From Lab to Market
ARS’s Top Transferred Technologies
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is one of the most successful federal agencies when it comes to bringing consumers the results of research. Here are some of the top products. Which ones have you tried?
Don’t Let the Apples Brown!
Looking for a healthy, ready-to-grab snack? What could be better and more convenient than fresh apple slices that don’t turn brown?
McDonald’s was able to begin offering Apple Dippers—now called apple slices—in 2004 because ARS scientists and partner company Mantrose-Haeuser Co., Inc., developed and patented a coating that keeps peeled apples from browning without changing their texture or flavor. The coating can keep spoilage at bay for up to 3 weeks.
Now McDonald’s buys more apples than any other food-service operation, purchasing more than 240 million pounds of fresh apples a year. While the coating, which goes by the name of NatureSeal, was developed for use on apples and pears, its use has been expanded to over 30 different fruits and vegetables, including avocados, potatoes, peaches, and romaine lettuce. For home use, consumers can buy NatureSeal online.
Seedless Grapes: Red, Green, and Black
ARS practically invented the red seedless grape industry for the U.S. consumer when agency scientists developed the ‘Flame’ cultivar in 1973. It set the standard by which all other red seedless grapes would be judged. ‘Flame’ was followed by ‘Crimson’ in 1989 and then ‘Scarlet Royal’ in 2005, varieties that extended the harvest season so that people can enjoy these crisp, juicy grapes with the snappy red color for longer.
ARS scientists also improved green seedless grapes by developing ‘Autumn King.’
Year after year, of the top 10 varieties that are the country’s $1.83 billion of seedless table grapes, more than half are ARS developed. In 1983, ARS invented seedless black grapes, which are a happy hybrid of white (green) ‘Thompson Seedless’ grapes and the ‘Concord’—the jelly grape. Christened ‘Thomcord’ in 2006, it has a “labrusca” flavor similar to the ‘Concord,’ but mellowed by a mild, sweet taste. Autumn Royal, another seedless black variety, has large grapes that ripen in late September to mid-October.
Keep the Friction Down
High-performance, biodegradable motor oils and industrial lubricants are now being made from vegetable fatty acids called estolides, thanks to ARS research. In an 18-month, 150,000-mile field trial, estolide-based motor oils demonstrated that they keep engines looking cleaner and deposit minimal varnish compared to conventional motor oil.
These “biosynthetic” oils have many possible uses as gear and chain oils, hydraulic fluids, and greases as well as in the cosmetics industry, often outperforming their petroleum-based counterparts in similar applications. In addition to their high-performance properties, these renewable oils are biodegradable and nontoxic. Estolides were compared to 11 current mineral oil-based crankcase lubricants on the store shelf. Only two commercial motor oils, with retail prices near $4.00 per quart, outperformed the estolide with an estimated cost of $1.59 per quart.
New CocoEstolides are plant-based emollients that combine high stability and exceptional moisturizing. They impart a light satiny feel, excellent absorption, and superior functionality as an emollient. For more information.
Sunscreen for Trees
ARS researchers invented Surround, which works almost like a spa treatment to protect trees from sunburn, heat stress, and insects. The clay-based coating can be used like a spray sunscreen primarily for orchards, but it also works on home/yard trees. The clay particles create a film barrier against pests, sun, and heat, which leads to more efficient photosynthesis and reduces pesticide use. For more information.
Tough Turf Grasses
From professional football teams like the Tennessee Titans to World Cup soccer to your neighborhood sports fields and golf courses, playing surfaces are covered in turf grasses developed by ARS research. ‘TifSport’ Bermuda grass tolerates frequent low mowing and recovers quickly from wear and tear, which has made it ideal for football fields and lawns. ‘Tifblair’ centipede grass survives prolonged severe winter temperatures, is low maintenance, and needs only a small amount of fertilizer, making it a popular choice for landscapes, roadsides, commercial lawns, parks, and airports. A third-generation Bermuda grass variety developed by ARS, ‘TifEagle’ grows into the premier putting surface for golfers, along with ‘TifTuf,’ which is the most drought-tolerant Bermuda grass around, needing 38 percent less water. It is becoming the new standard for golf courses because it greens up early and maintains its color well into the fall. For more information
"Trim" Products for Food and Health
A series of highly effective ingredients—Oatrim, Nutrim, Z-Trim, and C-Trim—made from oat and/or barley bran, were designed as fat substitutes, especially in bakery products. They also increase the soluble fiber content in foods. These “trim” products are rich in beta-glucans, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and help with blood sugar control in some people. Nutrim is available from FutureCeuticals Direct while Z-Trim is expanding its markets, including USDA’s school lunch program.
Less Ammonia, Better Air and Water Quality
Al+Clear is an ARS-developed treatment for poultry litter. Large poultry operations throughout the Southeast are using it to clear the air of ammonia. For poultry producers, using Al+Clear also can improve bird weight gain, enhance feed conversion, and reduce mortality rates. In addition, cutting ammonia emissions reduces the need to ventilate poultry houses, saving producers propane and electrical energy costs.
When used as fertilizer, litter treated with Al+Clear also results in improved crop yields and less phosphorus runoff, which improves water quality. Horse folks have discovered Al+Clear's ability to control ammonia in stalls, especially in the high-dollar racehorse industry. For more information.
Blood Sugar Control
ARS developed a complex of chromium and the amino acid histidine for use as a dietary supplement. It may help with glucose control for people who have elevated levels of blood sugar. You can find it on the market as Chromax. —By Kim Kaplan, ARS Office of Communications.