Blog Archives

Hydrogen sulfide greatly enhances plant growth: Key ingredient in mass extinctions could boost food, biofuel production

TGF-FruitImageApr. 17, 2013 — Hydrogen sulfide, the pungent stuff often referred to as sewer gas, is a deadly substance implicated in several mass extinctions, including one at the end of the Permian period 251 million years ago that wiped out more than three-quarters of all species on Earth.

But in low doses, hydrogen sulfide could greatly enhance plant growth, leading to a sharp increase in global food supplies and plentiful stock for biofuel production, new University of Washington research shows.

“We found some very interesting things, including that at the very lowest levels plant health improves. But that’s not what we were looking for,” said Frederick Dooley, a UW doctoral student in biology who led the research.

Dooley started off to examine the toxic effects of hydrogen sulfide on plants but mistakenly used only one-tenth the amount of the toxin he had intended. The results were so unbelievable that he repeated the experiment. Still unconvinced, he repeated it again — and again, and again. In fact, the results have been replicated so often that they are now “a near certainty,” he said.

“Everything else that’s ever been done on plants was looking at hydrogen sulfide in high concentrations,” he said.

The research is published online April 17 in PLOS ONE, a Public Library of Science journal.

At high concentrations — levels of 30 to 100 parts per million in water — hydrogen sulfide can be lethal to humans. At one part per million it emits a telltale rotten-egg smell. Dooley used a concentration of 1 part per billion or less to water seeds of peas, beans and wheat on a weekly basis. Treating the seeds less often reduced the effect, and watering more often typically killed them.

With wheat, all the seeds germinated in one to two days instead of four or five, and with peas and beans the typical 40 percent rate of germination rose to 60 to 70 percent.

“They germinate faster and they produce roots and leaves faster. Basically what we’ve done is accelerate the entire plant process,” he said.

Crop yields nearly doubled, said Peter Ward, Dooley’s doctoral adviser, a UW professor of biology and of Earth and space sciences and an authority on Earth’s mass extinctions.

Hydrogen sulfide, probably produced when sulfates in the oceans were decomposed by sulfur bacteria, is believed to have played a significant role in several extinction events, in particular the “Great Dying” at the end of the Permian period. Ward suggests that the rapid plant growth could be the result of genetic signaling passed down in the wake of mass extinctions.

At high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide killed small plants very easily while larger plants had a better chance at survival, he said, so it is likely that plants carry a defense mechanism that spurs their growth when they sense hydrogen sulfide.

“Mass extinctions kill a lot of stuff, but here’s a legacy that promotes life,” Ward said.

Dooley recently has applied hydrogen sulfide treatment to corn, carrots and soybeans with results that appear to be similar to earlier tests. But it is likely to be some time before he, and the general public, are comfortable with the level of testing to make sure there are no unforeseen consequences of treating food crops with hydrogen sulfide.

The most significant near-term promise, he believes, is in growing algae and other stock for biofuels. Plant lipids are the key to biofuel production, and preliminary tests show that the composition of lipids in hydrogen sulfide-treated plants is the same as in untreated plants, he said.

When plants grow to larger-than-normal size, they typically do not produce more cells but rather elongate their existing cells, Dooley said. However, in the treatment with hydrogen sulfide, he found that the cells actually got smaller and there were vastly more of them. That means the plants contain significantly more biomass for fuel production, he said.

“If you look at a slide of the cells under a microscope, anyone can understand it. It is that big of a difference,” he said.

Ward and Suven Nair, a UW biology undergraduate, are coauthors of the PLOS ONE paper. The work was funded by the UW Astrobiology Program.

Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:

Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Washington. The original article was written by Vince Stricherz.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Frederick D. Dooley, Suven P. Nair, Peter D. Ward. Increased Growth and Germination Success in Plants following Hydrogen Sulfide Administration. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (4): e62048 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062048

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Superfood chia seeds may be potential natural ingredient in food product development

Date:

May 21, 2014

Source:

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)

Summary:

The consumer demand for natural, healthy and non-animal source food ingredients are on the rise. A new study shows that chia seeds when placed in water produce a gel that could be potentially be applied in food product development. The results of the study indicate that chia gel can be easily extracted and have great potential in food product development as a thickener and emulsifier, as well as a stabilizer in frozen foods.

The consumer demand for natural, healthy and non-animal source food ingredients are on the rise. A new study from the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), shows that chia seeds when placed in water produce a gel that could be potentially be applied in food product development. The results of the study indicate that chia gel can be easily extracted and have great potential in food product development as a thickener and emulsifier, as well as a stabilizer in frozen foods.

Chia is one of the oldest crops cultivated for centuries by the Aztec tribes in Mexico and is high in dietary fiber, protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids. It also has the highest α-linoleic acid (an Omega-3 fatty acid) content of any known vegetable source.

The researchers found that chia gel has good water binding capacity and oil holding capacity, viscosity, emulsion activity and freeze-thaw ability that is comparable to guar gum and gelatine, two common current food ingredients used in baked goods and sauces.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ranil Coorey, Audrey Tjoe, Vijay Jayasena. Gelling Properties of Chia Seed and Flour. Journal of Food Science, 2014; 79 (5): E859 DOI: 10.1111/1750-3841.12444

Cite This Page:

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “Superfood chia seeds may be potential natural ingredient in food product development.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521162725.htm>.

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). (2014, May 21). Superfood chia seeds may be potential natural ingredient in food product development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521162725.htm

Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). “Superfood chia seeds may be potential natural ingredient in food product development.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140521162725.htm (accessed May 24, 2014).

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Controversy Continues Over Listing Evaporated Cane Juice on Ingredient Labels

Recent action by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) may smooth the path for food manufacturers to continue to declare sweeteners derived from cane syrup (such as sugar) as “Evaporated Cane Juice” (ECJ) on food labels, at least for the foreseeable future.

Last month, FDA announced that it was reopening comments for 60 days on its 2009 draft guidance for declaring ECJ as an ingredient. The announcement states that FDA reopened comments to obtain more information on ECJ and to better understand the difference between ECJ and other sweeteners.

FDA’s announcement comes amid controversies over the use of ECJ in place of sugar on food labels. In Northern California, for instance, class-action plaintiffs sued food manufacturers, alleging that ECJ is another name for sugar. And, while food companies may want to use the term ECJ rather than sugar to make their products seem healthier, FDA regulations require food labels to reflect common or usual names of ingredients.

Reopened Commenting May Stall or Dismiss ECJ Lawsuits

So far, the most important issue in the ECJ lawsuits has been the relationship between FDA’s draft guidance and primary jurisdiction. Primary jurisdiction allows courts to dismiss a case without prejudice, e.g., without declaring one side a winner, when the issue is within the special competence of an administrative agency and the agency is taking steps to address an issue. Put differently, a court can dismiss a case on primary jurisdiction grounds and defer to an agency working on the issue.

Prior to FDA reopening the commenting period, it was unclear whether courts should dismiss the ECJ cases on primary jurisdiction. On one hand, class-action plaintiffs argued that FDA has already resolved the ECJ labeling issue because it has clearly and continually held that sweeteners derived from cane syrup should not be labeled as ECJ. On the other hand, industry argued that a 2009 draft guidance, which is not binding on industry, is not a final resolution of the issue.

The reopened commenting period may put a fork in the class-action plaintiffs’ arguments. In Swearingen v. Santa Cruz Natural Inc., for example, a case out of the federal District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Susan Illston held:

“In light of the March 5, 2014 [notice of reopened commenting], the Court finds it appropriate to apply the doctrine of primary jurisdiction. The notice states that the FDA has not resolved the issue of whether ECJ is the common or usual name of the ingredient at issue and that the FDA is engaged in active rulemaking on the issue.”

But not all district court judges are following Judge Illston’s reasoning, according to Arnold (Arnie) I. Friede, a food and drug law attorney and a former associate chief counsel in FDA’s Chief Counsel’s Office.

“Given the divergence of views by different district court judges on whether ECJ cases should be dismissed on primary jurisdiction grounds, it seems reasonable to believe that the matter will be up before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the not-too-distant future,” Friede said.

No Changes to ECJ Regulations are Likely in the Near Future

FDA reopened the draft guidance for 60 days, but it is unclear what the agency’s actions on the ECJ issue will be after comments close.

“The agency expects to issue final guidance, although I cannot predict a date at this time,” said Arthur Whitmore with FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

Given FDA’s long to-do list, some are skeptical of whether the agency will take action to resolve the ECJ issue anytime soon.

“As a practical matter, and now that it has reopened the comment period on the draft ECJ guidance, it is probable that FDA will not get to this for a very long time, if ever, particularly given other competing priorities in the food arena,” Friede said.

So courts are dismissing ECJ cases on primary jurisdiction grounds, thanks to the reopened commenting period. Yet it seems that FDA will not likely resolve the ECJ issue on its own, at least for now.

“As a practical matter, if courts dismiss these ECJ cases on primary jurisdiction grounds until FDA resolves the issue, the cases pretty much disappear,” Friede explained. “Depending on one’s perspective, that may or may not be a good thing.”

Food Safety News

Controversy Continues Over Listing Evaporated Cane Juice on Ingredient Labels

Recent action by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) may smooth the path for food manufacturers to continue to declare sweeteners derived from cane syrup (such as sugar) as “Evaporated Cane Juice” (ECJ) on food labels, at least for the foreseeable future.

Last month, FDA announced that it was reopening comments for 60 days on its 2009 draft guidance for declaring ECJ as an ingredient. The announcement states that FDA reopened comments to obtain more information on ECJ and to better understand the difference between ECJ and other sweeteners.

FDA’s announcement comes amid controversies over the use of ECJ in place of sugar on food labels. In Northern California, for instance, class-action plaintiffs sued food manufacturers, alleging that ECJ is another name for sugar. And, while food companies may want to use the term ECJ rather than sugar to make their products seem healthier, FDA regulations require food labels to reflect common or usual names of ingredients.

Reopened Commenting May Stall or Dismiss ECJ Lawsuits

So far, the most important issue in the ECJ lawsuits has been the relationship between FDA’s draft guidance and primary jurisdiction. Primary jurisdiction allows courts to dismiss a case without prejudice, e.g., without declaring one side a winner, when the issue is within the special competence of an administrative agency and the agency is taking steps to address an issue. Put differently, a court can dismiss a case on primary jurisdiction grounds and defer to an agency working on the issue.

Prior to FDA reopening the commenting period, it was unclear whether courts should dismiss the ECJ cases on primary jurisdiction. On one hand, class-action plaintiffs argued that FDA has already resolved the ECJ labeling issue because it has clearly and continually held that sweeteners derived from cane syrup should not be labeled as ECJ. On the other hand, industry argued that a 2009 draft guidance, which is not binding on industry, is not a final resolution of the issue.

The reopened commenting period may put a fork in the class-action plaintiffs’ arguments. In Swearingen v. Santa Cruz Natural Inc., for example, a case out of the federal District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Susan Illston held:

“In light of the March 5, 2014 [notice of reopened commenting], the Court finds it appropriate to apply the doctrine of primary jurisdiction. The notice states that the FDA has not resolved the issue of whether ECJ is the common or usual name of the ingredient at issue and that the FDA is engaged in active rulemaking on the issue.”

But not all district court judges are following Judge Illston’s reasoning, according to Arnold (Arnie) I. Friede, a food and drug law attorney and a former associate chief counsel in FDA’s Chief Counsel’s Office.

“Given the divergence of views by different district court judges on whether ECJ cases should be dismissed on primary jurisdiction grounds, it seems reasonable to believe that the matter will be up before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the not-too-distant future,” Friede said.

No Changes to ECJ Regulations are Likely in the Near Future

FDA reopened the draft guidance for 60 days, but it is unclear what the agency’s actions on the ECJ issue will be after comments close.

“The agency expects to issue final guidance, although I cannot predict a date at this time,” said Arthur Whitmore with FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

Given FDA’s long to-do list, some are skeptical of whether the agency will take action to resolve the ECJ issue anytime soon.

“As a practical matter, and now that it has reopened the comment period on the draft ECJ guidance, it is probable that FDA will not get to this for a very long time, if ever, particularly given other competing priorities in the food arena,” Friede said.

So courts are dismissing ECJ cases on primary jurisdiction grounds, thanks to the reopened commenting period. Yet it seems that FDA will not likely resolve the ECJ issue on its own, at least for now.

“As a practical matter, if courts dismiss these ECJ cases on primary jurisdiction grounds until FDA resolves the issue, the cases pretty much disappear,” Friede explained. “Depending on one’s perspective, that may or may not be a good thing.”

Food Safety News