Annual Report 2003 - Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science

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Annual Report 2003 - Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science

Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional ScienceOurknowledgeis youradvantageAnnual Report 2003 - 2004


Leader’s ForewordLeading Education& ResearchIn the past year AFNS hascontinued to pursue its visionof being a national leader - bothin educating undergraduateand graduate students, andin supporting innovation inDr. Ian Morrison, Deanthe agri-food system throughworld-class research that spans primary agriculturalproduction through human health. Changes haveincluded substantial revisions to the Nutrition andFood Science curriculum and recruitment of severaloutstanding new academic staff members across severaldisciplines. The Department’s student numbers haveexpanded with increased enrolment in both the Pre-Veterinary Medicine and Nutrition and Food Scienceprograms. With the generous support of both alumniand industry supporters, scholarship and bursarysupport for students continues to grow.Investing inthe futureThis past year Alberta’s beefindustry has been deeplychallenged by the falloutfrom the discovery of BovineSpongiform Encephalopathy(BSE). This could not haveDr. John Kennelly, Chaircome at a worse time for anindustry already suffering from several years of drought.The challenges faced by the agricultural sector havehighlighted the importance of diversifying the agrifoodindustry so we reduce our reliance on highly volatilecommodity markets. AFNS is committed to providingthe research and development foundation to helpensure the sustainable diversification of our agriculturalresources. The creation of the Institute of Food andAgricultural Sciences, Alberta builds a frameworkthat encourages collaboration and integration of ourresearch and development efforts with those of AlbertaAgriculture, Food and Rural Development and theAlberta Research Council.Construction of the $24 million Agri-Food DiscoveryPlace begins this fall. This specialized research center,focused on developing value-added food and non-foodproducts from Alberta’s abundant animals and crops,will open in the fall of 2005. The new Alberta Institutefor Human Nutrition at the University of Alberta,headed by Dr. Clandinin, will establish a world classThe Department remains attuned to the needs of bothindustry and the public and works hard at maintainingconnections with stakeholder organizations includingcommodity associations, processors, regional healthauthorities and counterparts in both the provincial andfederal governments. These linkages, coupled withour modern research facilities and strong support fromthe Province and University, have enabled AFNS tocreate a culture of excellence in teaching and researchthat is a credit to both the University of Alberta andour province. This report features the achievementsof several of our staff members, including two of ourstudents’ perennial favourites and repeat winners ofteaching awards, Frank Robinson and Erasmus Okine.Read on!Ian Morrison – DeanFaculty of Agriculture, Forestry, & Home Economicsian.morrison@ualberta.cafacility for nutrition research that will increase ourknowledge of nutrition and its relationship to health.AFNS scientists are developing ideas and buildingresearch capacity to lead the national agriculturalindustry to success and ensure our health. For example,Dr. Okine is looking at fat formation in beef cattleto increase marbling fat and decrease commerciallyundesirable back fat. Dr. Moore’s innovative $5 millionAgricultural Genomics and Proteomics Centre isattracting international attention. AFNS plant scientistsDrs. Rahman and Strelkov, are improving canola yieldand quality, in part by identifying and developingstrategies to control plant diseases. Drs. Bressler andNarine are experimenting with agricultural commoditiesto create novel and valuable products to expandtraditional markets. Drs. Field and Bell are leadingresearch in infant nutrition and fitness and health.These along with our other research programs and ouraggressive recruitment of outstanding new staff areexamples of how AFNS is helping to build a better futurefor Canadians.John Kennelly – ChairAgricultural, Food and Nutritional Science (AFNS)afns-chair@ualberta.caleadershipDepartment of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science 1


Building PartnershipsFeelingthe ImpactHold on to your hats! Agriculture in Alberta is aboutto make a major change for the benefit of us all. Thereis a new “kid on the block” - IFASA. IFASA, Institute ofFood and Agricultural Sciences, Alberta is the “child” ofcreative thinking of three major research providers inAlberta:•Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development(AAFRD),•the UofA and•the Alberta Research Council (ARC).In May 2003, the three partners agreed to consolidatetheir resources and jointly develop and deliveragricultural, agri-food and agri-industrial programs.Once established, IFASA will be an internationallyrecognized food and agricultural science “hub” tocoordinate and deliver excellence in discovery, trainingand technology transfer and commercialization.IFASA is currently developing seven programsfocused on two priorities for Alberta as outlined in the2003 Agricultural Strategic Research and InnovationFramework: the Value-Added Products and theSustainable Production Systems. However, IFASA hasalso recognized that this is only the beginning; there aremore exciting and innovative programs to follow in thefuture.In the Value-Added Products area, IFASA is developing:• Value Enhanced Meats and Meat Products Program,• Food, Food Ingredient and Fermentation ProductsProgram,• Health, Wellness and Performance Products Program and• Bioproducts Program.In the Sustainable Production Systems area, IFASA isdeveloping:achievementIFASA has already secured $35 million over five yearsfrom the Provincial Government to initiate its programsand with strong interest from the industry andcontinued support from the Alberta Government; theinstitute will attract new partners and new funds. IFASAwill also attract the most promising students with $13million in IFASA Graduate Student Scholarships and byproviding exciting learning opportunities through thecollaborative, inter-disciplinary and inter-institutionalprograms. In addition, IFASA will offer professionaltraining for individuals already in the workforce.Students and professionals will become a sophisticatedworkforce in support of Alberta agri-industry.Although the current planning framework for IFASAextends over five years, the institute is looking atestablishing long-term relationships with currentand new partners, including industry and the federalgovernment that would extend well beyond the fiveyears. This futuristic thinking and Alberta’s long-terminvestment strategy will attract and retain the brightestminds in agri-food research to help Alberta buildstrategic areas of excellence for current and future needs.• Feed Quality and Feed Supply Program ,• Genomics Program and• Nutrient Management and Environment Program.What will result from IFASA’s activities? IFASAprograms will deliver new technologies, new productsand develop a modern workforce, ready to meet thechallenges facing our agri-food industry in the 21stcentury.Like with all children, IFASA needs time to grow anddevelop, but with this collaborative effort from IFASApartners and with contributions of scientists from otherresearch institutions in Alberta, IFASA is shaping up foran official launch in January of 2005, with the IFASAGraduate Student Scholarships to be announced in thefall of 2004.Dr. John Kennelly (780) 492-2133 or john.kennelly@ualberta.caDr. Stephen Moore (780) 492-0169 or stephen.moore@ualberta.caDr. Iwona Pawlina (780) 492-7178 or iwona.pawlina@ualberta.ca2 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science


State - of - the - ArtAge ofDiscoveryreputation for producing safe, high-quality food iscritical to our economy. Research conducted in the MeatSafety and Processing Research Centre will focus on theproper handling and microbial contamination of meat:new processing technologies and innovative packagingmethods to improve the safety of the food systemand reduce foodborne illness; and technologies fordeveloping value-added meat products. The processingarea is a biocontainment area for work with foodbornepathogens, the first of its kind in Western Canada.moving forwordAgri-Food Discovery Place• Meat Safety and Processing Research Centre;• Crops Utilization & Enhanced Industrial Materials Research CentreAgri-Food Discovery Place (AFDP) begins constructionin the fall of 2004. It will be a world-class facility forleading-edge research in meat safety and processing,crop utilization, and advanced materials andbioprocessing. At a cost of $18.2 million, it will consistof over 5,000 sq. m. of pre-pilot, laboratory, supportand office space. The facility is designed to provide anintermediate step between laboratory scale researchand pilot plant scale product development currentlyavailable at other locations in Alberta.The meat processing industry in Alberta employs over7,000 Albertans and markets $4.6 billion annually todomestic and international markets. Retaining Alberta’sPig ScienceCentre OpensDid you know that it is impossible to sweat like a pig?Or that a pig sty is actually a clean living area?The fact that pigs don’t have sweat glands and keepa neat home are but a sampling of the tantalizingtrivia awaiting your discovery at the new Alberta PorkIndustry Interpretive Centre, which opened at theSwine Research and Technology Centre at the Universityof Alberta’s Edmonton Research Station.Through interactive displays, children and the generalpublic now have an opportunity to learn about the porkindustry, from how pigs are cared for, to what they eat,how they are housed and even what is done with themanure they produce.Functional foods and bioproducts (including biofuels andbioplastics) are priority areas. Isolating crop componentswith health benefits and incorporating then into newfood products is an important part of the value-addedfood industry. With the depletion of the world’s nonrenewableresources and the demand for biodegradableproducts, the use of agricultural materials for specializedindustrial materials is on the rise. The focus of theresearch programs conducted at the Crop Utilizationand Enhanced Industrial Materials Research Centre willbe on primary (dry processing), secondary (wet separationprocesses) and tertiary (conversion processes) levels ofprocessing, targeting novel process development forcrops. The Centre will be unique in bringing all of theabove aspects together under one roof to maximizevalue addition to Canadian crops.Richard Smith(780) 492-1777 or richard.smith@ualberta.ca”Thirty years ago everyone had some connection to a farm.But today they never see the inside of a barn,” says PaulHodgman of Alberta Pork. Having a hog productionfacility in a major metropolitan centre is an excellentopportunity for members of the public to learn howfarms work, and is a natural fit for the University ofAlberta’s teaching and research activities. The 150 m 2facility, primarily focussed at students in Grades 4 to6, is funded by Alberta Pork and the Alberta LivestockIndustry Development Fund.The centre is open to the public free of charge.Contact Alberta Pork at (780) 474-8288 for tours.Dr. George Foxcroft (780) 492-7661 or george.foxcroft@ualberta.caDepartment of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science 3


ResearchFunctional Foodon HoovesUncoveringthe TruthrecognitionDr. Erasmus Okine’s comprehensive ruminant nutritionand metabolism research program is diverse. One ofhis objectives is to better understand the process of fattyacid synthesis with the aim of developing systems toproduce high quality beef. “Consumers also want to knowthe health benefits of their food,” Dr. Okine explains. That’swhy he’s collaborating with researchers from AFNS,Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development andAgriculture and Agrifood Canada to study conjugatedlinoleic acid (CLA).Tests in animals and in-vitro human cell lines haveshown CLA to have powerful anticarcinogenicproperties. CLA is a by-product from microbesprocessing linoleic acid in the cow’s rumen. Dr. Okine’schallenge is to understand the process of fat formationand deposition in beef cattle so as to maximize CLAproduction and incorporation into beef, resultingin more marbling fat and less of the commerciallyundesirable back fat.Besides Dr. Okine’sleading researchprogram, he hasalso won twoprestigious awardswhich highlighthis commitmentto teaching. TheStudent’s UnionAward for Leadershipin UndergraduateTeaching ExcellenceDr. Erasmus Okine(SALUTE) recognizesthe powerful positive connection he has made with hisstudents. The Animal Industries Award in Extensionand Public Service was also presented to Dr. Okine in2003 because of his career contributions to the animalindustries of Canada in technology transfer, leadership,and education in animal science. As both a researcherand teacher, Dr. Okine makes the AFNS community agreat place to learn!Dr. Erasmus Okine (780) 492-7666 or erasmus.okine@ualberta.caTackling controversy to discover the truth is a scientist’sjob. AFNS scientist, Dr. Bob Christopherson has focusedhis research on understanding how a major industrialpollutant, sulphur dioxide (SO 2), impacts cattle healthand metabolism.Dr. Christopherson’s work is the first to directly linkanimal health to SO 2, a component of sour gas. Histhree year study, done in collaboration with scientistsfrom the Alberta Research Council, tested cattlepulmonary exposure to SO 2. The lowest weekly averageexposure to SO 2was 0.175 ppm with episodic exposuresranging from 1 to 20 ppm.“Even at low levelsof sulphur dioxide,cattle have greaterfeed requirements andsuppressed immunefunction whichmight make themmore susceptible toinfection,” explainsDr. Christopherson.PlasmaDr. Bob Christophersonconcentrations ofVitamin E were also decreased in the cattle exposed toSO 2. This response may indicate more need for VitaminE, which is an antioxidant that may help fight oxidativestress resulting from SO 2exposure.The Alberta Beef Producers Canada-Alberta BeefIndustry Development Fund, Alberta AgriculturalResearch Institute and NSERC have all supported Dr.Christopherson’s research.The Laird W. McElroy Metabolism and EnvironmentalResearch Centre, located at the Edmonton ResearchStation was essential for this work as it has specializedfacilities to assess gas exchange in livestock.Dr. Robert Christopherson(780) 492-3388 or bob.christopherson@ualberta.ca4 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science


TeachingTeaching in aLiving ClassroomExamining the inside of a combine is just one of theopportunities students had in Dr. Linda Hall’s PlantScience 499 class: Cropping Systems. Part of thechallenge in the curriculum is a detailed analysis thatexamines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities andthreats facing a real Alberta farm. “I’m challenging thestudents to take all of the information that they’ve learnedin previous years—including crop rotation, fertility, soils,economics, environmental farm planning and agronomicissues—and put that knowledge into a crop systemsframework,” says Dr. Hall.ResearchMakes SenseThe Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry, & Home Economicsprides itself in enhancing the future opportunities forundergraduate research initiatives. Dr. Frank Robinson,winner of numerous undergraduate and graduateteaching awards, has been working to promote studentresearch.learning“You can learn all about the advantages of a diverse croprotation, but the challenge is to implement that in Oyen, forexample, where they only get ten inches of water per year.” Dr.Hall explains. Together, the students visit three farmsin diverse climates that they will analyze during thecourse. Besides the practical part of the analysis, theybuild team skills and gain an understanding of who elseis working in the industry. Guest lecturers in the courseinclude farmers, agronomists and scientists who arelinked to the various cropping systems that the studentsstudy. “The farmers that we studied were very, very good, soI don’t think we offered them any surprises,” says Dr. Hall.“What we did was impress them with the professionalism ofthe students.”Dr. Linda HallTeaching is a strengthin the communityof AFNS. Dr. Hall’shands-on approachto learning isbuilding competent,professionalagricultural leaderswho can understandmodern farming in aholistic way.Dr. Linda Hall (780) 492-3281 or linda.hall@ualberta.caDr. Frank RobinsonStudent research projects increase student satisfaction,provide team work experience, create networkingopportunities for students and introduce them to theresearch environment. Student research projects alsohelp undergraduate students develop skills in researchtechniques and integrate and reinforce concepts coveredin other courses.“We are encouraging students to gain confidence andexpertise in an area and to communicate their knowledgeto fellow students, faculty, and in some cases, to industry,”says Dr. Robinson. “It’s about critical thinking rather thenregulation.” Students report that they gained lifelongskills in their undergraduate research projectswhich they did not encounter any other place in theirundergraduate program.Dr. Frank Robinson (780) 492-3234 or frank.robinson@ualberta.caDID YOU KNOW?“Poultry team was awarded with the World’s Poultry Science Education Award at a ceremony inIstanbul, Turkey in June 2004. The significant cash prize that accompanied the award will be usedto develop accessible and easily understood poultry production lessons for people around the worldwho raise poultry.Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science 5


ExcellenceThe FattyAcid FormulaTaking StepsTowards FitnesshealthIn 2003, after more than a decade of research, companiesin Canada and the US are allowed to market formulawith fat balance that helps improve a baby’s brainfunction, vision and immunity. This new value-addedproduct is available to consumers due, in part, to thework of AFNS researcher Catherine Field. Addingthe fats arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoicacid (DHA) in baby formula has been an essentialrequirement in other parts of the world such as Europesince around 1999, according to Dr. Field.Over the past 6 years, Dr.Field and her colleagues,Tom Clandinin from AFNSand John Van Aerde from theDepartment of Pediatrics haveconducted studies in bothpreterm and full term infantsto determine the balance of AAand DHA fatty acids that ensuresoptimum growth and immunedevelopment. Dr. Field saysDr. Catherine Field“babies appear to have a specificrequirement for fats like DHA and AA while they’re youngdue to their rapid growth”. Studies from the US, Europeand Australia have reported that babies fed formulacontaining AA and DHA score a couple of points higheron IQ tests as compared to their peers fed traditionalformulas.Dr. Field continues to conduct research on improvinginfant formulas and is now extending these studiesto identify compounds that might improve immunefunction at weaning. Together with Ceneva Inc. sheis examining the addition of beta-glucans to the dieton the ability to resist infections. In these studies andthose funded by the CIHR to examine the amino acidglutamine, she is conducting studies in a novel pigletmodel at the University of Alberta, Metabolic Unit. Thepiglet is a useful animal model of the human infant todo studies on the importance of diet to the intestine andimmune system.Dr. Field hopes to determine if these food components/nutrients will help reduce the incidence of bacterialinfection in infants. Dehydration due to diarrhea is theleading cause of infant hospitalization in the developedworld and is the leading cause of infant death indeveloping countries.Dr. Catherine Field (780) 492-2597 or catherine.field@ualberta.caThere is a saying that every journey begins with a singlestep. A new University of Alberta program wants to helppeople with Type 2 diabetes count their steps as theymake lifestyle changes to help control their diabetes.Healthy eating and physical activity are cornerstonesin diabetes management, but making lifestyle changesthat stick can be difficult. New research by Drs. RhondaBell and Linda McCargar are at the forefront of findingnew, straight-forward ways to adopt a healthier lifestyle.It started several years ago, when Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke, working with Dr. Bell, developed a pedometerbasedwalking program, called the First Step Program(FSP). Although successful at helping people withType 2 diabetes increase their physical activity, changesin health indicators over the 16 weeks of the FSP weresmall. Thus, the FSP really is that - a first step toward ahealthier lifestyle.The new programs build on the successful part ofthe FSP. The first new program, First Step - First Bite,combines the FSP with information about diet, tohelp people optimize their blood glucose control anddecrease their risk of cardiovascular disease. The simplenutrition message of “eat a low GI diet” is intertwinedinto the FSP. The second new program, aptly called“The Second Step Program”, is still in the preliminarystages. It builds on the FSP and incorporates durationand intensity or speed into the walking goals establishedin the FSP. A close partnership with colleagues inPhysical Education will allow the objective testing andmonitoring of how close people can come to achievingtheir physical activity goals.All of these programsalso have implicationsfor people withoutdiabetes who wishto become morephysically active. Lastyear, U of A On TheMove was launchedafter the U of ABoard of GovernorsU of A On the Move pedometerasked universityadministrators to findways to implement recommendations from the reportof the University Senate’s Task Force on Health andWellness.Dr. Rhonda Bell (780) 492-7742 or rhonda.bell@ualberta.ca6 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science


Product DevelopmentGrowing Marketfor SaskatoonsDespite being known as a unique and flavourful fruit,fresh saskatoon berries are not available at the grocerystore. That will change if Dr. Jocelyn Ozga has her way.“Saskatoons lose their flavour within hours after harvesting”,Dr. Ozga explains. “Fresh saskatoons are either unavailable,or of poor quality when they are bought fresh.” Dr. Ozga istrying to determine the main flavour components ofsaskatoon fruit. She is also experimenting with specialfilms, to extend shelf-life and saskatoon fruit flavour, incollaboration with Dr. Wendy Wismer, Sensory Scientistin AFNS.“By enclosing the fruit in plastic films made of polymerswhich restrict the amount of oxygen available to the fruit, wecan slow down the respiration rate of the saskatoon berries.This decreases the breakdown of the flavour volatiles and otherflavour components”. Too little oxygen will cause thefruit to use anaerobic respiration, producing ethanoland lactic acid, which make for bad flavour. ”There is adelicate balance.” says Dr. Ozga. She is experimentingwith a modified atmospheric packaging that will reduceoxygen levels and increase carbon dioxide surroundingthe fruit while still allowing for aerobic respiration.Dr. Jocelyn OzgaPlasticCanola?Is it really possible to turn canola oil into biodegradableplastic? Dr. Suresh Narine, AFNS Associate Professorand Director of the Alberta BioPlastics Network is makingit happen. “This project has received much attentionbecause of the implications for lucrative returns to the canolaindustry,” explains Dr. Narine.Multi-institutionalcollaboration has been oneof the key reasons why Dr.Narine has had so muchsuccess. The BioPlasticsNetwork is composed ofindividuals from AFNS, theDepartment of Chemicaland Materials Engineering,Alberta Agriculture, Foodand Rural Development, theDr. Suresh NarineCentre for Agri-IndustrialTechnology, AlbertaResearch Council, Alberta Economic Development,Environment Canada, Agriculture and Agri-FoodCanada, Toma and Bouma Management Consultants,and the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. Dr.Narine describes that “the research is now at the stage wherewe are beginning to construct a pilot facility, to scale up theprocesses developed in the lab. Additionally, research is beingconducted on improving the efficiency of the process and thefunctionality of the plastics produced.”innovationSaskatoom berriesThe fruit also containsantioxidants. Antioxidantsprotects cells by trappingdamaging free-radicals,implicated in heart diseaseand cancer. Dr. Ozga is attempting to determine the typeand amount of the antioxidant anthocyanins, which arethe compounds that give the berries their characteristicpurple-blue colour. “We’re profiling the anthocyaninsacross the developmental period as the fruit matures and gainscolour,” she says. Funding for Dr. Ozga’s research isprovided by the Alberta Consortium, with the majoritycoming from AVAC Ltd.With multiple researchprojects happening, Dr.Narine is always interestedin having talented, dynamic,and motivated people joinhis research group. At themoment, he has opportunitiesfor graduate students withan MSc or BSc in ChemistryBioPlastics Researchor Physics. If you are interested in direct industrialapplications for your graduate work, you should meetwith Dr. Narine.Dr. Suresh Narine (780) 492-9081 or suresh.narine@ualberta.caDr. Jocelyn Ozga (780) 492-2653 or jocelyn.ozga@ualberta.caDepartment of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science 7


New FacesBirds and the Beesin the 21 st CenturyImagine what it would cost to charter your own plane fromFrance?Prairie swine producers could pay up to $100,000 tobring live pigs embryos from France to the CanadianPrairies, in order to introduce new genetics to theirherds. For Alberta’s swine industry, Dr. Michael Dyck,Reproductive Physiologist is working on makingembryo transfer more accessible by establishing efficientand reliable techniques.Dr. Dyck brings botha strong scientific andbusiness backgroundto his positionin reproductivephysiology andbiotechnology. As alaboratory directorDr. Michael Dyckwith TGN Biotech,in Ste. Foy, Quebec, he has had practical experiencewith embryo transfer, freezing boar semen, molecularbiology, and generating transgenic mice and pigs. “Ican take technology that is not normally used in the industryand look for places where it can be applied to improve animalreproduction efficiency,” Dr Dyck explains.For AFNS, Dr. Dyck’s expertise will complement thescientific activities happening at the Swine Researchand Technology Centre. He will also expand on thecurrent undergraduate animal science training byoffering an entire course about the reproduction ofdomestic livestock, focusing on anatomy, physiologyand reproductive endocrinology.Dr. Michael Dyck (780) 492-0047 or michael.dyck@ualberta.caBiocatalystPioneerA Herofor BovineCan I come and work as avisiting scientist? Are there anymore positions available?These are questions thatcolleagues of Dr. BurimAmetaj ask him because ofthe international reputationDr. Burim Ametajof AFNS in beef and dairyresearch. Along with the chance to work closely withAFNS researchers, Dr. Ametaj was also attracted toAlberta because of the strong support for researchshown by the recent establishment of the Institute forFood and Agricultural Science, Alberta (IFASA).Dr. Ametaj’s research addresses human-made problemsin dairy cattle production. “We are giving unnaturallyhigh-grain diets to our dairy cows during parturitionto quickly restore the energy lost to the milk. The highproportion of starch compared to cellulose is negativelychanging the balance of microflora in the cow’s rumen,” Dr.Ametaj explains. The boom in the population of starchdegrading microbes means an increase in microbeproducedtoxins, which may result in diseased animals.One approach to prevent disease is to immunize theanimals for some of the toxins, so the cow’s immunesystem can destroy the toxin before it gets sick. Dr.Ametaj’s doctoral training at Iowa State University inruminant physiology and nutritional immunology, andpost doctoral experience in metabolic disorders of farmanimals makes this approach possible.The AFNS community welcomes Dr. Ametaj as aresearcher and teacher. His responsible attitude towardsanimal welfare and his creative thinking are assets to thedepartment.Dr. Burim Ametaj (780) 492-9841 or burim.ametaj@ualberta.cafutureDr. David Bressler“Agricultural waste is not a problem, but an opportunity” says Dr. David Bressler, thenew assistant professor in Bio/Food Engineering whose position is jointly fundedby Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development’s Centre for Agri-IndustrialTechnology (CAIT) and AFNS. Dr. Bressler’s goal is to generate value-added productsfrom agricultural waste-streams using catalysis and especially biocatalysis.“Since the BSE crisis hit Alberta, there has been a real push to create new uses for animal by-products, such as tallow,” Dr. Bressler explains. The traditional treatment for tallow wasto add it back to animal feed. Scientists and the public now question the food safety8 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science


New FacesUnderstandingPlant DiseaseSometimes the mostdecimating problemsto crops are caused byorganisms tinier thanwe can see. Dr. StephenStrelkov is uncoveringtheir secrets as AFNS’sAssistant Professor in PlantPathology.Dr. Stephen Strelkov“Tan spot and other leafspotting diseases of wheat can cause significant yieldlosses,” Dr. Strelkov explains. Since many farmers useconservation tillage methods, the fungus stays on thefield in the wheat stubble and can reinfect plants fromyear to year. Dr. Strelkov’s previous research pinpointedone of the toxins that the fungal pathogen uses tocause damage to the wheat. NSERC has awarded Dr.Strelkov a five year Discovery Grant to study the toxin’ssequence, expression, and structure so that we can learnmore about the virulence in the pathogen. The researchwill provide us with strategies to prevent infection ofthe wheat and also a comprehensive model of plantpathogeninteractions.As a plant pathologist, Dr. Strelkov is also at the forefrontin the study of new crop diseases that threaten Alberta’sagricultural production. Recently, clubroot of cruciferswas discovered in several canola fields in the St. Albertregion. The damage potential this disease has to thecanola industry in Alberta is serious. Dr. Strelkov is inthe process of identifying the race and genetic variabilityof the current pathogen population so that the diseasecan be contained.Dr. Strelkov is looking forward to expanding his lab andmeeting the challenges of protecting our prairie crops.Building a SecureFuture for CanolaDr. Habibur Rahman recently joined AFNS as AssociateProfessor of Canola Breeding, leaving his position as theSenior Breeder of Canola at Danisco Seed in Denmark.He was attracted by the challenges of canola breeding,research, and teaching in a university environment.AFNS offers many opportunities for Dr. Rahman tocollaborate. “If I develop a product which needs to be assessedfor extraction, processing and purification feasibilities, or Ineed to make a feeding trial with this product, I don’t need togo outside of the department because expertise from variousdisciplines are here. It makes a chain from the start to the endof the process very effective.”One of Dr. Rahman’s challengesis to increase the value ofcanola for farmers. Hybridcanola cultivars, comparedto traditional line cultivars,are increasing market sharein Europe. The same is alsohappening in Canada becauseof hybrid canola’s higher yieldDr. Habibur Rahmanpotential and other benefits.“Farmers will be paying a higher price (50 – 100% more)for hybrid seeds compared to seeds of conventional cultivars.They should also get higher returns for the extra dollarsthat they pay for hybrid seeds,” Dr. Rahman explains. Dr.Rahman plans to focus his research on developingvalue-added products in canola. “Canola has always beenan oil-producing crop. However, there are scopes for developingdifferent health and wellness and other value-added productsin canola oil and seed meal, which will make the whole canolaseed more valuable and diversify the industry.”Dr. Rahman is enthusiastic about building collaborationswithin the AFNS community and with scientists fromdifferent research institutes in Alberta.strengthDr. Stephen Strelkov(780) 492-1969 or stephen.strelkov@ualberta.caDr. Habibur Rahman(780) 492-3869 or habibur.rahman@ualberta.caimplications of this procedure, so new opportunities for these commodities need to be explored. Dr. Bressler isworking on thermal processing of tallow through a biocatalytic process to something similar to bio-diesel fuel. “Youhave to always be looking ahead to see what could be applied and see what is economically competitive with the chemical process.”Dr. Bressler’s unique background with degrees in microbiology and biotechnology and extensive experience inchemical engineering, along with his helpful attitude has sparked the interest of collaborators across the campus andthe province.Dr. David Bressler (780) 492-4986 or david.bressler@ualberta.caDepartment of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science 9


GraduateAFNS, anEasy Choice!Taking KnowledgeAround the GlobefutureAn enthusiastic supervisor, three scholarships, and theopportunity to experiment with plants in an appliedresearch project – that was what attracted MarilynJohnstone, a recent MSc Graduate, to study under AFNSAssociate Professor of Horticulture and Plant Physiology,Dr. Jocelyn Ozga.“When I realized that I could receive a monthly stipend tohelp pay for my living expenses, and that I would qualify foradditional scholarships within the department, I easily mademy decision to join AFNS,” Marilyn says.Marilyn Johnstone“I had focused my search onschools that offered graduatestudies in botany. WhenI finally received theirinformation, I didn’t see myselfdoing the basic scientificresearch described in manyof the projects. Someonesuggested that I inquire aboutAFNS because people alsostudied plants in an appliedway. They also have additionalfunding sources available tograduate students.”As a graduate student, Marilyn found the multidisciplinaryand collaborative approach in AFNSto be extremely stimulating. “Any question that I hadabout nutrition or food science was answered. Conversely,I was able to contribute with my knowledge of plants.” Sheencourages any potential graduate students who areinterested in applied research to contact the graduatestudent coordinator, Jody Forslund for more informationabout opportunities within the department. Marilyn iscurrently employed as a Research Officer with AlbertaAgricultural Research Institute in Edmonton.A surprise invitation to apply for an academic foodscience position was all it took for AFNS doctoralgraduate Dr. Todor Vasiljevic to start a new career inAustralia.As a Lecturer in FoodScience and Technology,Dr. Vasiljevic currentlyteaches Functional Foods,Animal Food Processing,Food Microbiology and FoodAnalysis at Victoria University,Melbourne. Before he cameto AFNS, Dr. Vasiljevic startedgraduate studies in cerealscience, but had to abandonDr. Todor Vasiljevichis program at the Universityof Banjaluka due to the war in Bosnia. He resumedhis doctoral training in AFNS under the supervisionof Drs. Paul Jelen and Lynn McMullen and focusedon lactose hydrolysis in dairy products. “I gained anexcellent understanding of dairy science and technology, foodfermentation and lactic acid bacteria,” explains Dr. Vasiljevic.In addition to the comprehensive training in foodscience that Dr. Vasiljevic received in AFNS, he alsowon multiple departmental, provincial and nationalscholarships to help him throughout his program.“During my graduate studies, I realized what kind of researchwas being performed at AFNS and what kind of impact thatresearch had throughout the world,” says Dr. Vasiljevic. Hecontinues building AFNS’s international reputation byteaching and leading research in Australia.For graduate program information, please contactStudent Support at (780) 492-5131 orjody.forslund@ualberta.caDID YOU KNOW?“On any given week within the HumanNutrition Research Centre, there are up to 4technicians and 12 graduate students workingon over 10 different research studies?“Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science 11


2003 - 2004 FactsSummary offunds2003/04Operating Budget $6,392,774Distribution of Operating Budget66% Academic & Teaching Support10% Administration & Computing Support13% Central Laboratories11% Research Stations2003/04Research Funding $12,152,506FederalGovernment$2,814,760Other*$1,415,718ProvincialGovernment$4,396,028(12%)(23%)(36%)(29%)Industry andIndustryAssociations$3,526,000* Non-Profit, Research Endowment, Other GovernmentAcademic Staff54 Professors27 Adjunct Professors12 Postdoctoral Fellows23 Research AssociatesUndergraduates enrolled in degree programs:287 BSc Agriculture (Includes Pre-VeterinaryMedicine)35 BSc Agricultural/Food Business Management357 BSc Nutrition & Food Sciences679 TotalGraduate Student Enrolment63 MSc56 PhD3 MAg / MEng2 Other124 TotalCentral Laboratories include:• Agri-food Materials Science Centre• Food Science facilities• Agricultural Genomics & Proteomics Centre• Molecular Biology & Biotechnology Centre• Nutrition & Metabolism facilities• Human Nutrition Research Centre• Plant Growth facilities• Small Animal facilitiesResearch Stations include:facts & figuresMetabolic testing in the Human Nutrition Research Centre• Edmonton Research Station• Alberta Poultry Research Centre• Crops & Land Resources Centre• Dairy Research & Technology Centre• Laird W. McElroy Metabolism & EnvironmentalResearch Centre• Swine Research & Technology Centre• Enclosed Composting Facility• Feedmill• Ministik Field Station• University of Alberta Kinsella Research Ranch12 Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science

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