Category Archives: Scientific Advances

Brazilian researchers develop technique for mass breeding of stingless bees

Agência FAPESP – Stingless bees, such as the jataí (Tetragonisca angustula) and the uruçu (Melipona scutellaris), are well known as important pollinators for several crops such as eggplant, strawberries, tomato and coffee.
One of the main limitations on their use for this purpose, however, is the difficulty of producing colonies in sufficient quantities to meet the demands of farmers, as the majority of these species have small numbers of queens.
However, a new technique that could help overcome this limitation was developed by a group of researchers who reared the queens of one of these species in vitro: Scaptotrigona depilis, commonly known in Brazil as mandaguari…>>Continue Reading<<
Source and Photo: FAPESP, January 29th, 2014
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Contentious Transgenic Maize Paper Retracted

32Science – The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has retracted a much-criticized paper that links a strain of genetically modified (GM) maize with severe diseases in rats. The paper’s author, French biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen, slammed the decision, which he said is an attempt by the GM crop industry to muzzle scientists who put into question the safety of its products.

Séralini’s paper sparked a media storm when it was published in September 2012. While some commentators presented the study as proof that GM food is “poison,” many scientists dismissed the study as flawed, and several official bodies also found it wanting.

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Correlating denitrifying catabolic genes with N2O and N2 emissions from swine slurry composting

embrapaBy Angnes et al.

Abstract – This work evaluated N dynamics that occurs over time within swine slurry composting piles. Real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) analyzes were conducted to estimate concentrations of bacteria community harboring specific catabolic nitrifying-ammonium monooxygenase (amoA), and denitrifying nitrate- (narG), nitrite- (nirS and nirG), nitric oxide- (norB) and nitrous oxide reductases (nosZ) genes. NH3-N, N2O-N, N2-N emissions represented 15.4±1.9, 5.4±0.9, and 79.1±2.0% of the total nitrogen losses, respectively. Among the genes tested, temporal distribution of narG, nirS, and nosZ concentration correlated significantly (p < 0.05) with the estimated N2 emissions. Denitrifying catabolic gene ratio (cnorB+qnorB)/nosZ ⩾ 100 was indicative of N2O emission potential from the compost pile. Considering our current empirical limitations to accurately measure N2 emissions from swine slurry composting at field scale the use of these catabolic genes could represent a promising monitoring tool to aid minimize our uncertainties on biological N mass balances in these systems.

Source: ScienceDirect, 7th May, 2013
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Agriculture Innovations and Investments Critical to Meeting Future Food Demand

26Agree – “The Chicago Council on Global Affairs today released a report that examines the implications of the increasingly influential roles of global business, Brazil, China, and India in agricultural research and the limited national research capacity of developing countries. It makes the case that greater international collaboration and investment in research is needed to safeguard productivity gains made over the past half century and meet future food demand. The independent study, Agricultural Innovation: The United States in a Changing Global Reality, is authored by University of Minnesota researchers, Philip G. Pardey and Jason M. Beddow. It concludes that most Sub-Saharan African countries could potentially access at least 25 times their locally produced agricultural knowledge by adapting and adopting scientific breakthroughs produced in other countries. “A new way of thinking about agricultural investments and innovation must be embraced to take advantage of such opportunities to increase agricultural production and increase the efficiencies of investment at all levels, from the local to the international level,” said Pardey. “A more international approach is urgently needed, as the lag between research investments and commercial adoption is extremely lengthy.” Pardey and Beddow present new measures of accumulated knowledge stocks by country and the potential for this knowledge to “spill over” and benefit other countries. These new measures of global spillover potential can help guide research and development decisions in the United States and globally. “The current system does not adequately take advantage of the vast stocks of knowledge that exist around the world that could be adapted to local environments elsewhere,” said Beddow.”

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Blocking insect digestion to control pests

foto_dentro16873_1By Fábio Reynol
Agência FAPESP – A number of diseases that affect humans, such as dengue fever, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis, and diseases that affect pests that destroy crops, such as cotton, sugarcane and banana, share something in common: they are all caused by insects.

An extensive study carried out at the Universidade de São Paulo Chemistry Institute (IQ/USP) used a unique approach to gain knowledge about different insects, namely, investigating their intestinal function. The study opened up new pathways for innovative pest control methods.

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Do plants ‘veto’ bad genes?

IndependentBy Heidi Ledford

Two publications are seeking to resurrect claims that plants can reject the inheritance of a mutated gene from their parents, in favour of a healthier ‘ancestral’ copy from their grandparents.

Susan Lolle, a plant geneticist now at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and her colleagues first published evidence in 2005 that plants had passed on genes correctly two generations down, even though the genome of the generation in between had only a mutated version1. This type of inheritance would require some hidden reservoir of genetic information outside of DNA, some suggested — perhaps in RNA transcribed from the healthy gene, which the plant would then use to correct the mutated one. If true, those findings would upend the modern concept of genetic inheritance, and predictably they have met with considerable scepticism.

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Source and Photo: Nature,  8th February, 2013
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Three-dimensional fruit

4. FapespReturnable packaging, custom-tailored to properly hold fruit such as persimmons, mangos, papayas and strawberries, thus reducing losses in their shipment after harvest, was developed by the National Institute of Technology (INT) in partnership with the Center for Food Technology at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). Losses of fruits and vegetables as a result of the systems currently in use, such as wooden, cardboard or plastic crates, is close to 39%, according to data from Embrapa. “We created the packaging according to the shape of the fruit,” says Marcos Henrique Garamvolgyi, project designer in the industrial design division of the INT. The process of developing the packaging involves making a digital image of the fruit using a 3D scanner and performing tests with samples printed on rapid prototype machines, allowing for the creation and testing of containers even outside of the fruit harvest periods. The packaging is made of plastic and vegetable fiber and its base is fordable so it can be returned to the producer. The tray is thin and the cavities are the exact size of the fruit.

Source and Photo: FAPESP, October 2012
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H5N1 Researchers Announce End of Research Moratorium

Flu1By David Malakoff
Science – Almost a year after they announced it, leading influenza researchers are ending a voluntary moratorium on certain types of controversial experiments involving the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

In a letter published online today by Science and Nature, 40 researchers declare that the studies should restart now that scientists, government officials, and the public have had time to debate the need for the research and impose new safety measures. “[T]he aims of the voluntary moratorium have been met in some countries and are close to being met in others,” they write, and researchers “have a public-health responsibility to resume this important work.”

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Transgenic selection

cafe1FAPESP – In order to enhance the development of genetically modified plants in Brazil, researchers from two units of Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, and Coffee, both of them in Brasilia, created a technique to select specific parts of the gene called promoters. These define where, when and under what conditions the desired traits will reveal themselves in plants. The researchers coordinated by Juliana Dantas de Almeida from Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology intended to select the promoters of interest and place them in a catalog for research institutions. The application for a patent for this selected genes modification technique was submitted in April. At present, to develop a genetically modified plant, the researchers use constitutive promoters, meaning that the inserted gene will manifest itself in all parts of the plant and at all stages of its development. The new method makes it possible for the inserted gene to manifest itself only in the endosperm (nutritive tissue produced in seeds) of the fruit of the transformed plant. In the battle against diseases such as coffee berry borer, a beetle that reproduces in the grain of the fruit, for example, the attack would focus on the origin of the problem directly. The resistance gene for the disease would be controlled by a specific promoter that would only fight off the beetle and not other insects that feed on the leaves.

Source and Photo: FAPESP, June 2012
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Taking a Slice at the Wheat Genome

By Elizabeth Pennisi

Science – Considered by some to be the Mount Everest of crop genomes, the challenging wheat genome is close to being scaled. An international team has produced a draft of wheat’s DNA sequence, one that identifies many of its genes and has made possible the identification of thousands of potential genetic changes that could improve this key crop.”A tremendous resource for wheat improvement and plant genetics has been developed,” says Jeffrey Bennetzen, a plant geneticist at the University of Georgia, Athens, who was not involved with the work………. << Access the complete article<<

Source and Photo: Science, November 28th, 2012
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