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Sea oats studied as coast ‘preservers’

HOLLY BEACH – Hundreds of sea oat plants bent in the breeze on a sandy beach as LSU AgCenter researchers walked among them, looking for plants with potential to help stem erosion on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast.

“What we have is about 1,000 plants, each of which is genetically different,” said Steve Harrison, an LSU AgCenter plant breeder, as he stood on the beach about seven miles west of here.

“What we’re doing here is comparing the survival, spread, vigor, seed production and aesthetic attributes of each of these plants and trying to narrow down the thousand to a list of maybe a hundred that warrant additional study,” he said.

The sea oats at Holly Beach came from seeds collected along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida and from the Atlantic Coast from Florida northward, according to Mike Materne, an LSU AgCenter coastal wetlands plant specialist.

Federal and state agencies and park systems helped collect the seeds along the Gulf. North Carolina State University plant breeder Paul Murphy and county agent David Nash contributed seeds collected along the Atlantic Coast.

The seeds then were planted in a greenhouse on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, and the plants were transplanted at Holly Beach and Biloxi Beach, Miss., in 2004. Researchers at North Carolina State University made similar plantings at Wrightsville Beach, N.C.

“Because each plant was produced from seeds, every plant is potentially genetically different,” Materne said.

It’s the genetic variation that the researchers are looking for.

“Not a lot is known about sea oats in terms of genetics,” Harrison said.

The Louisiana and North Carolina researchers are collaborating to identify plants that will grow best, hold sand and keep it from blowing away.

In the fall of 2004, the researchers began evaluating the plants at Holly Beach, and they made a second selection in July. They dug up parts of the selected plants, which will be divided and planted in greenhouses to produce plants for further testing. Rick Bogren

Farm Bureau gives $4,000 to Master Farmer Program

The LSU AgCenter’s Master Farmer Program received a $4,000 check from the Louisiana Farm Bureau during the bureau’s annual conference in July 2005. Farm Bureau President Ronnie Anderson made the presentation to Carrie Mendoza, coordinator. He said the program “is one of the most important out there for farmers. Its success will depend on producer involvement and we want to make sure as many farmers as possible have access to the program.” The Master Farmer Program was established four years ago as a way to help farmers learn to reduce runoff into Louisiana’s waterways and improve water quality. To become a Master Farmer, participants must successfully complete the program’s three phases—training, visiting a model farm and developing a conservation plan. For more information about the program contact Mendoza at (225) 578-2906.  Linda Foster Benedict

Turning alligator waste into ‘gold’  

Louisiana produces about a million pounds of alligator waste – primarily carcasses – each year.

If Jack Losso has his way, that waste will be turned into a usable product that could add millions of dollars to the Louisiana economy.

Losso, an LSU AgCenter food science researcher, and his research team have developed a way to extract collagen from alligator carcasses into a form suitable for the cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical industries.

The cosmetic industry uses collagen in manufacturing personal care products, and the food industry uses collagen as a source for gelatin as well as for clarifying alcoholic beverages and other uses.

In addition, successful medical and pharmaceutical applications of commercially available collagen include the treatment of hypertension, urinary incontinence and pain associated with osteoarthritis and inhibition of cancer spread in the body.

Collagen has a variety of uses in biomedical applications.

“First is tissue engineering – creating artificial skin for grafts for burn victims and other applications,” Losso said. “Second is wound healing – companies are interested in putting collagen in bandages. It also can be used in emergency rooms for stopping bleeding.”

Most commercial collagen now comes from cattle and swine, but Losso said “mad cow disease” in England and Canada has made collagen users “anxious and looking for other sources.”

Marine collagen offers an alternative recogto collagen from cattle or swine. Shark collagen has long been used as an alternative, particularly for medical uses, including wound coverings, artificial skin, artificial bone, artificial cartilage, artificial tendons and surgical sutures.

Commercial collagen also comes from other fish.

“We started with removing collagen from fish skins – black drum and sheepshead – about two years ago and have a patent pending on the technique we developed,” Losso said.

“We’ve extracted collagen from the alligator cartilage and compared it with collagen from shark cartilage,” Losso said. “There is a striking similarity, biochemically speaking.

“What we produce is almost 100 percent pure,” Losso said. “The next step is FDA certification.”

Losso’s team includes fisheries and coastal issues agent Mark Schexnayder, aquaculture agent Mark Shirley and two other Food Science Department faculty members Michael Moody and Jon Bell, as well as Ralph Portier from the LSU Department of Environmental Studies. Rick Bogren

Vandeveer lauded as teacher, researcher

Lonnie R. Vandeveer, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness and a frequent contributor to Louisiana Agriculture, died on May 5, 2005, from a heart attack. He was 55 and a native of Coyle, Okla. A U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, he received his B.S. (’72), M.S (’76) and Ph.D. (’79) degrees from Oklahoma State University. He began his academic career with LSU in 1979. His research and teaching programs were in agricultural finance and rural land markets. During his career, Vandeveer received numerous awards for his teaching and research activities. He was recogto nized by the LSU chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta for meritorious teaching efforts. The National Association of Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture awarded him the Teaching Award of Merit. Vandeveer also won several awards for his student advising activities. These included the Outstanding College of Agriculture Award by the World Association of Agricultural Councils and the Outstanding Academic Adviser Award from LSU. He won several awards for the Southern Agricultural Economics Association and the American Agricultural Economics Association for posters developed from his research program. The LSU chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta recognized his research work with the Research Award of Merit. He was named the Warner L. Bruner Professor in 1999. Kenneth W. Paxton

New sugarcane varieties take pressure off 384

LSU AgCenter sugarcane researchers showcased new varieties at the sugarcane field day held July 20 at the Sugar Research Station at St. Gabriel.

The three varieties – HOCP96-540, L97-128 and HO95-988 – all have good yield potential and attractive characteristics, but the real interest stems from getting some of the sugarcane acreage away from the state’s dominant variety LCP89-384. That variet made up 91 percent of the Louisiana sugarcane crop last year.

“That’s not a good situation,” said Kenneth Gravois, station coordinator. “That’s a situation that puts all of our eggs in one basket.”

The 384 variety has been around for 12 years. While it’s been a good variety that growers are comfortable with, they are concerned by the amount of rust disease showing up in their fields.

“384 was resistant to rust, but Mother Nature is dynamic. She will not lay over and play dead,” warned Gravois.

The expert said he suspects either the rust organism mutated or the characteristic was “selected out” of the variety over the years.

“Each year since 2000 we’ve seen increasing levels of rust, and that is alarming to Louisiana sugarcane growers,” Gravois said.

Rust is a foliar disease of sugarcane and will reduce the plants’ height and ultimately the yields.

Researchers also showcased two varieties for release in 2006. The two varieties have good yield potential, and one has the added benefit of insect resistance.

“It’s one of the first varieties in a number of years with resistance to the sugarcane borer,” Gravois said. Tobie Blanchard  

(These news articles appeared in the summer 2005 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
8/25/2005 11:34:31 PM
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