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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Functional Foods Research » Research » Research Project #428722

Research Project: Evaluation of the Chemical and Physical Properties of Low-Value Agricultural Crops and Products to Enhance Their Use and Value

Location: Functional Foods Research

2018 Annual Report

Objective 1: Evaluate and characterize chemicals and nutriceuticals in agricultural crops and products for new or improved food and feed uses. Objective 2: Enhance methodologies to quickly determine and evaluate chemical components in a given agricultural product. Objective 3: Enhance methodologies to rapidly and non-destructively assess the identity and levels of key phytochemicals and nutriceuticals in large sample sets of raw agricultural harvests and products. Objective 4: Evaluate and characterize phytochemical composition and bio-physical properties from mid-west area crops, and under-utilized plants and nuisance plants to develop new materials for use as naturally based bio-pesticides for microbial, insect, or weed pests, or to enhance home garden, organic, agricultural, horticultural plant growth and production. Objective 5: Evaluate and characterize phytochemical composition and biophysical properties to develop new bio-based additives and products for the production of new bio-based ingredients as plastics, fillers, delivery agents, replacement ingredients for the production of new bio-based consumer products.

The goals of this project are (1) 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, and (2) to develop new uses for low value agricultural waste and co-products, under-utilized plant species. Methodologies will be applied to prepare sufficient quantities of pure phytochemicals for further research, to prepare green-process extracts with defined phytochemical composition, and to characterize the phytochemical composition in products and co-products processed from established crops and new crops, as well as in products from biofuel crops, such as oil seed press cakes, straw, and processing residues. Characterization of key phytochemicals from crude and processed agricultural products and co-products will be used to drive the development of new products from current agricultural crops, as well as 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. This project will evaluate and utilize green extraction methods in the preparation of refined phytochemical products, which will be used as ingredients for both functional foods, and new non-food agronomic uses, such as for new uses as functional food ingredients, bio-pesticides and bio-control agents, bio-fillers and additives for alternative bio-fiber and bio-plastic products, and as soil amendments for use in organic farming, lawn care, potting mixes, and home garden products.

Progress Report
The goals of this project are (1) 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, and (2) to develop new uses for low value agricultural waste and co-products, under-utilized plant species. Characterization of key phytochemicals from crude and processed agricultural products and co-products will be used to drive the development of new products from current agricultural crops and alternative crops. The research project is maturing. The automation of analytical methodology using rapid and non-destructive near infrared reflectance (NIR) techniques are being deployed in measuring key compositional components in soy and brassica family seeds, and low value materials and components have been identified and characterized and are now being utilized to develop new products and processes to produce effective products. Increased transparency and broader measurement technology adoption across the value chain is critical to a successful constituent pricing system. NIR analysis has been used to evaluate carbohydrates and other compositional components in over 7000 samples collected by collaboration with a United Soybean Board soybean evaluation program along with a series of other samples from USDA breeding programs. Selected samples were run through our comprehensive wet chemistry analysis for soluble and insoluble carbohydrates, fatty acid composition, and amino acid composition. This information has been correlated to NIR instrumentation for evaluation of accuracy. This research is aimed at improving the increased transparency and broader measurement technology adoption across the value chain is critical to a successful constituent pricing system. Low value agricultural co-products and bio-solids are being used to create new organic fertilizers, greenhouse and nursery potting substrates, and biochar. Co-products include harvest residuals and waste products from agricultural processing. Bio-solids include municipal sewage solids and agricultural processing waste streams. Biochar is the carbon-rich residual product created under anaerobic conditions by the pyrolysis of plant-based biomass. We have determined the addition of processed bio-solids and biochars to potting substrates in greenhouse systems and to large-scale turf systems such as golf greens, golf tees, and athletic fields can greatly increase water and nutrient retention, especially in sandy soils. An additional advantage of using biochar instead of other organic amendments is its resistance to microbial decomposition and hence longevity in these applications. There has been significant interest in using non-petroleum-based adhesives and resins to fabricate wood composites, particularly for interior uses. Unfortunately, currently available bio-based adhesives derived from soybean meals are more expensive than their petroleum counterparts. Developed methodologies from inexpensive by-products from corn, ethanol processing [distiller’s dried grains and solubles (DDGS)] for production of a more cost-effective bio-based adhesive/resin for this purpose. These products are inexpensive to produce with excellent adhesive and mechanical properties, and can be used in building construction, for furniture components, and in manufacturing industries. ARS researchers in Peoria, Illinois, have been investigating several alternative methods for extracting cedarwood oil from Eastern red cedar, including liquid and supercritical fluid carbon dioxide and pressurized solvent extraction. Carbon dioxide extractions give high yields of high quality oil. Pressurized hexane also gave high yields of cedarwood oil and pressurized polar solvents like ethanol and methanol gave high yields of polar compounds not extracted by CO2 or hexane as well as high yields of flavonoids. The CO2-derived extracts have been tested for a variety of bioactivities. The extracts have been found to impart resistance to wood-decay and termites when they are impregnated into otherwise susceptible wood. The cedarwood oil is toxic to black-legged ticks, brown dog ticks, lone star ticks, houseflies, and several species of mosquitoes. Cedarwood oil is a very safe material towards humans but has great potential for controlling a wide range of economically important pests. Seeds in the mustard plant family including canola are pressed or extracted with solvent to produce an oil fraction and a seed meal fraction. The seed meals are currently a low value product. ARS researchers and collaborator can further process seed meals to increase their nutritional value and use as a feed ingredient for a variety of animals and even fish. By treating the seed meals with pretreatments then digestion with fungal cultures in a submerged incubation system to increase protein digestibility and lower the anti-nutritive glucosinolate content, with little effect on the carbohydrate composition. This low-cost methodology will produce a more nutritional seed meal product with enhanced value as a feed ingredient.

1. New bio-based adhesives and low value wood fibers for the production of natural fiber composites (NFCs). NFCs are made from processed wood shards, pieces, and sawdust are pressed or molded with various adhesives to form various composite products. NFCs are typically composed of a petroleum-based resin mixed with light weight fibers which can be molded into many shapes and forms. Most matrices currently employed in NFCs are synthetic resins derived from petroleum sources and create environmental problems when disposed. New adhesives based on non-toxic natural ingredients are being examined by ARS researchers in Peoria, Illinois in collaboration with researchers at Bradley University. New NFCs have been prepared with aqueous alkaline/urea solutions and cold temperatures and new technologies have been developed employing cold alkaline solvents to liquefy cellulose to produce a product that may substitute for petroleum-based plastics in the fabrication of novel biocomposites. This method has been used to produce lignocellulosic composites (LCs) from cotton waste as the matrix material and a variety of low value wood fibers as the reinforcement agents. These NFCs were found to have mechanical properties on par with thermoplastics and cardboard. These results suggest that these novel NFCs may compete with petroleum-based plastics products to produce new bio-plastics (containers, sheets, molded forms, etc.) from low value seed meal, cotton processing residues, and low value wood processing wastes. These could replace petroleum-based materials that are extensively employed in the automotive industry in non-structural applications.

2. Fiberboards created using the natural adhesive properties of distillers dried grains with solubles. Most wood consumption in developed countries is in the form of industrial or engineered wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, oriented strand board and fiberboard, which are manufactured with synthetic adhesive resins. Many of these synthetic adhesives contain formaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. ARS researchers in Peoria, Illinois have developed bio-based adhesives from soy, corn, and other seed meal flours that can be also be employed as adhesives/resins. Distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), a by-product of corn fermentation, were also shown to be an effective adhesive in NFCs. They have shown that the DDGS-wood composite properties satisfied industry strength standards. Commercial use of DDGS as bio-based adhesives would benefit both NFC manufacturing industries by fabricating a product that is completely bio-degradable and light weight. Over 40 million metric tons of DDGSs are generated by the dry-milling ethanol plants in North America. Commercial use of DDGS as bio-based adhesives would benefit both the dry milling and industrial wood manufacturing industries.

3. Utilization of quercetin as an oviposition stimulant by lab cultured insects. A major challenge to biological control is providing sufficient quantities of natural enemies (predators) to control plant pests in greenhouses, high tunnels, gardens, and nurseries. Utilizing plant-based compounds to stimulate predators to lay more eggs, so that more predators are available to control pests, could be advantageous. ARS researchers in Peoria, Illinois have shown that a flavonoid compound isolated from red cedar is effective in stimulating egg production in a predatory ladybird beetle. This can be used to help boost egg laying in culture and in the field for the ladybird insect, which in turn, will enhance the production of more offspring for pest control.

4. Inclusion complex emulsifies cedarwood oil to treat wood against termites and wood-decay fungi. Cedarwood oil (CWO) obtained from the heartwood of Eastern red cedar is a safe, natural product from an underutilized agricultural resource in the United States. ARS researchers in Peoria, Illinois showed that wood treated with the starch/CWO mixture was resistant to attack by both termites and several species of wood-rot fungi. In addition, they demonstrated that the starch/CWO mixture inhibited the absorption of water by the treated wood. The starch derivative itself was also shown to have bioactivity and this effect may have been due to the wood being kept drier and/or some inherent toxicity of its own. These results demonstrate that the starch/CWO mixture holds promise as a method for treating wood to prevent decay using natural products.

5. Pyrolyzed biosolids from sanitary reclamation treatment systems for peat moss replacement. ARS researchers in Peoria, Illinois have shown that pyrolyzing (heating in the absence of oxygen) biosolids from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago produces materials that have excellent potential as replacements for peat moss in sand-based root zones such as golf course greens, golf tees, and athletic fields. Peat moss is a commonly mixed with sand during the construction of new golf greens, tees and athletic fields to improve water and nutrient retention. However, peat moss decomposes, making its effectiveness less over time. Biosolids have been found to be excellent fertilizers for turfgrasses, but concerns about undesirable odors, nutrient runoff into waterways, and the presence of pathogens and chemical pollutants, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, have driven public opposition against their use. After pyrolysis, treated biosolids have negligible levels of organic pollutants and pathogens, and no undesirable odors. In this study we found that biosolids pyrolyzed at 300 degrees Celsius were equal to untreated biosolids in promoting the growth of perennial ryegrass plants and would produce material with excellent potential as a peat replacement for water and nutrient retention in sand-based rootzones.

6. Utilizing a combination of nonchemical weed control methods. Producers of organically certified potatoes typically utilize a combination of nonchemical weed control methods such as cover crops, tillage, and cultivation to prevent weeds from reducing potato yield and harvest efficiency. Mustard seed meal (MSM) has been shown to control weeds for several weeks following application to soil in several previous reports but has not been tested in potato. ARS researchers in Peoria, Illinois have evaluated the response of potatoes and weeds to MSM applied at several rates previously reported to control weeds. MSM applied at 2.2 and 4.5 MT ha-1 just after harrowing and prior to potato emergence reduced the number of early season weeds in potato and reduced late season broadleaf weeds in all three years tested. Little or no injury to potato was observed at the MSM rates tested and potato tuber yields, and percentage of U.S. No. 1 tubers were not affected. MSM could be a component of an integrated weed management program in organic potato production.

Review Publications
Croat, J.R., Karki, B., Berhow, M., Iten, L., Muthukumarappan, K., Gibbons, W.R. 2017. Utilizing pretreatment and fungal incubation to enhance the nutritional value of canola meal. Journal of Applied Microbiology. 123:362-371.
Vaughn, S.F., Dinelli, F.D., Jackson, M.A., Vaughan, M.M., Peterson, S.C. 2018. Biochar-organic amendment mixtures added to simulated golf greens under reduced chemical fertilization increase creeping bentgrass growth. Industrial Crops and Products. 111:667-672.
Tisserat, B., Liu, Z., Haverhals, L.M. 2018. Lignocellulosic composites prepared utilizing aqueous alkaline/urea solutions with cold temperatures. International Journal of Polymer Science.
Eller, F.J., Hay, W.T., Kirker, G.T., Mankowski, M.E., Selling, G.W. 2018. Hexadecyl ammonium chloride amylose inclusion complex to emulsify cedarwood oil and treat wood against termites and wood-decay fungi. International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation. 129:95-101.
Tisserat, B., Hwang, H.-S., Vaughn, S.F., Berhow, M.A., Peterson, S.C., Joshee, N., Vaidya, B.N., Harry-O'kuru, R. 2018. Fiberboard created using the natural adhesive properties of distillers dried grains with solubles. BioResources. 13(2):2678-2701.
Tisserat, B., Eller, F., Harry-O'kuru, R. 2018. Various extraction methods influence the adhesive properties of dried distiller's grains and solubles, and press cakes of pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) and lesquerella (Lesquerella fendleri A. Gary (S. Watson) in the fabrication of lignocellulosic composites. Fibers.
Dowd, P.F., Berhow, M.A., Johnson, E.T. 2018. Enhanced pest resistance and increased phenolic production in maize callus transgenically expressing a maize chalcone isomerase -3 like gene. Plant Gene. 13:50-55.
Dowd, P.F., Zilkowski, B.W., Johnson, E.T., Berhow, M.A., Muturi, E.J. 2018. Transgenic expression of a maize geranyl geranyl transferase gene sequence in maize callus increases resistance to ear rot pathogens. AGRI GENE. 7:52-58.
Riddick, E.W., Wu, Z., Eller, F.J., Berhow, M.A. 2018. Utilization of quercetin as an oviposition stimulant by lab-cultured Coleomegilla maculata in the presence of conspecifics and a tissue substrate. Insects. 9:1-14.
Tisserat, B., Reifschneider, L., Gravatt, A., Peterson, S.C. 2017. Wood-plastic composites utilizing wood flours derived from fast-growing trees common to the midwest. BioResources. 12(4):7898-7916.
Liu, Z., Tisserat, B.H. 2018. Coating applications to natural fiber composites to improve their physical, surface and water absorption characters. Industrial Crops and Products. 112:196-199.
Sayed, A.M., Behle, R.W., Tiilikkala, K., Vaughn, S.F. 2018. Insecticidal activity of bio-oils and biochar as pyrolysis products and their combination with microbial agents against Agrotis ipsilon (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Pesticides and Phytomedicine. 33:39-52.
Boydston, R.A., Vaughn, S.F., Webber III, C.L., Chaves-Cordoba, B. 2018. Evaluating mustard seed meal for weed suppression in potato (Solanum tuberosum). Journal of Agricultural Science. 10(2):48-57.
Riddick, E.W., Wu, Z., Eller, F.J., Berhow, M.A. 2018. Do bioflavonoids in Juniperus virginiana heartwood stimulate oviposition in the ladybird Coleomegilla maculata? International Journal of Insect Science. 10:1-13. https://doi:10.1177/1179543318758409.
Vaughn, S.F., Dinelli, F.D., Kenar, J.A., Jackson, M.A., Thomas, A.J., Peterson, S.C. 2018. Physical and chemical properties of pyrolyzed biosolids for utilization in sand-based turfgrass rootzones. Waste Management. 76:98-105.
Tisserat, B. 2018. Fabrication of natural fiber composites consisting of Osage orange seed flour reinforced with non-woven hemp mats. Journal of Polymers and the Environment.