Newsletter ALFA #7 - July/August 2014

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Dear Readers,

With the end of the summer approaching, new projects flourishes and become real. One of the most important nowadays between the USA and France is and will be collaborating in the field of climate change.

Building up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be hosted by France in December 2015, and to support this initiative, the Embassies of France in the US and in Canada are organizing the French-Ameri-Can Climate TalkS (FACTS) program. A lot of events will occur in major cities throughout the US and Canada. Stay tuned, more information to come.

Thus, in the highlights this month, a couple of researches’ results in the field of climate change and how it will impact agriculture in the USA and worldwide.

Also, as usual, main news from agricultural, low-carbon energies and food science researches from the past two months.

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

    Study: Climate change and air pollution will combine to curb food supplies - Jul. 27
    Many studies have shown the potential for global climate change to cut food supplies. But these studies have, for the most part, ignored the interactions between increasing temperature and air pollution — specifically ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops. A new study involving researchers at MIT shows that these interactions can be quite significant, suggesting that policymakers need to take both warming and air pollution into account in addressing food security. Read more

    Climate experts estimate risk of rapid crop slowdown - Jul. 25
    The world faces a small but substantially increased risk over the next two decades of a major slowdown in the growth of global crop yields because of climate change, new research finds. The authors, from Stanford University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, say the odds of a major production slowdown of wheat and corn, even with a warming climate, are not very high. But the risk is about 20 times more significant than it would be without global warming, and it may require planning by organizations that are affected by international food availability and price. Read more

    Helping growers mitigate costly droughts - Jun. 18
    The Agricultural Reference Index for Drought, or ARID, used more than 100 years of climate data to reasonably predict drought levels in crops on several farms in Florida and Georgia. Scientists say its implications are far wider. If growers know when their crops need the most water, they can plant accordingly, said one researcher. Read more


    In the US

    Vilsack: Farmers Urged to Support Sustainable Farming - Aug. 8

    Farmers at the Resilient Agriculture Conference Wednesday at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, were urged to take steps to increase the sustainability and resilience of their operations as a hedge against the increasing risks of variable and unpredictable weather. “It’s difficult to talk about climate change because it’s become so political, and that’s a shame,” said Fred Yoder, a corn and soybean farmer from Plain City, Ohio, and former National Corn Growers Association president. Read more

    Irrigation auditing/scheduling software migrates to ‘the cloud’ - Aug. 8

    A newly launched website will allow persons to audit an irrigation system completely from the field using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service engineer. “This is a major upgrade to the current software used for landscape irrigation auditing and producing of irrigation schedules,” said Dr. Guy Fipps, AgriLife Extension irrigation engineer, College Station. Read more

    Dynamics of microbes, nitrate revealed by study - Aug. 7

    Though we know that the environmental microbiome plays a key role in mediating the persistence of biologically usable nitrogen in the environment and that microbes can perform critically different chemistry in the process, the complexity of this environmental dynamic has prevented science from clearly defining the conditions steering microbial nitrogen mediation. A new set of controlled experiments using recently developed genomic technologies have provided conclusive evidence that three critical factors steer this hugely important environmental process. Read more

    Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants - Jul. 30

    Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size. Read more

    A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity.

    Canola offers benefits for wheat producers when included in rotation - Jun. 19

    Wheat producers looking for a rotational crop to help clean up weeds and boost yields might find answers with winter canola, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel. Dr. Paul DeLaune, AgriLife Research soil agronomist at Vernon, and Dr. Clark Neely, AgriLife Extension state small grains and oilseed specialist in College Station, discussed winter canola pros and cons at a recent field day near Chillicothe. Read more

    In France

    Survey: 2011 Agricultural Practices, Key Results - Jul. 2014

    The French Ministry of Agriculture has published a survey on agricultural practices of farmers in arable lands and grassland in 2011 (which follows those made in 1986, 1994, 2001 and 2006). It focuses on soft wheat, durum wheat, barley, triticale, maize (grain and fodder), rapeseed, sunflower, peas, industrial beet, potato, temporary meadows, intensive permanent pasture and sugarcane (Réunion, Guadeloupe). The questions asked in 2011 relate to the cultural interventions of the previous crop to harvest of the concerned crop: tillage, inputs of organic and mineral fertilizers, plant protection treatments. Read more, in French

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    Regulations needed to identify potentially invasive biofuel crops - Aug. 7

    If the hottest new plant grown as a biofuel crop is approved based solely on its greenhouse gas emission profile, its potential as the next invasive species may not be discovered until it’s too late. In response to this need to prevent such invasions, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed both a set of regulatory definitions and provisions and a list of 49 low-risk biofuel plants from which growers can choose. Read more

    Camelina used to build better biofuel - Aug. 4

    A biochemist is improving biofuels with a promising crop: Camelina sativa. The research may help boost rural economies and provide farmers with a value-added product. "Camelina could give farmers an extra biofuel crop that wouldn’t be competing with food production," one researcher said. "This research can add value to the local agricultural economy by creating an additional crop that could fit in with the crop rotation." Read more

    How sweet it is: Bioenergy advanced by new tool - Jul. 28

    Researchers have developed a powerful new tool that can help advance the genetic engineering of ’fuel’ crops for clean, green and renewable bioenergy — an assay that enables scientists to identify and characterize the function of nucleotide sugar transporters, critical components in the biosynthesis of plant cell walls. Read more

    Spinach could lead to alternative energy more powerful than Popeye - Jul. 23

    Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue University physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes. Read more

    The JBEI GT Collection: A new resource for advanced biofuels research - Jun. 23

    The JBEI GT Collection, the first glycosyltransferase clone collection specifically targeted for the study of plant cell wall biosynthesis, is expected to drive basic scientific understanding of GTs and better enable the manipulation of cell walls for the production of biofuels and other chemical products. Read more

    In France

    A biofuel research project of 180 million € on the site of the former Flanders refinery - Jul. 25

    Former Flanders refinery will become the scene of one of the most important research projects in France: 180 million € invested to develop a second-generation biofuel. Total is involved in the project. Its CEO, Patrick Pouyanné, head of the refinery and chemical company explains. Exclusive interview. See more (video in French)


    Food Sciences

    In the US

    Rosemary, oregano contain diabetes-fighting compounds - Jul. 24

    The popular culinary herbs oregano and rosemary are packed with healthful compounds, and now lab tests show they could work in much the same way as prescription anti-diabetic medication, scientists report. In their new study, researchers found that how the herbs are grown makes a difference, and they also identified which compounds contribute the most to this promising trait. Read more

    The microbes make the sake brewery - Jul. 24

    A sake brewery has its own microbial terroir, meaning the microbial populations found on surfaces in the facility resemble those found in the product, creating the final flavor according to research published ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. This is the first time investigators have taken a microbial census of a sake brewery. Many sake makers inoculate with both bacteria and yeast, says corresponding author David A. Mills of the University of California, Davis, but he and his colleagues investigated a sake brewery where inoculation is restricted to a single species, Aspergillus oryzae, at the first of three stages of fermentation. Read more

    Farmers market vouchers may boost produce consumption in low-income families - Jul. 24

    Vouchers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets increase the amount of produce in the diets of some families on food assistance, according to research led by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. The study, which appears online in Food Policy, suggests that farmers market vouchers can be useful tools in improving access to healthy food. This finding validates a new program created by the Agricultural Act of 2014, or farm bill, that incentivizes low-income families to buy produce at farmers markets. Read more

    Freezing blueberries improves antioxidant availability - Jul. 22

    Blueberries pack a powerful antioxidant punch, whether eaten fresh or from the freezer, according to a researcher. Anthocyanins, a group of antioxidant compounds, are responsible for the color in blueberries, and since most of the color is in the skin, freezing the blueberries actually improves the availability of the antioxidants. Read more

    AgriLife Research putting designer potatoes on the menu to boost consumption - Jul. 20

    A decline in overall potato consumption has Texas A&M AgriLife Research breeders working on “designer” spuds that meet the time constraints and unique tastes of a younger generation. Dr. Creighton Miller, AgriLife Research potato breeder from College Station, recently conducted the Texas A&M Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program field day at the farm of cooperator Bruce Barrett south of Springlake. Read more

    In France

    The role of dairy in maintaining adult bone and skeletal muscle health - Jul. 28

    Understanding that diets are often built around food groups rather than specific nutrients, researchers from Switzerland, France, and North America decided to examine interactions between four nutrients found in dairy products and their role in preserving bone and skeletal muscle. Their Open Access article with these findings, "Dairy in Adulthood: From Foods to Nutrient Interactions on Bone and Skeletal Muscle Health," is now available in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the Official Publication of the American College of Nutrition and a publication from Routledge. Read more

    Guest News

    Iowa State engineers turn LEGO bricks into a scientific tool to study plant growth - Jun. 26

    Ludovico Cademartiri had what seemed like an impossibly demanding list of requirements for his lab equipment. The Iowa State University assistant professor of materials science and engineering wants to understand environmental effects on plant growth, specifically how variations in climate and soil characteristics affect root growth. That requires highly controlled environments that expose whole plants to environmental effects such as nutrients, water, oxygen gradients as well as physical obstacles for the roots. Read more

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

    Seen on the web

    The Hidden Dangers of Lead in Urban Gardens - Jul. 28

    When Ryan Kuck’s young twins both tested positive for elevated lead levels in their blood he was worried — but not surprised. A longtime urban gardener in Philadelphia, Kuck regularly encounters problems caused by the rampant lead contamination of his city’s soil. But this time, as a parent, it was different. Read more

    Structure of the month

    CIRAD (French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development) is a French research centre working with developing countries to tackle international agricultural and development issues. CIRAD is a public industrial and commercial enterprise (EPIC) under the joint authority of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. CIRAD works with the whole range of developing countries to generate and pass on new knowledge, support agricultural development and fuel the debate on the main global issues concerning agriculture.As a targeted research organization, CIRAD bases its operations on development needs, from field to laboratory and from a local to a global scale. CIRAD’s activities involve the life sciences, social sciences and engineering sciences, applied to agriculture, food and rural territories.

    Get in touch with ALFA science

    Website to see this month

    For the United States information Discover a new road to fuel savings. Read about the chilhood overweight and obesity epidemic. What you need to know about a legume called Lupin and the allergic reactions associated.

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

    For France information Discover the first evidence of link between food intolerance and Bisphenol A. Read about the new survey that could lead to change French habits about leftovers in restaurant. Learn about the French know-how in the field of sustainable cities.

    Coming Events

    East Texas Regional Forage Conference Rusk County Youth Expo Cente Henderson, TX August 28, 2014
    2014 Biofuels Financial Conference Embassy Suites Bloomington MN August 27-28, 2014
    11th Annual Meeting of the International Water Resource Economics Consortium (IWREC) World Bank Headquarters Washington, DC Septembere 7-9, 2014
    ICABBBE 2014 : International Conference on Agricultural, Biotechnology, Biological and Biosystems Engineering Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles, CA September 29-30, 2014
    2014 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Environment and Agriculture Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Mission Valley/Hotel Circle San Diego, CA October 29-30, 2014


    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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