February 2, 2009
- Chemical Come-on Created by MAES Scientists Successfully Lures Love-sick Lady Lampreys to Traps
- MSU-patented Process Can Reduce the Cost of Making Cellulosic Biofuels
- Product Center Names Experienced CEO to Help Bioeconomy Business Startups
- Researchers Prove Food Safety to Help Commercialize Irradiation Technology
- How Much Greenhouse Gas Will Biofuels Add to the Atmosphere? MSU Research Says Not As Much as Previously Thought
- MAES Grant Writing Workshop Receives Rave Reviews
- Animal Agriculture Initiative Awards Research Dollars for 2009-2010
- MSU and Coca-Cola Partner on Packaging Innovation and Sustainability Center
- Brian Klatt Named Michigan Natural Features Inventory Director
- New MAES Faculty Members
A synthetic version of the pheromone that male sea lampreys use to attract spawning females developed by an MAES scientist successfully lured females to traps and foiled the mating process of the destructive invasive species.Pheromones, chemical scents used to attract a mate, are well-documented in the insect world. Weiming Li, MAES fisheries and wildlife scientist, has focused much of his career on the well-developed sense of smell of the sea lamprey. In 2002, after four years of painstaking research, Li and his team published results detailing their isolation and identification of the chemical that male lampreys use to lure females.
Li and doctoral student Nicholas Johnson, who did the research as part of his dissertation, and the rest of the team used the same exacting techniques to develop a synthetic version of the pheromone and test one of its components as a lamprey control. Tiny concentrations of the synthetic pheromone component, called 3kPZS, were as effective as the pheromone released by males in attracting females over hundreds of meters and wasn't affected by habitat conditions.
"The pheromone is expensive to synthesize," Li said, "but only a very small amount is needed for it to work successfully. It's very potent. Only a few hundred grams, less than a pound, would be used each year."
The research was published in the Jan. 19 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
By luring fertile females to traps baited with synthetic pheromone, fishery managers could prevent the females from mating and reduce lamprey populations. The synthetic pheromone also could be used to attract females for harvesting as a food fish. In France and Portugal, sea lamprey is considered an exquisite gastronomical delicacy.
"The Great Lakes Fisheries Commission would like to deploy one new integrated pest management control method by 2010 as a milestone for its sea lamprey management program," Li explained. "The commission considers regulating spawning and migrating behavior with pheromones the most promising control method for implementation. So we're excited about the possibilities."
Currently, lampreys are controlled mainly by adding TFN, a compound that kills them in the larval stage, to freshwater streams where lampreys spawn. But there are environmental concerns about adding the chemical to streams, as well as the possibility that lampreys could develop resistance to TFN.
Sea lampreys, which resemble 18-inch-long eels, can live in both salt and fresh water and likely found their way into the Great Lakes via shipping channels. Because they're an exotic invasive species, they have no natural predators in the Great Lakes. Lampreys are parasites -- they stay alive by attaching themselves to other fish, such as salmon, trout and whitefish, and then sucking out the fish's body fluids. The lamprey's sucking disk and sharp teeth scar the host fish, and the experience kills many hosts.
In its parasitic stage, a sea lamprey can kill 40 or more pounds of fish. Lampreys are so destructive that, under some conditions, only one of seven fish attacked by a sea lamprey will survive. Lampreys caused the extinction of three species of whitefish in the Great Lakes. The U.S. and Canadian governments spend about $10 million to $15 million per year on lamprey control.
"It made sense for us to focus on the sea lamprey," Li said. "It's a poster animal for invasive species -- very destructive, very expensive to control effectively."
Besides Li and Johnson, other paper authors are Sang-Seon Yun, assistant professor; Henry T. Thompson, graduate student; and Cory Brant, graduate student, all in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
The research was supported by grants from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the National Science Foundation.
MSU-patented Process Can Reduce the Cost of Making Cellulosic Biofuels
A patented Michigan State University process to pretreat crop waste before its conversion into ethanol means extra nutrients don't have to be added and so cuts the cost of making biofuels from cellulose.
Cellulose in plants must be broken down into fermentable sugars before they can be turned into biofuel. The AFEX (ammonia fiber expansion) pretreatment process, developed by Bruce Dale, MAES chemical engineering and materials science researcher, uses ammonia to make the breakdown of cellulose and hemicellulose in plants 75 percent more efficient than when conventional enzymes alone are used.
"Doctoral student Ming Lau and I have shown that it's possible to use AFEX to pretreat corn stover [cobs, stalks and leaves] and then hydrolyze and ferment it to commercially relevant levels of ethanol without adding nutrients to the stover," Dale said. "It's always been assumed that agricultural residues such as corn stover didn't have enough nutrients to support fermentation. We have shown this isn't so."
"The research also shows that the chemical compounds created when the stover goes through the AFEX process can improve the overall fermentation process," Lau added. "This is at odds with the general perception that these compounds are detrimental and should be removed."
The research was published in the Jan. 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Currently, cellulose is commonly pretreated with acid to break the material down into fermentable sugars. After acid pretreatment, the resulting material must be washed and detoxified. That removes nutrients. Hence the mistaken idea that crop waste lacks the necessary nutrients for fermentation, Dale said.
Cellulosic material pretreated with the AFEX process doesn't have to be washed or detoxified, so ethanol can be created from cellulose without added nutrients or other steps.
"Washing, detoxifying and adding nutrients back into the pretreated cellulose are three separate steps," Dale said. "Each step is expensive and adds to the cost of the biofuel. Breaking down cellulose into fermentable sugars cost effectively has been a major issue slowing cellulosic ethanol production. Using AFEX as the pretreatment process can dramatically reduce the cost of making biofuels from cellulose."
The next step could be a pilot plant, Dale said, perhaps at MBI International. MBI, a subsidiary of the MSU Foundation, partners with universities and companies to commercialize technology.
"There are several companies that may be interested in using this technology," Dale said. "We are working to make the AFEX technology fit these companies' needs."
Dale is associate director of the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies and has a leadership role in the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The center is a partnership between Michigan State and the University of Wisconsin-Madison funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct basic research aimed at solving some of the most complex problems in converting natural materials to energy.
This research is supported by the GLBRC and the MSU Research Foundation. Dale's research also is supported by the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
Product Center Names Experienced CEO to Help Bioeconomy Business Startups
To assist entrepreneurs looking to start biofuel, alternative energy or other non-traditional agricultural product companies, the Michigan State University Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources named Ruben Derderian associate director with responsibilities for bioeconomy business.
Derderian brings more than 30 years of executive-level business experience to the position, including expertise in strategic planning, competitor analysis, and product development and launch.
"In my new position, I will be focusing on non-traditional agricultural products such as burning biomass for energy, commercial production of cellulosic ethanol, using new sensor technology to monitor irrigation water and food crops for pathogens, and alternative energy such as wind generation of electricity," Derderian explained. "There are a lot of new bioeconomy technologies being developed, and one of my roles will be to help entrepreneurs define their needs and then connect them with the appropriate resources at MSU or other places.
"I'll help entrepreneurs think through their business plans and strategies," he continued. "Once an entrepreneur gets to the commercialization stage, there are a number of logistical issues he or she faces. I've been there and I've done that, and I know I can help people be successful."
Founded in 2003, the MSU Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources has helped more than 600 clients develop and commercialize agriculture and natural resources products. As Michigan expands its role in the bioeconomy, adding a position to focus solely on the bioeconomy made sense to Chris Peterson, Product Center director.
"The Product Center has great success in serving its traditional clientele in food, agriculture and natural resources," said Peterson, MAES scientist, who holds the Nowlin Chair of Consumer-Responsive Agriculture. "But, we know that bioeconomy ventures are going to have bigger scale, more advanced technology and more formal venture capital needs than we have dealt with normally. Ruben's background perfectly fits our needs in serving these types of sophisticated ventures. And besides all that, clients will find him a great coach to work with on venture development."
It also made sense to Steve Pueppke, director of the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station.
"The OBT is delighted to partner with the Product Center to assist Michigan entrepreneurs who want to help create the bioeconomy in our state and the Great Lakes region," Pueppke said. "Ruben brings impressive business credentials to the job, and we are looking forward to having him as part of the team."
Derderian's position is funded by the Office of Biobased Technologies and MSU Extension. The Product Center is funded by the MAES and MSUE.
Researchers Prove Food Safety to Help Commercialize Irradiation Technology
An MAES researcher is helping a technology startup company improve the safety of leafy greens and other foods as more consumers seek to eat fresh and healthy foods.
MAES biosystems and agricultural engineering researcher Bradley Marks and Sanghyup Jeong, visiting assistant professor in the same department, are proving that X-rays can kill bacterial pathogens such as E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella on the most delicate vegetables and extend shelf life in the bargain. Irradiation from other sources has been used for years to protect ground meat and other products, essentially pasteurizing food without cooking it.
"Our work to date has shown that X-ray technology is very effective in killing the bacterial pathogens without causing undesirable changes in product quality," Marks said.
They do it by applying a higher dose than is used for medical X-ray imaging yet less than is used by competing irradiation methods. That means less protective shielding is necessary, so the equipment is more compact and food companies can install it at their processing plants. Currently, the fact that food must be transported to specialty facilities eliminates irradiation as an option for much fresh produce.
Marks and Jeong collaborate with MAES scientist Elliot Ryser, a microbiologist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. They are using MSU's biosafety level-2 pilot processing facility to validate technology being commercialized by Rayfresh Foods of Ann Arbor.
"The problem the leafy green industry faces is that there is absolutely no kill step in the process of cleaning, rinsing and bagging the product. There is nothing they can do," explained Peter Schoch, Rayfresh's CEO. The potential for widespread contamination is compounded by the mingling of greens from different sources in processing plants, he said.
Food irradiation -- which does not in any way make food radioactive -- uses gamma rays from radioactive material or machine-generated electron beams, Schoch said, both of which tend to cause cellular damage and visually degrade food. X-rays promise a gentler, more scalable solution. Rayfresh recently landed its first contract to build an X-ray machine to treat ground beef for Omaha Steaks, which inspected the prototype at MSU. The university's validation work was pivotal in winning that first order, Schoch said.
"We also have very significant interest from people who produce and use food service lettuce," he added, a product connected to a recent E. coli illness outbreak in Michigan and other states.
Before regulators and the market will accept such devices, however, their use for each food and target bacterium must be scientifically validated. That ensures a continuing role for the MSU testing facility and staff members, who also are working on validating the technology to kill Salmonella on almonds. Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a final rule allowing the use of irradiation for iceberg lettuce and fresh spinach, a move expected to open the doors to greater use of the technology for leafy greens.
Regulators have studied irradiation of food for 40 years and approved its use for red meat in 1997. Irradiation also now may be applied to other foods such as spices, poultry and shellfish, including oysters, clams and scallops.
How Much Greenhouse Gas Will Biofuels Add to the Atmosphere? MSU Research Says Not As Much as Previously Thought
Publications ranging from the journal Science to Time magazine have blasted biofuels for significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, calling into question the environmental benefits of making fuel from plant material. But a new analysis by Michigan State University scientists says these dire predictions are based on a set of assumptions that may not be correct.
"Greenhouse gas release from changes in land use -- growing crops that could be used for biofuels on previously unfarmed land -- has been identified as a negative contributor to the environmental profile of biofuels," said Bruce Dale, MAES chemical engineering and materials science researcher. "Other analyses have estimated that it would take from 100 to 1,000 years before biofuels could overcome this 'carbon debt' and start providing greenhouse gas benefits."
But as Dale and his co-authors point out in their research, published in the January online edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology, earlier analyses didn't consider a number of variables that might influence the greenhouse gas emissions associated with biofuels.
"Our analysis shows that crop management is a key factor in estimating greenhouse gas emissions associated with land use change associated with biofuels," Dale said. "Sustainable management practices such as no-till farming and planting cover crops can reduce the time it takes for biofuels to overcome the carbon debt to three years for grassland conversion and 14 years for temperate zone forest conversion."
The discrepancies in the time it will take biofuels to offer environmental benefits are due to the models used for each analysis, Dale explained.
"There are no real data on what actually happens as demand increases for land for biofuel production in one part of the world potentially lead to land clearing because it is impossible to track these relationships in the real world," Dale said. "All the estimates are based on economic relationships and theoretical models with various data and assumptions. It's really one set of assumptions versus another set. The other scientists believe their assumptions are more reasonable, and we believe ours are more reasonable.
"How land is managed after it's converted to cropland is very important," Dale continued. "The authors of the Science paper assumed the worst-case scenario -- plow tillage -- which we don't think is accurate. The actual use of sustainable management practices - no-till, reduced tillage and other approaches -- is more than 50 percent and increasing."
Other paper authors are Seungdo Kim, MSU visiting associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and his son, Hyungtae Kim, a student at Andover Academy.
Dale and Seungdo Kim also are members of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a partnership between Michigan State and the University of Wisconsin-Madison funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct basic research aimed at solving some of the most complex problems in converting natural materials to energy. Dale also is associate director of the MSU Office of Biobased Technologies.
"Biofuels, Land Use Change and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Some Unexplored Variables" is available online.
MAES Grant Writing Workshop Receives Rave Reviews
"Excellent program and presenter. Please repeat yearly!"
Very useful and practical."
"Extraordinary. As good as a seminar on grant writing could be.
Dr. Morrison was awesome! I felt like writing my first grant proposal today. Thank you."
These were just a few of the enthusiastic evaluations of the MAES Preawards Office-sponsored "Write Winning Grants" workshop Dec. 16, 2008. The sold-out workshop featured presenter David Morrison, of Grant Writers' Seminars and Workshops, who addressed both the practical and conceptual aspects of successful proposal writing.
"Dr. Morrison is an outstanding presenter," said John Baker, MAES associate director. "He talked about some of the nuanced things that professors need to consider when writing grants but don't always think about, as well as grant-writing basics. Though the seminar is extremely valuable for new faculty members, senior faculty members that have participated find it very useful. The first one we held, in 2007, was open to MAES and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources faculty members, but participant feedback about the value of the seminar was so positive that we decided to offer it universitywide this year."
Morrison, who received a doctorate in molecular biology and biophysics from Yale and served as associate director of research at the University of Kansas Medical Cancer Center and director of medical research at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, is a member of multiple national review panels and advisory groups and has a long history of writing successful grant proposals. He discussed how to write proposals aimed at reviewers and how to identify the most appropriate granting agency. Workshop attendees had the option of purchasing workbooks devoted to the grant subtleties of specific federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the National Institutes of Health.
"This seminar will prove very useful to me in writing future grants," said James Pestka, MAES food science and human nutrition researcher and faculty trainer for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences training grant at the MSU Center for Integrative Toxicology. "It will also help me in training graduate and postdoctoral students."
"Among all the business and academic seminars I have attended, this is at the top of the list," said Richard Cole, chairperson of the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing. "Dr. Morrison is knowledgeable, sensitive to his audience, clear, patient and witty."
The next seminar is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2010. For more information, contact Candace Ebbinghaus at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-355-0123, ext. 112.
Animal Agriculture Initiative Awards Research Dollars for 2009-2010
Nine MSU animal agriculture research and Extension projects will share $350,000 in funding awarded by the Animal Agriculture Initiative (AAI) Coalition for 2009-2010.
Michigan agriculture is faced with numerous challenges -- and opportunities. From maximizing environmental health and sustainability to harnessing energy from plants to measuring and monitoring consumer attitudes and perceptions to minimizing the risk of spreading animal disease, there is no shortage of industry research and outreach priorities in agriculture.
Mike Orth, chairperson of the AAI Coalition and associate chairperson of the Department of Animal Science, was pleased with the breadth and depth of the project proposals submitted for consideration by the AAI Coalition.
"I believe the proposals funded for the upcoming 2009-2010 project year can go a long way toward addressing some critical issues facing animal agriculture in Michigan," Orth said.
The nine projects were selected from 20 preproposals submitted to the AAI Coalition requesting a total of more than $787,000 in funding. Proposals were ranked on the basis of how well they addressed the issues identified as high priority by industry groups, MSU Extension area of expertise teams and the AAI Coalition.
Projects funded for 2009-2010 are:
- Bark Filter Mound Treatment Technology to Treat Milking Facility Waste Water, Steven Safferman, MAES biosystems and agricultural engineering scientist.
- Biosecurity STOP SIGN Campaign: Stopping Disease at the Farm Gate, Ted Ferris, MAES animal science researcher.
- Constructed Treatment Wetlands for Water Reclamation and Green Manure Production, Dawn Reinhold, MAES biosystems and agricultural engineering researcher.
- Investigation of DDGS Feeding Effects on Sulfur Emissions from Swine Manure, Wendy Powers, MAES animal science and biosystems and agricultural engineering scientist.
- Motivation, Barriers and Incentives for the Participation of Livestock Operations in MAEAP, Steven Miller, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics.
- Spatially Varied Impacts of Ethanol on Feed Prices, Levels and Livestock Production, Glynn Tonsor, MAES agricultural, food and resource economics researcher.
- State of the State Survey: Weighing Michigan Public Opinion about Agriculture and Animal Welfare Issues, Janice Swanson, departments of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine.
- Udder Defense in Periparturient Dairy Cows: Do Neutrophil Extracellular Traps (NETs) Play a Central Role?, Patty Weber, MSU Department of Animal Science.
- Wirelessly Monitored Behavior and Activity as Indicators of Well-being in Non-caged Laying Hens, Janice Siegford, MAES animal science researcher.
In addition to funding the above-mentioned research projects, the AAI invests a portion of the award monies in a communications and marketing program and four industry-specific quarterly newsletters: Cattle Call, the Michigan Dairy Review, the Michigan Pork Quarterly and the MSU Equine Program Newsletter. More than 12,000 readers subscribe to these newsletters, which feature research articles and notices of opportunities for continued education through MSU Extension programming.
The AAI is Michigan's animal agriculture research, teaching and Extension initiative housed at MSU. It is a partnership between MSU, livestock producers and industry organizations, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and is governed by the AAI Coalition. Its objective is to address challenges facing Michigan animal-based agriculture through research and Extension projects.
MSU and Coca-Cola Partner on Packaging Innovation and Sustainability Center
Improving the global sustainability of product packaging took a meaningful step forward with a new collaboration proposed by the Coca-Cola Company and Michigan State University. Coca-Cola awarded $400,000 to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to help establish a Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability.
The center, to be housed in the School of Packaging, will serve as a think tank for packaging innovation and sustainability and a research and education hub to measure and reduce packaging's environmental impact.
"The Coca-Cola Company is honored to collaborate with Michigan State University in its quest to bring corporate, academic and packaging professionals together to foster new ideas in sustainable packaging," said Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president of global community connections for the Coca-Cola Company.
"Our company has set ambitious environmental goals to not only deliver quality products but to also have minimal impact on the environment. Research and work generated through this collaboration with MSU will assist us in reaching our goals," she said.
The College of Engineering and the Eli Broad College of Business also will be part of the center. It will provide a platform for both collaborative, nonproprietary research and proprietary work conducted by industry partners, both in partnership with and independent of MSU researchers, to develop innovative packaging solutions that reduce production costs and improve sustainability.
The center will include state-of-the-art technology for bench research and testing of packaging materials and will offer academic, outreach and continuing education programs. It is anticipated eventually to expand its reach internationally through research, development, education and training facilities in Dubai and Shanghai.
Brian Klatt Named Michigan Natural Features Inventory Director
Brian Klatt has been named director of the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) as of Feb. 1.
Since 1997, Klatt has headed Klatt Environmental Associates in Brighton, Mich. From 1995 to 2005, he was associate director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens at the University of Michigan. He also taught environmental biology at Lansing Community College.
Klatt replaces Yu man Lee, who has served as interim director of MNFI since November 2007.
Klatt received his bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Michigan, his master's degree in biology from Northern Illinois University and his doctorate from the University of Illinois. He is a certified senior ecologist and a member of several ecological professional organizations.
The Michigan Natural Features Inventory maintains a database that records locations and numbers of endangered and threatened species, and some species of concern. Staff members also document threatened rare communities in the state. The database is used by state and federal agencies, researchers, private companies and consultants to evaluate threats to Michigan's endangered and threatened species.
New MAES Faculty Members
The MAES is pleased to welcome three new faculty members.
Jenifer Fenton, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, became affiliated with the MAES in January. Her research focuses on the hormone secretions of adipose tissues (a type of connective tissue that contains stored cellular fat) and their connection to the development of the inflammatory state associated with obesity and its related colon cancer risk. In her new role, Fenton will collaborate with both faculty and doctoral students on research related to obesity, inflammation and/or cancer.
Before coming to MSU, Fenton served as a cancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute from 2002 to 2007. As part of this fellowship, she received a master's degree in public health from the University of Michigan in 2003. Fenton received her doctorate in animal science from MSU in 1999 and her master's degree in reproductive physiology and a bachelor's degree in animal science from the University of Missouri in 1995 and 1993, respectively.
Elizabeth Gardner was named associate professor of food science and human nutrition in January. Her research focuses on how nutrition and age affect the body's immune response to influenza. Gardner's research has shown that, as people age, the immune system's response to influenza declines because natural killer cells can't control the early stages of the infection. Gardner's more recent research focuses on how nutritional choices can either reduce or improve immune response to influenza in both young and older people.
Before coming to MSU, Gardner was an assistant professor of biology at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She received her doctorate in nutritional biochemistry from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1994 and her bachelor's degree in biology from Chestnut Hill College in 1987.
Ik-Soon "Ike" Kang was named assistant professor of animal science in January. His research focuses on developing processes that add value to fresh or processed meat products, including red meat, poultry and fish. One of Kang's current research projects is developing a process to accelerate muscle-to-meat conversion, improve protein functionality and ensure microbial safety. Kang also is exploring developing functional additives to enhance underutilized fish species as well as a process to reduce sodium in processed meats.
Kang was associate principal scientist for Oscar Mayer/Kraft Foods from 2000 to 2009. He received his doctorate in food science from Texas A&M University in 1996, his master's degree in animal science from California State University in Fresno in 1991 and his bachelor's degree in animal science from Kon-Kuk University, Seoul, Korea, in 1988.