Surfing for Soy Compounds
ARS researchers have posted a
database on the web to help scientists pinpoint isoflavonesestrogen-like
compounds in soy foods. Some isoflavones have been reported to help lower
cancer risks, benefit the cardiovascular system, or reduce bone loss after
menopause. The database could help nutritionists and physicians recommend foods
with the highest levels of specific isoflavones. It provides values for
daidzein, genistein, glycitein, and other isoflavones in 128 soy foods and
The isoflavone web site springs from a larger effort to compile information
on health-enhancing phytonutrients. Last fall, ARS released a database on
carotenoids, such as beta carotene and lycopene, in 215 foods. They also plan
one for flavonoids, including catechins in tea, naringin and taxifolin in
citrus, and quercitin in onions, apples, and red wine.
USDA-ARS Beltsville Human
Nutrition Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland; phone (301) 734-5635.
Visit the isoflavone database at
Oral Vaccine for Shipping Fever
A new oral vaccine for shipping fever in cattle may be on the market in
about 3 years. Also known as bovine respiratory disease, shipping fever can
kill the animals. It costs U.S. producers in excess of $1 billion annually in
animal deaths, reduced weight gain, lower feed efficiency, antibiotic needs,
trimming costs at the packer, and poor-quality meat and hide products.
In an ARS field trial, the oral vaccine was fed to calves considered to have
either high or low risk for the disease. Vaccinated and unvaccinated high-risk
calves were shipped from Arkansas to a New Mexico State University feedlot in
Clayton. Low-risk animals were shipped to the same feedlot but from a much
shorter distance. Only 4 percent of vaccinated high-risk calves died, compared
to 16 percent of the unvaccinated ones. Low-risk calves fed the oral vaccine
had a 25 percent higher average weight gain during the first 28 days on feed,
compared to unvaccinated animals. The oral dose also protected the animals
within 4 days, instead of the 10 to 14 common with injectable vaccines. The
oral vaccine avoids another drawback of injectable vaccines, which often
produce lesions. The Biotechnology Research and Development Consortium in
Peoria, Illinois, funded part of the research and has applied for a patent.
Robert E. Briggs and
Fred M. Tatum, USDA-ARS
National Animal Disease Center,
Ames, Iowa; phone (515) 663-7639.
New Grape Trio
Consumers may be smacking their lips on three new seedless grapes within a
few years. Melissa, Summer Royal, and Summer Muscat are the latest sweet
offerings of the ARS grape breeding program in Fresno, California. Cuttings
were made available to breeders and growers for the first time this spring.
More cuttings may be available this winter. Growers stand to benefit from
unique traits of each new variety.
Melissa, a white seedless grape, yields large, sweet fruits that ripen about
the same time as Thompson Seedlessthe most popular seedless grape. But
Melissa vines require no sprays of the natural growth regulator gibberellic
acid to produce big berries. Summer Royal, a black seedless, is sweet, large,
firm, and ideal for snacks and salads. It fills a production gap at the end of
August, when few American-grown black seedless grapes are on the market.
Last of the trio, Summer Muscat is a seedless raisin grape. Its sweet,
strong muscat flavor is somewhat like the traditional Muscat of Alexandria
grapes favored by some makers of candy-coated raisins. But Muscat of Alexandria
seeds have to be removed mechanically, making the raisins sticky and hard to
process. Summer Muscat is the second dry-on-the-vine or "DOV" grape
from the Fresno researchers. Unlike conventional raisin grapes, DOV grapes can
dry on the vine once the cane or branch is severed. They can then be picked by
machine instead of by hand, saving on labor costs.
The Fresno breeding program, active since 1923, is best known for Flame
Seedless, America's most popular red seedless grape.
David W. Ramming, USDA-ARS
Research Laboratory, Fresno, California; phone (559) 453-3061.
Electricity "Waste" Powers Crops
Since enactment of the Clean Air Act as amended in 1990, scrubbers added to
smokestacks of electric power plants have been generating more and more gypsum
as a waste product. But instead of going to a landfill, that gypsum can help
farmers raise their corn and soybean yields while protecting soil from erosion.
Though still in the research stage, the tactic is being tried on hundreds of
thousands of acres in the Midwest.
ARS researchers in Indiana have shown that the gypsum helps soil take in
more water by preventing soil from crusting, so more rainwater enters the soil,
instead of running off. In the past, gypsum from quarries has been used to
loosen soil, treat soils high in sodium or toxic aluminum, and fertilize soils
with calcium and sulfur deficiencies. At least one Illinois farmer operates a
business applying the power-plant gypsum on other farmers' fields. Trucks that
used to return empty from the grain elevator now return fullof gypsum.
Darrell Norton, USDA-ARS
National Soil Erosion Research
Laboratory, West Lafayette, Indiana; phone (765) 494-8673.
"Science Update" was published in the
October 1999 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.