Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine and Natural Resources November News

November 25th, 2002

The shortage of human organs for transplantation has led scientists to research the transfer of organs and tissues from other species to humans (called xenotransplantation). One challenge, however, is the risk of infection. D. L. "Hank" Harris, Iowa State University professor of microbiology, and graduate student Alan Loynachan, are studying ways to rear pigs free of infectious agents that could pass to humans in transplantation. Harris began the research project with germ-free pigs. Routine cesarean sections were performed on sows so the researchers could obtain the pigs directly out of the uterus and free of outside germs. (The sows were operated on under anesthesia and were not harmed.) The baby piglet was then carefully placed in a sterile-air bubble. In order for the pigs to be healthy and safe, viable candidates for organ donation, the researchers administered probiotics—bacteria that make pigs more resistant to disease while they grow. Harris and animal scientist Jim Pettigrew, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, also developed a safer diet for pigs used in organ transplants—a diet free of animal protein. By removing animal protein, they lessen the possibility of disease agents entering the animal's system. For more information, contact Harris, (515) 294-1664; or Bridget Bailey, News Service, (515) 294-6881.

If you think the amount of produce offered at farmers markets and roadside stands last summer was more abundant than in the past, you're right. An increasing number of Iowa farmers are growing vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, mushrooms and herb crops for commercial sale, according to the newest Iowa Commercial Horticulture Survey. The survey showed more than 8,400 acres of vegetables grown during the 2000 crop year, resulting in $15.9 million sales reported by 500 growers; and 1,600 acres of fruit, berries and nuts, resulting in $3.8 million sales for 300 growers. Sixty-one percent of the 572 Iowa producers who responded to the survey reported an increased demand for locally grown produce, with one-third raising a portion of their produce organically. The report is the first update of commercial horticulture crops in Iowa since 1989. The survey was conducted in 2001 and published July 2002. Funding is from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. Contact: Rich Pirog, Leopold Center, (515) 294-1854, or Laura Miller, Leopold Center Communications, (515) 294-5272.

As winter approaches, homeowners need be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide, an odorless, invisible gas that can sicken and kill. Tom Greiner, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, said carbon monoxide binds to red blood cells and keeps oxygen from getting into the body. Every year, carbon monoxide poisoning kills an estimated 4,000 people, injures 5,000, causes 10,000 lost work days and results in societal costs of $1 billion. Carbon monoxide is a product of combustion. "Much like car accidents, carbon monoxide accidents happen when things go wrong," Greiner says. Failure to properly vent furnaces and water heaters happens often. Homes are tighter now and sometimes don't allow enough air infiltration for proper combustion and venting. For this reason, Greiner advises against caulking storm windows in basements. He put together the following list of precautions for guarding against the gas.
Have a qualified expert check heating equipment annually.
Install at least one carbon monoxide alarm near bedrooms in case a component in the heating system fails.
Don't run vehicle engines in garages or burn charcoal indoors.
Don't use a gas stove for heat.
Check batteries in both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Farmers markets, regional cuisine and the "slow-food" movement have raised consumer interest in buying foods from local farmers or processors. To help provide more information about this growing market, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University has worked with several organizations and agencies to produce a new resource, "I Want More Say in My Food Choices." This simple guide offers Web sites and contact information for organizations that support local food systems and/or local food directories. The project included a number of organizations interested in sustainable agriculture, including Practical Farmers of Iowa; the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture; Women, Food and Agriculture Network; Natural Catholic Rural Life Conference; and Ecumenical Ministries of Iowa. Government agencies also contributed, including ISU Extension, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (Iowa) and the Iowa Food Policy Council. The guide is posted at the Leopold Center Web site, Contact: Rich Pirog, Leopold Center, (515) 294-1854; or Laura Miller, Leopold Center Communications, (515) 294-5272.


Greiner, (515) 294-0464
Barb McManus, Ag Communication Service, (515) 294-0707