ILVO Newsletter July 2013

Did you know that…innovative techniques can make genes on chromosomes easier to see? Heat-treated and formolated soybeans can represent serious savings for our cattle farmers? And that our brown shrimp can get a new lease on life? You will read this and more in this issue of the ILVO Newsletter. From Flemish orchards to the fields in Malawi and Zambia, from the water column to a pig stable, from high resolution mass spectrometer to precision fertilisation: let us show you the ins and outs of the research going on at ILVO. And take a look at our job openings too - ILVO has several doctoral scholarships available in a variety of essential research projects in agriculture and fisheries.

New Research Projects

Keeping shrimp alive longer pays off. The development of innovative techniques onboard fishing vessels for the handling and processing live shrimp. 
Our brown shrimp will get a second lease on life – literally. The goal of the Cragnon InnoLife project is to examine which adjustments and/or improvements on board a fishing vessel are possible to keep a portion of the catch alive under optimal circumstances. In this way the shrimp fishers will be able to bring a live product to the market.

Nasty worms in pine trees: Monochamus as vector of the pinewood nematode in Belgium 
This research project about the damaging pinewood nematode Bursaphelenchus xylophilus (which requires Monochamus longhorned beetles in order to spread) aids the development of a national action plan which will be implemented when this quarantine organism is found in Belgium.

From popcorn to plastics. Development of an integral chain evaluation instrument for sustainable crop production.
Working towards a biobased economy is one possible step toward creating a more sustainable society in Flanders. The question is, can crops can valorised in various trajectories in a sustainable way? Starting with a case study on maize, ILVO is studying how to optimise the entire food production chain to realise this goal.

The early bird gets the worm?
A new research project on potato cyst nematodes will provide new tools to address this persistent problem in potato.

FishConnect: Predicting the impact of oceanographic and biological factors on larval recruitment and population connectivity in flatfish. 
Marine populations display some of the most extreme patterns of spatial and temporal heterogeneity in demographic factors. With FishConnect we want to quantify the physical and biological factors acting on recruitment and dispersal of commercially important flatfish species.

Phytoplasma diseases in apple and pear 
The overall aim of this project is to support policymakers in gaining insight into the actual status and epidemiology of the plant pathogens “apple proliferation phytoplasma” and “pear decline phytoplasma” and their respective insect vectors (apple and pear leaf sucker).

Integrated dairy-crop farming systems to enhance milk production and smallholders’ income in Malawi and Zambia 
ILVO is participating in a research project which identifies integrated dairy-crop farming systems in Malawi and Zambia. The project has a dual goal: first, to improve milk production to fulfill the nutritional needs of a growing local population; and two, to do this in a way that improves the livelihoods of local smallholder farming households.

How can we make genes visible on chromosomes? Fluorescence in situ hybridisation for physical mapping of economically important genes. 
Fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) and tyramide-FISH are used to visualise economically important genes and markers on the chromosomes of rose and onion and on derived hybrids and polyploids.

The food sector as transformer. Transformation to sustainable agriculture and food production. 
Sustainability is an important topic on the public agenda. Close collaboration between agriculture and the food industry is indispensable, given the strong connection between these two industries. ILVO is prepared to lend a helping hand.

Virtual plants. A mathematical description of plant function and architecture to improve the understanding of plant responses to the environment. 
Recently started research on virtual plants offers the opportunity to integrate the increasing amount of plant physiological knowledge on detailed processes and to understand the coupling between plant functions and traits.

Recent Results

Protected soybean meal: fewer soybeans for the same protein. 
ILVO led a project to determine whether the use of protected soybean meal, resulting in increased protein value, can reduce the absolute demand for (and import of) soybean meal for feed production.

All eyes on clover rot. Towards more efficient resistance breeding in red clover. 
This PhD study investigated the genetic diversity in Sclerotinia isolates from red clover. Using new bio-tests, we investigated sources of resistance; we also characterised clover rot resistance.

MRSA: from nursery to butchery. Investigation of the molecular epidemiology of MRSA in the pork production chain. 
Doctoral research confirms the presence of LA-MRSA (a type of MRSA found in farm animals) in pig husbandry, and reveals the genetic diversity of this bacterium.

Plant extracts used in the fight against climate change. What is the mitigation potential of plant additives to reduce methane emissions from cattle? 
The composition of animal feed has repercussions for the methane excretion from cattle. Therefore ILVO tested five feed additives of vegetal origin. This was done in vitro and in vivo. Only one of the five showed potential.

Dust, ammonia and greenhouse gases in pig fattening facilities. Measuring indoor concentrations and emissions. 
This research resulted in measuring techniques and an update of emission data for particulate matter and gases. Also an evaluation was made of the occupational safety for the farmer and veterinarian.

Precision fertilisation. Towards 3D-image techniques that can track a single grain. 
ILVO developed a fast and accurate technique for the measurement of the spreading pattern of centrifugal spreaders. That is essential for sustainable agricultural production and meets the demand of the modern farmer.

Zooplankton on the menu in the Belgian part of the North Sea. Community structure and selective foraging for zooplankton by pelagic fish. 
In a doctoral thesis, Karl Van Ginderdeuren (ILVO), reported on the dynamics of the zooplankton in the Belgian part of the North Sea. Among other conclusions, he points to the importance of climate change and other evolutions, and in this way updates the knowledge and insight about the position of plankton in the food webs.


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