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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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2003 Annual Performance Report
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1 - Introduction
2 - Table of Contents
3 - Goals 1 & 2
4 - Goal 3
5 - Goal 4
6 - Goal 5
7 - Goal 6
Goals 1 & 2



Analysis of Results:  This goal is the focus of ARS’ research related to production agriculture, adding quality and value to agricultural products, new products, biobased products and biofuels.  Under Goal 1, 26 Indicators are aligned under 11 Performance Measures.  Because of the adoption of a new ARS Strategic Plan 2003-2007, the Performance Measures and Indicators have changed dramatically from those last reported in the FY 2002 Annual Performance Report and FY 2003 to 2005 Annual Performance Plan.  In addition, the agency made a policy decision to have fewer and broader Indicators then in past Plans and Reports.  As the National Programs become more internally coherent, 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 all 26 Indicators was completed or substantially completed during FY 2003.  Eighty-one 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.




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, proposed a sulfide-free dehairing protocol that utilizes oxidative chemicals which are safer to handle.  The researchers developed oxidative dehairing protocols for use in a tannery and packing plant (i.e., rapid unhairing) and demonstrated that the quality of the leather obtained is not compromised. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These investigations will benefit the tanning and packing industries by eliminating the use of toxic sulfide and its presence in waste effluent streams.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Fiber quality and bale weight are both reduced by a commonly used cleaning machine known as a saw-type lint cleaner, thus a better machine is needed.  Field testing of a USDA-patented, improved lint cleaner, which reduces fiber loss about 50 percent, was completed.  The cleaner was licensed to Continental Eagle Gin Co., and tested in conjunction with the Cotton Ginning Research Unit in a commercial gin; 23 units are now in use in commercial gins worldwide.  A second new, patented lint cleaner was successfully field tested with 5,000 bales at a commercial gin in Arkansas.  The new lint cleaner is currently available for licensing by private industry.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These improved units will increase bale weight by 8 pounds or $6 per bale.  The new lint cleaner increased bale weight by 10 pounds per bale and produced even cleaner cotton.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Japan wants to import rice straw from the United States for cattle feed but demands that the straw be free of disease causing agents.  A scientist at the Southern Regional Research Center has invented a process for sterilizing rice straw and is entering into a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with an industry partner to pursue commercialization.  Research is underway to make the process continuous and scale it up for a commercial operation. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This process will allow the U.S. to export rice straw to Japan which currently imports two million tons of forage other than that from rice. 


develop new or improved methods to measure or predict quality.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Scientists in Athens, Georgia, worked cooperatively with MEDCO in St. Louis, Missouri, to field test a detection procedure known as near infrared spectroscopy for identifying cotton stickiness before cotton reaches critical fiber processing steps and developing remediation strategies during harvesting and in the gin.  An instrument was developed that uses the near infrared region to measure stickiness in cotton in the gin and spinning plant.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This accomplishment will affect the industry at every level and provide gins and spinning plants with the information needed to identify sticky bales and implement measures to remediate the problem.


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, applied tocopherol (vitamin E) and its derivatives to the grain layer of leather.  Leather treated with tocopherol showed significant improvement in mechanical strength and softness and, more importantly, increased strength retention and color fading resistance against ultra-violet radiation and heat. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The research results may benefit the leather industry in the production of high quality, durable upholstery leather, thereby contributing to the viability of the domestic tanning industry and its markets.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In collaboration with scientists at the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, ARS scientists at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin, examined the adhesive properties of the residues of biomass fermentations produced by bacteria that produce a sticky cell coating during fermentation. They showed that the fermentation residues produced by several Ruminococcus bacterial strains could partially replace phenol-formaldehyde resins (at up to 73 percent on a dry weight basis) as an adhesive for plywood construction.  They also demonstrated adhesive properties of the fermentation residue of alfalfa fiber, a more industrially relevant substrate.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These residues have potential as adhesives or adhesive extenders in wood construction applications.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In response to the need to utilize surplus commodity starches and add value to underutilized agricultural fibers, researchers at the Western Regional Research Center developed novel wheat starch- and straw-based industrial packaging materials.  Wheat starch was incorporated into starch-based single-use food wraps, plates and trays, allowing CRADA partner, EarthShell, Inc., to create industrial packaging products that are less expensive and more flexible than their present starch-based industrial materials. More specifically, basic knowledge of the structure/properties relationship of wheat starch and its associated trace proteins was applied to allow EarthShell to cut material costs by more than 50 percent.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This breakthrough will enable starch-based packaging to take a more competitive position in the $8 billion single-use packaging market, and will potentially improve the rural economy by expanding the non-food markets for wheat starch and fiber.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Broiler litter and broiler cake were dried, milled, pelletized, steam activated, and evaluated for adsorption of several different metal ions by scientists at the Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC), New Orleans, Louisiana, in cooperation with scientists at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.  These activated carbons absorbed more metal ions than any commercial activated carbon or most commercial cation exchange resins.  A patent application on this technology is currently being prepared.  Several poultry containment facility operators, a fertilizer company, AgriRecycle, in Delaware and Resource Conservation and Development Coordinators in Southern Mississippi are interested in this new technology.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:   Activated carbon production from broiler litter and broiler cakes can add value to animal waste and provide an efficient and cost effective metal ion adsorbent that could compete with commercial carbons in the marketplace.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Two types of modified cotton gauze were designed, prepared, and assayed by scientists at the SRRC in New Orleans, Louisiana, in collaboration with The Wound Healing Institute, Medical College of Virginia.  A Phase I Small Business Innovation Research/National Institutes of Health (SBIR/NIH) grant was funded for work with Tissue Technologies to place the two types of gauze in development.  Subsequent success of this work has resulted in filing a grant proposal for a Phase II SBIR/NIH grant which would create funding to place the gauzes in manufacturing and clinical trials.  This grant proposal has recently received a high score and is likely to be funded. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The impact of this research will benefit the consumer, providing high-tech wound dressings, and the cotton farmer and American textile industry by increasing value-added cotton product sales in the United States.


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




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, developed a rapid, automated procedure for non-destructively identifying scab-damaged wheat, based on near infrared (NIR) reflectance.  Using hundreds of hard red spring wheat samples, they identified a broad absorption band whose slope can be used as a classifier at 95 percent or better accuracy.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This technology, which can provide high speed commercial sorting, has potential for application by plant breeders and Federal grain inspectors.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  An Alkaline Water Retention Capacity (AWRC) test has been applied at the Soft Wheat Quality Laboratory (SWQL) in Wooster, Ohio, to predict the pastry baking quality of soft wheat test lines for 50 years.  Selection pressure over that time has reduced the response of contemporary soft wheat test lines to the test.  The SWQL studied the effect on pastry prediction of replacing the AWRC with a regression of protein content, kernel softness, and (50 percent) sucrose retention capacity, and has implemented the new prediction into SWQL's developmental test line evaluation program.  The new pastry quality prediction has proven to be considerably superior to the previous procedure. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Soft wheat breeders now have more confidence in the SWQL’s soft wheat pastry baking score at up to three generations earlier than previously possible.  Millers and bakers can rely on this prediction of baking quality by employing the same principle without having to perform as much costly test baking.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Engineers at Manhattan, Kansas, found that the data generated by the Perten SKCS 4100, an instrument developed by ARS and used by many grain millers and handlers, can be processed for detecting live and dead internal insects in whole wheat kernels.  The software has been transferred to a commercial miller for field testing.  Other grain processors throughout the country have expressed an interest in this technology.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This technology provides the wheat milling and handling industries, as well as the Food Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), a rapid and automated method for detecting internal insects in wheat kernels. 


will develop functional food ingredients and/or products.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Years of cooperative work between the Citrus and Subtropical Products Laboratory, Winter Haven, Florida, and the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Bradenton, Florida, has resulted in the planned release of a premium high lycopene tomato selection with superior flavor.  This was accomplished through many seasons of analytical flavor and sensory analyses of tomato lines, including those with high lycopene, resulting in a final selection this year.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This new line should boost Florida's struggling tomato industry by giving growers a horticulturally acceptable, flavorful tomato with added health benefits that should compete well in the domestic market.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, in collaboration with a university partner (Chungnam University, Republic of Korea), discovered a new method to produce structured lipids.  To accomplish this, they developed a process that uses a combination of physical fractionation and enzymatic steps; a patent was granted on this technology. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Successful adoption of this technology will provide hypercholesterolemic individuals with products that have beneficial cholesterol lowering effects.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  New food ingredients were prepared at NCAUR, Peoria, Illinois, that have useful textural qualities related to food calorie replacement properties.  Specific food products were prepared having increased nutritional qualities.  Technology transfer was completed with the creation of a new company, Fibergel Technologies.   


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Worldwide dietary improvements and an increased foreign market will result from products developed by ARS from this new technology.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Breads containing wheat, soy flours, and other ingredients were prepared at NCAUR, Peoria, Illinois, and evaluated by a trained taste panel to measure the level of undesirable "beany" flavor of soy versus good grain flavors.  Whole wheat breads containing up to 30 to 40 percent soy flour having very little beany flavor were prepared by adding highly active yeast, ascorbic acid, and sugar. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The U.S. baking industry, food pantries, and American public should benefit from such inexpensive, nutritious, heart-healthy bread.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Economical rice bread products are needed for consumers with celiac sprue disease and other disorders that prevent consumption of gluten-containing grain (e.g., wheat) products.  A scientist at the Southern Regional Research Center has developed formulations for rice bread using a home bread machine.  A prototype rice bread was developed with desirable flavor and texture. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The new formulations will benefit those with celiac sprue and other intestinal diseases by allowing the consumer to readily and economically (ingredient cost $0.30) prepare a gluten free bread.


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Scientists at Kearneysville, West Virginia, and Beltsville, Maryland, developed a new strategy for controlling postharvest decay without the use of fungicides.  The results showed that a combination of heat treatment and various biocontrol agents significantly reduced postharvest fungal decay of apples. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This control strategy could potentially be used by the apple industry to reduce the use of postharvest fungicides.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Athens, Georgia, in cooperation with engineers from Stork-Gamco Equipment Company, conducted studies using a European style electric stimulator designed to deplete energy from poultry muscle fiber and allow earlier breast muscle removal while optimizing the texture of the cooked meat.  The European style stimulator was successfully tested on the pilot plant processing line at the Russell Research Center.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The Stork-Gamco stimulator can be used in either European or U.S. processing plants to significantly reduce processing costs while optimizing the textural characteristics of the ready-to-eat breast meat.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Working with the Dried Fruit Association (DFA) of California, researchers at the Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) have developed a method to detect the pits and remove them from the process stream.  A prototype device was assembled implementing the method.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Once adapted for a processing plant environment, this device could reduce the number of pits in the final product, increasing product quality.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Working with the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation, researchers at WRRC developed a method to detect the fissures in rice without removing the shell.  This method was adapted to form the basis for an automated sorting device.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Once completed, this device could assist rice breeders in developing new strains of rice that are resistant to fissuring.


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




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at the Wheat, Sorghum, and Forage Research Unit, Lincoln, Nebraska, found that corn grain yield was significantly reduced when corn stover from previous crops was removed. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS scientists documented the need to more carefully determine the potential consequences of corn stover removal before the practice is recommended as a way to provide feedstock for biorefineries.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists with the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin, evaluated switchgrass populations for agronomic and biofuel traits and found phenotypic variability to be closely associated with the hardiness zone (defined by minimum cold temperatures) and eco-region (defined by historic native vegetation) from which a population was collected.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This is the first quantitative data to show that switchgrass properties are affected by the environment in which the plants developed, information that will be useful in determining the potential for using switchgrass as a biofuel crop and in identifying optimal germplasm for breeding, conservation, and production.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin, in a specific cooperative agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that harvesting corn stover at higher moisture level (~40 percent moisture) and storing the stover in plastic film under non-ensiling conditions economized field operations, increased the rate and efficiency of harvesting, and reduced storage losses of dry matter to under five percent.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The research has resulted in a more efficient and economical process for harvest and storage of corn stover to be used as a feedstock for production of ethanol and coproducts.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists with the Natural Resource Management Research Unit in Mandan, North Dakota, found that optimal pH and temperature conditions for establishment of big bluestem and switchgrass were 20 C, pH = 7 and 30 C, pH = 6, respectively.  Though very difficult to establish, indiangrass was found to produce three to five times more biomass; biomass of higher quality than either switchgrass or big bluestem.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Management technology was devised establishing of warm season grasses on marginal lands and buffer strips that will aid in effective production of biomass either for forage or for conversion to biofuel.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Engineers at the Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit, Cropping Systems Research Laboratory in Lubbock, Texas, conducted studies in cooperation with the USDA-ARS Environmental and Plant Dynamics Research Unit in Phoenix, Arizona, to evaluate performance and emissions of pellet stoves when burning cotton byproduct (COBY) pellets produced from cotton gin trash.  COBY and COBY/Guayule pellets burned in commercial pellet stoves were found to have acceptable exhaust gas emissions and heating values equivalent to other pellet stove fuels. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The findings show that pelletizing cotton gin trash converts a waste product into a reliable and economical heating fuel and provides a source of income for cotton gins.


develop technology that improves the efficiency and economics of ethanol production from biomass.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers in the Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Unit at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, discovered the location of the phytosterols contained in corn fiber (a coproduct of ethanol production from corn grain) and developed a process to purify and lower the cost of extracting the healthy, phytosterol rich oil from the corn fiber.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research results in a method of producing corn fiber oil that can make it an economically viable coproduct, and that in turn, can reduce the net cost of ethanol production. 


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS engineers in the Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Unit at ERRC in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, created a base-case state-of-the-art model that can be used to compare the efficiency and economics of conventional ethanol production processes with innovative new unit processes.  They found that recent technology developments can save about 10 cents per gallon of ethanol produced. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The impact of ARS’ research is a model whereby small companies, which design, build, and operate dry-grind corn-to-ethanol plants, can lower their fuel ethanol production costs.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in the Fermentation Biotechnology Research Unit at NCAUR in Peoria, Illinois, developed a process to improve the taste of corn gluten meal.  Spaghetti containing up to 5 percent of this modified corn gluten meal was judged acceptable by a trained taste panel. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This technology provides food products with improved nutritional value to consumers while creating new markets for ethanol coproducts.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  By using directed molecular evolution, ARS researchers in the Bioproduct Chemistry and Engineering Research Unit at the Western Regional Research Center in Albany, California, found new enzymes for conversion of starch to glucose that are nearly 50 times more reactive than the original enzymes. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Enzymes that enable the conversion of starch to glucose at lower temperatures (cold hydrolysis), will improve energy efficiency and reduce the cost of fuel ethanol production.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in the Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit at ERRC in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, have developed enzymatic milling procedures adapted to the dry grind ethanol process for the purpose of recovering additional high value coproducts.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Enzymatic milling should improve the efficiency of dry-grind ethanol production, and by increasing the value of coproducts, should improve its economics.


develop technology to improve biodiesel quality and performance and the efficiency and economics of biodiesel production.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists of the Fats, Oils, and Animal Coproducts Research Unit at the ERRC in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Center's cost engineer developed quantitative computer models for use in estimating the effects that facility design, production process, and feedstock have on the cost of biodiesel production.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The computer models, which were developed, should eliminate trial and error and help increase the efficiency of biodiesel production.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists of the Fats, Oils, and Animal Coproducts Research Unit in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, developed and optimized a process to produce biodiesel directly in oilseeds.  The process eliminates the need to use the EPA regulated organic solvents required in the current biodiesel production process.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS scientists developed an environmentally friendly process that reduces the cost of producing biodiesel.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists with the Food and Industrial Oil Research Unit at the NCAUR, Peoria, Illinois, developed a spectroscopic method for determining the fatty acid composition of biodiesel fuel.  Results with this new method are in agreement with measurements made with the slower, more expensive chromatographic method normally used. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Research has resulted in a quicker and less expensive measurement technology to determine fatty acid composition and to assess the quality of biodiesel fuel.


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.




During FY 2003, ARS will


develop information on measures of animal well-being, strategies to reduce stress, and systems to improve food animal production.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS conducted research on toll like receptors and acute phase proteins at West Lafayette, Indiana, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha at Columbia, Missouri, that demonstrated the importance and ability of these components of the immune system to withstand stress and disease when animals are distressed.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This accomplishment is useful to livestock producers to reduce mortalities and reduce susceptibility of distressed animals to disease and the loss of production from stress.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS and Mississippi State collaborators demonstrated that higher air velocity improves performance of broilers over 28 days of age.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This accomplishment provides the basis for poultry producers to produce larger-sized broilers more efficiently.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, found respiration rate the best indicator of heat-stress for both cattle and swine.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  A “livestock safety monitor” has been built and the design was transferred to customers for early warning of high temperature events.


conduct research contributing to development of genetically improved aquatic stocks; biologics, medicines, and practices to improve fish health; and research to enhance economic and environmental sustainability.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS initiated a breeding project for North American Atlantic salmon at Orono/Franklin, Maine, established the basis for a breeding plan for rainbow trout at Leetown, West Virginia, and increased knowledge of genes in the genomes of channel catfish and rainbow trout at Stoneville, Mississippi, and Leetown, West Virginia.  The USDA 103 select line of channel catfish released to the industry in 2001 was further improved for multiple economically important traits.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These genetic improvement accomplishments of aquatic species contribute to further enhancement of economically important traits in the USDA 103 line of catfish and represent progress toward developing improved lines of rainbow trout and North American Atlantic salmon.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS developed molecular methods to clarify misidentified Flavobacterium columnare at Stuttgart, Arkansas, and rapid detection of Flavobacterium columnare in pond water and eggs at Auburn, Alabama.  A data package was completed on copper sulfate for FDA approval so that copper sulfate can be used for treating sick catfish in earthen ponds.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These fish health accomplishments will provide fish farmers with an additional approved medicine to combat disease.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS demonstrated that the capability of trout to utilize barley was heritable at Aberdeen, Idaho.  Research was conducted on alternative nutrient sources for hybrid striped bass at Stuttgart, Arkansas, and for spawning flounder and black sea bass at Ft. Pierce, Florida.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These nutrition accomplishments contribute to reducing the reliance of aquaculture on fish meal and improve the sustainability of fish farming.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  An ARS partner, Freshwater Institute, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, demonstrated a commercially relevant scale recirculating fish farm system continuously produced a ton of marketable coldwater finfish per week, showing a practical land-based alternative to ponds, net pens, or raceways.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Domestic and international commercial fish farms producing Atlantic salmon smolts, Artic char, ornamental fish, tilapia, rainbow trout, walleye, yellow perch, and hybrid striped bass have adopted production systems designs and altered management based on this recirculation research.


develop scientific information that contributes to improved efficiency and environmental stewardship of food animal production systems.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Research conducted at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center at Madison, Wisconsin, found that reducing the amount of dietary rumen degraded protein of dairy cows from 13.7 to 9.5 percent did not affect milk or protein yield but did result in a 12 percent decrease in urinary nitrogen excretion. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS research found that feeding rumen degraded protein in excess of the amount needed by rumen microbes leads to excess urinary nitrogen excretion, contributing to pollution of water and air.  Application of a lower (10 percent) dietary rumen degraded protein requirement in dairy cattle offers a means for reduction in nitrogen excretion. 


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers at Clay Center, Nebraska, measured plasma urea nitrogen concentrations, a quantitative assessment of inefficient crude protein utilization, and determined that this trait was moderately heritable and not genetically correlated to growth in swine. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  ARS researchers have found that swine diets are over formulated with nitrogen crude protein to ensure no deficiencies and accommodate genetic variation in crude protein requirements and utilization.  Plasma urea nitrogen concentrations may be an exploitable quantitative trait to develop animals with greater ability to efficiently utilize dietary crude protein and minimize nutrient excretion.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory, Miles City, Montana, have found that the overall efficiency of beef production systems can be improved by changing the calving season from spring to summer, thereby allowing better matching of seasonal forage production to animal needs while simultaneously improving rangeland health and productivity.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Results of ARS’ research will result in integrated rangeland-based beef production systems that are more economically and environmentally sustainable.


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




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, revealed differences in the expression of over 430 genes in swine embryos between days 11 and 12 of pregnancy using serial analysis of gene expression techniques. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Swine exhibit high rates (less than 30 percent) of early embryonic mortality in the first two weeks of pregnancy.  This effort is the first step in identifying genes and their function that are critical for porcine embryo development, ultimately leading to increased reproductive rates per female.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Research in the Growth Biology Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland, showed that expression of the genes encoding fatty acid synthase and acetyl coenzyme A in the liver is altered when young broiler chickens are switched from a high protein to lower protein grower diet. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Although changes in dietary protein levels change metabolism during the starter to grower periods in broiler chickens, there is little information concerning the time and course of the process to adaptation.  Regulating these genes by diet offers the poultry industry the means to selectively reduce unwanted fat accretion in birds.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In research conducted at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC), Clay Center, Nebraska, long-term genetic selection utilizing estimated breeding values has resulted in an annual increase in ovulation rate and twinning rate of 5 and 3 percent, respectively.  The 2003 twinning rate in this herd is now in excess of 55 percent with a 48 percent increase in total weaning weight per cow calving. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research clearly shows that alteration of the reproductive rate, the most limiting factor affecting efficiency of beef production, is possible.


develop technologies leading to improved marketability of animal products.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS meat scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, compared a system (the MARC Beef Classification System) developed in their lab to two noninvasive systems for identifying beef that could be guaranteed tender on-line in beef processing plants.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Profitability of the U.S. beef industry is limited by the inability to consistently produce lean, highly tender products.  The MARC Beef Classification System was identified as the only system accurate for industry use and has been subsequently recommended to companies for implementation by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.


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




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at MARC, Clay Center, Nebraska, identified two DNA markers in the u-calpain gene that are associated with differences in tenderness of beef products and have assisted in the successful validation of these markers by cattle producers in two large scale tests.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Tenderness of beef has consistently been identified by all sectors of the beef industry as the highest priority issue for enhancing the value of beef products.  It is estimated that approximately 25 percent of steaks are less tender than desired.  Tests for these markers are now available and are being used to select against the negative impacts of u-calpain on tenderness.   


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Research at MARC, Clay Center, Nebraska, has identified swine chromosomes 10 and 14 to harbor important quantitative trait loci (QTL) affecting ovulation rate, nipple number, plasma FSH, and age at puberty.  Comparative maps of these two chromosomes were developed to allow identification of positional candidate genes in these QTL regions.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The availability of these comparative maps with the human and mouse genomes will allow candidate genes to be sequenced to study association with phenotypic performance for these traits.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) was utilized in research at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland, to determine that an increase in lean mass was initiated between 27 and 34 days of age in genetically enhanced mice expressing the disruption of the myostatin gene.   


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Genetic disruption in the myostatin gene interferes with myostatin function promotes muscle growth and reduction in fat in food animals.  This work further elucidated the effect of myostatin gene and how it may be used to improve lean tissue production in food animals.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Researchers at Beltsville, Maryland, have successfully identified and cloned portions of the ghrelin gene in both chickens and turkeys, revealing a high degree of similarity to its mammalian counterpart with expression in stomach tissue of chickens during periods of feed deprivation and re-feeding.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Feed costs are the single most important cost in meat animal production, approaching 75 percent of total costs in poultry production.  These results suggest a functional role for the ghrelin gene in regulating feed intake in poultry.


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:  ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, and Beltsville, Maryland, have worked collaboratively with the International Bovine BAC Mapping Consortium (includes labs in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, and France) and the Michael Smith Genome Science Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, to develop a bovine bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) map that includes fingerprints of 300,000 BAC clones and 75,000 BAC-end sequences.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Development of a BAC map dramatically reduces the time and expense necessary for identifying genes affecting important traits, improves the effectiveness of marker-assisted selection, and anchors assembled genomic sequence to chromosomes.  This physical map will be used as the scaffold for the sequencing of the bovine genome at Baylor College of Medicine and by ARS scientists in linking the physical, radiation hybrid (in collaboration with Roslin Institute), and USDA linkage maps. 


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Clay Center, Nebraska, and Beltsville, Maryland, have successfully enhanced the genetic linkage maps for swine and cattle to include over 1,000 expressed sequence tags (genetic markers within expressed genes). 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The availability of a “gene-based” map allows the integration of all available linkage, radiation hybrid, and physical map information into consensus maps for identification of genes and their function in previously identified important chromosomal regions.  Additionally, comparative approaches between swine, cattle, and human genome information can now be fully utilized.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Statistical software was developed by researchers at Clay Center, Nebraska, to identify three genomic regions affecting ovulation and twinning rate in cattle and incorporate DNA marker genotype information into estimating breeding value for these traits. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This bioinformatic tool will be instrumental in the implementation of marker-assisted selection programs in the beef and dairy industries.


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




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists in the Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland, developed a methodology to allow genetic evaluation of fertility in young females and for calving ease in cows and have recently implemented new genetic evaluations for both traits. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The dairy industry has identified decreased cow fertility as a major economic concern in recent years.  This advancement will allow dairy breeders to make genetic improvements in reproductive efficiency of the Nation’s dairy herd.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS researchers in Brooksville, Florida, completed several years of intensive data collection on tenderness in Brahman sire lines.  In cooperation with scientists at Louisiana State University, these results have been used to produce the first sire genetic evaluation for carcass traits in this economically important breed.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Brahman-based cattle are well suited for use in the subtropical United States because of their adaptation to adverse conditions.  However, this is at least partially negated by lower market value for these cattle due to lowered meat quality associated with decreased tenderness.  This development will allow selection for improved carcass quality in subtropically-adapted germplasm.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Five sheep breeds were compared at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska, revealing superior productivity of the Romanov breed due to greater conception rate, prolificacy, and longevity compared to Finnsheep, Dorset, Texel, and Montadale breeds.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Comparison of sheep breeds provides critical information to guide the appropriate use of breeds in commercial crossbreeding systems.  Broader use of crossbred ewes incorporating Romanov germplasm offers breeders a means to increase the efficiency of commercial sheep production.


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:  Researchers at Beltsville, Maryland, and East Lansing, Michigan, developed a novel method for removing glycerol from frozen/thawed chicken semen. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Glycerol is the most effective cryoprotectant for poultry semen, but unfortunately is a contraceptive in the hen.  This development is significant for it allows the immediate banking of semen from at-risk genetically valuable and/or unique chicken lines.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The National Animal Germplasm Program was formally established in 1999 to protect the U.S. livestock industry by preserving genetic diversity in food animal species.  In 2003, the total number of breeds in the repository increased to 42 (a 147 percent increase).  In addition to 40 lines of chickens, the total number of units of semen increased by 337 percent (from 16,000 to 70,000).  The number of cattle and sheep embryos stored increased to 689. 


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Breeding populations of livestock have narrowed considerably in their genetic diversity over the past several decades prompting concern regarding adequate levels of genetic variability.   Several economically important breeds, including the Holstein, are now considered secure.  This progress provides increased security of farm animal genetic resources and long-term maintenance of animal genetic variation.


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.




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Modern genetic methods make identification, modification, and utilization of disease resistant genes much faster than before.  ARS scientists are very active in identifying, locating, and modifying resistant genes so they can be introduced into new varieties.  Examples include the following:  resistance to bacterial angular leaf spot disease in strawberry (Beltsville, Maryland); resistance to postharvest decay organisms in peach (Kearneysville, West Virginia); resistance to late blight in potato (Madison, Wisconsin); resistance to various pathogens in papaya (Hilo, Hawaii); resistance to Sclerotinia blight in peanut (Stillwater, Oklahoma); resistance to blast in rice (Stuttgart, Arkansas); resistance to soybean cyst nematode in soybean (Beltsville, Maryland); resistance to Fusarium head blight in barley (Madison, Wisconsin and Fargo, North Dakota) and wheat (Albany, California).


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The resistance genes, which include those introduced by both breeding and genetic engineering will protect the next generation of crop varieties to be used in American agriculture.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Accurate yield estimates are critical for growers, juice processors, and wineries to make decisions on crop thinning, harvest, and the management of processing facilities.  The current standard method is based on hand sampling and provides only limited information and static estimates.  ARS scientists at the USDA-ARS Horticultural Crops Research Unit, Corvallis, Oregon (located at Prosser, Washington), in collaboration with faculty at Washington State University, have developed an automated method of measuring trellis wire tension and vibration frequencies to estimate grapevine yield.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This new automated method improves production efficiency by saving labor and providing nearly continuous estimates of fruit mass.  It has the potential to enhance production management strategies for hundreds of thousands of acres of vineyards in the United States.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  There is an increasing incidence, severity, and negative economic impact of a physiological abnormality of pecan, termed "mouse-ear."  Scientists at the USDA-ARS Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Georgia, investigated the problem.  The disorder was discovered to be due to a nickel (Ni) deficiency.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This discovery will allow for development of improved nutrient management strategies that will improve orchard profitability and likely reduce applications of nitrogen, zinc, and copper in pecan production.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The single most important pollination management concern of U.S. alfalfa seed producers is a chalkbrood disease that kills immatures of the alfalfa leafcutting bee.  This bee pathogen has been notoriously difficult to culture, and existing tests for spore germination give highly variable results.  ARS scientists at the Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, collaborating with scientists at the Biosciences Research Laboratory, Fargo, North Dakota, recently discovered that lipids act to stimulate the germination of chalkbrood spores.  Very few fungi are known to require lipids for germination or growth, however, the alfalfa leafcutting bee has unusually large stores of lipids.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These results will be used to develop a reliable and standardized chalkbrood spore viability test that will form the basis of investigations leading to management options for beekeepers designed to disrupt the disease cycle in commercial scale populations of the alfalfa leafcutting bee.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Honeybee colonies are threatened by an assortment of parasites, pathogens, and pests that affect their well-being.  Research was conducted to evaluate the role of parasitic mites in transmitting honeybee viruses.  Scientists at the Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, demonstrated conclusively that parasitic mites of honeybees are capable of transmitting viruses from infected bees to uninfected bees.  Using molecular techniques, researchers were able to calculate the transmission efficiency from mites to bees and demonstrate that non-infected mites can acquire virus by sharing the same cell with one or more infected mites.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The immediate impact of this research is a better understanding of how bee viruses are spread between bees and the importance of mite control.


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Columbia, Missouri, and researchers at Iowa State University have developed a central web interface for maize (corn) research called MaizeGDB (maize genetics and genomics database).  Up-to-date genetic and genomic data are delivered from the site, along with software tools, literature references, and instructions about how to access the data.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This “one-stop” site for maize researchers ensures that the most recent genetics and genomics discoveries are widely accessible to maize crop improvement and genetics programs worldwide.


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.




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Phoenix, Arizona, showed that a photosynthetic rate at high temperatures is controlled by heat sensitivity of the enzyme, Rubisco activase, which is necessary for plants to take up and incorporate carbon dioxide.  Plants with different temperature tolerances have Rubisco activase sensitivities to temperature that mirror those of the plants.  In related research at Urbana, Illinois, ARS scientists have tested other potential sites of heat damage to photosynthesis and found that those sites do not account for heat sensitivity.  At Lubbock, Texas, ARS scientists are describing molecular processes in plants that restore cell functions after heat damage.  They have also identified mutations that reduce the plant’s ability to protect itself against heat damage.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The identification of the primary “subcellular” sites of heat injury is a major scientific advance that should enable breeders to improve crop productivity at high temperatures more rapidly.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Ethanol production, providing more than 1 percent of automotive fuel needs in the United States, still represents only a very small fraction of the demand for renewable energy.  Cornstarch is a relatively high value “starting material” for ethanol production.  Utilization of low value cellulosic sources, such as corn stalks, is hindered by the presence of lignin, which complicates ethanol production.  ARS scientists at Albany, California, have now demonstrated that a regulatory gene in corn controls the amount of lignin deposited in the stalk.  Plants with reduced levels of this gene make more lignin and plants with increased levels make less lignin.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Manipulation of lignin offers the first chance to control the amount of this gene in stems or branches, thereby possibly providing a mechanism for efficiently using waste cellulosic materials for ethanol production. 


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Fruits and vegetables contain many minerals, vitamins, and other compounds that are needed for health.  ARS is pursuing several ways to improve the nutritional quality of these foods.  At Ithaca, New York, ARS scientists have focused on several natural mutations that increase concentrations of lycopene and other carotenoids in tomato and on a gene that stimulates ripening and development of flavor and nutrient compounds.  In Houston, Texas, ARS scientists found that a broad spectrum of genetic lines of pea have a 10-fold range of essential mineral concentrations, in some cases considerably higher than the standard garden pea.  In both cases, these discoveries can form the starting point for breeding more nutritious vegetables.  In Beltsville, Maryland, ARS scientists have genetically engineered a calcium-binding protein into potatoes and have shown that it can be useful in increasing the calcium content of this widely consumed food which is deficient in calcium.  In Oxford, Mississippi, ARS scientists, in cooperation with University of Idaho scientists, genetically engineered blueberries to contain high amounts of resveratrol believed to be a dietary cancer preventative.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The next steps in improving these fruits and vegetables are to test for bioavailability of the nutrients and to breed for higher nutrient levels using those genetic lines with increased bioavailable nutrients.


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:  Many consumers demand measures to promote the biosafety of genetic engineering; ARS is responding in several ways.  One important goal is the confinement of genetically engineered gene products, when appropriate, to specific tissues of the plant or to specific times in the plant’s development, rather than in the whole plant throughout its life.  This specificity is provided by specialized gene promoters that respond to specific stimuli.  At Beltsville, Maryland, research has identified promoters that respond to viral diseases.  At Albany, California, ARS scientists have identified promoters that are specific for various tissues.  At Kearneysville, West Virginia, ARS scientists have demonstrated that a leaf specific promoter in apple trees does not allow expression of transgenes in fruits.  At Madison, Wisconsin, a promoter has been developed that is specific for the “hull” (seed covering tissues) in barley.  At Lubbock, Texas, ARS scientists have “taken apart” the process by which viruses take over plant gene expression and have identified characteristics that make promoters effective.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These studies are leading to the development of highly specific, effective gene promoters which will limit genetically engineered products to only those sites within the plant and times when they are needed.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  In Albany, California, ARS scientists have tested a novel recombination system that enhanced the specificity of gene incorporation into the host genome.  The system provides precise integration in a model test system, that minimizes disruption of the DNA, and in which the gene is heritable.  This provides the basis for research to apply this novel system to crop plants.  Also at Albany, California, ARS scientists have successfully tested a new system to “stack” separate genes end-on-end in the host genome, so that they can be incorporated and passed on to the next generation together.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This stacking technology is expected to be broadly used in creating plants with several desirable characteristics, including having all the genes respond to the same genetic controls.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  The European Union has adopted regulations that will prohibit genetically engineered materials that are resistant to an antibiotic. At Lubbock, Texas, ARS scientists have developed a simple procedure to replace the use of antibiotic resistant genes during genetic engineering.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This new procedure will enable creation of transgenic plants without antibiotic resistance which will help maintain exports of agricultural products to Europe.


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




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Corn varieties differ genetically, but until genetic variation in the genes for starch quality and protein are identified at the molecular level, it will be difficult to improve corn for specific cooking purposes and nutritional value.  ARS scientists at Raleigh, North Carolina, have characterized the molecular variation for seven genes controlling starch quality and protein content.  These genes are associated with pasting quality, starch to protein ratio, and environmental effects on grain quality.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These new findings can help design new corn varieties for specialized cooking purposes and improved nutritional value.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  ARS scientists at Beaumont, Texas, in cooperation with the U.S. Rice Foundation have developed molecular markers for rice cooking quality, grain aroma, and disease resistance.  These markers, which are more accurate than standard breeding methods, may enable breeders to select simultaneously for several economically important traits.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Providing these molecular markers to U.S. rice breeders will help bridge the technology gap for many conventional breeding programs and result in new specialty rice desired by consumers.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Drought is the greatest single limitation to soybean yield in the United States. No drought tolerant cultivars, however, are available for commercial production.  ARS scientists at Raleigh, North Carolina, coordinated a national program to develop drought tolerant soybean varieties and, through DNA marker analysis, discovered genes that partially control drought resistance in new drought tolerant soybean lines.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Incorporation of genes that mediate drought tolerance in commercial soybean cultivars will provide significant protection against U.S. production losses due to inadequate rainfall.


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Highly detailed genomic maps may accelerate the genetic improvement of soybeans and help better position U.S. producers in competitive global oilseed markets.  ARS scientists at Beltsville, Maryland, and Ames, Iowa, in collaboration with the Universities of Nebraska, Utah, and the Monsanto Company, developed and used nearly 2,000 DNA markers to create a new soybean genome map that encompasses all 20 soybean chromosomes.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  The newly constructed map is an essential tool for discovering genes affecting important soybean traits, for marker assisted selection to identify superior breeding lines and for basic studies aimed at the cloning of genes.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Vegetable pigments may enhance human health as well as consumer appeal, which may increase vegetable consumption.  Manipulating pigment content through breeding requires an understanding of the genetic control for such content.  Until now, the genes that control orange color in carrot roots had not been placed on the carrot genetic map.  ARS scientists at Madison, Wisconsin, mapped 19 genes on the carrot genome for orange, red, yellow and white color.  Most genes were clustered in three groups along the carrot chromosomes so apparently a few key genetic regions control root color.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This information is critical for improving color and health promoting properties of carrots through plant breeding.


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.




During FY 2003, ARS will


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Genetic stocks, specialized germplasm lines with specific genetically-characterized traits (often mutants), comprise a vitally important tool for plant genetic and genomic research.  The USDA/ARS Maize Genetics Cooperation-Stock Center (the world’s largest and highest quality collection of maize genetic stocks) in Urbana, Illinois, distributed a record number of stocks (15,000+) to fill a number of requests (more than 300).


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  These stocks have enabled research worldwide that will enhance understanding of maize as a biological organism which could ultimately lead to maize crop improvement.


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


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Rust diseases pose serious challenges for dry bean production.  Merlot, a small red dry bean, developed by the USDA-ARS Sugarbeet and Bean Research Unit, East Lansing, Michigan, in cooperation with Michigan State University and Washington State University, is an upright, short-vine (Type IIA), full season cultivar with consistent and desirable canning quality.  It is the first small red commercial cultivar with resistance to bean rust disease.  Merlot improves the seed characteristics, canning quality, and disease resistance of the small red market class.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  Grower interest in Merlot is considerable as determined by the quantity of foundation seed ordered through commercial channels.


ACCOMPLISHMENTS:  Existing and emerging plant pathogens pose serious economic threats to U.S. oilseed production and profitability.  ARS scientists at Fargo, North Dakota, developed an efficient and effective molecular marker technique, termed TRAP (targeted region amplified polymorphism) that takes advantage of the 60,000+ ESTs (expressed sequence tag) available for sunflower.  This technique was used to assess the genetic variability of 16 perennial sunflower species, and hybrids between wild perennial sunflower and cultivated sunflower lines.  New resistant lines are not strongly susceptible to the new broomrape race F in Spain and are resistant to a new broomrape race G in Turkey.  Virus resistance also was transferred from three wild annual sunflower lines into cultivated sunflower.  ARS scientists at Stoneville, Mississippi, deployed similar genomic approaches to develop soybeans resistant to charcoal rot (one of the most important pathogens attacking southern soybean), and to identify genes for resistance to that disease.  ARS scientists at Tifton, Georgia, developed more effective methods for evaluating and using peanut germplasm collections.  By characterizing peanuts’ genetic variability, they developed a small group of peanut lines that collectively encompassed much of the genetic diversity of the entire U.S. peanut germplasm collection, thereby enabling more rapid discovery of novel valuable genes and traits.


IMPACT/OUTCOME:  This research will help advance and expand the capacity of U.S. oilseed breeders to breed disease resistant lines in several different crop species.





The major thrusts of ARS’ mission are to conduct research that ensures high quality, safe food and other agricultural products; assess the nutritional needs of Americans; sustain a competitive agricultural economy; and enhance the natural resource base and the environment.  In performing these activities, ARS helps provide 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 program around the other four programmatic USDA/REE/ARS Strategic Plan goals.

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Last Modified: 3/1/2005
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