Dr Nadine Upton, Post-doctoral Scientist | Curation made possible by Deep Science Ventures
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Abstract: Many desired phenotypes for producing cellulosic biofuels are often observed in industrial Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains. However, many industrial yeast strains are polyploid and have low spore viability, making it difficult to use these strains for metabolic engineering applications. We selected the polyploid industrial strain S. cerevisiae ATCC 4124 exhibiting rapid glucose fermentation capability, high ethanol productivity, strong heat and inhibitor tolerance in order to construct an optimal yeast strain for producing cellulosic ethanol. Here, we focused on developing a general approach and high-throughput screening method to isolate stable haploid segregants derived from a polyploid parent, such as triploid ATCC 4124 with a poor spore viability. Specifically, we deleted the HO genes, performed random sporulation, and screened the resulting segregants based on growth rate, mating type, and ploidy. Only one stable haploid derivative (4124-S60) was isolated, while 14 other segregants with a stable mating type were aneuploid. The 4124-S60 strain inherited only a subset of desirable traits present in the parent strain, same as other aneuploids, suggesting that glucose fermentation and specific ethanol productivity are likely to be genetically complex traits and/or they might depend on ploidy. Nonetheless, the 4124-60 strain did inherit the ability to tolerate fermentation inhibitors. When additional genetic perturbations known to improve xylose fermentation were introduced into the 4124-60 strain, the resulting engineered strain (IIK1) was able to ferment a Miscanthus hydrolysate better than a previously engineered laboratory strain (SR8), built by making the same genetic changes. However, the IIK1 strain showed higher glycerol and xylitol yields than the SR8 strain. In order to decrease glycerol and xylitol production, an NADH-dependent acetate reduction pathway was introduced into the IIK1 strain. By consuming 2.4g/L of acetate, the resulting strain (IIK1A) exhibited a 14% higher ethanol yield and 46% lower byproduct yield than the IIK1 strain from anaerobic fermentation of the Miscanthus hydrolysate. Our results demonstrate that industrial yeast strains can be engineered via haploid isolation. The isolated haploid strain (4124-S60) can be used for metabolic engineering to produce fuels and chemicals.
Pub.: 22 Feb '17, Pinned: 24 Feb '17
Abstract: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are pollutants of concern due to their carcinogenic and mutagenic activity. Their emissions are mainly related with the combustion or pyrolysis of the organic matter, such as in fossil fuels combustion. It is important to characterize PAHs in the combustions of biofuels due to their increasing importance in the actual energetic setting. There is a lot of research focused in PAHs emission due to the combustion in diesel engines; but only few of them have analyzed the effect of raw material and type of alcohol used in the transesterification process. Different raw materials (i.e. animal fat, palm, rapeseed, linseed, peanut, coconut, and soybean oils) have been used for obtaining FAME and FAEE. A method for measuring PAHs generated during combustion in a bomb calorimeter has been developed. Combustion was made at different oxygen pressures and the samples were taken from the bomb after each combustion. Samples were extracted and the PAHs amounts formed during combustion were analyzed by GC-MS. This research shows the statistical relationships among the 16 PAHs of concern, biodiesel composition and oxygen pressure during combustion.
Pub.: 22 Feb '17, Pinned: 24 Feb '17
Abstract: This study focuses on analyzing nutrient distributions and environmental impacts of nutrient recycling, reusing, and discharging in algal biofuels production. The three biomass conversion pathways compared in this study were: hydrothermal liquefaction technology (HTL), hydrothermal hydrolysis pretreatment +HTL (HTP), and wet lipid extraction (WLE). Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous (C, N, P) flows were described in each pathway. A primary cost analysis was conducted to evaluate the economic performance. The LCA results show that the HTP reduced life cycle NOx emissions by 10% from HTL, but increased fossil fuel use, greenhouse gas emissions, and eutrophication potential by 14%, 5%, and 28% respectively. The cost of per gallon biodiesel produced in HTP was less than in HTL. To further reduce emissions, efforts should be focused on improving nutrient uptake rates in algae cultivation, increasing biomass carbon detention in hydrothermal hydrolysis, and/or enhancing biomass conversion rates in the biooil upgrading processes.
Pub.: 06 Feb '17, Pinned: 21 Feb '17
Abstract: In agricultural districts, biogas production through anaerobic co-digestion of residual biomasses is a sustainable way to valorize agro-industry and livestock residues and integrate farm profits. Size and location of a biogas plant as well as co-digestion substrate composition strictly depend on the substrate properties and availability within the rural district. The logistical substrate chain should be optimized to assure the right size and the maximum profitability of the planned biogas plant. A simple method is proposed to site a digester and choose its power output as well as to identify the optimal substrate blend, reducing the complexity of design and management operations. The method, requiring a reduced number of easy-to-survey input parameters, has been verified by its application to an agricultural district of southern Italy. If the planned plant is fed by a prevalent substrate from a single farm, the most economical power output is 300 kW. This size depends also on the Italian subsidy system to renewable energy. However, in the case of a centralized plant, supplied by a blend of substrates, the method gives the optimal plant location, based on the district barycenter, weighed by the biogas potential production of each farm. Secondly, the method suggests the annual amounts of the different substrates in the digester blend, maximizing the plant's annual profit and complying with technical-economic constraints. Thirdly, the most economical power output of the plant is 480 kW. Finally, it indicates the related annual revenues, costs, and profits. The method can also be applied to other agricultural biomasses, such as ensiled crops or energy species available at a competitive cost, as are found in northern Europe. © 2017 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
Pub.: 06 Feb '17, Pinned: 21 Feb '17
Abstract: The available grain corn stover produced in Belgium is estimated at 290 000 dry tons, a sufficient amount to supply a biorefinery. Differences regarding size, prematurity, and drying speed have been observed among the cultivated grain corn varieties in Wallonia (Belgium). This study aims to evaluate the variation in composition of different anatomical fractions (stalks, leaves, cobs, and husks) of three Walloon varieties of grain corn stover (SyMultitop, Padrino, and Alduna) with significant production volumes. In addition, the Padrino variety was assessed for variation in chemical composition at three harvesting times. Walloon grain corn stover contains large amounts of polysaccharides (33.4% to 41.3% of glucans and 13.9% to 28.2% of xylans) and lignin (10.4% to 15.3%). Some differences were noted between varieties and anatomical fractions. Depending on how the feedstock is harvested, it is possible to produce between 79 and 81 M liters of ethanol per year without adversely affecting soil sustainability. © 2017 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
Pub.: 08 Feb '17, Pinned: 21 Feb '17
Abstract: The growing promise of plant-made biologics is highlighted by the success story of ZMapp™ as a potentially life-saving drug during the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016. Current plant expression platforms offer features beyond the traditional advantages of low cost, high scalability, increased safety, and eukaryotic protein modification. Novel transient expression vectors have been developed that allow the production of vaccines and therapeutics at unprecedented speed to control potential pandemics or bioterrorism attacks. Plant-host engineering provides a method for producing proteins with unique and uniform mammalian post-translational modifications, providing opportunities to develop biologics with increased efficacy relative to their mammalian cell-produced counterparts. Recent demonstrations that plant-made proteins can function as biocontrol agents of foodborne pathogens further exemplify the potential utility of plant-based protein production. However, resolving the technical and regulatory challenges of commercial-scale production, garnering acceptance from large pharmaceutical companies, and obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for several major classes of biologics are essential steps to fulfilling the untapped potential of this technology.
Pub.: 09 Jun '16, Pinned: 21 Feb '17
Abstract: Great strides have been made in plant metabolic engineering over the last two decades, with notable success stories including Golden rice. Here, we discuss the field's progress in addressing four long-standing challenges: creating plants that satisfy their own nitrogen requirement, so reducing or eliminating the need for nitrogen fertilizer; enhancing the nutrient content of crop plants; engineering biofuel feed stocks that harbor easy-to-access fermentable saccharides by incorporating self-destructing lignin; and increasing photosynthetic efficiency. We also look to the future at emerging areas of research in this field.
Pub.: 11 Jun '14, Pinned: 18 Feb '17
Abstract: Genetic knowledge applicable to crop improvement has erupted over the past 60 years, and the techniques of introducing genes from one organism to another have enabled new varieties of crops not achievable by previously available methodologies of crop breeding. Research and particularly development of these GMO-crops to a point where they are useful for growers and consumers in most countries is subject to complex national and international rules arising out of the UN's Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, with 167 country signatories. (The USA and Canada are not signatories.) The Protocol was developed based on concerns initially expressed in the 1970's that such technology presented unusual risks to man and the environment. Those ideas have comprehensively and authoritatively been proven to be wrong. The Protocol has nevertheless spawned significant regulatory obstacles to the development of GMO-crop technology at great cost to global society and in conflict with many other UN objectives. The suspicion induced by the Protocol is also widely used, overtly or covertly, for political purposes. These points are illustrated by reference to the not-for-profit Golden Rice project.
Pub.: 02 Dec '14, Pinned: 18 Feb '17
Abstract: Historically, agricultural development evolved in three phases. During the first phase the plants were selected on the basis of the availability of a plant with desirable properties at a specific location. The second phase provided the agricultural community with crossbreeding plants to achieve improvement in agricultural production. The evolution of biological knowledge has provided the ability to genetically engineer (GE) crops, one of the key processes within genetically modified organisms (GMO). This article uses golden rice, a species of transgenic Asian rice which contains a precursor of vitamin A in the edible part of the plant as an example of GE/GMO emphasizing Chinese experience in agricultural evolution. It includes a brief review of agricultural evolution to be followed by a description of golden rice development. Golden rice was created as a humanitarian project and has received positive comments by the scientific community and negative voices from certain environmental groups. In this article, we use the Best Available Science (BAS) Concept and Metrics for Evaluation of Scientific Claims (MESC) derived from it to evaluate claims and counter claims on scientific aspects of golden rice. This article concludes that opposition to golden rice is based on belief rather than any of its scientifically derived nutritional, safety or environmental properties.
Pub.: 22 Jan '15, Pinned: 18 Feb '17
Abstract: Carotenoids are essential components for human nutrition and health, mainly due to their antioxidant and pro-vitamin A activity. Foods with enhanced carotenoid content and composition are essential to ensure carotenoid feasibility in malnourished population of many countries around the world, which is critical to alleviate vitamin A deficiency and other health-related disorders. The pathway of carotenoid biosynthesis is currently well understood, key steps of the pathways in different plant species have been characterized and the corresponding genes identified, as well as other regulatory elements. This enables the manipulation and improvement of carotenoid content and composition in order to control the nutritional value of a number of agronomical important staple crops. Biotechnological and genetic engineering-based strategies to manipulate carotenoid metabolism have been successfully implemented in many crops, with Golden rice as the most relevant example of β-carotene improvement in one of the more widely consumed foods. Conventional breeding strategies have been also adopted in the bio-fortification of carotenoid in staple foods that are highly consumed in developing countries, including maize, cassava and sweet potatoes, to alleviate nutrition-related problems. The objective of the chapter is to summarize major breakthroughs and advances in the enhancement of carotenoid content and composition in agronomical and nutritional important crops, with special emphasis to their potential impact and benefits in human nutrition and health.
Pub.: 04 Aug '16, Pinned: 18 Feb '17
Abstract: Vitamin A deficiency remains one of the world's major public health problems despite food fortification and supplements strategies. Biofortification of staple crops with enhanced levels of pro-vitamin A (PVA) offers a sustainable alternative strategy to both food fortification and supplementation. As a proof of concept, PVA-biofortified transgenic Cavendish bananas were generated and field trialed in Australia with the aim of achieving a target level of 20 μg/g of dry weight (dw) β-carotene equivalent (β-CE) in the fruit. Expression of a Fe'i banana-derived phytoene synthase 2a (MtPsy2a) gene resulted in the generation of lines with PVA levels exceeding the target level with one line reaching 55 μg/g dw β-CE. Expression of the maize phytoene synthase 1 (ZmPsy1) gene, used to develop "Golden Rice 2", also resulted in increased fruit PVA levels although many lines displayed undesirable phenotypes. Constitutive expression of either transgene with the maize polyubiquitin promoter increased PVA accumulation from the earliest stage of fruit development. In contrast, PVA accumulation was restricted to the late stages of fruit development when either the banana 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate oxidase or the expansin 1 promoters were used to drive the same transgenes. Wild-type plants with the longest fruit development time had also the highest fruit PVA concentrations. The results from this study suggest that early activation of the rate-limiting enzyme in the carotenoid biosynthetic pathway, as well as extended fruit maturation time, are essential factors to achieve optimal PVA concentrations in banana fruit. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Pub.: 14 Oct '16, Pinned: 18 Feb '17
Abstract: Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption worldwide is wasted. The current waste management practices are not only costly but also have adverse impact on environment. In this study, black soldier fly (BSF) (Hermetia illucens) larvae were grown on food wastes to produce fat and protein-rich BSF prepupae as a novel strategy for efficient organic waste management. The lipid content in BSF prepupae was characterized for fatty acids profile. Whole BSF prepupae, pressed cake, and meal were analyzed for important animal feed characteristics. BSF-derived oil has high concentration of medium chain saturated fatty acids (67% total fatty acids) and low concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids (13% total fatty acids), which makes it potentially an ideal substrate for producing high quality biodiesel. BSF (prepupae, pressed cake, and meal) has feed value comparable to commercial feed sources. Thus, the bioconversion of organic waste into BSF prepupae has significant potential in generating high-value products with simultaneous waste valorization.
Pub.: 24 Mar '16, Pinned: 17 Feb '17
Abstract: While many important aspects of wild and farmed insects have been discussed by scholars, such as nutritional value, conservation and farming techniques, no study has addressed how insect farming contributes to rural livelihoods. Furthermore, the roles that interactions between insect farmers, their peers and institutions play in insect farming as a livelihood strategy are even less well understood. This paper presents a preliminary assessment of cricket farming as a livelihood strategy in Thailand. Fortynine cricket farmers participated in in-depth interviews designed to gain insight into how cricket farming contributes to rural livelihoods. This exploratory study investigates the following research questions: What are the characteristics of Thai cricket farmers and their farms? How do crickets contribute to the lives of rural farmers in Thailand? What role has social and human capital played in cricket farming communities? And what can be learned from the experience of cricket farming in Thailand? Findings suggest that cricket farming has improved the lives of many rural farmers in Thailand not only through the provision of an alternative income source, but through strengthening human and social capital. As such, further empirical data and case study analyses are needed in order to advance our understanding of this particular livelihood strategy.
Pub.: 08 Aug '16, Pinned: 17 Feb '17
Abstract: Background Data from studies in nonhuman primates suggest that the triple monoclonal antibody cocktail ZMapp is a promising immune-based treatment for Ebola virus disease (EVD). Methods Beginning in March 2015, we conducted a randomized, controlled trial of ZMapp plus the current standard of care as compared with the current standard of care alone in patients with EVD that was diagnosed in West Africa by polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) assay. Eligible patients of any age were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive either the current standard of care or the current standard of care plus three intravenous infusions of ZMapp (50 mg per kilogram of body weight, administered every third day). Patients were stratified according to baseline PCR cycle-threshold value for the virus (≤22 vs. >22) and country of enrollment. Oral favipiravir was part of the current standard of care in Guinea. The primary end point was mortality at 28 days. Results A total of 72 patients were enrolled at sites in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the United States. Of the 71 patients who could be evaluated, 21 died, representing an overall case fatality rate of 30%. Death occurred in 13 of 35 patients (37%) who received the current standard of care alone and in 8 of 36 patients (22%) who received the current standard of care plus ZMapp. The observed posterior probability that ZMapp plus the current standard of care was superior to the current standard of care alone was 91.2%, falling short of the prespecified threshold of 97.5%. Frequentist analyses yielded similar results (absolute difference in mortality with ZMapp, -15 percentage points; 95% confidence interval, -36 to 7). Baseline viral load was strongly predictive of both mortality and duration of hospitalization in all age groups. Conclusions In this randomized, controlled trial of a putative therapeutic agent for EVD, although the estimated effect of ZMapp appeared to be beneficial, the result did not meet the prespecified statistical threshold for efficacy. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others; PREVAIL II ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02363322 .).
Pub.: 13 Oct '16, Pinned: 17 Feb '17
Abstract: Solid-state fermentation was evaluated at the pilot-scale for the bioconversion and valorization of rice husks and straw (RSH), or sunflower seed hulls (SSH), into medicinal mushrooms and crude extracts, with laccase activity. The average mushroom yield was 56kg dry weight per ton of agro-residues. Laccase activity in crude aqueous extracts showed its maximum value of 10,927Ukg(-1) in RSH (day 10, Exudate phase) and 16,442Ukg(-1) in SSH (day 5, Full colonization phase), the activity at the Residual substrate phase being 511Ukg(-1) in RSH and 803Ukg(-1) in SSH, respectively. Crude extracts obtained with various protocols revealed differences in the extraction yields. Lyophilization followed by storage at 4°C allowed the preservation of laccase activity for more than one month. It is proposed that standard mushroom farms could increase their profits by obtaining laccase as a byproduct during the gaps in mycelium running.
Pub.: 16 Feb '17, Pinned: 17 Feb '17
Abstract: The emergence of satellite sensors that can routinely observe millions of individual smallholder farms raises possibilities for monitoring and understanding agricultural productivity in many regions of the world. Here we demonstrate the potential to track smallholder maize yield variation in western Kenya, using a combination of 1-m Terra Bella imagery and intensive field sampling on thousands of fields over 2 y. We find that agreement between satellite-based and traditional field survey-based yield estimates depends significantly on the quality of the field-based measures, with agreement highest (<mml:math><mml:msup><mml:mi mathvariant="normal">R</mml:mi><mml:mn>2</mml:mn></mml:msup></mml:math>R2 up to 0.4) when using precise field measures of plot area and when using larger fields for which rounding errors are smaller. We further show that satellite-based measures are able to detect positive yield responses to fertilizer and hybrid seed inputs and that the inferred responses are statistically indistinguishable from estimates based on survey-based yields. These results suggest that high-resolution satellite imagery can be used to make predictions of smallholder agricultural productivity that are roughly as accurate as the survey-based measures traditionally used in research and policy applications, and they indicate a substantial near-term potential to quickly generate useful datasets on productivity in smallholder systems, even with minimal or no field training data. Such datasets could rapidly accelerate learning about which interventions in smallholder systems have the most positive impact, thus enabling more rapid transformation of rural livelihoods.
Pub.: 15 Feb '17, Pinned: 17 Feb '17
Abstract: Food production, water management, land use, and animal and public health are all topics of extensive public debate. These themes are linked to the core activities of the agricultural sector, and more specifically to the work of farmers. Nonetheless, the ethical discussions are mostly initiated by interest groups in society rather than by farmers. At least in Europe, consumer organizations and animal welfare and environmental organizations are more present in the public debate than farmers. This is not how it should be. First, because consumers often cannot but rely on agriculture. Second, because recent research shows that farmers have moral beliefs and convictions that appear to be broader than economic considerations and that are—to a certain extent—specific to their profession. This raises the question how to make input from farmers operational in the public debates on the future of farming. We discuss one option: entrusting farmers with professional autonomy concerning moral matters related to farming. We sketch the historical background of the current situation in which farmers are relatively silent on moral matters and we present some clear indications that farmers have values and moral beliefs that are relevant for the public debate. Next the concepts of professionalism and professional autonomy are discussed and applied to the practice of farming. Finally, we discuss the relevance and limits of professional moral autonomy for the agricultural profession. We close with an overview of what this moral autonomy implies for and requires from farmers in practice. We conclude that if some preconditions are met by farmers, then this type of moral autonomy can be relevant for farmers and for society, and contributes to the quality of the public debate on the future of farming.
Pub.: 04 Aug '15, Pinned: 17 Feb '17
Abstract: The health and wellbeing of future generations will depend on humankind's ability to deliver sufficient nutritious food to a world population in excess of 9 billion. Feeding this many people by 2050 will require science-based solutions that address sustainable agricultural productivity and enable healthful dietary patterns in a more globally equitable way. This topic was the focus of a multi-disciplinary international conference hosted by Nestlé in June 2015, and provides the inspiration for the present article. The conference brought together a diverse range of expertise and organisations from the developing and industrialised world, all with a common interest in safeguarding the future of food. This article provides a snapshot of three of the recurring topics that were discussed during this conference: soil health, plant science and the future of farming practice. Crop plants and their cultivation are the fundamental building blocks for a food secure world. Whether these are grown for food or feed for livestock, they are the foundation of food and nutrient security. Many of the challenges for the future of food will be faced where the crops are grown: on the farm. Farmers need to plant the right crops and create the right conditions to maximise productivity (yield) and quality (e.g. nutritional content), whilst maintaining the environment, and earning a living. New advances in science and technology can provide the tools and know-how that will, together with a more entrepreneurial approach, help farmers to meet the inexorable demand for the sustainable production of nutritious foods for future generations. © 2015 The Authors. Journal of The Science of Food and Agriculture published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society of Chemical Industry.
Pub.: 02 Dec '15, Pinned: 17 Feb '17
Abstract: Barley is an attractive vehicle for producing recombinant protein, since it is a readily transformable diploid crop species in which doubled haploids can be routinely generated. High amounts of protein are naturally accumulated in the grain, but optimal endosperm-specific promoters have yet to be perfected. Here, the oat GLOBULIN1 promoter was combined with the legumin B4 (LeB4) signal peptide and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) retention signal (SE)KDEL. Transgenic barley grain accumulated up to 1.2 g/kg dry weight of recombinant protein (GFP), deposited in small roundish compartments assumed to be ER-derived protein bodies. The molecular farming potential of the system was tested by generating doubled haploid transgenic lines engineered to synthesize the anti-HIV-1 monoclonal antibody 2G12 with up to 160 μg recombinant protein per g grain. The recombinant protein was deposited at the periphery of protein bodies in the form of a mixture of various N-glycans (notably those lacking terminal N-acetylglucosamine residues), consistent with their vacuolar localization. Inspection of protein-A purified antibodies using surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy showed that their equilibrium and kinetic rate constants were comparable to those associated with recombinant 2G12 synthesized in Chinese hamster ovary cells.
Pub.: 16 Oct '15, Pinned: 17 Feb '17
Abstract: A neonate born to an Ebola virus-positive woman was diagnosed with Ebola virus infection on her first day of life. The patient was treated with monoclonal antibodies (ZMapp), a buffy coat transfusion from an Ebola survivor, and the broad-spectrum antiviral GS-5734. On day 20, a venous blood specimen tested negative for Ebola virus by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. The patient was discharged in good health on day 33 of life. Further follow-up consultations showed age-appropriate weight gain and neurodevelopment at the age of 12 months. This patient is the first neonate documented to have survived congenital infection with Ebola virus.
Pub.: 12 Jan '17, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: Abstract Plants have great potential as photosynthetic factories to produce pharmaceutically important and commercially valuable biomedicines and industrial proteins at low cost. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) has approved the drug Elelyso (taliglucerase alfa) produced by carrot cells for treatment of type 1 Gaucher’s disease in 2012. The commercial potential of biomedicines produced by molecular farming has dramatically improved due to the success of an experimental drug called ZMapp, which has immunological activity in Ebola patients. A cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies was produced in tobacco (Nicotiana benthamiana) plants (Chen and Davis 2016). At present, very few drugs made by this technology have been approved by worldwide authorities such as the U.S. FDA. However, plants have been proposed as a novel paradigm for commercial production of proteins over the next decade. In recent years, leading researchers on molecular farming have given more priority to the area of animal-free therapeutic proteins such as parenteral and oral vaccines. Although plant-based platforms have considerable advantages over traditional systems such as bacterial and animal systems, there are several obstacles to commercial-scale production, especially with regards to improving the quality and quantity of plant-produced biologics and industrial materials. One of the biggest barriers to commercialization of this technology is the intense scrutiny of these new plant varieties by regulatory agencies and the public as well as the high costs associated with their regulatory approval.AbstractPlants have great potential as photosynthetic factories to produce pharmaceutically important and commercially valuable biomedicines and industrial proteins at low cost. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) has approved the drug Elelyso (taliglucerase alfa) produced by carrot cells for treatment of type 1 Gaucher’s disease in 2012. The commercial potential of biomedicines produced by molecular farming has dramatically improved due to the success of an experimental drug called ZMapp, which has immunological activity in Ebola patients. A cocktail of three monoclonal antibodies was produced in tobacco (Nicotiana benthamiana) plants (Chen and Davis 2016). At present, very few drugs made by this technology have been approved by worldwide authorities such as the U.S. FDA. However, plants have been proposed as a novel paradigm for commercial production of proteins over the next decade. In recent years, leading researchers on molecular farming have given more priority to the area of animal-free therapeutic proteins such as parenteral and oral vaccines. Although plant-based platforms have considerable advantages over traditional systems such as bacterial and animal systems, there are several obstacles to commercial-scale production, especially with regards to improving the quality and quantity of plant-produced biologics and industrial materials. One of the biggest barriers to commercialization of this technology is the intense scrutiny of these new plant varieties by regulatory agencies and the public as well as the high costs associated with their regulatory approval.Nicotiana benthamiana
Pub.: 01 Dec '16, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: Automated visual assessment of plant condition, specifically foliage wilting, reflectance and growth parameters, using machine vision has potential use as input for real-time variable-rate irrigation and fertigation systems in precision agriculture. This paper reviews the research literature for both outdoor and indoor applications of machine vision of plants, which reveals that different environments necessitate varying levels of complexity in both apparatus and nature of plant measurement which can be achieved. Deployment of systems to the field environment in precision agriculture applications presents the challenge of overcoming image variation caused by the diurnal and seasonal variation of sunlight. From the literature reviewed, it is argued that augmenting a monocular RGB vision system with additional sensing techniques potentially reduces image analysis complexity while enhancing system robustness to environmental variables. Therefore, machine vision systems with a foundation in optical and lighting design may potentially expedite the transition from laboratory and research prototype to robust field tool.
Pub.: 12 Aug '10, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: While machines called weeding robots are now commercially available and many more designs are being actively researched, I contend that current machines are not truly robotic weeders, rather they are essentially self‐guiding vehicles carrying weeding tools. I consider true robotic weeders to be a far more difficult objective. While advances in robotics have been outstanding, the weeding component often appears to be an afterthought. I contend that the weeding is as complex as the robotics. A genuine weeding robot should be able to: (i) monitor the crop, weeds, weather and soil, (ii) decide when the crop should be weeded, (iii) choose the optimal weeder, (iv) take the weeder to the field, (v) adjust the weeder for optimal performance, (vi) continuously monitor the entire weeder for blockages and mechanical breakages and fix them in the field, (vii) continuously monitor and adjust the weeder's performance, (viii) return the weeder to the farmyard and (ix) clean, maintain and store the weeder, that is replace all human intervention. This ten‐point list both defines and is a guide to what is required for completely autonomous robotic weeding. Currently, this list is far beyond current technology and it may be decades before it is realisable. The aim of this study therefore was not to disparage the achievements of agricultural roboticists, rather it is to highlight the complexity and demands of mechanical weeding and therefore describe what is really required to create a true robotic weeder. I therefore hope it will guide and expedite research and lead to more rapid success for robotic weeding.
Pub.: 06 Jul '16, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: Sustainability of livestock farming is not only part of intensive public debate, but also refers to a multi-stakeholder field comprising many different interests and worldviews. Beyond the environmental, economic and social dimensions of livestock farming, especially animal welfare should be considered as an essential aspect of sustainability. Such sustainability issues may be successfully addressed by transdisciplinary research. Science–industry collaborations in the realm of livestock sciences do have the potential for becoming successful transdisciplinary projects if project partners are aware of the challenges and limitations. In the light of this situation the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna and an Austrian food retailer launched a collaborative research project. The main objective of the project was to develop measures to improve sustainability of current pig fattening systems with a special focus on animal welfare. These measures were subsequently implemented on three pig fattening farms in Austria and the effects on animal welfare, economic and environmental performance as well as the farmers’ perception were evaluated. In this paper, the research process will be analysed from a transdisciplinary perspective, identifying differences between transdisciplinarity and different forms of applied research. This is followed by a discussion of challenges and failures as well as opportunities and achievements of the project concluding with a presentation of recommendations for further research projects. Finally, it is discussed to which extent industry-funded research offers suitable conditions for transdisciplinary research projects in pork production using the present project as a case study.
Pub.: 03 Sep '15, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: Farming is undergoing a digital revolution. Our existing review of current Big Data applications in the agri-food sector has revealed several collection and analytics tools that may have implications for relationships of power between players in the food system (e.g. between farmers and large corporations). For example, Who retains ownership of the data generated by applications like Monsanto Corproation's Weed I.D. "app"? Are there privacy implications with the data gathered by John Deere's precision agricultural equipment? Systematically tracing the digital revolution in agriculture, and charting the affordances as well as the limitations of Big Data applied to food and agriculture, should be a broad research goal for Big Data scholarship. Such a goal brings data scholarship into conversation with food studies and it allows for a focus on the material consequences of big data in society.
Pub.: 20 Jun '16, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: Considerable tree losses have been observed during the past few years in Spain due to Phytophthora branch canker of clementines caused by Phytophthora citrophthora. The emergence of this disease led to the speculation that either the pathogen has evolved increasing its aggressiveness or specificity to clementines. A total of 134 isolates of P. citrophthora collected from 2003 to 2005 in 135 citrus orchards in Spain and 22 reference isolates were analyzed genotypically and phenotypically to determine the structure of the population. Genotypic diversity was evaluated by means of Inter-Simple Sequence Repeat (ISSR) markers. Among the phenotypic characteristics examined, sporangial characters, sexual behavior, growth rates and colony morphology of the isolates at different temperatures were studied. The aggressiveness and host-specificity of selected isolates were evaluated by pathogenicity tests on sweet oranges and clementines under field conditions. Phytophthora branch canker of clementines was associated mainly with one genotype (P-1), which included 88% of the isolates obtained from branches. Strains isolated years before the first disease outbreak clustered also with this major genotype, thus it may be considered as a predominant population. Thirteen other minor genotypes were determined, but most contained only one isolate. Although there was wide variation in the morphological and physiological characters, all Phytophthora isolates obtained from branch cankers were sexually sterile and showed a characteristic petalloid colony pattern. As in previous greenhouse studies, pathogenicity tests under field conditions demonstrated that clementines and their hybrids were more susceptible to P. citrophthora than sweet oranges. However, no evidence was found to support the hypothesis that the emergence of the disease was associated with more aggressive or host-specific forms of P. citrophthora.
Pub.: 22 Oct '10, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: Genetic resistance in crops is a cornerstone of disease management in agriculture. Such genetic resistance is often rapidly broken due to selection for virulence in the pathogen population. Here we ask whether there are strategies that can prolong the useful life of plant resistance genes. In a modelling study, we compare four deployment strategies: gene pyramiding, sequential use, simultaneous use, and a mixed strategy. We developed a spatially explicit model for France and parameterized it for the fungal pathogen Puccinia striiformis f.sp. tritici causing wheat yellow rust to test management strategies in a realistic spatial setting. We found that pyramiding two new resistance genes in one variety was the most durable solution only when the virulent genotype had to emerge by mutation. Deploying single-gene resistant varieties concurrently with the pyramided variety eroded the durability of the gene-pyramid. We found that continuation of deployment of varieties with broken down resistance prolonged the useful life of simultaneous deployment of four single-gene resistant varieties versus sequential use. However, when virulence is already present in the pathogen population, durability was low and none of the deployment strategies had effect. These results provide guidance on effective strategies for using resistance genes in crop protection practice.
Pub.: 18 Jan '17, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: Publication date: Available online 13 January 2017 Source:Global Food Security Author(s): Patricio Grassini, Cameron M. Pittelkow, Kenneth G. Cassman, Haishun S. Yang, Sotirios Archontoulis, Mark Licht, Kendall R. Lamkey, Ignacio A. Ciampitti, Jeffrey A. Coulter, Sylvie M. Brouder, Jeffrey J. Volenec, Noemi Guindin-Garcia Meeting demand for food, fiber, feed, and fuel in a world with 9.7 billion people by 2050 without negative environmental impact is the greatest scientific challenge facing humanity. We hypothesize that this challenge can only be met with current and emerging technologies if guided by proactive use of a broad array of relevant data and geospatial scaling approaches to ensure local to global relevance for setting research priorities and implementing agricultural systems responsive to real-time status of weather, soils, crops, and markets. Despite increasing availability of field-scale agricultural data, robust spatial frameworks are lacking to convert these data into actionable knowledge. This commentary article highlights this knowledge gap and calls attention to the need for developing robust spatial frameworks that allow appropriate scaling to larger spatial domains by discussing a recently developed example of a data-driven strategy for estimating yield gaps of agricultural systems. To fully leverage research on sustainable intensification of cropping systems and inform policy development at different scales, we call for new approaches combining the strengths of top-down and bottom-up approaches which will require coordinated efforts between field scientists, crop modelers, and geospatial researchers at an unprecedented level.
Pub.: 18 Jan '17, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: A local strain of Chlorella vulgaris was cultivated by using cheese whey (CW), white wine lees (WL) and glycerol (Gly), coming from local agro-industrial activities, as C sources (2.2gCL(-1)) to support algae production under mixotrophic conditions in Lombardy. In continuous mode, Chlorella increased biomass production compared with autotrophic conditions by 1.5-2 times, with the best results obtained for the CW substrate, i.e. 0.52gL(-1)d(-1) of algal biomass vs. 0.24gL(-1)d(-1) of algal biomass for autotrophic conditions, and protein content for both conditions adopted close to 500gkg(-1) DM. Mixotrophic conditions gave a much higher energy recovery efficiency (EF) than autotrophic conditions, i.e. organic carbon energy efficiency (EFoc) of 32% and total energy efficiency (Eft) of 8%, respectively, suggesting the potential for the culture of algae as a sustainable practice to recover efficiently waste-C and a means of local protein production.
Pub.: 06 Feb '17, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
Abstract: Food security and land required for food production largely depend on rate of yield gain of major cereal crops. Previous projections of food security are often more optimistic than what historical yield trends would support. Many econometric projections of future food production assume compound rates of yield gain, which are not consistent with historical yield trends. Here we provide a framework to characterize past yield trends and show that linear trajectories adequately describe past yield trends, which means the relative rate of gain decreases over time. Furthermore, there is evidence of yield plateaus or abrupt decreases in rate of yield gain, including rice in eastern Asia and wheat in northwest Europe, which account for 31% of total global rice, wheat and maize production. Estimating future food production capacity would benefit from an analysis of past crop yield trends based on a robust statistical analysis framework that evaluates historical yield trajectories and plateaus.
Pub.: 19 Dec '13, Pinned: 16 Feb '17
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