Fresh agricultural produce is inherently perishable, and substantial losses - ranging from slight loss of quality to total spoilage - are incurred during production, processing, and distribution. The causes of these losses include physical damage during handling and transport, physiological decay, or simply surpluses in the marketplace. Food processing and preservation play major roles in reducing food loss and wastage. Here, at various sites (Tayabas, Candelaria, and Dolores, in Quezon Province, the Philippines), we identified selected indigenous and underutilized crops, namely saba banana (Musa acuminata×balbisiana, ABB group, ‘Saba’), white corn (Zea mays L.), and sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.), for possible product development. These crops were processed into flours, which were consequently used to make bread or muffins. In the course of performing these product development experiments we also characterized the physicochemical and sensory properties of the flours. Generally, up to 50% substitution of APF with saba or sweet potato flour and up to 25% substitution with MCF and 100% substitution with MSCF was acceptable in the food products tested. Indigenous and underutilized crops should be explored for their processing possibilities. Processing of these raw materials makes them shelf-stable, prevents losses and wastes and could eventually increase their market value. Development of food products and optimization of processing technology are effective channels for promoting underutilized crops as alternative food sources. These measures may encourage local farmers in the study areas to expand their production of these crops, not only as additional sources of income but also for their own subsistence.
This paper discusses the radioactive contamination of soybean fields in Ibaraki from 2011 to 2013 after the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (FDNPP). After the accident, large quantities of radioactive material were released, some of which was deposited on the ground. However, although agricultural produce from this region has levels of radiocesium below the maximum permitted concentration in food, people refrain from buying agricultural produce from this region, and negative information still persisted in 2015. In this study, as part of efforts to further reduce levels of radiocesium and restore consumer confidence in agricultural products from Ibaraki prefecture, we examined the effects of different tillage systems (moldboard plow, rotary cultivation, and no tillage) and three types of winter cover crop (fallow weeds, rye, and hairy vetch). Measurements taken before tillage in 2011 showed that the radiocesium concentration in the surface soil (0-2.5 cm) was higher than that in deeper layers (2.5-15 cm). However, after rotary cultivation in 2012, the concentration in the 0-2.5 cm layer was reduced and that in the 2.5-15 cm layer was increased. The concentration in weeds was significantly higher than those in the hairy vetch or rye during 2011 to 2013. The transfer factor (TF) in weeds was higher than that in hairy vetch or rye from 2011 to 2013. The radiocesium concentration and TF in soybean crop residue were higher than harvested soybeans those in from 2011 to 2013, although those in the soybeans were lower than the limits in food determined by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan. The radiocesium contamination of soil, soybeans, and cover crops has decreased every year since the FDNPP accident. To further reduce the uptake of radiocesium into crops and restore market confidence in agricultural produce from Ibaraki, it is necessary to conduct more studies on the relationship between radiocesium and soil and crops.
The two chalcones xanthoangelol (XA) and 4-hydroxyderricin (4HD) are major functional polyphenolic compounds in the edible herb Angelica keiskei, which is native to Japan. The compounds XA and 4HD are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic functions although their beneficial effect on vascular disease is not clear. Atherosclerosis induced by lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity and hypertension is a serious vascular disease in which endothelial injury plays a major pathogenic role. Therefore, the healing of endothelial injury is considered important in preventing atherosclerosis. The present study examined whether XA and 4HD promote the wound healing of cultured porcine vascular endothelial cells (ECs) and analyzed the molecular mechanisms of their effect. Both compounds promoted endothelial wound healing, induced nitric oxide (NO) production, and increased heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) expression as well as the phosphorylation level of endothelial NO synthase (eNOS). The wound healing promoted by these compounds was inhibited by pretreatment with the NOS inhibitor L-NMMA and HO-1 inhibitor ZnPPIX, respectively. ZnPPIX inhibited the phosphorylation of eNOS as well. XA- and 4HD-dependent wound healing was also blocked by hemoglobin, a carbon monoxide (CO) absorbent. A CO-releasing molecule facilitated the wound healing, which was suppressed by pretreatment with L-NMMA. These results suggest that XA and 4HD stimulate wound healing by increasing HO-1 expression with subsequent CO production, which activates eNOS followed by NO generation. Our findings indicate that the two chalcones in Angelica keiskei may have a preventative effect against atherosclerosis.
Food sovereignty is an alternative approach attempting to resolve the world’s current food crisis. This approach emphasizes small-scale farmers as the main actors in a food and agricultural system. It encourages small-scale farmers to fully participate in the decision-making process of national and/or international agreements regarding food and agriculture systems in order to benefit and empower them. Food sovereignty aspires to return the food and agriculture system to a domestic level, which gives freedom to small-scale farmers to produce foods reflecting their knowledge and experience and suited to the local conditions. Agroecology is a management approach aimed at achieving a sustainable agricultural ecosystem utilizing local resources, local wisdom, and local farmers’ knowledge in producing foods. Thus, agroecology minimizes production costs, increases the quality and quantity of foods, and gives small-scale farmers more benefits. According to knowledge-sharing, an educational theory for explaining farmer-to-farmer ways of learning, there are three requirements for an effective learning process: (1) a public space to share knowledge and experience; (2) provision of opportunities for every participant to share and exchange their knowledge, views, and experience; and (3) a need for farmers to enhance their competence. The agroecological approach has been practiced and disseminated within farmers’ communities at the grassroots level and has shown promising results. Studies showed that by practicing agroecology farmers produced more foods and gained other benefits, suggesting that agroecology could be one answer for the food crisis. Farmers’ knowledge and experience are vital to food and agriculture policy-making. Thus, by recognizing farmers’ knowledge and understanding their learning processes, a fair participatory food and agricultural system can be achieved, an ideal that the food sovereignty approach strives for. In this paper, we describe the process of sharing knowledge about agroecology within a social movement organization aimed at achieving food sovereignty in Indonesia.
Coconut coir is an effective growth medium that has been used in hydroponic cultivation of lettuce in Thailand; this material is inexpensive and readily available in tropical regions. Here, we evaluated the financial feasibility of an energy-saving hydroponic system using coconut coir as the growth medium in northeastern Thailand. We first compared coconut coir hydroponic cultivation with the conventional open field cultivation to assess the productivity and marketability of cucumbers in the rainy and dry seasons: in the hydroponic system, profit in the rainy season 57% higher and in the dry season, 95% higher. Next, we assessed a simulation of a new cropping pattern based on the hydroponic system. The assessment included a new 4-year investment in a conventional crop of rice and cucumber in the rainy season and tomato in the dry season, versus an investment in the coconut coir-based hydroponic system for a 0.32 ha (2 rai) field. Incremental cost-benefit values, comparing existing management practices with the new 4-year term, were calculated at a discount rate of 0.0975, which was the lowest concessional loan rate by the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives. The cost-benefit ratio was 1.14. These findings show that investment in hydroponic cultivation in northeastern Thailand would be cost effective.
Plant and arthropod communities interact closely with one another, therefore, invasive plants can alter not only plant communities, but may also have direct and indirect effects on arthropod communities. Here, we focus on the exotic giant ragweed, which is a serious invasive weed in Japan. Recently, the exotic plant invaded and has dominated part of a semi-natural grassland in Sugadaira Montane Research Center (Nagano Prefecture, Japan). We attempted to evaluate the potential impact of the invasive plant on both plant and arthropod communities by comparing the community composition, abundance, species richness and diversity indices of plants and arthropods between areas where the exotic giant ragweed had and had not invaded, referred to as the invaded and reference areas respectively. We found significant differences in plant and arthropod community compositions between the areas. Plant species richness was lower in the invaded area as predicted. However, the abundance of arthropods including herbivores was higher in the invaded area compared to the reference area in contrast to the expectation that plant invasions reduce arthropod abundance and diversity. We discuss potential causes of the unexpected results.
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