Volume 22. Number 6. 2017

Earliest Evidence Of Winemaking Dates To About 6,000 BC.

Excavations in the Republic of Georgia by the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Georgian National Museum, have uncovered evidence of the earliest winemaking anywhere in the world. The discovery dates the origin of the practice to the Neolithic period around 6,000 BC, pushing it back 600–1,000 years from the previously accepted date.

The earliest previously known chemical evidence of wine dated to 5,400–5,000 BC and was from an area in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Researchers now say the practice began hundreds of years earlier in the South Caucasus region on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

Excavations have focused on two Early Ceramic Neolithic sites (6,000–4,500 BC) called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, approximately 50 kilometers south of the modern capital of Tbilisi. Pottery fragments of ceramic jars recovered from the sites were collected and subsequently analyzed by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania to ascertain the nature of the residue preserved inside for several millennia.

The newest methods of chemical extraction confirmed tartaric acid, the fingerprint compound for grape and wine as well as three associated organic acids—malic, succinic, and citric—in the residue recovered from eight large jars. The findings are reported in a research study "Early Neolithic wine of Georgia in the South Caucasus" published in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine," said Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate in the Dept. of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Archaeology Center at U of T, and co-author of the study published in PNAS.

The researchers say the combined archaeological, chemical, botanical, climatic, and radiocarbon data provided by the analysis demonstrate that the Eurasian grapevine Vitis vinifera was abundant around the sites. It grew under ideal environmental conditions in early Neolithic times, similar to premium wine-producing regions in Italy and southern France today.

"The infinite range of flavors and aromas of today’s 8,000–10,000 grape varieties are the end result of the domesticated Eurasian grapevine being transplanted and crossed with wild grapevines elsewhere over and over again," Batiuk said. "The Eurasian grapevine that now accounts for 99.9% of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia." IFT-The Weekly of 22 November 2017

Heat-Tolerant Durum Wheat Grown In Famine-Affected West Africa

A genome fingerprinting research project was recently awarded the 2017 Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security for successfully developing durum wheat varieties that can be grown in the extreme heat of famine-affected Senegal, Mauritania, and Mali. Using non-GM molecular breeding techniques, the new varieties can withstand temperatures as high as 35–40°C, potentially producing an additional 600,000 tons of new food and boosting income for 1 million farming families.

In West Africa, farmers grow rice for eight months of the year, with the land remaining unproductive for the other four months. The new durum varieties mature at an accelerated rate so farmers can cultivate wheat between rice seasons, allowing production of the equivalent of 175 servings of pasta per person per year for the region. Production of this magnitude has the potential to generate $210 million in additional income for the farmers, as well as improve diets due to higher protein, vitamin, and mineral levels in wheat versus rice. The discovery also has the potential to be adapted for other areas of the world affected by high temperatures. Press release. IFT-The Weekly of 22 November 2017

Probiotics May Help Protect Against High Blood Pressure

A study conducted by researchers at MIT suggests that microbes in a probiotic could reverse the effects of a high-salt diet and protect against high blood pressure. The study, "Salt-responsive gut commensal modulates TH17 axis and disease," was published in Nature.The MIT team, working with researchers in Germany, found that a high-salt diet shrinks the population of beneficial gut bacteria. As a result, pro-inflammatory immune cells called Th-17, which have been linked to high blood pressure, grow in number.

During the two-week study, the researchers fed mice a diet made up of 4% sodium chloride compared with 0.5% for mice on a normal diet. They found that the high-salt diet led to a drop in Lactobacillus murinus bacteria and a rise in the populations of inflammatory Th-17 cells, as well as an elevation in blood pressure. When mice experiencing high blood pressure were given a probiotic containing Lactobacillus murinus, Th-17 populations went down and hypertension was reduced.

In a study of 12 human subjects, the researchers found that adding 6,000 mg of sodium chloride per day to the subjects’ diet also changed the composition of bacteria in the gut. Populations of lactobacillus bacteria went down, and the subjects’ blood pressure went up along with their Th-17 cell counts. When subjects were given a commercially available probiotic for a week before going on a high-salt diet, their gut lactobacillus levels and blood pressure remained normal.

It is still unclear exactly how Th-17 cells contribute to the development of high blood pressure and other ill effects of a high-salt diet. However, the researchers hope that their findings, along with future studies, will help to shed more light on the mechanism by which a high-salt diet influences disease. Press release Abstract IFT-The Weekly of 22 November 2017

QUT Grows World's First Panama Disease-Resistant Bananas

Read more... Researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have developed and grown modified Cavendish bananas that are resistant to the devastating soil-borne fungus Fusarium wilt tropical race 4 (TR4), also known as Panama disease.

Led by Distinguished Professor James Dale from QUT's Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities, the field trial, which ran from 2012 to 2015 was conducted on a commercial banana plantation that was previously affected by TR4. The soil was heavily reinfested with disease for the trial.

In their world-first GM field trial conducted in heavily TR4-infested soil, Cavendish Grand Nain was modified by the researchers with the RGA2 gene, taken from the TR4-resistant wild, southeast Asian banana subspecies, Musa acuminata ssp malaccensis. One modified, Cavendish line (RGA2-3) remained TR4-free for three years of the trial, while three other lines modified with RGA2 showed strong resistance, with 20% or fewer plants exhibiting disease symptoms in three years.

By contrast, 67%-100% of control banana plants after three years were either dead or TR4-infected, including a Giant Cavendish variant 218 generated through tissue culture in Taiwan and reported to be tolerant to TR4. The researchers found RGA2 gene activity level in the modified bananas was strongly correlated' with TR4 resistance.

For more details, read the QUT news release. Crop Biotech Update. November 22, 2017.

Large US Study Says No Link Between Glyphosate and Cancer

Read more... A large, prospective cohort study conducted among agricultural workers, farmers and their families in Iowa and North Carolina in the United States reports that there are no associations between glyphosate use and overall cancer risk or with total lymphohematopoietic cancers, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and multiple myeloma.

The long term study updated the previous evaluation of glyphosate with cancer incidence, and is part of the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), a large and important project that tracks the health of agricultural workers and their families. Led by AHS principal investigator Laura Beane Freeman, the study results state that among 54,251 applicators studied, 44,932 (82.8%) used glyphosate. "Glyphosate was not statistically significantly associated with cancer at any site," the study said.

For more details, read the free paper titled "Glyphosate Use and Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study" in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Crop Biotech update 15 Nov. 2017.

Scientists Develop Late Blight Resistant Potato

Technology has become the blight of the Irish potato famine pathogen. A research team led by Professor Jonathan Jones at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich Research Park has successfully modified a potato to resist the devastating disease 'late blight' by introducing a blight-resistant gene from a wild potato (in)to the popular Maris Piper. Crop Biotech Update (November 2, 2017)

Exploring The Nutritional Value Of Spent Grain

Read more... Spent grain, a major brewing industry by-product, is generated in large quantities annually. A review article on "Composition and Nutrient Value Proposition of Brewers Spent Grain" published in the October issue of the Journal of Food Science summarizes research into the composition and preservation of brewers spent grain (BSG), different extraction techniques for BSG proteins and phenolic acids, and the bioactivities of these phenolic components. IFT Weekly 19 October 2017

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax +27 (0)86 625 2869 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.