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Mazet des Saveurs, the first French tomato grower using the Agrifast Tom-System

Mazet des Saveurs, the first French tomato grower using the Agrifast Tom-System

Mazet des Saveurs is a family owned business located in Maugio, close to Montpellier in France. They are specialist in producing high quality cherry and Coer de Boeuf tomatoes for local market

According to Frederic Garcia, owner of the company, despite the bad weather they are harvesting a very good tomato quality. Even tough, the prices are not going up during the last years whereas the production costs rise year by year in this way, and looking for reducing specially the labour costs, which are specially high in France, Mazet des Saveurs contacted Agrifast to try with the Tom System, the new tying tool which uses staples to tie the crop to the twine.

“We wanted to do a small trial but when we could experience the clipping speed, we decided to use it in the whole greenhouse,” says Mr. Garcia. “Now we are clipping at a speed of 1,500 plants/hour, whereas using plastic clips we could clip only at 800 plants/hour. This means a great labour saving. In addition, the quality is very good and there is not any damage to the plant.”

To see how the workers of Mazet des Saveurs clip their tomatoes at a speed of 1,500 plants/hour, watch the following video:

For more information:
Frederic Garcia
Mazet des Saveurs
[email protected]

Alberto Lizarraga
Agrifast
[email protected]
 

Publication date: 6/25/2013


FreshPlaza.com

Using genetic screening to improve Korean white wheat

Visiting scientist Dae Wook Kim hopes to develop a line of Korean wheat that does not sprout when exposed to wet harvest conditions, thanks to genetic screening techniques he learned at South Dakota State University.

He is working with molecular biologist Jai Rohila of the biology and microbiology department through a two-year project sponsored by the National Institute of Crop Science in Suwaon, South Korea. It is part of his country’s effort to increase wheat production.

Korean farmers raise white winter wheat, planting in October and harvesting in June; however, the country’s rainy season begins in June, explained Kim. If the rains hit before the crop has been harvested, the grain begins to sprout in the head.

Korean white winter wheat is particularly susceptible to preharvest sprouting, according to Kim. Preharvest sprouting reduces the quality of the grain and the yield, added Rohila.

Last summer, SDSU spring wheat breeder Karl Glover provided Kim with 40 lines of South Dakota wheat — half tolerant and half susceptible to preharvest sprouting. Kim compared these lines to determine which genes and proteins account for tolerance.

When Kim returned in July for his second three-month stay, he brought seeds from two Korean lines — Sukang, which has more sprouting tolerance, and Baegjoong, which is susceptible.

Looking at both lines, he identified 33 proteins that are differentially expressed in the tolerant cultivar. Kim will quantify the gene expression levels from Glover’s newest lines that are resistant to preharvest sprouting and compare those results with the list of differentially expressed proteins from the Korean cultivars.

If the same proteins are differentially expressed in Glover’s varieties, Kim will validate the genes he identified as important to tolerance in his Korean varieties.

“If it is related to tolerance, the same gene should be in other tolerant varieties.” Kim added. “At that level, we know the gene is expressed in the same way.”

His work at SDSU will decrease the time it takes to improve preharvest sprouting tolerance in Korean white wheat.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Colombia using PMA Fresh Summit to open doors for new business in United States

The Colombian Pavilion at the 2014 Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit Exposition will feature new opportunities for popular products, including avocado, goldenberry (uchuva), pineapple, herbs and limes.

Visitors to the Colombia Pavilion will be able to meet with exporters as well as promotion representatives and learn more about the new developments allowing for successful export of these products.

In the case of goldenberry (also known as uchuva, physalis or Cape gooseberry), Colombia is now approved by authorities for entry into the United States without cold treatment from certain parts of the country.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service has recognized the Bogota Savannah and parts of neighboring Boyacá and Cundinamarca departments above 2,200 meters as Medfly-free. The systems approach approved for this export scenario will allow Colombia exporters to ship a higher-quality, fresher product than those needing to be held in cold treatment. Goldenberry from Colombia is available year round.

Another development is the admissibility of Hass avocados from Colombia. The Colombian Hass avocado industry currently exports to Europe, and the industry continues to invest with the goal of expanding exports to the United States. Colombia’s Hass avocado production runs from September to June, with peaks from October to January.

The Colombian Pavilion will also promote exports of established products like fresh herbs (basil, mint, cilantro, dill, thyme, bay leaves) pineapples (variety MD 2 Golden) and limes (Tahiti).

Colombia’s long history of exporting flowers and fresh produce around the world coupled with extraordinary prime growing climates for specific products holds great promise for expanding sourcing deals for the United States. Country representatives will be on hand at Booth No. 4629 in Anaheim, CA, to discuss additional products and opportunities with interested parties.

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

C.H. Robinson-WGA partnership increasingly using technology for logistics

In 2007, when Western Growers Association and C.H. Robinson Worldwide inked a deal on their innovative transportation partnership, the expectation was that it would be more than just a way to fulfill the daily transportation needs of shippers.

Shannon Leigh, C.H. Robinson’s customer group representative for the western United States, based in Monterey, CA, said that expectation has been met and the services being provided are evolving every day.

In the beginning, she said CHR representatives had a clear directive to look beyond the everyday needs of the shipper community and come up with multi-modal solutions that both fulfilled current needs and anticipated future needs.

Leigh said that in the past 15 years, CHR has invested $ 1 billion in technology upgrades, which has led to the development of its proprietary Navisphere platform and allowed shippers in the CHR-WGA program to access state-of-the-art technology, literally at their fingertips.

Matthew McInerney, executive vice president at WGA, told The Produce News that this “maturing alliance” between the two organizations “has helped shippers find immediate supply chain solutions while also allowing them to adopt additional service offerings at their own pace.”

He said individual shippers can be advanced as they want to be, including tracking each truck every mile of its journey and having real time access to the temperature of that truck’s reefer. Shippers can order a truck for today by phone the old fashioned way, or through technology, plot their needs via computer as far in advance as they can accurately forecast.

“In the beginning, the WG board saw the vulnerability of shippers to the transportation part of the shipment,” said McInerney. “They wanted to devise a system that would help influence the cost, availability and type of service they could achieve. Most important, they wanted a shipper-based program that looked at the problem from the shipper point of view.”

Of course, one of the linchpins to the programs was the idea that Western Growers Association members could aggregate their freight to getter better rates and service. But McInerney said shippers did not want to have to make mandatory volume commitments nor pay a fee. Through various meeting and negotiations, the program with CHR was developed and launched in 2007.

The WGA executive said C.H. Robinson has come through in flying colors providing an increasing array of transportation tools to shippers, who can adopt and manage those tools at their own pace. As the program evolved, other shipper associations representing produce suppliers throughout the country signed on giving CHR more options, more loads and more lanes to travel to create an efficient network of movement going in all directions.

“To date, we have moved more than 40,000 loads of produce and we have more than 450 grower-shippers utilizing the service,” Leigh said.

This has allowed the program to achieve its core goal of providing improved service and better rates. But just as important, it has allowed CHR to take the movement of fresh produce to the next level.

Navisphere is available to shippers in the program free of charge and allows them to access many services, including the aforementioned real time tracking of shipments and temperature. Leigh said, in effect, that shippers can now outsource their logistics department at no cost and have access to a very sophisticated program.

She added that there is flexibility built into the program that gives each individual shipper the ability to customize the program to fit their own needs.

Leigh readily admitted that some of the 450 shippers use CHR as an old-fashioned truck broker. They have a load, they need a truck and they give them a call. Some automate the process a bit, and order that truck via computer.

Leigh said each extra technology step the shipper takes gives them more visibility of their load, enhanced service and more automation.

“With each step they take, shippers get a bigger view” of their logistics situation, she said.

And even if a shipper isn’t looking at the real-time temperature of the load, CHR representatives are. Leigh said that CHR staffs its offices on a 24/7 basis and the appropriate alert is sounded when a load deviates from its set temperature. The trucker and shipper are alerted so that problems can be avoided before they materialize.

Some users plot their production and sales and schedule pickups well in advance, taking advantage of inherent efficiencies and cost savings in advanced ordering and booking. CHR is very happy to analyze a shipper’s transportation needs and the lanes where it ships, and devise a strategy that can optimize the logistics piece. Just as the produce itself typically costs less on a contracted basis, so does the transportation element.

And she said the Navisphere program can also be used for deep-in-the-woods analyses and reports. Shippers can keep track of their loads and the cost per mile on many different levels, from commodity-specific to destination-specific. They can look at wait times at origin or destination on an historical basis and better schedule the trucks’ departures and arrivals. After all, excessive wait times are inefficient and costly. The amount of information available as all the technology is utilized is almost limitless.

The bottom line, according to McInerney and WGA, is that at the end of the day freight is freight, and everything that can be done to minimize the impact that is has on the business of buying and selling fresh produce is worth the effort.

To Leigh and CHR, providing solutions to the ever-changing logistics element of the shipments, and everything they can do to minimize the shippers’ attention to that element, is their passion.

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

Using genetics to measure environmental impact of salmon farming

Determining species diversity makes it possible to estimate the impact of human activity on marine ecosystems accurately. The environmental effects of salmon farming have been assessed, until now, by visually identifying the animals living in the marine sediment samples collected at specific distances from farming sites. A team led by Jan Pawlowski, professor at the Faculty of Science of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, analysed this type of sediment using a technique known as “DNA barcoding” that targets certain micro-organisms. Their research, which has been published in the Molecular Ecology Resources journal, reveals the potential of this new genomic tool for detecting environmental changes as accurately as with traditional methods — but more quickly and at lower cost.

Salmon farming is one of the most widespread activities in marine aquaculture. It has a considerable impact on the environment, which is largely due to three factors: the accumulation of food waste and faecal matter; the toxicity caused by the chemicals employed to clean the cages; and the drugs that are used.

The impact of such farms on the coastal environment is traditionally assessed by monitoring some of the small species that live in the sediments beneath the cages. The visual identification of these animals under a microscope is time consuming and extremely expensive. It also requires highly-trained taxonomy specialists, which renders the method unsuitable for large-scale use. But, as Jan Pawlowski, professor in the Department of Genetics and Evolution at UNIGE, explains: “It is now possible to address this problem using sophisticated tools that analyse the DNA and RNA extracted from sediment samples.”

Genetic barcodes

Working alongside researchers from the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences (UK) and the University of Aarhus (Denmark), Pawlowski collected sediment samples at specific distances from two salmon farms in the heart of the Scottish fjords. “We used genetic barcodes that recognise specific fragments of DNA and RNA extracted from the sediment samples,” explains researcher Franck Lejzerowicz, a PhD student in the professor’s team: “These ‘genetic hooks’ consist of DNA sequences that vary between species but remain stable within a given species.”

The DNA barcodes used make it possible to identify the different foraminiferal species that are present in the sediments. These single-celled micro-organisms, which have a great diversity, are already recognised environmental bioindicators. As a result, the geneticists were able to process a large number of samples using high-throughput DNA sequencing. “Our study revealed large variations between foraminiferal species collected near farms and those from remote sites. In addition, species diversity diminishes on sites affected by the farms.”

Monitoring the quality of the environment

This type of highly-accurate ecological analysis allowed to establish a correlation between species richness and distance from the cages, a correlation that is even more pronounced if the farm is only stirred by weak sea currents. The same type of correlation was also established based on the degree of oxygenation of the sediments. As Jan Pawlowski states: “The vast amount of organic compounds on the farming sites can even sometimes generate anoxic sediments, which makes it impossible for most species to survive.” The biologists were also surprised to discover a new species of foraminifera, which could serve as a bioindicator of organic enrichment.

This technology, known as “metabarcoding,” is spreading rapidly, and can be used to supply information on the overall diversity of the micro-organisms found in all samples. The method is suitable for large-scale tests because it is much quicker, more reliable and easier to standardise than the processes that are used at present. This study is one of the first attempts to use environmental genomics as a tool for assessing the impact of industries such as marine aquaculture or offshore drilling.

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Stellar using CA storage to extend its Chilean kiwi crop

For the first time in its more than 25-year history with the fruit, Madera, CA-based Stellar Distributing Inc. is putting some of its Chilean kiwifruit in controlled atmosphere storage in California to extend its marketing season.

Sales Manager Kurt Cappelluti said a severe frost in Chile during the early part of the year cut that crop’s volume in half and many of his suppliers are already running out of fruit.

From a typical industry volume of about 21 million cartons shipped to the United States, he said there will only be a total of about 10 million cartons when all is said and done this year. While kiwifruit from that South American country typically is in the market until California starts in late summer or early fall, the Stellar executive said that will not be the case this year.

Consequently, the firm, which has about 200,000 cases headed to California from Chile or already in the company’s cold-storage facility, is going to put at least 125,000 cartons in controlled atmosphere over the next several weeks.

Cappelluti said it is certainly a risk since he has not done it before, but he said the health of the fruit will be monitored closely and kiwifruit does well in CA.

He believes the risk is worth the reward as the short situation has created a strong market for the little fuzzy fruit.

In fact, he said, “I’ve been selling kiwi since 1986 and I’ve never seen a better market. There is lot of action and movement and the market is still going higher.”

On Thursday, May 8, he said the standard nine-kilo carton had an f.o.b. price of $ 23 to $ 26 and was moving to $ 25-$ 27. As an historical reference, he said a year ago he was selling Chilean kiwifruit for $ 7-$ 9 per carton.

According to Cappelluti, the first shipments from Chile hit the United States in late March with a price in the high teens and it has been steadily rising ever since.

He added that kiwifruit from New Zealand should come into the U.S. marketplace later this month and may command a price north in the $ 30-$ 32 per-carton range. He said the green crop from New Zealand available for U.S. export has declined in recent years as more growers have switched to the gold variety, which means the demand-exceeds-supply situation for that category could continue throughout the summer.

Relief might not come until California begins shipping. While that is typically around Oct. 1, Cappelluti said the state’s warm winter has seemingly pushed everything up a couple of weeks from the San Joaquin Valley and desert regions, including figs, grapes and summer fruits.

If that continues, Cappelluti said there could be some California kiwifruit on the market in mid-September.

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

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

Prosecutions for Falsely Using USDA’s Stamp of Inspection Don’t Come Easy

Paul and Kelly Rosberg, who once owned Nebraska’s Finest Meats in Randolph, NE, put up a vigorous defense for many months against charges that they had sold to Omaha Public Schools 2,600 pounds of ground beef falsely presented as inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In court documents, they referred to themselves not as the “defendants,” but as the “falsely accused.” They dismissed attorneys and represented themselves. They sued USDA meat inspectors in Nebraska courts and filed liens against their properties.

Their son dodged federal marshals — he said his friends and neighbors in rural northeast Nebraska easily spotted their new cars. But U.S. attorneys finally got him lined up as a material witness in exchange for immunity.

The United States of America vs. Paul and Kelly Rosberg shows how hard federal prosecutors have to work to bring to justice those who violate USDA’s inspection regulations.

For USDA’s Inspector General (IG) and the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for Northern California, which are now investigating a Petaluma, CA, slaughterhouse for possible similar charges, the Nebraska case could be instructive about the difficult road ahead.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service provided inspection services from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. In September 2011, Omaha Public Schools awarded Rosberg’s company a contract for 5,200 pounds of USDA-inspected ground beef to be served at various school cafeterias in the state’s largest school district.

To fulfill the order by Oct. 19, Nebraska’s Finest Meats operated on the first two weekends of October 2011, mixing inspected beef with beef processed when inspectors were not present at the facility. They placed USDA’s mark of inspections on all packages and delivered them by the deadline.

In plea agreements with the defendants, U.S. attorneys in Nebraska agreed to dismiss most of the felony charges. Kelly Rosberg agreed to plead to a single federal misdemeanor count for representing the ground beef as USDA-inspected when she knew it had not been passed or inspected by the agency.

She escaped any jail time when the sentence was handed down earlier this week and got off with two years of federally supervised probation.

Prosecutors allowed Paul Rosberg to plead to only a single charge of conspiracy. Other federal felony charges went away.

Paul Rosberg also went away. He was sentenced last December to 18 months at a federal prison camp in Yankton, SD.

In his plea agreement, Rosberg agreed to dismiss his “pending lawsuits against government witnesses” and drop liens against their properties. He also agreed not to file any more legal actions against government witnesses and to pay $ 8,435.58 to cover legal expenses incurred by those he had sued.

He also agreed TO withdraw his application for a $ 300,000 “value-added” grant from USDA’s Rural Development Agency.

Rosberg admitted that he knew the ground beef intended for Omaha Public Schools was misbranded and it had the intent to defraud.

The current California investigation into whether beef from diseased cattle was being processed without federal meat inspectors at the Rancho Feeding Corp. slaughterhouse in Petaluma has been under way since January. The facility has been shut down since USDA withdrew meat inspectors from the facility and called in the IG to investigate.

USDA’s provides meat, poultry and egg inspectors at more than 6,000 plants at a cost of about $ 1 billion a year.

Food Safety News

Concerns raised about using beta agonists in beef cattle

Use of certain animal drugs known as beta agonists in cattle production has received considerable national attention.

A Texas Tech University veterinary epidemiologist has found that although there are significant societal benefits to the practice, an increase in death loss of cattle raises questions about welfare implications of its use.

In a peer-reviewed article published in PLOS ONE, Guy Loneragan, professor of food safety and public health in Texas Tech’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, adds to this ongoing national dialogue.

“Beta agonists improve the efficiency of beef production and this improvement provides important societal benefits,” Loneragan said.

“The beta agonists approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in cattle increase muscle growth and may reduce the amount of fat the cattle accumulates,” he said. “This means the cattle converts more of the feed it eats into beef, and it does this more efficiently.”

The article is co-authored by Daniel Thomson and Morgan Scott of Kansas State University and is titled “Increased mortality in groups of cattle administered the β-adrenergic agonists ractopamine hydrochloride and zilpaterol hydrochloride.”

With the use of beta agonists, cattle require less feed and less water to produce the same amount of beef than if no beta agonists were used. Less land would be used to grow the crops used to feed the animals and, therefore, less fuel to produce the same amount of beef. The improvement in the efficiency of production has meaningful societal benefits.

“However, through our extensive analysis, we found that the incidence of death among cattle administered beta agonists was 75 to 90 percent greater than cattle not administered the beta agonists,” Loneragan said. “This increase in death loss raises critical animal-welfare questions. We believe an inclusive dialogue is needed to explore the use of animal drugs solely to improve performance, yet have no offsetting health benefits for the animals to which they are administered. This is particularly needed for those drugs that appear to adversely impact animal welfare, such as beta agonists.”

At a recent symposium held at Texas Tech, the animal behaviorist and welfare expert Temple Grandin headlined a discussion of beta agonists and animal welfare.

In a recent joint NPR interview with Loneragan and Grandin about beta agonists’ affect on animal welfare, Grandin said, “These problems have got to stop. I’ve laid awake at night about it. I’ve worked all my career to improve how animals are handled and these animals are just suffering. It has to stop.”

Grandin generally speaks on issues at the slaughter houses with lame cattle due to beta agonists, whereas Loneragan’s work covers beta agonists in feedlots, which is the topic of the newly published paper.

“To paraphrase Dr. Grandin, we owe the animals we raise for food a decent life and a decent death,” Loneragan said. “We certainly need to better understand the manner in which animals fed beta agonist die at the feedlot and work out how to balance the societal benefits of beta agonist use with societal expectations concerning the welfare of animals raised for food.”

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Concerns raised about using beta agonists in beef cattle

Use of certain animal drugs known as beta agonists in cattle production has received considerable national attention.

A Texas Tech University veterinary epidemiologist has found that although there are significant societal benefits to the practice, an increase in death loss of cattle raises questions about welfare implications of its use.

In a peer-reviewed article published in PLOS ONE, Guy Loneragan, professor of food safety and public health in Texas Tech’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, adds to this ongoing national dialogue.

“Beta agonists improve the efficiency of beef production and this improvement provides important societal benefits,” Loneragan said.

“The beta agonists approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in cattle increase muscle growth and may reduce the amount of fat the cattle accumulates,” he said. “This means the cattle converts more of the feed it eats into beef, and it does this more efficiently.”

The article is co-authored by Daniel Thomson and Morgan Scott of Kansas State University and is titled “Increased mortality in groups of cattle administered the β-adrenergic agonists ractopamine hydrochloride and zilpaterol hydrochloride.”

With the use of beta agonists, cattle require less feed and less water to produce the same amount of beef than if no beta agonists were used. Less land would be used to grow the crops used to feed the animals and, therefore, less fuel to produce the same amount of beef. The improvement in the efficiency of production has meaningful societal benefits.

“However, through our extensive analysis, we found that the incidence of death among cattle administered beta agonists was 75 to 90 percent greater than cattle not administered the beta agonists,” Loneragan said. “This increase in death loss raises critical animal-welfare questions. We believe an inclusive dialogue is needed to explore the use of animal drugs solely to improve performance, yet have no offsetting health benefits for the animals to which they are administered. This is particularly needed for those drugs that appear to adversely impact animal welfare, such as beta agonists.”

At a recent symposium held at Texas Tech, the animal behaviorist and welfare expert Temple Grandin headlined a discussion of beta agonists and animal welfare.

In a recent joint NPR interview with Loneragan and Grandin about beta agonists’ affect on animal welfare, Grandin said, “These problems have got to stop. I’ve laid awake at night about it. I’ve worked all my career to improve how animals are handled and these animals are just suffering. It has to stop.”

Grandin generally speaks on issues at the slaughter houses with lame cattle due to beta agonists, whereas Loneragan’s work covers beta agonists in feedlots, which is the topic of the newly published paper.

“To paraphrase Dr. Grandin, we owe the animals we raise for food a decent life and a decent death,” Loneragan said. “We certainly need to better understand the manner in which animals fed beta agonist die at the feedlot and work out how to balance the societal benefits of beta agonist use with societal expectations concerning the welfare of animals raised for food.”

Story Source:

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

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Using digital media no longer a choice, NGA speaker says

Mobile and social media are merging technologies that need to be part of an overall strategy, not a separate course of action,  the author of “Socialnomics” told the National Grocers Association convention Tuesday in Las Vegas. It’s not a choice anymore whether or not to get involved with digital media, Erik Qualman said.  “The only choice is how well you do it.” CONNECT WITH SN ON TWITTER Follow @SN_News for updates throughout the day. There’s …

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Supermarket News

Urban bees using plastic to build hives

Once the snow melts, Canada’s bee population will be back in business — pollinating, making honey and keeping busy doing bee things. For at least two urban bee species, that means making nests out of plastic waste.

A new study by a University of Guelph graduate and a U of G scientist reveals that some bees use bits of plastic bags and plastic building materials to construct their nests. The research was published recently in the journal Ecosphere.

It’s an important discovery because it shows bees’ resourcefulness and flexibility in adapting to a human-dominated world, says lead author Scott MacIvor, a doctoral student at York University and a 2008 U of G graduate.

“Plastic waste pervades the global landscape,” said MacIvor. Although researchers have shown adverse impacts of the material on species and the ecosystem, few scientists have observed insects adapting to a plastic-rich environment, he said.

“We found two solitary bee species using plastic in place of natural nest building materials, which suggests innovative use of common urban materials.

Figuring out that the bees were using plastics in place of natural materials took some detective work by U of G’s Andrew Moore, supervisor of analytical microscopy at Laboratory Services.

Moore analyzed a grey “goo” that MacIvor discovered in the nests of one kind of bee, Megachile campanulae, which uses plant resins to build its nests,

“Scott thought it might be chewing gum originally,” Moore said. His team uses a scanning electron microscope to take highly detailed pictures of items, x-ray microanalysis to determine the elements in the sample and infrared microscopy to identify polymers. They can distinguish the finest detail on the surface of an animal hair.

Turns out that M. campanulae was occasionally replacing plant resins with polyurethane-based exterior building sealant, such as caulking, in its brood cells–created in a nest to rear larva.

The researchers also discovered another kind of bee, Megachile rotundata, an alfalfa leafcutter, was using pieces of polyethylene-based plastic bags to construct its brood cells. The glossy plastic replaced almost one-quarter of the cut leaves normally used to build each cell.

Markings showed that the bees chewed the plastic differently than they did leaves, suggesting that the insects had not incidentally collected plastic. Nor were leaves hard to find for the bees in the study.

“The plastic materials had been gathered by the bees, and then worked — chewed up and spit out like gum — to form something new that they could use,” Moore said.

In both cases, larvae successfully developed from the plastic-lined nests. In fact, the bees emerged parasite-free, suggesting plastic nests may physically impede parasites, the study said.

The nests containing plastic were among more than 200 artificial nest boxes monitored by MacIvor as part of a large-scale investigation of the ecology of urban bees and wasps, a project involving numerous citizen scientists.

The nest boxes are located in Toronto and the surrounding region in backyards, community gardens and parks and on green roofs. They are used by a variety of bee species.

“The novel use of plastics in the nests of bees could reflect the ecologically adaptive traits necessary for survival in an increasingly human-dominated environment,” MacIvor said.

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

Understanding soil nitrogen management using synchrotron technology

Oct. 1, 2013 — As food security becomes an increasingly important global issue, scientists are looking for the best way to maintain the organic matter in soils using different methods of fertilization and crop rotation.

Increasing the organic matter in soils is key to growing crops for numerous reasons, including increased water-holding capacity and improved tilth. Scientists have recently used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) to evaluate the effects of various sources of supplemental nitrogen fertilizer on the chemical composition of soil organic matter. Results of their experiments to study this question were recently published in the journal Biogeochemistry.

“The big question I had when we started this research was how different nitrogen fertilizer supplements affected the overall soil organic matter composition,” says Dr. Adam Gillespie, a post-doctoral fellow working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). “We also wanted to look at how we could optimize the use of nitrogen, since nitrogen fertilizers can be a solution, but also a problem.”

Gillespie and his colleagues from AAFC, the University of Saskatchewan, St. Francis Xavier University, Lakehead University, and the CLS tested the hypothesis that the chemical composition of SOM would be different if the supplemental nitrogen originated from a synthetic fertilizer product, animal manure or a legume source.

The invention of synthetic fertilizer, where nitrogen is taken from an inert chemical form in the air and turned into ammonia, has had a profound effect on nitrogen cycling. In fact, astonishingly, humans have doubled the amount of available nitrogen in the biosphere.

According to Gillespie, 40 per cent of people alive today derive their nitrogen nutrition from synthetically-fixed fertilizer.

“Indeed, fertilization has had a profound effect on humanity as a whole. The downside of nitrogen fertilization is that run-off of nitrates to the surface waters or leaching of nitrates to groundwater cause problems with water quality and eutrophication in lakes. The recent algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg are a prime example of this nitrogen pollution. Secondly, nitrogen can be converted to nitrous oxide, which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Before fertilizers, nitrogen was introduced into the soil through rainfall or native pulse crops, so when fertilizer was developed, it revolutionized farming.”

He cites three common ways for producers to introduce nitrogen into soil: synthetic fertilizer; manure or other organic amendments; and through cultivation of nitrogen fixing pulse crops. For all these methods, the nitrogen comes in different forms. Synthetic fertilizer is available as a variety of commercial products, with different nitrogen-release times, whereas manure and pulse crops need to be broken down by microbial decomposition before nitrogen becomes available.

Gillespie explained that fungi is great at breaking down lignin in plants and bacteria can help break down the rest, but adds, “nitrogen shifts the ability of bacteria to compete, so we are hoping to find out more about the role of fungi in the decomposition of organic matter in soil.” Manure and pulse crops also add more organic matter to the soil, a benefit not realized using synthetic fertilizers.

The results of the experiment showed that organic matter in soil was heavily influenced by the type of supplemental nitrogen added.

“The overall trend showed that N additions allowed crop residues to decompose more completely. Specifically, we found less plant-type compounds in soils receiving nitrogen. In addition, we found that among the different nitrogen treatments, manure-enriched soil had the highest amounts of compounds related to microbial turnover,” said Gillespie. The findings will prove important for farmers and scientists alike as they work to maximize the potential growth of food while maintaining healthy soils.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Understanding soil nitrogen management using synchrotron technology

Oct. 1, 2013 — As food security becomes an increasingly important global issue, scientists are looking for the best way to maintain the organic matter in soils using different methods of fertilization and crop rotation.

Increasing the organic matter in soils is key to growing crops for numerous reasons, including increased water-holding capacity and improved tilth. Scientists have recently used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) to evaluate the effects of various sources of supplemental nitrogen fertilizer on the chemical composition of soil organic matter. Results of their experiments to study this question were recently published in the journal Biogeochemistry.

“The big question I had when we started this research was how different nitrogen fertilizer supplements affected the overall soil organic matter composition,” says Dr. Adam Gillespie, a post-doctoral fellow working with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). “We also wanted to look at how we could optimize the use of nitrogen, since nitrogen fertilizers can be a solution, but also a problem.”

Gillespie and his colleagues from AAFC, the University of Saskatchewan, St. Francis Xavier University, Lakehead University, and the CLS tested the hypothesis that the chemical composition of SOM would be different if the supplemental nitrogen originated from a synthetic fertilizer product, animal manure or a legume source.

The invention of synthetic fertilizer, where nitrogen is taken from an inert chemical form in the air and turned into ammonia, has had a profound effect on nitrogen cycling. In fact, astonishingly, humans have doubled the amount of available nitrogen in the biosphere.

According to Gillespie, 40 per cent of people alive today derive their nitrogen nutrition from synthetically-fixed fertilizer.

“Indeed, fertilization has had a profound effect on humanity as a whole. The downside of nitrogen fertilization is that run-off of nitrates to the surface waters or leaching of nitrates to groundwater cause problems with water quality and eutrophication in lakes. The recent algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg are a prime example of this nitrogen pollution. Secondly, nitrogen can be converted to nitrous oxide, which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Before fertilizers, nitrogen was introduced into the soil through rainfall or native pulse crops, so when fertilizer was developed, it revolutionized farming.”

He cites three common ways for producers to introduce nitrogen into soil: synthetic fertilizer; manure or other organic amendments; and through cultivation of nitrogen fixing pulse crops. For all these methods, the nitrogen comes in different forms. Synthetic fertilizer is available as a variety of commercial products, with different nitrogen-release times, whereas manure and pulse crops need to be broken down by microbial decomposition before nitrogen becomes available.

Gillespie explained that fungi is great at breaking down lignin in plants and bacteria can help break down the rest, but adds, “nitrogen shifts the ability of bacteria to compete, so we are hoping to find out more about the role of fungi in the decomposition of organic matter in soil.” Manure and pulse crops also add more organic matter to the soil, a benefit not realized using synthetic fertilizers.

The results of the experiment showed that organic matter in soil was heavily influenced by the type of supplemental nitrogen added.

“The overall trend showed that N additions allowed crop residues to decompose more completely. Specifically, we found less plant-type compounds in soils receiving nitrogen. In addition, we found that among the different nitrogen treatments, manure-enriched soil had the highest amounts of compounds related to microbial turnover,” said Gillespie. The findings will prove important for farmers and scientists alike as they work to maximize the potential growth of food while maintaining healthy soils.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

New species of fascinating opportunistic shelter using leaf beetles

Sep. 27, 2013 — Previously unknown to science leaf beetles modify and use as shelter the holes in leaves of their host plants made by other beetles.

Many animals construct homes or shelters to escape from biological and physical hostilities. Birds, spiders, termites, ants, bees and wasps are the most famous animal architects. As shelter construction requires considerable investment of resources and time, builders tend to minimize the cost of building while maximizing the benefits.

Builders are rather uncommon among adult leaf beetles though young ones of certain species use own feces to construct a defensive shield. Two closely related, hitherto unknown species of tiny southern Indian leaf beetles, only slightly larger than the size of a pin-head, and their clever way of using and modifying low cost shelters, is described in the open access journal ZooKeys. These beetles make use of holes pre-formed by larger leaf feeding beetles on the leaves of their host trees thus reducing cost of the shelter just like some birds that nest in existing cavities produced by primary cavity nesters, such as woodpeckers.

The beetles also use artificially made holes to construct hideouts called “leaf hole shelters.” As the shape and size of the hole were not exactly in tune with the requirements of the beetle, they resized the hole by partitioning with a wall constructed with own fecal pellets. Use of feces by adult leaf beetles for construction of shelters is being described for the first time, with these two new southern Indian species namely Orthaltica eugenia and Orthaltica terminalia. The beetles are named after their host trees, common in jungles of the Western Ghats Mountains, which is a globally recognized hot spot of biodiversity.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Cattle flatulence doesn’t stink with biotechnology: Farmers could improve air quality by using hormones

July 1, 2013 — The agriculture industry is researching new technologies to help feed the growing population. But feeding the world without harming air quality is a challenge.

According to a new article in Animal Frontiers, biotechnologies increase food production and reduce harmful gas output from cattle.

“We are increasing the amount of product with same input,” said Clayton Neumeier, PhD student at University of California, Davis, in an interview.

In the Animal Frontiers paper, Neumeier describes a recent experiment using biotechnologies. In the experiment, a test group of cattle were treated with biotechnologies. Different groups of cattle received implants, Ionophores and Beta-adrenergic agonists. These biotechnologies help cattle grow more efficiently. A control group of cattle were not treated with any of these biotechnologies.

Researchers measured gas output by placing finishing steers in a special corral that traps emissions. Each treatment group was tested four times to ensure accurate results.

The researchers also tested a dairy biotechnology called rBST. This biotechnology is a synthetic version of a cattle hormone that does not affect humans. Many producers inject cows with rBST to help them produce more milk.

In their experiment, the researchers gave rBST to a test group of cows and gave no rBST to a control group of cows. They discovered that the rBST group produced more milk per cow. When cows produce more milk, greenhouse gas emissions decrease because farms need fewer cows.

Dr. Kim Stackhouse, National Cattleman’s Beef Association Director of Sustainability, said animal agriculture has reduced emissions through the use of technologies. Technologies that improve animal performance, crop yields, and manure management and the installation of biogas recovery systems have all contributed to reducing the environmental impact of beef.

Biogas recovery systems are used in processing facilities to produce energy from animal waste. Animal waste is collected in lagoons, where the gas is captured. The gas is transported through an internal combustion area that produces energy for heat and electricity.

“I expect there to be more improvement as we continue be more efficient, continue to do more with less and also strive to find new improvement opportunities,” Stackhouse said.

Some consumers do not like the use of biotechnology in food production. Neumeier thinks these consumers are unaware of the benefits of biotechnology. His research shows that biotechnology can produce more food and lower gas emissions.

“We need to inform them that these are valuable tools for those two reasons and not be turned off by the use of biotechnology,” Neumeier said.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News