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October 2002


Vitamin E can guard turkeys against infection by pathogenic Listeria bacteria, the culprits responsible for the recent recall of 27 million pounds of meat, according to two Iowa State University scientists. Aubrey Mendonca, assistant professor of food science, and Dong Ahn, associate professor of animal science, worked with Irene Wesley at USDA's National Animal Disease Center in Ames to study the effects of vitamin E on Listeria bacteria in turkeys. They found that the dietary supplement boosted the immune response by increasing the birds' white blood cell counts. They also found that turkeys treated with vitamin E had a type of immune cell that kills infected cells and helps eliminate foodborne pathogens. The researchers say vitamin E could be a healthy alternative to antimicrobial drugs in turkey production. They will begin to investigate the effects of vitamin E on Salmonella. Earlier research by Ahn showed that dietary vitamin E inhibits the discoloration of turkey meat and prolongs shelf life. Contact Mendonca, (515) 294-2950; or Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778.

When consumers are willing to pay premium prices for products with the characteristics that they desire, niche markets often result. However, the very success of that niche market often leads to imitation, expanding the supply and ultimately reducing producers' profitability. ISU economists Dermot Hayes, Pioneer Chair in Agribusiness, and Sergio Lence, Marlin Cole Professor of International Agricultural Economics, recently traveled to Italy to study that country's model for farmer-owned brands. The key factor in the success of the brands is that they allow producers not only to differentiate their products but also to legally control supply. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including restricting the growing region based on its exceptional attributes, limiting membership in a producer group, imposing strict production or quality standards, or restricting access to a product ingredient or process. In Italy, the researchers found several exciting examples of farmer-owned brands, such as Brunello di Montalcino, a wine produced by an association that limits the quantity of grapes and the production area. Another success story is Parma Ham, owned by a group of ham processors who maintain control over the curing location and methods, a process that purportedly gives this product its unique flavor. Lence and Hayes describe how this model might work in the U.S. Midwest in a paper, "Farmer-Owned Brands?" It is available on the Web at Contact Hayes, (515) 294-6185; or Sandy Clarke, CARD communications, (515) 294-6257.

A new, national Web site provides education and research to producers about business development and marketing related to value added agriculture. The new Web site ( contains contacts and directories, as well as new business development and commodity-specific information designed to help build successful value added agricultural enterprises. It was developed by The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC), a three-state university effort to enhance value added agriculture. The Web page has 2,500 links designed to connect producers with electronically available information and resources on a variety of agricultural commodities and products. In September, the site was visited 122,000 times. AgMRC is funded through a grant to Iowa State University, Kansas State University and the University of California from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Rural Business Cooperative Service. The center is designed to provide the information producers and other agribusiness professions need to enhance their bottom lines through value added agriculture activities. For more information, contact the center toll free at (866) 277-5567, or email to Contact Mary Holz-Clause, AgMRC co-director, (515) 294-0648; or Christa Hartsook, AgMRC communications, (515) 294-4430.

It's official name is the Asian Lady Beetle, but it is better known as the ladybug. And if you're a homeowner with sunny exposure on your exterior walls, you may be finding a few ladybugs invading your home. Iowa State entomology professor Donald Lewis said the ladybugs don't hurt the structure, furniture or fabrics, and are mainly a nuisance. He said the best way to deal with the orange, dome-shaped bug is to sweep or vacuum them to be discarded. The best time to take preventive measures is before the ladybugs invade your home by sealing gaps or cracks around windows, doors, eaves, siding or other points that may give the bugs access. This won't prevent this year's invasion but may slow it down next year. More information is available on the Web at Contact Lewis, (515) 294-1101; or Barb McManus, Ag Communications Service, (515) 294-0707.

The number of students, teachers, extension professionals and industry people who attended workshops and other events at Iowa State's Biotechnology Outreach Education Center increased almost 50 percent between July 2000 and July 2002. During the past year, the center served 2,016 people in its campus facility, up from 1,357 during the preceding year. In addition, 948 students and teachers in Iowa schools benefited from visits by Iowa State's biotech outreach education coordinator Mike Zeller, who helps teach lab procedures like DNA fingerprinting and explore ethical questions. The center's program that sends free materials and lab supplies to Iowa's K-12 teachers also reflected an increased interest in learning about biotech, serving 12,637 students at 121 Iowa schools. Walter Fehr, director of Iowa State's Office of Biotechnology, points to one of several reasons for the growing interest in the biotech education services his office provides. "ISU students headed for teaching careers in agriculture, biology or family and consumer sciences train in our center, so they know about the services and supplies we offer before they take their first teaching job," Fehr said. Contact Fehr, (515) 294-6865; Zeller, (515) 294-5949; or Glenda Webber, Office of Biotechnology communications, (515) 294-4749.


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