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The Juice on Summer Peaches and Plums

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.By Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&M AgriLife CommunicationsA fresh, juicy peach makes a good addition to a summer lunch bag or picnic. Warm or chilled, you know you have a good one when you have to chase a stream of peach juice with a napkin.

So my recent visit with food chemist Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos and peach breeder Dr. David Byrne was bound to conjure notions of hand-cranked peach ice cream or fresh slices topped with heavy cream.

Turns out, the Texas AgriLife Research scientists have an even better use: to cure breast cancer, even the most aggressive kind, without hurting healthy cells. That’s what they’ve done in the lab with two phenolic compounds in stone fruits.

What’s “phenolic,” you ask? The phenols are organic compounds that may affect traits such as aroma, taste or color.  The two in this case are chlorogenic and neochlorogenic

Many want to know where to get these compounds, if one can cook the peach or eat it raw, and whether these substances might work on other cancers. None of that is known yet – research like this is often a very long process to make sure it’s safe; so far no human clinical trials have been done…

But what this Texas duo has found is deliciously promising: to kill cancer cells and not healthy cells would make chemotherapy much more tolerable.

Their search began with the discovery that antioxidants and phytonutrients in plums equal or surpass so-called super fruits like blueberries. That called for a check against cancer.

“We chose breast cancer because it’s one of the cancers with highest incidence among women. So it is of big concern,” Cisneros-Zevallos said.

The National Cancer Institute counted 194,000 new cases and 40,610 deaths from breast cancer in 2009. The World Health Organization reports that breast cancer accounts for 16 percent of the cancer deaths of women globally.

Byrne plans to see how researchers who breed peach and plum varieties can make sure these compounds are bred into new fruit varieties Cisneros-Zevallos will continue testing these compounds in different types of cancer.

The work was supported by the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Tree Fruit Agreement.

Breast cancer cells -- even the most aggressive type -- died after treatments with peach and plum extracts in lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research.
Breast cancer cells — even the most aggressive type — died after treatments with
peach and plum extracts in lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research.

Becoming a Climate Ready Conservation Agency

The National Academy of Sciences last week released a set of three new reports on advancing the science, adapting to the impacts, and limiting the magnitude of climate change. These peer-reviewed reports reconfirmed that there is a strong, credible body of evidence documenting climate change, its correlation to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use, and its association with impacts. Many of these will affect forests and grasslands including increases in intense rainfall, decreases in snow cover, more intense and frequent heat waves and drought, increases in wildfires, and longer growing seasons. Many impacts of a changing climate are already showing up. Projections anticipate an additional warming of 2 to 11.5 degrees F over the next century, on top of the 1.4 degrees F already observed over the past 100 years. Read more »

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Residents Receive USDA Support to Increase Economic Development Opportunities, Spur Job Creation

Written by Anita Rios Moore, Vermont USDA Public Information Coordinator

USDA Rural Development State Director, Molly Lambert, joined by representatives from the Vermont Congressional delegation presented seven Northeast Kingdom organizations with Certificates of Partnership recently during a grant awards ceremony at the St. Johnsbury USDA office. The recipients received Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) to spur Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom businesses.

“Our mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all rural Americans. These grants will help rural businesses with funding and technical assistance they need to expand and create jobs,” Lambert said. “We are pleased to partner with these organizations in order to spur economic development throughout the Northeast Kingdom.”

Three organizations, the Country Riders Snowmobile Club, Inc., Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Inc. received grants to promote regional tourism throughout Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties.  Two other organizations, The Center for an Agricultural Economy and the University Of Vermont & State Agriculture College, will use their grants to provide technical assistance to dairy farmers and agricultural businesses in the area. Both organizations will provide business counseling, plan or product development to their specified clientele.

“Following the announcement, the grantees had time to network,” said Steven Campbell, Director for the St. Johnsbury USDA Rural Development Area Office. “They’ve continued conversations beyond the day’s event that clearly indicate they understand the connections they share.”

Newport City Renaissance Corporation will develop a Newport brand recognition and a marketing strategy. Northern Community Investment Corporation will complete a Growth Readiness Fund to assist selected innovative high-impact business partners with specialized services that point toward preparing and advancing their businesses for job creation.

These seven grants add to 20 previously awarded to Northeast Kingdom, Vermont recipients. Grantees have provided business assistance, including internet marketing, business account training, the creation of a centralized reservation system for Northeast Kingdom tourism businesses, energy efficiencies, revolving loan funds and technical assistance in several forms.

The Northeast Kingdom is a designated Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone.  The counties of Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans have special access to important USDA Rural Development programs.

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Northeast Kingdom grant recipients signed grant agreement documents for their Rural Business Enterprise Grant awards to spur economic development throughout Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans counties. From left to right: Patricia Sears – Newport Renaissance Corporation; Kate Williams – Northern Forest Canoe Trails; Ron Merrill Country Riders Snowmobile Club; Jon Freeman – Northern Community Investment Corporation; Gloria Bruce, Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association, and Monty Fisher, The Center for An Agricultural Economy. Steven Campbell from USDA Rural Development discusses document, while Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director (in back) looks on.

Penobscot Nation Family Benefits from a Gold Certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Home

 

Submitted by USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel with assistance from Beverly StoneUSDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel congratulated Jason and Jessica Sockbeson on their new home during an open house in Indian Island, Maine to celebrate National Homeownership Month.  Funding was provided by Rural Development through the Direct Home Loan program; The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Penobscot Nation provided subsidies to reduce the cost of the home.

The home is a LEED Gold Certified energy efficient home promoting energy conservation and affordability.  This is the first home financed on the Penobscot Nation reservation through Rural Development’s One Stop Mortgage documents.  “This represents a landmark event for Rural Development and the Penobscot Nation because funding is now available for those within this community to construct new homes,” Manuel said.  “This program provides affordable housing opportunities for families and allows them to remain in their community and close to their family and culture.”

LEED certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability.  This certification is the best way to demonstrate that your building is truly “green.”  The rating system has various levels for new construction.  Platinum is the highest and Gold is the next to highest certification offered through this process.

Rural Development, the Penobscot Nation, other partners, and the homeowners are especially pleased to have been able to achieve this level of construction for better energy savings and to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Sockbesons are thrilled to have a home of this caliber for less than they were previously paying in rent.  Manuel said, “We are delighted that Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation, representatives from the entire Maine Congressional Delegation staffs and the local lender were present to help us celebrate this event with the Sockbeson family.” 

From left to right:  Jaxson, 2; Jaedan, 6; Jason and his wife, Jessica holding Jillian, 3 months.
From left to right:  Jaxson, 2; Jaedan, 6; Jason and his wife, Jessica holding Jillian, 3 months

Conservation Science Training Center in Ohio Constructed with Support from USDA

By Michael Jones, Rural Development Public Affairs Director

On June 8, 2010, Ohio State Rural Development Director Tony Logan joined other funding partners and representatives from The Wilds for a ribbon cutting ceremony, celebrating the official opening of the Conservation Science Training Center (CSTC). Rural Development awarded $30,000 from its Community Facilities Grant Program to help fund the facility’s construction. The CSTC is a 3,600 square foot facility built to further the Wilds’ conservation and educational mission.

The CSTC will provide meeting, classroom, laboratory space and cabins to be used for extended stays by national and international visiting research teams. Constructed directly into a natural hillside, the facility incorporates geothermal heating and cooling, natural lighting, and other green-identified technologies. Nestled on nearly 10,000 acres dedicated to conservation research and education, the Wilds’ current research activities include: prairie biomass and carbon sequestration initiatives, grassland bird research and biodiversity surveys, prairie restoration and more.

Bringing the CSTC on line will expand the ability of The Wilds to provide additional support and opportunities for professors, teachers, students and visitors to investigate the ecological systems and wildlife health in Ohio’s Appalachian region. Funding partners included: the USDA Rural Development, American Electric Power Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Governor’s Office of Appalachia and Hocking College.

Rural Development State Director Tony Logan (second from left), participates

From left to right: Dr. Roy Palmer, Senior Vice President, Hocking College; Tony Logan, State Director, USDA Rural Development; Dr. Evan Blumer, Executive Director, The Wilds; Robert Powers, President, AEP Utilities; Fred Deel, Director, Governor’s Office of Appalachia.


Pests and Their Natural Enemies: Learn to Protect Your Garden!

Written by Kayla Harless, People’s Garden Intern

The People’s Garden workshops have yet to be anything less than an informative and fun time! Today, Don Weber, a research entomologist with USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, taught us about pests and their natural enemies.

Our instructor pointed out that most bugs are not harmful. In fact, even some viruses and fungi can be beneficial. Whether or not something is a pest is simply a matter of whether you want that item where it is.

Gardens in urban environments are subject to a lot of chance pest problems. A random outbreak or colonization of a pest can happen, and sometimes, because it happened in an urban location, there are no resources there to have this pest’s natural enemy. However, spotting these problems early on can significantly help. Build a healthy garden environment, by having flowering plants around your vegetables, rotate your crops, and use cover crops. It also was recommended to keep a close observation of your garden. You can even go out at night with a red light to observe bugs at work, the red light is out of a bug’s vision range and you will see lots of surprising action! This allows you to get to know bug life cycles, and spot early on any unwanted bugs. Hand picking out the first ones to arrive will discourage others from coming to your garden.

The instructor brought several examples of natural enemies that eat aphids, Colorado potato beetles, and other pesky garden annoyances. The common pink lady beetle eats many aphids, and spined soldier bugs are general predators as well. Stinkbugs are also good predators.

Most everyone has heard of Chia pets, but not all of us know that Chia is actually a great cover crop and attracts many pollinators. It makes a great weed suppressant, and is even high in omega-3 fatty acids. Don Weber, our instructor, is doing research on Chia, how it grows, and what it does. If you are interested in learning about or participating in growing your own Chia, follow this link.

Be sure to come out next week and join us for “Why Not Keep Honeybees?” taught by Dr. Jeff Pettis, right here in the People’s Garden!

Don Weber passed around some common pink lady beetles, while explaining to us their role in eating pesky aphids
Don Weber passed around some common pink lady beetles
while explaining to us their role in eating pesky aphids.