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Corn gene patented – Audio

Friday, April 29th, 2016

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A poplar tree growing in the Great Lake Bioenergy Research Center's fields at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station in Arlington, WI.
Matthew Wisniewski/Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

The future, unzipped: Pioneering a technology that could revolutionize how industry produces biofuels

John Ralph PhD’82 talks with the easy, garrulous rhythms of his native New Zealand, and often seems amiably close to the edge of laughter. So he was inclined toward amusement last year when he discovered that some portion of the Internet had misunderstood his latest research. Ralph—a CALS biochemist with joint appointments in biochemistry and biological systems engineering—had just unveiled a way to tweak the lignin that helps give plants their backbone. A kind of a natural plastic or binder, lignin gets in the way of some industrial processes, and Ralph’s team had cracked a complicated puzzle of genetics and chemistry to address the problem. They call it zip-lignin, because the modified lignin comes apart—roughly—like a zipper. One writer at an influential publication called it “self-destructing” lignin. Not a bad turn of phrase—but not exactly accurate, either. For a geeky science story the news spread far, and by the time it had spread across the Internet, a random blogger could be found complaining about the dangers of walking through forests full of detonating trees. [caption id="attachment_18845" align="alignright" width="350"] John Ralph standing before a ...
Thursday, January 7th, 2016
-20160107
bioenergy-bioproducts
10
The future, unzipped: Pioneering a technology that could revolutionize how industry produces biofuels

Helping Wisconsin farmers, one potato at a time

[caption id="attachment_19729" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Workers at a potato farm near Coloma, Wisconsin, pick through harvested potatoes. Photo: Bryce Richter[/caption] The plant disease known as late blight of potato is infamous for its devastating effects on Ireland in the mid-19th century: Its catastrophic impact on potato crops led to the Great Famine, a period of widespread starvation and mass emigration of roughly 1 million Irish citizens. This clever pathogen, also known as Phytophthora infestans or “plant destroyer,” can spread like wildfire and evolve rapidly. When conditions are ripe it can wipe out a field in a matter of days. Late blight infects potatoes and tomatoes, often emerging as relatively small brown or pale green spots that quickly spread into dark, moist, oily patches in wet weather. These spots, or lesions, often turn white and fuzzy in appearance on leaves, stems and fruit as the pathogen produces thousands of spores. In 2009, late blight made its way to Wisconsin after a seven-year hiatus.  Since then, it has been detected each year. To put the potential threat into perspective: Wisconsin ranks third in the U.S. in ...
Tuesday, April 19th, 2016
-20160419
food-systems
10
Helping Wisconsin farmers, one potato at a time
ecuador story

Ecuador: Better Health Through Messaging

Some communities in Ecuador face high incidences of water-borne illness because of contaminated water or poor hygiene and sanitation. It’s a multipronged problem calling for an interdisciplinary approach combining natural, medical and social sciences. Bret Shaw, a CALS professor of life sciences communication, last year helped implement a social science approach with funding from the UW–Madison Global Health Institute. “I used a social marketing perspective, which utilizes psychological and communication tools, to try to help villagers make lasting behavior changes in how they interact with water and sanitation,” explains Shaw. [caption id="attachment_19563" align="alignright" width="350"] Undergraduate Lauren Feierstein and a local teacher work with children on "watershed in a box," an activity that helps students make the visual connection between land, water and public health. Photo courtesy of Lauren Feierstein.[/caption] Shaw worked with two undergraduates, Lauren Feierstein and Brenna O’Halloran, to create health behavioral prompts—small signs in Spanish left in important areas where a reminder to wash hands is vital, such as in bathrooms, near sinks and on bottles of water. Since many people in the community have limited literacy, it was important for ...
Friday, April 8th, 2016
-20160408
health-wellness
10
Ecuador: Better Health Through Messaging
Health and Wellness

Brenner’s simpler fertility test is basis for promising UW-Madison spinoff

[caption id="attachment_19774" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Katie Brenner is pictured in the DeLuca Biochemistry Building with a prototype testing strip designed to detect estradiol and progesterone hormones in a woman’s saliva, which can be used in conjunction with an app on a mobile device to measure fertility. Photo: Bryce Richter[/caption] Doubts about their ability to become pregnant affect as many as 25 percent of American women, and solving that problem is the basic business plan for BluDiagnostics. Although the startup company was born in the University of Wisconsin—Madison Biochemistry Department, co-founder Katie Brenner says the idea came directly from her own difficulty with conception. Like many would-be parents, Brenner was advised to select the optimum time for conception based on blood and/or urine tests of hormone levels, but the tests are cumbersome at best and inaccurate at worst, she says. Working in the lab of BluDiagnostics co-founder Doug Weibel, an associate professor of biochemistry at UW–Madison, Brenner developed a quick, saliva-based method for measuring progesterone and estrogen. Variations in estrogen levels, in particular, are closely related to ovulation, and are considered the gold standard for ...
Monday, May 2nd, 2016
-20160502
health-wellness
10
Brenner’s simpler fertility test is basis for promising UW-Madison spinoff

Agri-marketing team brings home national championship

The University of Wisconsin–Madison’s National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) marketing team brought home the national championship on Thursday, April 14. The students also earned $5,500 in scholarships, out of a total $9,000 up for grabs among the 30 universities present at the competition, as well as a John Deere Award. [caption id="attachment_19779" align="alignright" width="300"] The winning NAMA marketing team from left to right: Jordan Gaal, Erica Ballmer, Jaime Sawle, Kate Griswold, Sarah Fletcher Botham (NAMA advisor), Brandon Maly, Mariah Martin, Sydney Endres and Savannah Waller.[/caption] “The students very much deserve this honor,” Botham said. “I really had a feeling that this year’s product and presentation were really extraordinary, and it’s great to see the students’ hard work pay off.”LSC is the UW–Madison NAMA student chapter’s department sponsor and one of LSC’s faculty members has advised the chapter since it was created in 1980. Faculty associate Sarah Botham is the current faculty advisor of the chapter and marketing team. The last time the NAMA chapter took first place was in 1996, under LSC’s Tom Schomisch, who retired in 2004 and sadly passed away last ...
Monday, May 2nd, 2016
-20160502
uncategorized
10
Agri-marketing team brings home national championship
CALS in the Media

Plant Protein Behaves like a Prion

Scientific American
-20160429
cals-in-the-media
10
Plant Protein Behaves like a Prion
Food Systems

Two dairy science professors earn NIFA grants to focus on transition cow health

Two assistant professors in the Department of Dairy Science have secured a total of $1 million in grants from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Their research focuses on using cutting edge laboratory techniques to find molecular solutions to ailments that negatively impact dairy cattle productivity and efficiency. Laura Hernandez is investigating ways to alleviate dangerously low levels of calcium in dairy cattle around the time they give birth. Also addressing the period around calving, Heather White explores the role of hepatic metabolism in the development of a fatty liver. [caption id="attachment_19754" align="alignright" width="233"] Heather White[/caption] “Just like in humans, fatty liver has very negative effects in dairy cows,” White says. “What we have found is evidence of a gene that may predispose a cow to developing a fatty liver. Our goal with this grant is to investigate this gene and also how to best help cows recover.” Approximately 60% of cows develop ketosis, which is commonly associated with a fatty liver, when they give birth and start making milk. Accumulation of fat in the liver decreases the efficiency of the liver ...
Tuesday, April 26th, 2016
-20160426
food-systems
10
Two dairy science professors earn NIFA grants to focus on transition cow health
CALS in the Media

Mount Spokane ice crawler may be a unique species, scientists say

The Spokesman-Review
-20160422
cals-in-the-media
10
Mount Spokane ice crawler may be a unique species, scientists say