Neswletter ALFA #18 January 2016

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Dear Readers,

In these last days of January, the Office for Science and Technology wishes you a very happy new year!

The United Nations have declared this New Year the international Year of pulses. Pulses have many advantages: they foster sustainable agriculture and contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, they are highly nutritious, and have important health benefits and so on! This Year aims to heighten public awareness of their multitude of benefits. Thus, in the highlights this month, you will find all you need to know about this huge event that will last the whole year along with some salient researches’ results or projects in this field in the USA, in Europe and in France (in the Agriculture section).

Also, as usual, you will find below main news from agricultural, low-carbon energies and food science researches from the past month.

Don’t forget, you can send us here some information that can be published in the next newsletters! It could be about research results, events, job opportunities or whatever in the field covered by this newsletter.

Enjoy your reading,

Marc Rousset, Scientific attaché
Chloé Bordet, Deputy Scientific attachée

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  • Agriculture
  • Low-carbon energies
  • Food Sciences
  • Structure of the month
  • Get in touch with ALFA sciences

  • Highlights

    International Year of Pulses 2016

    The 68th UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been nominated to facilitate the implementation of the Year in collaboration with Governments, relevant organizations, non-governmental organizations and all other relevant stakeholders. The IYP 2016 aims to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition. Read more



    In the US

    How plants interact with beneficial microbes in the soil – Jan. 12

    Scientists have wondered for years how legumes such as soybeans, whose roots host nitrogen-fixing bacteria that produce essential plant nutrients out of thin air, are able to recognize these bacteria as both friendly and distinct from their own cells, and how the host plant’s specialized proteins find the bacteria and use the nutritional windfall. Read more

    Wild bee decline may threaten U.S. crop production – Jan. 5

    A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that wild bees may be disappearing in many important U.S. farmlands—including California’s central valley, the Midwest’s Corn Belt, and the Mississippi river valley. If losses of these crucial pollinators continue, the study indicates that farmers will face increasing costs—and that the problem may even destabilize the nation’s crop production. Read more

    Newly identified enzyme may be the culprit in Pierce’s disease grapevine damage – Jan. 12

    A newly identified enzyme appears to play a key role in transmitting Pierce’s disease from insects to grapevines. The discovery may lead to new diagnostics and preventive treatments for the disease, which costs California’s grape and wine industries more than $100 million each year. Read more

    Microbes added to seeds could boost crop production – Jan. 6

    Communities of soil-dwelling bacteria and fungi are crucial to plants. They help plants take up nutrients and minerals from the dirt and can even extend root systems, providing more access to food and water. They also help plants grow, cope with stress, bolster immune responses and ward off pests and diseases. Now scientists at agricultural companies are digging through the dirt to find the exact microbes that make specific crops grow better. Agribusiness firms Novozymes and Monsanto, through their BioAg Alliance, have just concluded the world’s biggest field-test program of seeds laced with promising microbes. Read more

    Grafted plants’ genomes can communicate with each other – Jan. 19

    Agricultural grafting dates back nearly 3,000 years. By trial and error, people from ancient China to ancient Greece realized that joining a cut branch from one plant onto the stalk of another could improve the quality of crops. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute and Cambridge University have used this ancient practice, combined with modern genetic research, to show that grafted plants can share epigenetic traits, according to a new paper published the week of January 18, 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more

    In France

    LEGumes for the Agriculture of TOmorrow (LEGATO project)

    The LEGATO (LEGumes for the Agriculture of TOmorrow) project brings together 17 research institutions and 10 companies or professional associations from 12 European states to focus on breeding and management methods for the principal grain legumes or pulses grown in Europe, the pea and faba bean. Among the actions proposed will be the use of advanced breeding methods taking advantage of recent genomics data, exploitation of genetic resource collections, techniques of high-throughput phenotyping including non-destructive root imaging, legume-based cropping systems including intercropping, and exploration of new food products incorporating legume flours. Read more

    The variability of legume crop yields in Europe and America – Nov. 18

    Despite their agronomic value, legumes are cultivated much less in Europe than in America. INRA scientists in Versailles-Grignon have demonstrated that crop yields vary more in Europe than in America, and have thus contributed to identifying the legume species and regions most favorable to their development in our part of the world. Read more

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    Study: Second-generation biofuels can reduce emissions – Jan. 11

    Second-generation biofuel crops like the perennial grasses Miscanthus and switchgrass can efficiently meet emission reduction goals without significantly displacing cropland used for food production, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Illinois and collaborators published their findings in the inaugural edition of the journal Nature Energy. Read more

    BESC study seeks nature’s best biocatalysts for biofuel production – Jan. 14

    Researchers at the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center are looking beyond the usual suspects in the search for microbes that can efficiently break down inedible plant matter for conversion to biofuels. A new comparative study from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory-based center finds the natural abilities of unconventional bacteria could help boost the efficiency of cellulosic biofuel production. A team of researchers from five institutions analyzed the ability of six microorganisms to solubilize potential bioenergy feedstocks such as switchgrass that have evolved strong defenses against biological and chemical attack. Solubilization prepares the plant feedstocks for subsequent fermentation and, ultimately, use as fuel. Read more

    Bringing Up Biofuel – Jan. 14

    The idea of replacing fossil-based fuel with a renewable source of sustainable energy is enough to get any environmentalist excited. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have advanced a process to produce a crude liquid called “bio-oil” from agricultural waste. Read more

    One-stop shop for biofuels – Jan. 19

    The falling price of gasoline at the pumps may warm the hearts of consumers but it chills the souls of scientists who recognize that humankind must curtail the burning of fossil fuels to reduce the threat of climate change. Biofuels can help mitigate climate change and provide us with a sustainable source of transportation energy if yields and production costs are economically competitive. A major step towards achieving this goal has been achieved by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI). Read more

    Tesoro unveils plans to help development of biocrude for its refineries – Jan. 21

    US-based petroleum specialist Tesoro Corp. has announced a plan to foster the development of biocrude made from renewable biomass, which can be co-processed in its existing refineries, along with traditional crude oil. Read more

    In France

    Study: Implementing the green economy – Jan. 25

    What is the green economy? How spread this approach in the European context? These are some of the questions that a group of European scientists tried to answer in the study “Implementing the green economy”. To do this, ten innovative cases of various forms of green economy from different European countries, including France, were studied. Read more

    A new European project to strengthen the industrial development of lignocellulosic bio-refineries – Jan. 21

    ADMIT Bio-SuccInnovate is a project lead by 11 European research institutes, including INRA, the French National Institute for Agriculture Research. This project encompasses a holistic, integrative approach to drive innovations that enable dedicated non-food crops and agricultural residues to be refined into a range of sustainable added-value products and markets. A key project objective is to demonstrate the production of bio-succinic acid from the C6 sugar fraction and assess the impact on GHG emissions against current processes using techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessments. Read more

    Food Sciences

    In the US

    Sugar-sweetened drinks linked to increased visceral fat – Jan. 11

    Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages every day was associated with an increase in a particular type of body fat that may affect diabetes and heart disease risk, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. Read more

    CDC: Excess sodium intake remains common in the U.S. – Jan. 11

    A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) shows that nearly all Americans—regardless of age, race, gender, or whether they have high blood pressure (hypertension)—consume more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet. In fact, more than 90% of children and 89% of adults aged 19 and older eat more sodium than the recommended limits in the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, not including salt added at the table. Read more

    Antimicrobial Wash Reduces Health Risks in Fresh Produce – Jan. 20

    An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, and his collaborators have developed an antimicrobial wash that reduces the risk of foodborne pathogens contaminating fresh produce. Read more

    Atherosclerotic Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is responsible for one in every six deaths in the United States as well as being the leading cause of death throughout the developed world. Healthcare professionals have for many years sought to limit and control CHD by focusing on prevention and, from a dietary perspective, on limiting saturated fats. A new study examined the question of whether that focus may be misplaced and ask does sugar have a greater impact on coronary heart disease than saturated fat. Read more

    Fiber-rich diet may reduce lung disease – Jan. 22

    A diet rich in fiber may not only protect against diabetes and heart disease, it may reduce the risk of developing lung disease, according to new research. Read more

    In France

    Paternalism and food choices – Jan. 14

    Study paternalism is to compare, for one person, decisions taken for himself and those taken for the others. Regarding food, many people make choices for themselves different from those made for the others. Experiments conducted in the US and France by INRA’ researchers were used to study how individuals make trade-offs between health and taste for themselves and others. Read more (in French)

    Structure of the month

    IRSTEA, National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture

    IRSTEA, National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture is a public scientific and technical institute in joint supervision with the Ministry of Research and the Ministry of Agriculture and is holder of an agreement with the Ministry of Ecology, the co-signatory of its constitutive decree. IRSTEA has built a multidisciplinary and systemic approach to three domains – water, environmental technologies and land – which today form the basis of its strength and originality. Read more

    Get in touch with ALFA sciences : News from the United States covering advancements in science and technology (French articles).

    For France information : A vast source of information encompassing the fields of human health, animal health, and plant health. : Access new frontiers of Science through CNRS, the largest research organization in all of Europe. : Learn more from Europe’s leading agricultural research institution. : Discover a multitude of ongoing projects in a variety of scientific fields. : Learn more about the future movements of neuroscience. : News from France on advancements in science and technology (French articles). : Discover information and the direction of French Agriculture : An in depth discovery of French food and France’s agricultural economy.

    Coming Events

    Organic Seed Growers Conference Corvalis, Oregon February 4-6, 2016
    2016 Agricultural Equipment Technology Conference Louisville, Kentucky February 8-10, 2016
    The Agribusiness Showcase & Conference Des Moines, Iowa February 9-10, 2016
    Agricultural outlook forum Arlington, Virginia February 25-26, 2016

    French Office for Science and Technology at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC - website:
    Consulate General of France in Chicago - website:


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