Thursday, October 25, 2012

Food Day News from Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos

Before the day expires here in North America, I want to wish all my readers a (belated in the Eastern Time Zone) Happy Food Day! As I wrote last year, there are worse days my wife and I can share our anniversary with. Speaking of which, Narb suggested last year that I should take her out to dinner. Thank you, Narb; I already have.

To celebrate the day more, join me over the jump for food news from campuses in the campaign trail (including some from commercial sources) that I've included in the past three months' Overnight News Digest: Science Saturdays. As you will see, I have quite a lot stored up, just waiting for an excuse to post it.

From Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2012 Nobel Prizes edition) come the following about chocolate as a brain frood, gluten-free diets, and soybeans.

Secret to Winning a Nobel Prize? Eat More Chocolate
By Olivia B. Waxman
October 12, 2012
As the Nobel Prizes are being awarded this week, one U.S. scientist asks: could eating chocolate have anything to do with becoming a laureate?
Why would the sweet treat be linked to winning the most prestigious intellectual award, you ask? In a “note” published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Franz H. Messerli, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, writes that cocoa contains flavanols, plant-based compounds that previous studies have linked to the slowing or reversing of age-related cognitive decline. (You can also get flavonols in green tea, red wine and some fruits.)

Given that, Messerli wondered “whether there would be a correlation between a country’s level of chocolate consumption and its population’s cognitive function.” But since “no data on overall national cognitive function are publicly available,” Messerli decided to use the number of Nobel laureates per capita as a stand-in.
As I included some predictions about the winners of the Nobel Prizes in Science prizes from the ridiculous to the sublime, I'm planning on following up on them in a future post. Expect me to use this excerpt again. Hey, I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.

Arizona State University: Gluten-free craze not backed by science, ASU professor finds
October 8, 2012
There is no benefit for the average healthy adult to follow a gluten-free diet, according to research published by an Arizona State University professor in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The study debunks the idea that going gluten-free is an effective way to lose weight.

Glenn Gaesser, professor and director of the Healthy Lifestyles Research Center in the ASU School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, notes that while gluten-free dieting has gained considerable popularity, there is no published evidence to support such claims. In fact, there are data to suggest that gluten itself may provide some health benefits.
University of Wisconsin, Madison: Unusual genetic structure confers major disease resistance trait in soybean
by David Tenenbaum
Oct. 11, 2012
Scientists have identified three neighboring genes that make soybeans resistant to the most damaging disease of soybean. The genes exist side-by-side on a stretch of chromosome, but only give resistance when that stretch is duplicated several times in the plant.

"Soybean cyst nematode is the most important disease of soybean, according to yield loss, worldwide, year after year," says senior author Andrew Bent, professor of plant pathology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. "As we try to feed a world that is going from 6 billion toward 9 billion people, soybean is one of the most important sources of protein and food oil."

The nematode is a tough opponent, able to live for years in the soil, and chemicals that kill it are highly toxic and persistent, Bent says. Planting soybeans bred to contain a genetic structure called Rhg1 is the preferred defense against the cyst nematode, currently in use on millions of soybean acres worldwide.
Yes, I include food crops and farming as food news.

Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Change in the weather edition) featured news about ancient food, including the diets of dinosaurs. Don't be surprised by this; in addition to being an environmentalist, I was trained as a paleontologist.

Florida State University: Biologist examines how duck-billed dinos chomped their way through Cretaceous
Elizabeth Bettendorf
10/04/2012 3:43 pm
Does the thought of crunching five giant servings of raw vegetation a day sound, well, a little daunting?

Not a problem for the duck-billed dinosaurs — a family of large reptiles that once roamed the Earth in herds and could pulverize and consume just about anything that grew from the ground.

“These guys were like walking pulp mills,” said Gregory Erickson, a biology professor at Florida State University whose research on duck-billed dinosaur teeth appears in the latest issue of the journal Science.
University of Louisville: Biologist to discuss ‘drunken monkey’ hypothesis
by UofL Today
last modified Oct 05, 2012 01:01 PM
California biologist Robert Dudley will discuss evidence that human alcohol use and abuse can be traced back to fruit-eating primate ancestors during a University of Louisville talk Oct. 11.
Dudley proposes that humans’ attraction to ethanol could stem from early primates’ reliance on fruit as a food source; ethanol occurs in ripe fruit, and primates may have developed a genetic attraction to the substance.
The Guardian (UK): Humans hunted for meat 2 million years ago
Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought
Robin McKie, science editor
Ancient humans used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill antelopes, gazelles, wildebeest and other large animals at least two million years ago. The discovery – made by anthropologist Professor Henry Bunn of Wisconsin University – pushes back the definitive date for the beginning of systematic human hunting by hundreds of thousands of years.

Two million years ago, our human ancestors were small-brained apemen and in the past many scientists have assumed the meat they ate had been gathered from animals that had died from natural causes or had been left behind by lions, leopards and other carnivores.

But Bunn argues that our apemen ancestors, although primitive and fairly puny, were capable of ambushing herds of large animals after carefully selecting individuals for slaughter. The appearance of this skill so early in our evolutionary past has key implications for the development of human intellect.
BBC: Rothamsted scientists study 170-year-old potatoes
Hertfordshire scientists have studied 170-year-old potatoes to learn lessons from the 19th Century Irish famine.

Potato blight in Ireland in the 1840s caused a food shortage which saw more than one million people die.

Rothamsted Research in Harpenden used DNA techniques on samples stored by 19th Century scientists.

The research showed how the disease survived between cropping seasons. It will also help test for plant diseases in the future.

Potato blight is caused by the microorganism, Phytophthora infestans, which destroys the leaves of potato crops.
Now, food news about the present and future.

Purdue University: Watermelon shown to boost heart health, control weight gain in mice
October 2, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Eating an apple a day may keep the doctor away, but eating watermelon may just keep the cardiologist at bay.

A study from Purdue University and University of Kentucky showed that mice fed a diet including watermelon juice had lower weight, cholesterol and arterial plaque than a control group. The findings, reported in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, suggest that citrulline, a compound found in watermelon, plays a role in cardiovascular health.

"We were interested in citrulline because previous studies showed that it may lower blood pressure," said Shubin Saha, a Purdue Extension vegetable specialist and study co-author. "We didn't see a lowering of blood pressure, but these other changes are promising."
Arizona State University: Farmer-led innovation can help solve food security challenges
October 3, 2012
Since the 1960s, Nepal has registered 62 new high-yielding rice varieties. The method for developing new varieties has evolved in those years, to a method where farmers are now at the hub of the technological innovation process and work closely with scientists and policymakers.

This innovative approach was the subject of a recently published article by ASU researcher Netra Chhetri and colleagues. The work was reported in AgClim Letters, a science-policy bulletin distributed by CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). CGIAR, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food-secure and sustainable future.

“Can farmer-led crop breeding deal with the pace and uncertainty of climate change?” asks the internationally distributed bulletin. Chhetri and colleagues give a very positive response.
Thinking about food also includes eliminating or reducing competition for food, especially being used for biofuel.

Arizona State University: ASU researchers to explore large-scale deployment of biomass energy crops
Posted: October 01, 2012
Arizona State University (ASU) researchers will embark on a novel renewable energy project with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Water Sustainability and Climate program (WSC).

NSF is providing $1.5 million to ASU to identify suitable locations across the United States where perennial biomass energy crops (e.g., miscanthus and switchgrass) could be grown sustainably. The five-year interdisciplinary project will integrate physical, agricultural and economic elements, embedded within a high-performance computing (HPC) framework, to identify geographically sustainable “hot-spots,” areas best-suited for expansion of perennial bioenergy crops.
The use of corn for ethanol production carries side effects, including food security concerns owing to its use as a staple food crop. Use of perennial feedstocks, such as miscanthus or switchgrass, offers a promising opportunity to decrease reliance on the use of food crops for energy production. Their sustainable expansion and utility for renewable energy purposes could significantly offset use of fossil fuels and combat greenhouse gas-induced climate change.
University of Wisconsin: Researchers develop efficient, scalable process for making renewable liquid fuels
by Renee Meiller
Oct. 3, 2012
Using simple technology developed primarily for producing electricity from hydrogen, a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology of South Korea has developed what could be a commercially viable, continuous process for converting biomass and electricity into renewable liquid transportation fuels.

George Huber, a UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering, and his collaborators have demonstrated they can use a proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell to convert the model biomass compound acetone into isopropanol, a chemical compound with a wide variety of pharmaceutical and industrial applications, including as a gasoline additive.

The advance paves the way for researchers to convert biomass molecules such as glucose into hexanes, which are significant components of gasoline currently derived by refining crude oil. "Essentially, we are making renewable liquid fuel that fits into the existing infrastructure," says Huber, whose team published its results in the Sept. 7, 2012, issue of the journal ChemSusChem.
There will be lots more on this theme from earlier ONDs in this entry. The previous week's edition, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Streambed on Mars discovered edition)contained the following smorgasbord of food (and drink) news without a particular theme.

Arizona State University: Bees decrease food intake, live longer when given compound found in red wine
Posted: September 23, 2012
The idea that drinking red wine may provide health benefits – or possibly even extend your life – is an appealing thought for many people. Now, there may be added attraction. Researchers have found that when given resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, bees consume less food.

Previous scientific studies on resveratrol show that it lengthens the lifespan of diverse organisms ranging from unicellular yeast to fruit flies and mice. Since bees are social animals like humans, a team of scientists from Arizona State University, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and Harvard Medical School, decided to test the effects of the chemical on the honey bee.
Their research has confirmed that not only does this compound extend the lifespan of honey bees by 33 to 38 percent, it also changes the decisions that bees make about food by triggering a “moderation effect” when they eat.
Purdue University: Scientists have way to control sugars that lead to diabetes, obesity
September 25, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Scientists can now turn on or off the enzymes responsible for processing starchy foods into sugars in the human digestive system, a finding they believe will allow them to better control those processes in people with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Bruce Hamaker, a professor of food science and director of the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research at Purdue University, said the four small intestine enzymes, called alpha-glucosidases, are responsible for generating glucose from starch digestion. Each enzyme functions differently, breaking down starches into different sugars at different rates. Someone missing one or more of those enzymes creates glucose improperly.

Influx of glucose to the blood increases insulin release from the pancreas, which allows the body to remove the sugar. When the body's tissues cannot respond well to insulin, the blood sugar is not lowered, a situation seen in type 2 diabetics. Even in non-diabetics, excess sugars not burned by the body as energy may be stored as fat, an issue for people prone to obesity.

"In diabetics, you don't want this roller coaster of blood-glucose levels. Their bodies can't regulate glucose that well," Hamaker said. "If you can selectively inhibit these enzymes, it opens up the possibility of moderating glucose to the body as well as directing glucose release into different parts of the small intestines for certain physiologic responses."
Purdue University: Cutting livestock greenhouse gases requires effort from rich and poor countries
September 27, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Regulating livestock greenhouse gas emissions could shift livestock production to unregulated, less developed countries unless those poorer nations can be enticed to preserve their forested lands, according to a Purdue University economic study.

Agriculture and deforestation account for about one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, with methane from livestock production being the most important type of farm-related emission. Alla Golub, a Purdue research economist at the Center for Global Trade Analysis in Purdue's Department of Agricultural Economics, Thomas Hertel, a Purdue distinguished professor of Agricultural Economics and executive director of the Global Trade Analysis Project, and Benjamin Henderson, livestock policy officer at Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations modeled policies aimed at reducing emissions from livestock.

"Emissions from agriculture have not gotten as much attention as those from fossil fuels combustion. But when the world gets serious about tackling climate policy, livestock will be an important part of that discussion," Hertel said. "Livestock sectors are the most important contributors to non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions and would be seriously affected if a tax or regulations were implemented."
Arizona State University: Gut reaction: Morality in food choice
Personal ethics can be a powerful motivator when it comes to food choices.
Posted: September 25, 2012
We’ve all heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” It turns out the old adage might be true on more than just a physical level. The food you choose may also reflect your personal ethics.

Whether we like it or not, buying food has moral implications ranging from environmental sustainability to social justice to animal welfare. Was the apple you ate at lunch grown in your state, or even your country? How much land and water did it take to produce? Was the farmer who picked it making a fair wage?

Several researchers at Arizona State University are examining the ethical aspects of food production and consumption. They are helping consumers navigate the maze of moral choices involved in filling their plates and their bellies. And they are finding that being morally mindful can lead to better nutrition, as well.
University of Florida: UF/IFAS research into bacterial disease could lead to natural herbicide
September 26, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists are researching a natural herbicide that could be used in traditional and organic farming.

The herbicide, a chemical called thaxtomin, occurs naturally in Streptomyces bacteria that cause potato scab, a major disease of potatoes worldwide.

A study describing a key step in the process that could lead to its commercial production is published in the current issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology.
In the study, the researchers describe an enzyme in the bacteria that is essential to producing the herbicide and showed that without the enzyme, thaxtomin production doesn’t occur.
Arizona State University: ASU scientists bring the heat to refine renewable biofuel production
Posted: September 27, 2012
Perhaps inspired by Arizona’s blazing summers, Arizona State University scientists have developed a new method that relies on heat to improve the yield and lower the costs of high-energy biofuels production, making renewable energy production more of an everyday reality.

ASU has been at the forefront of algal research for renewable energy production. Since 2007, with support from federal, state and industry funding, ASU has spearheaded several projects that utilize photosynthetic microbes, called cyanobacteria, as a potential new source of renewable, carbon-neutral fuels. Efforts have focused on developing cyanobacteria as a feedstock for biodiesel production, as well as benchtop and large-scale photobioreactors to optimize growth and production.
I told you I'd include biofuel news, as long as it was about reducing competition with food.

Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2012 IgNobel Prizes edition) also included a variety of news, including some videos.

KOLD-TV: New study links high salt intake and high blood pressure in children
By Barbara Grijalva
Posted: Sep 17, 2012 6:57 PM EDT Updated: Sep 17, 2012 10:13 PM EDT
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - American children are eating too much salt, as much as adults.

That's in a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that also found the salt children and adolescents ate was linked with higher blood pressure.

The researcher found the link may be even stronger for overweight or obese children.
University of Arizona on YouTube: Bugs Take Over SUMC Ballroom at the Arizona Insect Festival

The Arizona Insect Festival brought lots of bugs and bug enthusiasts to the UA campus this year. Booths included cockroach cuddling, glow-in-the-dark insects, bug illnesses, an insect sting pain scale, and caterpillar petting. Guests were invited to taste different eatable bugs and try their hands at bug-themed arts and crafts.
Yes, edible bugs. I've blogged about that before.

McClatchy Newspapers via Arizona Daily Star: Genetically modified corn called harmful
September 20, 2012 12:00 am
PARIS - Rats feed a type of genetically modified corn died younger and suffered a range of tumors and cancers, a new French study found Wednesday.

The report in the online edition of the International Journal of Food Toxicity by a team of researchers at the university of Caen in northern France looked at rats fed on the GM crop for two years.

"The results are alarming. We observed a typical two to three times higher mortality rate among females," researcher Gilles-Eric Seralini told AFP news agency.

"There are two to three times more tumors in rats of both sexes," he added.
In case you were wondering, the GMOs are from Monsanto.

University of Florida: Obesity higher in rural America than in urban parts of the country, UF researchers, colleagues find
September 14, 2012
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The occurrence of obesity in rural areas of the U.S. is significantly higher than in urban areas, a new study from University of Florida researchers and colleagues has found. Forty percent of rural residents are obese, compared with 33 percent of urban residents.

The study is the first to use body mass index, or BMI, classification based on researcher-measured height and weight to compare rates of obesity in rural and urban adults. Previous studies relied on participants’ self-reports of height and weight, which led to too-low estimates of obesity, the researchers say.

“I was surprised by the magnitude of the rural-urban difference — it was larger than expected and much larger than previously estimated,” said senior author Michael G. Perri, a professor and dean of the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: UMass Amherst Fish Ecologist's Film 'Fish Meat' Will Show at Prestigious Blue Ocean Film Festival
September 20, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – The prestigious Blue Ocean Film Festival will screen the documentary film, “Fish Meat: Choose Your Farm Wisely,” by eco-filmmaker Ted Caplow and featuring University of Massachusetts Amherst fish ecologist Andy Danylchuk, on Sept. 26 in Monterey, Calif.

Festival organizers say it honors the world’s finest ocean films through best-in-class film competition, promotes dialogue between filmmakers and scientists to inspire great films, connects ocean filmmakers with the latest technology, financing and distribution resources and engages the public internationally by sharing the “world’s greatest collection of ocean films.”

Danylchuk says he and his partners are thrilled by the Blue Ocean festival’s decision to screen the 30-minute documentary, which illustrates, sometimes quite graphically, the pros and cons of modern aquaculture in the context of declining global wild fish stocks to help consumers think more holistically about where our seafood comes from.
Now, more efforts to reduce competition for food from biofuel production.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst: UMass Amherst Researchers Solve Long-Standing Mystery of How Cellulose Chains Break Down
September 17, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – One would think that scientists had long ago cracked the secret of cellulose, the most abundant polymer on Earth, in order to break its chemical bonds and harness its wealth of energy. But in fact, only recently have theoretical chemist Scott Auerbach and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst discovered how cellulose chains break down with heat, which is critical information for efficiently converting cellulose to biofuels.

Reporting in the current issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Auerbach and chemical engineer Paul Dauenhauer, with others, for the first time model at the molecular level the activation energies needed for the chemical reaction known as “fast pyrolysis” to proceed in cellulose. The model meets the tight strictures of chemical accuracy, within 5 kilojoules per mole of cellulose. “We’re quite sure that experiments testing our model will confirm it,” says Auerbach.

A basic building block of plants, cellulose is a naturally occurring crystalline polymer carbohydrate that can take many forms but is usually rigid, like uncooked spaghetti. Researchers have tried for years to convert the abundant, cheap material to biofuels and valuable chemicals, using heat to break or “depolymerize” the chemical bonds to yield a vapor, the necessary precursor to biofuels. But the process has been unpredictable, with different outcomes derived from different heating protocols.
Purdue University: Purdue gets $5.2 million to develop new biofuel process
September 19, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - If Purdue University researchers have their way, the term "biofuel plant" will take on a whole new meaning.

A team received a $5.2 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to develop a plant that can make substances that could be used directly as a biofuel. The idea is to reroute carbon that plants currently use to make lignin - a barrier to cellulosic ethanol production - and turn it into a biofuel.

"Scientists have been focused on getting the sugars out of cell walls and using microorganisms to ferment those sugars into fuel," said Clint Chapple, the grant's principal investigator and a distinguished professor of biochemistry. "We want to take advantage of a plant's metabolic pathways to make biofuel directly."
There were more videos along with the food news in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (35th Anniversary of Voyager 1 edition).

University of Massachusetts on YouTube: Introducing Permaculture to New Students

As part of new student orientation over Labor Day Weekend, the UMass Permaculture Initiative introduced new members of the university community to the campus' commitment to sustainability. A few months ago this student-led endeavor won White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge and met President Barack Obama.
And now more ancient food news.

OU Daily: OU archaeologists finish bison kill site excavation
by Paighten Harkins
August 30, 2012
This summer, a team of OU archeologists finished excavating a bison kill site that hadn’t been touched by humans in thousands of years.

The site was last visited by humans in the Folsom Age — which was more than 10,000 years ago, said K.C. Carlson, field director of the excavation.

The team found the skeletal remains of more than a dozen bison, some Folsom points — weapons used to kill bison — and some of the butchering tools Paleoindians used to cut up the animals, OU archeologist Leland Bement said.

“The last people to see [the bones] were the ones butchering the bison,” Carlson said.
Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Labor Day weekend edition) brings more video news.

University of Arizona on YouTube: Community Garden, Compost Cats Further UA's Land-Grant Mission

As a land-grant institution, the UA was built on a strong foundation of agriculture and education. Two campus endeavors, the UA Community Garden and Compost Cats, are keeping the land-grant mission alive by teaching students and community members how to grow food and care for the desert environment.
University of Vermont: What's on Your Plate?
By University Communications

If you missed UVM's food systems summit and public conference this summer, make sure you don't miss this video, premiered at the TEDx-style event. "What's On Your Plate?" challenges viewers to see and think differently about the food they eat, considering social, economic, environmental, diet and heath factors.
University of Vermont: A Fine Hive Mind
By Joshua E. Brown
In the fall of 1960, Dewey Caron was a freshman from Stamford, Vt., a chemistry major with a budding interest in insects. He points toward the crenelated towers of Converse Hall, “my first-year dorm,” he says, just a few hundred yards from where he stands today.

Now he is a honeybee specialist living in Oregon to be near his grandchildren. Professor emeritus of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, Caron is one of the world’s leading experts on Africanized bees (sometimes called “killer bees”) — and the program chairman of this beekeepers’ conference.

“Bees are vegetarians,” Caron says, noting that much of global agriculture depends on their habit of repeatedly collecting nectar and pollen from flowers of the same species. “They get fixed to a certain flower source,” he says, which, by accident, leads to the transfer of pollen — and, therefore, fertilization — in crops from Florida pumpkins to Maine blueberries.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: UMass Amherst Helps to Bring Fresh, Locally Grown Ethnic Specialty Crops to Inner City Markets and Immigrant Families
August 28, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – Food from home is one of the things immigrants miss most, and newcomers to Massachusetts, host to an estimated 150,000 transplanted Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Mexicans, are no exception. Recently the Ethnic Crops Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which has brought dozens of crops popular among many ethnic groups to markets across the state, added chipilín, a leafy green loved by Latinos from many lands.

Frank Mangan, director of the ethnic crops initiative at UMass Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture, says farms in Methuen, Dracut, Lancaster and Amesbury shipped 2,000 pounds of chipilín in recent weeks to farmers’ markets, bodegas and supermarkets in the Boston area, particularly East Boston and Chelsea, where the fresh, locally grown greens are snapped up by immigrant families hungry for familiar vegetables and produce.

“Figuring out how to grow something that hasn’t been grown here before, especially crops that people want, the healthy home-country food they really miss, is exciting,” says Mangan. “It’s a challenge, and some crops have been a complete bust. But then we have a success like chipilín and it is really fun. Now we have several growers producing it at farms around Boston. We found the farms and the markets and set up all the connections. The farmer can rely on us for that.”
With Massachusetts cities home to many immigrant groups, Mangan and colleagues have taken the lead on collaborative projects to research and market crops used by Latino, Portuguese-speaking and Asian populations here and in the region. “With the growing diversity in the demographics of the state, growers are interested in taking advantage of these trends,” he points out. “This matches the needs of farmers who are searching for new marketing options.”
The Oklahoman: Oklahoma researchers look to refuel ethanol
The extended drought has reduced the country’s corn supply and driven up corn costs, affecting the price of ethanol and gasoline. Oklahoma researchers are working to solve both problems.
Published: August 24, 2012
Higher corn costs have cast renewed attention on the 5-year-old federal mandate that an increasing amount of ethanol must be produced and blended with gasoline each year. The standards call for 13 billion gallons of ethanol this year and almost 14 billion gallons next year.
Researchers in Oklahoma are leading the effort to produce ethanol without tapping the country’s food supplies.

“I don’t believe corn is the viable way forward for biofuels,” said Stephen McKeever, Oklahoma State University’s vice president for research and technology transfer. “It is an energy inefficient process and it is taking food out of the market. Corn will never be the solution.”
There was more video news in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Neil Armstrong R.I.P. edition), along with food news from the Land of the Midnight Sun. Farming in Alaska? Yes!

University of Alaska, Fairbanks: Experiment Farm finds corn thrives in Fairbanks
Nancy Tarnai
While the Midwest corn yields are suffering immensely due to the worst drought in 50 years, corn is thriving in, of all places, Fairbanks, Alaska.

At the Fairbanks Experiment Farm on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, Meriam Karlsson, horticulture professor, is not very surprised at the abundant corn crop. It’s a little earlier than usual, but the ears are beautiful…and tasty.

“All it needs is heat,” Karlsson said. She started the corn in the UAF School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences greenhouse and got the transplants in the ground as early in May as she could. “It usually produces by the end of August so it’s a little early,” she said.
University of Georgia: Biofuel from biomass one step closer to reality thanks to discovery to manipulate ‘hot’ microbes
August 23, 2012
Athens, Ga. - The single most important barrier to the use of lignocellulosic biomass such as switchgrass, populus, sorghum and miscanthus for production of biofuels is the resistant nature of the biomass itself. The problem lies in the conversion or degradation of complex biomass to make products of interest.

New research from scientists at the University of Georgia who are members of Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) provides a genetic method for manipulating a group of organisms, called Caldicellulosiruptor, that have the ability to use biomass directly at temperatures over 160 Fahrenheit. The ability to modify the microbes to make the needed fuel products is a required first step for modern industrial fermentations. This allows researchers to combine the natural ability to consume renewable plant materials with an altered improved ability to make what is needed.

"The most formidable barrier to the use of biomass, such as switchgrass, to biofuels is the ability to break down the biomass. Plants have evolved over millions of years to resist degradation by microbes, and that is exactly what we want to do," said Janet Westpheling, a microbial geneticist in the department of genetics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and a scientist of BESC. "The ability to manipulate the genetics of organisms that can use biomass directly is essential to making them useful. We began with a group of bacteria that can use biomass for growth and will use genetics to teach them to make ethanol."
The last set of news comes from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Curiosity's first destination edition), featuring more videos and more news from Alaska.

NBC News on MSN: Researcher working on desert-grown rice
A University of Arizona researcher is working to create rice that will grow in desert conditions, as well as other drought resistant crops. KVOA's Danielle Lerner reports.
Arizona State University: Study: Healthy seafood comes from sustainable fish
Posted: August 2, 2012
When ordering seafood, the options are many and so are some of the things you might consider in what you order. Is your fish healthy? Is it safe? Is it harvested responsibly?

While there are many services and rankings offered to help you decide – there’s even an iPhone app – a group of researchers have found a simple rule of thumb applies.

“If the fish is sustainable, then it is likely to be healthy to eat too,” said Leah Gerber, an associate professor and senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University.
University of Alaska, Fairbanks: Urban farming pays off in Fairbanks Nancy Tarnai
Pink slime? There is no chance Deanna Thornell (aka Dr. Dee) will find that icky substance in her ground beef.

That’s because the local veterinarian and her partners are raising their own beef in a feedlot on Peger Road. A long-time supporter of 4-H programs, Thornell sees this as a natural extension of her helping students raise animals. She has long let 4-H’ers use her place for turkeys and geese and when her son was in FFA he raised steers.

“Anyone can do this,” she said. “I look at the big picture of America and what would happen in an emergency. It’s common sense to raise your own food.”
University of Alaska, Fairbanks: Alaska potato guide published in English and Russian
Debbie Carter
The University of Idaho Extension recently published the “Alaska Field Guide to Potato Pests and Beneficial Insects in English and Russian.” The guide is an Alaska version of an Idaho guide.

Janice Chumley, an Extension research technician from Soldotna, coordinated work on the pocket-sized color field guide, which was developed for commercial potato growers and field workers to assist with identification of pests and for field monitoring.

Information is provided in Russian and English because a significant number of the farm labor force speaks Russian, particularly in Delta Junction and on the Kenai Peninsula.
And that's it. Actually, that's enough!

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