Newsletter ALFA #10 - November 2014

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Dear Readers,

A few days before Thanksgiving, we wanted to highlight a fact rare enough to occupy this section by itself. In the course of October, a team of officials from 6 cities in the United States visited a French primary school looking for tips to promote healthy eating from a lesson teaching children how to appreciate good food.

With a fresh croissant on each desk and a pen in hand, the class of eight and nine year-olds were encouraged to use their five senses to examine the pastries at length and describe the experience, as the delegation looked on.

The pupils were taking part in a three year-old government program to promote food awareness and healthy eating in schools, and had previously carried out similar taste tests on bread and cheese. And the U.S. officials were part of a delegation visiting France in the goal of sharing valuable ideas, data and practices regarding food education.

Doesn’t it sound exciting? More info in the Highlight section. Also, and as usual, you will find below the latest news of research in the ALFA fields.

Enjoy you reading and happy holidays,

Marc Rousset, Scientific attaché
Simon Ritz, Deputy Scientific attaché

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  • Seen on the web
  • Structure of the month
  • Get in touch with ALFA science
  • Highlights

    American Administrators Come to France through Partnership to Learn about Food Education
    In the summer of 2013, the French Ministry of Agriculture and New York City Department of Education’ SchoolFood entered into a collaborative partnership with the goal of sharing valuable ideas, data and practices regarding food education. The main focus of this partnership is to share food policy initiatives aimed at educating children about food and preventing childhood obesity.

    A few months prior to this international collaboration, New York’s SchoolFood announced the founding of the Urban SchoolFood Alliance (USFA) that unified America’s six largest school districts: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Orlando and Dallas, synchronizing their priorities for school nutrition in order to achieve a positive and sustainable national impact. One year later on October 13th, 2014, New York and its Urban SchoolFood Alliance arrived in Paris at the invitation of the French Ministry of Agriculture to take a three-day in depth look at the way France addresses food education.

    Read more



    In the US

    ’Probiotics’ for plants boost detox abilities; untreated plants overdose and die - Nov. 17

    Scientists using a microbe that occurs naturally in eastern cottonwood trees have boosted the ability of two other plants - willow and lawn grass - to withstand the withering effects of the nasty industrial pollutant phenanthrene and take up 25 to 40 percent more of the pollutant than untreated plants. The approach could avoid the regulatory hurdles imposed on transgenic plants - plants with genes inserted from or exchanged with other plant or animal species - that have shown promise in phytoremediation, the process of using plants to remove toxins from contaminated sites. Read more

    Switching on a dime: How plants function in shade, light - Nov. 13

    Plants grow in environments where the availability of light fluctuates quickly and drastically, for example from the shade of clouds passing overhead or of leaves on overhanging trees blowing in the wind. Plants thus have to rapidly adjust photosynthesis to maximize energy capture while preventing excess energy from causing damage. So how do plants prevent these changes in light intensity from affecting their ability to harvest the energy they need to survive? The response has to be extremely swift. Read more

    Farmers, scientists divided over climate change - Nov. 11

    Crop producers and scientists hold deeply different views on climate change and its possible causes, a study shows. Researchers surveyed 6,795 people in the agricultural sector in 2011-2012 to determine their beliefs about climate change and whether variation in the climate is triggered by human activities, natural causes or an equal combination of both. Read more

    New Variety May Be Just the Beginning of New Wheat Research Era - Oct. 27

    A new wheat variety is resistant to a couple of major disease pressures and performs under fairly harsh conditions, moisture-wise, making it a good fit for farmers in some key wheat-growing regions in the U.S. Its development could be on the front end of a rapidly accelerating pace for wheat innovation, one expert says. One hundred years ago, plant breeder and botanist Mark Carleton created the Kanred hard red winter wheat variety, one that possessed some rust resistance, ultimately making it extremely popular among Kansas wheat farmers and a major building block for a lot of varieties during the last century. Read more

    Scientists’ new analysis of plant proteins advances our understanding of photosynthesis - Oct. 27

    A world without plants would be a world without oxygen, uninhabitable for us and for many creatures. We know plants release oxygen by absorbing carbon dioxide and breaking down water using sunlight through the process of photosynthesis. However, we know little about the mechanics of how plants create oxygen during photosynthesis. A breakthrough that will help advance our understanding of this critical ecological process was made recently by scientists at LSU. Read more

    To wilt or not to wilt: New process explains why tomatoes are susceptible to a disease-causing fungus - Oct. 24

    Plant breeders have long identified and cultivated disease-resistant varieties. A research team has now revealed a new molecular mechanism for resistance and susceptibility to a common fungus that causes wilt in susceptible tomato plants. Read more

    In France

    Tillage shows very little impact on carbon sequestration - Nov. 17

    Reducing or eliminating tillage is one of the farming practices most frequently touted to improve carbon sequestration in soil. A new study turns this paradigm on its head. This study, the result of a rigorous experiment conducted in the Ile-de-France region, shows that after a period of 41 years, three tillage methods led to similar carbon sequestration outcomes. However, variations were apparent over time based on climate conditions. Read more

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    Model evaluates where bioenergy crops grow best - Nov. 24

    Farmers interested in bioenergy crops now have a resource to help them determine which kind of bioenergy crop would grow best in their regions and what kind of harvest to expect. Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have published a study identifying yield zones for three major bioenergy crops. Read more

    Research projects to improve plant feedstocks for bioenergy production - Nov. 17

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the selection of 10 projects being awarded funding aimed at accelerating genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstocks for the production of biofuels, biopower and biobased products. The investment is part of the Obama Administration’s broader effort to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio and accelerate development of new clean energy technologies designed to decrease dependence on foreign oil, providing a more secure future for America’s energy needs and enhancing rural economies. Read more

    Biochemistry detective work: Algae at night - Nov. 10

    Photosynthesis is probably the most well-known aspect of plant biochemistry. It enables plants, algae, and select bacteria to transform the energy from sunlight during the daytime into chemical energy in the form of sugars and starches (as well as oils and proteins), and it involves taking in carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen derived from water molecules. Photosynthetic organisms undergo other types of biochemical reactions at night, when they generate energy by breaking down those sugars and starches that were stored during the day. Read more

    Research Finds Key to Cheaper Biofuels, Improved Crops - Oct. 31

    Imagine being able to precisely control specific tissues of a plant to enhance desired traits without affecting the plant’s overall function. Thus a rubber tree could be manipulated to produce more natural latex. Trees grown for wood could be made with higher lignin content, making for stronger yet lighter-weight lumber. Crops could be altered so that only the leaves and certain other tissues had more wax, thus enhancing the plant’s drought tolerance, while its roots and other functions were unaffected. Read more

    Figuring out how we get the nitrogen we need - Oct. 28

    Ntrogen is an essential component of all living systems, playing important roles in everything from proteins and nucleic acids to vitamins. It is the most abundant element in Earth’s atmosphere and is literally all around us, but in its gaseous state, N2,, it is inert and useless to most organisms. Something has to convert, or "fix," that nitrogen into a metabolically usable form, such as ammonia. Until about 100 years ago when an industrial-scale technique called the Haber-Bosch process was developed, bacteria were almost wholly responsible for all nitrogen fixation on Earth (lightning and volcanoes fix a small amount of nitrogen). Bacteria accomplish this important chemical conversion using an enzyme called nitrogenase. Read more

    In France

    Global bioenergies manufactured isobutene with its industrial pilot factory - Nov. 18

    Global Bioenergies announced in a press release of 17 November 2014, having successfully conducted the first test of isobutene production in its industrial pilot factorty in Pomacle-Bazancourt (Marne, France). The isobutene, a petroleum derivative manufactured from plant materials (sugar, grain, waste …), is mainly used in the petrochemical industry to produce fuel, plastics … Read more, in French

    Food Sciences

    In the US

    Spice up your memory: Just one gram of turmeric a day could boost memory - Nov. 18

    Adding just one gram of turmeric to breakfast could help improve the memory of people who are in the very early stages of diabetes and at risk of cognitive impairment. The finding has particular significance given that the world’s ageing population means a rising incidence of conditions that predispose people to diabetes, which in turn is connected to dementia. Read more

    Research reveals promising technology to expand hard cider industry - Nov. 13

    A new study by researchers at Washington State University shows that mechanical harvesting of cider apples can provide labor and cost savings without affecting fruit, juice, or cider quality. The study, published in the journal HortTechnology in October, is one of several studies focused on cider apple production in Washington State. It was conducted in response to growing demand for hard cider apples in the state and the nation. Read more

    The Trojan horse burger: Do companies that ’do good’ sell unhealthy food? - Nov. 11

    When consumers see a company performing good deeds, they often assume that the company’s products are healthy. According to a new study in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing this may be far from true, and the company’s socially responsible behavior may be creating a "health halo" over unhealthy foods. Read more

    Processing milk — how concentrates help to save energy - Oct. 28

    Powdered milk is a vital ingredient in infant formula and also used in a wide a range of baked goods and confectionary products. It is manufactured using an energy-intensive process chain that involves concentrating and drying milk. Researchers at Technische Universität München (TUM) are researching more energy-efficient ways of making concentrates. And they are already seeing promising results: By combining different membrane separation processes, they have succeeded in reducing the amount of energy required to concentrate milk by around 20 percent. Read more

    Replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat linked with lower risk of heart disease - Oct. 28

    People who swap 5% of the calories they consume from saturated fat sources such as red meat and butter with foods containing linoleic acid — the main polyunsaturated fat found in vegetable oil, nuts, and seeds — lowered their risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) events by 9% and their risk of death from CHD by 13%, according to a new study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. Substitution of 5% of calories from carbohydrate with linoleic acid was associated with similar reductions in risk of heart disease. Read more

    In France

    Dionysud Fair - Who are the winners for innovation? - Nov. 7

    The innovation awards of the Dionysud Fair took place on Wednesday November 5th. For this new edition of the innovation prices of Dionysud, 11 companies competed in the wine category and three in the oenology category. Pellenc receives the first prize for innovation and the safety award for its two systems "Easy turn" and "Easy safe wash". The first, a hydraulic steering module replacing traditional steering management systems on harvesting machines achieves a 95 ° steering angle (against 90 usually). Read more, in French

    Guest News

    Three WUSTL faculty named AAAS fellows - Nov. 24

    Three faculty members at Washington University in St. Louis have been named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. The new fellows are Mary C. Dinauer, MD, PhD, David M. Holtzman, MD, and Robert G. Kranz, PhD. The rank of fellow is the highest honor awarded by AAAS in recognition of distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications. Read more

    Send us your ALFA news for December’s Newsletter here!

    Seen on the web

    911 Calls from Inside Corn Mazes. Officially a Thing.

    You never want the answer to “911, what’s your emergency?” involving the words “corn” or “maze.” But that’s been the fate of a number of Dixon, California, labyrinth-goers who have lost their way in the face of a seeming corn crevasse. The Cool Patch Pumpkins maze, located just outside Sacramento and deemed the largest corn maze in the world by “The Guinness Book of World Records,” has stymied a number of fall wanderers who can’t navigate themselves out of the husky abyss they paid $12 to wander into. Their only seeming recourse? Bring in the authorities. Read more

    Structure of the month

    Agreenium was created by decree of 10th May 2009 by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research, and the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, with the status of public scientific cooperation institution (EPCS).
    Agreenium is a legal entity bringing together the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (Inra), the French Agricultural Research Center for Development (Cirad), the Paris Institute of Technology for Life, Food, and Environmental Sciences (AgroParisTech), the Institute for Higher Education in Agricultural, Agrifood, Horticultural and Landscape Sciences (Agrocampus Ouest), the International Centre for Higher Education in Agricultural Sciences (Montpellier SupAgro), and the National Veterinary School of Toulouse (ENVT) which has been replaced by the National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse (INPT).

    Learn more

    Get in touch with ALFA science

    Website to see this month

    For the United States information Discover environmental information about where you live. Learn about the new FDA menu and vending machines calories labeling rules.

    News articles : News from the United States covering advancements in science and technology (French articles).

    For France information Discover the 2014 INRA Awards. Have an overview of the French Agrifood Industry in 2014.

    Coming Events

    U.S. Solar Market Insight Conference Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa and Marina San Diego, CA Dec. 8-10, 2014
    Intertribal Agriculture Council Flamingo Las Vegas, NV Dec. 8-11, 2014
    Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference Mobile Convention Center Mobile, ALA Jan. 14-17, 2015
    National Biodiesel Conference & Expo Fort Worth Convention Center Fort Worth, Texas Jan. 19-22, 2015


    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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