Editors note: Elsewhere provides news from around the globe on new uses for agricultural products. Please note that ARS is the research arm of USDA.

Sweetened plastic

Sugar-beet pulp may cut the cost of biodegradable plastic, according to ARS researchers. About 40 million tons of pulp, a fibrous sugar-beet processing coproduct, is generated in the United States each year and primarily used in livestock and pet foods. Researchers are converting sugar-beet pulp into a polylactic-acid plastic filler. PLA is a natural alternative to petroleum-based plastics like polypropylene because it has similar technical properties but is biodegradable. Because producing PLA from fermented corn sugars is complex and costly, using cheaper pulp-derived fillers could reduce PLA’s cost.

From: USDA ARS

March 12, 2008

Colorful cabbage

Plant pigments called anthocyanins provide fruits and vegetables with distinctive blue, red and purple coloring. ARS research into anthocyanins’ affect on the human body suggests the pigments may protect against cancer, improve brain function and promote heart health. Previous studies have shown that some anthocyanins yield twice the antioxidant power of vitamin C.

From: USDA-ARS

February 28, 2008

Oceans of opportunity

Tons of American soybeans are destined for a watery end —food for the world’s aquaculture industry. Soybean leaders say fishmeal is becoming scarce, creating opportunities to use soy meal in fish, shrimp and shellfish feed. Aquaculture is the fastest growing animal feed producing sector, consuming meal from more than 250 million bushels of soybeans annually. Raising fish in huge floating cages in the ocean is on the increase, and Americans now consume about 16 pounds of fish and shellfish each year. One aquaculture company official says about $7.5 billion worth of soybeans could go to aquaculture.

From:United Soybean Board

April 28, 2008

Peanuts pasture

Forget alfalfa. For southern U.S. farmers, perennial peanuts may be the best forage option. After morethan 50 years of research, the rhizoma perennial peanut is now considered by many growers to be the best perennial warm-weather legume for southern states. The peanut is well adapted to the lower South, where its nutritional-quality, persistence and broad use are making it a staple pasture and hay crop — at a fraction of alfalfa’s cost.

From: USDA-ARS

March 3, 2008

Biodiesel card

The National Biodiesel Foundation unveiled the first-ever biodiesel fuel card at the Mid- America Trucking Show. The BioTrucker Fuel Card highlights 151 truck stops that carry biodiesel and is accepted at 5,000 truck accessible retail locations across the United States. The card can be used for fuel, cash advances, repairs and other road expenses. Truckers and fleets pay cash price on all fuel and no transaction fee for biodiesel at in-network truck stops. Also, three stops are offering a two-cent discount at the pump for BioTrucker Fuel Card holders.

From: Biodiesel Bulletin

April 2008

Firefighting wool

An ARS scientist has discovered and patented a heat-resistant material that can be added to wool and other fabrics to match the flame resistance of commercial firefighter uniforms. Wool, less susceptible to burning than synthetic fibers, is ideal for firefighting and military uniforms. Unlike synthetic fibers that can bead and drip on the skin when burned, wool produces a soft ash.

From: USDA-ARS

May 1, 2008

Soy transformers

This year, all new electrical transformers in Xcel Energy’s eight-state service territory are being filled with 100-percent soybean oil, replacing petroleum-based mineral oil, the industry standard. Food-grade soy-oil liquid is being used in new single-phase transformers for residential and light-commercial use.

From: Xcel Energy

October 16, 2007