Blog Archives

Genomic atlas of gene switches in plants provides roadmap for crop research

June 30, 2013 — What allows certain plants to survive freezing and thrive in the Canadian climate, while others are sensitive to the slightest drop in temperature? Those that flourish activate specific genes at just the right time — but the way gene activation is controlled remains poorly understood.

A major step forward in understanding this process lies in a genomic map produced by an international consortium led by scientists from McGill University and the University of Toronto and published online today in the journal Nature Genetics.

The map, which is the first of its kind for plants, will help scientists to localize regulatory regions in the genomes of crop species such as canola, a major crop in Canada, according to researchers who worked on the project. The team has sequenced the genomes of several crucifers (a large plant family that includes a number of other food crops) and analyzed them along with previously published genomes to map more than 90,000 genomic regions that have been highly conserved but that do not appear to encode proteins.

“These regions are likely to play important roles in turning genes on or off, for example to regulate a plant’s development or its response to environmental conditions,” says McGill computer-science professor Mathieu Blanchette, one of the leaders of the study. Work is currently underway to identify which of those regions may be involved in controlling traits of particular importance to farmers.

The study also weighs in on a major debate among biologists, concerning how much of an organism’s genome has important functions in a cell, and how much is “junk DNA,” merely along for the ride. While stretches of the genome that code for proteins are relatively easy to identify, many other ‘noncoding’ regions may be important for regulating genes, activating them in the right tissue and under the right conditions.

While humans and plants have very similar numbers of protein-coding genes, the map published in Nature Genetics further suggests that the regulatory sequences controlling plant genes are far simpler, with a level of complexity between that of fungi and microscopic worms. “These findings suggest that the complexity of different organisms arises not so much from what genes they contain, but how they turn them on and off,” says McGill biology professor Thomas Bureau, a co-author of the paper.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Tooth plaque provides unique insights into our prehistoric ancestors’ diet

An international team of researchers has found new evidence that our prehistoric ancestors had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture.

By extracting chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from ancient teeth, the researchers were able to provide an entirely new perspective on our ancestors’ diets. Their research suggests that purple nut sedge (Cyperus rotundus) — today regarded as a nuisance weed — formed an important part of the prehistoric diet.

Crucially, the research, published in PLOS ONE and led by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and the University of York, suggests that prehistoric people living in Central Sudan may have understood both the nutritional and medicinal qualities of this and other plants.

The research was carried out at Al Khiday, a pre-historic site on the White Nile in Central Sudan. It demonstrates that for at least 7,000 years, beginning before the development of agriculture and continuing after agricultural plants were also available the people of Al Khiday ate the plant purple nut sedge. The plant is a good source of carbohydrates and has many useful medicinal and aromatic qualities.

Lead author Karen Hardy, a Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) Research Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and an Honorary Research Associate at the University of York, said: “Purple nut sedge is today considered to be a scourge in tropical and sub-tropical regions and has been called the world’s most expensive weed due to the difficulties and high costs of eradication from agricultural areas. By extracting material from samples of ancient dental calculus we have found that rather than being a nuisance in the past, its value as a food, and possibly its abundant medicinal qualities were known. More recently, it was also used by the ancient Egyptians as perfume and as medicine.

“We also discovered that these people ate several other plants and we found traces of smoke, evidence for cooking, and for chewing plant fibres to prepare raw materials. These small biographical details add to the growing evidence that prehistoric people had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture.”

Al Khiday is a complex of five archaeological sites which lie 25km south of Omdurman; one of the sites is predominantly a burial ground of pre-Mesolithic, Neolithic and Later Meroitic age. As a multi-period cemetery, it gave the researchers a useful long-term perspective on the material recovered.

The researchers found ingestion of the purple nut sedge in both pre-agricultural and agricultural periods. They suggest that the plant’s ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium which contributes to tooth decay, may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of cavaties found in the agricultural population.

Dr Stephen Buckley, a Research Fellow at the University of York’s BioArCh research facility, conducted the chemical analyses. He said: “The evidence for purple nut sedge was very clear in samples from all the time periods we looked at. This plant was evidently important to the people of Al Khiday, even after agricultural plants had been introduced.”

Dr Donatella Usai, from the Instituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente in Rome led the excavation and Dr Tina Jakob from Durham University’s Department of Archaeology, performed the analysis of the human remains at Al Khiday. Anita Radini, an Archaeobotanist at the University of Leicester Archaeological Service (ULAS) and a PhD candidate at BioArCh, University of York, contributed to the analysis of microfossils found in the dental calculus samples.

Dr Usai said: “Al Khiday is a unique site in the Nile valley, where a large population lived for many thousands of years. This study demonstrates that they made good use of the locally available wild plant as food, as raw materials, and possibly even as medicine.”

Dr Hardy added: “The development of studies on chemical compounds and microfossils extracted from dental calculus will help to counterbalance the dominant focus on meat and protein that has been a feature of pre-agricultural dietary interpretation, up until now. The new access to plants ingested, which is provided by dental calculus analysis, will increase, if not revolutionise, the perception of ecological knowledge and use of plants among earlier prehistoric and pre-agrarian populations.”

Fieldwork was funded by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, Centro Studi Sudanesi e Sub-Sahariani, and the Universities of Milano, Padova and Parma. The research was endorsed by the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM) of Sudan.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of York. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Climate change provides good growing conditions for charcoal rot in soybeans

With over 100 diseases that can attack soybean crops, why would charcoal rot rise to the top of the most wanted list? University of Illinois scientists cite the earth’s changing climate as one reason that more research is needed on the fungus that causes charcoal rot.

Fungi may often be associated with cool, damp growing conditions but Macrophomina phaseolina, the fungus that causes charcoal rot, prefers hot and dry drought conditions.

“As the climate continues to change and we see more extremes in the weather, including hotter, drier summers, this fungus will have more favorable conditions to gain a foothold in soybean and other crops,” said Osman Radwan, a U of I molecular biologist. “If we look at diseases of soybean, we find that soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is at the top, but in the past decade or so, charcoal rot has become one of the top 10 diseases that affect soybean yield.”

In examining previous studies on charcoal rot, Radwan and his team noticed that worsening weather conditions associated with climate change, such as higher heat and drought, brought an increase in the incidence of charcoal rot in soybean. He suggests that a research strategy be created to develop a high-yielding soybean that is both resistant to charcoal rot and drought tolerant.

“Right now we are screening lines of soybean to charcoal rot and drought stress, in collaboration with Glen Hartman, a USDA-ARS and U of I plant pathologist,” Radwan said. “His team is screening for charcoal rot resistance, and I am screening for drought tolerance,” Radwan said. “Our ultimate goal is to identify the line that shows resistance to both charcoal rot and drought stress and in this way improve soybean tolerance to both the pathogen and the extreme weather conditions.”

The review of research on the subject has been written along with Hartman and Schuyler Korban from U of I. Radwan said that this background for what’s already been done on the topic will help them to develop a strategy for the next step.

Radwan emphasized that it’s not just soybean crops at risk. The fungus causes charcoal rot in about 500 other host plants, including corn, sorghum, sunflower, and other important crops. This fungus also grows in high concentrations of salt, which isn’t much of a problem to growers in the United States, but it is for farmers in developing countries where salinity is considered an issue. Consequently, the plant must be able to tolerate drought, salt, and resist this fungus at the same time.

One intriguing direction Radwan described that shows promise is that there may be interactions between M. phaseolina and other soil pathogens such as soybean cyst nematode (SCN) and sudden death syndrome (SDS).

“We have some assumptions about whether SCN can increase or decrease the incidence of charcoal rot as resistance to both pathogens might be controlled by two different pathways,” Radwan said. He explained that biotrophic pathogens such as SCN need plant tissue to survive, but the fungus that causes charcoal rot is necrotrophic, meaning that it kills the plant tissue, then lives on the dead plant cells.

“We need to understand at the molecular level how these two pathogens interact when they are present in soybean fields. Understanding the mechanisms of molecular interactions between SCN and M. phaseolina will help molecular biologists and breeders to design an effective method to control both diseases and to breed soybean for resistance to both pathogens,” he said.

Although no plants have complete immunity from the fungus, some soybean lines have been shown to have partial resistance to it. Hartman’s group has already begun screening many lines in soybean for resistance to charcoal rot.

In controlled greenhouse conditions, Radwan grows a variety of soybean cultivars in sandy soil and then stops watering the plants to simulate drought. The susceptible ones wilt and, even after adding water, don’t recover. Those that are tolerant to drought survive.

“If we screen for drought stress, we hope to find some cultivars that are charcoal rot resistant and others that are drought tolerant so that we can cross them,” Radwan said. “Of course, they also must have good agronomic traits, such as having a high yield potential, in order to be acceptable to farmers.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Discovery provides insights on how plants respond to elevated carbon dioxide levels

Biologists at UC San Diego have solved a long-standing mystery concerning the way plants reduce the numbers of their breathing pores in response to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

In a paper published in this week’s early online edition of Nature, they report the discovery of a new genetic pathway in plants, made up of four genes from three different gene families that control the density of breathing pores—or “stomata”—in plant leaves in response to elevated CO2 levels.

Their discovery should help biologists better understand how the steadily increasing levels of CO2 in our atmosphere (which last spring, for the first time in recorded history, remained above 400 parts per million) are affecting the ability of plants and economically important crops to deal with heat stress and drought. It could also provide agricultural scientists with new tools to engineer plants and crops that can deal with droughts and high temperatures like those now affecting the Southwestern United States.

“For each carbon dioxide molecule that is incorporated into plants through photosynthesis, plants lose about 200 hundred molecules of water through their stomata,” explains Julian Schroeder, a professor of biology who headed the research effort. “Because elevated CO2 reduces the density of stomatal pores in leaves, this is, at first sight beneficial for plants as they would lose less water. However, the reduction in the numbers of stomatal pores decreases the ability of plants to cool their leaves during a heat wave via water evaporation. Less evaporation adds to heat stress in plants, which ultimately affects crop yield.”

Schroeder is also co-director of a new research entity at UC San Diego called “Food and Fuel for the 21st Century,” which is designed to apply basic research on plants to sustainable food and biofuel production.

“Our research is aimed at understanding the fundamental mechanisms and genes by which CO2 represses stomatal pore development,” says Schroeder. Working in a tiny mustard plant called Arabidopsis, which is used as a genetic model and shares many of the same genes as other plants and crops, he and his team of biologists discovered that the proteins encoded by the four genes they discovered repress the development of stomata at elevated CO2 levels.

Using a combination of systems biology and bioinformatic techniques, the scientists cleverly isolated proteins, which, when mutated, abolished the plant’s ability to respond to CO2 stress. Cawas Engineer, a postdoctoral scientist in Schroeder’s lab and the first author of the study, found that when plants sense atmospheric CO2 levels rising, they increase their expression of a key peptide hormone called Epidermal Patterning Factor-2, EPF2.

“The EPF2 peptide acts like a morphogen which alters stem cell character in the epidermis of growing leaves and blocks the formation of stomata at elevated CO2,” explains Engineer.

Because other proteins known as proteases are needed to activate the EPF2 peptide, the scientists also used a “proteomics” approach to identify a new protein that they called CRSP (CO2 Response Secreted Protease) which, they determined, is crucial for activating the EPF2 peptide.

“We identified CRSP, a secreted protein, which is responsive to atmospheric CO2 levels,” says Engineer. “CRSP plays a pivotal role in allowing the plant to produce the right amount of stomata in response to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. You can imagine that such a ‘sensing and response’ mechanism involving CRSP and EPF2 could be used to engineer crop varieties which are better able to perform in the current and future high CO2 global climate where fresh water availability for agriculture is dwindling.”

The discoveries of these proteins and genes have the potential to address a wide range of critical agricultural problems in the future, including the limited availability of water for crops, the need to increase water use efficiency in lawns as well as crops and concerns among farmers about the impact heat stress will have in their crops as global temperatures and CO2 levels continue to rise.

“At a time where the pressing issues of climate change and inherent agronomic consequences which are mediated by the continuing atmospheric CO2 rise are palpable, these advances could become of interest to crop biologists and climate change modelers,” says Engineer.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California – San Diego. The original article was written by Kim McDonald. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Africa’s poison ‘apple’ provides common ground for saving elephants, raising livestock

While African wildlife often run afoul of ranchers and pastoralists securing food and water resources for their animals, the interests of fauna and farmer might finally be unified by the “Sodom apple,” a toxic invasive plant that has overrun vast swaths of East African savanna and pastureland.

Should the ominous reference to the smitten biblical city be unclear, the Sodom apple, or Solanum campylacanthum, is a wicked plant. Not a true apple, this relative of the eggplant smothers native grasses with its thorny stalks, while its striking yellow fruit provides a deadly temptation to sheep and cattle.

New research suggests, however, that certain wild African animals, particularly elephants, could be a boon to human-raised livestock because of their voracious appetite for the Sodom apple. A five-year study led by Princeton University researchers found that elephants and impalas, among other wild animals, can not only safely gorge themselves on the plant, but can efficiently regulate its otherwise explosive growth, according to a report in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Without elephants ripping the plant from the ground, or impalas devouring dozens of its fruits at a time, the shrub easily conquers the landscape.

Just as the governments of nations such as Kenya prepare to pour millions into eradicating the plant, the findings present a method for controlling the Sodom apple that is cost-effective for humans and beneficial for the survival of African elephants, explained first author Robert Pringle, a Princeton assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

“The Holy Grail in ecology is these win-win situations where we can preserve wildlife in a way that is beneficial to human livelihoods,” Pringle said. Similarly, Princeton researchers published two studies in 2011 that showed that allowing livestock to graze with wild animals such as zebras greatly improved the quality of the domesticated animals’ diet.

“It’s a nice example of how conservation needn’t be about sacrifice. It often is — let’s be honest. But there are situations where you can get a win-win,” Pringle said. “This opens the door for people whose main interest is cattle to say, ‘Maybe I do want elephants on my land.’ Elephants have a reputation as destructive, but they may be playing a role in keeping pastures grassy.”

Elephants and impalas can withstand S. campylacanthum‘s poison because they belong to a class of herbivores known as “browsers” that subsist on woody plants and shrubs, many species of which pack a toxic punch, Pringle said. On the other hand, “grazers” such as cows, sheep and zebras primarily eat grass, which is rarely poisonous. These animals easily succumb to the Sodom apple. A 2011 study on sheep published in the journal Kenya Veterinarian showed that the plant caused emphysema, pneumonia, bleeding ulcers, brain swelling and death, among other effects.

As more African savanna is converted into pasture, the proliferation of the Sodom apple may only get worse, Pringle said, which means that the presence of elephants to eat it may become more vital to the ecosystem and livestock. The Sodom apple thrives on ecological mayhem, such as the stress of overgrazing put on the land, Pringle said: “Typically, people will overload the land with more cattle than it can support. Then they remove the animals that eat the plant.”

Ricardo Holdo, a savanna ecologist and assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri, said that the researchers present enough data to potentially determine the amount of pastureland that wild Sodom-apple eaters would be able to keep free of the noxious plant. Holdo, who is familiar with the research but had no role in it, said that beyond removing the Sodom apple, animals such as elephants and impalas could potentially increase the food available to cattle. This is a departure from the conventional view in Africa that livestock and wild animals compete for the same scarce resources, he said.

“There is enough quantitative information in this paper that they can probably model this effect in a meaningful way,” Holdo said. “When you add the wild [herbivores], they have a negative effect on the Solanum, so they’re actually promoting a higher biomass of high-quality habitat for livestock. So, it’s a win-win in the sense that you’re creating a situation in which you can both have livestock and wild animals, and probably actually increase your yield for livestock.”

The researchers report that they have presented one of the first studies to examine “functional redundancy” in land animals. Functional redundancy refers to the situation in which one species declines or goes extinct and another species steps in to fulfill the same ecological role. This consideration helps ecologists predict the overall effect of extinction on an entire ecosystem. In this case, the effect of large mammals such as elephants and impalas on the Sodom apple population — and perhaps the populations of other plants — is unlikely to be duplicated by another animal species, the researchers found.

“That’s an important question because some species are quite vulnerable to extinction and others aren’t,” Pringle said. “The ones that go first tend to be the biggest, or the tastiest, or the ones with ivory tusks. We’re trying to gauge how the world is changing, and we need to understand to what extent these threatened animals have unique ecological functions.”

The majority of studies on functional redundancy have been conducted in aquatic systems because large land animals can be hard to control in an experiment, Holdo said. The Princeton-led study is made more robust by being unusually long by ecology standards, he said — the researchers observed similar patterns year after year.

“A big part of the reason we don’t understand functional redundancy very well in terrestrial ecosystems is because it’s difficult to manipulate land species,” he said. “Doing these experiments in the kind of environment like you have in Kenya is really challenging — keeping elephants out of anything is really a huge challenge.”

An unexpected feast: Elephants, impalas and a taste for Solanum

Pringle was roughly three years into a study about the effects of elephants on plant diversity when he noticed that the Sodom apple was conspicuously absent from some experiment sites. He and other researchers had set up 36 exclosures — which are designed to keep animals out rather than in — totaling nearly 89 acres (36 hectares) at the Mpala Research Center in Kenya, a multi-institutional research preserve with which Princeton has been long involved. There were four types of exclosure: one type open to all animals; another where only elephants were excluded; one in which elephants and impalas were excluded; and another off limits to all animals.

It was in the sites that excluded elephants and impala that the Sodom apple particularly flourished, Pringle said, which defied everything he knew about the plant.

“This study was really fortuitous. I had always thought that these fruits were horrible and toxic, but when I saw them in the experiment, I knew some animal was otherwise eating them. I just didn’t know which one,” Pringle said. “The question became, ‘Who’s eating the apple?’ It’s a very interesting and simple question, but once you get the answer it raises a lot of other questions.”

Using the exclosures established for the original experiment, Pringle and his co-authors used cameras to document the zest with which wild African browsers will eat S. campylacanthum. Pringle worked with Corina Tarnita, a Princeton mathematical biologist and assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as with collaborators from the University of Wyoming, the University of Florida, the University of California-Davis, the Mpala Center and the University of British Columbia.

The researchers specifically observed the foraging activity of elephants, impalas, small-dog-sized antelopes known as dik-diks, and rodents. They captured about 30,000 hours of foraging using cameras they had focused on particular plants. The researchers also marked several hundred Sodom-apple fruit to track how many were eaten, and measured the average height, mortality and reproducibility of Sodom-apple plants in all the exclosures.

The Sodom apple proliferated with each group of animal that was excluded. At one point, the plant’s density was three-times greater in areas restricted to all animals than those that permitted all of them, the researchers report. In February 2011, the researchers counted an average of less than one fruit per plant in the exclosure open to all animals, meaning that nearly every fruit produced by the plants was being consumed. In the plots closed to elephants, that average increased to three fruits per plant. When both impala and elephants were kept away, the average jumped to around 50 fruits per plant, and fruits were more likely to be eaten by insects rather than dik-diks or rodents.

There is a catch to the elephants’ and impalas’ appetite for the Sodom apple: When fruit goes in one end, seeds come out the other. Though some seeds are destroyed during digestion, most reemerge and are potentially able to germinate.

Pringle and Tarnita developed a mathematical model to conduct a sort of cost-benefit analysis of how the Sodom apple’s ability to proliferate is affected by being eaten. The model weighed the “cost” to the plant of being partially consumed against the potential benefit of having healthy seeds scattered across the countryside in an animal’s droppings. They then used the model to determine whether different animal species had an overall positive or negative influence on the population of Sodom-apple plants.

While elephants ate an enormous amount of Solanum seeds, they also often destroyed the entire plant, ripping it out of the ground and stuffing the whole bush into their mouths. The model showed that to offset the damage an elephant wreaks on a plant, 80 percent of the seeds the animal eats would have to emerge from it unscathed. On top of that, each seed would have to be 10-times more likely to take root than one that simply fell to the ground from its parent.

Impalas, on the other hand, can have a positive overall effect on the plants, the researchers found. Impalas ate the majority of the fruit consumed — one impala ate 18 fruit in just a few minutes. But they do not severely damage the parent plant while feeding and also spread a lot of seeds in their dung. Of the seeds eaten by an impala, only 60 percent would need to survive, and those seeds would have to be a mere three-times more likely to sprout than a seed that simply fell from its parent.

“A model allows you to explore a space you’re not fully able to reach experimentally,” said Tarnita, who uses math to understand the outcome of interactions between organisms. “Once you’ve explored it, however, the conclusions and predictions need to be confronted with reality. This model helped us conclude that although it is theoretically possible for elephants to benefit the plant, that outcome is extremely unlikely.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

PMA launches redesigned website, provides better access to resources

pmvidIn response to member feedback and as part of its new strategic plan implementation, the Produce Marketing Association unveiled its redesigned website (www.pma.com) Tuesday, May 27. With a fresh new design, completely new structure, a fully functioning search feature and mobile-ready access, the website is part of the association’s ongoing efforts to bring a complete portfolio of value to members of the fresh produce and floral industries.

“Over the past several years, we’ve made a conscious effort to share the wealth of industry resources the association offers in addition to all our conventions, shows and meetings,” Bryan Silbermann, chief executive officer of PMA, said in a press release. “One of the challenges we had is providing members with a fully functioning and easy-to-use ‘one-stop-shop’ where they can access those resources. Our members told us they needed a global information hub that’s intuitive and engaging—and we’re responding to those needs through this complete rebuilding of pma.com.”

Changes to the website include the following:

  • Improved search functionality. Locating various pieces of value is made easier with the enhanced search engine.
  • Connections to related content. The new website is smart, and as Web users have come to expect the site now serves up related articles and information to members exploring topics on anything from global trade, to food safety to retail.
  • Mobile design. Members said they needed mobile access to retrieve information in the field, so the new website includes responsive design, making it easy to navigate on any mobile device.
  • Spanish translation. Members across the globe are in need of easy access to information, so the new pma.com will have much of its content translated into Spanish. Information in Chinese and Portuguese will also roll out as the information on the website continues to grow.

And, to give members more of the resources they’ve asked for, the website will house a collection of new information, including three new consumer trend reports from the Hartman Research Group. Outlook on the Millennial Consumer 2014 is available on the website now, and members can expect to have two additional reports from Hartman this summer: Organic and Natural as well as Digital Lives. These reports provide critical insights into consumer behaviors driving fresh fruit and vegetable sales.

Members can also expect to see more information sharing on the site with the integration of blogs, social media and third-party news.

“We’re here to support the needs of our members by connecting them to experts, ideas, trends and talent,” said Silbermann. “We know produce and floral companies are focused on building consumer demand for the products they grow, ship and sell, and as the industry’s marketing association, we’re committed to providing resources that help reach that goal.”

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Tour de Fresh cycling event provides marketing opportunity to fresh produce companies

Organizers of the inaugural Tour de Fresh announced the collaborative industry event bringing fresh produce companies together for a four-day cycling event that will benefit United Fresh’s Let’s Move Salad Bars to Midwest Schools campaign. CG-Tour-de-Fresh-Logo-CMYK-

In the days leading up to the PMA Convention, fresh produce industry members of any skill level can travel 275 miles along the coast of California, starting in Carmel on Oct. 13 and finishing in Anaheim on Oct. 16.

Conceptualized by Cindy Jewell, California Giant Berry Farms director of marketing, and Anthony Gallino, vice president of sales, this not-for-profit event will not only unite companies, brands and people within the fresh produce industry, but also aims to raise a total of $ 84,750 to finance 30 salad bars.

“This is a way for our industry to organize an event that focuses on the very type of healthy activity and lifestyle choice that our products promote,” Jewell said in a press release. “Fresh produce growers, shippers, packers and vendors can all come together and show that we aren’t just talking about ways to live healthier, we are working to make it a reality.”

The Tour de Fresh event is currently accepting sponsors from all areas of the industry to cover operations and marketing costs. There are four limited-availability sponsorship levels: gold, silver, bronze and rider. Opportunities are available to join confirmed sponsors and riders from California Giant Berry Farms, Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers and FoodLink, as well as rider participants from Costco UK, Taylor Farms, Hannaford Brothers, CHEP and Crunch Pak.

“This event provides fresh produce companies with an incredible, multi-faceted marketing campaign,” Brock Nemecek, account manager at DMA Solutions, said in the release. “Sponsoring this event will not only elevate the Let’s Move campaign, but also provide a great nine-month promotional opportunity for those companies whose names will be included throughout all event marketing touch points.”

Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities can contact Brock Nemecek at 214/444-7454, Cindy Jewell at 831/728-1965 x258, or visit www.tourdefresh.com for more information. Once the full website is launched, it can be used by companies and individuals alike to make donations, support individual riders and their school beneficiaries, and download a training guide to prepare along with ride participants.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Tour de Fresh cycling event provides marketing opportunity to fresh produce companies

Organizers of the inaugural Tour de Fresh announced the collaborative industry event bringing fresh produce companies together for a four-day cycling event that will benefit United Fresh’s Let’s Move Salad Bars to Midwest Schools campaign. CG-Tour-de-Fresh-Logo-CMYK-

In the days leading up to the PMA Convention, fresh produce industry members of any skill level can travel 275 miles along the coast of California, starting in Carmel on Oct. 13 and finishing in Anaheim on Oct. 16.

Conceptualized by Cindy Jewell, California Giant Berry Farms director of marketing, and Anthony Gallino, vice president of sales, this not-for-profit event will not only unite companies, brands and people within the fresh produce industry, but also aims to raise a total of $ 84,750 to finance 30 salad bars.

“This is a way for our industry to organize an event that focuses on the very type of healthy activity and lifestyle choice that our products promote,” Jewell said in a press release. “Fresh produce growers, shippers, packers and vendors can all come together and show that we aren’t just talking about ways to live healthier, we are working to make it a reality.”

The Tour de Fresh event is currently accepting sponsors from all areas of the industry to cover operations and marketing costs. There are four limited-availability sponsorship levels: gold, silver, bronze and rider. Opportunities are available to join confirmed sponsors and riders from California Giant Berry Farms, Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers and FoodLink, as well as rider participants from Costco UK, Taylor Farms, Hannaford Brothers, CHEP and Crunch Pak.

“This event provides fresh produce companies with an incredible, multi-faceted marketing campaign,” Brock Nemecek, account manager at DMA Solutions, said in the release. “Sponsoring this event will not only elevate the Let’s Move campaign, but also provide a great nine-month promotional opportunity for those companies whose names will be included throughout all event marketing touch points.”

Companies interested in sponsorship opportunities can contact Brock Nemecek at 214/444-7454, Cindy Jewell at 831/728-1965 x258, or visit www.tourdefresh.com for more information. Once the full website is launched, it can be used by companies and individuals alike to make donations, support individual riders and their school beneficiaries, and download a training guide to prepare along with ride participants.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Syngenta’s snacking tomato event provides food for thought

“snack tomato could represent 30-40% of the total market in 5 years”
Syngenta’s snacking tomato event provides food for thought

Last week, key players in the European snacking tomato business gathered in Almeria to attend Syngenta’s International Trends and Innovations in the snacking tomato business. The two day event, held in the heart of Spain’s greenhouse area of Almeria, was a great opportunity for leading growers, traders and retailers to scan the possibilities in the field of the snacking tomato. 

The snacking tomato segment is one of the most thriving segments in the worldwide greenhouse tomato industry. The young and dynamic category has seen an impressive growth over the last 20 years and according to Syngenta’s Head of Vegetables EAME, Phillipe Chatin, the snacking tomato has been a constant source of innovation for the industry; breeders are fanatically working on the genetics, colour, shapes and flavours, traders and retailers are experimenting with packaging, and growers are challenged to achieve a consistent quality in year round production.

Nowadays the snacking tomato is responsible for 10-30% of the total tomato market in terms of volume, acreage, seeds and value. In the UK and Germany the snacking tomato is responsible for one third of the total amount of consumed tomatoes, and according to Phillipe Chatin, this trend will pass on to other countries in the coming years; the snacking tomato could represent 30-40% of the total market in 5 years time, he said.


Philippe Chatin during the opening session

As of today, Syngenta is the market leader in the active cultivation [greenhouse cultivation with additional heating] of snacking tomatoes, and their varieties are also very popular in the passive greenhouse cultivation [no extra heating]. The market potentials of the segment were more than enough reason for Syngenta to dedicate a two day event to the snacking tomatoes to share the latest knowledge, innovations, strategies and possibilities.

On the first day, the attendees had a chance to get an update on Syngenta’s innovations in the snacking tomato segment. Special for this occasion, a complete selection of Syngenta commercial varieties, trials and other innovative varieties were on display at the Breeding Centre greenhouse in El Ejido.


Dutch growers and marketeers from Red Star, Harvest House, Seasun and Westburg visiting the Demo Greenhouse

The crops were sown on the 31st of August 2013. In this order, growers from all over Europe had a chance to see how the full grown varieties behaved in a Mediterranean climate. As the demand for snacking tomatoes is increasing, many European retailers are asking for a year round supply, and varieties that can be grown year round in different climates is always more than welcome.

Syngenta is currently a market leader in the segment with varieties like Angelle, Sweetelle, Dunne and Edioso. All of these well know tomatoes were on display as well as several other introductions and trials. Next to this there were also some crops that originated from other breeding programs in different countries.


Inside the lab

Along with a tour in the R&D facility at the breeding centre, the visit gave insight to the latest developments in varieties, flavour, shelf life and crop protection solutions. Professionals from Syngenta explained about the structure of the breeding process and the visitors learned how much effort is put in to each single specification of a variety.


Speakers at the conference on the 2nd day

On the second day of the event a varied conference program covered all aspects of the snacking tomato chain; from technical seminars on cultivation strategies, crop enhancement and pest control, towards a focus on marketing by speakers that issued consumption trends, retail needs, flavour differentiation and product positioning.

Even though the speaker program carried out a wide variety of topics, the discussed content was still very interesting for everybody in the chain. Presentations in the morning by Franciso Egea of the University of Almeria,  Peter Stradiot of InnoGreen and Francisco José Rodríguez Noguerón focused on the technical aspect of tomato cultivation; what steps need to be taken to increase sustainability, achieve a better crop and how to control pests and diseases. All very technical content that still was very interesting for traders and retailers because they could get a better impression of the breeding process.

The second part of the day focused on marketing. What does the consumer want, where and how do you position the product? Shall you go for mass production, or for a niche, or somewhere in between? What type of consumer are you addressing? Does the consumer spends more money on tomatoes than he did 10 years ago?

Presentations by Elena Ozeritskaya from Fresh Insight, Rene van Paasen from Greenco and David del Pino from La Palma proved to be food for thought for both marketeers and growers and resulted in an interactive discussion afterwards.

In the coming weeks, HortiDaily.com will review the conference program in several articles.

Click here to view a photo report of the event.

Publication date: 1/28/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Wal-Mart Provides Peek into Sam’s Lab

BENTONVILLE Ark. — Before any fresh food items get to the shelves at Sam’s Club stores they are first subject to a program of a rigorous testing its executives say has raised the level of quality — and sales volumes — at Wal-Mart Stores‘ warehouse division.

Company officials on Wednesday provided media members with a look into the “sensory lab” at Sam’s Club’s headquarters here as part of its annual shareholders meeting.

“Because we’re the buying agents for our customers it’s important that we provide them with the items that they want at a great value,” Bryant Harris vice president of fresh grocery for Sam’s Club, said in a presentation. “A key part to that is the items that they want. Which means we need their feedback to understand what they want from us. We need to understand what attributes that are important to an item and then over-deliver on those attributes.”

The sensory lab accomplishes this through focus group testing of items on a number of attributes ranging from textures to tastes, officials said.

An emphasis on offering items with higher satisfaction scores has resulted in a reduction of the volume of items presented to Sam’s Club by suppliers, but higher sales of those that make it into the stores.

“We view this as a huge competitive advantage” Bryant said.

Supermarket News