Blog Archives

Researchers’ recipe: Cook farm waste into energy

It takes some cooking, but turning farm waste into biofuels is now possible and makes economic sense, according to preliminary research from the University of Guelph.

Guelph researchers are studying how to make biofuels from farm waste, especially “wet” waste that is typically difficult to use. They have developed a fairly simple procedure to transport waste and produce energy from it.

Scientists have struggled to find uses for wet and green waste, including corn husks, tomato vines and manure. Dry farm waste, such as wood chips or sawdust, is easier to use for generating power. Often, wet farm waste materials break down before reaching their destination.

Researchers led by engineering professor Animesh Dutta, director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab (BRIL) at U of G, have found a solution: pressure cooking.

Cooking farm waste yields compact, easily transportable material that will not degrade and can be used in energy-producing plants.

Dutta said the research, which is published this week in the journal Applied Energy, shows that in a lab setting, biofuels can produce the same amount of energy as coal.

“What this means is that we have a resource in farm waste that is readily available, can produce energy at a similar level to burning coal, and does not require any significant start-up costs,” said Dutta.

“We are taking what is now a net-negative resource in farm waste, which farmers have to pay to remove, and providing an opportunity for them to make money and help the environment. It’s a closed-loop cycle, meaning we don’t have to worry about external costs.”

Using excess food, green and wet waste to reduce the carbon footprint is drawing a lot of interest in Europe, he said, but so far it has proven unfeasible in North America.

Coal is more readily available in North America. Biomass is highly rich in alkali and alkaline earth metals such as silicon, potassium, sodium and calcium. The presence of these metals in farm waste damages pipes at power plants during combustion.

The new biofuel product made by the BRIL researchers produces a product that has less alkali and alkaline earth metals, allowing them to be used at power plants.

“We’re able to produce small amounts of energy in our lab from these biofuels,” said Dutta.

“The next step is to take this outside of the lab. We have a number of industry partners and government ministries interested in this technology. Essentially, the agri-food sector could power the automotive industry.”

Dutta said large pressure cookers located near farms could accept and cook waste for transport to energy plants.

“We’re looking at a timeline of five to seven years, depending on the funding,” he said.

“Once we have a commercial system set up, we’ll be self-sufficient. It can reduce our energy costs and provide an environmental benefit. It’s going to change the paradigm of energy production in North America.”

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem — or just plain puzzling — non-native plants.

Plants that come into the United States from abroad can choke out crops, native plants and gardens or cause algae blooms that kill fish, and can even poison animals. Invasive species threaten Florida’s environment, economy and health and cost the United States an estimated $ 120 billion a year.

The Assessment of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas website and database is at http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. The site helps predict the invasion risk of non-native species in the state, as well as species proposed for introduction.

“One of our immediate goals was to take our existing database of non-native plant species and make it more readily available to both UF faculty/staff and the general public on a user friendly, easily searched website,” said Deah Lieurance, coordinator of the UF/IFAS Assessment. “We improved from the previous website by making the database accessible with search and filtering options. We also added more than 1,500 photos, links to distribution maps, information on where the plant is native, and growth forms — trees, vines, herbs or shrubs.”

The website features more than 800 species, easily searchable by common or scientific name, and results can be filtered. For example, results can be narrowed to vines that are safe to plant in North Florida. Scrolling through all the photos only takes a few minutes. The website shows a “caution” in some cases, “invasive not recommended,” in others and “prohibited” for species that pose the greatest ecological threats.

About 70 percent of the species in the database are not a problem, and in some cases may even be beneficial. A simple search will tell you when and where it’s safe to use plants such as Japanese holly and canna lily.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor in ecology with UF/IFAS, provides oversight of the assessment program and said everyone from weekend gardeners to professional landscapers to UF faculty and staff rely on the recommendations of the UF/IFAS assessment team when considering the use of nonnative plants.

“The new IFAS Assessment web site provides one more tool for Floridians to manage and conserve our valuable natural resources by helping to prevent further non-native plant invasions,” Flory said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem — or just plain puzzling — non-native plants.

Plants that come into the United States from abroad can choke out crops, native plants and gardens or cause algae blooms that kill fish, and can even poison animals. Invasive species threaten Florida’s environment, economy and health and cost the United States an estimated $ 120 billion a year.

The Assessment of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas website and database is at http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. The site helps predict the invasion risk of non-native species in the state, as well as species proposed for introduction.

“One of our immediate goals was to take our existing database of non-native plant species and make it more readily available to both UF faculty/staff and the general public on a user friendly, easily searched website,” said Deah Lieurance, coordinator of the UF/IFAS Assessment. “We improved from the previous website by making the database accessible with search and filtering options. We also added more than 1,500 photos, links to distribution maps, information on where the plant is native, and growth forms — trees, vines, herbs or shrubs.”

The website features more than 800 species, easily searchable by common or scientific name, and results can be filtered. For example, results can be narrowed to vines that are safe to plant in North Florida. Scrolling through all the photos only takes a few minutes. The website shows a “caution” in some cases, “invasive not recommended,” in others and “prohibited” for species that pose the greatest ecological threats.

About 70 percent of the species in the database are not a problem, and in some cases may even be beneficial. A simple search will tell you when and where it’s safe to use plants such as Japanese holly and canna lily.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor in ecology with UF/IFAS, provides oversight of the assessment program and said everyone from weekend gardeners to professional landscapers to UF faculty and staff rely on the recommendations of the UF/IFAS assessment team when considering the use of nonnative plants.

“The new IFAS Assessment web site provides one more tool for Floridians to manage and conserve our valuable natural resources by helping to prevent further non-native plant invasions,” Flory said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem — or just plain puzzling — non-native plants.

Plants that come into the United States from abroad can choke out crops, native plants and gardens or cause algae blooms that kill fish, and can even poison animals. Invasive species threaten Florida’s environment, economy and health and cost the United States an estimated $ 120 billion a year.

The Assessment of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas website and database is at http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. The site helps predict the invasion risk of non-native species in the state, as well as species proposed for introduction.

“One of our immediate goals was to take our existing database of non-native plant species and make it more readily available to both UF faculty/staff and the general public on a user friendly, easily searched website,” said Deah Lieurance, coordinator of the UF/IFAS Assessment. “We improved from the previous website by making the database accessible with search and filtering options. We also added more than 1,500 photos, links to distribution maps, information on where the plant is native, and growth forms — trees, vines, herbs or shrubs.”

The website features more than 800 species, easily searchable by common or scientific name, and results can be filtered. For example, results can be narrowed to vines that are safe to plant in North Florida. Scrolling through all the photos only takes a few minutes. The website shows a “caution” in some cases, “invasive not recommended,” in others and “prohibited” for species that pose the greatest ecological threats.

About 70 percent of the species in the database are not a problem, and in some cases may even be beneficial. A simple search will tell you when and where it’s safe to use plants such as Japanese holly and canna lily.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor in ecology with UF/IFAS, provides oversight of the assessment program and said everyone from weekend gardeners to professional landscapers to UF faculty and staff rely on the recommendations of the UF/IFAS assessment team when considering the use of nonnative plants.

“The new IFAS Assessment web site provides one more tool for Floridians to manage and conserve our valuable natural resources by helping to prevent further non-native plant invasions,” Flory said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Canadian Researchers Working on ‘Smart Labels’ to Detect Food Pathogens

The day may not be too far off when consumers and food manufacturers will be able to detect the presence of E. coli, Listeria or Salmonella by visual changes in a polymer-based “smart label” now being developed by engineering professors at the University of Alberta.

Members of the six-person research team still need to do more testing, get government approvals and move on from the lab to product manufacturing. However, the technology appears to hold promise for enhancing food safety both in the factory and in grocery stores.

“To the naked eye, it looks very much like a normal plastic material,” Dr. Dominic Sauvageau, a chemical engineer and researcher in biotechnology, recently told the Edmonton Journal. “The idea is to have a material that’s easy to make, that is cheap, that can give us a visual or measurable response when a pathogen is present.”

The “smart labels” turn from blue to white or become cloudy if E. coli, Listeria or Salmonella bacteria are present on the food product being checked.

Sauvageau and his team of researchers got $ 220,000 from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, which is concerned about the safety of the province’s huge cattle industry. There’s still another year to go in the team’s three-year project.

Alberta has witnessed a rash of foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls in the recent past, with the latest being an E. coli one potentially related to recalled pork products, another E. coli outbreak in August linked to bean sprouts, and a Salmonella one in June linked to sprouted chia seeds.

And, in 2012, an E. coli outbreak linked to an Alberta beef processing plant resulted in sickening 18 people and prompting what became the largest beef recall in Canada’s history at 8 million pounds.

Food Safety News

Researchers work to save endangered New England cottontail

Scientists with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station are working to restore New Hampshire and Maine’s only native rabbit after new research based on genetic monitoring has found that in the last decade, cottontail populations in northern New England have become more isolated and seen a 50 percent contraction of their range.

The endangered New England cottontail is now is at risk of becoming extinct in the region, according to NH Agricultural Experiment Station researchers at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture who believe that restoring habitats is the key to saving the species.

“The New England cottontail is a species of great conservation concern in the Northeast. This is our only native rabbit and is an integral component of the native New England wildlife. Maintaining biodiversity gives resilience to our landscape and ecosystems,” said NHAES researcher Adrienne Kovach, research associate professor of natural resources at UNH.

New England cottontails have been declining for decades. However, NHAES researchers have found that in the last decade, the New England cottontail population in New Hampshire and Maine has contracted by 50 percent; a decade ago, cottontails were found as far north as Cumberland, Maine.

The majority of research on New England cottontails has come out of UNH, much of it under the leadership of John Litvaitis, professor of wildlife ecology, who has studied the New England cottontail for three decades. Kovach’s research expands on this knowledge by using DNA analysis to provide new information on the cottontail’s status, distribution, genetic diversity, and dispersal ecology.

The greatest threat and cause of the decline of the New England cottontail is the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat, Kovach said. Fragmentation of habitats occurs when the cottontail’s habitat is reduced or eliminated due to the maturing of forests or land development. Habitats also can become fragmented by roads or natural landscape features, such as bodies of water.

“Cottontails require thicketed habitats, which progress from old fields to young forests. Once you have a more mature forest, the cottontail habitat is reduced. A lot of other species rely on these thicket habitats, including bobcats, birds, and reptiles. Many thicket-dependent species are on decline, and the New England cottontail is a representative species for this kind of habitat and its conservation,” Kovach said.

Kovach explained that for cottontail and most animal populations to be healthy and grow, it is important for adult animals to leave the place where they were born and relocate to a new habitat, which is known as dispersal. There are two main benefits of dispersal: an animal is not competing with its relatives and dispersal minimizes inbreeding.

“We have found that it is increasingly difficult for Maine and New Hampshire cottontails to travel the large distances between fragmented habitats necessary to maintain gene flow among populations of cottontails,” Kovach said.

However, certain landscape features such as power line rights-of-way, railroad edges and roadsides may support rabbit dispersal as they provided the animal’s preferred scrub habitat. Occasionally, underpasses and culverts also may be effective conduits for rabbit travel. The researchers hope that an improved understanding of how the cottontail moves through the landscape will assist wildlife and land managers in species recovery efforts.

Researchers used genetics to study the changes in New England cottontail populations and their dispersal patterns. To obtain the DNA of the cottontails in this study, researchers collected the fecal pellets of 157 New England cottontails in southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire during the winters of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Researchers believe this is the most exhaustive sampling effort in the area to date and likely documented nearly all currently occupied New England cottontail patches in Maine and seacoast New Hampshire.

Researchers identified the genetic pattern of individual rabbits and used information about genetic relatedness to make estimates of gene flow. They identified four major genetic clusters of New England cottontails in the region. A major power line connected some of these populations in the recent past — a finding which underscores the importance of restoring suitable habitat to reconnect these populations.

“If we can restore more of this habitat in our landscape and work on creating a landscape that has a mosaic of different habitats, including mature forests and young forests, we know that it is going to help a lot of species,” Kovach said.

This research, which was funded in part by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, is presented in the article “A multistate analysis of gene flow for the New England cottontail, an imperiled habitat specialist in a fragmented landscape” in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New Hampshire. The original article was written by Lori Wright. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers work to save endangered New England cottontail

Scientists with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station are working to restore New Hampshire and Maine’s only native rabbit after new research based on genetic monitoring has found that in the last decade, cottontail populations in northern New England have become more isolated and seen a 50 percent contraction of their range.

The endangered New England cottontail is now is at risk of becoming extinct in the region, according to NH Agricultural Experiment Station researchers at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture who believe that restoring habitats is the key to saving the species.

“The New England cottontail is a species of great conservation concern in the Northeast. This is our only native rabbit and is an integral component of the native New England wildlife. Maintaining biodiversity gives resilience to our landscape and ecosystems,” said NHAES researcher Adrienne Kovach, research associate professor of natural resources at UNH.

New England cottontails have been declining for decades. However, NHAES researchers have found that in the last decade, the New England cottontail population in New Hampshire and Maine has contracted by 50 percent; a decade ago, cottontails were found as far north as Cumberland, Maine.

The majority of research on New England cottontails has come out of UNH, much of it under the leadership of John Litvaitis, professor of wildlife ecology, who has studied the New England cottontail for three decades. Kovach’s research expands on this knowledge by using DNA analysis to provide new information on the cottontail’s status, distribution, genetic diversity, and dispersal ecology.

The greatest threat and cause of the decline of the New England cottontail is the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat, Kovach said. Fragmentation of habitats occurs when the cottontail’s habitat is reduced or eliminated due to the maturing of forests or land development. Habitats also can become fragmented by roads or natural landscape features, such as bodies of water.

“Cottontails require thicketed habitats, which progress from old fields to young forests. Once you have a more mature forest, the cottontail habitat is reduced. A lot of other species rely on these thicket habitats, including bobcats, birds, and reptiles. Many thicket-dependent species are on decline, and the New England cottontail is a representative species for this kind of habitat and its conservation,” Kovach said.

Kovach explained that for cottontail and most animal populations to be healthy and grow, it is important for adult animals to leave the place where they were born and relocate to a new habitat, which is known as dispersal. There are two main benefits of dispersal: an animal is not competing with its relatives and dispersal minimizes inbreeding.

“We have found that it is increasingly difficult for Maine and New Hampshire cottontails to travel the large distances between fragmented habitats necessary to maintain gene flow among populations of cottontails,” Kovach said.

However, certain landscape features such as power line rights-of-way, railroad edges and roadsides may support rabbit dispersal as they provided the animal’s preferred scrub habitat. Occasionally, underpasses and culverts also may be effective conduits for rabbit travel. The researchers hope that an improved understanding of how the cottontail moves through the landscape will assist wildlife and land managers in species recovery efforts.

Researchers used genetics to study the changes in New England cottontail populations and their dispersal patterns. To obtain the DNA of the cottontails in this study, researchers collected the fecal pellets of 157 New England cottontails in southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire during the winters of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Researchers believe this is the most exhaustive sampling effort in the area to date and likely documented nearly all currently occupied New England cottontail patches in Maine and seacoast New Hampshire.

Researchers identified the genetic pattern of individual rabbits and used information about genetic relatedness to make estimates of gene flow. They identified four major genetic clusters of New England cottontails in the region. A major power line connected some of these populations in the recent past — a finding which underscores the importance of restoring suitable habitat to reconnect these populations.

“If we can restore more of this habitat in our landscape and work on creating a landscape that has a mosaic of different habitats, including mature forests and young forests, we know that it is going to help a lot of species,” Kovach said.

This research, which was funded in part by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, is presented in the article “A multistate analysis of gene flow for the New England cottontail, an imperiled habitat specialist in a fragmented landscape” in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New Hampshire. The original article was written by Lori Wright. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers work to save endangered New England cottontail

Scientists with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station are working to restore New Hampshire and Maine’s only native rabbit after new research based on genetic monitoring has found that in the last decade, cottontail populations in northern New England have become more isolated and seen a 50 percent contraction of their range.

The endangered New England cottontail is now is at risk of becoming extinct in the region, according to NH Agricultural Experiment Station researchers at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture who believe that restoring habitats is the key to saving the species.

“The New England cottontail is a species of great conservation concern in the Northeast. This is our only native rabbit and is an integral component of the native New England wildlife. Maintaining biodiversity gives resilience to our landscape and ecosystems,” said NHAES researcher Adrienne Kovach, research associate professor of natural resources at UNH.

New England cottontails have been declining for decades. However, NHAES researchers have found that in the last decade, the New England cottontail population in New Hampshire and Maine has contracted by 50 percent; a decade ago, cottontails were found as far north as Cumberland, Maine.

The majority of research on New England cottontails has come out of UNH, much of it under the leadership of John Litvaitis, professor of wildlife ecology, who has studied the New England cottontail for three decades. Kovach’s research expands on this knowledge by using DNA analysis to provide new information on the cottontail’s status, distribution, genetic diversity, and dispersal ecology.

The greatest threat and cause of the decline of the New England cottontail is the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat, Kovach said. Fragmentation of habitats occurs when the cottontail’s habitat is reduced or eliminated due to the maturing of forests or land development. Habitats also can become fragmented by roads or natural landscape features, such as bodies of water.

“Cottontails require thicketed habitats, which progress from old fields to young forests. Once you have a more mature forest, the cottontail habitat is reduced. A lot of other species rely on these thicket habitats, including bobcats, birds, and reptiles. Many thicket-dependent species are on decline, and the New England cottontail is a representative species for this kind of habitat and its conservation,” Kovach said.

Kovach explained that for cottontail and most animal populations to be healthy and grow, it is important for adult animals to leave the place where they were born and relocate to a new habitat, which is known as dispersal. There are two main benefits of dispersal: an animal is not competing with its relatives and dispersal minimizes inbreeding.

“We have found that it is increasingly difficult for Maine and New Hampshire cottontails to travel the large distances between fragmented habitats necessary to maintain gene flow among populations of cottontails,” Kovach said.

However, certain landscape features such as power line rights-of-way, railroad edges and roadsides may support rabbit dispersal as they provided the animal’s preferred scrub habitat. Occasionally, underpasses and culverts also may be effective conduits for rabbit travel. The researchers hope that an improved understanding of how the cottontail moves through the landscape will assist wildlife and land managers in species recovery efforts.

Researchers used genetics to study the changes in New England cottontail populations and their dispersal patterns. To obtain the DNA of the cottontails in this study, researchers collected the fecal pellets of 157 New England cottontails in southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire during the winters of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Researchers believe this is the most exhaustive sampling effort in the area to date and likely documented nearly all currently occupied New England cottontail patches in Maine and seacoast New Hampshire.

Researchers identified the genetic pattern of individual rabbits and used information about genetic relatedness to make estimates of gene flow. They identified four major genetic clusters of New England cottontails in the region. A major power line connected some of these populations in the recent past — a finding which underscores the importance of restoring suitable habitat to reconnect these populations.

“If we can restore more of this habitat in our landscape and work on creating a landscape that has a mosaic of different habitats, including mature forests and young forests, we know that it is going to help a lot of species,” Kovach said.

This research, which was funded in part by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, is presented in the article “A multistate analysis of gene flow for the New England cottontail, an imperiled habitat specialist in a fragmented landscape” in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New Hampshire. The original article was written by Lori Wright. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers work to save endangered New England cottontail

Scientists with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station are working to restore New Hampshire and Maine’s only native rabbit after new research based on genetic monitoring has found that in the last decade, cottontail populations in northern New England have become more isolated and seen a 50 percent contraction of their range.

The endangered New England cottontail is now is at risk of becoming extinct in the region, according to NH Agricultural Experiment Station researchers at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture who believe that restoring habitats is the key to saving the species.

“The New England cottontail is a species of great conservation concern in the Northeast. This is our only native rabbit and is an integral component of the native New England wildlife. Maintaining biodiversity gives resilience to our landscape and ecosystems,” said NHAES researcher Adrienne Kovach, research associate professor of natural resources at UNH.

New England cottontails have been declining for decades. However, NHAES researchers have found that in the last decade, the New England cottontail population in New Hampshire and Maine has contracted by 50 percent; a decade ago, cottontails were found as far north as Cumberland, Maine.

The majority of research on New England cottontails has come out of UNH, much of it under the leadership of John Litvaitis, professor of wildlife ecology, who has studied the New England cottontail for three decades. Kovach’s research expands on this knowledge by using DNA analysis to provide new information on the cottontail’s status, distribution, genetic diversity, and dispersal ecology.

The greatest threat and cause of the decline of the New England cottontail is the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat, Kovach said. Fragmentation of habitats occurs when the cottontail’s habitat is reduced or eliminated due to the maturing of forests or land development. Habitats also can become fragmented by roads or natural landscape features, such as bodies of water.

“Cottontails require thicketed habitats, which progress from old fields to young forests. Once you have a more mature forest, the cottontail habitat is reduced. A lot of other species rely on these thicket habitats, including bobcats, birds, and reptiles. Many thicket-dependent species are on decline, and the New England cottontail is a representative species for this kind of habitat and its conservation,” Kovach said.

Kovach explained that for cottontail and most animal populations to be healthy and grow, it is important for adult animals to leave the place where they were born and relocate to a new habitat, which is known as dispersal. There are two main benefits of dispersal: an animal is not competing with its relatives and dispersal minimizes inbreeding.

“We have found that it is increasingly difficult for Maine and New Hampshire cottontails to travel the large distances between fragmented habitats necessary to maintain gene flow among populations of cottontails,” Kovach said.

However, certain landscape features such as power line rights-of-way, railroad edges and roadsides may support rabbit dispersal as they provided the animal’s preferred scrub habitat. Occasionally, underpasses and culverts also may be effective conduits for rabbit travel. The researchers hope that an improved understanding of how the cottontail moves through the landscape will assist wildlife and land managers in species recovery efforts.

Researchers used genetics to study the changes in New England cottontail populations and their dispersal patterns. To obtain the DNA of the cottontails in this study, researchers collected the fecal pellets of 157 New England cottontails in southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire during the winters of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Researchers believe this is the most exhaustive sampling effort in the area to date and likely documented nearly all currently occupied New England cottontail patches in Maine and seacoast New Hampshire.

Researchers identified the genetic pattern of individual rabbits and used information about genetic relatedness to make estimates of gene flow. They identified four major genetic clusters of New England cottontails in the region. A major power line connected some of these populations in the recent past — a finding which underscores the importance of restoring suitable habitat to reconnect these populations.

“If we can restore more of this habitat in our landscape and work on creating a landscape that has a mosaic of different habitats, including mature forests and young forests, we know that it is going to help a lot of species,” Kovach said.

This research, which was funded in part by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, is presented in the article “A multistate analysis of gene flow for the New England cottontail, an imperiled habitat specialist in a fragmented landscape” in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New Hampshire. The original article was written by Lori Wright. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers work to save endangered New England cottontail

Scientists with the NH Agricultural Experiment Station are working to restore New Hampshire and Maine’s only native rabbit after new research based on genetic monitoring has found that in the last decade, cottontail populations in northern New England have become more isolated and seen a 50 percent contraction of their range.

The endangered New England cottontail is now is at risk of becoming extinct in the region, according to NH Agricultural Experiment Station researchers at the University of New Hampshire College of Life Sciences and Agriculture who believe that restoring habitats is the key to saving the species.

“The New England cottontail is a species of great conservation concern in the Northeast. This is our only native rabbit and is an integral component of the native New England wildlife. Maintaining biodiversity gives resilience to our landscape and ecosystems,” said NHAES researcher Adrienne Kovach, research associate professor of natural resources at UNH.

New England cottontails have been declining for decades. However, NHAES researchers have found that in the last decade, the New England cottontail population in New Hampshire and Maine has contracted by 50 percent; a decade ago, cottontails were found as far north as Cumberland, Maine.

The majority of research on New England cottontails has come out of UNH, much of it under the leadership of John Litvaitis, professor of wildlife ecology, who has studied the New England cottontail for three decades. Kovach’s research expands on this knowledge by using DNA analysis to provide new information on the cottontail’s status, distribution, genetic diversity, and dispersal ecology.

The greatest threat and cause of the decline of the New England cottontail is the reduction and fragmentation of their habitat, Kovach said. Fragmentation of habitats occurs when the cottontail’s habitat is reduced or eliminated due to the maturing of forests or land development. Habitats also can become fragmented by roads or natural landscape features, such as bodies of water.

“Cottontails require thicketed habitats, which progress from old fields to young forests. Once you have a more mature forest, the cottontail habitat is reduced. A lot of other species rely on these thicket habitats, including bobcats, birds, and reptiles. Many thicket-dependent species are on decline, and the New England cottontail is a representative species for this kind of habitat and its conservation,” Kovach said.

Kovach explained that for cottontail and most animal populations to be healthy and grow, it is important for adult animals to leave the place where they were born and relocate to a new habitat, which is known as dispersal. There are two main benefits of dispersal: an animal is not competing with its relatives and dispersal minimizes inbreeding.

“We have found that it is increasingly difficult for Maine and New Hampshire cottontails to travel the large distances between fragmented habitats necessary to maintain gene flow among populations of cottontails,” Kovach said.

However, certain landscape features such as power line rights-of-way, railroad edges and roadsides may support rabbit dispersal as they provided the animal’s preferred scrub habitat. Occasionally, underpasses and culverts also may be effective conduits for rabbit travel. The researchers hope that an improved understanding of how the cottontail moves through the landscape will assist wildlife and land managers in species recovery efforts.

Researchers used genetics to study the changes in New England cottontail populations and their dispersal patterns. To obtain the DNA of the cottontails in this study, researchers collected the fecal pellets of 157 New England cottontails in southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire during the winters of 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. Researchers believe this is the most exhaustive sampling effort in the area to date and likely documented nearly all currently occupied New England cottontail patches in Maine and seacoast New Hampshire.

Researchers identified the genetic pattern of individual rabbits and used information about genetic relatedness to make estimates of gene flow. They identified four major genetic clusters of New England cottontails in the region. A major power line connected some of these populations in the recent past — a finding which underscores the importance of restoring suitable habitat to reconnect these populations.

“If we can restore more of this habitat in our landscape and work on creating a landscape that has a mosaic of different habitats, including mature forests and young forests, we know that it is going to help a lot of species,” Kovach said.

This research, which was funded in part by the NH Agricultural Experiment Station, is presented in the article “A multistate analysis of gene flow for the New England cottontail, an imperiled habitat specialist in a fragmented landscape” in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New Hampshire. The original article was written by Lori Wright. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers Combine ‘Luck and Guesswork’ to Find Salmonella’s Achilles’ Heel

A sugar and amino acid compound called fructose-asparagine never previously recognized as a nutrient for any organism is the stuff that makes Salmonella grow and it could be key to the pathogen’s demise. Brian Ahmer, associate professor of microbial infection and immunity at The Ohio State University, says the nutrient may be the Achilles’ heel for Salmonella and its 2,500 strains.

It’s the single food source Salmonella need to remain strong inside the inflamed intestine. Blocking the activation of one of five genes that move the nutrient to Salmonella cells could be the way to fight the infection. That’s because when they are blocked and the Salmonella cannot get access to this nutrient, they becomes much times less effective at keeping the disease going than when fully nourished.

For some reason, Salmonella really wants this nutrient, and if it can’t get this one, it’s in really bad shape,” says Ahmer, commenting on the research recently published in the peer-reviewed, open-source journal PLOS Pathogens. The single nutrient, known as F-Asn, opens new pathways for fighting Salmonella because it opens up a weakness not previously seen in the pathogen that has long confounded science.

“If you could block Salmonella from getting that nutrient, you’d really stop Salmonella,” Ahmer explains.

Foods such as raw meat and raw eggs contaminated with Salmonella bring on Salmonellosis, a disease of the intestine. Symptoms usually occurring in 12 to 72 hours include diarrhea, fever, cramps, vomiting and headaches. Usually the illness last four to seven days, requiring only home care.

However, Salmonellosis can require hospitalization. In rare cases, usually where the infection moves to the bloodstream from the intestine, it can be a cause of death. Salmonella has been a perplexing problem for both industry and government in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Salmonella causes 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths annually in this country.

Risks from Salmonella are greater in underdeveloped countries where poor sanitation conditions exist.

Because antibiotics kill both helpful and harmful bacteria, they are not usually used to treat Salmonellosis. The new research raises the possibility of making a drug to target the genes needed to acquire F-Asn to impede Salmonella growth while not impacting other gut bacteria.

Scientists originally looked at five genes required by Salmonella for life during the active phase of gastroenteritis. They found the five worked together to move a nutrient into the bacterial cell and then broke it down for use as energy.

Ahmer says it took “luck and guesswork” to see the links with genes in E. coli and to identify the nutrient as F-Asn.

The researchers then experimented on cell cultures and mice to find out what happened when the genes were mutated. They found that Salmonella’s fitness to “survive, grow, and inflict damage” fell by 100 to 10,000 times if it was not able to gain access to the nutrient even when other sources of food were available.

“Nobody’s ever looked at nutrient transporters as drug targets because it’s assumed that there will be hundreds more transporters, so it’s a pointless pursuit,” Ahmer says. “That was one of the big surprises: that there is only one nutrient source that is so important to Salmonella. For most bacteria, if we get rid of one nutrient acquisition system, they continue to grow on other nutrients. In the gut, Salmonella can obtain hundreds of different nutrients. But without F-Asn, it’s really unfit.”

They may have reached this finding with the help of guesswork and luck, but several questions still remain that will require hard work to answer. Future research from the team will examine the window of time in which access to F-Asn is most important for the bacteria’s survival. They will also investigate which human foods contain high levels of the nutrient.

For now, though, the authors say that the F-Asn utilization system represents a specific and potent therapeutic target for Salmonella.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences supported the research with grant funding.

Co-authors include Mohamed Ali, Christopher Stahl, Jessica Dyszel, Jenee Smith and Yakhya Dieye of microbiology; Juan Gonzalez, Anice Sabag-Daigle and Brandi Steidley of microbial infection and immunity; Judith Dubena, Prosper Boyaka and Steven Krakowka of veterinary biosciences; Razvan Arsenescu of internal medicine, and Edward Behrman of chemistry and biochemistry, all at Ohio State; Peter White and the late David Newsom of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Tony Romeo of the University of Florida.

Food Safety News

Homemade stink bug traps squash store-bought models, researchers find

A Virginia Tech team of researchers has proven that homemade, inexpensive stink bug traps crafted from simple household items outshine pricier models designed to kill the invasive, annoying bugs.

This discovery comes just as warm weather is coaxing the critters out of crevices of homes they were hiding in during the cold winter and homeowners will be looking for a way to get rid of the pest.

Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found that the best way to get rid of the little buggers is to fill a foil roasting pan with water and dish soap and put a light over the pan to attract the bugs in a dark room. The trap eliminated 14 times more stink bugs than store-bought traps that cost up to $ 50, the study found. The only price of the homemade model is the cost of a roasting pan, dish soap, and a light, all which homeowners may already own.

Though the solution is not new and has been promoted on Youtube and other websites, this is the first time it was actually tested in a scientific experiment.

The findings of the study can be found in a soon to be published issue of the Journal of Extension.

Virginia Tech created a video showing how to build a trap: http://vimeo.com/92354801

“We knew that insects are generally attracted to light, so we were able to exploit that with these traps,” said John Aigner, a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology.

To conduct the study, Aigner and Tom Kuhar, an entomology professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, enlisted the help of citizen scientists — homeowners who were annoyed by the infestation of stink bugs in their houses — to evaluate different types of traps for ridding homes of bugs. The study was conducted in 16 houses over two years.

“Currently there are no in-home insecticides labeled for use against brown marmorated stink bugs, so that presented us with a challenge,” Aigner said.

The homemade trap is not only inexpensive, it is also pesticide-free.

Unfortunately, the traps are only practical in homes. Farmers in the mid-Atlantic region have faced millions of dollars in damage to their crops since the brown marmorated stink bug invaded the mid-Atlantic region in the late 2000s. The bug is now found in 41 states. Still, the solution could give some reprieve to homeowners who find thousands of these cilantro-smelling bugs in their homes.

“The real devastation comes in the form of damage to farmers,” said Kuhar. “Stink bugs feed as nymphs and adults on the fruit and pods of plants, which maximizes their chances to render a crop unmarketable. These bugs have been documented to feed on many of our important agricultural crops including apples, peaches, grapes, soybean, peppers, tomatoes, corn and cotton.”

Treatment of the insects in crops is costly because the insecticides required to control it are broad spectrum toxicants that are highly disruptive to integrated pest management programs.

“The few native natural enemies they have can easily be killed with the same insecticide used to target the stink bugs themselves,” he said.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Homemade stink bug traps squash store-bought models, researchers find

A Virginia Tech team of researchers has proven that homemade, inexpensive stink bug traps crafted from simple household items outshine pricier models designed to kill the invasive, annoying bugs.

This discovery comes just as warm weather is coaxing the critters out of crevices of homes they were hiding in during the cold winter and homeowners will be looking for a way to get rid of the pest.

Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found that the best way to get rid of the little buggers is to fill a foil roasting pan with water and dish soap and put a light over the pan to attract the bugs in a dark room. The trap eliminated 14 times more stink bugs than store-bought traps that cost up to $ 50, the study found. The only price of the homemade model is the cost of a roasting pan, dish soap, and a light, all which homeowners may already own.

Though the solution is not new and has been promoted on Youtube and other websites, this is the first time it was actually tested in a scientific experiment.

The findings of the study can be found in a soon to be published issue of the Journal of Extension.

Virginia Tech created a video showing how to build a trap: http://vimeo.com/92354801

“We knew that insects are generally attracted to light, so we were able to exploit that with these traps,” said John Aigner, a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology.

To conduct the study, Aigner and Tom Kuhar, an entomology professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, enlisted the help of citizen scientists — homeowners who were annoyed by the infestation of stink bugs in their houses — to evaluate different types of traps for ridding homes of bugs. The study was conducted in 16 houses over two years.

“Currently there are no in-home insecticides labeled for use against brown marmorated stink bugs, so that presented us with a challenge,” Aigner said.

The homemade trap is not only inexpensive, it is also pesticide-free.

Unfortunately, the traps are only practical in homes. Farmers in the mid-Atlantic region have faced millions of dollars in damage to their crops since the brown marmorated stink bug invaded the mid-Atlantic region in the late 2000s. The bug is now found in 41 states. Still, the solution could give some reprieve to homeowners who find thousands of these cilantro-smelling bugs in their homes.

“The real devastation comes in the form of damage to farmers,” said Kuhar. “Stink bugs feed as nymphs and adults on the fruit and pods of plants, which maximizes their chances to render a crop unmarketable. These bugs have been documented to feed on many of our important agricultural crops including apples, peaches, grapes, soybean, peppers, tomatoes, corn and cotton.”

Treatment of the insects in crops is costly because the insecticides required to control it are broad spectrum toxicants that are highly disruptive to integrated pest management programs.

“The few native natural enemies they have can easily be killed with the same insecticide used to target the stink bugs themselves,” he said.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Homemade stink bug traps squash store-bought models, researchers find

A Virginia Tech team of researchers has proven that homemade, inexpensive stink bug traps crafted from simple household items outshine pricier models designed to kill the invasive, annoying bugs.

This discovery comes just as warm weather is coaxing the critters out of crevices of homes they were hiding in during the cold winter and homeowners will be looking for a way to get rid of the pest.

Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found that the best way to get rid of the little buggers is to fill a foil roasting pan with water and dish soap and put a light over the pan to attract the bugs in a dark room. The trap eliminated 14 times more stink bugs than store-bought traps that cost up to $ 50, the study found. The only price of the homemade model is the cost of a roasting pan, dish soap, and a light, all which homeowners may already own.

Though the solution is not new and has been promoted on Youtube and other websites, this is the first time it was actually tested in a scientific experiment.

The findings of the study can be found in a soon to be published issue of the Journal of Extension.

Virginia Tech created a video showing how to build a trap: http://vimeo.com/92354801

“We knew that insects are generally attracted to light, so we were able to exploit that with these traps,” said John Aigner, a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology.

To conduct the study, Aigner and Tom Kuhar, an entomology professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, enlisted the help of citizen scientists — homeowners who were annoyed by the infestation of stink bugs in their houses — to evaluate different types of traps for ridding homes of bugs. The study was conducted in 16 houses over two years.

“Currently there are no in-home insecticides labeled for use against brown marmorated stink bugs, so that presented us with a challenge,” Aigner said.

The homemade trap is not only inexpensive, it is also pesticide-free.

Unfortunately, the traps are only practical in homes. Farmers in the mid-Atlantic region have faced millions of dollars in damage to their crops since the brown marmorated stink bug invaded the mid-Atlantic region in the late 2000s. The bug is now found in 41 states. Still, the solution could give some reprieve to homeowners who find thousands of these cilantro-smelling bugs in their homes.

“The real devastation comes in the form of damage to farmers,” said Kuhar. “Stink bugs feed as nymphs and adults on the fruit and pods of plants, which maximizes their chances to render a crop unmarketable. These bugs have been documented to feed on many of our important agricultural crops including apples, peaches, grapes, soybean, peppers, tomatoes, corn and cotton.”

Treatment of the insects in crops is costly because the insecticides required to control it are broad spectrum toxicants that are highly disruptive to integrated pest management programs.

“The few native natural enemies they have can easily be killed with the same insecticide used to target the stink bugs themselves,” he said.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Homemade stink bug traps squash store-bought models, researchers find

TGF-FruitImageA Virginia Tech team of researchers has proven that homemade, inexpensive stink bug traps crafted from simple household items outshine pricier models designed to kill the invasive, annoying bugs.

This discovery comes just as warm weather is coaxing the critters out of crevices of homes they were hiding in during the cold winter and homeowners will be looking for a way to get rid of the pest.

Researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found that the best way to get rid of the little buggers is to fill a foil roasting pan with water and dish soap and put a light over the pan to attract the bugs in a dark room. The trap eliminated 14 times more stink bugs than store-bought traps that cost up to $ 50, the study found. The only price of the homemade model is the cost of a roasting pan, dish soap, and a light, all which homeowners may already own.

Though the solution is not new and has been promoted on Youtube and other websites, this is the first time it was actually tested in a scientific experiment.

The findings of the study can be found in a soon to be published issue of the Journal of Extension.

Virginia Tech created a video showing how to build a trap: http://vimeo.com/92354801

“We knew that insects are generally attracted to light, so we were able to exploit that with these traps,” said John Aigner, a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology.

To conduct the study, Aigner and Tom Kuhar, an entomology professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, enlisted the help of citizen scientists — homeowners who were annoyed by the infestation of stink bugs in their houses — to evaluate different types of traps for ridding homes of bugs. The study was conducted in 16 houses over two years.

“Currently there are no in-home insecticides labeled for use against brown marmorated stink bugs, so that presented us with a challenge,” Aigner said.

The homemade trap is not only inexpensive, it is also pesticide-free.

Unfortunately, the traps are only practical in homes. Farmers in the mid-Atlantic region have faced millions of dollars in damage to their crops since the brown marmorated stink bug invaded the mid-Atlantic region in the late 2000s. The bug is now found in 41 states. Still, the solution could give some reprieve to homeowners who find thousands of these cilantro-smelling bugs in their homes.

“The real devastation comes in the form of damage to farmers,” said Kuhar. “Stink bugs feed as nymphs and adults on the fruit and pods of plants, which maximizes their chances to render a crop unmarketable. These bugs have been documented to feed on many of our important agricultural crops including apples, peaches, grapes, soybean, peppers, tomatoes, corn and cotton.”

Treatment of the insects in crops is costly because the insecticides required to control it are broad spectrum toxicants that are highly disruptive to integrated pest management programs.

“The few native natural enemies they have can easily be killed with the same insecticide used to target the stink bugs themselves,” he said.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Frog eggs help researchers find new information on grapevine disease

Vitis vinifera are common grapevines and are the world’s favorite wine-producing varietal. However, research has shown that grapevines are susceptible to powdery mildew, a plant disease, which contributes to significant crop loss for most commercial wine varietals that are cultivated each year. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have used frog eggs to determine the cause of this disease, and have found that a specific gene in the varietal Cabernet Sauvingon, contributes to its susceptibility.

“Powdery mildew disease causes the leaves of the grapevines to lose their chlorophyll and stop producing sugar,” said Walter Gassmann, an investigator at the Bond Life Sciences Center and professor in the Division of Plant Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources at MU. “The grape berries also get infected, so the quality and yield are reduced in multiple ways.”

According to a report by the USDA, powdery mildew can cause major yield losses if infection occurs early in the crop cycle and conditions remain favorable for development. Powdery mildew appears as white to pale gray fuzzy blotches on the upper surfaces of leaves and thrives in cool, humid and semiarid areas according to the report.

Gassmann used unfertilized frog eggs to test and analyze genes found in the grapevine plants. He studied the biological role of a specific gene that contributes to grapevine’s susceptibility to the fungus by incubating it in the frog eggs. Gassmann found that the fungus is able to trick the grapevine into providing nutrients, which allows mildew to grow and devastate the plant. His findings reveal one way that Vitis vinifera is genetically unable to combat the virus that causes powdery mildew.

“Not much is known about the way a grapevine supports the growth of the powdery mildew disease, but the frogs help us provide a reasonable hypothesis for what is going on and why Cabernet Sauvingon could be susceptible,” Gassmann said.

Gassmann says this research will open the door for discussing techniques to breed more resistant grapevines in the future.

“The grapevine could be bred to prevent susceptibility and to keep the character of the wine intact,” Gassmann said. “Isolating the genes that determine susceptibility could lead to developing immunities for different varietals and other crop plants and may contribute to general scientific knowledge of the grapevine, which has not been studied to the extent of other plants.”

The study was funded by grants from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and was published in the journal Plant and Cell Physiology.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. The original article was written by Diamond Dixon. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily