October 1, 2018

Project seeks to enhance spinach production, safety 

Texas A&M AgriLife research will collaborate with the Texas Department of Agriculture and the University of California at Davis on a project to help agricultural producers and consumers through improving nitrogen use efficiency and food safety in spinach.

The entities were recently awarded a $743,878 grant from the USDA for this project, which will be led by Vijay Joshi, AgriLife Research plant physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $7 million in finding to support 11 projects in six states to develop solutions to challenges affecting specialty crop industries that cross state boundaries.

Principal partners on the project include Allen Van Deynze, E. Charles Brummer and Juliana Osorio-Marin, all from the University of California- Davis; Daniel Leskovar, the Agrilife center in Uvalde; Dr. Carlos Avila, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Weslaco; and Matthew Taylor and Alejandro Castillo, both from Texas A&M University, College Station.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awards are managed through the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program and are administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service. According to the USDA, these awards help stakeholders work together and provide the ability to leverage state and private sector resources across state lines, especially tapping the knowledge and experience of farmers and other in the agricultural industry.

Joshi said while one of the main objectives of the project will be to evaluate nitrogen use, other goals include evaluating spinach germplasm for anti-microbial activities.

“Findings from our proposed research project will help in developing spinach varieties with enhanced nitrogen use efficiency by using cutting-edge tools in genomics and metabolomics,” Joshi said.

He said the nutrient status of spinach, as with other vegetable plants, is expected to play a significant role in the metabolic activity and colonization by potential foodborne pathogens.

“Foodborne pathogens are a serious producer and consumer concern for fresh and processed spinach, and we hope through our research to identify new sources of inhibitors to control these pathogens,” Joshi said.

“Through cutting-edge technologies, the research team will accelerate the development of new healthy and safe spinach varieties with improved nitrogen use efficiency,” said Leskovar, center director and AgriLife Research plant physiologist.

Leskovar said the reduction of environmental degradation by nitrate leaching into groundwater resources is a critical issue for spinach-producing areas such as the Texas Wintergarden area and the Salinas Valley of California.

“This research will also be focused on helping reduce the amount of non-beneficial nitrogen that may find its way into the water table, he said. “It will also be focused on identifying spinach genotypes and developing varieties with enhanced natural defensive antimicrobial compounds that will reduce or possibly even control the risk of pathogen outbreaks for consumers.”

-Paul Schattenberg, Texas A&M University






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