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Elsewhere in ag utilization

Editors note: As a service to our readers, we provide news from around the globe on new uses for agricultural products. Please note that ARS is the research arm of the USDA.

Fish Wrap

Frozen foods may soon be protected by a nearly-invisible fish coating. Made from gelatin extracted from skins of seagoing fish, such as Alaskan Pollock, the coating can help seal in moisture in a frozen dish, protecting taste and quality. Despite its marine origin, the coating has no seafood taste or odor. Scientists at ARS and several U.S. universities are collaborating on gelatin studies. Beside food coatings, the fish extract could be used as an ingredient in other food products.

From: USDA-ARS, April 24, 2007

Tipping the scale

A new environmentally-friendly ingredient for laundry and dishwashing detergents has been developed by ARS and the Alabama company Folia. The cornstarch-based product helps prevent “scale,” crusty deposits that can cause clothing discoloration and cloudy dishes and can diminish dishwasher’s and washing machine’s performance. The biodegradable cornstarch derivative helps to soften water, making detergents work better.

From USDA-ARS, April 2, 2007

Cholesterol blues

Berries may give cholesterol the blues, ARS researchers in Mississippi have found. Scientists fed hamsters high-cholesterol diets — some supplemented with dried blueberry skins. The hamsters eating blueberry-enhanced diets had significantly lower blood cholesterol levels than those that didn’t eat the skins, and somewhat lower levels than hamsters fed a lipid-lowering drug.

From: USDA-ARS, March 26, 2007

Do it all biomass

A research consortium from the United States, major universities in the United Kingdom, Asia and Africa and an international charity are working on a three-in-one biomass powered appliance called SCORE (Stove for Cooking, Refrigeration and Electricity). They expect it will take five years to create a single device that people in developing countries can use to cook, refrigerate and produce electricity. It could be a boon to rural areas where refrigeration and electricity are nonexistent but biomass is plentiful.

From:, May 14, 2007

Got plastic?

Researchers have discovered a process for mixing dairy-whey protein with starch to create biodegradable plastic that can be blended with polyethylene to make molded utensils.

Researchers at ARS and the Japanese National Food Research Institute formed the blend using whey protein, cornstarch, glycerol, cellulose fiber, acetic acid and the milk protein casein to make the pliable plastic. The bioplastics can only replace about 20 percent of polyethylene, but researchers are applying this process to polylactic acid, which could result in a completely-biodegradable bioplastic.

From: USDA-ARS, May 1, 2007

Cob grabber

After 10 years of tinkering, Nebraska twin brothers Ty and Jay Stukenholtz invented a device that harvests corn cobs during combining. The device fits any combine and uses a series of sieves and fans to separate the cobs and store them in a separate hopper. Cobs are becoming increasingly valuable as a biomass fuel.

From: The Des Moines Register, May 13, 2007


Cow pie power

University of New Hampshire students who invented MOR-2007, which can convert cow manure directly into electricity using an open-air microbial fuel cell, won the prestigious International Environmental Design Contest held at New Mexico State University in April. MOR-2007 is designed to reduce maintenance, operational difficulty, odor and phosphorous while minimizing manure impact on air and water quality.

From:, May 15, 2007