Friday, September 7, 2012

ARS Newslink

ARS News Service
USDA Agricultural Research Service
September 7, 2012

Controlling fruit flies:
Released en masse, sterile male Mexican fruit flies can undermine a wild population of the fruit-damaging pests so that fewer applications of insecticide are needed. But the irradiation used to sterilize the males weakens them, hindering their ability to outcompete wild-type males for female mates. Now USDA scientists and cooperators have devised a hormone therapy for making sterile male fruit flies "more macho," improving their chances of mating with female flies before their wild rivals do. (9/4)

Improving switchgrass as a biofuel crop:
A gene that keeps switchgrass forever young could have far-reaching implications for the development of the plant as a biofuel crop, according to USDA scientists. Inserting a specific gene called "corngrass" from corn into switchgrass essentially keeps the perennial grass in its juvenile form-a plant that doesn't flower, doesn't produce seeds, and doesn't have a dormant growth phase. Because of these changes, the sugars making up the plant starch are more readily available for conversion into cellulosic ethanol. (9/6)

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