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Scientists Honored for Moving Research Results to Market

By Marcia Wood
February 8, 2001

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 8--Discoveries that reduce phosphorus pollution of streams and bays, boost the nutritional value of corn-based foods, or streamline breeding of superior soybeans have garnered top technology-transfer honors for two Agricultural Research Service scientists.

Research geneticists Victor Raboy at Aberdeen, Idaho, and Perry B. Cregan, at Beltsville, Md., were honored yesterday by the ARS Office of Technology Transfer for moving their pioneering research out of the laboratory and into the hands of growers, educators and other users in the United States and abroad.

Raboy and Cregan received plaques during an afternoon ceremony at the agency's Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific agency.

Raboy, with the ARS Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit at Aberdeen, developed a patented technique--now licensed to three U.S. companies--that lowers the amount of a compound called phytate in grains. "Phytate interferes with the ability of some animals to absorb phosphorus," explained ARS administrator Floyd P. Horn. "Dr. Raboy's unique, low-phytate grains increase the amount of phosphorus that pigs, poultry and fish can absorb from grain-based feed. That reduces phosphorus loads in their manure and helps minimize leaching and pollution.

"Besides helping animals and the environment," Horn noted, "Dr. Raboy's low-phytate grains may battle iron deficiency anemia in humans by making iron, an essential mineral, more available to our bodies. We've already seen that happen in preliminary studies with volunteers who ate tortillas made from this low-phytate corn."

Geneticist Cregan, based at ARS' Soybean Genomics and Improvement Laboratory in Beltsville, identified "simple sequence repeat" DNA markers that make it fast and easy for soybean breeders to determine if the soybean plants they are developing carry such traits as resistance to soybean cyst nematode. The nematode, a microscopic worm, "causes more damage to the U.S. soybean crop than all other pests combined," said Horn.

"In addition," Horn noted, "a selected set of simple sequence repeat markers developed by Dr. Cregan is being used to create DNA fingerprints of new and improved soybean varieties. These fingerprints establish the unique identity of each variety so that ownership and rights to the use of the new varieties can be protected."

Green lacewing: Link to research story
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Three other researchers and three research teams were also honored for their technology transfer accomplishments at yesterday's ceremony. They are:

  • Allen C. Cohen, research entomologist, ARS Biological Control and Mass Rearing Research Unit, Mississippi State, Miss. His patented and licensed technologies for indoor rearing of large colonies of beneficial insects like green lacewings and big-eyed bugs are among the most successful ever developed. His research has lowered the cost of producing healthy, vigorous insects that, when released outdoors, can devour crop pests and help reduce growers' reliance on chemical pesticides.

Rice close-up: Link to research story
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  • Anna Myers McClung, research geneticist, ARS Rice Research Unit, Beaumont, Texas. McClung was honored for developing new rices that offer prized traits such as improved yield, better milling and cooking quality, or increased resistance to disease. Working with ARS, industry, or university colleagues, McClung produced the cultivars Cadet, Dixiebelle, Jacinto, Jefferson, Madison, and Saber--and two disease-resistant breeding lines.

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  • Jurgen D. Garbrecht, research hydraulic engineer, ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory, El Reno, Okla. Garbrecht developed a computer-based program for inventorying key landscape features that can affect rainwater runoff, erosion, or water quality, for example. The software and user manuals that Garbrecht wrote for the program, called "TOPAZ" for "topographic parameterization computer model," have made it a user-friendly tool for watershed managers, engineers, educators and others in the United States and overseas.

T. Jenkins (left) and C. Williams: Link to research story
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  • Thomas G. Jenkins and Charles B. Williams, research animal scientists at the ARS Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Neb. In collaboration with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Jenkins and Williams developed an easy-to-use, science-based computer program that assists cattle producers in making decisions on breeding, feeding and managing their herds. Called "DECI" for "decision evaluator for the cattle industry," more than a thousand copies of this decision-support software have been distributed to individuals and organizations--including professors at a dozen universities for use in their classrooms and labs.

Michael McGuire: Link to research story
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  • Michael R. McGuire, research entomologist, formerly with the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., and now with ARS at Shafter, Calif.; and entomologist Robert W. Behle and chemical engineer J.L. Willett at the Peoria Center. These scientists worked with university and industry collaborators to improve and commercialize an ingenious, apple-shaped device--made of farm surplus materials--that attracts and kills apple maggot fly and reduces the amount of insecticide needed to control this pest. If left uncontrolled, the fly can cost apple producers in the northeastern United States millions of dollars each year in damaged fruit.

AIPL: Link to research story
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  • Eight members of the ARS Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory, Beltsville, Md. These scientists and their colleagues streamlined the collection and delivery of vital information about the genetic background of dairy cattle. Farmers and others need these detailed evaluations when deciding which cows to retain in their herds, and which semen or embryos to purchase to ensure that tomorrow's milking cows have the best genetic makeup.

Contact: Michael D. Ruff, ARS Office of Technology Transfer, Washington, D.C.; phone (202) 720- 3973, fax (202) 720-7549,