ILVO Newsletter June 2020

In the starting blocks

A citizen-driven food transition by 2030?

FoodShift 2030A fast European transition to circular, low-footprint food systems is the ambitious goal of project FoodSHIFT, a collaborative project with 31 research institutes, cities and companies that want to make local food systems more sustainable in terms of entrepreneurship as well as citizen participation.

Microplastics are everywhere - ANDROMEDA finds out how to correctly detect and quantify them in the sea

microplasticMicroplastics are found in the air, water and soil, and they ultimately end up in the sea. The detection and quantification of the smallest fraction of plastics - the so-called micro and nanoplastics - remains a major challenge for researchers. After all, how do you count and measure these tiny plastic particles when they are all around you and there is proportional contamination? Methods to measure micro- and nanoplastics can still be improved a lot. The ANDROMEDA research project takes up the challenge.

Fertilizing in a changing climate? Literature study into nutrient losses in more extreme weather.

MaisIn case of drought, fertilizers remain idle; in case of heavy rain they wash away. How can farmers adapt fertilization and/or their cultivation system to these extreme weather conditions? With the VLM project 'Climate Adaptive Practices for Reducing Nutrient Losses' we explore how nutrient control can be adapted to a changing climate.

Striking results

Coming up cucumbers

komkommersapCucumbers can be juiced in a low-oxygen environment during times of overproduction. According to ILVO food researchers, the juice (after concentration) has potential to be a healthy, fresh source of flavor in commercial summer drinks. These findings from recent experiments as well as the first practical applications arose as a result of the corona crisis.
The corona crisis has caused temporary shifts in our food supply. Among other things, this caused ripples in the marketing of fruit and vegetables. Restaurants, large events, company catering were not active for a while. At certain times, surpluses of cucumber arose at the vegetable auctions. In the period from the beginning of May 2020, they calculated that 40% of the cucumbers supplied at that time (accounting for more than 3500 tons!) would probably NOT be sold as a fresh product.

New DNA database can reveal 'fraudulent' cod or sole

visfraudeILVO has developed an analysis tool that makes authenticity checks on certain fish products easier and more accurate. Traders or processors of fish all over the world sometimes sell a cheaper species of fish - in filleted or processed form, therefore being unrecognizable - as if it were a more expensive fish species. This is fraud, which the government wants to detect efficiently, using an accurate method. The international scientific project SEAFOODTOMORROW has therefore built up a specialized database with DNA profiles of several commercial marine fish species. "Even when the sole or cod has been processed into fillets or into chunks in a fish dish, we can determine the identity of the original fish using the so-called DNA barcoding technique, which makes a comparison with the fish DNA database," says researcher Dumas Deconinck.

PhD: Reducing ammonia and especially odor emissions from the pig house by adapted ventilation

geuremissies verlagen in varkensstal"In principle, with completely cost-free interventions, we can reduce the odor from a normal Flemish pig house with a slatted floor by 34%, and the ammonia emissions by 11%", says ILVO-UGent research Rafael Tabase at the end of his PhD. He carried out research into improved ventilation regimes, more specifically in modern pig houses (the so-called UFAD system or Underfloor Air Distribution System). For the measurements he combined two newly developed models and an experimental test platform where he mimicked the air movements in the house without the need for live animals to be present. Finally, he also validated his findings in the fattening pig house at the ILVO, UGent and HoGent pig campus in Melle.

Skin ulcers in flatfish: scientists unravel part of the complex genesis mechanism

huidzweren platvissenIn the period 2011-2014, many flatfish skin ulcers were found to be present, an alarming sign of disturbance that could not be explained at the time. Thanks to innovation and multidisciplinary research, there are now indications that these skin ulcers are caused by a combination of circumstances. "Various factors can cause lesions, which in turn can cause pathogens such as Vibrio tapetis and Aeromonas salmonicida to 'enter' easily and cause infection. The severity of the infection, in turn, depends on many fish related and environmental factors that can affect the fish's immune system," explains ILVO-UGent-VLIZ researcher Maaike Vercauteren.

PhD on lettuce cultivation in greenhouses: more in-depth knowledge of greenhouse soil pathogens offers opportunities for more successful integrated control

slaIn the intensive greenhouse cultivation of head lettuce, the correct identification of soil pathogens present and the newly acquired insights into their damaging power can help to grow lettuce plants healthily with less pesticides. That is the hopeful conclusion of the ILVO-UGENT doctorate that Jolien Claerbout recently defended online.
Because the use of pesticides in the sector is rapidly being reduced, lettuce growers are looking for other ways to control the pathogens in the soil. In a number of professional practice greenhouses Claerbout studied both the presence of soil-bound plant pathogens (nematodes, fungi and pseudo-fungus) and the reducing effect of all kinds of control methods on them.

Not only the variety but also the 'terroir' of hops determines the taste, aroma and mouthfeel of beer

HopFor the first time it was shown that the 'terroir' of hops - the combination of environmental factors and cultivation technique - can have an impact on the 'flavour' - the overall mouthfeel, aroma and flavour of beer. This was done within the doctoral research of Ann Van Holle, responsible for Research & Development at De Proefbrouwerij, in collaboration with UGent and ILVO, where a broad set of commercially relevant hop varieties was examined.

In the spotlight

An effective and feasible plan for heat stress in pigs?

reduceren hittestress bij varkensBefore last summer we counted three heat waves, and predictions indicate that climate change will make this type of weather the norm rather than the exception. ILVO and UGent list 8 possible strategies to reduce heat stress in pigs. Later this year the research project COOLPIGS will start, in which a concrete heat plan with economically and practically feasible measures for in the house and during transport will be drawn up.

Protecting a cabbage field? Using good viruses against pathogenic bacteria. Researchers seek horticulturists for field experiments

witte koolA remarkable new control technique against the bacterial disease Xanthomonas is in the making for the sprout and cabbage cultivation. This involves the use of bacteriophage (i.e. bacteria-eating) viruses that only attack specific, harmful plant bacteria. "After 7 years of research work in laboratories and experimental greenhouses, the method has already been tested for the first time in a field test environment, at three locations in Flanders. The results are promising: we measure 15 to 20% less infection with one treatment. That percentage is expected to be even higher. European approval as a new crop protection product does require a long, difficult procedure," says Johan van Vaerenbergh (ILVO).

Dutch and Belgian feed companies will work together in the field of feed evaluation

stichting CVBBelgian and Dutch cattle feed sectors are going for more intensive cooperation through the establishment of the "Stichting CVB", and from now on also rely on ILVO knowledge regarding "feed evaluation". The CVB activities (mainly known to farmers from the CVB Veevoedoedertabel and the CVB Tabellenboekjes) fall under the responsibility of this foundation since June 2020.

Offshore wind farms and the marine ecosystem: 10 years of monitoring

Offshore windpark - Hans HillewaertBy the end of 2020, 399 offshore wind turbines will have been installed in the Belgian part of the North Sea. Over the past 10 years, scientists have monitored their impact on the marine environment. On the occasion of the 'Global Wind Day', the scientific partners and the Belgian Offshore Platform summarize what we have learned so far about the long-term effects, from invertebrates on the seabed to fish, birds and marine mammals. It appears that the environmental effects of offshore wind farms cannot be lumped together: turbine foundations initiate various reefs of invertebrates around the turbines but are not an equivalent alternative to species-rich natural hard substrates, wind farms attract some seabird species but deter others, noise pollution to porpoises from pile-driving is short-lived, offshore wind farms locally benefit fish fauna and have no negative impact on fishing. These nuanced insights make it possible to further limit the undesirable effects and to promote the effects deemed good in the direction of maximum environmentally friendly development of offshore wind farms.


BovINE Project - towards environmentally sustainable beef production

ILVO is working on reducing the carbon and water footprints of beef production by exploring themes such as emissions, water treatments and water pollution, and by collecting best practices from farmers across Europe.