Newsletter ALFA #4 - April 2014



Dear Readers,

With the spring eventually here, the good news are flourishing this month in agriculture, low-carbon energies, and food science in America. For example, we have been delighted to read that four universities in the Midwest are ranked among the top-10 universities in the world in agriculture and forestry, in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. We would like to express our warmest congratulations to University of Wisconsin, Madison (4th), Iowa State University (5th), Purdue University (8th), and Ohio State University (10th).

In the highlights this month, two example of the continuing cooperation between the U.S.A and France as main European partner in agriculture and sutsainable development:
- Cooperation between the US, France, and Germany to help Ukraine develop agriculture sector;
- Signature of an agreement about sustainable development by France and Virginia.

Discover also about research news, call for proposals and general press releases in ALFA fields from this past month.

Enjoy your reading!

Marc Rousset, Scientific attaché
Simon Ritz, Deputy Scientific attaché

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Table of contents


U.S., Germany, France ready to help Ukraine develop agriculture sector - Apr. 15
U.S., German and French ambassadors said their countries were ready to help Ukraine in developing its agriculture sector. Ukraine is forced to protect itself from many external threats. The country has been abandoned by the previous authorities, so removing the corruption has become the main priority, German Ambassador Christof Weil said during a meeting with Ukrainian Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Ihor Shvayka in Kyiv on Tuesday. Read more

France and Virginia Sign Sustainable Development Agreement - Mar. 14
According to statistics, northern Virginia is projected to be one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States over the next 10 years. This growth provides a unique opportunity for economic development, but also creates challenges to develop and adapt housing, transportation, and energy. It is also a unique opportunity to develop solutions that incorporate climate and protection of natural resources, which will have a direct impact on local quality of life and attractiveness. Read more



In the US

First metritis vaccine protects dairy cows - Apr. 16

Cornell scientists have created the first vaccines that can prevent metritis, one of the most common cattle diseases. The infection not only harms animals and farmers’ profits, but also drives more systemic antibiotic use on dairy farms than any other disease. The new vaccines prevent metritis infection of the uterus from taking hold and reduce symptoms when it does, a prospect that could save the United States billions of dollars a year and help curb the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistance. The research was published in the journal PLOS One. Read more

Satellite shows high productivity from U.S. corn belt - Mar. 31

Data from satellite sensors show that during the Northern Hemisphere’s growing season, the Midwest region of the United States boasts more photosynthetic activity than any other spot on Earth, according to scientists. Healthy plants convert light to energy via photosynthesis, but chlorophyll also emits a fraction of absorbed light as fluorescent glow that is invisible to the naked eye. The magnitude of the glow is an excellent indicator of the amount of photosynthesis, or gross productivity, of plants in a given region. Read more

A New Probiotic Improves Pig Health, Reduces Manure Output - Mar. 27

A new probiotic for pigs could mean less manure to manage, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) studies. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists conducted the first published investigation of the use of bacteria as a probiotic to increase fiber fermentation rates and reduce manure output in pigs that consume high-fiber diets. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency. Read more

Goats are far more clever than previously thought - Mar. 25

Goats learn how to solve complicated tasks quickly and can recall how to perform them for at least 10 months, which might explain their remarkable ability to adapt to harsh environments, say researchers at Queen Mary University of London. Writing in the journal Frontiers in Zoology, the scientists trained a group of goats to retrieve food from a box using a linked sequence of steps; first by pulling a lever with their mouths and then by lifting it to release the reward. Read more

Scientists find a molecular clue to the complex mystery of auxin signaling in plants - Mar. 24

Wikipedia lists 65 adjectives that botanists use to describe the shapes of plant leaves. In English (rather than Latin) they mean the leaf is lance-shaped, spear-shaped, kidney-shaped, diamond shaped, arrow-head-shaped, egg-shaped, circular, spoon-shaped , heart-shaped, tear-drop-shaped or sickle-shaped — among other possibilities. How does the plant "know" how to make these shapes? The answer is by controlling the distribution of a plant hormone called auxin, which determines the rate at which plant cells divide and lengthen. Read more

Bionic plants: Scientists give plants super powers - Mar. 17

Researchers at MIT are giving plants super powers by placing tiny carbon nanotubes deep within their cells. Some of the altered plants increased their photosynthetic activity by 30% compared with regular old plants. Others were able to detect tiny traces of pollutants in the air. And that’s just the beginning. Read more

In France

Which came first: herbicides or herbicide resistance? Recent findings suggest the latter - Mar. 24

Recent analysis of herbarium specimen collections, some over 200 years old, suggests that the risk of herbicide resistance may be greater than previously thought: now more than ever, the necessity to diversify weed control practices has come to the fore. The findings, obtained by INRA researchers in Dijon’s Agroecology Research Unit, were published in the October 2013 issue of the scientific journal Plos One. Read more


Low-carbon energies

In the US

NASA asks for battery alternatives to send ships deep into space - Apr. 9

NASA knows that liquid hydrogen fuel and lithium batteries can’t pack enough power to send ships and astronauts record distances from Earth. The agency announced today that it will offer up to $250,000 for battery alternatives it can use for Earth and deep-space missions. Read more

Slideshow: Solar Disrupting Wholesale Energy Markets - Apr. 16

If you work in the solar industry and are having some difficulty reaching your colleagues, it’s probably because a good portion of them are here in Phoenix at GTM’s Solar Summit, taking in the sun as well as the deep flow of information at this event. Shayle Kann, GTM’s SVP of Research, kicked off this industry summit with a new, insightful take on solar’s impact on energy markets. Read more

University Of Michigan Gymnast And Student Helps Blue Go Green - Apr.15

The high bar may be SNRE student and gymnast Ian Makowske’s specialty, but he’ll also be raising the sustainability bar at this year’s NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championship. Thanks to the work of Ian and others involved in planning, the 2014 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championship was the first ever zero-waste event of this kind. The event took place on April 10-12 at the University of Michigan’s Crisler Center. Read more

Wisconsin researchers discover poplars may be key to new biofuel technologies - Apr. 10

A specifically bred type of tree could be the next breakthrough in biofuels following research done by University of Wisconsin researchers. According to the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, recent research has allowed poplar trees to be converted into biomass, which can be used as a practical and inexpensive biofuel for energy production. Read more

Hemp-to-Biofuels Research Gets Green Light - Apr. 3

A crop that has had an undeserved stigma attached to it could now become a source for biodiesel and ethanol. The recently passed and signed Farm Bill contains a provision that would allow hemp to be grown for research purposes, including making it into the green fuels. Read more

Energy Systems Integration Facility Named Lab of the Year - Mar. 27

The editors of R&D Magazine have named the Energy Department’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) as the 2014 Laboratory of the Year. Located on the campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., research at ESIF transforms how the nation generates, delivers and uses energy by modernizing the interplay between energy sources, infrastructure, and data. Read more

In France

Yes, you can make your children eat vegetables! - Mar. 31

As part of the European project HabEat (2010-2014), coordinated by INRA and involving 10 scientific partners, researchers have made a step forward in the understanding of how eating behaviours and preferences form in early life. On March 31st and April 1st in Dijon (France), a symposium presents the results and recommendations for early childhood professionals and parents. Read more

A step forward in improving the production of lipids in yeast

Essential in plants, lipids are now key molecules for the production of biofuels and products of green chemistry. For the first time, a team led by INRA Versailles-Grignon, in collaboration with the CNRS and ITERG (Technical Institute for the Study and Research on Fats and Oils), succeeded to characterize one of the enzymes involved in the triglyceride synthesis in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, by expressing it in baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). This enzyme belongs to a family of proteins that are important for the production of molecules of biotechnological interest . Read more (in French)


Food Sciences

In the US

Virginia Tech researcher discovers key ingredient in cocoa has significant health benefits - Apr. 14

In a first-of-its-kind discovery, a Virginia Tech scientist conducted a long-term research study that found a specific antioxidant in cocoa can dramatically increase the body’s ability to fight many modern-day ailments such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Read more

Eat a peach - Mar. 26

A Washington State University food scientist and colleagues at Texas A&M have found that compounds in peaches can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and their ability to spread. Writing in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, the researchers say the compounds could be a novel addition to therapies that reduce the risk of metastasis, the primary killer in breast and many other cancers. The compounds could be given as an extract or, judging from the doses given mice in the study, two to three peaches a day. Read more

Canned food ups fruit and vegetable intake - Mar. 22

The use of cans in food packaging boosts fruit and vegetable intake, increases nutritional benefits, and makes edibles safer. Research out of Michigan State University (MSU) shows use of cans in food packaging leads to increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. Most consumers don’t get enough; Americans, for example, US consumers only get 33% of the recommended daily amount of fruits, and only 27% of their vegetables. Read more

Genes May Influence Weight Gain From Fried Foods: Study - Mar. 19

Genetics help determine whether a frequent diet of fried food will make you fat, according to a new Harvard study. Eating fried food more than four times a week had twice as big an effect on body size for people at high genetic risk of obesity compared with people at low risk, researchers found after analyzing data from three U.S. trials. Moreover, the more pro-obesity genes you carry, the bigger you’ll get chowing down on fried chicken and such, the researcher said. Read more

The precise reason for the health benefits of dark chocolate: mystery solved - Mar. 18

The health benefits of eating dark chocolate have been extolled for centuries, but the exact reason has remained a mystery — until now. Researchers reported here today that certain bacteria in the stomach gobble the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart. Their findings were unveiled at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society. Read more

In France

The science of champagne fizz: How many bubbles are in your bubbly? - Apr. 2

The importance of fizz, more technically known as effervescence, in sparkling wines and champagnes is not to be underestimated — it contributes to the complete sensory experience of a glass, or flute, of fine bubbly. A scientist has now closely examined the factors that affect these bubbles, and he has come up with an estimate of just how many are in each glass. The report appears in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry B. Read more

Guest News

Iowa State University Ranked Among Top Universities in World in Agriculture and Forestry - Apr. 3

Iowa State University has been ranked fifth in the world among universities in the area of agriculture and forestry by a British organization’s annual university rankings. Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings measures academic reputation, employer reputation and citations per scientific journal papers to determine the rankings. Read more

Send us your ALFA news for May’s Newsletter here!

Seen on the web

Scientists solve the riddle of zebras’ stripes - Apr. 1

Why zebras have black and white stripes is a question that has intrigued scientists and spectators for centuries. A research team led by the University of California, Davis, has now examined this riddle systematically. Their answer is published April 1 in the online journal Nature Communications. The scientists found that biting flies, including horseflies and tsetse flies, are the evolutionary driver for zebra’s stripes. Read more

Structure of the month

The ADEPTA, l’Association pour le Développement des Echanges internationaux de Produits et Techniques Agroalimentaires, accompanies the international development of equipment manufacturers, suppliers of input, experts and engineering and design departments in the agriculture and agri-food industry. The ADEPTA is part of public measures of support for French external trade, with a simple objective: bringing together, within a single organisation, all the know-how and lines of businesses required for the implementation of all types of agricultural and agro-industrial projects. Read more

Get in touch with ALFA science

Website to see this month

For the United States information

Federal agencies

JPEG explore the DOE National Laboratories.

JPEG discover the new frontiers of food safety.

JPEG learn why you should keep lilies away from your cats.

News articles

JPEG : News from the United States covering advancements in science and technology (French articles).

For France information

JPEG discover why soap bubbles block the sound.

JPEG leanr about the Eu’s Infrastructure for Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems.

Coming Events

Meeting set for prospective wine grape growers Myers Park and Event Center McKinney, TX April 21-22
Fruit Tree Management Workshop Love Creek Apple Orchard Medina, TX May 6
2014 AICPA Agriculture Conference Omni Austin Austin, TX May 7-9
Southeastern Sustainable Livestock Conference The Gwinnett Center Duluth, GA Apr. 26


French Office for Science and Technology at the Embassy of France in Washington, DC - website:
Consulate General of France in Chicago - website:


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Last modified on 17/04/2014

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