Newsletter ALFA #9 - October 2014

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Dear Readers,

First of all, thank you for your interest in the conference we organized last week, in the framework of French-AmeriCan Climate Talks (FACTS). The discussions held were of an extraordinary quality and we hope that this exchange will lead to others, building to the Paris Conference on Climat in December 2015. For those who were not able to attend, the conference can be seen here.

In the highlights this month, two calls for proposal in the French-American research world:
- French American Doctoral Exchange Program (FADEx) 2015 : Advanced architectures for solar cells: materials optimization, performances improvement and aging analysis

- ATIP-AVENIR Program 2015

Also, as usual, you will find the latest news about research in the ALFA fields.
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

    French American Doctoral Exchange Program (FADEx) 2015 : Advanced architectures for solar cells: materials optimization, performances improvement and aging analysis - Deadline 10/9/2014
    The FADEx 2015 scientific topic is “advanced architectures for solar cells: materials optimization, performance improvement and aging analysis.” The Franco-American seminar will take place at Le Bourget-du-Lac in partnership with the National Institute for Solar Energy (Institut National de l’Énergie Solaire or INES) from Monday, March 23rd till Friday, March 27th. Following the 2-day seminar, the US Laureates will visit several laboratories or research institutions including INES, MINATEC, Photovoltaic Institute of Paris Region (Institut Photovoltaïque d’Île-de-France or IPVF). Learn more

    ATIP-AVENIR Program 2015 - Deadline 10/27/2014
    Under a partnership between Inserm and CNRS, a call for proposals is launched aimed at:
    - Enabling young scientists to create and lead a team within an established Inserm or CNRS laboratory in France. The ATIP - Avenir teams will strengthen the research of the host units but will develop independently their own scientific project.
    - Promoting mobility and attracting young team leaders of high-level working abroad.
    The ATIP - Avenir grant is allocated for a period of 3 years. After evaluation, it can be extended for an additional 2 years. It is open to any young scientists, whatever their present position and nationality, who have defended their PhD (or equivalent doctoral degree) within the last 10 years (after September 15, 2004). Learn more



    In the US

    Wild tomato species focus of antioxidant study - Oct. 9

    Tomatoes are known to be rich in antioxidants such as vitamin C, lycopene, β-carotene, and phenolics. Antioxidants, substances capable of delaying or inhibiting oxidation processes caused by free radicals, are of interest to consumers for their health-related contributions, and to plant breeders for their ability to provide plants with natural resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. While tomato domestication and breeding programs have typically focused on traits such as fruit weight, color, shape, and disease resistance, scientists are now looking at ways to develop tomato cultivars that boast higher antioxidant traits. Read more

    No sign of health or nutrition problems from GMO livestock feed, study finds - Sept. 26

    A new review study finds there is no evidence in earlier scientific studies indicating that genetically engineered feed crops harmed the health or productivity of livestock and poultry, and that food products from animals consuming such feeds were nutritionally the same as products from animals that ate non-GMO feeds. Read more

    Sugars in the cornfield: Plants use defenses against pests, but they don’t always work - Sept. 25

    Grasses and crops such as maize attach sugars to chemical defenses called benzoxazinoids to protect themselves from being poisoned by their own protective agents. Then, when an insect starts feeding, a plant enzyme removes the sugar to deploy the active toxin. Scientists have now discovered why this defensive strategy fails to work against Spodoptera larvae. Armyworms deactivate the maize chemical defense by reattaching the sugar in the opposite configuration. Read more

    Goats better than chemicals for curbing invasive marsh grass - Sept. 25

    Herbivores, not herbicides, may be the most effective way to combat the spread of one of the most invasive plants now threatening East Coast salt marshes, a new Duke University-led study finds. Phragmites australis, or the common reed, is a rapid colonizer that has overrun many coastal wetlands from New England to the Southeast. A non-native perennial, it can form dense stands of grass up to 10 feet high that block valuable shoreline views of the water, kill off native grasses, and alter marsh function. Read more

    Study: Biochar alters water flow to improve sand and clay - Sept. 24

    As more gardeners and farmers add ground charcoal, or biochar, to soil to both boost crop yields and counter global climate change, a new study by researchers at Rice University and Colorado College could help settle the debate about one of biochar’s biggest benefits — the seemingly contradictory ability to make clay soils drain faster and sandy soils drain slower. The study, available online this week in the journal PLOS ONE, offers the first detailed explanation for the hydrological mystery. Read more

    In France

    Use of fertilizing residual materials in agriculture and forestry - Sept. 10

    Livestock effluents, sewage sludge, urban organic waste and industrial effluents - qualified as residual-origin fertilizing materials (referred to here as Mafor, for matières fertilisantes d’origine résiduaire) - constitute sources of fertilizing elements and organic materials that can fertilize or improve agricultural or forest soils. The expert report reviewed the agronomic, environmental and socio-economic impacts of spreading these materials on soils. Read more

    Low-carbon energies

    In the US

    New discovery will enhance yield and quality of cereal and bioenergy crops - Oct. 13

    A team of scientists led by Thomas Brutnell, Ph.D., director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have developed a new way of identifying genes that are important for photosynthesis in maize, and in rice. Their research helps to prioritize candidate genes that can be used for crop improvement and revealed new pathways and information about how plants fix carbon. Read more

    Balancing birds and biofuels: Grasslands support more species than cornfields - Oct. 9

    Scientists have examined whether corn and perennial grassland fields in southern Wisconsin could provide both biomass for bioenergy production and bountiful bird habitat. The research team found that grassland fields supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields, and new findings indicate grassland fields may represent an acceptable tradeoff between creating biomass for bioenergy and providing habitat for grassland birds. Read more

    Thermotolerant yeast will change the face of biofuel production - Oct. 3

    Researchers looking to improve processes for "brewing up" a batch of biofuel say they’re developing a new ingredient to help them; a more heat-tolerant strain of yeast. Yeast is essential for producing ethanol fuel through fermentation — brewers have been depending on the process for millennia — but the heat created during the process, and even the resulting ethanol, can be damaging or even deadly to the yeast. Read more

    Researchers put Home-brewed Diesel Biofuel to the Test - Oct. 2

    A homemade biofuel used by Colorado farmers to power their trucks and tractors performs similarly to conventional biodiesel and petroleum diesel, according to new studies by Colorado State University researchers. The fuel, which is made by mixing unleaded gasoline and oil crushed from oilseed crops, showed only a slight decrease in power when tested on a 2007 John Deere tractor engine at CSU’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory in Fort Collins. Read more

    Researchers uncover structure of enzyme that makes plant cellulose - Sept. 25

    Purdue researchers have discovered the structure of the enzyme that makes cellulose, a finding that could lead to easier ways of breaking down plant materials to make biofuels and other products and materials. The research also provides the most detailed glimpse to date of the complicated process by which cellulose - the foundation of the plant cell wall and the most abundant organic compound on the planet - is produced. Read more

    In France

    Green chemistry is investing in second and third generation of biofuels - Sept. 24

    Currently, worldwide, only five units producing second-generation bioethanol but public research institute IFP New Energy is committed to investing in this way forward with the project Futurol. The goal of plant chemistry or chemistry biosourced is to transform biomass into chemicals, such as bioplastics, integrate biomass in existing supply chains or create new supply chains such as biofuels. Read more (in French)

    Food Sciences

    In the US

    Lose the weight, not the potatoes - Oct. 13

    Research published this week in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition demonstrates that people can eat potatoes and still lose weight. The study, a collaborative effort between the University of California at Davis and the Illinois Institute of Technology, sought to gain a better understanding of the role of calorie reduction and the glycemic index in weight loss when potatoes are included in the diet. Read more

    Deconstruction of avant-garde cuisine could lead to even more fanciful dishes - Sept. 29

    One of the most iconic forms of avant-garde cuisine, also known as molecular gastronomy, involves the presentation of flavorful, edible liquids — like cocktails or olive oil — packaged into spheres. Now a team of scientists, in collaboration with world-renowned chef Ferran Adriá, is getting to the bottom of what makes these delectable morsels possible. Their findings appear in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry B. Christophe Chipot, Wensheng Cai and colleagues explain that the technique of "spherification" was invented 70 years ago but was popularized in avant-garde cuisine more recently by Adriá. Read more

    New way to detox? ’Gold of Pleasure’ oilseed boosts liver detoxification enzymes - Sept. 29

    University of Illinois scientists have found compounds that boost liver detoxification enzymes nearly fivefold, and they’ve found them in a pretty unlikely place—the crushed seeds left after oil extraction from an oilseed crop used in jet fuel. "The bioactive compounds in Camelina sativa seed, also known as Gold of Pleasure, are a mixture of phytochemicals that work together synergistically far better than they do alone. The seed meal is a promising nutritional supplement because its bioactive ingredients increase the liver’s ability to clear foreign chemicals and oxidative products. And that gives it potential anti-cancer benefit," said Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of nutritional toxicology. Read more

    An apple a day could keep obesity away - Sept. 29

    Scientists at Washington State University have concluded that nondigestible compounds in apples – specifically, Granny Smith apples – may help prevent disorders associated with obesity. The study, thought to be the first to assess these compounds in apple cultivars grown in the Pacific Northwest, appears in October’s print edition of the journal Food Chemistry. "We know that, in general, apples are a good source of these nondigestible compounds but there are differences in varieties," said food scientist Giuliana Noratto, the study’s lead researcher. Read more

    Quest continues for peanut that won’t cause allergic reaction - Sept. 29

    A food scientist has removed 80 percent of allergens from whole peanuts, moving him a step closer to eliminating 99.9 percent of peanut allergens. For the study, researchers used a pulsating light system to direct concentrated bursts of light to modify the peanut allergenic proteins. That way, they say, human antibodies can’t recognize them as allergens and begin to release histamines. Read more

    Chefs move to schools can increase school meal participation and vegetable intake among students - Sept. 29

    Gourmet pizza in school? According to a new Food and Brand Lab pilot study, published in Appetite, chef-made meals can increase participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) by 9% and overall selection and consumption of vegetables by 16%! Chefs Move to Schools (CMTS), an initiative of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, pairs chefs with schools in order to provide nutrition instruction to students and culinary advice to interested school food service workers. Read more

    In France

    It’s the Taste Week in France! But, what is the Taste Week? It’s a week long serie of events organized by the food sector, aiming to: improve taste education of consumers, including children; promote the diversity of tastes and flavors; share transparent and educational information about products, their origin, their production and their characteristics; ensure the transmission of work knowledge and skills of gastronomy and food processing; educate about the pleasure of taste; and encourage food behavior and consumption as part of a balanced and sustainable way of life. Learn more (in French)

    Guest News

    New leafhopper species named after University of Illinois entomologist - Oct. 9

    Three new species of leafhoppers from China in the genus Futasujinus were recently identified during a review of leafhoppers in museum collections in China, the UK, and Illinois. One of them, Futasujinus dietrichi, was ’named after Dr. Chris Dietrich, University of Illinois, USA, in recognition of his good work on leafhoppers.’ Read more

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

    Seen on the web

    Pawpaw: The Trendiest Fruit You’ve Never Heard Of - Sept. 25

    This September in rural Southeast Ohio, thousands of people gathered for the 16th Annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival. It was three days of music, camping, presentations and drinking, all dedicated to the United States’ largest edible native fruit you’ve never heard of: the pawpaw. Read mroe

    Structure of the month

    IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) is a public-sector research and training center. It has an international scope, covering the fields of energy, transport and the environment. From research to industry, technological innovation is central to all its activities.
    As part of the publicinterest mission with which it has been tasked by the public authorities, IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) focuses on:

    1. providing solutions to take up the challenges facing society in terms of energy and the climate, promoting the emergence of a sustainable energy mix;
    2. creating wealth and jobs by supporting French and European economic activity, and the competitiveness of related industrial sectors.
      Learn more

    Get in touch with ALFA science

    Website to see this month

    For the United States information

    Federal agencies

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

    For France information

    Research centers

    Information centers : :

    Coming Events

    Agriculture Future of America Leaders Conference Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center Kansas City, Mo. November 6-9, 2014
    Re-Imagine Agriculture Hilton Vancouver, Wa. November 7 – 9, 2014
    29th Annual CFSA Sustainable Agriculture Conference Hyatt Regency Greenville Greenville, SC November 10-12, 2014
    2014 Biodynamic Conference Hyatt Regency Louisville, Ky. November 13-16, 2014
    Aquaponic fish, vegetable production workshop Carden-Waller Extension Building Prairie View A&M University November 20, 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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