Newsletter ALFA #11 - December 2014/January 2015

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Dear Readers,

Kicking off 2015 with too big topics, one in France and on in the U.S.A.:

  • In early December, the USDA joined nations from across the globe to kick off the International Year of Soils, an effort to highlight the importance of healthy soils for food security, ecosystem functions and resilient farms and ranches;
  • Year of the Climate change: France will be hosting the COP21, an international conference to be held in Paris in December 2015 about climate change. We will have several occasion to present you opoprtunities and action undertaken by French all around the world, and we wanted to make a focus on the impact that the climate change will have on agriculture to begin this year with a paper of the OECD.

More info about these two topics in the highlights of this month, as well as regular information as usual about French-American research in ALFA fields.

Enjoy your reading and best wishes for 2015!

Marc Rousset, Scientific attaché
Simon Ritz, Deputy Scientific attaché

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  • Agriculture
  • Low-carbon energies
  • Food Sciences
  • Guest News
  • Seen on the web
  • Structure of the month
  • Get in touch with ALFA science
  • Highlights

    USDA Observes Kick Off of the International Year of Soils - Jan 6

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today begins its celebration of the International Year of Soils to highlight the importance of healthy soils for food security, ecosystem functions and resilient farms and ranches. "Healthy soil is the foundation that ensures working farms and ranches become more productive, resilient to climate change and better prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during an event today at USDA headquarters. "We join the world in celebrating this living and life-giving resource." Read more

    Modelling Adaptation to Climate Change in Agriculture - Dec 22

    This paper investigates how climate change can affect agricultural production and proposes some adaptation measures that could be undertaken to mitigate the negative effects of climate change while enhancing the positive ones. The paper stresses the importance of planned adaptation measures and highlights possible strategies for reducing risk and improving resilience. Read more



    In the US

    New non-destructive device measures root growth in smaller plants - Jan 14

    Researchers from North Carolina State University’s Department of Horticultural Science recently introduced a new apparatus called the "mini-Horhizotron", a device used to non-destructively measure treatment and substrate effects on plant root growth in greenhouse production. "The mini-Horhizotron was designed to measure root growth of small plant material such as seedlings, herbaceous plugs, or woody plant liners normally grown in containers less than 3.8 L," explained corresponding author Leslie Judd. Read more

    An old genetic tool in plant biology still has value - Jan 6

    Scientific tools for plant genetics research continuously fade away as newer methods evolve. However, researchers at Mississippi State University have found that one older method, the use of fragmented chloroplast DNA sequences, still stands strong amidst modern technologies. Read more

    Seeds out of season - Jan 5

    Researchers have created a model that considers how different stages of a plant’s life cycle interact with each other. Whereas previous studies have examined the seed, vegetative, and reproductive phases individually, scientists in a working group funded by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) sought to understand the relationship between the stages in reaction to environmental and genetic factors. Read more

    Penn scientists identify patterns of RNA regulation in the nuclei of plants - Dec 31

    When the human genome was first sequenced, experts predicted they would find about 100,000 genes. The actual number has turned out to be closer to 20,000, just a few thousand more than fruit flies have. The question logically arose: how can a relatively small number of genes lay the blueprint for the complexities of the human body? Read more

    First successful vaccination against ’mad cow’-like wasting disease in deer - Dec 21

    Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and elsewhere say that a vaccination they have developed to fight a brain-based, wasting syndrome among deer and other animals may hold promise on two additional fronts: Protecting U.S. livestock from contracting the disease, and preventing similar brain infections in humans. Read more

    In France

    The New Common Agricultural Policy in France in Brief - Jan 13

    All you need to know - and quickly - about the new CAP reforms and their implications in France. Quick facts: agriculture is a strategic sector for the European Union (EU), and farm subsidies are necessary: they reward the provision of public goods which cannot be supplied by the free market. These subsidies do not distort competition, and they are perfectly compatible with the globalization of trade. Read more

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    Researchers identify materials to improve biofuel and petroleum processing - Jan 26

    Using one of the largest supercomputers in the world, a team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota has identified potential materials that could improve the production of ethanol and petroleum products. The discovery could lead to major efficiencies and cost savings in these industries. Read more

    Calculating the future of solar-fuel refineries - Jan 23

    A team of engineers has developed a new tool to help engineers better gauge the overall yield, efficiency and costs associated with scaling solar-fuel production processes up into large-scale refineries. In a paper recently published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, a team led by chemical and biological engineering Professors Christos Maravelias and George Huber outlined a tool to help engineers better gauge the overall yield, efficiency and costs associated with scaling solar-fuel production processes up into large-scale refineries. Read more

    Plant genetic advance could lead to more efficient conversion of plant biomass to biofuels - Jan 2

    Plant geneticists including Sam Hazen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Siobhan Brady at the University of California, Davis, have sorted out the gene regulatory networks that control cell wall thickening by the synthesis of the three polymers, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Read more

    Switching to vehicles powered by electricity from renewables could save lives - Dec 15

    Driving vehicles that use electricity from renewable energy instead of gasoline could reduce the resulting deaths due to air pollution by 70 percent. This finding comes from a new life cycle analysis of conventional and alternative vehicles and their air pollution-related public health impacts, published Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read more

    Nuclear should be in the energy mix for biodiversity - Dec 15

    _Leading conservation scientists from around the world have called for a substantial role for nuclear power in future energy-generating scenarios in order to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity. Read more

    In France

    France to implement B8 by year’s end - Dec 25

    In France, the national oil body UFIP has agreed to increase the biodiesel blending mandate to 8% from the current 7%, with the official publication expected before the year’s end. It warned, however, that going above 7% may void some car manufacture warranties by going above the EU-wide approved 7% level. Read more (in French)

    Food Sciences

    In the US

    Blueberries may help reduce blood pressure and arterial stiffness - Jan 8

    Just one cup of blueberries per day could be the key to reducing blood pressure and arterial stiffness, both of which are associated with cardiovascular disease. "Our findings suggest that regular consumption of blueberries could potentially delay the progression of prehypertension to hypertension, therefore reducing cardiovascular disease risk," said Sarah A. Johnson, assistant director of the Center for Advancing Exercise and Nutrition Research on Aging (CAENRA) and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University. Read more

    An avocado a day may help keep bad cholesterol at bay - Jan 7

    Eating one avocado a day as part of a heart healthy, cholesterol-lowering moderate-fat diet can help improve bad cholesterol levels in overweight and obese individuals, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers evaluated the effect avocados had on traditional and novel cardiovascular risk factors by replacing saturated fatty acids from an average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados. Read more

    Despite resolutions, people buy more food after New Year - Jan 6

    Despite New Year’s resolutions to eat better and lose weight, people buy the greatest amount of food and calories after the holidays, finds a study led by a University of Vermont researcher. The study, published by PLOS ONE, finds consumer spending on food increases by 15 percent over the holiday season (Thanksgiving to New Year), with most of the increase attributed to higher levels of junk food. Read more

    While people who eat a lot of red meat are known to be at higher risk for certain cancers, other carnivores are not, prompting researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine to investigate the possible tumor-forming role of a sugar called Neu5Gc, which is naturally found in most mammals but not in humans.In a study published in the Dec. 29 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists found that feeding Neu5Gc to mice engineered to be deficient in the sugar (like humans) significantly promoted spontaneous cancers. Read more

    Chapman University research on farmers’ markets shows presence of Salmonella and E. coli - Dec 15

    Researchers in Chapman University’s Food Science Program and their collaborators at University of Washington have just published a study on the presence of Salmonella and E. coli on certain herbs sold at farmers’ markets. The study focused on farmers’ markets in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California, as well as in the Seattle, Washington, area. Specifically tested were samples of the herbs cilantro, basil and parsley. Of the 133 samples tested from 13 farmers’ markets, 24.1 percent tested positive for E. coli and one sample tested positive for Salmonella. Read more

    In France

    The French Pavilion at The 2015 World Expo in Milan - Jan 13

    France has engineered a spectacular pavilion for the Expo Milano 2015 that responds creatively to the theme of the exposition: ‘feeding the planet, energy for life.’ The inter-professional creative team collaborated to design a structure based on four themes: the promotion of sustainable agriculture, improvement and increase in production, pleasure and health, and the transfer of innovation. Read more

    Guest News

    Study finds Illinois is most critical hub in food distribution network - Dec 18

    Illinois is the most critical hub in the network of U.S. domestic food transfers, according to a new study by Megan Konar, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The study was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Read more

    Calculating the future of solar-fuel refineries - Jan 23

    A team of engineers has developed a new tool to help engineers better gauge the overall yield, efficiency and costs associated with scaling solar-fuel production processes up into large-scale refineries. Read more

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

    Seen on the web

    Do you speak cow? Researchers listen in on ’conversations’ between calves and their mothers - Dec. 15

    Researchers have been eavesdropping on ’conversations’ between calves and their mothers — measuring the process of how cows communicate using detailed acoustic analysis for the first time. The team from The University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University of London, spent ten months studying to the ways cows communicate with their young, carefully examining acoustic indicators of identity and age. Read more

    Structure of the month

    Established for 180 years in the heart of Europe’s leading agricultural and agri-food area, Agrocampus Ouest is a Grande école, or ‘elite public university-level college’, for life and environmental sciences and technologies. Offering an impressive potential unrivalled elsewhere in France for training and research in areas ranging from food production to lanscape architecture, Agrocampus Ouest has a triple vocation:

    • Training students to a high scientific level, enabling them to respond in an innovative and responsible manner to current issues in life sciences (three training cycles: Master, MSc in Engineering, PhD)
    • Conducting academic and applied research based on the sustainable development of resources and territories, in close partnership with national and international research organisations
    • Transferring knowledge to the socio-economic sector, following 3 thematic areas:
      • - innovative plant and animal production systems;
      • - integrated management of resources and territories: sea, environment, landscape;
      • - food and food production.

    Learn more about Agrocampus Ouest

    Get in touch with ALFA science

    Website to see this month

    For the United States information

    Federal agencies Discover the best of 2014 of the DoE. Learn about how to beware of products promising miracle weight loss.

    http:// Save the date: sceicen, art and hands-on fun at Fermilab Family’s open house.

    For France information Learn why the tillage show very little impact on carbon sequestration. Read about the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture: 2015, the Year 1 of agro-ecology. Discover the French order of Agricultural merit.

    For global information : Global news on advancements in science and technology (French articles).

    Coming Events

    2015 Agricultural Equipment Technology Conference Seelbach Hilton Louisville, KY February 9-11
    Agribusiness Showcase & Conference Iowa State Fairgrounds Des Moines, IA February 10-11
    USDA’s 91st Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel Arlington, VA February 19-20
    Lignofuels Americas 2015 TBA Milwaukee, WI March 25-26


    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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