Blog Archives

SD Soybean Group Launching Food-Safety Campaign

A soybean industry group in South Dakota plans to launch a TV, print and radio ad campaign in January with the goal of “dispelling misconceptions” about farming and food safety.

Entitled “Hungry for Truth,” the campaign hopes to spread the message to the relatively urban areas of the state, such as Sioux Falls and Rapid City, by using farmers talking about what they do.

“People deserve to know the facts about farming today, and we have nothing to hide,” said John Horter, who farms near Andover, SD, and is president of the South Dakota Soybean Association.

Funded through checkoff money from the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, the campaign used focus groups and a phone survey and hired a professional marketing firm to craft and target the message.

Survey results indicated that food safety was the main concern of respondents when they thought about farming, especially concerns about pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Two-thirds of those surveyed by phone said that companies should be required to label GMO foods. Those who had that opinion tended to be women, seniors and those living in western SD.

While the survey revealed that people don’t trust farming technology, they do tend to trust farmers because nine out of 10 South Dakotans personally know one. Most farms in SD are family-run, and most survey respondents believe that the state’s farmers put quality over profit.

As part of the campaign, a new site is scheduled to debut next month featuring videos of farmers sitting around a table talking about their work. Some planned topics will be how farmers operate, how they grow crops, and how they treat animals.

Food Safety News

Soybean and Mungbean Sprouts Recalled in WA and OR for Listeria Risk

Kkot Saem Sprouts, Inc. of Spanaway, Washington is voluntarily recalling Soybean Sprouts and Mungbean Sprouts sold under brand names Kkot Saem, Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts, and Winter Blossom because the sprouts may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The products were distributed at H-Mart in Washington and Oregon, and G-Mart in Oregon.

The last date of distribution was December 16, 2014. The mungbean sprouts have a five-day shelf life from the packing date and soybean sprouts have a shelf life of up to two weeks from the packing date.

The recalled products are as follows:

The contamination was detected during routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

No illnesses have been reported in connection to the products. However, due to the time required to trace an illness back to a specific food product, it is impossible to say if any illnesses have occurred.

Customers who have purchased the recalled products are urged to return them to the place of purchase or discard them.

Product labels:

Front Label, Kkot Saem, Mung Bean Sprouts, 0.8 lb.

Front Label, Winter Blossom Bean Sprouts, Soy Bean Sprouts, 1.5 lbs.

Food Safety News

Novel gene for salt tolerance found in wild soybean

A team of researchers from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, BGI and other institutes have identified a gene of wild soybean linked to salt tolerance, with implication for improving this important crop to grow in saline soil. This study published online in Nature Communications provides an effective strategy to unveil novel genomic information for crop improvement.

Soybean is an important crop for the world. Due to domestication and human selection, cultivated soybeans have less genetic diversities than their wild counterparts. Among the lost genes, some may play important roles for the adaptation to different environments. In this study, scientists used wild soybean as a resource for investigating the valuable genes that adapt to certain environmental conditions.

They sequenced and assembled a draft genome of wild soybean W05, and developed a recombinant inbred population for genotyping-by-sequencing and phenotypic analyses to identify multiple QTLs relevant to traits of interest in agriculture. Using the de novo sequencing data from this work and their previous germplasm re-sequencing data, the team discovered a novel ion transporter gene, GmCHX1, and suggested it maybe related with salt tolerance.

During the following rapid gain-of-function tests, the gene GmCHX1 was conferred its function on salt tolerance, and suggested GmCHX1 acted probably through lowering the Na+/K+ ratio. The authors assumed that the elimination of GmCHX1 in salt-sensitive germplasms may be an example of negative selection against a stress tolerance gene in unstressed environments. The expression of stress tolerance genes may be an energy burden on the plant if the functions of these genes are not required.

Through this study, researchers developed an efficient strategy using the combination of whole-genome de novo sequencing, high-density-marker QTL mapping by re-sequencing, and functional analyses, which could greatly enhance the efficiency of uncovering QTLs and genes for beneficial traits in crop breeding.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Computer models soybean crop with 8. 5 percent more productivity, using 13 percent less water

Crops that produce more while using less water seem like a dream for a world with a burgeoning population and already strained food and water resources. This dream is coming closer to reality for University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers who have developed a new computer model that can help plant scientists breed better soybean crops.

Under current climate conditions, the model predicts a design for a soybean crop with 8.5 percent more productivity, but using 13 percent less water, and reflecting 34 percent more radiation back into space, by breeding for slightly different leaf distribution, angles and reflectivity. This work appears in the journal Global Change Biology.

“The model lets you look at one of those goals individually or all of them simultaneously,” said Praveen Kumar, a co-author of the study who is the Lovell Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Illinois. “There might be some areas where you look at only one aspect — if you’re in an arid zone, you can structure things to maximize the water efficiency. In other areas you may want to concentrate on food productivity.”

Plants have evolved to outcompete other plants — for example, shading out other plants or using water and nutrients liberally to the detriment of neighboring plants. However, in an agricultural setting, the plants don’t need such competitive measures.

“Our crop plants reflect many millions of years of evolution in the wild under these competitive conditions,” said U. of I. plant biology professor Stephen P. Long, also a co-author on the study. “In a crop field we want plants to share resources and conserve water and nutrients, so we have been looking at what leaf arrangements would best do this.”

The researchers aimed for three specific areas of improvement. First, productivity. Second, water usage. Third, combating climate change by reflecting more sunlight off the leaves. To address all three, they used the unique tactic of computationally modeling the whole soybean plant.

“Our approach used a technique called ‘numerical optimization’ to try out a very large number of combinations of structural traits to see which combination produced the best results with respect to each of our three goals,” said lead author Darren Drewry, a former postdoctoral researcher who is now at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. “And surprisingly, there are combinations of these traits that can improve each of these goals at the same time.”

The model looks at biological functions, such as photosynthesis and water use, as well as the physical environment. The researchers looked at how the plant’s biology changed with varying structural traits such as leaf area distributions, how the leaves are arranged vertically on the stalk, and the angles of the leaves.

For example, by changing the structure so that leaves are more evenly distributed, more light can penetrate through the canopy. This lets photosynthesis happen on multiple levels, instead of being limited to the top, thus increasing the plant’s bean-producing power. A less dense canopy uses less water without affecting productivity. And changing the angle of the leaves can let the plant reflect back more solar radiation to offset climate change.

“Most of the genetic approaches have looked at very specific traits,” Kumar said. “They haven’t looked at restructuring the whole canopy. We have a very unique modeling capability where we can model the entire plant canopy in a lot of detail. We can also model what these plant canopies can do in a future climate, so that it will still be valid 40 or 50 years down the line.”

Once the computer predicts an optimal plant structure, then the crop can be selected or bred from the diverse forms of soybeans that are already available — without the regulation and costs associated with genetic engineering.

“This kind of numerical approach — using realistic models of plant canopies — can provide a method for trying many more trait combinations than are possible through field breeding,” Drewry said. “This approach then can help guide field programs by pointing to plants with particular combinations of traits, already tested in the computer, which may have the biggest payoff in the field.”

The researchers hope their modeling approach will not only improve soybean yields, but also benefit agriculture worldwide as the population continues to rise.

According to Long, “The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predict that by 2050 we will need 70 percent more primary foodstuffs to feed the world than we are producing today — and yet will have to do that with probably no more water while at the same time dealing with climate change.”

“We need new innovations to achieve the yield jump,” Long said. “We’ve shown that by altering leaf arrangement we could have a yield increase, without using more water and also providing an offset to global warming.”

Next, the researchers plan to use their model to analyze other crops for their structural traits. As part of a project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Long is leading an international effort to improve rice, soybean and cassava guided by similar computational approaches, with the end goal of making more productive and sustainable crops.

“By examining plants using detailed computer models and optimization, we have the potential to greatly expedite the development of new types of agricultural plants that can tackle some of the greatest challenges facing society today, related to the need to produce more food in a more variable and uncertain climate system,” Drewry said.

Kumar also is affiliated with the department of atmospheric sciences. Long also is a professor of crop sciences and a faculty member in the Institute for Genomic Biology. The National Science Foundation and the Gates foundation supported this work.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

GMO soybean pollen threatens Mexican honey sales

Mexico is the fourth largest honey producer and fifth largest honey exporter in the world. A Smithsonian researcher and colleagues helped rural farmers in Mexico to quantify the genetically modified organism (GMO) soybean pollen in honey samples rejected for sale in Germany. Their results will appear Feb. 7 in the online journal, Scientific Reports.

David Roubik, senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and colleagues developed the ability to identify pollen grains in honey in Panama and in Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s when they studied the effects of the arrival of Africanized bees on native bees. “Nobody else can do this kind of work in the ‘big field’ environment and be confident that what they are seeing are soybean pollen grains,” said Roubik. They found that six honey samples from nine hives in the Campeche region contained soy pollen in addition to pollen from many wild plant species. The pollen came from crops near the bee colonies in several small apiaries.

Due to strict European regulations, rural farmers in the Mexican Yucatan face significant price cuts or outright rejection of their honey crop when their product contains pollen from GMO crops that are not for human consumption. The regional agricultural authorities, furthermore, seemed unaware that bees visited flowering soybeans to collect nectar and pollen.

“As far as we could determine, every kind of GMO soybean grown in Campeche is approved for human consumption,” said Roubik. “But honey importers sometimes do no further analysis to match GMO pollen grains with their source.”

To test the honey for GMO pollen, researchers from the Smithsonian, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur la Universidad Autonoma de Yucatan and el Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales, Agropecuarias y Pecuarias sent the nine samples to Intertek laboratory in Bremen, Germany, for genetic analysis. Two samples tested positive for GMO pollen.

“We cautiously interpret these results as significant for elsewhere in Mexico where some five times the GMO soy grown in Campeche is found and beekeeping is alive and well, not to mention the rest of the world,” said Roubik. “Bee colonies act as extremely sensitive environmental indicators. Bees from a single colony may gather nectar and pollen resources from flowers in a 200-square-kilometer area. With an economy based on subsistence agriculture associated with honey production, the social implications of this shift in the status of honey are likely to be contentious and have profound implications for beekeeping in general.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

No-till soybean fields give (even some rare) birds foothold in Illinois

Jan. 22, 2014 — Researchers report in a new study that several bird species — some of them relatively rare — are making extensive use of soybean fields in Illinois. The team found significantly more birds and a greater diversity of bird species nesting, roosting and feeding in no-till soybean fields than in tilled fields.

The team spent about 13 weeks each spring and summer in 2011 and 2012 scouring a total of 24 fields (12 per year) in two counties in Central Illinois. The fields were 18 to 20 hectares (44-49 acres) on average, and the researchers walked roughly 3,200 kilometers (1,988 miles) in the course of the study.

The team found more bird nests and greater species diversity in the no-till fields than in the tilled soybeans. Nest losses were high, however. About 80 percent of nests in the no-till fields and more than 90 percent in tilled fields failed as a result of predation or the onset of farm operations before eggs hatched or young birds were ready to fly.

High mortality is fairly common in bird nests, however, and while the losses in no-till soybean fields were greater than those seen in pristine grasslands, they were not much worse, the researchers said.

A paper describing the research appears in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.

“I was surprised to see all the different birds that are using these agricultural fields — especially during spring migration,” said Kelly VanBeek, a wildlife biologist at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources who conducted the study while a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “I was shocked by the variety of sparrow species that we saw — white-crowned sparrows and white-throated sparrows, for example.”

Some of the birds using no-till fields are grassland species that have been in decline across the Midwest for decades, said Michael Ward, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences at Illinois and an author of the study. One species found nesting in a no-till soybean field, the upland sandpiper, was an exciting find.

“The upland sandpiper is a state-endangered species. It’s doing badly throughout its range,” Ward said. “Historically, it probably followed bison herds and liked really short grass, but we don’t have that anymore. We found that it’s going to these no-till fields where the herbaceous cover early in the year is not that thick — which is what it likes — and we actually found a nest.”

The study adds to the evidence that agricultural practices can have a broad influence on bird abundance and diversity, said natural resources and environmental sciences professor and department head Jeffrey Brawn, a co-author of the study.

“Generally row crops are not good for wildlife,” Brawn said. “They’re just not. But this paper shows that in situ agricultural production — depending on how you do it — can have some benefits for wildlife.”

The team also found other grassland species that are in decline — Eastern meadowlarks, ring-necked pheasants and field sparrows — nesting in no-till fields.

“If you look at birds in general or wildlife in general, the ones that did occupy grassland habitat are the ones whose populations have tanked the most,” Brawn said. “But birds are very resilient, they’re very resourceful and they’re very flexible, and we can take advantage of that.”

Of the nests that failed, 65.1 percent were raided by predators and 24.4 percent were lost to farm machinery during crop planting. Continuously recording cameras trained on nests showed that coyotes were the primary predators of the ground-level nests — another surprise.

“This just shows that we do have predators in these landscapes, which is a good thing,” VanBeek said. “Several decades ago, we didn’t have coyotes here; we had completely lost those predator species that bring some ecological balance. We may not be in a balanced situation yet, but at least they’re present.”

The study points to a major opportunity for bird conservation, Ward said. Rather than buying up modest tracts of land for wildlife preservation, an approach that is minimally effective, he said, farmers and conservationists could work together to maximize the ecological role that no-till lands are already playing in the Midwest.

If farmers could be convinced to plant their soybeans a few days later in the spring, for example, it would increase the nesting success of several bird species that are out there now, Ward said. A pilot program in Indiana is testing this approach, compensating farmers for losses that stem from the planting delay, he said.

“There’s so much land in agriculture that if only 3 or 4 percent of farmers adopted this approach, it would have a greater effect than all the land that we have in wildlife preserves in Illinois,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2009 (the most recent year for which data are available) 35.5 percent of U.S. cropland, some 88 million acres, were in no-till production.

“Most people, they drive past corn and soybean fields in Illinois and they say there’s no way there’s value for wildlife in those,” VanBeek said. “But we’ve proved there is. These agricultural fields are not ecological wastelands. There’s some value there.”

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily