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Completed NIFA Planned Research Initiatives

Agriculture

The agricultural community needs to improve nutrient use efficiency for modern cropping systems to ensure agronomic viability and environmental quality. This will require a different approach to nutrient management: the use of adaptive management concepts and processes. This project will develop technical and educational tools to encourage adaptive management.

This research continues exploration of biological (non pesticide) control of a series of invasive plant and insect species that affect crops and forests.

This research will examine possible affects of climate change on certain agricultural crop plants. It will include experiments that will allow prediction of how timothy and alfalfa plants will respond to future elevated CO2 and O3 levels.

This research involves modeling of cell growth, metabolite production rates, and product yields on various feedstocks using a variety of target organisms that can perform the bioprocess. These emphases need to be addressed prior to commercial implementation of generation of biofuels and industrial precursors from hydrothermal vent microbes.

The market for specialty foods targeted for Latino populations is especially strong in New England. While most of these foods are imported, many can be locally grown, offering a strong and increasing market for local farmers. We will work to evaluate germplasm of Latin American specialty crops with the objective of identifying parental materials to initiate a breeding program for these crops.

This project focuses on male equine infertility from several perspectives: 1) understanding at the molecular level the mechanisms of the causes of male infertility; 2) Methods to be developed during this project could easily be translated to standardized tests in the clinical laboratory; 3) Understanding of male infertility at the molecular level could provide rational strategies to treat infertile stallions and/or improve assisted reproductive technology.

This project will develop and diversify Crambe (an oilseed crop) and brassica (mustard green) species as dedicated bioenergy crops for biodiesel production. The proposed strategy will increase crop biomass and seed yields while growing these crops on marginal and heavy-metal-contaminated lands, thus increasing both yield and arable acreage.

This effort will develop local production and post-harvest practices to assist Massachusetts farmers to produce high quality Chinese medicinal plants with uniform levels of bioactive constituents. This will ensure the type of plant material desired by practitioners of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. This will benefit growers, practitioners, and those in need of healthcare. The establishment of Chinese medicinal herbs in Massachusetts could provide an income source for small farms and help maintain rural farmland.

This project will explore the hypothesis that development of an effective LAMP assay (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) for livestock and avian chlamydiosis will lead to significant reductions in zoonotic disease as well as morbidity, mortality and the reproductive health of farm animals.

The goals of this project are to supply apple growers with new tools that will enable them to continue towards a goal of sustainability while providing local consumers with a safe and healthful supply of fruit. As such, it will research new methods, educate growers, and engage consumers and wholesalers in Integrated Pest Management.

This project will examine methods to control undesirable sprouting in potatoes through breeding, transgenic strategies, or environmentally friendly agents.

This study is expected to reveal differences in one or more aspects of immune components and will aid in the understanding of how chronic exposure to certain organic pesticides may alter immune responses.

Deficiencies of mineral content in human diets, a causal factor in rising rates of malnutrition worldwide, appear to derive from diminished contents of mineral nutrients in foods of plant or animal origins.This project will provide a foundation of data to help ascertain if the nutrient content of foods can be enhanced through selection of crop varieties and improved nutrition of crops and will assess how dietary habits affect mineral nutrition of humans.

Literature on food composition demonstrates that the mineral nutrient density of vegetables has fallen in the past 50 years. This decline is associated with two factors: declines in soil fertility and with the genetics of plant cultivars that accumulate yield at higher rates than they accumulate mineral nutrients. This research is intended to help develop systems of food crop production that will supply adequate mineral nutrition to people directly through crop-derived foods.

This project has three components to increase sustainability in Massachusetts cranberry production:

  • development and demonstration of sustainable practices for the management of the most severe pest problems: cranberry fruitworm, fruit rot disease, and the parasitic weed dodder.
  • investigation of practices to conserve water and fuel.
  • work with growers to implement nutrient management Best Management Practices (BMPs).

This research project seeks to develop better understanding of the iron homeostasis process in corn in order to address biofortification of staple foods with iron.

Laminitis is a crippling disease that affects about one-percent of the more than nine million horses in North America, at a cost of over $1 billion annually. The goals of this project are to identify the specific metalloproteinases responsible, in hope of identification of inhibitors that can protect horses at risk.

This project, a component of a larger effort to annotate the bovine genome (define genes within the genetic code). One goal is to determine whether variations are associated with enhanced or decreased resistance to infectious diseases. We are interested in their receptors that detect the presence of infectious agents as well as the molecules these cells may produce to communicate with other cells in the immune system (known as cytokines or interleukins).

Evaluate pasture management systems with beef and other livestock.

This project is intended to develop effective ways to keep fruit on trees until mature. It is also evaluating the effects of the methods on fruit quality and storage potential.

This project takes a theoretical and empirical approach to study how several aspects of the food supply chain affect the decisions of consumer and firms and their well-being. The research is examining three issues: buyer market power, the vertical structure of markets and benefits and costs associated with mandated labeling of food products.

This multidisciplinary project will promote the use of biochar and bio-oil generated from agricultural/forest organic wastes to enhance small farm sustainability through providing renewable fuel, and improving soil quality and crop productivity, and to improve the environment through sequestrating greenhouse gases and reducing the mobility and exposure of contaminants in soils.

This research will examine possible affects of climate change on certain agricultural crop plants. It will include experiments that will allow prediction of how alfalfa plants will respond to future elevated CO2 (800ppm) and elevated ozone (O3) (80ppb).

This project will examine the effect of natural diversity on biofuel production efficiency by using a grass energy model organism (Brachypodium distachyon), and treatment with both biological and thermochemical conversion.

This project addresses environmental concerns and profitability issues faced bu livestock farms. It is evaluating options for cover crops and for pasture management.

Disaster Preparedness

The research focuses on responses to extreme flood events in Vermont, primarily Hurricane Irene, but also prior flood disasters. This research contributes to theoretical debates on adaptation to extreme events by explicitly accounting for the impacts of human-actions in response to flooding on riparian forest ecosystems needs. This research also investigates the motivations for human action.

Nutrition

The purpose of this research is to identify the microbial community constituents of mosquito midgut contents in order to identify new pathogens and functional gut microbes.

This project will explore the hypothesis that development of an effective LAMP assay (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) for livestock and avian chlamydiosis will lead to significant reductions in zoonotic disease as well as morbidity, mortality and the reproductive health of farm animals.

This project will develop new technologies that can stabilize omega-3 fatty acids so they can be incorporated into a wide variety of foods. Production of omega-3 fatty acids fortified foods could have significant consumer health benefits especially for heart and mental health.

There is a critical need in the meat processing and raw vegetable processing industries for the development of a rapid method for detection of infectious bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 in such products well before shipping, so as to prevent infectious outbreaks and costly recalls.

Both adult-onset obesity and childhood obesity pose real health risks, with childhood obesity known to be associated with increased risk of chronic diseases. With current rising trends of overweight and obese children, there is great need to develop additional practical approaches to target the obesity epidemic. The objective of this proposed research is to develop a feasible and practical food-based approach to help reduce the incidence of childhood obesity and overweight children.

This research will examine the links between food practices in the Cambodian-American community and health risks among pregnant and post-partum Cambodian women in the United States. More than half of all Cambodian Americans live below the poverty line and a significant number are at high risk for food insecurity and hunger.

Seafood is increasingly consumed in the United States. The ability of a particular foodborne pathogen to grow on raw seafood will be determined as will the process leading to the production of a toxin responsible for foodborne illness.

Deficiencies of mineral content in human diets, a causal factor in rising rates of malnutrition worldwide, appear to derive from diminished contents of mineral nutrients in foods of plant or animal origins.This project will provide a foundation of data to help ascertain if the nutrient content of foods can be enhanced through selection of crop varieties and improved nutrition of crops and will assess how dietary habits affect mineral nutrition of humans.

The main goal of this project is to develop new mathematical methods to describe and predict changes and deteriorative processes in foods and to improve existing ones, exploiting the power of modern mathematical software and the speed of computers. Secondary objectives are to develop user-friendly interactive software for implementing the new methods of calculation and to improve existing methods to calculate quantities and processes in food science, technology and engineering.

This research is the preliminary stage of investigation to examine the effects of soy supplements on abdominal fat and risk for developing diabetes.

This project is developing food-based delivery systems for transporting butyrate—a bioactive food component with possible cancer preventive effects—to the colon. It will generate fundamental scientific knowledge about how common food components (lipids and polysaccharides) can be assembled into new food structures with novel functional properties. This knowledge could be used to incorporate bioactive lipids (such as butyrate-enriched milk fat) into functional food products specifically designed to tackle human health problems, such as colon cancer prevention.

Food banks are major consumers of energy related to food handling and storage as well as major customers for local food producers. Energy efficiency and cost reduction in food banks could have synergistic benefits for both types of enterprise. This project will develop a process map to integrate energy and food handling audits tio help identify key nodes for effective energy efficiency and food safety interventions. By evaluating  technological innovation in the context of the local post-harvest food system the food banks can optimize energy efficiency and food safety.

This project will use multiple colon cancer cell lines to investigate the potential synergistic interactions between different dietary components in inhibiting cancer cell growth, and elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved.

This project takes a theoretical and empirical approach to study how several aspects of the food supply chain affect the decisions of consumer and firms and their well-being. The research is examining three issues: buyer market power, the vertical structure of markets and benefits and costs associated with mandated labeling of food products.

Advances in nanotechnology have allowed more rapid and sensitive testing methods to be developed in the form of biosensors to help identify potential dangers in food products prior to distribution. This project aims to develop a microfluidic detection device designed for rapid and portable detection of pathogens and toxins in our food supply.

This project will examine use of a sensory-affective, comprehensive approach to promote early childhood consumption of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. It is piloting a "Mass Farm Fresh" classroom methodology intended to increase levels of intake that are closer to meeting the USDA recommendations.

This research will address cultural tailoring of nutrition education programs intended to improve food security and nutrition of diverse cultures. It will further investigate cultural and ethnic differences in the language that is used to describe food security and the responses to household constraints that affect food purchasing. Finally, it will implement and evaluate a nutrition education program with a multicultural group of low-income Massachusetts residents.

This project will investigate the effects of a bioactive food component called sulforaphane, which is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, on basic cellular functions. The aim of this work is to develop new knowledge that could help improve the dietary prevention of the bone disease osteoporosis and obesity, two important public health problems.

Commercial Horticulture

This project will examine the performance of three turfgrass species that are commonly used on home lawns, golf courses and on athletic fields for remediation of organic pollutants.

This study is expected to reveal differences in one or more aspects of immune components and will aid in the understanding of how chronic exposure to certain organic pesticides may alter immune responses.

This research involves utilizing genomics and molecular biology tools to understand the basis of DMI (demethylation inhibitor) fungicide resistance dollar spot, the most important disease of turf grasses for golf courses.

This project has three components to increase sustainability in Massachusetts cranberry production:

  • development and demonstration of sustainable practices for the management of the most severe pest problems: cranberry fruitworm, fruit rot disease, and the parasitic weed dodder.
  • investigation of practices to conserve water and fuel.
  • work with growers to implement nutrient management Best Management Practices (BMPs).

Golf course superintendents often need to manage annual bluegrass on their courses and there are few methods for managing pests associated with annual bluegrass outside of multiple applications of chemical pesticides. This research seeks to refine understanding of the biology, ecology, and pathogenesis of these pests, develop better Integrated Pest Management tools to assess and monitor their impact, discover and deploy more effective pest management practices with reduced pesticide use.

With increased pressure to utilize more practical, ecological and economically feasible strategies to manage turfgrasses, research is needed to identify best management practices to preserve water resources. The primary goal is to increase sustainability of turfgrass by addressing water conservation issues, including (i) efficient irrigation strategies based on actual turfgrass water use, (ii) drought resistant species and cultivars, and (iii) an artificial wetland system to aid in preservation of water quality from managed turf settings.

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