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New African swine fever virus vaccine coming soon

African swine fever has moved through Russia and Eastern Europe since 2007 and in August 2018 was reported in China’s swine herd. It has been estimated that the number of sows China has lost to African swine fever is more than the entire U.S. sow herd, according to the National Pork Producers Council. After years of the virus doing damage, a new African swine fever virus vaccine could be on the horizon. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service announced that an African swine fever virus vaccine candidate has been adapted to grow in a cell line, which means that those involved in vaccine production will no longer have to rely on live pigs and their fresh cells for vaccine production.

“This opens the door for large-scale vaccine production, which is a valuable tool for the possible eradication of the virus,” said senior ARS scientist Dr. Manuel Borca.

African swine fever is known to cause virulent, deadly outbreaks in wild and domestic swine, causing widespread and lethal outbreaks in various countries in Eastern Europe and throughout Asia. It is important to note that African swine fever is not a threat to humans and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. However, outbreaks have led to significant economic losses and pork shortages on local and global scales.

No commercial vaccines are currently available to prevent the virus from spreading. There have not been any outbreaks in the United States, but it’s estimated that a national outbreak could cost at least $14 billion over two years, and $50 billion over 10 years.

This discovery, highlighted in the Journal of Virology, overcomes one of the major challenges for manufacturing of an African swine fever virus vaccine. The newly developed vaccine, grown in a continuous cell line — which means immortalized cells that divide continuously or otherwise indefinitely — has the same characteristics as the original vaccine produced with fresh swine cells.

“Traditionally we used freshly isolated swine cells to produce vaccine candidates and this constitutes a significant limitation for large-scale production” said senior ARS scientist Dr. Douglas Gladue. “But now we can retain the vaccine characteristics while simultaneously replicating the vaccine in lab-grown cell cultures. We no longer have to rely on gathering fresh cells from live swine.”

The continuous cell line vaccine candidate was tested in a commercial breed of pigs and determined to be safe, protecting pigs against the virus. No negative effects were observed.

This research was supported in part by an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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John Deere redefines its 5M Series with added technology

Farmers and ranchers are always on the look out for more ways to efficiently do a job. To contribute to that mindset, John Deere has redefined its lineup of 5M Series Tractors by adding new technology and transmission options, and more top-end horsepower by introducing a new 125-horsepower tractor to the lineup. These added capabilities and features will appeal to hay, livestock, and commercial customers.

A large-tractor feature making its way to the 5M Series through a built-in display on the tractor dash is integrated AutoTrac guidance. This factory-installed option is only available for 5M Tractors equipped with PowrQuad transmissions. AutoTrac provides straight-line guidance to help operators reduce implement overlap, make fewer passes through the field, decrease fatigue, and save fuel. “No other utility tractor on the market offers this level of integrated guidance on a mid-spec utility tractor, making the productivity potential of the 5M Series unmatched,” Greg Christensen, marketing manager for John Deere said. “This low-cost, entry-level guidance system, can later be upgraded by plugging in a premium display for mapping and prescription-based applications.”

Christensen says customers are looking for updated transmission options to make tractor operation easy. “Now, John Deere makes the PowrQuad transmissions available on the 5090M, 5100M, 5115M cab versions and includes it in base equipment on the newly added 125-horsepower 5125M, which is only available with a cab. PowrQuad transmissions make it easy for operators to find the right speed with clutchless, push-button shifting between gears, allowing them to focus on their work.”

John Deere also increased the hitch-lift capacity on 5M Tractors equipped with PowrQuad transmissions to better handle large implements and offers an optional panoramic roof for improved visibility from the cab. These features are especially beneficial when lifting and moving large objects such as hay bales and can increase operator productivity.

Additionally, the John Deere Smart Connector, available as a parts kit, is compatible with select 5 Series Tractors. The Smart Connector is an entry-level connectivity solution that makes it easy for customers who are not using their tractor in a production setting to monitor their tractor through a Bluetooth connection that sends them data so they can track maintenance intervals and tractor performance. Information from Smart Connector is accessed through the TractorPlus app from a mobile device.

The redefined MY22 5M Tractors with PowrQuad transmissions are now available to order, with PowrReverser options being available to order later this year. For more information visit your local dealer or the John Deere website for more details.

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New study finds corn ethanol champions lower GHG emissions

A new analysis from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory concludes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from corn ethanol are now 44 percent to 52 percent lower than gasoline, thanks to improvements in the efficiency of both corn and ethanol production.

The retrospective study analyzed data from U.S. corn and ethanol production between 2005 and 2019, finding a 23 percent decrease in corn ethanol’s carbon intensity. This reduction is due to improvements in corn yield, decreases in fertilizer intensity inputs, increases in ethanol yields, and reductions in ethanol plant energy use. From the 15 years studied, an additional 140 million metric tons (MMT) GHG emission reductions were made possible by the reduction in corn ethanol’s carbon intensity.

“Relying on updated data and the best science show ethanol is truly a low carbon fuel, with the potential to become even more low carbon, thanks to how farmers continue to improve corn production practices and increased yields that produce more corn from less land and fewer inputs,” said NCGA President and Ohio corn farmer, John Linder.

The study finds that, “The ethanol produced in our 15 years has been introduced to the transportation sector to displace petroleum gasoline. With the displacement, on the LCA basis, corn ethanol has helped the U.S. transportation sector reduce GHG emissions by 544 MMT over the period.” The research also notes that corn ethanol GHG emissions can be reduced further with additional sustainable farming practices such as no‐till and cover crops that can help reduce fertilizer inputs and increase soil organic carbon content. Finally, the analysis concludes, “Biofuels, including corn ethanol, can play a critical role in the U.S. desire for deep decarbonization of its economy.”

This new data comes at an advantageous time, as members of the biofuels industry convene this week for the annual Growth Energy Executive Leadership Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

You can read the full study here.

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