Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

September 23, 1999

Agriculture News Tips: agrologist holds public lecture; edible animal vaccines; natural pesticides

Cathie Leimbach, the Ontario Agricultural College's 1999 Agrologist-in-Residence, will present a public lecture on "Professionalism in the New Millennium: Ethics, Change and Leadership" Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

The lecture will take place in Room 1714 of the Ontario Veterinary College's Lifetime Learning Centre. Admission is $10, or free for students. The lecture will be video-conferenced at several locations, including Niagara College. The video-conferencing is sponsored by the Ontario Agricultural Training Institute (OATI) and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC).

Leimbach, a professional agronomist, received a master's degree in agricultural business from U of G. She is past president of the Ontario Institute of Agrologists (OIA) and a partner in STRIVE!, a team specializing in training, facilitation and consulting.

Raised on a dairy and swine farm in Lanark county, Leimbach is known in Ontario for her involvement in 4-H, Junior Farmers and OIA. She now lives on a cash crop farm in Ohio.

As Agrologist-in-Residence, Leimbach will give lectures and seminars and meet with faculty and students within OAC. This is the sixth year for the program, which is sponsored by OAC and OIA.

Contact: Adrienne De Schuetter, Independent Study Program (519) 824-4120, Ext. 2655

Animals may soon be eating their way to immunity.

A team of researchers from the University of Guelph, in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), is joining forces to produce edible animal vaccines in crop plants.

Using genetic enhancement techniques, the researchers are introducing special genes into the plants to generate novel proteins that they believe will ward off diseases. The proteins can be isolated from plants, incorporated into livestock feed and used to vaccinate animals in a more humane -- and economical -- way than the traditional "injection" method.

The first edible product, designed to improve gut development and function in pigs, is expected to be available to the swine industry within five years. A vaccine for transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV), a disease that causes severe diarrhea in swine and high mortality in piglets, could save the Canadian swine industry more than $10 million per year.

"We're starting with pigs, but there's no reason this technology couldn't be applied to other species," said research team member Larry Erickson, Department of Plant Agriculture. "The potential to enhance the health and productivity of Canada's farm animals is considerable."

Production of oral vaccines against porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) is being investigated by Erickson and AAFC scientist Jim Brandle, a plant geneticist from AAFC's Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre in London, Ontario. Oral vaccines for other diseases like parvovirus are also under development.

Erickson predicts the same technology could tackle bacterial infections by producing plants with antibiotic properties. As well, growth factor proteins could be grown in plants and fed to livestock to bolster production and combat stress caused during weaning or disease recovery.

Contact: Prof. Larry Erickson, Department of Plant Agriculture (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3398

Researchers are studying a natural pesticide that may help fruit stay fresh longer.

The potential of natural fruit "volatiles" to improve the storage qualities of fresh fruit is being examined by Lisa Skog and Prof. Dennis Murr, from the Department of Plant Agriculture's Vineland Research Station, and Brian McGarvey of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Volatiles are natural compounds that contribute to the aroma and flavour of fruit. But in high concentrations, some are antimicrobial agents that can protect against fungal organisms and damage.

"If natural fruit volatiles prove effective, then growers, distributors and consumers will all benefit," Skog said. "It could lead to a healthier product, less storage decay, longer shelf life and decreased losses during shipping."

Fruit boosts its production of certain volatiles in response to injury, microbial attack or environmental stress. Skog is evaluating the effectiveness of 20 different volatiles on Ontario peaches and pears in decreasing brown rot and blue mould microbial diseases. It is estimated that a 75- per- cent decrease in the incidence of blue mould alone could save $30,000 annually.

Reduced usage of conventional post-harvest pesticides has decreased residues and risks to consumers, but has also increased post-harvest decay during long-distance shipping and storage of fresh fruit, costing fruit processors and growers. Skog hopes the low-risk natural volatiles can be a substitute for conventional pesticides.

Early results have shown that some of the volatiles being investigated protect fruit. Future projects will explore the best methods of application and the precise concentration levels.

This research is sponsored by the Vineland Growers Cooperative, Nabisco Ltd., and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Ontario Research Enhancement Program.

Contact: Lisa Skog, Vineland Research Station (905) 562-4141

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3338

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