Seeing better with corn

ARS scientists and an international team of researchers have found a way to boost beta-carotene levels in corn that could help prevent blindness and weakened immune systems in children living in developing countries.

Corn contains carotenoids, some of which the body converts to vitamin A. Beta-carotene is the best vitamin A precursor, but only a small percentage of corn varieties have naturally high beta-carotene levels. In Africa and other developing regions, corn is a major staple and many children suffer because corn lacks sufficient beta-carotene.

Researchers have identified genetic sequences linked to higher beta-carotene levels in corn and demonstrated an inexpensive, fast way to identify corn plants that will produce higher levels.

From: USDA-ARS

May 5, 2010

Ancient crop could be sky fuel

Camelina is being investigated by ARS scientists as a bioenergy crop for military and commercial aviation jet fuel. Native to Europe, camelina has been grown since ancient times for lamp fuel and other uses. The seed’s high-oil content makes it a promising feedstock for biofuels.

Since 2006, ARS and university researchers throughout the country have been examining how to incorporate camelina and other oil-seed crops into existing crop production systems.

From: USDA-ARS

April 13, 2010

Safety under wraps

An edible film wrap for ready-to-eat meat products delivers a slow release of a naturally-occurring antimicrobial agent that can kill a food-borne pathogen, according to Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences research findings.

Researchers tested a biopolymer film containing antimicrobial sakacin A to control Listeria. The colorless, tasteless film, produced by fungal organisms during fermentation, is resistant to oil and largely impermeable to oxygen.

From: Penn State University

April 8, 2010

Raising the roof

A new soy-based adhesive product is not as toxic, carcinogenic or dangerous as typical hot-applied asphalt roof adhesives. BioBased Elastomeric Bitumen Adhesive (BEBA) is the first cold-applied, biobased-certified adhesive for built-up roofs, the most common low-sloped commercial roof style. BEBA is 28 percent biobased and contains soybean oil and glycerin, an underused coproduct of soy biodiesel processing.

Product developer Lance Niemann of Niemann & Associates says BEBA’s cost and performance will be as good or better than similar products that contain petrochemical-based asphalt. According to Niemann, BEBA reduces asphalt use by 50 percent.

From: Biobased Solutions

March 31, 2010

Corn in the bag

Grain in SunChips brand snacks is not just inside the bag, it’s outside too. Since April, SunChips multi-grain chips have been sold in 100-percent compostable bags made from corn-based polylactic acid (PLA). The renewable material allows bags to fully compost in about 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost bin.

From: PR Newswire

March 31, 2010

Beer for bones

Silicon in beer improves human bone-mineral density, research confirms. Because it can build bone strength, silicon may help people suffering with osteoporosis.

A University of California research team studied the brewing process and raw ingredients’ impact on the quantity of silicon entering beer. They found barley products contain more silicon than wheat, likely because the barley husk retains high levels of silica. Just as beer varieties have different taste profiles and attributes, they have varied silicon levels. Pale ales were found to contain the richest amounts of silicon, while non-alcoholic, wheat and light beers contained the least, with less barley present.

From: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture

April 22, 2010