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May 2003



Mark Westgate, an Iowa State University associate professor of agronomy, is trying to determine whether satellite images can be used to document when corn tassels emerge in a cornfield. Because pollen is spread easily, knowing the time of pollination can help researchers contain genetically modified corn pollen to certain fields. "We're testing whether NASA's satellites can help us manage corn pollination by telling us when the corn plants start to shed pollen," Westgate said. "Once we have that information for a specific field, we have tools to predict how much pollen is produced, where the pollen goes and the probability of our genetically modified field pollinating a traditional field nearby." Satellite pictures pick up reflections of light coming from the top of cornfields. These pictures show researchers when corn tassels emerge. Tests on the satellite angle and position are being conducted to help Westgate determine which combination of light wavelengths the satellites need to measure, and when to measure them. A second set of tests will be conducted this summer with the help of the Iowa Civil Air Patrol. "Once tassels emerge, we know that pollen shed will soon follow, so these changes in the spectrum are used to benchmark development," Westgate said. Contact Westgate, (515) 294-9654; or Bridget Bailey, News Service, (515) 294-6881.

A mild winter has added to an increased tick population this spring. Wayne Rowley, an Iowa State University entomologist, said the tick population is up and hikers, campers and mushroom hunters should check for ticks. "People should wear light clothing, so ticks are visible, and use a standard mosquito repellent on their shoes and socks, which works fairly well against ticks," Rowley said. The biggest concern is the deer tick, which carries Lyme disease. The deer tick moved into central Iowa about two years ago. Rowley said deer ticks only transmit Lyme disease if embedded and feeding, which gives people about three days to check for the tick. Rowley said about 75 percent of those bitten by deer ticks infected with Lyme disease develop a bull's eye rash around the bite. Contact Rowley, (515) 294-01573; or Barb McManus, Ag Communications Service, (515) 294-0707.

A method used to monitor pseudorabies (PRV) in finishing pigs could be adapted to test for other viral and bacterial agents and food safety issues, including toxoplasmosis and trichinosis. James McKean, Iowa State University extension veterinarian, developed the system, which uses meat juice sampled at the packinghouse to test antibodies. "We're sampling pigs from 19 states and Canada in the eight plants in Iowa. That represents about 23 percent of the national harvest," McKean said. The project is based on the positive correlation between the results of tests run on blood serum and on meat juice. "Testing meat juice, rather than serum, has several advantages. You don't have to go farm to farm to collect it, so it's less labor intensive. It's also safer from a biosecurity standpoint, and sampling rates can be changed as needed. The pigs are at a central location and the samples are reasonably easy to get, and owner ID is readily available," he said. McKean says the system is flexible enough to be used for a variety of diseasesproduction diseases, zoonotic diseases and even foreign animal diseases. "In Denmark, meat juice has been used for 10 years for herd classification for salmonella," he said. Contact McKean, (515) 294-8792; or Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778.

Locally grown has become a popular label in some supermarket produce sections and the number of farmers markets has ballooned in recent years. It's all part of a growing "buy local" movement that touts locally grown produce for its freshness and flavor. A report from Iowa State University's Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture shows the number of miles logged by 30 common fruits and vegetables. Grapes travel the farthest -- 2,143 miles -- arriving by truck at the Chicago terminal market from across the continental United States. An estimated 30 percent of the nation's produce volume is moved through the terminal market system on its way to retail markets. Only one state -- California -- provides grapes in this system, and seven percent of the volume is from Mexico. In comparison, watermelons, which are grown in 14 states, travel an average of only 791 miles to the Chicago terminal market. The updated information, "How far do your fruit and vegetables travel?" and a two-page fact sheet, "I Want More Say in My Food Choices!" which shows where to get more information about local foods, are available at Contact Rich Pirog, (515) 294-1854; or Laura Miller, Leopold Center communications, (515) 294-5272.


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