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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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National Program 306: Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products
2000-2010 Action Plan (modified in 2004)
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1 - INTRODUCTION
2 - COMPONENT 1. Quality Characterization, Preservation, and Enhancement
3 - COMPONENT 2. New Processes, New Uses, and Value-Added Foods and Biobased Products
4 - CRIS Projects
COMPONENT 2. New Processes, New Uses, and Value-Added Foods and Biobased Products

Problem Area 2a.  New Product Technology

Issues

Fundamental knowledge of biochemical, cellular, and molecular processes, and their role in determining functionality, is needed to develop technologies that will lead to improved utilization of agricultural commodities and their byproducts.  There is opportunity for optimization of levels of compounds in agricultural products which provide health benefits to humans and animals.  Sources of natural products for use as nutraceuticals, phytochemicals, pharmaceuticals, biopesticides, or other high-value uses are needed.  New materials and composites are needed to create new markets for starch, proteins, other agricultural polymers, and fats and oils.  Novel products, compounds, and materials are needed for many nonfood uses, as are specialized products for niche markets.  New and alternative crops that can supply those materials need to be developed.  New textile and non-textile uses are needed to expand market opportunities for agricultural fibers.

Objectives

  • Identify and characterize functional compounds and components in agricultural commodities and their byproducts.
  • Improve understanding of the relationship between composition, molecular structure, and physical state and end-use functionality of these compounds and components.
  • Use new knowledge of product properties and component interactions to develop functional intermediates or products.

Planned Research Activities 

Fruits, Vegetables, Tree Nuts, and Sugar Crops:

Scientists will isolate, characterize, and evaluate biological activity of phytochemicals and functional food components at production and processing stages.  They will also identify process streams and fractions with high concentrations of phytochemicals and phytonutrients and develop new methods to isolate quantities of these beneficial compounds at acceptable cost, using chromatographic, extractive, physical, chemical, and biological processes to obtain these objectives. 

Researchers will develop fresh-cut and minimally processed products from new commodities, such as sweet potatoes, to expand markets.

Animal Products:

Dairy products--Computer-assisted models of the major milk proteins (caseins) and their peptides generated by enzymatic treatment will be used to improve the understanding of functionality of these proteins and peptides for novel applications in dairy foods.  Studies to determine portions of the kappa casein are on the surface of the casein micelle and which are buried in the interior will permit the generation of a topographical map that can then be related to conversion of the large casein package into products.  Based on the functional information generated, new product concepts can be developed by novel processing approaches, such as twin screw extrusion to manufacture texturized milk-protein-based seafood analogues and snack foods containing dairy ingredients, high pressure carbon dioxide precipitation to produce a high calcium-containing acid casein and as part of a process to produce other dairy foods; trials of a high calcium-containing acid casein produced by high pressure carbon dioxide prepicipation and effects of new pre-processing methods low dose irradiation to understandon milk protein structure as related to cheesemaking; and new technologies for processing protein fractions into non-food products.  Conditions for efficient, large-scale and cost-effective production of bioactive products by biotechnologically engineered dairy fermentation cultures will be optimized and efficacy of bioprotective agents in real food systems will be tested.   Trials of lactic dairy cultures, modified to produce bioactive peptides with potential for use as functional food ingredients antimicrobials, such as pediocin, will be conducted under processing conditions.    

Animal fat and other renderer's products--Biopolymers produced by fermentation of fats and oils will be modified, processed, and/or blended to develop materials with properties acceptable for applications such as film, foams, and molded articles.  Other targeted end uses include new food ingredients and nutraceuticals. 

Cereals, Oilseeds, and Novel Crops

Basic relationships between composition, molecular structure, physical state, and end-use functionality will be delineated by examining constituents in situ and isolated in raw crops and processing systems.  State-of-the-art chromatographic and spectroscopic methods will be employed to identify, characterize, and quantitate biologically-active constituents, such as lipids, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.  These components in their native and processed forms will be evaluated for beneficial medical or biological activity.  Metabolic pathways involved in the biosynthesis of biologically active compounds will be elucidated, and precursors and/or intermediates identified.  Regulatory biochemical pathways and genes responsible for desirable end-use traits will be determined, and the effects of environmental variables on their expression will be ascertained.  Targeted end uses include new foods and food ingredients and bioactive compounds for use as nutraceuticals, preservatives, biopesticides, botanical supplements, etc.  Biopolymers such as starch, proteins, and cellulose will be modified, processed, and/or blended to develop materials with properties acceptable for applications such as film, foams, and molded articles.

Agricultural Fibers

Composites, plastics, and polymeric products using cotton, wool, and flax fibers for structural and automotive applications will be prepared.  Nonwoven composites from wool and from leather materials will be developed by enzymatic fiber-fiber crosslinking.  Novel uses of existing products for unique high-value purposes will be developed, such as wound-healing bandages or super-absorbent materials.  Alternatives to chlorination for the imparting of shrink resistance and softness to wool will also be developed. 

ARS Research Locations

Albany, CA; Athens, GA; Clemson, SC; Lane, OK; Madison, WI; Manhattan, KS; New Orleans, LA; Oxford, MS; Peoria, IL; Raleigh, NC; Winter Haven, FL; and Wyndmoor, PA.

Problem Area 2b.  New Uses for Agricultural By-products

Issues

Processing of agricultural crops and products generates millions of tons of low-value by-products annually.  The volume and diversity of agricultural by-products represent an enormous and underutilized renewable resource, which can create adverse environmental and cost impacts through disposal.  By-products may contain numerous bioactive compounds such as vitamins, phenolics, antioxidants, carotenes, glucosinolates, soluble fiber, and other components beneficial to human and animal health, as well as materials potentially useful for manufacturing biobased products.  New uses for these by-products are needed to increase value and create new market opportunities.  Successful introduction of new crops will depend in part on development of uses for by-product streams. 

Objectives

  • Identify and characterize by-product components for potential value-added products.
  • Convert low value agricultural residues into higher value products.

Planned Research Activities 

Fruits, Vegetables, Tree Nuts, and Sugar Crops

New, cost effective processes will be developed to convert low value, high volume agricultural waste into higher value products such as adsorbents for toxic metals and organic compounds from industrial waste water streams, biodegradable packaging materials, and emulsifiers and viscosifiers for industrial applications.  New processing techniques will be developed using biocatalysts and new chemical and physical methods to generate a wide range of products suitable for industrial uses.  Environmentally friendly products will be developed to replace those made with imported petroleum.

Animal Products:

Hides and leather--Solid wastes from leather tanning will be processed into valuable products using biotechnology. 

Animal fat and other renderer's products--Components will be identified, isolated, and characterized for potential value-added products.  Value-added products from the fermentation of fats and oils will be developed; such products will include biopolymers and surfactants; molecular biology will assist in producing organisms that are efficient in synthesizing the desired products.   

Cereals, Oilseeds, and Novel Crops:

Components of byproducts such as corn fiber, corn gluten meal, soy meal, and rice and bean hulls will be identified, isolated, and characterized.  By-product components of new crops will also be identified and characterized for potential value-added products.  Materials from components will be formulated and developed for use as food ingredients, as well as non-food uses such as films, foams, coatings, and adhesives.

Agricultural Fibers

New uses for ginning coproducts and for by-products of mill processing of cotton will be developed.  Cottonseed and other ginning wastes will be converted into livestock feed, soil amendments, and fuels utilizing commercial and experimental equipment. 

ARS Research Locations

Albany, CA; Athens, GA; Clemson, SC; Las Cruces, NM; Lubbock, TX; New Orleans, LA; Peoria, IL; Winter Haven, FL; and Wyndmoor, PA.

Problem Area 2c.  New and Improved Processes and Feedstocks

Issues

Agricultural materials could be competitive with non-renewable hydrocarbons as feedstocks for the production of chemicals and materials, but significant advances are needed in processing technology and engineering to achieve overall cost competitiveness.  Many current processing and conversion practices for agricultural products are energy intensive and often require harsh or toxic chemical treatments.  They generate large quantities of waste water, solid waste, and/or byproducts requiring treatment and disposal.  Fundamental engineering and scientific understanding of processes and their impact on structure-property-function is often lacking.  Development of new markets and uses will require new processes and knowledge of process impact on properties, functionality, quality, safety, and environment.  New cost effective, environmentally benign processes will be needed to extract, isolate, and purify high value components from agricultural materials.  Domestic production of products such as pectin and casein has been eliminated due to processing constraints, with concomitant loss of jobs and increase in trade deficit.  Successful utilization of new crops requires processing methods for isolating main components and handling coproducts in a cost effective and environmentally benign manner. 

Natural fibers in their native state often lack acceptable washability, dimensional stability, tensile strength, antimicrobial, and photostability properties.  Dyeing and finishing treatments to improve fiber properties can reduce their strength and generate large amounts of waste chemicals.   Difficulties in dyeing blends of wool and cotton to the same color and depth of shade impedes market acceptance.  Efficient utilization of cotton/linen blends will require utilizing short staple flax on cotton processing and spinning systems.

Objectives

  • Develop improved and new techniques and technologies to convert agricultural products into value-added foods and biobased products.
  • Improve/develop processes and technologies that are environmentally benign.

Planned Research Activities 

Fruits, Vegetables, Tree Nuts, and Sugar Crops

Researchers will develop new molding, extrusion, and forming technologies to produce value-added fruit and vegetable products, such as shelf-stable snacks, refrigerated products, and new ingredients for frozen and baked goods.  Scientists will develop new, more efficient methods for bulk storage of brined produce.  They will also develop new methods for the fermentation/acidification/minimal processing/restructuring of vegetables with reduction in chloride and organic wastes.  Time and energy requirements will be reduced for extraction of value added food ingredients, such as pectins, from fruit and sugarbeet processing residues.

Animal Products:

Muscle foods--Value will be added to meat products by combining and optimizing processes such as pressure technologies, restructuring, freeze drying and rehydrating, and marinating.

Dairy foods--Modification of large scale processing technologies needed to create new nutritious dairy foods will be evaluated.  For example, high pressure homogenization offers an opportunity to induce protein-protein or protein-lipid interactions that can stabilize the product against deterioration during storage.  Relationship of the structure of the product matrix to observed textural changes can lead to altered processing parameters.  There is little information available on the effects of thermal and nonthermal extrusion-based processes and other methodologies that induce shear effects of extrusion cooking on dairy ingredients.  Investigation of changes occurring at the molecular level can enhance utilization of dairy components in extruded products, such as seafood analogues and  snack foods.  Production of seafood analogues by extrusion will be conducted and resultant products compared to existing analogues for nutritive value and textural characteristics.  New large-scale processing technologies with minimal environmental impact are required for greater utilization of dairy proteins.  Processes that utilize high pressure and supercritical carbon dioxide will be investigated for component protein separation, protein fractionation, and protein-based reactions.  New processing techniques for dairy proteins will be investigated to expand their utilization in nonfood products.

Hides and leather--New hide preservation methods are needed with less environmental impact, reduced damage during storage, and that target specific hide markets.  Alternative processes, such as bioprocessing for chromium in tanning processes, replacements for sulfide salts used in unhairing, and reduced tannery VOC emissions will be investigated.

Animal fat and other renderer's products--These products will be converted to value-added products by formulating economically feasible separation and extraction techniques to isolate valuable components and by developing biocatalytic, biomimetic, and bioengineering processes.  New foods, food ingredients, nutraceuticals, surfactants, and biopolymers will be obtained by separating, extracting, or restructuring raw materials using physical, biological, or chemical means.  Non-food or industrial uses further expand the range of bio-based products envisaged to include construction materials, polymers, fibers, and derived oleochemicals.  Scientists will also develop processing techniques using supercritical fluids with reduced environmental impact, and correlate processing parameters with properties.  The potential for biochemical methods to impart specific, directed modifications to renderer's proteins, fats and greases will be investigated; moderately high temperature bioengineering processes will be developed that accommodate solid fat feedstocks.

Cereals, Oilseeds, and Novel Crops

Agricultural commodities will be converted to value-added products by formulating economically feasible separation and extraction techniques to isolate valuable components from agricultural materials and potential new crops and by developing biocatalytic, biomimetic, and bioengineering processes.  New foods and food ingredients and bioactive compounds for use as nutraceuticals, preservatives, biopesticides, etc. will be obtained by separating, extracting, or restructuring raw materials using physical, biological, or chemical means.  Non-food or industrial uses further expand the range of bio-based products envisaged to include construction materials, polymers, fibers, derived oleochemicals, and surfactants.  Using the knowledge gained under problem area 2a, plant breeders will target the display of particular end-use traits and environmental stability in the germplasm.  Breeding programs will increase production efficiencies, the concentration and ease of recovery of desirable materials, as well as creating new compositions with novel components.

Scientists will utilize thermomechanical and high shear processing methods such as extrusion and jet cooking to impart unique properties and morphologies and correlate materials properties and morphologies with processing parameters to optimize processes.  They will also develop processing techniques using supercritical fluids with reduced environmental impact, and correlate processing parameters with properties.  Novel nonthermal processes, such as microwave and ohmic heating, will be used to impart physical and chemical changes.  The potential for biochemical methods to effect/induce/cause specific, directed modifications to carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids will be investigated.  Processes will be developed to extract and purify novel components of new and alternative crops with minimal environmental and waste impact.

To reduce the negative impact of excess phosphate from animal manure caused by phytic acid in plant meals, enzyme technologies will be developed to increase the bioavailability of this nutrient. 

Agricultural Fibers

Research will be focused on developing strong, wrinkle-resistant cotton with less chemical waste and on developing methods for evenly dyeing wool/cotton blends.  Techniques for blending wool or flax with cotton will be developed so that the blends can be spun and woven on traditional cotton equipment.  Research will also modify yarn engineering to produce cotton-containing yarns that will provide an abrasion-resistant, smooth warp suitable for sizeless weaving; weaving equipment and conditions will be modified to accommodate 'sizeless' warp for standard fabric constructions.  Formaldehyde-free systems will be developed for crosslinking cotton fabrics and imparting flame resistance to cotton-containing carpets with moderate to no reductions in wear life.  Antimicrobial cottons will be developed and evaluated.  Enzymatic crosslinking of wool will be explored to obviate the use of chemical crosslinking agents.  Tensile properties of wool will be improved, and procedures for covalently bonding dyes, antimicrobials, insect-resisting agents, and photoprotective agents to wool will be developed.  Wool or cotton fiber, yarn, or textiles will be modified using enzymatic treatments to impart dimensional stability, fiber flexibility, and other improved properties.  An economical, environmentally friendly retting system will be developed for flax based on commercial enzymes that produces high quality fibers.

ARS Research Locations

Albany, CA; Athens, GA; Clemson, SC; New Orleans, LA; Peoria, IL; Raleigh, NC; and Wyndmoor, PA.

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Last Modified: 10/7/2008
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