Newsletter ALFA #6 - June 2014

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Dear Readers,

As the summer approaches, the Office for science and Technology brings you opportunities to connect with France and Europe. In the highlights this month:

- A call for partnership to co-organize and co-finance the 2014 edition of French-American Innovation Day, an annual event which brings together scientists, industrials and investors;

- The EURAXESS Science Slam is a scientific competition which combines solid scientific research with fun factor!

Also, it’s an exciting month for research in agriculture, low-carbon energies and food science in the US and France. We hope that you will be as excited as we were, discovering that fungus can be either good or bad in the same newsletter, that an engineered microbe could ease switch to grass, or that French researchers have foudn a yeast able to reduce alcohol content in wines.

The next ALFA newsletter will cover the next two months, and will be sent accordingly in August. We wish you a good summer in the meantime.

Enjoy your reading!

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

    CALL FOR PARTNERSHIP - 2014 French-American Innovation Day (FAID 2014)
    The Office for Science and Technology (Boston office) seeks to identify a co-organizing and co-financing partner for the 2014 edition of French-American Innovation Day. The partner can be a company, an association, a research laboratory, a competitive cluster, etc. Preferably based in France, the partner must be able to propose a topic related to innovation (scientific and/or technological) and place this theme into a French-American context. The partner should be able to mobilize a network of world-renowned researchers and innovative businesses for its topic of interest and already have contacts available in the United States. It is also desired that the partner can mobilize industrial actors. Read more

    EURAXESS Science Slam 2014
    The EURAXESS Science Slam is a scientific competition which combines solid scientific research with fun factor! Researchers have the opportunity to present their research in 10 minutes to an audience of researchers from various scientific fields and lay people. The researcher’s presentation should convey his/her research in the most attractive, entertaining and comprehendible way possible.
    The submission process for the EURAXESS Science Slam 2014 is now open and will close on 10 August 2014. Read more


    In the US

    Triticale offers grazing benefits, options - June 13

    There are many advantages to triticale as a forage over wheat or oats in the Rolling Plains, according to Jason Baker, Texas A&M AgriLife Research senior research associate in Amarillo, who has been conducting trials since 2002. Baker has worked with forage trials in both the Lockett and Chillicothe areas, first while he was stationed at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Vernon and continuing now with the AgriLife Research wheat breeding program at Amarillo. Read more

    Findings may advance iron-rich, cadmium-free crops - June 11

    With reports of toxic, cadmium-tainted rice in China, a new study describes a protein that transports metals in certain plants and holds promise for developing iron-rich but cadmium-free crops. Iron and cadmium are both found in soil and are interchangeably taken up by iron transporters in plants. Pollution and heavy fertilizer use have increased soil cadmium levels in China, for example. In humans, cadmium can damage internal organs and cause cancer. At the same time, iron is an essential nutrient for plants and humans. Read more

    Case study documents changes in northeast Iowa farms - May 27

    Farmers must be masters of adaptation—they must cope with changing federal policies, fluctuating crop prices, and advancing technology. A new report from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture shows how farmers in northeast Iowa have adapted to change over the past 80 years. Last summer, French researcher Alice Topaloff conducted a historical analysis of northeast Iowa’s food systems for the Leopold Center’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative. Read more

    New Approach to Studying Fungus’ Attack on Soybeans - June 9

    A new laboratory technique developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists could speed the search for soybean plants with resistance to the fungus that causes Phomopsis seed decay (PSD) in the legume crop. A disease primarily caused by the fungus Phomopsis longicolla, PSD physically degrades soybean seed and reduces the quality of its protein and oil. In 2012, outbreaks of PSD and other fungal diseases cost soybean producers in 16 southern states more than 2 million bushels in losses. Read more

    Weeding out pesky poison ivy with discovery of killer fungus - June 12

    A natural and effective way to kill poison ivy using a naturally occurring fungus that grows on the fleshy tissue surrounding the plant’s seed has been discovered, potentially giving homeowners and forest managers the ability to rid landscapes of the pernicious pest. The study is a first of its kind on a plant that affects millions but has had surprisingly little research done on it. Read more

    In France

    Plant immunity: a new molecular mechanism - June 2

    INRA researchers in Montpellier recently discovered a new mechanism that allows rice plants to resist the pathogenic fungus that causes one of rice farming’s most devastating diseases: rice blast. Rice plants have resistance proteins that snare the fungus’ effectors by imitating their target proteins. Read more

    Agro-ecology: Stéphane Le Foll wants to see half of the French farms involved 2025 - June 18

    In a progress report about his project for agro-ecology launched in late 2012, the Minister of Agriculture said Tuesday that he hoped that half of French farms be involved in the process by 2025. Criteria and a diagnostic tools that will be serving farmers from September remain to be defined. Regions will play an active part in the implementation of the approach. Read more (in French)

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    Costs and benefits of compliance with renewable portfolio standards estimated - June 10

    A new report reviews estimates of the costs and benefits of compliance with Renewable Portfolio Standards in the United States and explores how costs and benefits may evolve over time. Based on a review and analysis of data from state compliance filings and other sources, the report finds that the estimated incremental RPS cost over the 2010-2012 period — the cost above and beyond what would have been incurred absent the RPS — was less than 1 percent of retail electricity rates on average. Read more

    Engineered Microbe Could Ease Switch to Grass - June 2

    Researchers from the University of Georgia and at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have engineered the thermophilic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii to directly convert switchgrass into ethanol, according to a study published today (June 2) in PNAS. The new approach eliminates the need for expensive chemical and enzymatic treatments required to prepare grasses for ethanol production, potentially easing the way for use of sustainable feedstocks like switchgrass to produce biofuels. Read more

    Researchers focus on renewable diesel process improvements - May 28

    Scientists at Ames Laboratory announced this month that they have developed a nanoparticle that performs two processing functions simultaneously for production of renewable diesel. “Conventionally, when you are producing biodiesel from a feedstock that is rich in free fatty acids like microalgae oil, you must first separate the fatty acids that can ruin the effectiveness of the catalyst, and then you can perform the catalytic reactions that produce the fuel,” said Ames Lab scientist Igor Slowing. Read more

    A new solution for storing hydrogen fuel for alternative energy - May 21

    Turning the "hydrogen economy" concept into a reality, even on a small scale, has been a bumpy road, but scientists are developing a novel way to store hydrogen to smooth out the long-awaited transition away from fossil fuels. Their report on a new solid, stable material that can pack in a large amount of hydrogen that can be used as a fuel appears in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials. Read more

    In France

    Zoo Breauval: elephant droppings heat gorillas - June 18

    The Zoo Parc de Beauval in Saint-Aignan-sur-Chair contributes to the happiness of our children since the early 80s through 4600 resident animals. It is home to two famous Chinese giant pandas, Huan Huan and Yuan Zi, presented to the public since 2012. Prime tourist hub in the central region, it was ranked among the 15 most beautiful zoos in the world by Forbes Traveler magazine. But it is an energy project that today puts this zoological park in front of the media scene: it is indeed the first French zoo to incorporate a biogas plant, which will give a second life to poop … of its residents. Read more (in French)


    Food Sciences

    In the US

    Processed red meat linked to higher risk of heart failure, death in men - June 12

    Men who regularly eat moderate amounts of processed red meat such as cold cuts (ham/salami) and sausage may have an increased risk of heart failure incidence and a greater risk of death from heart failure. Researchers recommend avoiding processed red meat and limiting the amount of unprocessed red meat to one to two servings a week or less. Read more

    White bread helps boost some of the gut’s ’good’ microbes - June 11

    White-bread lovers take heart. Scientists are now reporting that this much-maligned food seems to encourage the growth of some of our most helpful inhabitants — beneficial gut bacteria. In addition to this surprising find, a new study also revealed that when looking at effects of food on our ’microbiomes,’ considering the whole diet, not just individual ingredients, is critical. Read more

    Fermentation of cocoa beans requires precise collaboration among two bacteria, and yeast - June 10

    Good chocolate is among the world’s most beloved foods, which is why scientists are seeking to improve the product, and enhance the world’s pleasure. A team of researchers from Germany and Switzerland — the heartland of fine chocolate — have embarked upon a quest to better understand natural cocoa fermentation and have published findings ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Read more

    Grain legume crops sustainable, nutritious - June 9

    Popular diets across the world typically focus on the right balance of essential components like protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These items are called macronutrients, and we consume them in relatively large quantities. However, micronutrients often receive less attention. Micronutrients are chemicals, including vitamins and minerals, that our bodies require in very small quantities. Common mineral micronutrients include zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, copper, and selenium. Read more

    Are You Eating Enough ’Powerhouse’ Vegetables? - June 5

    Watercress, Chinese cabbage, chard and beet greens are among the most nutrient-dense "powerhouse" vegetables, packing a huge dose of vitamins and minerals into every calorie, a new study reports. At the same time, don’t expect to receive huge amounts of nutrition from raspberries, tangerines, garlic or onions, the findings suggest. National nutrition guidelines emphasize consumption of powerhouse fruits and vegetables, which are strongly associated with reduced risk of chronic disease. Read more

    In France

    Yeasts that reduce the alcohol content - June 10

    For the last twenty years, the alcohol content of wine has increased. Climate change and changes in winemaking techniques that promote riper grapes crops are responsible for that. However, this increase the alcohol content does not help producers: at high concentrations, ethanol can hide some aromatic molecules and alter the taste. In addition, demand is moving on to lighter wines, as many countries impose taxes on alcohol content. The INRA researchers and the company Lallemand have set a target to reduce the alcohol content. Read more (in French)

    Guest News

    Palmer amaranth threatens Midwest farm economy, researchers report - June 3

    An invasive weed that has put some southern cotton farmers out of business is now finding its way across the Midwest – and many corn and soybean growers don’t yet appreciate the threat, University of Illinois researchers report. Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri), a flowering plant native to the Sonoran desert and southwest United States, has a laundry list of traits that make it a fierce competitor on the farm, said Aaron Hager, a University of Illinois crop sciences professor. Read more

    Send us your ALFA news for July-August’s Newsletter here!

    Seen on the web

    You catch (and kill) more flies with this sweetener - June 4

    A popular non-nutritive sweetener may be an effective and human-safe insecticide, researchers have discovered through a study that began as a sixth-grade science fair project. Erythritol, the main component of the sweetener Truvia, was toxic to fruit flies in a dose-dependent manner in the study. Flies consumed erythritol when sugar was available and even seemed to prefer it. No other sweeteners tested had these toxic effects. Read more

    Structure of the month

    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).

    To strengthen the coordination of French actions and to foster synergy between research bodies, the public authorities created Agreenium in 2009, a consortium of research and higher education bodies, with the aim of facilitating access to research and higher education facilities in France. Its purpose is to promote the role of agronomic and veterinary research to meet the challenges of food security and sustainable development. Learn more

    Get in touch with ALFA science

    Website to see this month

    For the United States information read about June, the Dairy Month. learn about the dangerous scam that can be some pollen wieght lost products.

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

    For France information discover the small-scale physics of insects. listent to the French Minister of Agriculture talking about agro-ecology. learn abouy yhr "Organic spring" event which tool place on the 29th of May in Paris.

    Coming Events

    Ateliers d’été de l’agriculture urbaine et de la biodiversité Halle Pajol, Paris 18ème Paris, FR June30-July 3
    6th Annual International Food Nanoscience Conference Hilton Chicago Chicago, IL July 12-13
    12th International Conference on Precison Agriculture Hyatt Regency Sacramento, CA July 20-23
    The InfoAg Confrence Union Station Saint Louis, MO July 29-31
    5th International Symposium "Phosphorus in soils and plants" Le Corum Montpellier, France August 26-29


    Consulate General of France in Chicago - website:


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