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ELSEWHERE in ag innovations

Editor’s note: As a service to our readers, we provide news about the work of others in ag utilization. Please note that ARS is the researcharm of USDA.


Milkweed sunscreen

Unsaturated oil from milkweed seed could be a base for sunscreen, skincare products and paints, a study suggests. USDA-ARS scientists used zinc oxide to convert triglycerides in milkweed oil to compounds that absorb UV light, without using chemicals that are in traditional sunscreens. The clear milkweed oil liquid could be used in gels, creams, sticks and aerosol-spray sunscreens. Skincare products, epoxies and paints could also use the UV-absorbent material.

From: USDA – ARS, February 5, 2009

Flax seed benefits

Researchers at South Dakota State University’s Pharmaceutical Sciences Department studied flaxseed’s effects on pre-cancerous lab mice. Flax oil and meal contain high concentrations of essential Omega- fatty acids that play a critical role in brain function and development. The meal also contains lignan, a chemical reported to prevent cancer. Research showed that both flax oil and meal helped prevent colon cancer.

From: The Bismarck Tribune, May 18, 2008

Weed feed

Russian thistle, pigeon grass and kochia weeds could be added to cattle feed if they are harvested and used properly. Greg Lardy at the North Dakota State University Extension Service says Russian thistle should be harvested early in the year and blended with straw, corn silage or prairie hay. Kochia can also be harvested for silage when it’s 20 to 26 inches tall and before it has produced seed. Because these weeds accumulate nitrates, Lardy urges producers to have the weeds tested before using them in feed. Details are available

From: North Dakota State University Extension Service, May 2008

Southern wine

Some southern U.S. farmers have transformed former tobacco acreage into vineyards. While tobacco demand has declined, regional wine sales have increased nationwide. Most southern wineries sell directly to customers, taking advantage of a diverse topography and wide variety of grapes that can grow south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

From: Associated Press, December 22, 2008


Berry young

Grape and berry compounds reversed signs of aging in an ARS study on laboratory rats. Of seven compounds tested, pterostilbene proved the most effective in reversing cognitive decline and improving working memory in mature rats. Other berry compounds show similar potential and are being tested in animal and cell models. Scientists from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center of Aging at Tufts University and ARS collaborated on the study.

From: USDA – ARS, December 11, 2008

Hot stuff

Scientists at New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute have rehabilitated two chile pepper varieties that, after years of cross-pollination, had lost their strong taste. Old flavors were rekindled in NuMex Heritage Big Jim and NuMex Heritage 6-4 varieties by mass-spectrometry laboratory testing, which detects and identifies flavor compounds. NuMex seeds can be purchased from Biad Chili Ltd. Co. in Mesilla Park, New Mexico.

From: Associated Press, December 29, 2008



Soy tires

Although soy flour is most commonly used in cooking and baking, ARS scientists are testing soy flour as filler for tires and other natural-rubber products. Defatted soy flour is dispersed in water, added to rubber latex and freeze-dried. The material is then tested against filler-free rubber and composites that contain the “carbon black” filler of modern day tires. Researchers will continue their soy-flour tire tests in conjunction with rubber manufacturers.

From: USDA – ARS, December 24, 2008