Group Title: Agricultural research (Washington, D.C.)
Title: Agricultural research
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Title: Agricultural research
Uniform Title: Agricultural research (Washington, D.C.)
Physical Description: v. : ill. ; 25-28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: United States -- Science and Education Administration
United States -- Agricultural Research Administration
United States -- Agricultural Research Service
Publisher: Science and Education Administration, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture :
Science and Education Administration, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture :
Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O., distributor
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: April 1999
Frequency: monthly[1989-]
bimonthly[ former jan./feb.-may/june 1953]
monthly[ former july 1953-198]
Subject: Agriculture -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Research -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Periodicals -- United States   ( lcsh )
Agriculture -- Research -- Periodicals -- United States   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Began with vol. 1, no. 1 (Jan. 1953).
Issuing Body: Vols. for Jan./Feb.-Nov. 1953 issued by: Agricultural Research Administration; Dec. 1953-<Sept. 1976> by: Agricultural Research Service; <June 1979>-June 1981 by: the Science and Education Administration; July 1981- by: the Agricultural Research Service.
General Note: Description based on: Vol. 27, no. 7 (Jan. 1979).
General Note: Latest issue consulted: Vol. 46, no. 8 (Aug. 1998).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00074949
Volume ID: VID00026
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: ltuf - ABP6986
oclc - 01478561
alephbibnum - 000271150
lccn - agr53000137
issn - 0002-161X

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U.S. National

Revives Historic

It's a big month for us at the U.S.
National Arboretum here in Washington,
D.C. We have a special gift for the hun-
dreds of thousands of visitors who come
to the nation's capital each spring-a gift
that marries the science of botany with
the art of historic preservation.
Our gift is 500 Yoshino cherry trees.
But these are by no means ordinary cher-
ry trees. These are trees propagated from
original lines that Tokyo mayor Yukio
Ozaki gave to the United States in 1912.
U.S. National Park Service gardeners
have given their all to preserve these
"witness trees." But at 87, they've already
lived twice as long as the average life-
span of their species, and propagation is
the only means of ensuring their further
It's not the first time the U.S. National
Arboretum has helped preserve the 1912
Yoshinos. As you read this month's Ag-
ricultural Research, you'll learn that
dedicated scientists have worked to im-
prove and preserve these ornamental
trees-which draw 600,000 tourists to the
Washington, D.C., area every springtime.
And our work isn't just to benefit the
trees around the Tidal Basin. We contin-
ue to develop ornamental hybrids from a
host of species for public parks and pri-
vate landscaping. These new varieties are
more resistant to diseases and pests and
are more likely to survive environmental
insults, like flooding.
Former arboretum director John L.
Creech did a lot of seeding research on
modern cherries from Japan. His Prunus
incisa cherry selections Snow Cloud and
Fair Elaine were from the arboretum's
cherry germplasmpool. They arejust now
being evaluated by nurseries. Of the ar-
boretum's cherry program, Creech once
observed, "The U.S. National Arboretum

is the only major arboretum that has both
the mandate and the resources to conduct
this type of research."
Which prompts the question: Why
does the U.S. Department of Agriculture
spend $7.3 million each year on horticul-
tural and landscaping research?
Consider these facts from USDA's
Economic Research Service and the U.S.
Department of Commerce Bureau of the
Floriculture and horticulture indus-
tries are increasing by $500 million an-
nually in grower cash receipts, making
this the fastest growing segment of U.S.
According to the most recent statis-
tics, the average nursery or greenhouse
farmer can expect an annual return of
$53,589-more than from any other com-
modity. A cotton farmer, the runner-up,
nets about $42,396.
In terms of 1990 employment, flo-
riculture and horticulture industries were
the second leading employer in U.S. pro-
duction agriculture, right behind beef.
The United States continues to be a
net importer of greenhouse and nursery
products. But the projected total dollar
value of our 1998 exports of these prod-
ucts is estimated at $265 million, an in-


Much ofARS research is
focused on feeding the hu-
man body. Ornamental re-
search is unique in that it
feeds the human soul.

crease of about 5 percent from 1997.
Currently, we import about $1.1 billion
worth. Increasing domestic production
would help offset the trade deficit.
In addition, environmental horticul-
ture ranks among the top five agricultur-
al commodities in 28 states. It offers
communities a chance for rural develop-
ment and gives farmers a way to diversi-
fy their crops for enhanced profits.
ARS has made significant contribu-
tions to floral and nursery research while
spending less than 1 percent of the agen-
cy's budget on environmental horticul-
ture. This includes the gardens at the U.S.
National Arboretum that bring so much
pleasure to Washington's residents and
visitors alike.
Only 0.6 percent, or $4.2 million, of
ARS' budget is spent directly on floral
and nursery research. For that modest
investment, the agency is getting world-
class scientific work in the areas of bio-
logical pest control, disease prevention,
and development of new floral hybrids.
But there's something just as impor-
tant going on here. As one of our research-
ers likes to tell his graduate students and
technicians, "Much of ARS research is
focused on feeding the human body, but
ornamental research is unique in that it
feeds the human soul." That's an impor-
tant point.
Why are so many people passionate
about the Yoshino cherry trees? Why do
employees of the National Park Service
give so much effort and care to them and
to other historic trees-like the stately
sycamore that stood during the Battle of
Antietam? The fact is, there's something
valuable in these trees that all the money
in the world can't replace.
Flowers and trees help make life worth-
while. And if we can spend millions to
preserve classic works of art, surely we
can say that an investment in nature's
masterpieces is equally important.

Thomas S. Elias
Director, U.S. National Arboretum
Washington, D.C.

Agricultural Research/April 1999

April 1999
Vol. 47, No. 4
ISSN 0002-161X

Agricultural Research is published monthly by
the Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Depart-
ment of Agriculture (USDA). The Secretary of
Agriculture has determined that this periodical is
necessary in the transaction of public business
required by law.
Dan Glickman, Secretary
U.S. Department of Agriculture
I. Miley Gonzalez, Under Secretary
Research, Education, and Economics
Floyd P. Horn, Administrator
Agricultural Research Service
Sandy Miller Hays, Director
Information Staff

Editor: Lloyd McLaughlin
Assoc. Editor: Linda McElreath
Art Director: William Johnson
Photo Editor: Anita Daniels
Staff Photographer: Scott Bauer

(301) 504-1651
(301) 504-1658
(301) 504-1659
(301) 504-1609
(301) 504-1607

Information in this magazine is public property
and may be reprinted without permission. Non-
copyrighted photos are available to mass media
as color transparencies. Order by photo number
and date of magazine issue.
Agricultural Research magazine articles and pho-
tographs are posted on the World Wide Web month-
ly at
Subscription requests should be placed with New
Orders, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box
371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. See back
cover for ordering information.
Complimentary 1-year subscriptions are available
to public libraries, schools, USDA employees,
and the news media. Send requests or comments
to: Editor, Agricultural Research, 5601 Sunny-
side Ave., Beltsville, MD 20705-5130. E-mail
This magazine may report research involving pes-
ticides. It does not contain recommendations for
their use, nor does it imply that uses discussed
herein have been registered. All uses of pesticides
must be registered by appropriate state and/or
federal agencies before they can be recommended.
Reference to any commercial product or service
is made with the understanding that no discrimi-
nation is intended and no endorsement by USDA
is implied.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture prohibits
discrimination in all its programs and activities
on the basis of race, color, national origin,
gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs,
sexual orientation, and marital or family status.
(Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)
Persons with disabilities who require alternative
means for communication of program informa-
tion (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should
contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-
2600 (voice and TDD).
To file a complaint of discrimination, write:
USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room
326-W, Whitten Bldg., 14th & Independence
Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or
call (202) 720-5964 (TDD). USDA is an equal
opportunity provider and employer.

Agricultural Research

Cherry Blossoms-Restoring a National Treasure 4

Three New Peaches on the Way 9

TOPAZ Is a Topographic Gem 9

Gene Vectors-Agents of Transformation 10

Sound, Infrared Detect Microbes in Grain 12

Peanuts To Be Reckoned With 13

New Technique Could Boost Taxol Production 13

Dieters May Lose Bone Density 14

Beneficial Wasps Get ID Tags 14

What's New? HiMag Fescue 15

TAIUIA-Corn Rootworms Just Can't Get Enough 16

Alfalfa Cleans Up Fertilizer Spill 18

A Store-Bought Tomato With Vine-RipenedTaste! 19

Microbes Produce Sap Beetle Attractants 20

Gypsy Moth War's Battle of the Burlap 22

Science Update 23

Cover: Resplendent cherry trees from Japan ring the Tidal Basin at Washington,
D.C. Photo by Scott Bauer. (K5876-11)

In the next issue!

(a One of the world's biggest malnutrition problems-a shortage of
trace elements and vitamins in the diets of billions-may be solved by
harnessing the power of plant breeding.

- Quicker, better analytical techniques will soon help processors
ensure top-quality pickles and wine.

- A patented sex-selection method is taking more of the guesswork
out of animal reproduction.

Agricultural Research/April 1999

verve year, nearly 600,000
tourists come to see the cherry blossoms
in Washington, D.C. They bring money
to the local economy and take home pho-
tographs and memories of the beautiful
Future visitors will have the U.S. Na-
tional Arboretum in Washington to thank
for a special gift-500 cherry trees prop-
Agated from the Yoshino trees presented
/ by Japan to First Ladx Helen Herron Taft
.' .in 1912.
Over the-past 2 yearsa-iNtaorum hor-
..._ ticulturist Rubl.:Di- as ifll Gwafle.,

taken from the original Yoshinos. Those
\ere gi\en as a thank-you to President
William Howard Taft for his support of
Japan during the 1905 Russo-Japanese
War. when he \ as U.S. Secretary of War.
Trees don't li\e fore\ er. and Yoshino
cherry tree's average 40 )ears. The sur-
viving trees from the 1912 gift that sur-
round Washington's Tidal Basin "ill be
87 years old \hen their blossoms open
this spring Not unexpectedl\ it's esti-
mated that only 125 boutot 4 percent,
.o the original It ,s ;f:.

Arboretum botanist Roland NI. Jefferson
and other botanists and landscape
architects as saying something should be
done to preser e the original cherries. In
the 1980s. Jefferson devoted the last \ cars
of his career tocollecting. e\ aluating. and
preserving flowering cherry germplasim.
in collaboration with the arboretum',
shrub-breeding research program headed
by the late Donald R. Egolf.
"\We really didn't ha\e a program to
propagate replacements from the ongi-
nal trees. W just maintained the popula-
tion from commercial nurseries.'" 4.j s
Robert DeFeo. the National Park Ser-


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\ ice's chief horticulturist for the Nation-
al Capital Region. In the 1930s. William
Clarke of the\ .B. Clarke NurserN in San
Jose. California. ga'e a seedling selec-
tion of Yoshino called Akebono i mean-
ing daybreak) for planting around the
Tidal Basin. Those trees ha% e pink flo\w -
DeFeo a s\ the Park Ser\ ice keeps the
Tidal Basin covered in springtime pinks
and hite through its "Blossoms for Our
Future" program. w which recei es contri-
butions-often gi\en as memorials-to
replace d\ ing trees \ ith American nurs-
er\ stock. But he sa, the National Park

Ser\ ice understands w hp people get pas-
sionate about historic trees.
"There is a movement in the United
States to present e so-called w witness trees."
sa's DeFeo. "The sycamore that stood
during the Battle of Antietam is another
example Employees \ ith the National
Park Ser ice see that sycamore or the
Yoshino cherries as giving living testi-
monx. and the\ treat the trees like chil-
dren." he says.
When the Post article came out. arbo-
retum director Thomas S. Elias and Na-
tional Park Ser\ ice officials decided to
ensure the surn ival of the remaining orig-

final cherry lines. "Tom Elias was great." -
DeFeo recalls. "He called me up and said,
"Just let us know what we can do."'
Elius put DeFco in touch with Marga $.
ret R. Pooler, a geneticist in the arbore--
tun's Floral and Nursery Plants Research
Unit. Pooler and DeFeo decided they _
should start taking cuttings right after
chern blossom time.
Complications pushed back the date-".
to June 20-close to the end of the opt .
mal time for cuttings. But Pooler knew
that if the cherry trees could be propagat-
ed. Ruth Dix could do the job. Dix had
already successfully propagated cherry

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trees at the U.S. Naval Observatory that
were part of the original 1912 gift.
It had taken two attempts to bring the
cherry trees to Washington in 1912. The
first shipment was diseased and had to be
destroyed. The second contained 3,020
trees-mainly Yoshino and some later
blooming Prunus serrulata-far more
than the Tidal Basin could accommodate.
"The trees were too crowded, so they
replanted some at other Washington land-
marks, such as the Supreme Court, U.S.
Naval Observatory, and Library of Con-
gress," says DeFeo, who used to work
with Jefferson at the arboretum. "The li-
brary didn't even know what they had
until Roland found the records and told
Those little-known plantings provid-
ed researchers a means of differentiating
original trees from later replacements
around the Tidal Basin and were an in-
valuable second source of original mate-
rial for propagation.
"We couldn't be too choosy," says Dix
of her time gathering cuttings at the Tidal

The Cherries' Champion

Botanist Roland M. Jefferson has al-
ways loved Japanese flowering cherry
trees. And he's shared his passion with
the world-from the Adachi Wardof To-
kyo to the Tidal Basin in Washington,
D.C. It was at the Tidal Basin that Jeffer-
son fell in love with the historic 1912
Yoshinos, as an 11 -year-old on a fairly
outing in 1935.
After serving in World War II, Jeffer-
son earned a degree in botany in'1950
from Washington's Howard University.
"I'd been accepted in dental school, but
I never answered," he says. "I knew I.
wanted to work in botany, so I accepted
a job at the U.S. National Arboretum."
Even with his degree, the only job he

SCOTT BAUER (K8387-10)

Horticulturist Ruth Dix (left) and
geneticist Margaret Pooler check the
progress of 2-year-old trees propagated
from the historic Yoshino cherries given
to the United States by Japan in 1912.

Scould:get withte arboretum in 1956was
.*. l beling plants. And't4hough he-was pro-
Smoted to botanist a year later, it wasn't
until 1972 that he began cherry tree re-
: search.
"I felt lucky that no one was doing
anything on the history of the cherry
trees," he says. "I wentL to the National
Park Service, the National Archives, and
other libraries, assembling thousands of
records that I put together into.a history."
The Japanese Flowering Cherrm Trees
"of W.ashingion D.C.:'A Living Symbolof
Friendship. caught the attention of
Tadashi Furusho, who was then mayor
of the Adachi Ward section of Tokyo-
the very place \ here: he Japanese ob-
tained cherry trees to give to the United
.States 87 years ago. .

Basin. "For any living thing, renewal and
regeneration get harder as it ages-and
these trees had already lived twice their
normal lifespan."

Willing and Able Support
Cost was a significant factor in the
propagation effort, which included fin-
gerprinting of DNA by Pooler to help
confirm the trees' identity.
The project was financed in part by
the J. Frank Schmidt Family Charitable
Trust established by J. Frank Schmidt
& Son Co., a wholesale grower of shade,
flowering, and ornamental trees in
"The cherry trees in Washington, D.C.,
are a national treasure," says Jan Schmidt
Barkley, who chairs this trust that sup-
ports horticultural research and educa-
tion across the country. "The nursery
industry and the public have benefited
from the U.S. National Arboretum's
work. We have been happy to give back
by underwriting the propagation effort."
The nursery is also testing new cherry

In 1980, the mayor sent a three-mem-
ber team to visit the director of.the arbo-
retum, John L. Creech. They wanted to
meetJefferson..Theyhad in mind a friend-
ship park that would be filled %\ ith cherry
But Yoshinos had become rare because
of World War H damage and subsequent
development. The National Park Service
had provided some cuttings to the Ada-
chi Ward earlier, but more were needed,
Jefferson already had a solution.
"As part of my studies, each year I
recorded the blooming dates of Potomac
Park cherries," says Jefferson. "Over
time, I could see the original trees were
aging and dying. So I got permission to
take cuttings, and I propagated over 100
trees between 1976 and 1979."

Agricultural Research/April 1999

tree hybrids developed by Pooler and her
predecessor, Egolf.
"It is exciting to us that Dr. Pooler is
working on cherry breeding; it's very
important to the nursery trade," says J.
Frank Schmidt's horticultural expert,

One of those trees \as presented to
Japanese ambassador Yoshio Ogaw\ ara
in 1981 by First Lady Nancy Reagan. It
% as named the President Reagan cherry
tree bN Go\. Shuncl-u Suzuki of Tokyo.
Mah or Furusho then in\ ited Jefferson to
come to Japan to see the Toneri Park
grounds \%here the Reagan cherrN and
1.200 cuttings that Jefferson had helped
take would be planted.
"The Reagan cherry is doing well,"
says Kiyoshi Hashimoto, who tends the
tree. "'lan. people come to see it bloom
e\ er spring."
Before retiring in 1987. Jefferson
made several trips to Japan. collecting
more than a half million seed, between
1982 and 1986. His efforts have brought
genetic diversity to American cherry

Keith Warren. "We are evaluating sever-
al of her new cherry cultivars here in
Oregon. We feel her work has great po-
Cherry trees have a beauty and com-
pact size many urban gardeners like, but

trees-a protection against future dis-
eases, pests, and flooding. He has also
found blossoms of spectacular beauty.
Jefferson continues to help save the
Potomac Park cherry trees in Washing-
ton. And last April, Adachi Ward mem-
bers brought him back to Toneri Park.
% here the trees are no\ taller than he is.-
By Jill Lee, ARS.
Roland M. Jefferson is retired from
the I '.S. Natlonal.lwrhor'Ctot and curlt nt-
ly lives in Seattle. iashington. He re-
ceintli donated his Instoric research
papers and leiners to the arboretum 's li-
brary. For more about the majestic Yloshi-
nos. contact the arboretumn at (202J

they are vulnerable to insects, diseases,
and flooding, Warren says. "That's why
Pooler's work to toughen these trees up
is so valuable." Stronger cherries would
require less fertilizer and pesticides.
Warren says that woody ornamentals
are important not only to his company,
but also to the economic well-being of
his entire state.
"Nursery crops are the number-one
moneymaker in the state of Oregon," he
says. "Last year, in terms of dollars
earned, they brought in more than barley,
wheat, or cattle."
This kind of research will become even
more important with the growing envi-
ronmental horticulture industry-which
includes trees, bulbs, and other outdoor
landscaping plants. It has mushroomed
from $4.6 billion in 1986 to $6.9 billion
in 1997.
But while Pooler's efforts may focus
on new ornamental cherry hybrids, she is
also exploring the genetic value of the
1912 trees. The ones still living may be
extremely well-suited to city life-anoth-

Mayor Tadashi Furusho of the Adachi
Ward section of TokLo invited former U.S.
National Arboretum botanist Roland
Jefferson to Japan to tour the park where
1,200 Yoshino cherr) cuttings Jefferson had
helped lake would be planted.

Agricultural Research/April 1999

er potentially marketable trait.
"Cherries are small trees and undeni-
ably beautiful. As landscapes become
smaller they're going to be more in de-
mand," says Warren.

At the Root of Good Cuttings
Most people think of taking cuttings
as simply breaking off plant stems and
placing them in water. Saving antique
cherry trees, however, requires a lot more
care. Dix brought years of experience to
the task.
"You look for the most juvenile new
growth," she explains. "Many people
think the top of a tree is the best place for
cuttings, but that's not always the case."
Dix performed the delicate task of
turning hundreds of cuttings, carefully
wrapped in wet towels and stored in an
ice chest, into 500 healthy trees.
First, she cut them into smaller parts.
Then, "To start propagation, I made a
wound on the stem at the base of the cut-
ting," she says. "The wounding process
actually creates more surface area for the
rooting hormone to penetrate."
Afterward, she planted the cuttings in
a growing medium on a greenhouse bench
equipped with an automatic misting sys-
tem. Artificial mesh leaves triggered the
mist when they dried out.
All of Dix's work paid off with an 80-
percentrooting success rate. "You always
feel so exhilarated when you see your
cuttings take root," says Dix. "Plus, it
makes you feel really good to be part of
preserving history."
But as the trees grew, Dix had to turn
from tender loving care to tough love.
Most cherry trees have weak apical dom-
inance, which basically involves hor-
mones instructing one branch to become
the main stem of a tree. Some cherry trees
would be happy enoughjust being cherry
This meant Dix had to cut off stray,
straggling branches and stake the trees to
bamboo poles to grow them into upstand-
ing members of the Tidal Basin commu-

The new trees will be a welcome addi-
tion, but they do present DeFeo with a
challenge. Genetic authenticity is great,
but too little genetic diversity in a plant-
ing leaves the trees vulnerable to diseas-
es and pests.
"The guideline is to plant less than 10

ences in the trees and help him plan which
trees might need extra protection in the
future.-By Jill Lee, ARS.
This research is part of Plant, Micro-
bial, and Insect Germplasm Conserva-
tion and Development, an ARS National
Program described on the World Wide

First Lady Nancy Reagan presented a regrown Yoshino cherry tree to Japanese
Ambassador Yoshio Ogawara during a White House ceremony in January 1981.

percent of the same species, 20 percent
of the same genus, or 30 percent of the
same family," says DeFeo. "But I'm
working with 100 percent species
similarity, so I need all the diversity I can
Pooler's DNA work will help uncover
whether the trees have subtle genetic dif-
ferences. It will also confirm DeFeo's
hunch that there are some genetic differ-

Web at http://www.nps.ars.
Margaret R. Pooler and Ruth L. Dix
are with the USDA-ARS U.S. National
Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave., N.E.,
Washington, D.C. 20002-1958;fax (202)
245-4575, phone [Pooler] (202) 245-
4568, [Dix] (202) 245-4762, e-mail *

Agricultural Research/April 1999

Three New Peaches on the Way

The sweet smell of peaches wafts through the air from a
Georgia orchard, tickling the noses of passersby. In the dis-
tance, lush trees blaze with radiant red and yellow peaches.
Fruits grown here are the creme de la creme of peach aristo-
crats. They're the work of horticulturist William R. Okie and
others at the ARS Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research
Laboratory in Byron, Georgia.
Those orchards now include three newly released, sure-to-
be-popular, ARS-developed peaches: Sureprince, Autumn-
prince, and Springprince. Sureprince is an attractive, firm peach
that ripens in mid-June slightly after Juneprince, a popular
commercial variety. It performs well in the colder parts of
Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia. Sureprince is no light-
weight, weighing in at about one-third of a pound. Sure to melt
in your mouth, the fruit has good texture and flavor.
Springprince and Autumnprince are both adapted to south-
eastern climates. Springprince ripens in late May, is very firm,
and softens slowly on the tree, allowing it to have a very good
flavor for an early peach. Autumnprince ripens in late August
to early September, when most commercial peaches are fin-
All three varieties have moderate resistance to bacterial
spot, with Sureprince being the most resistant.-By Tara
Weaver-Missick, ARS.
William R. Okie is at the USDA-ARS Southeastern Fruit
and Tree Nut Research Laboratory, 21 Dunbar Rd., Byron,
GA 31008; phone (912) 956-6405,fax (912) 956-2929, e-mail *
1- o rwic

New ARS-developed Springprince peach at the Southeastern Fruit
and Tree Nut Research Laboratory at Byron, Georgia.

TOPAZ Is a Topographic Gem

TOPAZ helps give farmers, engineers, scientists, and oth-
ers a true lay of the land.
ARS hydraulic engineer Jurgen Garbrecht and professor
Lawrence Martz from Canada's University of Saskatchewan
developed the software as part of an international research
effort to apply digital landscape technology to drainage- and
runoff-related problems.
TOPAZ-short for topographic parameterization-is a
computer-based evaluation tool that defines and analyzes
land surface characteristics, watershed configurations, and
drainage features. It has a range of analysis options and unique
features that set it apart from commercial geographic infor-
mation systems (GIS).
"TOPAZ has already gone global," says Garbrecht. "Re-
searchers, engineers, and educators in Europe, the Middle
East, and North America are using it."
ARS and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Serv-
ice are using the software to generate drainage path informa-
tion needed for their water quality models. Canadian
researchers are using it in their Global Energy and Water
Cycle Experiment study of the Mackenzie River Basin-the
second biggest river basin in North America-to better un-
derstand the role of cold regions in the global climate system.
Scientists from the International Water Management In-
stitute are using TOPAZ for a modeling study of water-short
basins in Turkey. And university staff are also using it as a
teaching tool.
TOPAZ doesn't produce graphic pictures on the computer
monitor, but it creates data files from which pictures can be
generated by a commercial GIS package. Garbrecht says this
is an advantage, because it allows the user to select preferred
or existing display software without being forced to buy an-
other package. He says, "TOPAZ provides the data in a basic
format that is readable by most GIS systems, allowing for
more flexibility."
New capabilities are being developed and incorporated
into the software to further broaden its application horizon.
At this time, the scientists are working with the ARS South-
west Watershed Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, to add
new features to TOPAZ for use by KINEROS, another ARS
model that computes surface runoff and erosion.-By Tara
Weaver-Missick, ARS.
Copies ofTOPAZ are available on requestfrom Jurgen D.
Garbrecht, USDA-ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory,
7207 W. Cheyenne St., El Reno, OK 73036; phone (405) 262-
4316, fax (405)262-0133, e-mail
garbrech@grl.ars. *

Agricultural Research/April 1999

Gene Vectors

Agents of Transformation


genetic element called piggy-
Bac, which has a propensity for
jumping into other genes and
riding along in their chromo-
somes, can be used to trans-

form insects.
Agricultural Research Service insect
physiologist Paul D. Shirk
and geneticist Alfred M. AL HANDLER (K839;
Handler want to use pig-
gyBac to change the char- Th
acteristics of insect pests. tra
They are with the ARS str
Center for Medical, Agri- co
cultural, and Veterinary
Entomology (CMAVE) in
Gainesville, Florida,
Shirk, who is in
CMAVE's Postharvest
and Bioregulation Re-
search Unit, and research
associate O.P. Perrera
modified the original pig-
gyBac gene to create
what's called a gene vec-
tor. This is a special type
of DNA that can move for-
eign genes from one place
to another among chromo-
somes, or strands of DNA,
the genetic material that
holds the code for living
Now Shirk is testing
piggyBac in the Indianmeal moth, Plo-
dia interpunctella, the number-one
stored-product pest, and in two other pests
that infest stored foods-Mediterranean
flour moth, Anagasta kuehniella, and red
flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum.
Initially, Shirk says, they'll use the
piggyBac vector to mark laboratory-
grown insects for use in sterile release
programs. This control method involves
growing pest insects in the lab, steriliz-
ing the adults, and then releasing them to
breed with wild populations. Nonfertile
matings eventually reduce the pest insect
populations, and the genetically altered
insects do not affect humans or wildlife.
"PiggyBac can also be used to provide

a genetic analysis of agricultural pest
insects that is not possible now," Shirk

In the Beginning
So where didpiggyBac come from? In
1983, Malcolm Fraser, Jr., associate pro-


ie red-eved Medilerranean fruit fly on the left is a
nsformed version of the while-eyed mutant host
ain. It was altered by inse ....n of a piggyBac vector
ntaining the normal vg.e >red eye color.

fessor in the University of Notre Dame's
Biological Sciences Department in Notre
Dame, Indiana, discovered piggyBac
while looking at baculoviruses in cab-
bage looper moths. Baculoviruses are
strains of viruses that infect insects.
"I found that mutations of the virus
were occurring from a mobile piece of
DNA within the cell," says Fraser. "This
DNA essentially piggybacked into the
baculovirus. The transformation efficien-
cy appeared higher by far than by using
other similar elements."
Shirk and Handler have successfully
demonstrated the effectiveness ofpiggy-
Bac as a vector by using eye-color trans-
formations to signal genetic changes.

Some abnormal moths are born with red
eyes, when they should have black ones.
Red-eyed moths lack an enzyme that
keeps them from producing the normal
eye color.
"Perera inserted a normal gene that
produces the black eye color into piggy-
Bac, to carry that trait
into Mediterranean
flour moths," says
Shirk. "A new gene
was permanently in-
troduced into the host
and changed the eye
color of its offspring."
The progeny have car-
ried the genetic modi-
fication for black eyes
over 12 generations.
In using the eye-
S color mutant of the
Mediterranean flour
moth, Shirk says, "The
l;Q'^1 neat thing is that these
moths are from a strain
originally isolated in
the 1920s and used in
experiments that led to
today's idea of what a
gene really is. That's
real use of genetic di-
versity and return on the
investment in long-term

What's All This Portend?
Three important and possible future
uses ofpiggyBac, Shirk says, will be in-
troducing genes to mark a population so
scientists can track and learn about it, de-
veloping a system that can spread certain
genes into an insect population, and in-
troducing genes to create sterile insects
for use in sterile-release pest control pro-
That's where Handler's research in
CMAVE's Behavior and Biocontrol Re-
search Unit is focused. He's looking at
piggyBac as a way to transfer genes to
improve sterile-release programs to con-
trol fruit flies-pests that cause major

Agricultural Research/April 1999

ROB FLYNN (K8393-11)

damage to citrus and other crops -t
One of the most notorious of
these is the Mediterranean fruit ..-..
fly, Ceratitis capitata. It feeds on
many fruits and vegetables and
has most recently become a prob-
lem in parts of Florida. Handler
is collaborating with Susan D.
McCombs, an entomologist at the
University of Hawaii, to geneti-
cally transform medflies.
He first conducted experi-
ments using piggyBac marked Guide
with the medfly white gene, piggyl
which restores red eye color to of the
mutant white-eyed medfly
strains. He wanted to see if gene ROB FL
transformation would be possi-
ble in this species. Since then, he
has usedpiggyBac with green flu-
orescent protein (GFP) from ajel-
lyfish to transform Caribbean
fruit flies (Anastrepha suspense)
and Drosophila, as well as med-
flies. Under ultraviolet light,
transgenic fruit flies modified
with GFP glow like green light-
"The fact that a vector from a
moth works so well in several
fruit fly species is very encour- Genet
aging for its use in many other transf
insects," says Handler. "The suc- fluore
cess with GFP is equally impor-
tant. This marker should also
work in many insects, whereas
eye-color markers are available for only
a few."

Another Measure of Success
"This is a major breakthrough," says
Handler. "People have been trying to
transform insect pests of agricultural and
medical importance for nearly 14 years.
In the past 2 years, our lab and others
have had success with several species
using only four vector systems. Piggy-
Bac has been successful in the most in-
sect species to date. Many exciting
experiments for basic knowledge and

*a by a microscope, physiologist raul Nhirk injects a
Bac gene vector containing a fluorescent marker int
Indianmeal moth and other stored product-insect p

icist Al Handler examines digital photomicrographs
bean fruit flies. The fly on the computer screen was
formed by using a piggyBac vector marked with green
scent protein from jellyfish.

field application are now possible."
Handler says this research will be use-
ful in medfly and caribfly monitoring and
sterile-release programs. Flies that are
marked with GFP and released will be
easily distinguished from the targeted
wild flies in the field under ultraviolet
light or by simple biochemical tests. This
is critical to determining a release pro-
gram's success and ensuring that wild
flies have not infested fly-free zones.
Handler says that although the GFP
marker may be used in the near future,
the real benefit of this work relates to
more sophisticated genetic manipulation

*of medflies that would allow ge-
netic sexing and male steriliza-
Another promising gene vec-
tor the scientists are studying is
tagalong, also discovered by
Fraser. It's like piggyBac, but it
can't move by itself.
While piggyBac relies on
what's called a transposase en-
!llt zyme to help it move, tagalong
.lacks this enzyme and relies on
something else to help it travel.
The scientists aren't sure what
o eggs that something else is, but in the
ests. future they may be able to use tag-
along as a gene carrier.
They agree thatpiggyBac's po-
tential is promising. They hope
that they will soon use piggyBac
to insert foreign genes that cause
sterility or death in insects under
certain conditions, such as low
temperature. Such genes could be
spread through an insect popula-
tion in summer and have their ef-
fect in winter. This would allow
the control of wild populations of
pest insects without use of toxic
Scientists in other states are
of also studying piggyBac's effec-
tiveness for transforming pink
bollworms, boll weevils, codling
moths, and mosquitos.-By Tara
Weaver-Missick, ARS.
This research is part of Crop
and Commodity Pest Biology, Control,
and Quarantine, an ARS National Pro-
gram described on the World Wide Web
at http://www.nps.ars.
Paul D. Shirk and Alfred M. Handler
are at the USDA-ARS Center for Medi-
cal, Agricultural, and Veterinary Ento-
mology, 1600/1700 SW 23rd Dr.,
Gainesville, FL32604;phone (352)374-
5720 [Shirk], (352) 374-5793 [Handler],
fax (352) 374-5794; e-mail *

Agricultural Research/April 1999

narily sing country
ballads. But give
kernels a mike, put
them under a strobe
light, and they'll sound off an
earful into scientific instru-
It's serious listening for .
Agricultural Research Ser-
vice scientists concerned
about mycotoxins-the met-
abolic byproducts of fungi
like Aspergillus flavus and
Fusarium moniliforme. My-
cotoxins pose risks to human
and farm animal health.
The sound technology is
called Fourier transform in-
frared photoacoustic spec-
troscopy (FTIR-PAS). It uses
pulses of infrared light to
bombard kernels inside a
chamber. Resulting heat
waves radiate from the corn J
into the air, creating sound /
waves picked up by a micro- w
phone. Each sound, repre- A photoacoustic infrared sensor aids biochemist Richard Greene in
senting a different infrared screening corn for fungal contaminants.
wavelength, is recorded in a
computer database. Sound, Infrared Dete
Chemist Sherald H. Gor- Sn ne e e
don says, "Infected and un-
infected kernels produce the Microbes in Grain
same tones, but with certain
ones, we find subtle volume
To train computers to rec-
ognize these differences in
infrared patterns, Gordon and chemist Samples that glow under ultraviolet light Proc
Richard V. Greene use software written are further analyzed in laboratories. scril
by University of Illinois computer scien- "Our research is aimed at augmenting /ww
tists. Called an artificial neural network, the BGYF test with an on-line system cppv
the software distinguishes infected from that would monitor corn moving on a R
uninfected corn by using "conditioned conveyor and divert infected grain from Gor
reflexes" somewhat like those existing the food and feed supply," says Greene. Cent
in the human nervous system. At the National Center for Agricultur- sear,
Now, at grain elevators, inspectors al Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, 616(
routinely check corn for possible A. fla- the scientists compared the FTIR-PAS 681-
vus contamination using a bright green- neural network analyses to the BGYF test. bprv
ish-yellow fluorescence (BGYF) test. BGYF mistakenly gave a clean bill of gord

health to 15 percent of in-
fected kernels, but the neu-
ral network erred on only
4 percent.
The scientists look for-
ward to a system that
would monitor grain for
fungal contamination as it
moves through commer-
cial settings.
With colleagues at Iowa
State University in Ames,
they're also researching
the same infrared spectral
features using Transient
Infrared Emission Spec-
troscopy, or TIRS. This
involves heating kernels
with blasts of hot air as they
move along a conveyor
belt. TIRS measures infra-
red energy radiating from
the grain. Again, healthy
and infected kernels emit
different infrared patterns.
ARS is seeking an in-
dustrial partner to help
develop portable infrared
sensors paired with a
knowledge-based comput-
er program or expert sys-
ct tem to enhance reliability
of neural networks at ele-
vators and corn processing
plants.- By Ben Hardin,
This research is part of
New Uses, Quality, and
Marketability of Plant
lucts, an ARS National Program de-
ed on the World Wide Web at http:/
w. nps. ars. usda. gov/programs/
ichard V. Greene and Sherald H.
ion are at the USDA-ARS National
'er for Agricultural Utilization Re-
ch, 1815N. University St., Peoria, IL
4; phone (309) 681-6591, fax (309)
6689, e-mail
tonsh *

Agricultural Research/April 1999

Peanuts To Be Reckoned With

A peanut breeding project under way at Tifton, Georgia,
could spell trouble for pesky root-knot nematodes.
Geneticist Corley Holbrook, Jr., and scientist colleagues have
identified several dozen peanut germplasm strains resistant to
this tiny roundworm that costs $20-40 million annually in yield
losses and chemical controls.
Holbrook, along with Agricultural Research Service nema-
tologist Bill Johnson and agronomist Mike Stephenson, is now
cross-breeding the pest-resistant strains with higher yielding
commercial cultivars. They hope to release the new material
within 5 years. For farmers in Georgia and other southeastern
states, it won't be a moment too soon. That's because the vari-
eties they now grow generally can't survive severe nematode
attack without protection from chemical nematicides.
The root-knot nematode, Meloidogyne arenaria, inflicts its
costly mischief inside the plant's roots.
"The female penetrates the root and establishes a feeding
site, which forms a gall that can disrupt the flow of nutrients,"
says Holbrook. He is in the ARS Nematodes, Weeds, and Crops
Research Unit at Tifton. Severe infestations can cause yield
losses of 70-plus percent.
Females also lay thousands of
eggs on plants' roots, setting up
farmers for a fresh round of losses
the next season.
To break the cycle, scientists
examined peanut germplasm col-
lected from around the world for
traits that inhibit nematode feed-
ing or egg laying. They started
with the National Peanut Germ-
plasm Collection in Griffin, Geor-
gia, a repository with 7,000
accessions, or seed samples from
South American, African, and oth- Healthy peanut plants
er countries, with roots exposed.
From a core collection of 831 seed accessions, the scientists
narrowed the search to 36 resistant strains. They did it by repeat-
edly exposing the plants to nematode attack in greenhouse stud-
ies. This enabled them to count the number of nematode galls
and egg clusters deposited on plant roots.
Compared with Florunner and other commercial varieties,
21 of the resistant accessions had 70 percent fewer root galls and
egg clusters. The two most resistant peanuts, both from China,
showed a 90-percent reduction and are top picks for the breed-
ing program.-By Jan Suszkiw, ARS.
C. Corley Holbrook, Jr., Alva (Bill) Johnson, and Michael G.
Stephenson are in the USDA-ARS Nematode, Weeds, and Crop
Research Unit, P.O. Box 748, Tifton, GA 31793; phone (912)
386-3176, fax (912) 386-3437, e-mail *

New Technique Could Boost Taxol

Usually, if something "grows on trees," it's considered plen-
tiful. Oddly, taxol, a potent chemotherapeutic agent for treating
breast, ovarian, and other cancers, does grow on trees. But it's
scarce-and getting scarcer all the time.
That may change now, thanks to a new process, developed
by Agricultural Research Service scientists and their collabo-
rators, that promises to dramatically boost manufactured sup-
plies of taxol.
ARS plant physiologist Donna M. Gibson, in Ithaca, New
York, says paclitaxel, the generic term for taxol, originally
came from the bark of the rare Pacific yew tree, Taxus brevifo-
lia Nutt. "However, supplies of yew bark are scarce, and cur-
rent extraction procedures are inadequate for providing enough
of the chemical to meet increasing demand," says Gibson.
Synthetic methods of producing paclitaxel have been tried.
But the chemical's molecular structure is so complex that com-
mercial production is unfeasible.
"So production of adequate supplies of paclitaxel and pre-
cursors used in semi-synthetic processes may ultimately rely
on biological processes like cell culture," Gibson says.
She was one of the first scientists to demonstrate that cell
cultures from the yew tree can be used to produce the anticancer
compound. Now, along with coinventors at Washington State
University at Pullman and Cornell Research Foundation, Inc.,
at Ithaca, Gibson has filed for a new patent (09/126,229) on a
process for enhancing production of paclitaxel.
"The technology screens yew cell lines to determine their
potential for producing the chemical," she says. "Using it, pro-
ducers will be better able to identify and select yew tree cell
lines that are 5 to 10 times more productive than those currently
being used."
The technique enables Gibson to screen multiple cell lines
of all five known Taxus species for their ability to produce
paclitaxel in vitro. She has also developed a method that uses
an elicitor compound, methyljasmonate, which, when added to
the appropriate culture line, greatly increases the amounts of
paclitaxel obtained from the selected cell lines.
Gibson's invention could significantly expand commercial
production of taxanes to levels higher than any previously re-
ported-welcome news for cancer patients whose doctors are
prescribing this promising drug.- By Hank Becker, ARS.
Donna M. Gibson is in the USDA-ARS Plant Protection
Research Unit, U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Research Lab-
oratory, Tower Rd., Ithaca, NY 14853; phone (607) 255-2359,
fax (607) 255-1132, e-mail dmg8@ *

Agricultural Research/April 1999

Dieters May Lose Bone Density

Women who consistently limit what they eat to avoid gain-
ing weight may undermine the health of their bones, according
to a new study by ARS researchers in California. The study
looked at the eating behavior of 192 women volunteers be-
tween the ages of 18 and 50.
Those classified as restrained eaters had significantly lower
bone mineral density and bone mineral content than women
who said they weren't concerned about what they ate. These
two bone mineral measurements are key indicators of overall
bone strength and health, according to physiologist Marta D.
Van Loan and chemist Nancy L. Keim of the ARS Western
Human Nutrition Research Center in San Francisco.
The study "provides new evidence that women who habit-
ually worry about what they eat-to meet a target weight that
they've imposed upon themselves or that they think our image-
conscious society demands-may increase their chances of
developing osteoporosis," says Van Loan.
A thinning and weakening of bone, osteoporosis increases
the risk of fractures, particularly of the hip and spine. Spinal
fractures are painful and may result in debilitating curvature of
the spine.
Van Loan and Keim used a DEXA device-a dual energy
x-ray absorptiometer-to measure bone mineral content and
density. They administered a standard test known as a Three-
Factor Eating Inventory to determine if volunteers were al-
ways overly concerned about what they ate, as is typical of
restrained eaters.
"As far as we know," Van Loan says, "our study is one of
the first of its kind to demonstrate a significant association
between restricted food intake and either bone mineral content
or bone mineral density.
"Exercise and eating a well-balanced diet with adequate
calcium," says Van Loan, "are two of the best ways to keep
your bones strong and healthy. Foods that are a good source of
calcium include cheese, milk, ice cream, baked beans and oth-
er dried legumes, dried figs, broccoli, most dark-green leafy
vegetables, and soft fish bones like those in canned salmon.
"Exercise that increases the force or load on your skeleton,
such as jogging, lifting weights, or working out with resis-
tance-type gym equipment," notes researcher Keim, "also helps
keep bones from becoming brittle and porous."-By Marcia
Wood, ARS.
Marta D. Van Loan and Nancy L. Keim are with the USDA-
ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center, P.O. Box
29997, Presidio of San Francisco, CA 94129; phone (415)
556-9697, fax (415) 556-1432, e-mail
mvanloan @ *

Beneficial Wasps Get ID Tags

Old World parasites stayed behind when the silverleaf white-
fly stole into the United States in 1986 and began an unimpeded
feeding frenzy on vegetable, cotton, and horticultural crops.
The pest still costs U.S. growers more than $500 million annu-
To counter the whitefly and related pests, scientists with the
Agricultural Research Service and other agencies have collect-
ed parasitic wasps from the pests' native habitats. In quarantine
laboratories, researchers with USDA' s Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service (APHIS) are evaluating many of the collect-
ed species and strains for their suitability as biological control
Already, a few of these tiny wasps, which are barely visible
lookalikes, have been released in U.S. environments. "Now,"
asks geneticist Larry J. Heilmann, formerly with ARS, "how
will one tell the released strains apart to determine how well
each reproduces and disperses under various field conditions?"
The answer: by their unique genetic material, or DNA.
In his research at the ARS Insect Genetics and Biochemistry
Research Unit in Fargo, North Dakota, Heilmann found an oft-
repeated genetic sequence of 33 base pairs in the DNA of the
wasp Encarsia formosa collected in Egypt. From these base
pairs, he developed a DNA probe-a sequence that binds only
to a unique portion of DNA; in this case, to DNA specific to E.
formosa strains from the eastern Mediterranean region.
The test Heilmann developed to ascertain a wasp's eastern
Mediterranean origin involves simply squashing the wasp on
filter paper, immersing the paper in a radioactive DNA probe
solution, rinsing, and then testing for any significant residual
telltale radioactivity. For field tests, he says, it may be possible
to replace the radioactive probes with fluorescent ones.
Such tests will distinguish wasps easily and quickly and less
expensively than a laboratory-based polymerase chain reaction
assay that APHIS now uses.
SCOTT BAUER (K4600-7) With the prototype re-
search done, many DNA
probes should soon become
available for identifying ex-
otic and native North Amer-
ican Encarsia and other
wasps. So far, one additional
probe identifies strains of
The silverleaf whitefly, Bemisia Eretmocerus wasps native to
argentifolii, measures just one- the eastern hemisphere. An-
sixteenth-inh in l other more specifically pin-
points strains from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.-By
Ben Hardin, ARS.
For more information, contact Dennis R. Nelson, USDA-
ARS Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center, P.O. Box
5677, University Station, Fargo, ND 58105; phone (701) 239-
1270, fax (701) 239-1202, e-mail *

Agricultural Research/April 1999

A hardy new grass called "Hi-
Mag" may help protect cattle,
sheep, and goats from an afflic-
tion known as grass tetany.
When ruminants-animals
with four stomachs-have too little mag-
nesium in their blood, grass tetany can
result. Also known as hypomagnesemia,
grass tetany causes an estimated $50 to
$150 million in livestock production loss-
es each year in the United States.
Because it is unusually high in mag-

nesium, the new tall fes-
cue grass should help
protect vulnerable animals
from magnesium deficien-
cies. Plans call for HiMag
seed to be made available
to plant breeders this year.
Investigators Henry F.
Mayland, who is with
ARS at Kimberly, Idaho;
Glenn E. Shewmaker, for-
merly with ARS and now
at the University of Idaho;
and David A. Sleper and
colleagues at the Univer-
sity of Missouri developed
HiMag in a cooperative
effort that began in 1983.
As part of the HiMag
collaboration, Shewmak-
er and Mayland scruti-
nized mineral levels of

A Research First
The idea of breeding a high-magne-
sium forage grass to combat grass tetany
isn't new. But the ARS and University of
Missouri researchers are the first to ac-
complish that with tall fescue.
ARS grazing trials in Idaho with a
dozen Angus and Angus-Hereford heif-
ers indicated that the cattle find the plant
palatable and will make profitable weight
gains. When given a choice among HiMag
and seven other tall fescues, HiMag gar-

Plant breed-
ers elsewhere
have learned
the hard way
that no matter
how healthful
a forage is,
animals may
turn up their
noses at it if
they don't like
the taste or

hundreds of

candidate forage plants. They did the
work at the ARS Northwest Irrigation and
Soils Research Laboratory at Kimberly.
HiMag had up to 20 percent more mag-
nesium than some of the other plants they
examined. And their greenhouse tests
showed that levels of magnesium re-
mained high in two successive genera-
So far, HiMag has been tested not only
in Idaho and Missouri, but also in Utah,
Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Virginia, and
New York, as well as in Canada. Scien-
tists recommend it for rain-fed pastures
in eastern, southeastern, and Pacific
Northwestern states and British Colum-

nered a respectable third-
Such a reality check
with four-legged cus-
tomers is crucial: Plant
breeders elsewhere have
learned the hard way that
no matter how healthful a
forage is, animals may
turn up their noses at it if
they don't like the taste or
The grazing test in-
cluded only tall fescues
that were free of a trou-
blesome microbe known
as an endophytic fungus.
Cattle that graze on infect-
ed fescue may not gain as
much weight as they
should and may also have

reproductive problems. Nevertheless, tall
fescue is planted on more acres of Amer-
ican pastureland than any other type of
forage grass.
Grass tetany is often fatal. Symptoms
include nervousness, convulsions, and
paralysis. Sometimes, potassium plays a
role in the disease by outcompeting mag-
nesium for what are known as absorption
sites in an animal's gut. That can happen
if hungry ruminants graze on pastures that
have been overloaded with high-potassi-
um commercial fertilizers or potassium-
containing manure.
Preventive measures include adding
magnesium to drinking water or salt licks
or spreading it around the pasture with a
fertilizer spreader. Each tactic has draw-

backs. Spiking trough water with mag-
nesium, for example, works only if ani-
mals will make the trip to the
trough-which may be a mile or so away.
They might choose instead to guzzle rain-
water from a convenient puddle or ditch.
"A palatable, magnesium-rich forage,"
says researcher Shewmaker, "is a better
guarantee that the animals will get the
right amount of this essential nutrient."-
By Marcia Wood, ARS.
This research is part of Soil Quality
and Management, an ARS National Pro-
gram described on the World Wide Web
grams/cppvs. htm.
HenryF. Maylandisatthe USDA-ARS
Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research
Laboratory, 3793 N. 3600 E., Kimberly,
ID 83341; phone (208) 423-6517, fax
(208) 423-6555, e-mail *


Forage specialist Glenn Shewmaker
examines tall fescue in a test plot at the
ARS Northwest Irrigation and Soils
Research Laboratory in Kimberly, Idaho.

Agricultural Research/April 1999

Hi~ag Fescue


Corn Rootworms Just Can't Get Enough

outh American farmers have a word of advice for their
counterparts in the North who are troubled by corn
rootworms-and that word is "taiuia." This plant, like
squash and cucumbers, is a member of the curcurbit
family. But it contains a powerful feeding stimulant
that could help farmers control rootworms using less insecti-
Brazilian farmers have already shared their secret about its
powerful root-which looks like an oversized cassava-with
Agricultural Research Service scientists. By coincidence, two
different farmers told two different ARS scientists about taiuia
in the early 1990s.
ARS biologist Willie Cabrera Walsh remembers asking one
farmer why he was placing plastic containers with slices of a
root that looked somewhat like cassava in his field. The farmer
explained they were pieces of taiuia laced with insecticide. The
roots lured the corn rootworm adults, and the poison delivered
a mortal blow.
Cabrera Walsh works for ARS' South American Biological
Control Laboratory in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Many pests
that plague North American farmers came from other parts of
the world, so having international laboratories to study foreign
pests makes sense. Often, natural predators from the homeland
can become U.S. control agents.
Entomologist Robert F. Schroder also learned about taiuia
from a Brazilian corn grower. Schroder, who is with the ARS
Insect Biological Control Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland,
was in Passo Fundo, Brazil, collecting corn rootworm biolog-
ical controls with entomologist Dirceu Gassen, who is with
EMBRAPA, the Brazilian Institute of Agricultural Research.
"We had been using a small, hand-held aspirator to collect
the insects. It was a very exhausting process and not very effec-
tive," says Schroder. "Gassen introduced me to a man known as Biologist Willie Cabrera Walsh holds the major part of a taiuia
farmer Louis, who pulled up this root that had corn rootworms root.

all over it. We didn't know at the time what it was."
During the rest of the trip, Schroder and Gassen had no trou-
ble collecting samples. They just put slices of the root out where
they saw a few of the insects and returned later to collect thou-
sands of them.
Schroder and Cabrera Walsh have been collaborating on their
studies of taiuia' s potential. Cabrera Walsh sends taiuia sam-
ples to Schroder, who assays the extracts and determines their
usefulness in controlling corn rootworm adults.
Cabrera Walsh devised a corn rootworm taste test. He put out
samples of artificial diets of corn, soybeans, and taiuia. Then, he
set loose a group of corn rootworms, allowing them to pick their
favorite. What happened next amazed him.
"All the insects crowded around the taiuia," he says. "They
wouldn't stop eating, and they wouldn't touch the other samples
Taiuia, Cayaponia bonariensis, growing in the wild. until the taiuia was gone."

Agricultural Research/April 1999

Cabrera Walsh also did a literature search on the plant. He
found Brazilian scientist Iniberto Hamerschmidt first reported
taiuia's alluring powers in 1985. Hamerschmidt wrote that farm-
ers in Brazil's Curitiba area had been using the plant as a lure
since 1979.
Other ARS laboratories are evaluating wild buffalo gourd as
a lure, and Schroder had been working with cucurbitacins from
mutant watermelons. [See "Corn Rootworms Get Juiced," Ag-
ricultural Research, May 1998, p. 11.] But Schroder's lab tests
suggest that taiuia is best for luring the southern corn rootworm,
one of the many species of this pest complex.
Adult corn rootworms are actually beetles that feed on the
corn's silk tassels. The immature larval stage feeds on corn
roots. Throughout its life cycle, the pest costs U.S. farmers around
a billion dollars each year in crop losses and overhead expense.
They've also been known to attack soybeans, squash, melons,
and other crops.
About 50 percent of all insecticides applied on row crops in
the United States are used against this pest-that's about 20
million pounds a year. And many of the chemicals used to con-
trol corn rootworms will soon be banned because of environ-
mental concerns.
Part of the problem with current controls is that it is hard for
insecticides to reach the pests, since they lay their eggs in the
soil and the larvae feed underground.
But with taiuia as bait, it might be possible to cut the amount
of insecticide needed to control the pest. Or farmers might use
taiuia to boost the killing power of less effective but environ-
mentally safe pesticides, because taiuia spurs insects to eat more
of the toxin.
Why do these pests love taiuia? It's all a part of evolutionary
chess. Taiuia, over time, developed higher and higher levels of
a number of incredibly bitter compounds called cucurbitacins to
keep bugs away. Most plant feeders couldn't stand the taste.

Trays with small flower pots of Cayaponia bonariensis
and Cayaponia spp. seedlings.

Corn rootworm adults, however, munch away on taiuia. How
is that possible? It seems they somehow developed a craving
for cucurbitacins, which they store in their own fatty tissues,
making them very bitter. This protects the rootworms from
predators. In fact, their colorful body markings may be part of
this defense.
"Birds are very sensitive to color patterns," explains Ca-
brera Walsh. "They have to make the mistake of eating a corn
rootworm only once. They vomit it up and never eat one again."
Taiuia stores cucurbitacins in its bright-red berries and fat,
potato-brown roots that can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Adult
beetles feed on the berries, which helps free up the plant's
seeds. In that way, the beetle has made an evolutionary bargain
with what could have been a bitter enemy.
Since corn rootworms don't shy away from plants that carry
cucurbitacins, their once beneficial craving could now become
their chief liability. And there's a bonus: Since taiuia repels
beneficial insects, they won't be poisoned accidentally when
it's used as bait.
The next question is whether taiuia can be grown in the
United States as a crop. It would do best in the southern half of
the country, where growing conditions are warmer and gener-
ally more like temperate or subtropical South America.
Taiuia berries could be harvested instead of having to kill
the plant to harvest the cucurbitacins in its root. Cabrera Walsh
says taiuia's agronomic potential would have to be analyzed,
perhaps with the help of an industry partner.
And of course, as with any new plant introduction, USDA's
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would have to
certify that taiuia poses no threat to native plant species or
Lacking that certification, enterprising South Americans
could grow the plant as a crop and ship the cucurbitacin extract
in a liquid or powder form to U.S. companies that could then
use the material to produce new corn rootworm control prod-
ucts. "With all the good it's doing for South American farmers,
it seems a shame taiuia can't also benefit people in the United
States and Canada," says Cabrera Walsh.-By Jill Lee, ARS.
This research is part of Crop and Commodity Pest Biology,
Control, and Quarantine, an ARS National Program that is
described on the World Wide Web at www.nps.ars.usda.
gov/programs/cppvs. htm.
Guillermo Cabrera Walsh is with the USDA-ARS South
American Biological Control Laboratory, U.S. Embassy Bue-
nos Aires, Argentina, Unit 4325 APO AA 34034-0001; phone
(541) 452-4838, (541) 662-0999, fax (541) 452-1882, e-mail
gcabrera @mail.
Robert F. Schroder is with the USDA-ARS Insect Biocontrol
Laboratory, Bldg. 306, Rm. 322, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Belts-
ville, MD 20705-2350; phone (301) 504-8369, fax (301) 504-
8190, e-mail *

Agricultural Research/April 1999


Cleans Up



I t took the derailment of a Canadian
Pacific Railway train on February
20, 1989, near Bordulac, North
Dakota, to prove alfalfa's worth in
"vacuuming up" excess nitrogen fer-
After several carloads of liquid nitro-
gen fertilizer spilled, Canadian Pacific
hired the Braun Intertec Corp. environ-
mental consulting firm to direct a clean-
up. First, a crew removed all the soil
around the cars, down to a depth of 4 feet.
Groundwater was also pumped and used
to irrigate nearby corn and wheat.
"The idea," says Michael P. Russelle,
a soil scientist with USDA's Agricultur-
al Research Service in St. Paul, Minne-
sota, "was to clean the groundwater of
excess nitrogen by recycling it through
crops that use the nitrogen as fertilizer."
But 7 years later, the groundwater and
soil still had excessive levels of nitrogen.
Enter alfalfa, ARS, and North Dakota
State University's Carrington Research
and Extension Center.
Alfalfa usually obtains its nitrogen
from both the soil and atmosphere. But
Russelle's work before the spill had
shown that a special type of ARS-devel-
oped alfalfa, ironically named "Ineffec-
tive Agate," took up 30 to 40 percent more
nitrogen from soil and water than normal
Russelle, who is in the Plant Science
Research Unit, says, "The alfalfa is called
ineffective because, unlike standard al-
falfa, it forms root nodules that are un-
able to use nitrogen from the air. So it
must get all its nitrogen from water and
soil. That made it very interesting to Ca-
nadian Pacific Railway representatives."
Ineffective Agate began its work in
1996 and took up 125 pounds of nitrogen
per acre, compared to 75 pounds by corn.
In 1997, a farmer harvested three cuttings
of alfalfa for hay that had removed 380
pounds of nitrogen per acre. Wheat re-

'-.'4 *- .

Scene of the 1989 train derailment site near Bordulac, North Dakota, showing some of the
rail cars that leaked nitrogen fertilizer.

moved 70 pounds. The cleanup crew
pumped about 300,000 gallons of ground-
water onto the 7-acre site to irrigate the
Last year, researchers pumped nearly
690,000 gallons. Four cuttings of Inef-
fective Agate removed 370 pounds of ni-
trogen per acre.
ARS researchers finished their re-
search role in the cleanup in autumn of
1998 and are summarizing the results.
[For an earlier story on this project, see
"Novel Alfalfa Cleans Fertilizer Spill,"
AgriculturalResearch, January 1997, pp.
JoAnn F.S. Lamb, an ARS plant ge-
neticist at St. Paul, is developing ineffec-

tive alfalfa germplasm adapted to other
parts of the country and expects to be har-
vesting seed from possible candidates in
summer of 1999.-By Don Comis, ARS.
This research is part of Water Quality
and Management, an ARS National Pro-
gram described on the World Wide Web
grams/nrsas. htm
Michael P. Russelle and JoAnn F.S.
Lamb are in the USDA-ARS Plant Sci-
ence Research Unit, 439 Borlaug Hall,
1991 Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN55108-
6028; phone (612) 625-8145, fax (651)
649-5058, e-mail
russelle@ soils.umn. edu.
lambx002 *



At the derailment site, soil scientist Michael Kusselle and plant geneticist JoAnn Lamb
monitor the biological cleanup of nitrogen fertilizer with a unique alfalfa. Yellowing leaves
in the foreground indicate an area of cleaner soil.

Agricultural Research/April 1999

Yes, Really... A Store-Bought Tomato

With Vine-Ripened Taste!

H ormones! They're important to
the human body's growth and
metabolism. For similar rea-
sons, they're also vital to plants.
Of the five major plant hor-
mones, auxin has been known the long-
est and is probably the most important.
Auxin causes a tomato to grow and
ripen, according to ARS plant physiolo-
gist Jerry D. Cohen. And if scientists can
learn more about this plant growth hor-
mone, the result could be a store-bought
tomato that tastes home grown. Cohen is
working toward that goal at the ARS
Horticultural Crops Quality Laboratory
in Beltsville, Maryland.
"If we can determine how auxin is
made in a plant, then we can change the
concentration, or level. We also need to
know how much is made and how it is
broken down," he says.
During ripening, auxin degrades to low
levels, often resulting in overripening.
"Since we want to delay ripening," Co-
hen says, "we want to increase the levels
at this stage of growth. If we raise the
auxin levels, we slow down ripening and
increase shelf life."
Growers now pick tomatoes when
they're still green to ensure that they'll
ship well. If tomatoes were picked fully
ripened, they'd deteriorate before reach-
ing the grocery shelf. Tomatoes from
the produce bin in supermarkets are
often hard and tasteless simply be-
cause they were picked green, before
being given time to ripen on the vine.
Cohen says that scientists have
been working with auxin for more
than 120 years. One problem, he
says, is that when researchers
changed auxin levels, the changes
were expressed throughout the
plant. Scientists would like to con-
trol auxin production so it can be
introduced into particular, targeted
To change auxin levels in fruit, it
was important to first find out how
plants make it. Earlier studies suggest-
ed that this plant hormone was made from

tryptophan, an amino acid.
Cohen and colleagues showed that
plants that don't make tryptophan can still
make auxin. Until now, auxin produc-
tion was studied only inside whole plants
or cells. But Cohen has reproduced this
hormone outside the cell, where it can be
studied in greater detail.

Changing From the Inside, Out
Cohen and associate Mridula Iyer,
working with plant molecular biologist
Janet P. Slovin of the ARS Climate Stress
Laboratory in Beltsville, are looking at
genetic methods to alter auxin levels.
They inserted a backwards copy of
iaglu-a gene from corn-into a tomato.
The purpose was to turn this gene off in
the tomato. Because the backward gene
was put in with a fruit-specific promo-
ter-a piece of DNA placed in front of
the gene that controls when and where
that gene will be "turned on"-the activ-
ity was changed only in the tomato fruit.
"We specifically changed the hormone
levels in the fruit, but not in other parts of
the plant," Cohen reports. "Tomatoes
from this genetic research ripened more
slowly, but not enough to make a major

Future work is aimed at using a native
tomato gene in the same way to alter the
biosynthesis of auxin. Just as important
is determining the plant's ability to de-
stroy or break down the hormone when
the fruit is in the very early, or "breaker,"
stage of ripening.
Cohen and colleagues discovered some
other interesting aspects of the iaglu gene.
Decreasing the gene's level of expression
throughout receptor plants caused them
to easily form large numbers of roots from
cuttings and spurred rapid root growth in
germinating seedlings.
This could significantly help in devel-
oping techniques for plants that are
difficult to root from cuttings and increase
the survival rate of seeds planted in dry
"We also got seedless tomatoes from
overexpressing the corn gene specifical-
ly in fruit," Cohen says. "Because it didn't
happen every time, we're trying to deter-
mine if the cause is directly linked to the
gene or is just a result of transforming the
Cohen expects the auxin research to
produce vine-ripened tomatoes with in-
creased shelf life, better flavor, and
enough firmness to last until the consum-
er plucks the fruit from the produce bin
for a salad or sandwich.
When? "In about 3 years," he says.-
By Doris Stanley Lowe, ARS.
This research is part ofImproving
PlantBiological andMolecularPro-
cesses, an ARS National Program
described on the World Wide Web
Jerry D. Cohen is with the
USDA-ARS Horticultural
Crops Quality Laboratory,
10300 Baltimore Ave., Belts-
ville, MD 20705-2350; phone
(301) 504-6128, fax (301) 504-
5107. Until October 1999, he is
temporarily at the National Sci-
ence Foundation; phone (703) 306-
1442, fax (703) 306-0355, e-mail *

Agricultural Research/April 1999



Sap Beetle



an Unlikely

Source of




anucing ouor iruni a mcruli
draws sap beetles to a target.

hasn't been easy, but Agricul-
tural Research Service scientists
have finally begun to trick this
pesky sap beetle-with chemi-
cal scents.
The research may lead to commercial-
ly synthesized "airborne calling cards"
that will sucker sap beetles in the Nitid-
ulidae family into field and warehouse
traps. By monitoring these traps, grow-
ers and shippers will know whether they
need to apply pesticides.
Besides munching on pineapple, Car-
pophilus humeralis eats dates, citrus, and
sugarcane. Ordinarily, when a male nit-
idulid beetle gets a whiff of a favorite
fermenting food, he makes his own chem-
ical attractants to call males and females
alike to join in one big feeding party.
Now, ARS entomologist Robert J.
Bartelt and colleagues at the National
Center for Agricultural Utilization Re-
search (NCAUR) in Peoria, Illinois, have
identified and chemically synthesized
such attractants, called aggregation pher-
omones, for nine nitidulid species. But
in research on the pineapple beetle, all
three attractants they've identified so far
aren't produced by the beetle but rather
by microbes.
Bruce Zilkowski, an ARS technician
turned support scientist, gained insights
that led to these discoveries as he re-
searched the chemical ecology of C. hu-
meralis as part of his master's degree
The NCAUR researchers discovered
that some organic compounds of micro-
bial origin were unexpectedly powerful
nitidulid attractants. One new chemical,
called 2-5-diisopropylpyrazine, had nev-
erbefore been observed in nature, though
it had been made in the laboratory. The
microbe that produced it hasn't been iden-
The other two compounds, 2-phenyl-
ethanol and 4-ethyl-2-methoxyphenol,
are common natural products of micro-
bial and plant origin used in research.
The researchers first isolated and iden-

tified the attractive volatiles coming
from decaying oranges that either male
or female adult beetles had fed on. Be-
cause only male sap beetles are known
to produce aggregation pheromones, the
attractants clearly had to have come from
a different source.
To prove that theory, the scientists
switched to a different fruit-sterilized
pineapple that the nitidulids had never
fed on. The researchers inoculated some
flasks containing the pineapple with a
mixture of microbes cultured from bee-
tle-infested oranges. After the microbes
incubated a few days, large amounts of
the attractants began emanating from the
inoculated pineapples but not from the
sterile controls.
To continue their research, the scien-
tists purchased the two common chem-
icals and synthesized a stock of the
Beetles in a wind tunnel were most

Agricultural Research/April 1999

attracted to minute quantities of the com-
pounds when they were all mixed togeth-
er with common food fermentation
chemicals such as propyl acetate, which
by itself is only mildly attractive. "We
weren't surprised by this synergism,"
Bartelt says, "because mixtures of com-
pounds always seem to attract nitidulids
better than single compounds."
Until the scientists identified the pine-
apple beetle attractants, they had focused
most of their attention on pheromones and
small volatiles from fermentations. "Now
we know some of the larger microbial
compounds can also play an important role
in attracting nitidulids," says Bartelt.
NCAUR scientists have been collabo-
rating with researchers around the world
in both laboratory and field research in-
volving at least a dozen Carpophilus spe-
cies, most of which are pests of crops and
stored commodities in tropical and sub-
tropical regions.

In Illinois, amodel insect for their field
research is the dusky sap beetle, which
often causes unsightly damage to local
sweet corn. Besides infesting corn, the
dusky sap beetle-like many of its nitid-
ulid cousins-is a generalist, feeding on
a wide variety of ripening fruits and veg-
One particularly powerful combina-
tion of pheromone and fermentation
scents that the researchers synthesized
attracts a species called the confused sap
beetle. In a date garden in California, in-
dividual traps baited with the pheromone-
scent formulations have captured as many
as 100,000 of these beetles in a single

So What's the Holdup?
Despite successes in synthesizing re-
liable and powerful pheromones, Bartelt
says there are impediments to commer-
cializing the technology. Chemical syn-

thesis often involves numerous costly
Because various beetles mostly inflict
the greatest damage on less extensively
grown crops, market development for
pheromone traps tailored for these low-
acreage niche crops is economically prob-
Further, serious infestations in the
niche crops are intermittent, depending
somewhat on weather conditions. None-
theless, in some recent years, nitidulids
have caused about $2.5 million in dam-
ages to the California fig crop alone.
Timely control would be more impor-
tant than only minimizing direct feeding
damage to commodities. Damaged goods
often invite toxin-producing microbes
into the picture. Although nitidulid dam-
age to field corn is usually negligible, the
insects can infect kernels with the fungus
Aspergillusflavus, which often produces
the metabolic byproduct known as afla-
Nitidulid control may take on in-
creased importance as "greener" meth-
ods are developed to deal with other
insects. For example, corn genetically en-
gineered to produce Bacillus thuringien-
sis (Bt) toxin controls caterpillars. But
when spraying the crop for caterpillars
becomes unnecessary, nitidulids may
thrive. That's because the nitidulids that
might have been controlled by the spray
would not be affected by Bt. And should
a type of peach be developed that can be
picked and shipped riper, the beetles
might be more attracted to them.-By
Ben Hardin, ARS.
This research is part of Crop Protec-
tion and Quarantine, an ARS National
Program described on the World Wide
Web at http://www.nps.ars.
grams/cppvs. htm.
Robert J. Bartelt is in the USDA-ARS
Bioactive Agents Research Unit, Nation-
al CenterforAgricultural Utilization Re-
search, 1815 N. University St., Peoria,
IL 61604; phone (309) 681-6237, fax
number (309) 681-6693, e-mail 4

Agricultural Research/April 1999

Gypsy Moth War's Battle of the Burlap

P protecting woodland from defo-
liation by gypsy moth caterpil-
lars is a challenge that scientists,
arborists, and others meet with
aerial spraying of insecticide,
moth-killing microbes, or acts of sabo-
tage-such as foiling the pest's love life
with substances that keep male moths
from finding prospective mates.
For homeowners, the fight often
comes down to placing sticky barriers or
burlap skirts around tree trunks, from
which migrating caterpillars can be eas-
ily removed.
"Although these mechanical control
methods will reduce the numbers of cat-
erpillars, they may not prevent severe
defoliation caused by a very heavy infes-
tation," notes Agricultural Research Ser-
vice entomologist Geoffrey B. White.
This spring, White is testing an improve-
ment on the burlap skirts that incorpor-
ates an insecticidal coating.
It's a fairly straightforward idea, he
admits. But results from preliminary field
trials show it could spell doom for more
caterpillars-and spare homeowners the
messy job of killing them by hand.
The skirts, which have been around
for decades, exploit the caterpillar's ten-
dency to hide during the day, only to
emerge at dusk to ransack the leaves of
nearby trees. This behavior gives home-
owners time to ambush the pests in their
burlap hiding places.
"Usually, people knock them off with
a stick into a bucket of soapy water or
bleach to kill them," says White, who is
at the ARS Insect Biocontrol Laboratory
in Beltsville, Maryland.
The key is checking the skirts before
dusk, however. That's because the cater-
pillars cue their emergence to the setting
sun's waning light, says White.
On large properties with many trees,
checking the skirts can take a lot of time.
And battling bugs isn't something a
homeowner necessarily wants to do after
returning from work orjust before dinner
time. The sticky barriers also require
monitoring, as bits of debris like bark or

other insects can provide hungry cater-
pillars a bridge to cross over en route to
the tree's canopy.
White's solution calls for applying a
latex coating of chlorpyrifos beneath the
burlap skirts. That way, instead of ref-
uge, the pests get a small but lethal dose
of insecticide. His idea is based on a com-
mercial product that can be brushed onto
windowsills or doorways to kill foraging
ants or cockroaches.
White tried out the approach on gypsy
moth caterpillars for the first time last
year, observing that a single, 6-hour ex-
posure killed about 64 percent of the pests.
The 31-day experiment he designed al-
lowed him to confine the insects to tree

in the tree canopy. There, competition is
fierce. So, "a lot of times, they'll spin
silken threads to ride down to the ground
to look for new trees to feed on," he ex-
If the coating proves effective against
such ground assaults, White may eventu-
ally explore substituting for chlorpyrifos
a commercial biopesticide containing
spores of fungi that attack the caterpillar
from within-a fitting end for a pest that,
in most years, wreaks havoc on millions
of acres ofwoodland.-By Jan Suszkiw,
This research is part ofCrop and Com-
modity Pest Biology, Control, and Quar-
antine, an ARS National Program

Entomologist Geoffrey White temporarily raises a burlap skirt to apply an insecticidal
latex coating that will kill foraging gypsy moth larvae.

trunk sections encircled by the insecti-
cidal latex coating and a 2-inch burlap
strip. As a control, he also confined cat-
erpillars to uncoated trees, observing that
95 percent survived after 31 days.
White hopes to replicate the experi-
ments early this April, when the caterpil-
lars start emerging from egg clusters high

described at http:/www.nps.ars.usda.
gov/programs/cppvs. htm.
Geoffrey B. White is at the USDA-ARS
Insect Biocontrol Laboratory, Bldg.
011A, Rm. 214, 10300 Baltimore Ave.,
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350; phone (301)
504-5869, fax (301) 504-8190, e-mail *

Agricultural Research/April 1999


Two New Peas
for the Southeast
For the freezer, gardeners and the food
industry have two new high-yielding
pinkeye-type southern peas. ARS scien-
tists bred Charleston Greenpack for the
industry and Petite-N-Green for the back
yard. Dried peas of both varieties have
the green color of fresh peas. Both are
adapted to the Southeast and can be har-
vested for the fresh market or for proc-
essing. Their yields are comparable to
leading pinkeye-type cultivars. Charles-
ton Greenpack seed is already being
marketed to commercial growers. Petite-
N-Green should be available to home gar-
deners by spring of 2000. ARS scientists
developed the new peas under a cooper-
ative research and development agree-
ment with Western Seed Multiplication,
Inc., of Oglethorpe, Georgia. In compa-
ny farm trials in Georgia and Florida,
Charleston Greenpack performed well
overall and showed excellent resistance
to blackeye cowpea mosaic virus. West-
ern Seed has an exclusive license to mar-
ket this pea variety. Richard L. Fery,
USDA-ARS U.S. Vegetable Laboratory,
Charleston, South Carolina; phone (843)
556-0840, e-mail

Feeling Ladybugged?
A new indoor trap invented by ARS
scientists uses a blacklight to harmlessly
capture beneficial-but sometimes an-
noying-ladybugs. From spring to early
fall, the Asian multicolored lady beetle,
Harmonia axyridis, helps farmers by
gobbling pests such as aphids, greenbugs,
and other insects that damage crops. But
in autumn, the beetles seek refuge. Some-
times large numbers pick a home or other
building for their "winter camp." Home-
owners are understandably annoyed. The
insects are harmless, but if disturbed or
squashed, they can emit a foul odor and
secrete a yellow substance that stains
surfaces and fabrics. The new trap uses
no insecticide and can be assembled in
minutes. Lady beetles and other flying

SCOTT BAUER (K7033-14)

False "eyes"-twin white, football-shaped
markings behind the head-show this to be
an Asian multicolored lady beetle,
Harmonia axyridis.

insects attracted by the blacklight are
quickly caught in a bag with a nonstick
surface. Later, they can be released out-
doors. In indoor tests, the trap captured
nearly 100 percent of the ladybugs. ARS
is evaluating applications from compa-
nies interested in licensing the technolo-
gy. W. Louis Tedders (retired), USDA-
ARS Southeastern FruitandNutResearch
Laboratory, Byron, Georgia; phone (912)
Licensing contact: June Blalock,
USDA-ARS Office of Technology Trans-
fer, Beltsville, Maryland; phone (301)
504-5989, fax (301) 504-5060, e-mail
djb @ ars.

New Genetics Initiatives
Studies of agricultural genetics will
get a multiple boost-from two new
plant-gene centers in Missouri and New
York and from eight new gene-analyzing
machines at ARS labs. These initiatives
will accelerate progress in mapping, iso-
lating, identifying, and evaluating animal
and microbial genes, as well as plant
genes. Many benefits should accrue to
our food supply, the farm sector, indus-
try, and the environment.
ARS will operate the new Center for
Bioinformatics and Comparative Genom-
ics at Cornell University sites in Ithaca
and Geneva, New York. The center will
help researchers discover all the genes in
grains-like corn, wheat, and rice-and

plants in the family that includes toma-
toes, potatoes, and peppers. ARS scien-
tists and bioinformatics specialists and
Cornell faculty will staff the center. Once
gene structure is known, scientists can
look for similar structures in gene data-
bases of other organisms. Similar struc-
ture often connotes similar function.
When function is identified, biotechnol-
ogists can try to rebuild a gene to make it
more effective. Among potential bene-
fits would be plants with improved dis-
ease resistance that require less chemical
In Columbia, Missouri, ARS and uni-
versity collaborators will set up a new
maize genetics research center. Located
in facilities at the University of Missouri,
the center is being funded cooperatively
by ARS and universities, with support
from a 5-year, $11.1 million grant from
the National Science Foundation. The sci-
entists will have increased capacity to im-
prove corn through biotechnology and
computers. Other collaborators are locat-
ed at Clemson University and the Uni-
versity of Georgia. By 2002, the scientists
hope to develop a map containing infor-
mation on essentially all of corn's genes.
A maize DNA database will help re-
searchers compare corn with sorghum,
rice, and other grains.
The new DNA analyzer machines
should begin arriving this spring at ARS
labs in California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa,
Maryland, Nebraska, New York, and
Pennsylvania. The Perkin-Elmer ABI
model 3700 DNA sequencers can de-
crease costs and boost a lab's productiv-
ity by an estimated 50 times, according
to the manufacturer. Judy St. John and
Caird E. Rexroad, Jr., USDA-ARS Na-
tional Program Staff Beltsville Mary-
land; phone (301) 504-6252 [St. John],
e-mail or (301) 504-
7050 [Rexroad], e-mail
cer@ ars.
EdwardH. Coe, Jr., USDA-ARSPlant
Genetics Research Unit, Columbia, Mis-
souri; phone (573) 882-2768, e-mail
ed@ teosinte.agron.missouri. ed.

Agricultural Research/April 1999

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