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.

Beautyberry banishes bugs

An old-time remedy for thwarting mosquitoes could be the next breakthrough in bug repellent, USDA-ARS researchers in Mississippi have discovered. For generations southern farmers have used crushed leaves from the American beautyberry to keep biting insects away from horses and mules. Scientists have isolated several insect-repelling beautyberry compounds, which tests show are as effective in preventing mosquito bites as DEET, the world’s most-used insect repellent. Ironically, DEET was also developed by the ARS and the U.S. Army decades ago.

Source: USDA-ARS, January 31, 2006

Flax jeans

The already cool denim jean is getting cooler. Researchers have created a cottonflax denim that wicks perspiration in summer heat. Flax fibers improve the denim’s ability to pull perspiration away from the body, and the blend is more permeable than standard denim fibers, allowing air to ventilate the fabric. The denim blend was designed by USDA-ARS scientists in South Carolina. Source: USDA-ARS, November 17, 2005

Hi-Fi for health

Soluble oat fiber called beta-glucan has been shown to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol in blood. North Dakota State University scientists and the ARS have developed “HiFi,” a spring oat variety that contains 50 percent more beta-glucan than traditional oats.

Source: USDA-ARS, February 6, 2006

Shining sun on HIV

German scientists at the University of Bonn have discovered that a sunflower substance prevents HIV from reproducing in cell cultures. Researchers isolated an antitoxin that sunflowers produce to ward off fungal attacks. The antibodies inhibit the reproduction of pathogens and researchers found they had the same effect on HIV cells in test cultures. The discovery could lead to a cost-effective treatment, but clinical trials are not yet completed.

Source: Soyatech.com, January 31, 2006

Apples to the rescue

An estimated 1.5 million people around the world suffer from peanut allergies. New research shows that apples may be key to reducing the nuts’ allergenicity. USDA-ARS scientists in New Orleans discovered that adding a natural apple compound — polyphenol oxidase — to chopped-peanut extracts alters the allergenic properties of some peanut proteins.

Source: USDA-ARS, February 15, 2006

A better red

Who knew color could be good for you? An Israeli company is manufacturing a tomato-based food coloring called Tomat-O-Red that uses lycopene, the carotenoid that gives a tomato its red color. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant abundant in red tomatoes and processed tomato products that may help prevent prostate cancer, other cancers, heart disease and other serious diseases. Approved for sale in the United States, Europe and Japan, the all-natural pigment can be used in either food or beverages, providing both a red color and healthful benefits.

Source: Foodnavigator.com, February 22, 2006

Soy sun block

A biodegradable sunscreen derived from soybean oil could soon be on store shelves. An Illinois company has been granted the exclusive license from the USDA-ARS to market SoyScreen. The product’s sun-blocking properties come from an antioxidant found in rice, oats and other plants that is chemically bound to soybean oil. The sunscreen will not wash off from swimming or sweat, and it is non-polluting.

Source: USDA-ARS, November 3, 2005

Thyme tames odor

All manure stink may need is a little thyme. Researchers at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska have discovered that thymol effectively curbs manure odor in livestock operations. The active component found in thyme oil can be extracted from plants like thyme and oregano. Slow-release thymol granules applied to cattle feedlots reduced concentrations of odor-causing volatile fatty acids and pathogens like coliform and E. coli bacteria. Researchers noted even more prolonged odor-control effects in swine facilities.

Source: USDA-ARS, December 16, 2005

‘Bad News Bears’ invent soy car

Americans have finally invented a soybean-fueled car that gets more than 50 miles to the gallon. But it’s not being rolled out by a major automaker — the biodiesel car was designed by kids. A West Philadelphia High School auto shop program built the car from rummaged parts and wiring configured while the students, some with failing grades, developed their mechanical skills. The after-school project took more than a year and in February the car was featured at the Philadelphia Auto Show. Teacher Simon Hauger questioned why big automakers are still in the early stages of marketing hybrid cars. “We made this work. … We’re not geniuses. So why aren’t they doing it?”

Source: CBS News, February 17, 2006

Udderly sweet relief

Injecting sugar into cows’ udders to prompt an immune-system response may be better than antibiotics at battling mastitis. The inflammation of cows’ mammary glands costs producers an estimated $2 billion annually in animal and dairy-production losses. USDA ARS researchers in Beltsville, Md., found that injecting cows with a yeast sugar was more effective than antibiotics at one-twelfth the cost. Scientists injected 40 non milking Holsteins with the sugar and 40 with antibiotics. When they began lactating, only five cows injected with the sugar experienced the infection compared to 16 of the antibiotic-treated animals. Researchers deduce the sugar mobilizes white blood cells to attack mastitis pathogens.

Source: USDA ARS, February 13, 2006