URBANA, Ill. — Adults who don’t routinely eat vegetables for lunch may be more likely to consume them if the vegetables are seasoned, a new study suggests.
People who seldom ate vegetables at lunch were 1.5 times more likely to select a seasoned vegetable than its unseasoned counterpart, researchers at the University of Illinois found in a study of more than 530 adults.
During the study, which was conducted over a three-week period in a cafe setting, one vegetable – broccoli, carrots or green beans – was offered each day as both a seasoned and an unseasoned selection. Customers who purchased a hot entree were offered a vegetable at no extra cost.
All diners, regardless of whether they took a vegetable, were asked to complete a survey that included questions about their eating habits, vegetable preferences and likelihood of purchasing a vegetable side dish if it were priced at $1.
Broccoli, carrots and green beans were chosen for the study because they are among the vegetables most frequently consumed by adults in the U.S., said the paper’s lead author, Joanna Manero, a graduate student in food science and human nutrition.
To prevent potential bias caused by labeling, the unseasoned vegetables were listed on the menu board as “steamed” carrots, green beans or broccoli rather than as “unseasoned,” according to the paper, published recently in Appetite.
Diners in the study were significantly more likely to choose a seasoned vegetable – especially if the consumer was male and under 50 years old, the researchers found. However, the opposite effect was found with diners who routinely ate vegetables for lunch: They preferred the unseasoned selections.
Despite numerous public awareness campaigns aimed at enticing Americans to increase their consumption of vegetables for better health, many people still fall short of the amounts recommended by federal agencies and nutritionists, research has found. And those who do eat vegetables tend to eat them more frequently during their evening meal rather than at breakfast or lunch.
Herbs and spices may make vegetables more tempting for men and younger adults – who tend to eat fewer plant-based foods overall than do women and older adults, Manero said.
“Getting people to go from zero to even one serving is a big step forward in moving people to include vegetables in their daily diet,” said food science and human nutrition professor Karen Chapman-Novakofski, a co-author of the paper. “If you’re already eating vegetables at dinner, then perhaps that’s not the place we need to make that nutritional nudge.”
Most diners indicated that they liked carrots, green beans or broccoli somewhat or very much, whether seasoned or not. If the vegetable selections were priced at $1, diners indicated that they would be somewhat or very likely to purchase a broccoli selection (84 percent), the green beans (74 percent) or the carrots (64 percent).
When diners returned their trays, the researchers collected and measured the amount of waste to determine how much of the vegetables participants actually ate.
Diners wasted twice as much of the seasoned carrots as green beans and three times more carrots than seasoned broccoli, even though they reported they liked carrots about as much as the other two vegetables. The researchers hypothesized that diners may have disliked the cinnamon seasoning that was used on the carrots in the study.
Additional co-authors of the paper were food science and human nutrition professors Soo-Yeun Lee and Shelly Nickols-Richardson, agricultural and consumer economics professor Brenna Ellison, and Bevier Cafe quantity food manager Carter Phillips.
Going organic: Are organic pesticides safer than their synthetic counterparts?
URBANA, Ill. – Homeowners use a lot of pesticides. Statistics show that homeowners use three times more pesticides per acre than commercial agriculture producers. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimates the number to be even higher; their reports claim pesticide use in lawns is 10 times higher than in commercial agriculture.
Though not quite ready to ditch the bug and weed killers, homeowners are seeking alternatives to conventional pesticides. Many homeowners are turning to organic pesticides due to the growing perception that these pesticides are safer. But are organic pesticides safer than their conventional cousins?
“That is a good question,” says University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Chris Enroth. “First we should define what makes a pesticide organic. In most circumstances, an organic product, whether it is a pesticide or a fertilizer, is derived from the remains or byproducts of a living or once-living organism. Typically these products are marketed as natural, which reinforces the image these products are from nature and are therefore harmless.”
Enroth cautions, “Just because something is labeled organic or natural does not mean it is safer to the homeowner or unable to cause harm to the environment. Botanically derived pesticides are not always safer; in fact, some can be more dangerous.”
Before being sold, all pesticides undergo studies to define their acute toxicity. In other words, these studies look to determine what immediate dangers specific pesticides pose. Scientists rank the acute toxicity of a product based on the lethal dose that kills 50 percent of the test sample, termed the LD50. Because a low LD50 means it takes a smaller amount of a product to cause harm, a lower LD50 translates to a higher toxicity in a product. Several botanically derived pesticides have a low LD50, meaning they are quite toxic to humans. Examples include nicotine, rotenone, and some pyrethrins.
“Fortunately, several of these products have been taken off the market,” says Enroth. “However, many home recipes incorporating these dangerous active ingredients still exist online.”
“The important thing to keep in mind is that, like synthetic pesticides, organic products vary and have a broad range of toxicity levels,” says Enroth. “Some organic pesticides can be very harmful to humans, while many others are perfectly safe.”
All pesticides, synthetic or organic, must be stored in a locked cabinet out of reach from children. When applying any pesticide, always read the product label and research the toxicity and environmental hazards. Take proper precautions to protect yourself, your neighbors, and the environment.
“Although pesticides are an important tool in our tool belt, they should always be our last resort,” says Enroth. “In my yard, pest prevention starts with good plant culture. Correctly maintaining your plants will give them a competitive edge on weeds, insects, and disease.”
When a pest becomes overwhelming, first research the offending organism and then take appropriate action. Start with the least offending measures, such as picking off troublesome insects or removing diseased foliage. Sharp streams of water can knock down many pest insects such as aphids.
Horticultural soaps and oils are useful for slower-moving insects and protecting from certain diseases when applied at the appropriate time.
“When these efforts fail to control a pest, a pesticide may be the final option,” says Enroth.
Whether you choose a synthetic pesticide or an organic pesticide, be conservative in what chemicals you add to the landscape.
“Or maybe just accept the pest and cut out the pesticides altogether,” Enroth says. “After all, the blooming creeping Charlie and dandelions are a sight to behold in my lawn.”
AgComm alumni shine on camera and off in award-winning video
URBANA, Ill. – University of Illinois College of ACES Agricultural Communications alumna Diane Martin is president and CEO of Rhea + Kaiser. Her company recently received the gold award from the Collegiate Advertising Awards for creating a recruitment video for the AgComm department.
“The Ag Communications program at Illinois has shaped several generations of professionals who have had a positive impact on agriculture,” Martin says.. “Making this video is Rhea + Kaiser’s way of helping to inspire the next generation of ag communicators and ensure the viability of the program.” Martin is a 1986 graduate of the program, with a concentration in advertising.
The video features a number of alumni from the program as well as current students: 2016 graduates Kira Bowman, Nick Gimple, Billy Hatfield, and Kendall Herren; sophomore Katherine Zelechowski; junior Josh Krawitz; and seniors Caitlyn McClure and Caeli Cleary.
“The video has made it a lot easier to tell the agricultural communications story,” says Lulu Rodriguez, director of agricultural communications at U of I. “It’s been a real conversation starter. When we use it, we are able to expand on its message, which schools really appreciate. We have a lot more inquiries coming in. Our recruiting efforts are paying off in large part due to the video that R+K created for us.”
With a combined curriculum from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the College of Media, the video will be used as a recruiting tool for both U of I units.
The Collegiate Advertising Awards program honors marketing professionals for outstanding excellence in all forms of advertising, marketing, and promotion specific to higher education products and services. The annual awards competition recognizes U.S. colleges, universities, and other educational organizations across a wide range of categories including branding, social media, recruiting, fund-raising, multimedia campaigns, and educational fairs.
A panel of design and education marketing professionals judged the more than 900 entries on creativity, layout and design, typography, production, quality, and overall effectiveness.
“We are thrilled to have received this recognition for the Ag Communications video. It was definitely a passion project for several of us at R+K who are University of Illinois grads,” says R+K senior account supervisor Laura Findling, who was project lead on the video. “Lulu and her team were great partners in this initiative. We’re proud to be able to tell their story and encourage prospective students to consider the program. This was also the first major video project to come out of R+K’s new Video Production unit, so there’s a bit of R+K pride in there, too.”
Zinc’s negative effects on mineral digestibility can be mitigated, study shows
URBANA, Ill. – Researchers at the University of Illinois have shown that a common strategy for reducing postweaning diarrhea in pigs may have negative effects on calcium and phosphorus digestibility, and are suggesting management practices to counteract the effects.
The biological requirement for zinc in growing pigs is approximately 50 mg/kg body weight. However, pharmacological levels of zinc—2,000 to 3,000 mg/kg—are sometimes included in diets fed to pigs after weaning. The high levels of zinc help to prevent postweaning diarrhea, but are not without drawbacks.
"Zinc competes with calcium for absorption in the small intestine of the pig," says Hans H. Stein, professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I. "In addition, zinc can form complexes with phytate molecules, which prevents them from being hydrolyzed by phytase to release phosphorus. Therefore, if zinc is included at pharmacological levels in the diets, it can reduce calcium and phosphorus digestibility."
Stein led a team of researchers to determine if pharmacological levels of zinc oxide in pig diets affect the ability of microbial phytase to improve calcium and phosphorus digestibility. They fed growing barrows diets containing either 0 or 2,400 mg/kg zinc in the form of zinc oxide, along with either 0, 1,000 or 3,000 units of phytase (FTU) per kilogram.
Standardized total tract digestibility (STTD) of calcium was 70.0 percent for pigs fed diets containing no zinc oxide and no phytase. Apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD) of phosphorus in the same diets was 61.5 percent. However, when zinc oxide was included in the diets, those values dropped to 67.2 percent for STTD of calcium and 55.6 percent for ATTD of phosphorus.
Adding microbial phytase improved calcium and phosphorus digestibility in all diets. However, the improvement in digestibility was reduced in diets containing zinc oxide. In the diets without zinc oxide, adding 3,000 FTU of phytase increased the STTD of calcium by 16 percent, but the increase was only 9.7 percent in the high zinc diets. Adding 3,000 FTU of phytase increased the ATTD of phosphorus by 31 percent and 21 percent, respectively, in diets without and with zinc oxide.
Stein offered guidelines for producers based on the new research.
"If pigs need pharmacological levels of zinc, the calcium and phosphorus in the diets may need to be increased by 4 and 9.5 percent, respectively, for 15 kg pigs. Alternatively, diets can be supplemented with microbial phytase to prevent reduced absorption of calcium and phosphorus, but the efficacy of phytase will be reduced."
The paper, "Effects of zinc oxide and microbial phytase on digestibility of calcium and phosphorus in maize-based diets fed to growing pigs," is published in the Journal of Animal Science. It was co-authored by Laia Blavi of the University of Illinois, and David Sola-Oriol and José Francisco Perez of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
More to it than just the milkweed
URBANA, Ill.–Most Illinois gardeners believe that monarch butterfly populations are declining due to the lack of milkweed in the summer breeding areas of our state. However, researchers Greg Spyreas and David Zaya with the Illinois Natural History Survey are proving there may be more to the monarch story than milkweed.
Illinois is home to 19 native milkweeds. In the last 20 years, milkweed has decreased by 95 percent in agricultural fields, Zaya says. “However, natural areas are buffering that loss, enabling the monarchs to build up their normal population numbers throughout the summer.”
Plant ecologists like Spyreas and Zaya now believe the decline in the monarch population may also be due to a lack of floral resources during the butterflies’ journey back to Mexico. To provide resources to monarchs on their long voyage, scientists are urging gardeners to create a monarch corridor, also known as a floral highway.
Creating floral highways requires planting fall-blooming perennials in gardens in addition to milkweed. “Keep planting milkweed, of course. It’s a larval food source for caterpillars and a highly sought-after nectar resource for adult monarchs,” Zaya says.
If you plan to add new plants to your garden or to begin building a new landscape, Spyreas has several plant recommendations. “Fall-blooming perennials like liatris, joe pye weed,blackeyed Susan, bee balm, aster, coneflower,and helianthus would be excellent additions to your gardens for the late feeding of monarch butterflies,”he says.
Liatris pycnostachya (prairie blazingstar) blooms in mid to late summer on large upright spikes in pink or purple. This plant requires full sun, and is not drought tolerant when young.
Eutrochium purpureum (joe pye weed) blooms in mid-summer to early fall with a pink or purplish-pink panicle of compound flowers. It requires light shade to partial sun.
Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan) blooms in early to mid-summer with a dark brown central cone and yellow petal-like rays. It requires full sun and is an easy-to-grow but short-lived biennial.
Monarda spp. (bee balm) blooms in summer for up to two months with a 3 to 4 inch ring of tubular flowers ranging from pink to red. This plant requires partial sun and moist conditions.
Symphyotrichum shortii (smooth blue aster) blooms in late summer to fall with flowers featuring blue-violet petal-like rays and a yellow center which last one to two months. It requires partial to full sun and regular pinching to keep compact.
Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) blooms mid to late summer with a central brown cone with purple or pink petal-like ray flowers. The plant requires full to partial sun and prefers well-drained soil and is drought tolerant once established.
Helianthus mollis (downy sunflower) blooms in late summer to early fall with a large bright yellow composite flower. It requires full sun, tolerates drought, and forms dense colonies.
Additional gardening practices like adding a water source, planting multiples of one plant type in groups, avoiding pesticide use, allowing herbs to flower,and planting annuals like Mexican sunflower, zinnias,and cosmos can be of great benefit to the traveling monarchs.
University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Kelly Allsupsays,“By creating a floral highway to help the monarchs, you will also help a host of other pollinators and wildlife by creating habitat they need to survive.”