Research Roundup

FIND OUT WHAT’S NEW IN THE WORLD OF RESEARCH

These starches resist digestion
Joey Sabljic
One way to a healthier population is through its stomach. And for many, that journey starts with starch, an essential carbohydrate that comprises about 75 percent of peoples’ daily caloric food intake. 

It’s also the reason why Molecular and Cellular Biology Profs. Michael Emes and Ian Tetlow at the University of Guelph are trying to manipulate and modify plant genes and enzymes to produce healthier starches. Ultimately, these starches would be incorporated into people’s everyday diets, through foods such as baked goods. 

These healthier starches are called resistant starches. Unlike regular starches, resistant starches aren’t broken down in the small intestine – they “resist” the digestion process. That means their sugars aren’t absorbed as rapidly into the body. 

As a result, they help to reduce the risk of Type-2 diabetes, because less sugar is released into the bloodstream. As well, they act as a dietary fibre source, which helps prevent colon cancer.  

“We’re trying to change starches in ways that are much more useful,” says Emes. 

This research is funded through the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs- University of Guelph Research Partnership. •

Long-term trials give glimpse of the future
Alycia Moore
Research programs often occur in fairly brief increments – more than a few years is unusual. But there’s an exception in crop research: several long-term field trials of Ontario corn, soybean and wheat production systems have been performed at the University of Guelph Elora and Ridgetown Campus research stations, some originating as early as 1976.

The trials act as a research platform to look at a range of rotation and tillage production systems, including their respective yield, soil productivity and environmental impacts.

“It takes a long time – five to 10 years – to establish representative and continuous rotation or tillage systems before you can make any real comparisons,” says Deen.

The kind of initiative allows researchers to peer far into the future, testing various hypotheses about rotation and tillage systems.

“There’s currently research underway which uses the long term trials to examine the impact of tillage and rotation on greenhouse gases, an issue not even on the agenda when the trials were initiated in the 1980s,” says Deen.

And as environmental conditions change over time, Deen anticipates that the
long-term trials will continue to play an important role for researchers looking to test their hypotheses on the most effective farming practices. 

Also collaborating on this project is Dr. David Hooker from the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus.

Funding for this project has been provided by the partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and University of Guelph, and the Grain Farmers of Ontario. •

Managing nitrogen for better groundwater
Rebecca Hannam
Nitrogen management practices and the impact on drinking water sources is a hot button issue in agriculture. Now, the Oxford Innovative Nitrogen Management Strategy is addressing the situation for the broad region around Woodstock.  

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs corn specialist Greg Stewart is part of a research team looking at the nitrogen leaching potential of various crop management approaches to better understand the risk of nitrogen movement. 

“Nitrate movement into groundwater is an environmental concern that impacts a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including producers,” says Stewart.

The study’s objectives include comparing a range of cropping options, including various nitrogen recommendations, slow release nitrogen sources and new corn hybrids, and identifying the spatial and temporal factors that reduce nitrogen loss. 

Project findings will be used to develop management recommendations to help producers improve N use efficiency and protect drinking water sources.

Project collaborators include the County of Oxford, University of Waterloo, University of Guelph, Upper Thames River Conservation Authority and producer David Start. 

Funding has been provided by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. •

Research Roundup is provided by members of SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) at the University of Guelph’s Office of Research. For more information, contact a SPARK writer at 519-824-4120, ext. 52667.

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