Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Old McDonald Had a Phytochemical

09.11.2007
Forget the moo-moo here and quack-quack there. Farmers may find phytochemicals to be the barnyard bonanza.

And water may be the drop in the bucket that cashes in on the tug-o-war between urban and rural interests, according to research by the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.

That’s because applying less water to certain vegetables in the farm patch increases disease-preventing phytochemicals, or nutrients, for which consumers may one day pay a premium, scientists say.

“When we know what phytochemicals a vegetable contains, then the environmental and cultural strategies a grower uses can have an important impact on their content,” said Dr. Daniel Leskovar, horticultural researcher for Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Uvalde.

He said growers are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of phytochemicals in vegetable crops and know the key component for selling the crop still is quality.

“Attributes -- color, size, texture -- are still extremely important in the produce market,” he said. “But the consumer is rapidly gaining knowledge about the benefits of phytonutrients that these vegetables contain. We can see that a segment of the consumer population is more prone to consume this type of product at the higher price.”

An independent survey for the United Soybean Board this year indicated “60 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for healthier foods.”

From the time a tiny seed or transplant is plunged into the soil until it is harvested, a vegetable plant is subjected to a multitude of manipulations aimed at producing the most and best for consumers.

Everything from the precise day of planting to the type of soil and growing temperatures can determine the outcome. Leskovar said a plant that grows tall or wide in a given year could be either because of its variety or because it had the right irrigation, or proper fertilization – or both.

But Leskovar said researchers are beginning to examine beyond the size of the crop and pounds it yields to determine the content of healthy compounds in the produce and how farming methods may alter those.

Because water is becoming more restricted for farmers in southern and western Texas, Leskovar said, scientists decided to look at what would happen to the compounds if the traditional amount of moisture put on the crops was reduced.

“Why irrigation? We depend on irrigation from the Edwards Aquifer which is the main source of water for over 1.7 million people and also is the main source for irrigation in the Winter Garden area,” he said. “We expect that the water-use regulations are going to be harder, and so we have to be prepared for using less water.”

Currently, farmers in that area are not allowed to use more than 24 inches per acre in a given year. If that amount has been applied, a grower can not use more water on a food crop to save it, even if drought threatens to kill the entire field.

By comparison, turf grasses need about 1 inch of water a week – 52 inches a year - to stay green and growing, according to American-Lawns.com, an independent turf education entity.

But farmers may have a better incentive to reduce water on crops, Leskovar noted, if they can draw a higher price for the health aspects.

First pick for the research were watermelons, Leskovar said. As their very name suggests, melons need lots of water. Also, they contain carotenoids and lycopene – antioxidants that protects against cancer and other diseases in humans.

“Lycopene does not decrease and can actually maintain or even slightly increase with deficit irrigation without having too much of significant loss in yield,” he said. “We also know that lycopene increases with maturity. So the more precise the timing of harvest, the greater the potential for more lycopene in those watermelons.”

Leskovar and fellow researchers in Uvalde performed similar studies on other crops such as spinach which is high in lutein, beta carotene and vitamin C.

“If we could reduce by just 25 percent (of the optimum water amount),” he said of the results, “we would have a slight decline in yield as expected, but we would have a significant increase in phytochemicals for spinach.”

They also will experiment applying the irrigation water in different ways such as through a center pivot or by subsurface drip to find the most efficient way to apply less water.

“The industry does not demand per se a high lycopene tomato or high beta carotene spinach,” Leskovar said. “I feel that in the near future, there will be a segment that will be demanding a product with high phytochemical content. But of course, this will take a little time.”

When that happens, the methods being verified through these scientific studies now will be ready for grower application, he said.

“We are kind of anticipating to that aspect, so that we will be ahead of the game,” he added.

Kathleen Phillips | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Researchers discover a new link to fight billion-dollar threat to soybean production
14.02.2017 | University of Missouri-Columbia

nachricht Important to maintain a diversity of habitats in the sea
14.02.2017 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Impacts of mass coral die-off on Indian Ocean reefs revealed

21.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Novel breast tomosynthesis technique reduces screening recall rate

21.02.2017 | Medical Engineering

Use your Voice – and Smart Homes will “LISTEN”

21.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>