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Elsewhere in ag utilization

Editor’s 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 research arm of the USDA.

Corn waxing waterproof

ARS scientists have found an inexpensive way to use a corn protein called zein to “wax” paper. It’s an environmentally friendly coating that can be used on any packaging material that requires waterproofing.

Source: Soybean Digest, December 2000.

Rats ‘n raspberries

Feeding cancer-induced rats 5 to 10 percent freeze-dried raspberries in their diet over a 36-week study reduced the development of colon tumors by 50 percent and esophageal cancer by nearly 70 percent. Human trials are the next step.

Source: Gary Stoner, Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital, (614) 293-3713,

Adopt a lamb

The New York Times describes an adoption program created by a shepherd’s co-op in a mountainous, medieval village in central Italy. Sheep lovers can select their pick of the merino flock over the Internet. A $154 contract entitles adoptive “parents” to a photograph, adoption papers and a year’s supply of their chosen one’s wool and fresh cheese. The less sentimental can also receive their pet as lamb chops. The co-op hopes to keep 2000-year-old sheep herding traditions from dying out in the area.

Source: New York Times, November 18, 2000,

Hammering out a tourist trade

In America and abroad, agritourism —vacationing in rural and natural areas — is on the increase. I-FARRM, an Illinois rural revitalization effort, sees these tourists as a new kind of cash crop.

Southern Illinois University’s Rural Development Opportunities team helps individuals develop business plans for agritourism. It recently helped a couple with an existing bed-and-breakfast and antique shop develop a plan to add a smithy. The smithy will showcase the history of smithery, offer training for blacksmiths, and create a sales outlet for the goods hammered out by the smiths.

Source: Margaret “Maggie” R. Flanagan, (618) 453-3247, email:

Big-bass farmers

Hybrid striped bass could tip the scales for Illinois fish farmers angling for profit. “There is great demand for the fingerlings and fry, particularly in Asia, where this is considered to be a health fish,” says Christopher C. Kohler, who heads Southern Illinois University-Carbondale’s Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center.

Closer to home, Kohler predicts the mild, white-fleshed hybrid could contend with salmon for fine-dining dollars, especially in upscale eateries where chefs present the whole fish.

A cross between white and striped bass, hybrid striped bass grow faster, resist disease and are easier to feed than either of the parent species. The hybrid bass sell for about $2.50 per pound as opposed to 80 cents a pound for catfish.

Illinois’ new fish co-op, scheduled to be up and running next fall, will process and sell bass, giving the state’s producers a marketing advantage.

Source: Sue Davis at (618) 453-2276,

Soy built it

The Ohio Soybean Council and the United Soybean Board unveiled “The House that Soy Built” last year at the Farm Science Review in London, Ohio. A new soy-based wood adhesive keeps the structure together. Soybean-based products are displayed and explained throughout the house, now a permanent exhibit at the Farm Science Review.

Source: The Land, January 19, 2001.

Slick and stick

USDA researchers have combined cornstarch and soy oil to make a product with a broad range of farm, food and industrial uses. Fantesk, the starch-oil composite, is being tested as a seed coating and as a fat replacer in puddings, ice cream, baked goods, cheese and yogurt. Fantesk can also be used to deliver fragrances for a prolonged period.

Patented by George Fanta and the late Kenneth Eskins of the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Fantesk can be made from any starch and any oil or fat.

Source: Soybean Digest, December 2000.

Carrots of color

The familiar orange carrot has long been credited with preventing night blindness; now a USDA researcher says carrots of other hues might help prevent cancer and heart disease. Philipp Simon, a plant breeder and geneticist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is studying purple, red, white and yellow carrots.

Yellow carrots contain xanthophylls, which keep eyes healthy and prevent lung and other cancers. Red carrots contain lycopene, helpful in preventing heart disease and some cancers. Purple types have anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that bind harmful free radicals in the body. The pigments don’t appear to affect flavor.

Source: The Furrow.

Tax-free ag zones

Michigan has named its first two “Agricultural Processing Renaissance” zones. Created to encourage ag processing by suspending state and local taxes, both zones are in Oceana County. Ten zones will be drawn by 2002. The new zones include Peterson Farms, a family-owned fruit and vegetable processor, and Gray & Co., a sweet cherry processor.

Source: Progressive Farmer, February 2001.

Mustard’s touch is gold

Monsanto Company and Michigan State University are cooperating with Tata Energy Research Institute in New Delhi, India, on a multi-year project developing “golden mustard.” Their goal is to produce cooking oil high in beta-carotene. Such oil could help millions suffering from vitamin A deficiency.

Source: Farm Progress, January 2001.

Taxpayers to support E85?

Minnesota legislation introduced in January proposes matching grant funds for service stations that install E85 pumps. Stations could receive up to $20,000 in matching state funds for installation. Station owners would also receive a five-year exemption from property tax for all E85 pumps.

The Minnesota Service Station Association and the American Lung Association support the legislation. While there are about 50 stations now selling E85, there are more than 40,000 vehicles on Minnesota roads that can burn the high-ethanol blend fuel. Supply isn’t adequate for the market.

Source: The Land, February 2, 2001.

Trucks with a soy lining

A soy-based polyurethane truck bed liner has hit the South Dakota market. SoyOyl replaces forty percent of the petroleum in the polyol spray-on liner. An average pickup truck bed liner can utilize oil from 1.3 bushels of soybeans.

The liner can also be sprayed to coat silos, storage tanks, boat decks and trailer interiors. SoyOyl is produced at the South Dakota Soybean Processors facility, a co-op owned by more than 2,000 soybean producers. Plans are underway to market the liner in other states.

Source: The Land, January 19, 2001.

Fishy diapers

Madison, Wis. — Fish ground into a supergel could be used as a disposable diaper absorbent, says Srinivasan Damodaran, a University of Wisconsin food scientist. He patented the process for making a gel that he claims will absorb 400 times its own weight. Diapers currently on the market contain a super-absorbent crystal or powder that absorbs 100 times its weight in water. Also, Damodaran says the fish-based gel deteriorates in landfills within 28 days, unlike petroleum-based gels that break down slowly.

His fish of choice is carp, an undesirable species brought to the Midwest by 19th century German immigrants. He says 20 million pounds of carp could be harvested annually in Wisconsin alone, which the state’s Department of Natural Resources says it would welcome.

Source: Associated Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 27, 2001.