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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.

Soy in space

The Iowa Soybean Promotion Board and the Soyfoods Council have been accepted as Corporate Founding Partners of the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center program. They are working with Iowa State University to find a way to mill soybeans that astronauts can use in space.

Source: Doane’s Agricultural Report, February 16, 2001.

Cancer says “bye bye, berry”

Years of research on strawberries and raspberries have shown the berries inhibit development of colon and esophageal cancers in rats. Now researchers at Indiana University and Ohio State University have discovered the berries reduce the ability of benzo(a)pyrene, a carcinogen found in tobacco smoke and the environment, to transform normal cells to cancer cells in the lab. The reduction rate in some cases was as high as 90 percent. Human clinical trials on the berries’ cancer-inhibiting effects began in May.

In other research, an ARS plant pathologist has found that strawberries, blueberries and raspberries contain chemicals that can protect cultured cells against cervical and breast cancer.

Source: Gary Stoner, Ohio State University, (614) 293-3713,; David E. Wedge, USDA-ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Unit, (662) 915-1137,


Scientists have found the gene that allows plants to package and store materials in their cells. The discovery may open the door to producing new types of plant plastics. A patent application for using the gene for monomer production has been filed jointly by Purdue University and DuPont and Co.

Source: Clint Chapple, Purdue University, (503) 756-3552;

Stickier than blood

A soy-based foam extrusion glue could give the plywood industry faster production at lower cost. ARS researchers used 3.5 to 5.5 percent soy flour to replace animal blood protein in plywood glue. The new formulation requires less drying time, less water and produces less waste than conventional plywood glues. It could create a domestic market for nearly one-half million bushels of soybeans annually.

Source: National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., (309) 681-6350,

Ethanol times four?

At the sixth annual National Ethanol Conference, Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns released a study claiming that quadrupling ethanol production over the next 15 years would boost U.S. GDP by $685 billion. If the likely phase-out of MTBE additive leaves the current oxygenate requirements intact, ethanol demand should increase dramatically.

There are some concerns whether oxygenate requirements will remain intact, however. California is one state that wants a waiver from the fuel oxygenate requirement.


Porking out au naturel

A study completed by the University of Minnesota Swine Center shows strong growth in consumer demand for organic and natural pork products. This growth should support premiums for natural pork products over conventional, providing a good niche market for small and independent hog producers.

Source: W. Parker Wheatley, (612) 669-0331,

Dry but sweet

ARS researchers are developing a sweet potato variety specifically for making chips and fries. Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious; one medium-sized orange or dark yellow sweet potato provides more than the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A and high levels of fiber, vitamin C and folic acid. The new sweet potatoes aren’t as sweet as traditional ones and have high dry matter content—as much as 40 percent — so they don’t soak up as much oil.

Source: Janice Bohac, USDA-ARS U.S. Vegetable Laboratory, (843) 556-0840;

Fruity films

ARS researchers have developed edible films from pureed produce such as apples, oranges, carrots and strawberries. The thin, opaque films can be applied to everything from sliced apples to meat. The films control browning and prevent moisture loss better than several other coating types. The films could also provide new flavor combos, such as strawberry film on cut bananas or apple glaze on pork.

Sheets containing pureed fruit have long been available as snack foods. But this is the first time thin sheets of up to 100 percent fruit or vegetable material have been tested to enhance storage and flavor.

Source: USDA-ARS Quarterly Report, October 1-December 31, 2000.

Bill could build energy bridge

Biomass crops for energy — many grown on marginal land — will become more important in a world with already ample resources for producing food, says University of Minnesota economist Jerry Fruin. The farm bill should encourage market development and utilization of byproduct crop residues such as cornstalks, wheat straw and sawdust for energy, he says. In the longer term, biomass for energy will be the transition stage bridging the fossil fuel era with direct energy from the sun. Fuel cells or solar cells already are economical in some situations, he notes.

Source: Jerry Fruin, University of Minnesota, (612) 625-8720.

Speaking of direct marketing …

Here are several resources on direct marketing to check out. “The Direct Marketing Resource Notebook” by the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society includes case studies of various direct marketing enterprises, Midwest state and federal marketing contracts and an extensive list of resources. To order, call (404) 254-2289.

Another book, published by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, is “Collaborative Marketing, A Roadmap and Resource Guide for Farmers.” It is available by calling (612) 625-8235.

A book offering tips about legal issues related to direct-marketing farm products is Neil Hamilton’s “The legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing.” It is available for purchase from the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa at

(515) 271-2947.

Source: Maribel Fernandez, University of Minnesota, (763) 682-7394,

Healing pigs

Doctors are using a revolutionary material derived from pigs’ intestines to heal sores and wounds, repair internal organs, treat urinary incontinence in women, and save the limbs of people suffering from deep wounds. It comes from tissue layers called small-intestine submucosa in pigs’ intestines and prompts the body to replace damaged tissues and heal wounds quickly.

Source: The Furrow, Spring 2001.

Nebraska antes up for value-added ag

The Nebraska Agriculture Opportunities and Value-Added Partnership Act, approved last spring, offers $1 million each year through 2003 to producers engaged in value-added enterprises.

Source: Call 1-800-422-6692, or visit

Soy’s a burnin’

Purdue University’s first place winners in the seventh annual New Uses for Soybeans Student Contest won with a home heating fuel that uses 20 percent soy oil. The heating oil burns cleaner and is 10 percent cheaper than regular fuel oil, and can be used without making any changes to existing heating systems. The second place team created Soyastic, a plastic made with soybeans.

At the University of Illinois, students won the SoyLutions ’01 contest with a new product called the “Soy Muf-fun,” a ready-to-bake muffin enriched with soy protein. Other prize-winning ideas from the University of Illinois included “Soy Enhanced Pork Kabobs” and “Soy Suds, America’s Cool Bean Beer.”

Source: Bernie Tao, Purdue University, (765) 494-1183, and Theresa Miller, Illinois Soybean Association, (309) 663-7692,