What are some challenges of breeding flavorful food crops?

Rebecca McCluskey
Credit: Rebecca McCluskey.
Variety “PollyO” hazelnut developed at Oregon State University. This new variety combines taste, yield, maturity and many good qualities.

When researchers who were 20 and 21 visited a variety of shops in a city on the verge of implementing a law prohibiting sales to people younger than 21, more than 60 percent of cashiers didn’t ask them for identification, found the study, which appears online in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

June 24, 2019 – Variety is the spice of life – especially when it comes to food. When we think of food crops, we usually think of the basics: wheat, corn, soy, potato and vegetable crops. These staple foods help sustain us for needed calories and nutrition. But, what about the challenges of food crops that add a little extra flavor to our diet? The June 22nd Sustainable, Secure Food blog explores the challenges in breeding hazelnut, hops and mint with guest bloggers from Oregon State University.


Most of us don’t eat hazelnuts by the handful – but that could change one day! On their own, hazelnuts are delicious, and their fatty acid profile is identical to olive oil. Healthy snacks, here we come!

According to Shawn Mehlenbacher, Oregon State University’s hazelnut breeding project is “developing new cultivars resistant to eastern filbert blight. This disease is caused by the fungus Anisogramma anomala accidentally introduced from the eastern United States. We are also looking for new cultivars that can resist insect pests, like filbertworm, brown marmorated stink bug, and Pacific flatheaded borer…The Willamette Valley is well-suited to hazelnut production. Acreage devoted to growing hazelnuts Oregon has expanded from 29,000 to 65,000 in the past decade. By creating hybrids between the European and American species, we hope to expand the areas suitable for hazelnut production.”


Craft brewing fans are also fans of hops – the crop that gives bitterness, flavor and aroma to beer.  

“On the fun side of breeding challenges, breeders are working to develop new types of aroma hops – the types that add rich flavors to beers,” says Shaun Townsend. “These types of hops are dominating the market, and breeders are looking for new sources of flavor and aroma. Hop breeders are identifying and incorporating new disease and pest resistant genes into hop, and with aroma hops dominating the market, new sources of flavor and aroma are being sought. Beer is an important beverage for many cultures, and hops will continue to be in demand as one of the key ingredients in beer production.”


Ah, fresh breath. Many of us can thank the mint oil in our toothpaste for that. “Distilled mint oil is used not only in toothpaste, but in a wide variety of consumer products, candies and medicines,” says Kelly Vining. “The fungal disease Verticillium wilt has been the biggest challenge to mint production in the Pacific Northwest for decades… The wild relatives of cultivated mint may have genes responsible for conferring the wilt resistance trait. Introducing a new cultivar with fungal resistance will help create a more sustainable mint industry.”

Read the full blog here: https://sustainable-secure-food-blog.com/2019/06/22/flavorful-crops-and-their-breeding-challenges

This blog is sponsored and written by members of the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America. Our members are researchers and trained, certified professionals in the areas of growing our world’s food supply, while protecting our environment. They work at universities, government research facilities, and private businesses across the United States and the world.

And these young adults slipped by without an age check most often when they visited small stores, tobacco shops and shops plastered with tobacco ads. 

“Our findings suggest that certain types of stores — tobacco shops, convenience stores and those with a lot of tobacco advertising — are more likely to sell tobacco to a young person without checking his or her ID,” said Megan Roberts, an assistant professor of health behavior and health promotion at Ohio State, and a member of the university’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

“One implication of this finding is that enforcement may benefit from targeted outreach and monitoring at these locations.” 

The study included fieldworker visits to a randomly sampled list of 103 tobacco retailers in the summer of 2017. The visits were made in Columbus, Ohio, where enforcement of a new Tobacco 21 law had not yet begun. 

The plan was to get a baseline idea of how young adults on the edge of the cutoff age were being carded in the city, information that could potentially drive future enforcement decisions, said Niru Murali, who participated in the study as part of her undergraduate work in Ohio State’s College of Public Health. 

Though the frequency of carding found in the study was low – and disappointing from a public health standpoint – it aligned with previous research, she said. 

The most interesting new information found in this study was that certain retailers were less likely to ask for ID, Murali said. 

More than 64 percent of grocery stores checked IDs, compared with about 34 percent of convenience stores and tobacco shops. Bars, restaurants and alcohol stores were even less likely to card the fieldworkers: only 29 percent requested ID. 

“In addition to variation by type of store, we saw that those that heavily advertised were less likely to card us. It makes sense, if you think about it, that people who are plastering their windows with tobacco ads probably are trying to make a lot of money off those products and may be more likely to look the other way when selling to a young adult,” Murali said. 

Retailers are supposed to card anyone who looks younger than 30 under the Columbus Tobacco 21 law. The idea behind the city’s law, and others like it, is to decrease the long-term health toll that tobacco takes by preventing young people from starting to smoke. Previous research has shown that those who start by the age of 18 are almost twice as likely to become lifelong smokers when compared to individuals who start after they turn 21. 

Murali said strategic enforcement is important, and it may be helpful for those enforcing the laws to be sensitive to the fact that they present a financial hit, particularly for small business owners. 

“From a public health standpoint, we’re trying to stop people from smoking initiation that has an effect on the rest of their life. But from the business perspective, tobacco is a huge source of income for them,” she said. 

“I think it’s going to be really important to work on this during enforcement – how do you make this an easier pill to swallow for folks who are losing income?” 

Added Roberts, “Having a minimum legal sales age for tobacco is important for reducing youth access to tobacco. Not only does it prevent young people from purchasing tobacco for themselves, but it prevents them from buying tobacco and distributing it to other, often younger, peers.” 

Amy Ferketich and Brittney Keller-Hamilton, both of Ohio State, also worked on the study.

The National Cancer Institute supported the research.

CONTACTS: Megan Roberts, [email protected]; Niru Murali, [email protected] 


Written by Misti Crane, 614-477-2964; [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *