UMass Amherst Center Releases Videos on 'Research that Matters'

Jon Clements
Jon Clements

AMHERST, Mass. – The work of a University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientist and a tree fruit extension educator are featured in two new videos released this week by the campus’s Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE).

Its director, Jody Jellison, says, “We want to let the public know about meaningful research being conducted at UMass Amherst that impacts our lives in positive ways. These short videos, with links to more information, are intended to get the word out.”

Rapid detection of harmful bacteria in food and water

Assistant professor of food science Lili He reports on a CAFE-funded project for which she and her colleagues are developing a rapid, new, low-cost method of detecting bacteria in water or food. Once commercially available, it will be useful to anyone serving fresh foods, whether home cooks, restaurant chefs, or aid workers at a natural disaster.

He is an analytical chemist and expert in detection methods for food contamination. She says, “Most people around the world cook their vegetables before eating, but here in the U.S. more and more people like to eat these foods raw. This gave us the idea that a quick test that can be done at home would be a good idea.”

She adds, “Microbial contamination is an important research topic right now. It has been a problem for a long time, but it is now the number one concern for food safety in the U.S.”Current standard methods for culturing bacteria from food samples take two days, but He says her method can give results in less than two hours.

Growing more apples in the same space: high-density orchards        

Fruit production specialist Jon Clements of UMass Extension demonstrates more efficient growing methods to produce greater yields and higher-quality fruit from apple orchards. He says this new technique is the way of the future for the next generation of apple growers in Massachusetts and other apple growing regions.

The move toward high-density apple production has been the number one change in orchards in the last 25 years, Clements points out. It has brought greater profitability and makes orchards more sustainable. In a high-density orchard, trees are planted closer together so they gain little height as they grow but expose the apples to more sun.

The CAFE at UMass Amherst focuses on educational support for fruit growers and other agricultural producers while UMass Extension is devoted to outreach education and the delivery of new research-based techniques and technologies for practical application. CAFE is also the home of the Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station, which provides research support to faculty in many academic departments.

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