Cotton May Be Promising Source of Protein

WASHINGTONCotton is emerging as a promising source of protein for millions of the world’s malnourished, according to the latest research.

Researchers engineered the cotton to reduce the toxic gossypol to tolerable levels in the high-protein seed, without affecting higher levels in the rest of the plant, to ward off pests and disease.

“The results look very promising,” said Keerti Rathore, the Texas AgriLife Research plant bio-technologist in whose lab the cotton was developed.

Rathore said kernels from the safe seed could be ground into a flour-like powder and used as a protein additive in food preparations or perhaps roasted and seasoned as a nutritious snack.

Less than three years ago, Rathore had announced that cotton plants had been successfully altered in the lab to “silence” gossypol in the seed.

But this year, five generations of cotton plants produced in greenhouses and the small test plot in the field are showing similar findings, Rathore said, though the results have not yet been published in scholarly journals.

Gossypol has long been a block for cotton farmers trying to make cotton seed available for human or animal consumption.

Cotton fibers have been spun into fabric for more than 7,000 years, but generally only cattle have been able to eat the fuzzy seeds that are separated from the fiber.

Cattle can tolerate the gossypol because it is gradually digested through their unique four-part stomach.

“The levels of gossypol and related defense chemicals are similar to that of regular cotton plants in the buds, leaves and flowers. But the seed is still showing the ultra-low levels of gossypol.”

The “beauty of this project,” Rathore said, is that the high-protein seed could be a new food source – especially in developing countries.

Because the variety is “genetically modified,” the scientist and AgriLife Research will have to negotiate with others who hold patent rights to some of the basic technologies used to develop this “ultra-low seed-gossypol” cotton.

Rathore will also have to seek approval from the US Department of Agriculture, US Food and Drug Administration and perhaps other agencies to make it commercially available as seed to farmers.

Reduce Tension, Keep Plants in Offices, Classrooms

DALLAS – House plants can help reduce tension and stress among office workers, who spend more than 80 percent of the day indoors.

Researchers found the presence of plants in homes and workplaces exerted a positive effect on headaches and fatigue and hoarseness.

Interior plants have also been shown to increase work productivity. In one study, employees’ reaction time on computer tasks improved by 12 percent when plants were present.

Jennifer S. Doxey and Tina Marie Waliczek, agricultural scientists from Texas State University (TSU), and Jayne M. Zajicek, horticulturist from Texas A&M University, are testing the impact of plants on student performance and satisfaction in the classroom.

“Our results showed that interior plants appeared to have the greatest impact on students who were in the classroom that had no other natural elements,” said Waliczek.

The main objective of the study was to investigate the impact of plants in classrooms on course performance and student perceptions of the course and instructor.

The study was designed to include a minimum of two classes of the same course work taught by the same professor in the same room during one semester.

Three sets of two classes each and 385 students were included within the study. Throughout the semester, an experimental group of students attended classes in rooms that contained an assortment of tropical plants. The control group of students attended class in rooms with no plants.

Statistically significant differences were found between control and treatment groups when students scored questions related to “learning”, “instructors’ enthusiasm”, and “instructors’ organization”, says a TSU statement.

Students from the group whose classrooms included plants rated these items higher on the satisfaction. Conversely, of the two student groups, the most apparent differences were reported by students who attended class in the room that was windowless and stark.

These findings were published in a recent issue of HortScience.