Posts filed under ‘agriculture’

Translation: Environmental exposure impacts antibiotic resistance in children:

Exposure to antibiotics at home and in the broader environment influences the risk of children carrying antibiotic-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria, according to a study published in the The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The study was based in four areas of Peru with poor health systems, where antibiotics are used indiscriminately and without prescription. It covered coastal, mountain and jungle environments and focused on children between the ages of three months and three years.

The study suggests that environmental exposure to antibiotic-resistant E. coli can be as important as the consumption of antibiotics, according to the paper’s principal author, Henry Kalter, from the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

A risk factor at home was the use of antibiotics by other family members. The study demonstrated that children who hadn’t taken particular antibiotics themselves still carried bacteria resistant to them.

At the community level, living in a place where many families raised chickens themselves was a protective factor against the transport of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to Kalter, high consumption of home-raised chickens probably protects a community against exposure to antibiotics. He contrasted home-raised chickens with market-bought chickens, which may be given high doses of antibiotics and therefore have high levels of antibiotic-resistant E. coli.

“An important aspect of our conclusions is that the protective effect was not due to the fact that the children were eating certain types of chicken; rather that their communities were,” he said.

Kalter suggested that communities consuming more chickens raised at home presumably had less resistant bacteria in the environment, such as in open sewers and uncovered wells.

“This study reinforces the message that exposure to antibiotics leads to the development of antibiotic resistance, by studying the role of different types of exposure on small children carrying of antibiotic-resistant E. coli,” he continued.

According to Kalter, examining these factors provides a better understanding of how antibiotic resistance spreads in the developing world.

“These findings suggest that unnecessary use of antibiotics in humans and animals should be minimised as much as possible,” he added.

“Many tons of the antibiotics consumed each year on the planet are given to stock animals. This study demonstrates that this use has a very real cost to human health,” Edward T. Ryan, president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, said in a press release from Johns Hopkins University.

The study was run by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, the Peruvian charity PRISMA and the infectious disease laboratory of the Cayetano Heredia University in Peru.

The original paper in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is here.

This is my translation of a story written by Zoraida Portillo on the Science and Development Network, “Antibióticos propician resistencia infantil a E. coli”, published on June 14, 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; my translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

June 16, 2010 at 1:13 pm Leave a comment

Translation: Internet and mobile phones to improve agricultural management in Chile

An internet portal called “YoAgricultor”, driven by the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture, will allow small to medium-size country farmers to join virtual communities where they can access strategic farming information.

Four virtual communities have been launched on the portal this week (June 2nd), for producers of maize, honey, wine and berries. The initiative is a pilot project financed by the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) and the Inter-American Development Bank, which could reach an estimated 2000 farmers.

In each virtual community farmers can find free information about plant health, productivity, agricultural techniques and weather and market alerts, among other things. There are also forums in which farmers can communicate with each other.

The portal’s contents have been developed in conjunction with farmers and organised following stages of production. Agronomists and members of agricultural organisations developed the contents including short videos, podcasts, text and photographs.

“This project is purely knowledge management: we’re taking the knowledge of producers and putting it into a system in which they can participate and enhance their activity,” Alain Hermosilla, the coordinator of YoAgricultor, said.

“A site like this hasn’t existed in Latin America until now, but it’s completely replicable and exportable, plus it’s developed with free software,” he added.

The portal also includes a service called DatAgro that allows maize farmers to receive a text message with guidance on market prices, weather alerts and crop improvement data. This mobile service will soon be introduced for berry farmers, beekeepers, winemakers and organisations for stock breeders in the south of Chile, according to John Zoltner, head of Zoltner Consulting Group, the Chilean company running the service.

In the near future, strategic information delivered via mobile phones might extend to other Latin American countries, where Zoltner said they are already talking with farmers of potato, coffee and other agricultural products.

This technology, he added, “will also be implemented in a pilot project with the Ministry of Health in Peru and the Pan American Health Organization, to build the capacity of health professionals and community workers who care for pregnant women and small children, with the objective of reducing rates of infant mortality in the Peruvian highlands”.

This is my translation of a story written by Paula Leighton on the Science and Development Network, “Internet y celulares mejoran gestión agrícola en Chile”, published on June 4 2010. You can read the original in Spanish here.

SciDev.Net stories are published under a Creative Commons attribution license; this translation is available under the same license. Note this license is only for this page. Other works on this website are subject to other licenses; please contact me for details if you’d like to republish other parts of this site.

June 12, 2010 at 11:11 am 2 comments

Scientists closer to developing salt-tolerant crops

An international team of scientists has developed salt-tolerant plants using a new type of genetic modification (GM), bringing salt-tolerant cereal crops a step closer to reality.

The research team – based at the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus – has used a new GM technique to contain salt in parts of the plant where it does less damage.

Salinity affects agriculture worldwide, which means the results of this research could impact on world food production and security.

The work has been led by researchers from the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics and the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, in collaboration with scientists from the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, UK.

The results of their work were published recently in the top international plant science journal, The Plant Cell.

“Salinity affects the growth of plants worldwide, particularly in irrigated land where one third of the world’s food is produced. And it is a problem that is only going to get worse, as pressure to use less water increases and quality of water decreases,” said the team’s leader, Professor Mark Tester, from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG).

“Helping plants to withstand this salty onslaught will have a significant impact on world food production.”

Professor Tester said his team used the technique to keep salt – as sodium ions (Na+) – out of the leaves of a model plant species. The researchers modified genes specifically around the plant’s water conducting pipes (xylem) so that salt is removed from the transpiration stream before it gets to the shoot.

“This reduces the amount of toxic Na+ building up in the shoot and so increases the plant’s tolerance to salinity,” Professor Tester said.

“In doing this, we’ve enhanced a process used naturally by plants to minimise the movement of Na+ to the shoot. We’ve used genetic modification to amplify the process, helping plants to do what they already do – but to do it much better.”

The team is now in the process of transferring this technology to crops such as rice, wheat and barley.

“Our results in rice already look very promising,” Professor Tester said.

This story was written with David Ellis and published in Adelaidean magazine.

August 10, 2009 at 4:43 am Leave a comment

Sustainability and Environment

In many ways, ‘sustainability’ is the buzz word for a new millennium. As finite resources run low, levels of production and consumption increase. And while trends show that we are making the effort to live greener lives, the problem of pollution has not gone away, with the UK dumping more household waste into landfill than any other EU country. This books defines sustainability, outlines sustainability challenges and explores some possible solutions.

The information in this book comes from a wide range of sources and includes government reports and statistics, newspaper reports, features, magazine articles and surveys, literature from lobby groups and charitable organisations.

You can read more about this book on the publisher’s website; you can buy it there, or on Amazon.

Editor: Cobi Smith and Lisa Firth
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
ISBN: 978 1 86168 419 6
Published: January 2008

March 12, 2008 at 4:44 am Leave a comment

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

Increasingly, people are adopting alternative diets to improve their health or address ethical concerns. Vegetarianism and veganism are diet choices that attract debate, not only about their implications for health, but also about the associated ethical arguments. Vegetarian and Vegan Diets looks at the current debate on the pros and cons of these elimination diets and gives an overview of the related animal welfare issues.

The information in this book comes from a wide range of sources including government reports and statistics, newspaper features, magazine articles, surveys and literature from lobby groups and charitable organisations.

You can read more about this book on the publisher’s website; you can buy it there, or on Amazon.

Editors: Lisa Firth and Cobi Smith
Publisher: Independence Educational Publishers
ISBN: 978 1 86168 406 6
Published: September 2007

December 21, 2007 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment

Training for agricultural development

You can download the magazine containing this article from the ACPFG website (I also edited this magazine).

The Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) is hosting a talented plant scientist from China.

Dr Xiaojuan Wang is a plant scientist and Associate Professor at Lanzhou University in northwest China. She has joined the ACPFG in Adelaide for six months, where she is studying genes and loci related to low salt accumulation in Arabidopsis.

Dr Wang is looking forward to the challenges of studying overseas for the first time.

“Meeting people from different cultural backgrounds will open my eyes. Also, it should be a good chance to improve my English,” she said.

Dr Wang’s Australian project is jointly funded by the Federal Government’s Australia-China Council and the Crawford Fund. The Crawford Fund gives talented agricultural scientists from developing countries practical training at an Australian agricultural research institute, which they can apply to agricultural development in their home county.

Dr Wang will be passing on knowledge gained at the ACPFG to students when she returns to China.

“I have completed the ACPFG Transformation Workshop and am starting my experiments on salt tolerance. My time at ACPFG will strengthen my knowledge of DNA transformation and molecular mechanisms in salt tolerance, as well as giving me practical training,” she said.

In China, Dr Wang has been investigating the genetic diversity of alfalfa germplasm in arid and semi-arid areas using molecular markers.

In 2005 she worked on a project with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, collaborating with South Australian researchers to develop lucerne adapted to harsh conditions in China and Australia.

Dr Wang is now working in Professor Mark Tester’s lab with the support of Dr Stuart Roy.

“I hope my six month visit to the ACPFG is the start of more collaboration between the ACPFG and Lanzhou University. Our university encourages us to establish links with laboratories overseas, so I hope people from the ACPFG will come to Lanzhou University in the future,” she said.

October 3, 2006 at 5:26 pm Leave a comment

Enhanced grains possible thanks to beta-glucan breakthrough

Dr Rachel Burton, Professor Geoff Fincher and a team of scientists associated with the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics (ACPFG) have solved a puzzle that researchers have been working on for more than thirty years.

Their beta-glucan breakthrough was published in the March 31 issue of the journal Science. The scientists have identified a gene family, CslF, implicated in the synthesis of (1,3;1,4)-beta-D-glucans in cereals like wheat and barley. These beta-glucans are an important component of dietary fibre, and impact human and animal health, as well as the production of beer and spirits.

“This discovery means we now have the opportunity to modify beta-glucan levels in cereals, developing specialty cereals for different industries,” Dr Burton said.

“Beta-glucan is good for human health, so we can increase the levels in wheat and barley for human consumption. We can also develop low beta-glucan varieties for animal feed, because pigs and chickens can’t cope with too much beta-glucan,” she said.

The low varieties should also prove popular with breweries, because beta-glucan causes filtration problems in beer production. Beta-glucan can help prevent human health conditions like colorectal cancer, obesity, non-insulin-dependent diabetes, high serum cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. When the news of the discovery was made public, the media were particularly interested in the potential for enhanced cereal products to alleviate these medical problems.

Another possible outcome is cereal waste better suited for use as biofuel. Straw with higher betaglucan content and less cellulose may be easier to process, reducing the cost of producing fuel.

The gene discovery has not been an overnight success story. Emeritus Professor Bruce Stone from La Trobe University can attest to this.

“We first published on the biosynthesis of beta-glucan in 1973, but the biochemical route to the enzyme proved to be frustratingly difficult. Now, a generation later, using the tools of molecular genetics and gene transfer, the ACPFG team have made the breakthrough,” he said.

Professor Geoff Fincher of the University of Adelaide, with Tony Bacic and Dr Ed Newbigin of the University of Melbourne, received funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation in 2000 to apply emerging functional genomics technologies to the problem of identifying the betaglucan synthase genes in cereals. Dr Burton began working on the project then, following on from her work on cellulose biosynthesis.

The eventual breakthrough involved comparative genomics. Dr Andrew Harvey compared a chromosomal region in barley linked to high levels of beta-glucan to the completed rice genome, identifying the CslF gene family as the most likely candidates for beta-glucan synthesis in cereals.

To test whether the CslF genes were involved, Dr Burton built vectors containing the rice CslF genes for transformation into Arabidopsis plants. Research officer Melissa Pickering transformed the plants, some of which started producing beta-glucan in their cell walls, which does not normally happen in dicotyledonous plants like Arabidopsis.

Dr Sarah Wilson used transmission electron microscopy to locate the beta-glucan in the transformed Arabidopsis plants, using a gold-labelled monoclonal antibody generated in Professor Stone’s laboratory more than a decade ago.

“This work has been a fantastic team effort by staff in South Australia and Victoria, with great synergy between the different groups,” Dr Burton said.

Dr Burton is now working on altering the levels of beta-glucan in barley plants by manipulating the CslF genes, aiming to develop grains that will be the forerunners of specialty cereals.

You can download the magazine containing this article from the ACPFG website.

I also took this photo associated with this story.

 

May 31, 2006 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment


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