LSU AgCenter News for Fall 2019

High school students get hands-on genetics lesson

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LSU AgCenter research associate Gavin Guidry, at right, helps Midland High School students examine rice plant leaves under a magnifying glass to determine which leaves are smooth or rough during a field trip to the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station. Photo by Bruce Schultz

Midland High School students learned about the applications of biotechnology in agriculture during a visit to the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station on Oct. 23, 2019. Sixty science class students learned how plant breeding improves crops for farmers and consumers.

AgCenter rice breeder Adam Famoso explained how different lines of rice are selected in the breeding process. Students carried out a genetics study to evaluate rice plants with smooth and rough leaves, and they analyzed the results to determine the genetics of that trait. Famoso said one thing he stressed to students was that agriculture is more than just working in the fields.

“Almost any discipline can have application in agriculture,” he said. “The idea of coming here is to take something they are learning in the classroom and put it into the context of the real world.”

The session meshed with the lesson plans in Midland High science classes to reinforce what students are learning.

“Their biggest take-away is that what we’re doing over here and reading about on the internet isn’t happening in some far-off university. It’s happening in their backyard,” said Chad Breaux, Midland High School biology teacher.

Read the full story about students learning genetics at Rice Station.

Farm to School program wins national award

The LSU AgCenter Louisiana Farm to School Program has received the Farm Credit MarketMaker Innovation Award for the second year in a row. The award was presented during the 2019 National Direct Agricultural Marketing Summit, Oct. 7 to 9 in Rosemont, Illinois. This program helps connect child nutrition services with local farmers who can provide fresh fruits and vegetables. Crystal Besse is the AgCenter Farm to School director. AgCenter extension associate Alessandro Holzapfel and horticulture professor Carl Motsenbocker also work with the program.

Read the full story of the Farm to School program national ward

AgCenter team works on hemp production in Louisiana

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The LSU AgCenter has formed a team to study topics related to industrial hemp production. Members of the team are, from left, front row, agronomist Gerald Myers, research associate Babitha Jampala, and external and government affairs coordinator Ashley Mullens. Back row, agronomist Steve Harrison, horticulturist Jeb Fields, biotechnology researcher Ted Gauthier and entomologist Jeff Davis. Photo by Olivia McClure

Ruby Miller named 4-H national winner

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A ruby is considered one of the most valuable gemstones in the world. Ruby Miller has been recognized nationally as one of the greatest treasures to Louisiana 4-H for her more than 30 years of service to the organization. Miller, a retired 4-H agent and current volunteer with the LSU AgCenter, was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame in Chevy Chase, Maryland, on Oct. 11.

Miller was a 4-H’er from the fourth grade through her graduation. As both an elementary and high school teacher in Cameron Parish, she voluntarily helped 4-H’ers with projects such as livestock, cooking, entomology and photography.

Miller became the Cameron Parish 4-H agent in 2006. Under her leadership, Cameron Parish earned nearly $25,000 in annual 4-H grants, fundraising profits and in-kind support. While youth have faced distractions and relentless competition for their attention, Miller helped Cameron Parish maintain one of the highest 4-H member retention rates in the state. She also built a successful 4-H shooting sports program that has served as a statewide model.

Miller, now retired, is a member of the Louisiana 4-H Foundation Board of Trustees, where she makes appeals for financial support of 4-H programs.

“My wish is for all kids to be connected to 4-H in some way,” she said.

Read the full story of Ruby Miller getting 4H award

Researcher knocks out protein to control fat in animals

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LSU AgCenter researcher Xing Fu uses a FluorChem imager to capture DNA and protein gel images in his study of how a body produces fat. Photo by Rick Bogren

When you pick up a cut of beef in the supermarket, you see the ribbons of fat, or marbling, within the meat. This intramuscular fat contributes to the rich flavor of beef. Visceral fat, another major type of fat that’s found in the abdominal cavity, can affect the development of intramuscular fat.

Xing Fu, a researcher in the LSU AgCenter School of Animal Sciences, is working on a project that promises to reduce the amount of visceral fat an animal produces.

“We don’t want visceral fat,” he said. “It creates waste in meat and fat in people.”

With a three-year, $410,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Fu is exploring ways to control fat development in all stages of growth in animals and humans. Working with laboratory mice, Fu is looking for a way to manipulate the body’s production of visceral fat. So far, he has found a potential way to control this process by “knocking out” or overexpressing a protein called Tcf21.

The result in cattle, for example, can lead to animals that don’t carry a lot of body fat but still produce the intramuscular fat that provides the marbling in the meat. This will increase food efficiency and improve conversion of feed to meat, he said.

In humans, the process can reduce visceral fat and improve metabolic health. “We want to explore its therapeutic potential,” Fu said.

Read the full story of how an AgCenter research studies “knocking out” protein to control fat.

Nanoparticles from corn may be carriers for pesticides

Nanoparticles made from the corn protein zein may provide the next generation of carriers for agricultural pesticides. A research team led by scientists in the LSU AgCenter has been awarded a four-year grant of $489,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study the environmental fate and effects of engineered nanoparticles — particles that are 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair — developed to deliver agricultural chemicals.

The study, led by AgCenter researcher Cristina Sabliov in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, focuses on the interactions between the zein nanoparticles, called ZNPs, and the environment, including plants and insects. As pesticide carriers, the particles entrap the chemicals and provide more-targeted application with less runoff or improper exposure. The ZNPs are biodegradable.

Read the full story of nanoparticles as pesticides

1/8/2020 11:05:45 PM
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