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ELSEWHERE in ag innovations

A crush on garlic
Eating raw garlic may be good for your heart, but not your breath. The solution: crush the pungent little bulbs, then bake them slightly.

Garlic and its close relative, the onion, are rich sources of heart- protecting compounds called thiosulfinates. These sulfur compounds may lower blood pressure and break up potentially harmful clusters of platelets in the bloodstream.

ARS researchers and collaborators in Argentina tested various cooking techniques to assess how they affected garlic’s ability to break up artery clogging platelets. The scientists found that crushing and baking only slightly reduced garlic’s effectiveness, while microwaving almost stripped the garlic bulb of any positive effects.

From: USDA-ARS, September 18, 2007

Beneficial beef
Canadian researchers are working on a beef cattle diet that maximizes the amount of conjugated linoleic acid in beef products. CLA is a fatty acid in all beef and dairy products that may help prevent diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease.

CLA is formed naturally in beef when linoleic acid from digested plant material is converted in the rumen. Pasture-fed animals tend to have the highest CLA concentrations, although diets supplemented with ingredients such as sunflower seeds have also shown elevated levels.

From:, September 19, 2007

Hold the lignin
New low-lignin sorghum varieties may be good news for both feed and fuel producers. Developed by ARS researchers in Nebraska, the new strains are more digestible by cattle and could be easier to convert to ethanol.

Lignin provides rigidity and strength to plant tissue and helps fend off attacking insects and pathogen. But it can impede digestion and cellulosic conversion to ethanol. The newer varieties should improve beef and milk production and sorghum-to-ethanol conversion.

From: USDA-ARS, September 10, 2007

Phyto potato
The nearly 130 pounds of potatoes that the average American consumes annually may be boosting our health. New ARS research has identified 60 different phytochemicals in the skins and flesh of 100 varieties of potatoes. Those chemicals, called phenols, may help reduce cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems and certain cancers. Some of the varieties’ phytochemicals were similar to those in broccoli, spinach and brussel sprouts.

From: USDA-ARS, September 7, 2007

Soybean `Stang
Soybean-based polyurethane foam will be used to keep passengers and drivers of the 2008 Ford Mustang comfortable. Ford Motor Company is using soy-based polyols in the seat backs and cushions of the popular sports car. Soy polyols have proven to perform as well or better than their petroleum- ased counterparts in total weight, strength and durability.

Ford researchers aim to eventually replace up to 40 percent of the standard polyol with soy-based material, which could save Ford up to $26 million annually and benefit the environment.
From: Biobased Solutions, September, 2007

Battery charged
Soybean growers are powering studies of using soybean oil in biofuel cell batteries. Cell phones, laptop computers and other devices are powered by rechargeable batteries that typically contain toxic heavy metals. Biofuel cells convert energy derived from chemical reactions to electrical energy by the catalytic activity of living cells. The United Soybean Board and Nebraska Soybean Board are working with St. Louis University to determine the feasibility of the soybean batteries.

From: Biobased Solutions, July, 2007
Skinny trees

ARS scientists have developed a columnar peach tree strain that takes up significantly less space than traditional peach trees. Called Crimson Rocket, the variety is about 5 feet in diameter compared to traditional varieties’ 16 feet. The columnar shaped tree grows taller than the standard peach trees, but produces a full-size fruit and can be planted closer together to maximize production on available land.

From: USDA-ARS, November 15, 2007