  These activities include the number of papers published, number of CRADAs executed, number of patents issued, number of licenses granted, and the number of new plant varieties and breeding lines released.  Beginning in FY 2004, ARS asked each research leader to assess his/her project’s progress against the milestones in their Project Plan, and indicate whether the each milestone was fully met, substantially met, or not met.  An explanation of why a milestone was not met was also requested.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS established 55 new CRADAs, received 27 new patents, and granted 33 new licenses.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These formal mechanisms enable ARS to more promptly and more effectively transfer new or improved research derived technologies to entities that can use the information to produce new or improved goods and services that benefit American agriculture and the economy.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists published 3,980 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Scientific publications are one of the principal mechanisms for transferring research products/findings to potential users of the information.  This is especially true of research knowledge generated by basic or fundamental research where the principal customers are other scientists who carry the work forward through applied and developmental research.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS released 65 new plant varieties and breeding lines.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS develops and releases new and improved plant varieties and breeding lines that have a wide range of desirable characteristics, such as greater productivity, resistance to diseases and/or pests, or greater tolerance to stresses, such as drought, salinity, etc.  These releases enable public and private sector scientists and breeders to develop new plants and market them to producers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS identified a total of 7,498 milestones across its 1,000+ research projects.  Of these, 3,554 milestones were fully met (47 percent) and 2,971 were substantially met (40 percent) for a total of 6,525 (87 percent) being fully or substantially met.  Nine hundred and seventy-three milestones were not met (13 percent).  The principle reasons why a milestone was not met were: a vacancy in the lead scientist position (through retirement, death, or delays in recruitment), redirection of the work into areas of higher national priority, failure of a collaborator to provide material in a timely manner, a research methodology did not perform as expected, poor/undesirable weather conditions prevented the research from moving forward, and changes in experimental design.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The tracking of project milestones, first developed for the PART analysis, has become a useful tool for measuring performance at the project level.  The Agency is continuing to refine this indicator, for developing its milestones and managing its research program.

 

 

 

MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE 1:  PROVIDE AGRICULTURAL LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SERVICES TO USDA AND THE NATION VIA THE NATIONAL AGRICULTURAL LIBRARY

 

Analysis of Results:  Under Goal 6, Management Initiative 1, 3 Indicators (in Italics) are aligned under 3 Performance Measures.  While it is not possible to report all accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in these Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2005.  Forty-one significant accomplishments are reported below.

 

OBJECTIVE 6.1:  Provide Rapid, Comprehensive, and Long-Term Access to the Full Range of Agricultural Information Resources Through a Variety of National Agricultural Library (NAL) Delivery Systems, with Particular Emphasis on Digital Technologies.

 

Performance Measure 6.1.1:  Develop and deliver content for the NAL National Digital Library for Agriculture (NDLA).

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, NAL will continue to expand and improve services based on customer usage and satisfaction data.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The total volume of NAL direct customer service transactions increased to about 20 percent, more than 80 million transactions.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL has continued to increase services broadening and increasing its customer base, with an emphasis on digital information products and services.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC) Alliance - www.agnic.org - welcomed six new member institutions, for a total of 56 members, and celebrated its 10th anniversary.  Nine AgNIC digital content building projects were completed and 14 new projects were begun, funded by the AgNIC specific cooperative agreements program.  An AgNIC Consultative Group, composed of high level, international specialists, began to discuss AgNIC strategic goals for the next five years.  Two 1890 Land Grant universities were represented at the AgNIC annual meeting resulting in ongoing work with these institutions to establish a cooperative subject web site on “goats”.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  More important agriculture information has become available on the Web as a result of collaborations among NAL and AgNIC partners.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL launched a redesigned Web site – www.nal.usda.gov – that conforms to new USDA style guidelines.  NAL met the first implementation deadline by establishing a library-wide project management structure to provide leadership and facilitate communications.  An Oversight Committee was formed along with six teams:  External Relations and Requirements; Existing Web Pages; Landing and Sub-landing Pages; IT Assistance; NAL-Created Web Content Archiving; and the Web Site Taxonomy and Meta data.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Customers now can find NAL’s Web-based information more easily and quickly.  The redesigned Web site improves services for NAL customers with organization of the site by subject and enhanced search functionality that permits searching of all the databases and Web pages of the site from a single search box.  The redesigned Web site serves as a gateway connecting users swiftly with the services of NAL and with the billions of pages of agricultural information within NAL collections and information resources. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL continued to refine and expand access to reports, journals, and databases by USDA employees worldwide through the USDA Digital Desktop Library (DigiTop) service.  Usage continued to grow, at an annual rate of over 12 percent.  NAL’s Current Awareness Literature Service (CALS) was redesigned and integrated into DigiTop.  The DigiTop systems infrastructure was strengthened and upgraded through the acquisition of software that improved management of digital journals and provides links to NAL’s document delivery service.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  More online content was made available to USDA employees.  Integration of CALS into DigiTop increases efficiency of USDA customer access to digital services.  Improved systems infrastructure increases reliability and saves customer time, by providing seamless delivery of documents from one integrated source rather than the previous two distinct systems.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  An NAL-wide team created a Web-based guide to critical information about soybean rust.  The guide includes an extensive bibliography of relevant research; links to important information; and expert searches of AGRICOLA, USDA,and ARS Web sites, and the Web.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The Web-based guide supports the USDA goal of providing stakeholders with authoritative, timely, and accurate information for addressing the potential threat posed by soybean rust to the Nation’s agricultural community.  USDA features the guide on the USDA Soybean Rust Information Site.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL has been developing a Web-based survey intended to collect data about the information needs of its customers and non-customers.  This information will guide NAL planning in the future.  The survey document package has cleared USDA review and is currently under review by OMB.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The data from the survey, along with results from the ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) survey that is integrated with the NAL Web site, will enable NAL management to align NAL operations so it is in alignment with customer needs.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The NAL staff developed a management statistics database that enables analysis of cost and usage statistics pertaining to electronic reference sources, full text and non-full text journals, Web sites and catalogs, books, and digitized materials in support of the Association of Research Libraries’ (ARL) E-metrics project.  The database was made available to other ARL member libraries.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  By developing this data resource, NAL simplified data collection and provided a mechanism for accessing and analyzing key statistical measures on demand that could also be useful for other major research libraries.  With this new resource, NAL management is equipped to improve services and identify and act upon trends.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  A draft “Internal Guidance for Selecting and Managing Web Site Links” was produced for future implementation.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The draft internal Web linking guide will ensure that NAL complies with standards required by OMB and USDA. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  PROCINORTE, sponsored by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), is a formal mechanism that facilitates cooperative actions of common interest to the U.S, Canada, and Mexico.  The NAL staff led the PROCINORTE task force on Agricultural Library and Information Services.  NAL hosted a meeting of PROCINORTE representatives in 2005.   

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The PROCINORTE task force continues to develop collaborate activities that support the region’s agricultural sector by improving access to key information. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In collaboration with NCLIS (the National Commission on Library and Information Science), NAL hosted a reception for the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies (COSLA) to recognize contributions by public libraries to improving the health of citizens in the communities they serve.  NAL featured Nutrition.gov and NAL nutrition-related information services.  Other Federal agencies and information providers also exhibited during the reception.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The program and reception afforded NAL an opportunity to showcase its community and health related initiatives to a key stakeholder group. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  AFSIC published a third edition of the popular electronic publication: “Organic Agricultural Products: Marketing and Trade Resources,” which is a comprehensive guide to more than 1,000 Web-based information resources on all aspects of organic markets, marketing, and trade.  The publication is available in PDF and HTML on a free CD or at the AFSIC Web site: http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This document continues to provide both organic farmers and those considering a transition to organic production a wealth of information concerning one of the most critical parts of agriculture: selling what has been grown.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL staff conducted ten training workshops concerning information searches about alternatives to the use of animals in research and exhibited at ten professional meetings.  AWIC produced several new Web-based publications, and seven CD information products on animal diseases; farm and lab animal care and welfare; searching for information about alternatives to animal use; care of pandas; and other key topics for those species regulated under the Animal Welfare Act.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  More researchers were trained about how to adhere to the requirements concerning searching for information about alternatives to the use of animals in research in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC).  NAL staff supporting the Food Stamp Nutrition Connection (FSNC) program launched the Recipe Finder database - http://foodstamp.nal.usda.gov/recipes.php - for use by nutrition educators working with the Food Stamp Program eligible population.  Cost information is supplied for all recipes with data provided by the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), which purchased the data from AC Nielsen.  Most recipes in the database were submitted by nutrition educators in the Food Stamp Program.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The Recipe Database was launched the last week in September 2005.  The FSNC Web site hits for the following month increased significantly from the previous month; September 2005 hits were 66,052 and October hits were 83,336, a 26 percent increase in just a month and a 48 percent increase over the same month in FY 2004.  There are few, if any, other recipe databases available that provide cost data to users; this unique feature has made the Recipe Finder database a popular new too.  The FSNC has received considerable favorable feedback from customers, along with additional recipe submissions and ratings.  More members of the Food Stamp Program eligible population were informed about nutritious recipes.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Nutrition.gov Web site (www.nutrition.gov) which is focused on obesity prevention and targeted to consumers was officially launched December 2004.  A briefing for the USDA Secretary was also held in December.  The Nutrition.gov site design and development was accomplished following the USDA Web Style Guide and has been praised as the “poster model” for USDA Web sites to emulate.  The site received cross-agency resource support from USDA and HHS agencies.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Nutrition.gov provides easy access to the best food and nutrition information from across the federal government.  It serves as a gateway to reliable information on nutrition, healthy eating, physical activity, and food safety for consumers, educators and health professionals.  Nutrition.gov received over 2 million hits in CY 2005.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL staff collaborated with the University of Mississippi’s National Institute of Food Service Management to develop an online application for generating HACCP forms specific to food service employee needs.  The Food Safety Research Information Office (FSRIO) completed the back-end programming and necessary data modeling to create a new database-driven FSRIO Web site.  More than 1,700 records in its research projects database were analyzed and modified with information that will enable the users to fully utilize the upcoming search interface.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL continued to improve information services to the food safety community by leveraging its resources and expanding collaborations.  As a result, the food service and safety communities of the Nation are better equipped to protect their customers.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL and the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) staff reached agreement to divide responsibility for Invasivespecies.gov Web site management.  As a result of this agreement, NISC staff is responsible for the administrative and official documentation of NISC, while NAL staff continues to provide a broad range of information about invasive species topics as the official reference gateway for NISC under the new URL: http://invasivespeciesinfo.gov

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Access to the Invasivespeciesinfo.gov Web site continues to increase, with approximately 3.5 million hits, a 46 percent increase over FY 2004.  With its newly delineated responsibilities NAL is establishing a National Invasive Species Information Center.  A wider range of information is available to a growing audience about the threat of invasive species.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL published a Web database about Federal funding sources for rural areas.  Ten publications were updated for NAL’s Web redesign project.  The Rural Information Center (RIC) staff responded to 148 Congressional requests during FY05 – an all time high.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  RIC’s information and referral services to local, tribal, State, and Federal government officials; community organizations; rural electric and telephone cooperatives; libraries; businesses; and citizens working continued to help maintain the vitality of America's rural areas.  As one example of RIC services, staff identified a foundation grant that enabled a Maryland public school in a rural county with one of the highest poverty rates in the State to receive $40,000 for an obesity education program.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL staff completed a 15-year history of the Center’s operations and developed a strategic plan suggesting future program directions and funding options.  NAL’s MTACRADA partner, Artifex Equipment, Inc., completed its Phase I SBIR feasibility study and continues to investigate manufacturing methods for an emerging desiccation and humidification product.  TTIC staff enlisted the assistance of the American Library Association and the University of Maryland to produce a report covering the topic of “new and emerging technologies for disaster management” with an initial focus on water disasters. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The emerging desiccation and humidification product utilizing corn and an ARS patent from the 1970s was renamed “Zorbix”.  Additional outcomes of the work with Artifex include: one extended MTACRADA between NAL and Artifex; six Confidentiality Agreements or Material Transfer Agreements between NAL, Artifex, and other libraries, organizations, and companies for discussion, testing or manufacturing purposes; confirmation by ARS chemists that the emerging product leaves no residue on paper; and a patent application, Methods and Devices for Humidity Control of Materials, filed by Artifex and listing a TTIC staff member as a co-inventor.  As a result, Artifex estimates potential sales of $1.8M and libraries and archives will have a new tool for mitigating water damage to paper-based collections.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL developed an improved public Web interface for the Water Quality Information Center (WQIC) and added additional documents to its online database of water and agriculture information resources.  The Center’s Enviro-News listserv continues to be a significant channel of communication for the water quality community.  WQIC staff was active in the USDA Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), creating dynamic bibliographies on CEAP-relevant topics and assisting CEAP participants with information access.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL strengthened WQIC technology capabilities to enable improved access to water quality information needed by its users, partners, and stakeholders.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL Reference and Reader Services and the Information Centers completed participation in a one year pilot of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Virtual Reference Project.  The twenty-four Federal libraries and information centers that participated provided electronic information services, including live chats.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Participation in the pilot enabled NAL to test the efficacy of providing virtual references services to its clientele while helping to provide electronic reference services to the estimated 80 percent of DHS staff who lacked access to libraries.  It also gave NAL staff the opportunity to create connections and network with other Federal librarians across numerous agencies.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL’s WQIC staff developed and implemented a search interface for customers that allows construction of complex search strategies for NAL’s AGRICOLA.  This interface enables construction and repeated use of lengthy and complex searches. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  BooleanCUBE implementation has resulted in ready access to the results of complex AGRICOLA searches without delivery of large files of result sets or detailed instructional sessions and discussions about how to use NAL’s online catalog system for complex searches.  This work product saves time for staff and customers and supplies precise search results quickly, whether customers have limited or fast Web connectivity.  A wide variety of refreshed custom search results is available to NAL, ARS, and USDA staff, while all NAL customers can use more general BooleanCUBE-based searches from the NAL Web site.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Two NAL staff members volunteered for four details of various lengths at USDA’s Office of Communications to write the daily AgNews brief.  Each selected, compiled, and wrote summaries of major news articles pertaining to agriculture and USDA, and ensured that each AgNews brief was fresh and up-to-the-minute, and on the Secretary’s desk by 8:00 a.m. sharp each day.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  AgNews keeps those in decision-making positions informed about key events and stories about agriculture. By participating in creating AgNews, NAL staff demonstrated the skills and value librarians bring to the process of identifying, selecting, and summarizing information.  The temporary assignments also gave NAL staff members exposure to issues of primary concern to the Secretary, USDA administrators and the Office of Communications.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL hosted the 15th Agricultural Economics Reference Organization (AERO) - http://cherokee.agecon.clemson.edu/aero.htm Conference/Workshop.  AERO membership includes librarians from many land-grant universities, Canadian universities, and other organizations such as the American Farm Bureau, ERS, and the World Bank.  AERO meets periodically to learn about the latest reference tools, databases, and new technologies important to agricultural economics research and education.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The AERO Conference provided an avenue for NAL to highlight significant developments and trends in the use of digital technology for core constituents affiliated with agriculture-related institutions from across North America.  Hosting the 15th AERO Conference increased the visibility and understanding of NAL’s and USDA’s efforts to move forward using digital technology to enhance the delivery of services and information.  AERO members received a sneak preview of the new design for the NAL Web site, were invited to contribute to the ongoing discussion on the future of AGRICOLA (AGRICOLA Rescoping), were given an overview of the Relais Document Delivery system, and were briefed on the new developments with the Agriculture Network Information Center (AgNIC).  In addition, AERO members attended several presentations on how AMS, FAS, and NASS are making information available via the Web.   

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Relais document request and management system, which serves as the document delivery module of the NAL electronic library management system, was launched on 15 April 2005.  NAL staff worked collaboratively with representatives from the Relais and Endeavor corporations to develop this first time interface between the systems of the two companies. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL will continue to use various methods, as requested by our customers, to deliver documents to them.  As a result of this integrated system implementation, NAL now receives document requests only via the Web.  NAL streamlined document delivery workflow increased management control over the document fulfillment process and saved time for customers requesting documents. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL developed a plan to charge ARS customers directly for document delivery services on a fee-for-service basis.  Beginning in FY 2006, this plan was implemented, using CRIS Project Numbers as charge-back identifiers.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Since FY 2003, ARS and other USDA agencies have used NAL document delivery services on a partial cost recovery basis.  Beginning October 1, 2005, a charge-back plan was implemented whereby USDA headquarters agencies pay about 40 percent of the cost of providing document delivery services from NAL.  Fees from document delivery service charges, Agency contributions to DigiTop/Digi-CALS and funding for other services to USDA agencies supplement NAL’s appropriated funding and permit the continuation and improvement of key NAL services to USDA.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL staff visited ARS locations in Pullman, Washington; Corvallis, Oregon; Fort Collins, Colorado; Clay Center, Nebraska; Ames, Iowa; and Peoria, Illinois, to provide an overview of NAL services and products such as DigiTop, DigiTop-CALS, document delivery, reference, AgNIC, and NALT. Over 200 ARS researchers attended the presentations.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL learned that while its ARS customers appreciate NAL services, NAL needs to "push" or provide more information to customers about services on a regular basis and keep them informed of changes as services evolve.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  A descendant of Charles Valentine Riley donated $2,000 to Special Collections to continue the restoration of several Riley family paintings and the sketchbook.  The family had previously donated the early sketchbook of C.V. Riley to NAL. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This donation, supplemented by NAL funds, will complete the conservation treatment of the sketchbook.  Conserving this unique item will allow future scholars to gain insight into the education and life of C.V. Riley.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Three new products, two sets of note cards and a perpetual calendar, using images from NAL’s nursery and seed trade catalog collection and the J. Horace McFarland Collections, were produced in collaboration with Galison publishers.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Partnering with the publishing community allows greatly expanded opportunities to broaden awareness and use of NAL Special Collections.  NAL’s portion of the sales proceeds will continue to fund the conservation treatment of materials in the NAL collection.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The NAL Collection includes many thousands of items requiring conservation.  Activities included repair binding of 300 damaged volumes, creating protective boxes for 350 items too fragile to re-bind, and microfilming 50 requested items which are now too fragile to circulate. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These minimal activities enabled NAL to rescue and make available a few items in most dire need of reformatting or re-housing; there are thousands more needing such treatment. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Hunt Institute and NAL have produced an exhibition - “Inspiration and Translation: Botanical and Horticultural Lithographs of Joseph Prestele and Sons” - which draws from their collections and includes items lent by descendants of the Prestele family to feature the important botanical works of Joseph Prestele and his sons.  The exhibition opened at the Hunt Institute on September 8 and includes watercolors, drawings, lithographs, and account books documenting the Presteles’ work for botanists and horticulturalists of the late 1800s.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  A significant group of Prestele manuscript material received conservation treatment for this exhibition.  NAL staff gained considerable experience from working with the Hunt staff and the conservation center.  In the process of producing the exhibit several unique items were discovered and will now be protected.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL re-opened its newly renovated South Building Reference Center on April 27, 2005. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The renovated facility supports the delivery of outreach and training activities focused on raising awareness of NAL’s digital library services among the more than 5,000 Washington-based USDA staff.  Increased use of NAL services is expected within this population.

 

Performance Measure 6.1.2:  Integrate the NAL AGRICOLA database into the NDLA.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, NAL will continue to increase the amount and types of agricultural information covered by AGRICOLA, particularly online full text publications, reduce the time required for indexing top priority journal articles, and improve ways of finding information in AGRICOLA.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL Technical Services Division staff monitors USDA and GPO websites to identify new titles that should be added to NAL’s collection, including those available in electronic format. In addition, numerous titles formerly received in print as gifts or on exchange are now available only via the Web.  URLs for these types of publications are continually added to AGRICOLA, ensuring that access is continued and increasing the titles for which full-text is available via AGRICOLA.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Materials that are shifting to e-only format are routinely identified, captured and updated in the AGRICOLA catalog ensuring continued access to content and increasing the proportion of materials that are available electronically. This will transition more of the NAL collection, as access becomes available, to electronic format and ultimately serve as the backbone for the National Digital Library for Agriculture.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL catalogers and indexers added 18,560 links to Web-based digital publications into the AGRICOLA database. This represents a 27 percent increase over 2004 levels bringing the total to over 70,500 links.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  AGRICOLA provides full text at the desktop for an additional 18,560 digital publications.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL has implemented the use of the Voyager indexing module and integrated it with the NAL Thesaurus software.  Enhancements to the indexing module are ongoing and include Web-based indexing input and testing of a machine-aided indexing tool. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL has streamlined the process of creating index citations through “turbo indexing” that concentrates on the article abstract.  This has improved throughput, and significantly reduced the backlog of unindexed journal articles.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In January, NAL published an updated 2005 version of the National Agricultural Library Thesaurus (NALT) which is used for indexing journal articles in AGRICOLA.  AGRICOLA bibliographic records were updated with the new terminology.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Updating terminology to align the National Agricultural Library Thesaurus with emerging agricultural trends and innovations facilitates search and discovery of relevant information in AGRICOLA and other agricultural databases and indices.  The thesaurus provides the intellectual framework necessary to organize agricultural information for consistent retrieval.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at Michigan State University continued to operate a duplicate (mirror) Web site for the National Agricultural Library Thesaurus (NALT).

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  A duplicate (mirror) Web site ensures the availability of the thesaurus Web pages and search functionality to customers in the case of unforeseen circumstances at either location and distributes system load among and between the two IT systems so that performance and reliability are optimal for customers.

 

Performance Measure 6.1.3:  Ensure long-term access to the resources of the NAL NDLA.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, NAL will continue to preserve, protect, and secure its national collection of agricultural information.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL staff collaborated with a Pennsylvania State University Extension 4-H Specialist to review and organize historical 4-H materials, write abstracts, and produce a Web-based finding aid entitled the “Elsie Carper Collection on Extension Service, Home Economics, and 4-H” - http://www.nal.usda.gov/speccoll/findaids/carper/index.html.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This collection preserves one-of-a-kind items, including first hand recollections of the origin and philosophy of the U.S. Extension Service, and the history of home demonstration work, earliest agents and 4-H clubs.  This work spawned a new AgNIC partnership with Pennsylvania State University.  

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  NAL continued to explore the potential for applying the latest versions of the software for Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe (LOCKSS), a collaborative digital preservation demonstration project led by Stanford University.  NAL also began participation in the LOCKSS program as part of the LOCKSS/DOCS program working collaboratively with the Government Printing Office, Stanford University and other universities in an effort to provide long-term access to government documents.  The project is now focused on integrating the use of LOCKSS into the USDA computer network environment.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  NAL’s participation in the LOCKSS demonstration program is important in exploring options for providing long-term citizens access to digital government information.  This pioneering effort addresses digital preservation issues for long-term storage, authenticity, and access.

 

 

 

MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE 2:  PROVIDE ADEQUATE FEDERAL FACILITIES REQUIRED TO SUPPORT THE RESEARCH MISSION OF ARS

 

Analysis of Results:  Under Goal 6, Management Initiative 2, 1 Indicator (in Italics) is aligned under 1 Performance Measure.  While it is not possible to report all accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in this Indicator was completed or substantially completed during FY 2005.  The accomplishments are reported below.

 

Performance Measure 6.2.1:  Complete priority buildings and facilities projects on schedule and within budget.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will continue to modernize and construct new research facilities on a priority basis. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS completed the design of research facilities at the following locations:  Albany, California; Aberdeen, Idaho; Ames, Iowa; Beltsville, Maryland; Stoneville, Mississippi; Kearneysville, West Virginia; and Madison, Wisconsin.  ARS also completed construction of research facilities at the following locations:  Ft. Collins, Colorado; Athens, Georgia; Peoria, Illinois; Ames, Iowa; Beltsville, Maryland; Poplarville, Mississippi; Woodward, Oklahoma; and Logan, Utah.

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  New or modernized laboratory facilities have been provided to support the mission of the Agency in the areas of nutrition, food safety/quality, animal production and protection, natural resources and sustainable agricultural systems, and crop production and protection.

 

 

 

MANAGEMENT INITIATIVE 3:  ADVISE AND ASSIST THE ARS ADMINISTRATOR ON CIVIL RIGHTS AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY MATTERS TO PREVENT DISCRIMINATION 

 

Analysis of Results:  Under Goal 6, Management Initiative 3, 3 Indicators (in Italics) are aligned under 2 Performance Measures.  While it is not possible to report all accomplishments numerically, the progress projected in these Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2005.  Five significant accomplishments are reported below.

 

OBJECTIVE 6.3:  ARS is committed to being proactive in the prevention of discrimination by providing, promoting, and maintaining policies and procedures based on EEO laws and regulations for all employees, applicants for employment, and customers. 

 

Performance Measure 6.3.1:  Accountability of being proactive to maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will provide information and recommendations to the Administrator and Area/Staff Directors on being proactive to maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The ARS Civil Rights Staff (CRS) and Recruitment Office provided training and information to the Area Civil Rights Managers (ACRMs) on the MD-715 (Management Directive 715 provides a roadmap for creating effective equal employment opportunity programs for all ARS employees as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, and Section 501, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended) process and recruitment and outreach strategies, how to identify employment barriers that eliminate diverse employment, and develop action plans to remove the barriers.  Training was provided to Area Directors regarding the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-Retaliation Act (NO FEAR Act) [training will be provided to all employees in FY 2006 through the Agriculture Learning Service (AgLearn)].   

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The MD-715 and the NO FEAR Act holds all ARS employees accountable to create and maintain an environment free from discrimination and harassment, where employees,  applicants for employment, and customers have the freedom to compete and participate, to the fullest extent possible, at all levels within ARS. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The Area offices identified barriers that could possibly limit employment opportunities, and also developed an action plan to achieve the goal of removing the identified barrier(s). 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  In FY 2005, ARS gained minority and female representation from FY 2004 and promotions for minorities and women increased from FY 2004.  Compared to FY 2004, minorities and women separated at a lower rate in FY 2005 and the hiring rate was higher than the separation rate. 

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  CRS provided Reasonable Accommodation training to the Area/Staff Directors and to 50 percent of supervisors and managers (the remaining 50 percent will be trained in FY 2006 through AgLearn). 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The Reasonable Accommodation awareness training has increased communication with employees and supervisors/managers. 

 

Performance Measure 6.3.2:  Implement proactive measures to maintain a work environment free from discrimination.

 

Indicators:

 

During FY 2005, ARS will  

 

provide to all employees new/updated EEO civil rights policies and procedures and training on the EEO process.  All employees will be held accountable through annual performance ratings.

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The following were developed/revised and distributed to all ARS employees, and/or placed on the CRS website:  ARS and Area EEO/Civil Rights policy statements, Sexual Harassment Policy Statement, Reasonable Accommodation brochure and posters (sent to the ACRMs for dissemination to Area locations), Diversity vs. Affirmative Action (describes the difference between diversity and affirmative action), and the EEO Complaint Process.  The above was also included in the new employee orientation training packages, research leader training, and new supervisory/managerial training.  The following have been completed, and will be forwarded to all ARS employees in FY 2006 upon the Administrator’s approval:  policies and procedures regarding anti-harassment and official time (regarding the use of official time by complainants and employees of ARS who are designated as representatives of other ARS employees in employment discrimination matters).  In partnership with the HRD and the Recruitment Office, ARS coordinated/conducted training regarding all aspects of the EEO Programs to all employees.  The ARS Policy and Procedure (P&P) 401.5, “ARS EEO Program”, was revised and reviewed by selected officials.  The P&P will be forwarded to the Administrator for approval in FY 2006. 

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  EEO and Civil Rights information provided to all internal and external customers helps maintain a workplace free from discrimination, which may remove employment barriers.  Training will be provided during FY 2006 to ARS employees regarding anti-harassment through AgLearn.  

 

continue to promote developmental programs and career opportunities.    

 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS continues to encourage the utilization of ARS developmental programs and mentoring to enhance career and developmental opportunities.  ARS continues to partner with higher-learning institutions and organizations to educate and provide hands-on work experience.  

 

IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS has increased Federal funding to enhance student development and career opportunities in agricultural research.  Thirty-five SCEPs (Student Career Experience Program) and 19 post-docs were converted/hired to permanent full-time employment. 

 


Last Modified: 4/3/2006