Why Don’t We Live on a Red Planet? New Research from the Debashish Lab Suggests Answers

Sushi is wrapped in the red algae "Porphyra."

Sushi is wrapped in the red algae “Porphyra.

If you watched the movie, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” you might still remember the weird planet Nibiru that is covered with red plants. As absurd as it may sound, this could have been the situation on Earth. The question then is, “why are most grasses and plants green and not red?”

A recent paper in the Journal of Phycology in which the lead author is Huan Qiu, research associate in the Debashish Bhattacharya lab, provides an intriguing answer. Huan analyzed a comprehensive genome database that included red algae and their sister lineage, the green algae (including land plants). He found that the red algal common ancestor suffered severe losses of important genes and functions.

Huan and the research team suggested that this was likely caused by life in a very stressful environment over a billion years ago that forced the red algal ancestor to shed hundreds of genes to compete with other microbes. This loss likely made them less able to compete with the gene-rich green algae that ultimately conquered land, giving rise to plants. Read more in an article on the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources website.

New Jersey Educator Donates Historic U.S. Soils Collection to National Agriculture Library

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service formally transfers the 1916 U.S. soil collection and publication, “Important Soils of the United States” to the USDA National Agricultural Library for safekeeping and archival purposes in Beltsville, MD on Aug. 19, 2015. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

On Aug. 19, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service formally transferred the 1916 U.S. soil collection and publication, “Important Soils of the United States,” to the USDA National Agricultural Library for safekeeping and archival purposes in Beltsville, MD.

On Aug. 19, fifty people including staff from the University of Maryland, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), National Agriculture Library (NAL), members of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Professional Soil Scientists, Rutgers University, and the Firman E. Bear Soil and Water Conservation Society gathered at the NAL for a ceremony to convey a historic 1916 U.S. soils collection. The donor, Jill Guenther, a Vineland, NJ educator, donated a historic collection of U.S. soils to the Library where the collection will be archived for safekeeping, included in Library exhibits, and available upon request for onsite inspection. [Read more…]

N.J. Reservoir Levels Dip After Dry August

New Jersey’s reservoirs are operating at below-average levels this week, prompting one utility to warn customers that a recent stretch of dry weather is depleting their supply… Last month was the 13th driest August in New Jersey history, with the state averaging about two inches below normal rainfall. David Robinson, the state climatologist at Rutgers University, said New Jersey would be in trouble if not for a very rainy June, the fourth wettest on record… "Without June, we’d be in such dire straits," Robinson said… Only Newark’s five reservoirs, owned by the city’s water department, are at levels above both the historical average and levels recorded at this time last year. According to the state data, those reservoirs are operating around 85 percent capacity.

Read the entire article at www.nj.com »

Does Olive Oil Kill Cancer?

Many people have pushed olive oil aside in recent years in favor of coconut oil, which has garnered headlines for its ability to improve everything from your cholesterol profile to weight loss. But a new study may have you extending an olive branch, so to speak, to extra virgin olive oil. When researchers added a compound found only in certain types of olive oil- an antioxidant called oleocanthal- to cancer cells in the lab, something amazing happened: It wiped out the cancer cells in less than an hour. Even better, the oleocanthal didn’t harm the healthy cells… "That was definitely an OMG moment," says study co-author Paul Breslin, a professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University… They’re found in the Mediterranean diet, which time and again comes out on top in terms of being associated with longevity and lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and dementia, Breslin says. The takeaway? Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish, use olive oil generously, limit processed foods and meats, and drink green tea.

Read the entire article at www.harpersbazaar.com »

Sustainable Options For Controlling Brown Marmorated Stink Bug In Vegetables

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is here to stay. Found in the U.S. in the late 1990s, this pest attacks peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, sweet corn, apples, peaches, and several other fruits and vegetables. Plus, it can be found in virtually all states – from Virginia to Washington. To help you battle this pest, American Vegetable Grower spoke to Brett Blaauw, a research associate at Rutgers University, who works on sustainable pest management practices to control BMSB. He offers insight on scouting techniques, sustainable control options, and more… The benefits and costs for each type of control often will be dependent on grower needs and interests. As part of a multi-state grant lead by Anne Nielsen of Rutgers University and funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative grant, we have investigated these methods for BMSB management.

Read the entire article at www.growingproduce.com »