Newsletter ALFA #12 - February 2015

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Dear Readers,

Spring is slowly coming and the results of ALFA research are blossoming. A lot of exciting news from the past month are gathered here, from the discovery of patterns by which raindrops spread pathogens among plants to a novel pretreatment that could cut biofuel costs by 30 percent or more. Read below for more information.

In the highlights this month, we wanted to take advantage of the recent Agricultural Fair in Paris (Salon International de l’Agriculture) to share a few facts about French agriculture and its future. Trends are noticeable and are raising interest of a lot of different actors.

Hope you’ll enjoy these news as much as we loved finding them for you!

Enjoy your read,

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
  • Highlights

    The future of agriculture - Feb. 27

    With the 52nd edition of the Salon de l’Agriculture in full swing in Paris this week, we’re dedicating this entire edition to French agriculture. It’s a sector of the country’s economy which may only be worth a little under 2% of GDP, but which nevertheless carries huge political importance. View more (video)

    French farmers main beneficiaries of EU’s Common Agricultural Policy - Feb. 24

    The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy was launched in 1962 in order to ensure the continent’s food security. Half a century later, Europe’s system of farming subsidies remains controversial because it accounts for almost 40% of the EU budget. That’s why Brussels has launched a comprehensive reform of its flagship programme in a bid to make it greener and more efficient. Read more

    Factory farming is on the rise in France, union says - Feb. 20

    Known for its agricultural traditions, France is seeing a rise in factory farming, union sources say, a trend that runs contrary to its hopes of becoming an environmental leader ahead of hosting the UN’s climate change summit later this year. French President Francois Hollande, who hopes to include agriculture in the climate change discussion, is looking to have France seen as a leader in ecological agriculture ahead of hosting the UN Sustainable Innovation Forum in Paris from December 7-8. Read more



    In the US

    Scientists reprogram plants for drought tolerance - Feb. 4

    Crops and other plants are constantly faced with adverse environmental conditions, such as rising temperatures (2014 was the warmest year on record) and lessening fresh water supplies, which lower yield and cost farmers billions of dollars annually. Drought is a major environmental stress factor affecting plant growth and development. When plants encounter drought, they naturally produce abscisic acid (ABA), a stress hormone that inhibits plant growth and reduces water consumption. Read more

    Splash down: High-speed images capture patterns by which raindrops spread pathogens among plants - Feb. 3, 2015

    Farmers have long noted a correlation between rainstorms and disease outbreaks among plants. Fungal parasites known as "rust" can grow particularly rampant following rain events, eating away at the leaves of wheat and potentially depleting crop harvests. While historical weather records suggest that rainfall may scatter rust and other pathogens throughout a plant population, the mechanism by which this occurs has not been explored, until now. Read more

    Fruitful collaboration yields insight on the tomato genome - Feb. 3

    Plant biologist Julin Maloof met fellow researcher Neelima Sinha while beginning his career at the University of California, Davis. Both interested in plant morphology and natural variation, the two first collaborated on a proposal more than six years ago and continue to work together to examine how plants thrive in disparate environments. Read more

    Corn co-products from wet milling may be included in pig diets, study shows - Jan. 28

    Many co-products from the corn processing industry may be used in diets fed to pigs. Much attention over the last 10 years has been on co-products produced from the biofuels industry, including distillers dried grains and high-protein distillers grains. However, the wet milling industry also produces many different co-products that may be used in pig diets. Read more

    Sesame test plots back growing interest - Jan. 27

    Misissippi farmers interested in growing sesame have to rely mainly on recommendations made for Texas fields, a problem Mississippi State University researchers are working to address. Sesame produces small, edible seeds valued for consumption and oil production. Consumers recognize it most frequently as the tasty seeds on hamburger buns, but a lot of cooking is done with sesame oil. When the seed is toasted, it has a nutty smell and pleasant taste. Read more

    In France

    A consortium of research and innovation for biocontrol - Feb. 26

    The agricultural fair in Paris was once again a good opportunity to make announcements. The Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll, launched Thursday, 26 February a research and innovation consortium to strengthen the French sector of biocontrol. "We used a lot of chemistry, and now the natural mechanisms should be thought of as allies, the minister explained. The France will draw strength from the link it will define between research and farmers’ practices. We must support what is happening in biocontrol and the consortium launched today is essential to develop a French industry of biocontrol." Read more (in French)

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    Engineered Yeast Turn Three Carbon Compounds Into Ethanol - Feb. 10

    When biofuel producers turn agricultural waste into ethanol, they start by treating the biomass with acid to hydrolyze complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars that microbes can munch on to make the alcohol. But that hydrolysis also produces compounds, such as acetate, that can inhibit microbial growth. Now, researchers have engineered yeast that aren’t fazed by acetate. In fact, they use it, and two other sugars from the hydrolyzed carbohydrates, to make ethanol. Read more

    IU biologists partner bacterium with nitrogen gas to produce more, cleaner bioethanol - Feb. 2

    Indiana University biologists believe they have found a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to increase bioethanol production by using nitrogen gas, the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, in place of more costly industrial fertilizers. The discovery could save the industry millions of dollars and make cellulosic ethanol - made from wood, grasses and inedible parts of plants - more competitive with corn ethanol and gasoline. Read more

    Toward the next biofuel: Secrets of Fistulifera solaris - Feb. 2

    Biofuels made from plant-produced oils are an attractive alternative to fossil fuels. However, the enormous amount of arable land needed for production and the competition between their uses as food/feed and fuel present obstacles to the production of biofuels from crops. These considerations have led to focus on microalgae as oil producers. Microalgae are tiny photosynthetic organisms found in both ocean water and freshwater. They grow quickly in liquid culture and can produce high levels of oils. Read more

    Renewable biofuel production avoids competition with food resources - Jan. 29

    The efficient production of both biofuel and animal feed from one crop is now possible, and can be done on a farm without the need for off-site processes. The research demonstrates the practical potential of an alternative to fossil fuels that does not compete with food resources. ’First-generation’ biofuels include ethanol produced from food sources such as corn and sugarcane. While recognized as a renewable energy source with potential to improve fuel security, their production has caused controversy over competing land-use for food and increased grain prices. Read more

    Novel pretreatment could cut biofuel costs by 30 percent or more - Feb. 24

    Researchers have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30 percent or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels. As partners in the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), the team from the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) have shown that this new operation called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) could eliminate about 90 percent of the enzymes needed for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels compared to prior practice. Read more

    In France

    "Made in France" agricultural biogas is still struggling to emerge

    "Made in France" agricultural biogas is struggling to emerge into a slow developing value chain, which is still largely dominated by German suppliers who are slowly adapting better and better to French specificities. In Britain, farmers are leading the French movement. Example at Noyal-sur-Vilaine. Read more (in French)

    Food Sciences

    In the US

    Study: Listeria pathogen is prevalent, persistent in retail delis - Feb. 10

    Purdue University research shows that standard cleaning procedures in retail delis may not eradicate Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can cause a potentially fatal disease in people with vulnerable immune systems. A study led by Haley Oliver, assistant professor of food science, found that 6.8 percent of samples taken in 15 delis before daily operation had begun tested positive for L. monocytogenes (mah-noh-sy-TAH’-gin-eez). Read more

    What’s next in diets: Chili peppers? - Feb. 8

    Don’t go chomping on a handful of chili peppers just yet, but there may be help for hopeful dieters in those fiery little Native American fruits. A large percentage of the world’s population — fully one third, by the World Health Organization’s estimates — is currently overweight or obese. This staggering statistics has made finding ways to address obesity a top priority for many scientists around the globe, and now a group of researchers at the University of Wyoming has found promise in the potential of capsaicin — the chief ingredient in chili peppers — as a diet-based supplement. Read more

    Another reason to drink wine: It could help you burn fat, study suggests - Feb. 6

    Drinking red grape juice or wine — in moderation — could improve the health of overweight people by helping them burn fat better, a new study indicates. The findings suggest that consuming dark-colored grapes, whether eating them or drinking juice or wine, might help people better manage obesity and related metabolic disorders such as fatty liver. Read more

    Compound found in grapes, red wine may help prevent memory loss - Feb. 4

    A compound found in common foods such as red grapes and peanuts may help prevent age-related decline in memory, according to new research, ublished by a faculty member in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Director of Neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has been studying the potential benefit of resveratrol, an antioxidant that is found in the skin of red grapes, as well as in red wine, peanuts and some berries. Read more

    Green tea ingredient may target protein to kill oral cancer cells - Jan. 28, 2015

    A compound found in green tea may trigger a cycle that kills oral cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone, according to food scientists. The research could lead to treatments for oral cancer, as well as other types of cancer. Earlier studies had shown that epigallocatechin-3-gallate — EGCG — a compound found in green tea, killed oral cancer cells without harming normal cells, but researchers did not understand the reasons for its ability to target the cancer cells, said Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science and co-director of Penn State’s Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health. Read more

    In France

    Is milk good for health? - Feb. 12

    Milk sales in France were down almost 3% in 2014 in volume, according to Syndilait, the milk manufacturers union. In ten years, they were down 10%. The fault lies with the disaffection of French for breakfast and for cooking with milk, but also to the "antimil trend", according to the union president Giampaolo Schiratti. While the Ministry of Health recommends eating three dairy products per day, the white concoction is sometimes accused of causing digestive disorders or diseases. Is cow’s milk, the most commonly consumed in France, good for health? Read more (in French)

    Guest News

    Getting yeast to pump up the protein production, Feb. 2

    Researchers have genetically modified yeast to prevent it from metabolizing protein, leading to higher yields of an industrially useful product, they say. A unicellular microorganism, yeast is a top candidate for producing protein because it grows rapidly and needs few resources to thrive. But until now, the scientific community did not realize that yeast reabsorbs more than half of the protein it secretes. Read more

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

    Seen on the web

    Banana flour: The next big thing in the gluten-free toolkit? - Mar. 3

    Banana flour –dried unripe banana milled into powder – is still a novel concept for American consumers, but the Utah-based entrepreneur behind WEDO (which claims to be the only banana flour company in the US) reckons 2015 could be the year it hits the mainstream. Read more

    Structure of the month

    French Food Cluster

    Four competitiveness clusters, Agri Southwest Innovation, Aquimer, Valorial and Vitagora created the French Food Cluster or F²C Innovation. Covering together food and non-food agricultural applications, agronomy and functional ingredients, the development of new products and innovative technology adapted to the tastes and nutritional needs of tomorrow’s consumers, these four complementary clusters seek to share their skills, their resources and efforts, particularly in the context of their international development. Read more

    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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