Editors note: As a service to our readers, we provide news about the work of others in the ag utilization arena. Often, research done elsewhere complements AURI’s work. Please note that ARS is the USDA’s research arm.

Baseball, soy dogs and apple pie

Eleven Major League Baseball stadiums are offering a vegetarian alternative to the traditional ballpark fare. Soy-based veggie dogs are now on the menu at Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego stadiums, among others. Mintel Consumer Intelligence says sales of soy-based meat alternatives have been growing at 15 to 20 percent per year, reaching $600 million in 2003.

Source: Soyatech.com, April 13, 2004

Sweet plastic

Procter & Gamble Chemicals and a Japanese firm are commercializing Nodax H, a biodegradable plastic fiber that will be used in packaging and non-woven materials. The fiber is made from fermented sugars of corn and sugar beets and palm-oil-based fatty acids. It can be readily converted into coated paper, films and molded items. Researchers say the plastic is compatible with other biodegradable polymers, including polylactic acid, to produce composites.

Source: Soyatech.com, April 12, 2004

Crude manure

University of Illinois researchers are attempting to convert hog manure into crude oil that could be refined to heat homes or generate electricity.

A thermochemical conversion process uses intense heat and pressure to break down the molecular structure of manure to make oil. It’s similar to the natural process that turns organic matter into oil over centuries. The laboratory process takes about half an hour.

Researchers have been able to convert only small batches of manure into crude oil and admit more extensive research is needed. However, the project’s lead scientist predicts that one day a reactor the size of a home furnace could process manure generated by 2,000 hogs at a cost of about $10 per barrel of oil.

Source: Agri-News, April 26, 2004

Come fly with soy

Purdue University scientists are working to power airplanes with soy oil; their goal is to reduce petroleum fuel use that drives global warming. By adding soy oil blends to jet fuels, planes emit less carbon dioxide, the principal "greenhouse effect" culprit.

Soybean plants suck CO2 out of the atmosphere as they grow, and when the soy is converted and burned as fuel, the carbon dioxide is released – with no net CO2 gain in the environment. Commercial air traffic has been identified as one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon dioxide pollution.

Source: New Scientist, March 26, 2004

Sunflowers go to school

Sunflower seed butter is now eligible to be served in schools under the USDA’s reimbursable meals program. An affordable protein source, sunflower butter is an alternative to peanut butter, which causes an allergic reaction in some students.

Source: Soyatech.com, February 23, 2004

Spicing up insulin

Several compounds isolated from cinnamon may someday find their way into a new generation of blood-sugar-lowering products. Studies shows that polyphenolic polymer compounds increase sugar metabolism in fat cells twenty fold. Millions of people have impaired sugar and fat metabolism that can lead to Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The extracted compounds increase insulin sensitivity by activating enzymes that stimulate insulin receptors, while inhibiting enzymes that deactivate those receptors.

Source: USDA-ARS, April 19, 2004

Not a happy Camp(ylobact)er<

Proteins from harmless microorganisms have been shown to reduce campylobacter and other pathogenic bacteria in poultry. ARS researchers used bacteriocins proteins to reduce campylobacter in bird intestines by more than 99 percent. Bacteriocins could be an effective alternative to antibiotics that the poultry industry uses to control pathogenic bacteria.

Food-borne bacterial infections are responsible for billions of dollars in poultry industry losses every year. Campylobacter is a major cause of diarrhea in the United States and is transmitted primarily through poultry, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Source: USDA-ARS, April 28, 2004

A milky way to reduce cholesterol

Cholesterol-lowering milk is now available to consumers in Great Britain. Research shows that Flora Pro-Activ milk drink is an effective way to deliver phytosterols – anti-cholesterol components that actively remove cholesterol from the body.

The low-fat milk showed a 16 percent reduction of "bad" cholesterol in a volunteer group asked to test several different products. Study group members consumed bread, breakfast cereals, milk or yogurt, all enriched with phytosterols. All the volunteers saw a reduction in cholesterol levels, but those consuming milk had the biggest effect.

Source: NewsEdge Corporation, April 24, 2004

Paper or corn?

Japanese shoppers may soon be carrying ag-based fashion statements. Three Japanese companies plan to sell high-quality biodegradable shopping bags to women’s clothing stores and high-end supermarkets. The bags feature handles made from polylactic resin derived from corn starch. One set of handles can be made from about 15 kernels of corn. The bags will break down naturally by microbes if buried in soil, and they can be safely incinerated without producing harmful gases. Companies expect that young Japanese women will use the eco-friendly ware as second handbags that display their favorite fashion brands.

Source: Soyatech.com, April 16, 2004