Dirk C. Benedict
Dirk C. Benedict is the marketing coordinator for the LSU AgCenter Office of Intellectual Property. This article appears in the winter 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.
Deer Prefer 'Buck Forage Oats' Variety
The first “Buck Forage Oats” from the LSU AgCenter, also known as LA604, was developed by Steve Harrison, wheat and oat breeder and professor in the School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences.
“Buck Forage Oats” was originally known as Coker 833, an oat line made by Harrison’s father, Howard Harrison, at the Coker’s Pedigreed Seed Company. All of Coker’s oat lines were donated to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and distributed to university breeders across the region when the company’s breeding program was discontinued in the 1990’s. LA604 was created through cross pollination of various Coker oat lines made available through that distribution and licensed to Arkansas County Seed Company, Inc. in 1997. It was then sold through various distributors in the United States as “Buck Forage Oats” for over a decade.
In 2008, a new oat variety, LA99017 or “Buck”, was released after nine years of development by Steve Harrison, Kelly Arceneaux, Katie McCarthy, and Lucas Bisset at the LSU AgCenter. Buck was derived from a 1999 cross pollination between LA604 and a Texas A&M University breeding line. It was selected for forage production, cold tolerance, and disease resistance. James Kroll, a wildlife biologist from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, conducted deer preference and grazing tolerance trials that led to the release of Buck. These studies showed that deer were more likely to eat the new Buck than other oat varieties.
This new variety was also licensed by Arkansas County Seed and is sold as the latest “Buck Forage Oats” brand. “Dr. Harrison has certainly hit it out of the park every time we decide on a varietal trait we want in an oat,” said Jake Butler, vice president of Arkansas County Seed, “His efforts, along with Dr. Kroll’s, have left us with the only true oat variety that holds all of the specific traits we identified to most benefit and attract white-tailed deer.”
Buck is a tall winter oat primarily used for wildlife food plots and as a forage for deer. Because of its tolerance to cold, it persists longer into the winter than most oat varieties. Hunters may plant small amounts to attract deer to a certain location for hunting, whereas other groups may plant many acres for herd feeding and nutrition.
“The continued support from and partnership with Arkansas County Seed has been incredibly valuable,” Harrison said. “They sponsor part of the breeding program for new food plot varieties that allows us to make improvements.”
Buck is more resistant to diseases like crown and stem rust with a higher grain yield. The oats also remain greener in cold temperatures for longer periods, which is important for attracting more deer to the plot location.
Working together, Arkansas County Seed and the LSU AgCenter have had almost 20 years of commercial success. “Working with Dr. Harrison, and the rest of the staff with the LSU AgCenter, for the past 20 plus years has been a great privilege and a tremendous help for our company,” Butler said. “We are eager to continue these efforts, though breeding a better oat than Buck may be very difficult to accomplish.”
Bitter Blocker Improves Health Food Flavor
Bitter Blocker reduces the bitter taste of salt substitutes like potassium chloride. The composition was developed by John Finley, Joan King, Darryl Holiday and Alfredo Prudente at the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences. Potassium exerts a strong bitter or acrid taste. Blocking the bitter taste of potassium chloride allows the addition of potassium and the reduction of sodium chloride into foods and beverages, resulting in a healthier product.
“It is essential to maintain a proper balance of sodium and potassium in our diet,” Finley said. “Potassium chloride is pretty nasty stuff in high amounts, but we were able to block the taste. This can provide the basis for development of healthier products.”
The composition was taste-tested in numerous beverages, supplements and antioxidant-rich beverages, and in all cases, it was able to reduce bitterness. However, its greatest success to date has been in the field of sports nutrition.
Hydra-Guard, a Baton Rouge-based sports products company, was able to co-develop a new high-electrolyte bottled sports drink using the bitter blocker with the help of the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator. Luis Espinoza, Ashley Gutierrez and Gabriela C. Gutierrez worked with Hydra-Guard CEO Joseph Tucker to develop a new formula that became Hydra-Guard Recharge. The goal of Hydra-Guard Recharge is superior replenishment of electrolyte and potassium content that is lost through sweat, using less sugar and no artificial ingredients, to better support and rehydrate athletes before, during and after heavy activity.
Recharge has rapidly expanded and innovated since its initial launch in November 2016. The product is already selling in almost 400 locations across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. In January 2018, with the help of Marvin Moncada and Valentina Rosasco at the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, the company relaunched the product line with an optimized flavor profile, fewer calories and new packaging that greatly increased its shelf life from six to 16 months.
“The LSU AgCenter has been tremendous in helping us grow our business,” Tucker said. “Its knowledgeable staff has helped develop and improve our products at every step, and we look forward to even greater future success.”
Magnetic Biochar Helps Plant Growth
Jim Wang, a professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, has developed a new magnetic biochar composition capable of removing excess nutrients from water or waste and repurposing them as fertilizer. Nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrate, are commonly used in products such as soil fertilizers. However, they can also cause growth of algae and bacteria if they build up in nearby waterbodies. Additionally, fertilizer that is washed away cannot feed growing plants.
Biochar is formed when biomass, like sugarcane harvest waste, is heated to a high temperature without oxygen. The LSU AgCenter biochar composition contains magnesium oxide and magnetite, both of which allow it to bind to nutrients like phosphate and attach to a magnetic field. Once attached to a magnet, it can be easily separated and then transported elsewhere to improve plant growth. In experiments, Wang retrieved phosphate using the magnetic biochar from wastewater at an animal production facility and placed it into ryegrass soil. The amount of ryegrass biomass grown with the magnetic biochar was almost double that of ryegrass soil containing standard biochar.
The goal is to develop methods to apply the biochar to flowing bodies of water like wastewater treatment discharge pipelines and farmland streams before algal growth occurs.
“Farmers may be able to benefit from making filter strips containing magnetic biochar and placing them along drainage ditches to reduce the phosphorus from surface runoff into surface water,” Wang said. “This not only recycles the nutrients from waste, but also improves environmental quality.“
Bacterial Testing of Chronic Wasting Disease
Frank Bastian, a professor in the School of Animal Sciences, is working on developing a test for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a neurodegenerative disease that affects deer and elk. Testing relies on Bastian’s new method to grow Spiroplasma, a type of bacteria his research has shown to be linked to the disease.
“Testing would not be possible without the ability to grow the bacteria,” Bastian said. “They would barely be present at the earliest stages of the disease in a small fluid or tissue sample and would not show up.”
Clinical signs of CWD only appear at late stages of infection, when the disease is universally fatal and easily contagious to surrounding deer. The disease can spread through contact with infected deer fluids and nose-to-nose contact. Current detection methods require sampling tissues that cannot be safely removed from a living animal, such as brain tissue. For deer farmers, this means testing a deer herd requires killing at least one deer, resulting in the loss of that deer’s value. Deer hunters also have no way to readily detect if the disease is present in their kills.
To date, the disease is not present in Louisiana; however, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is present in other states including Texas and Arkansas, with a higher prevalence in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
Bastian can grow the bacteria from tissue samples to detectable levels in a lab; however, he is looking to develop more widely usable tests.
On that front, Bastian said, “We would like to develop a blood test in the future. It would be very accessible for hunters, farmers, and veterinarians, but we still have a lot of work to do before that point.”