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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Discovery and Utilization of Bioactive Components from New Crops and Agricultural Co-Products

Location: Functional Foods Research Unit

2011 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The long term goal of this project is to develop natural, functional, phytochemical-based products from agricultural crop production and processing co-products. These new products will have application as food, feed, bio-based controls and in soil remediation. Over the next five years we will focus on the following specific objectives: Objective 1: Evaluate and characterize bioactive compounds in co-products and waste products from oil seed processing, corn ethanol production, new or alternate crop production, seeds and plant biomass for new value-added bio-based control and remediation agronomic products; Objective 2: Evaluate and characterize bioactive compounds in co-products and waste products from oil seed processing, corn ethanol production, new or alternate crop production, seeds and plant biomass for use as new health enhancing foods and food additives and for new health enhancing cosmetic products.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
Rapid and efficient methods will be developed to characterize phytochemicals from crude and processed agricultural products and co-products, and used to develop new products from current agricultural crops and developing new and alternative crops. The production of biofuels and agricultural food products generates a variety of co-products (carbon dioxide, sugars, fibers, corn dried distillers grain; glycerol; seed press cakes) and other less valuable residues. Redirecting these wastes to more profitable, higher value uses would benefit both the producers and processors. Characterized phytochemicals will be evaluated in plants and plant products from established crops and new crops, as well as in products from biofuel crops, such as oil fractions, oil seed press cakes and dried distillers grains. This research will be used to develop accurate analytical methodology and rapid non-destructive spectrophotometric analytical methods to rapidly assess the levels of specific phytochemicals in seeds, tissues and processed products. New phytochemical-based products from crops grown on marginal crop lands will be examined for sources of commercial products. This research will be used to develop new agricultural pest control products for bacterial, fungus, insects, nematodes and weeds; chemical feed stocks for industrial processes; and to enhance the use of existing or develop new functional foods for improved health in humans and animals. Our research will target those activities that improve the practical use of by-products by creating new uses and markets for these products. This research will result in defining the roles for phytochemicals and develop new/enhanced functional products and foods.

3.Progress Report
The goals of this research project are to utilize current phytochemical analytical methodology to characterize, purify, and evaluate biologically and chemically active phytochemicals in a wide range of agricultural products and coproducts, new crops, and alternative crops to develop: A) green new or alternative functional food ingredients to promote health in humans and animals; and B) environmentally friendly pest/disease control products for home and agriculture use. This research supports the development of nonfood, nonfuel biobased products from agricultural commodities and byproducts. Current work is impacting the ethanol fuel production from corn by developing new uses for corn co-products, the use of soy phytochemicals for chronic disease prevention, the development of camelina, and field pennycress as new crops. New uses for both corn and soy co-products, such as saponins, corn tassels, dried distillers grains, bran, and new uses for crops grown on marginal or non-cultivated lands. We are addressing the need to develop new products for glycerol, which is a byproduct of the biodiesel industry. We have developed new techniques to rapidly produce copolyester glycerides utilizing citric acid and glycerol blends. We are currently evaluating the structural nature, mechanical properties, and biodegradability of these polymers. Other avenues of glycerol utilization may lie in the horticultural and greenhouse food production field. We are evaluating the use of glycerol as a growth regulator to enhance the growth of plants under indoor conditions. Preliminary work has shown that glycerol applications have merit in increasing biomass production of several different species. We developed enhanced methods to purify gram quantities of saponins from soy and other species assessing the biological activity of saponins in the prevention of the development of chronic diseases in humans. We developed methods to identify, quantitate, and purify gram quantities of intact glucosinolates from crucifer species to prepare products for evaluation in pest control, industrial antioxidants, and in human disease prevention. We examined coproducts from the processing of new and existing oil seed crops including camelina, lesquerella, cuphea, field penny cress, and coriander. The press cake/seed meal co products have useful phytochemicals and/or physical properties for alternative agricultural practices. We evaluated the chemical and biological activity of compounds in corn processing, dry milling, and ethanol fermentation co products and new functional agricultural and oil stabilizing products were found. Preliminary work has shown potent pesticidal activity against weedy species and nutrient enrichment to the soil. Alternate woody crops, especially those species with high growth rates and coppicing properties grown marginal or conserved land, were examined for biologically active phytochemicals and pest control properties. Methods were developed to enhance propagation and production of new alternative outdoor products.

1. Bio-based polymers from citric acid and glycerol blends. The current plastic industry is based on petroleum-based polymers. Biopolymers due to their cost only contribute 3% of the plastics used. The cost of petroleum remains uncertain resulting in continuous price increases for plastics. Thus, there is a great need to develop new bio-based plastics. Citric acid is the number one chemical produced by fermentation. Glycerol is a byproduct of biodiesel production. By coupling these two chemicals together with other ingredients a myriad of copolyester glyceride polymers can be produced. Most attractively, these polymers are competitive or even less expensive than petroleum-based polymers. Agricultural Research Service scientists in the Functional Foods Research Unit at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, IL, are studying several technologies to produce copolyester glycerides. In addition, glyceride polymers are being evaluated for their chemical and thermal stability and mechanical properties. A patent disclosure on our techniques to rapidly produce these polymers has been filed and approved by committee for USDA patent filing. New biodegradable low cost polymers could be used for a variety of disposable products instead of plastic, including outdoor products such as mats, covers, holders, and containers.

2. Horticultural uses for glycerol. Glycerol is a byproduct of the biodiesel industry. Currently, there is glut of glycerol causing its historic price to plummet. Development of new uses for glycerol would make the biodiesel industry more profitable as well as utilize an overproduced byproduct that has saturated its existing market. Foliar glycerol applications to plants grown under greenhouse conditions show that faster plant growth rates and larger plant biomass yields are possible. Agricultural Research Service scientists in the Functional Foods Research Unit at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, IL, are developing new methods to apply glycerol to plants in order to achieve higher amounts of plant biomass on a per plant basis. Glycerol is a non-toxic, biogradable sugar alcohol that would be a safe growth regulator to aid in plant growth. Glycerol could provide a low cost biodegradable product to increase home and organic plant growth and yields.

3. New natural skin care product ingredient from corn tassels. There is an increasing demand for natural ingredients for skin care and cosmetics. This research has shown that extracts of ripe, seasonal sweet corn tassels possess anti-irritant and anti-oxidant activities. The chemical identification of corn tassel bioactives was accomplished by Agricultural Research Service scientists in the Functional Foods Research Unit at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, IL. Evaluation of the purified compound by Bioderm Technologies in New Jersey showed in tests that Tasselin A inhibits melanin production and tyrosinase enzyme activity. This shows that this compound has both antioxidant and skin anti-irritant activities. There are no prior reports of bioactives derived from corn tassels with potential skin whitening activity, nor are any corn tassel bioactivities currently employed as ingredients in personal care or skin care products. This compound makes corn tassels, currently a discarded byproduct, a potential source of new natural skin care ingredients.

4. Biodegradable absorbents from corn dried distillers grains. Cats are among the most popular pets in the U.S., and the majority of these animals are kept indoors where litter boxes containing some type of absorbent litter material are needed. Dried distillers grains (DDGs) are a major co-product of the fuel ethanol industry, and most DDGs are sold as animal feed. Agricultural Research Service scientists in the Functional Foods Research Unit at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, IL, in collaboration with Summit Seed in Kankakee, IL, have been studying higher economic value uses for DDGs by extracting valuable natural compounds from them with a variety of organic solvents. Unextracted DDGs have a strong odor reminiscent of fermenting grain, but the extracted DDGs have little or no odor. Because these extracted DDGs absorb over twice their weight in water, we investigated their use as potential cat litter. By adding anti-dust and clumping agents at several rates, a litter formulation with little or no dust and excellent clumping ability was obtained. The addition of copper sulfate to this formulation significantly decreased the odor of a chemical similar to a compound naturally released by the decomposition of cat urine. From these results it appears that extracted DDGs have potential as commercial cat litter.

5. A new anti-cancer compound dinoxin B was isolated and characterized from Datura inoxia, a potential medicinal plant that grows in the southwestern United States. It was isolated from a methanol extract of Datura inoxia leaves, using bioassay-guided fractionation. Agricultural Research Service scientists in the Functional Foods Research Unit at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, IL, collaborating with researchers at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM, elucidated the exact chemical structure by high resolution spectrometric techniques. Extracts and the purified compound were tested for their antiproliferative activities toward a panel of human normal and cancer cell lines by collaborators at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA. Dinoxin B and its aglycone exhibited sub-micromolar IC50 values against multiple human cancer cell lines. Among the most sensitive were several breast cancer cell lines. Datura species may be a source of new cancer fighting drugs.

Review Publications
Eller, F.J., Cermak, S.C., Taylor, S.L. 2011. Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction of cuphea seed oil. Industrial Crops and Products. 33:554-557.

Berhow, M.A., Vermillion, K., Jham, G.N., Tisserat, B., Vaughn, S.F. 2010. Purification of a sinapine-glucoraphanin salt from broccoli seeds. American Journal of Plant Sciences. 1:113-118.

Puangpraphant, S., Berhow, M.A., de Mejia, E.G. 2011. Mate (Ilex paraguariensis St. Hilaire) saponins induce caspase-3-dependent apoptosis in human colon cancer cells in vitro. Food Chemistry. 125:1171-1178.

Vaughn, S.F., Deppe, N.A., Palmquist, D.E., Berhow, M.A. 2011. Extracted sweet corn tassels as a renewable alternative to peat in greenhouse substrates. Industrial Crops and Products. 33:514-517.

Vaughn, S.F., Berhow, M.A., Moser, J.K., Lee, E. 2011. Formulation of a biodegradable, odor-reducing cat litter from solvent-extracted corn dried distillers grain. Industrial Crops and Products. 34:999-1002.

Fallen, B.D., Pantalone, V.R., Sams, C.E., Kopsell, D.A., Vaughn, S.F., Moser, B.R. 2011. Effect of soybean oil fatty acid composition and selenium application on biodiesel properties. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 88:1019-1028.

Wille, J.J., Berhow, M.A. 2011. Bioactives derived from ripe corn tassels: a possible new natural skin whitener, 4-hydroxy-1-oxindole-3-acetic acid. Current Bioactive Compounds. 7:126-134.

Moser, B.R., Eller, F.J., Tisserat, B., Gravett, A. 2011. Preparation of fatty acid methyl esters from Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) oil and evaluation as biodiesel. Energy and Fuels. 25:1869-1877.

Vermillion, K., Berhow, M.A., Holgiun, F.O., Richins, R.D., Redhouse, T., O'Connell, M.A., Posakony, J., Kelly, S., Simon, J.A. 2011. Dinoxin B, a novel withanolide from Datura innoxia leaf with specific anti-cancer activities. Journal of Natural Products. 74:267-271.

Dowd, P.F., Berhow, M.A., Johnson, E.T. 2011. Differential activity of multiple saponins against omnivorous insects with varying feeding preferences. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 37(5):443-449.

Eller, F.J., Clausen, A., Green, F., Taylor, S.L. 2010. Critical fluid extraction of Juniperus virginiana L. and bioactivity of extracts against subterranean termites and wood-rot fungi. Industrial Crops and Products. 32:481-485.

Oliveira, R.D.L., Dhingra, O.D., Lima, A.O., Jham, G.N., Berhow, M.A., Holloway, R.K., Vaughn, S.F. 2010. Glucosinolate content and nematicidal activity of Brazilian wild mustard tissues against Meloidogyne incognita in tomato. Plant Soil. 341:155-164.

Tisserat, B., Berhow, M.A., Vaughn, S.F. 2010. Elevated carbon dioxide levels enhance rosmarinic acid production in spearmint plantlets. In: Gupta, V.K., Verma, A.K., Koul, S., editors. Utilisation and Management of Medicinal Plants. New Delhi: Daya Publishing House. p. 124-135.

Last Modified: 4/25/2014
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