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David Suarez and a technician prepare to load samples into a PCR machine.
More about the avian influenza team

Catfish ready for harvest
More about the catfish genetics team


ARS Scientists Honored for Tech Transfer Efforts

By Jim Core
January 23, 2004

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23--Scientists who developed a diagnostic test for avian influenza and a faster-growing catfish won the Agricultural Research Service's top technology transfer awards for 2003. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief in-house scientific research agency.

The winners of the research agency's "Outstanding Effort in Technology Transfer in 2003" are members of research teams. The Avian Influenza Rapid Diagnostic Test Team includes David L. Suarez, Erika Spackman and Suzanne M. DeBlois of the ARS Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., and Dennis A. Senne of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Ames, Iowa. The Catfish Genetics Research Team in Stoneville, Miss., consists of William R. Wolters, Geoffrey C. Waldbieser, Brian G. Bosworth and Jeffrey T. Silverstein.

"This year's winners continue to show how effective ARS scientists are in moving technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, where consumers and industry benefit," said Edward B. Knipling, acting ARS administrator. He awarded the winners yesterday during a ceremony in New Orleans, La.

Avian influenza, a viral disease with symptoms varying from mild to highly fatal, is a serious disease of poultry. Outbreaks that occurred in the northeastern United States during 1983-84 resulted in the destruction of more than 17 million birds at a cost of nearly $65 million.

The team developed a test based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in which genetic material can be copied and quickly identified. The PCR test was used in March 2002 to test samples during an outbreak in Virginia. The total cost of that eradication program was estimated at $160 million. Because the test allowed faster diagnosis, quarantines of infected farms were issued sooner and flocks were depopulated faster, which prevented the virus from spreading to additional farms.

The new catfish line, NWAC103, was named in recognition of the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center (NWAC) in Stoneville, where it was released jointly in 2001 by ARS and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. During performance trials, NWAC103 catfish consumed 10 percent more feed and grew 10 to 20 percent faster than commercial catfish.

The catfish industry in the United States has a farm-gate value of about $409 million, the highest value of any cultured aquatic species. Until the release of NWAC103, genetic improvement has had little impact on commercial catfish production. Since its release, NWAC103's popularity has grown, and in 2002 it held 14 percent of the market.


Jerry Miller (left) pollinates sunflowers.
More about Jerry Miller

One other researcher and five research teams were honored for "Superior Effort in Technology Transfer in 2003" at yesterday's ceremony. They are:

  • Jerry F. Miller, geneticist, ARS Sunflower Research Unit, Fargo, ND, for creation of a sunflower seed that yields oil with optimal frying performance, superior taste and excellent health benefits. By 2002, NuSun accounted for 40 percent of total sunflower seed oil production in the United States.

Pear bars
More about processed foods team

  • Tara McHugh, food technologist, and Charles Huxsoll, retired scientist, ARS Processed Foods Research Unit, Albany, Calif., for developing fruit purees to make nutritious and shelf-stable restructured products, including edible films that are used to wrap other products. One of their two patents was licensed and resulted in a pear bar product now on the market.

Casey (left) and Rasmussen evaluate a new laser for use in the fecal contamination detection system.
Moreabout the carcass inspection system


More about Phosphorus Index research

  • Thomas A. Casey and Mark A. Rasmussen, microbiologists, ARS National Animal Disease Center, and Jacob W. Petrich, chemistry professor, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, for a patented method to detect fecal contamination on carcasses during the slaughter process. The Carcass Inspection System and a hand-held version of this technology, which entered the market in 2002, reduce food safety issues associated with fresh meat.
  • Phosphorus Indexing Program Group, various locations. ARS scientists joined researchers from other government agencies and universities in developing and implementing the Phosphorus Index, a management tool to assess the risk of phosphorus loss from agricultural fields to surface waters. The index has been used extensively by extension agents to educate farmers on alternative management practices that benefit water quality.

Scientists inspect colonies of Russian honey bees.
Moreabout Russian honey bee research

Sally Schneider and Jim Gerik
More about Parlier team.

  • Thomas J. Trout, agricultural engineer, Sally M. Schneider, plant pathologist, and Husein Ajwa, ARS Water Management Research Laboratory, Parlier, Calif., for a safe alternative to methyl bromide. This soil fumigant, scheduled to be banned because it damages the earth's ozone layer, is currently used to disinfest agricultural soils of pathogens, nematodes and weeds. The team demonstrated that mixing soil fumigants in water and applying them through subsurface irrigation systems would help preserve the production of strawberries and other high-value fruit and vegetables.

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