Bees Take a Stroll for Biocontrol
Some honey bees powder their feet as they leave the hive to gather nectar
from flowers. That's because ARS scientists have recruited these bees as
couriers in a nonchemical war on insect pests. The scientists recently patented
a device that forces bees exiting a hive to walk through a pan in which their
feet and legs get coated with a mix of talc and a naturally occurring insect
virus. This nuclear polyhedrosis virus doesn't harm the bees. But as they buzz
from flower to flower, some virus particles get rubbed onto blossoms.
Susceptible insect pests that visit those blossoms may get infectedand
die. In tests in fields of crimson clover, the bee-dispensed virus killed 74 to
87 percent of corn earworm larvae.
USDA-ARS Insect Biology and
Population Management Research Laboratory, Tifton, Georgia; phone (912)
Mysterious Pine Toxin Is Identified
ARS scientists have unmasked a toxin from ponderosa pine needles that can
cause cows to abort. Tests pinpointed the culprit as isocupressic acid, a
yellow, oily substance in the tree's needles. The discovery may be the first
step to developing an antidote and other ways to protect pregnant cows and
their calves. Ranchers and scientists have known for about 30 years that
pregnant cows can suffer abortions, premature delivery, or post-pregnancy
complications within days after grazing on ponderosa pine. The toxin problem
costs western beef ranchers an estimated $20 million a year. The scientists are
conducting follow-up studies lo see if other labdane diterpenesthe family
of compounds that includes isocupressic acidare toxic to cows.
Plant Research Laboratory, Logan, Utah; phone (801) 752-2941.
Computers Help Reap Bigger Soybean Yields
Mississippi Delta soybean grower Kenneth B. Hood is growing electronic
soybeans again this winter. He can harvest a simulated crop every 3 minutes
with an experimental computer model from ARS. By following the model's advice
during the real soybean growing season, Hood and four other Delta growers have
reported real-world soybean increases up to 29 percent since 1991. Scientists
at ARS and Mississippi Slate University began developing the model, called
GLYCIM, in 1978. The American Soybean Association recently funded an expansion
of the testing to include farmers in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri,
USDA-ARS Crop Systems And Global
Change Lab, Beltsville, Maryland; phone (301) 504-5806.
Citrus Acid Could Find Textile Role
Orange trees and other citrus furnish a natural alternative to
formaldehyde-based chemicals used to finish dyed cotton fabric. Finishing is
essential to produce shirts and other consumer products that will be smooth and
wrinkle-resistant after washing and drying. ARS scientists have now shown that
citric acid, long an ingredient in foods and cosmetics, produces satisfactory
durable-press properties in dyed cotton fabric. When finished with the
scientists' technique using a citric acid solution, dyed poplin cloth held its
color and wrinkle resistance. ARS collaborated on the research with The Bombay
Textile Research Association, Bombay, India.
Reinhardt, USDA-ARS Textile Finishing Chemistry Research Unit, Southern
Regional Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana; phone (504) 286-4528.
Corn Grows Digital Ears
An electronic bumper crop of corn is always ready to harvest from a
prototype computerized catalog developed by ARS and Iowa State University
researchers. The catalog, Corn-Base, will help researchers and breeders select
corn accessions with desired traits from ARS' North Central Regional Plant
Introduction Station. The researchers adapted commercial software and wrote
some of their own to store color video images of corn ears, plus text, on
CD-ROM and other data storage devices. Currently, the text can be accessed
through USDA's Germplasm Resources Information Network. Eventually, the video
imagery will be accessible via modem.
Introduction Research Station, Ames, Iowa; phone (515) 294-3255
New Casaba Fights Off Mildew
Breeders can now obtain a line of mildew-resistant casaba melons. Scientists
at ARS and the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station developed the new
germplasm, called C931. It is the only mildew-resistant casaba for the Georgia
and South Carolina growing regions. In field tests, 80 to 90 percent of the new
plants survived powdery and downy mildews without chemical fungicide.
Susceptible melons were wiped out. A plant of C931 typically yields one to four
melons, each weighing 4 to 6 pounds.
Laboratory, Charleston, South Carolina; phone (843) 402-5300.
"Science Update" was published in the
January 1995 issue
of Agricultural Research magazine.