Editor’s note: As a service to our readers, we provide news from around the globe on new uses for agricultural products. Please note that ARS is the research arm of the USDA.

Silkworms in space

A Japanese aerospace researcher has created a cookie recipe that astronauts can prepare in space. The “flavorsome” cookies include silkworm pupa powder, soy powder, soy milk, rice powder, soy sauce and milk. Developed by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, the silkworm pupas are fried, then ground to a powder. Scientists at China’s University of Aeronautic and Astronautics say the silkworm could become a diet staple for Chinese astronauts as it is rich in protein, easy to raise and produces little waste.

Source: Soyatech.com, July 24, 2006

Vitamin pea

One of the world’s oldest food crops could increase pasta’s nutritional value and reduce cooking time. Pigeon peas, a legume grown predominantly in developing countries, has been shown to increase several key vitamin levels. Researchers in Venezuela and Spain jointly tested adding pea flour to durum wheat pasta. Results showed an increase in vitamins B1, B2 and E, protein, fat, dietary fiber and mineral content. Cooking time was also reduced as pea flour concentrations increased.

Source: Foodnavigator.com, August 3, 2006

Manure-powered ethanol

Panda Ethanol of Dallas will begin constructing a 100-million-gallon ethanol plant in Hereford, Texas, powered by waste from local cattle herds. The first-of-its-kind facility will generate steam for ethanol production by gasifying more than one billion pounds of cattle manure a year. When completed in 2007, it will be the largest biomass-fueled ethanol plant in the United States.

Source: Soyatech.com, August 1, 2006

Spicy fat fighters

Breaking out into a sweat while eating a spicy meal may be a good thing for people hoping to lose weight. Beyond giving flavor to food, scientists from Canada and Holland believe some spices should be considered “functional” ingredients.

Researchers from Quebec and Holland universities have found that spicy foods such as peppers, turmeric, cumin and ginger actually helped boost the metabolism by increasing the body’s generation of heat. In several studies, the scientists found that capsaicin, the compound the gives peppers heat, actually helped people burn as much as 23 percent more energy.

Source: Foodnavigator.com, July 31, 2006

Hearty walnuts

Walnuts, already shown to reduce bad cholesterol in some studies, may have other attributes for enhancing cardiovascular health. University of California-Davis scientists and ARS researchers found that laboratory hamsters fed a diet containing powdered walnuts had a significantly lower level of a natural chemical called endothelin. The compound causes artery inflammation and plaque growth in blood vessels. Walnuts were effective at all levels tested, from the equivalent of eating three to eight handfuls of walnuts a day.

From: USDA-ARS, July 31, 2006

A hull of an idea

The solution to pollution, at least in water, could come from soybean hulls. ARS scientists have discovered that hulls, as well as corn stover and sugarcane plants, are ideal foundations for a potent filtering agent that absorbs harmful levels of lead, chromium, copper and cadmium from contaminated waters. Through a simple two-step process, the researchers were able to convert the cheap leftovers into a material called dual-functioning ion exchange resin — commonly used for treating industrial and municipal waste waters.

From: USDA-ARS, June 21, 2006

Float plant filters

ARS scientists in Georgia are exploring ways to use floating plant mats to remove excess nutrients from manure lagoons in confined-feeding dairy and swine operations. Various grasses were tested, grown atop floating rafts made of PVC pipe and chicken wire. Cattails had the best results, producing the most biomass and removing the most nutrients from wastewater. A second test phase is being conducted with other plant species. The plant residue could be used as a bioenergy source.

From: USDA-ARS, August 1, 2006