Newsletter ALFA #5 - May 2014



Dear Readers,

Back to normal after our busy month of May. Warm thanks to everyone who attended our French-American Science Festival, and especially to our american scientific partners for allowing a wide audience to learn about science : Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, the Field Museum of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory among others.

This edition has been a great success thanks to all of them, and we are looking forward to built the next one, to which we hope that you will be able to participate. Keep posted!

Back to normal in this newsletter. In the highlights this month, a request for proposals from the Agronomic Science Foudation and a grant notice from the USDA.

Find also, as usual, news in the fields of agriculture, low-carbon technologies and food science in the US and in France.

Enjoy your reading!

Marc Rousset, Scientific attaché
Simon Ritz, Deputy Scientific attaché

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Table of contents


ASF Sustainable Research Program: Request for Proposals
The Agronomic Science Foundation (ASF) requests proposals for innovative research projects involving cover crops and related management practices integrated into agronomic crop rotations within areas of agricultural concentration in the United States including, but not limited to, the Mississippi River Basin. Projects are sought that advance our knowledge of agricultural systems aimed at increasing productivity, while minimizing impact on ecosystems services and the environment. Deadline 1 July. Read more

Grant notice : Crop Protection and Pest Management
NIFA requests applications for the Crop Protection and Pest Management (CPPM) Competitive Grants Program for fiscal year (FY) 2014 to address critical state, regional and national integrated pest management (IPM) needs to ensure food security and effectively respond to other major societal challenges. The CPPM program supports projects that address high priority IPM challenges with coordinated state, regional, and national research and extension efforts. The impact of these research and extension efforts will be increased by the establishment of communication networks and stakeholder participation in setting priorities. In FY 2014, the CPPM program will provide support for projects to conduct applied research and development, extension implementation, and regional coordination. Deadline 19 June. Read more



In the US

Corn dwarfed by temperature dip suitable for growing in mines, caves - May 12

Lowering temperatures for two hours each day reduces the height of corn without affecting its seed yield, a Purdue study shows, a technique that could be used to grow crops in controlled-environment facilities in caves and former mines. Raising the crops in isolated and enclosed environments would help prevent genetically modified pollen and seed from escaping into the ecosystem and crossing with wild plants. Read more

As carbon dioxide levels rise, some crop nutrients will fall, researchers find - May 7

Researchers have some bad news for future farmers and eaters: As carbon dioxide levels rise this century, some grains and legumes will become significantly less nutritious than they are today. The new findings are reported in the journal Nature. Eight institutions, from Australia, Israel, Japan and the United States, contributed to the analysis. Read more

Space Station study seeks how plants sense ’up’ and ’down’ - Apr. 30

On Earth, we take for granted that a plant grows up and its roots grow down. In space, however, this seemingly predictable formula is upended. How do plants sense "up" and "down" where those relative positions don’t exist? The Biotube-MICRO investigation that recently arrived to the International Space Station aims to investigate, and what it finds could have big implications for long-duration human spaceflight. Read more

Optimizing sweet potato production - Apr. 28

As the popularity and convenience of sweetpotato products increases, sweetpotato growers and processors are interested in identifying ways to meet processor’s demands and to make the crop more widely available. A new study reveals that cultural practices such as early planting and delaying harvest hold promise for increasing yield and economic benefits for sweetpotato producers. Read more

Impact of pelargonic acid for weed control in yellow squash - Apr. 28

Growers who produce squash for market are increasingly interested in using more natural herbicides that are also effective in providing season-long weed control, but the options for controlling annual broadleaf weeds in summer squash are currently limited. The authors of a new study say that both organic and conventional producers will benefit from the identification of natural herbicides that effectively provide postemergent weed control. Read more

In France

Legumes to appease - May 5

This article looks at the agronomic advantages of legume crops, particularly for organic farming, and reports on recent findings regarding their nutritional benefits. Beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas are all used as food, while animal feed makes use of other legume crops that have either protein-rich seeds – protein crops known as pulses – such as peas, broad beans, soybean, and lupin, or are used as fodder, such as alfalfa and clover. Read more


Low-carbon energies

In the US

New, sustainable biodiesel process uses ethanol from glycerin - May 21

A new fuel-cell concept, developed by a Michigan State University researcher, will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process. The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors. Read more

Making money from lignin: Roadmap shows how to improve lignocellulosic biofuel biorefining - May 15

When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money. A new review article in the journal Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics. Read more

Could Carrots Be the Carbon Fiber of the Future? - May 13

Imagine if the car you drive to the lake, the boat you take out on the water and the rod responsible for your first day’s catch were all made from carrots. No, this isn’t some B-roll eco-fantasy of George Jetson; this is the future of material science. Read more

Plastics to dust: Easy-to-compost plastic bags move closer to mainstream - May 12

Bags meet requirements of disintegrating to particles less than 2 millimeters in size in 180 days. Since the bags are made of all-natural components, they can be composted just like any other plant-based material. Wolfgang Glasser says he was hesitant at first when a start-up company asked him to be their chief scientific officer. But then the professor emeritus of sustainable biomaterials realized that cycleWood Solutions Inc. could make his dream — biodegradable plastics from a plentiful natural resource — a reality. Read more

Corn-Based Biofuel Production Could Generate More CO2 Than Gasoline - Apr. 21

Research published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change is calling into question whether or not corn crop residue can be used to meet US government mandates to increase the production of biofuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Agronomy & Horticulture assistant professor Adam Liska and his colleagues report that using corn residue to create ethanol or other types of biofuel actually reduces soil carbon and could generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline. Read more

In France

Greener paper and biofuel made ​​from dead wood - Apr. 28

Dr. Armand Frappier, founder of an institute, which became later the Armand-Frappier INRS-Institut, was very interested in vaccines. But he was also intrigued by the potential of bacteria. In 1974, a few months before his retirement, he hired a young microbiologist, Michel Sylvestre. Now Professor, Michel Sylvestre is still working on bacteria and useful enzymes they can provide. "I have been working on biocatalysis for forty years, says the researcher. Microorganisms contain natural substances that can serve us, especially in the industries of paper, food as biofuels. We try to use these tools to our advantage. " Read more (in French)


Food Sciences

In the US

Taste test: Could sense of taste affect length of life? - May 19

Perhaps one of the keys to good health isn’t just what you eat but how you taste it. Taste buds — yes, the same ones you may blame for that sweet tooth or French fry craving — may in fact have a powerful role in a long and healthy life — at least for fruit flies. Bitter tastes could have negative effects on lifespan, sweet tastes had positive effects, and the ability to taste water had the most significant impact — flies that could not taste water lived up to 43% longer than other flies. Read more

Beer foam secrets tapped in new study - May 14

It’s an unlikely beer-drinking toast: "Here’s to L-T-P-One!" Yet, the secret to optimal foam in the head of a freshly poured brew, according to Cornell food science research, is just the right amount and kind of barley lipid transfer protein No. 1, aka LTP1. Bitter compounds found in hops, like iso-alpha acids, are important to brewers, says Cornell’s Karl J. Siebert, principal investigator and author of "Recent Discoveries in Beer Foam," set for publication in next issue of the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists. Read more

The new face of tofu - May 6

Tofu has long been a favorite among vegetarians and families with eastern ancestry. But now Tofu is becoming a bigger part of western diets, especially with 20-something women who want dishes that are quick, easy to cook and that can help keep them trim. A new Cornell study, published in Eating Behaviors, involving 502 young women (20-35 years old) showed that tofu lovers saw it as a great source of light, inexpensive, energizing protein. Read more

Science finds wines’ fruity flavors fade first - May 5

Testing conventional wisdom with science, recently published research from Washington State University reveals how different flavors "finish," or linger, on the palate following a sip of wine. "A longer finish is associated with a higher quality wine, but what the finish is, of course, makes a huge difference," said sensory scientist Carolyn Ross. Read more

Antimicrobial edible films inhibit pathogens in meat - May 1

Antimicrobial agents incorporated into edible films applied to foods to seal in flavor, freshness and color can improve the microbiological safety of meats, according to researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Using films made of pullulan — an edible, mostly tasteless, transparent polymer produced by the fungus Aureobasidium pulluns — researchers evaluated the effectiveness of films containing essential oils derived from rosemary, oregano and nanoparticles against foodborne pathogens associated with meat and poultry. Read more

In France

Between Roquefort and Camembert: Multiple recent gene transfers - May 16

In the paste of Roquefort and on the surface of Camembert, the microscopic filamentous fungi Penicillium roqueforti and Penicillium camembertii are responsible for the formation of a greenish-blue mould in the former case and a so-called "bloom" in the latter. Sequencing of the genomes of these two fungi has recently, and surprisingly, shown that these genomes contain more than 250 strictly identical genes, thus indicating a transfer of genes between these two species. This type of event, until now little described in eukaryotes, may therefore be much more common than previously thought. Read more

Traditional cheeses: gustatory richness, health quality assured by their microbiota - May 16

The benefits of traditional, raw-milk cheeses have been reviewed by researchers who have shown that traditional cheeses have unrivalled advantages in terms of both their diversity and their gustatory richness, but also regarding their protection against pathogenic agents. These benefits are linked to the specific microbiota found in these cheeses; they result from the use of raw milk, combined with the specific techniques used to manufacture traditional cheeses. Read more

Guest News

Vitamin E in Canola and Other Oils Hurts Lungs - May 20

A large new Northwestern Medicine® study upends our understanding of vitamin E and ties the increasing consumption of supposedly healthy vitamin E-rich oils — canola, soybean and corn – to the rising incidence of lung inflammation and, possibly, asthma. The new study shows drastically different health effects of vitamin E depending on its form. The form of Vitamin E called gamma-tocopherol in the ubiquitous soybean, corn and canola oils is associated with decreased lung function in humans, the study reports. Read more

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

Seen on the web

Best way to rid a garden of pesky snails? Use your strong throwing arm - May 20

The new study has used statistical models to show that simply killing the snails you find in your garden offers little advantage if you want to remove them completely. According to the researchers gardeners should revert to damage limitation, as their results proved that snails are part of larger colonies that live in the garden and come and go as they please using a homing instinct. A total of 416 snails were marked and thrown over the wall 1385 times during the study. Read more

Structure of the month

The National Center for Scientific Research is a public organization under the responsibility of the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research. A pluridisciplinary institution, it covers all scientific disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences, biological sciences, nuclear and particle physics, information sciences, engineering and systems, physics, mathematical sciences, chemistry, earth sciences and astronomy, ecology and the environment. An interdisciplinary body, it promotes interaction between disciplines.

Get in touch with ALFA science

Website to see this month

For the United States information

JPEG Join a White House Google+ Hangout with Energy Secretary Moniz & EPA Administrator McCarthy about climate change.

JPEG discover live bee watching zbove USDA headquarters.

News articles

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

For France information

JPEG learn about the "Journées d’ingénierie Ecologique" -28-29 June, 2014

JPEG Read about a new discovery of a key mechanism in the symbiosis between fungi and trees.

JPEG discover the theme of the 2015 Universal Exposition in Milan and the French pavilion over there.

Coming Events

FMI Connect - The global food retail experience McCormik Place (South Hall) Chicago, IL 10-13 June, 2014
The 4th International Conference on Algal Biomass, Biofuels and Bioproducts Santa Fe Convention Center Santa Fe, NM 15-18 June, 2014
Global Biotechnology Congress 2014 The Hynes Beacon Boston, MA 16-19 June, 2014
IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo New Orleans Morial Convention Center New Orleans, LA 21-24 June, 2014
2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference Hershey Lodge Hershey, PA 23-27 June, 2014


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 23/05/2014

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