News Update on Rural Agricultural Research: May – 2019

Airborne viable, non-viable, and allergenic fungi in a rural agricultural area of India: a 2-year study at five outdoor sampling stations

The information on airborne allergenic fungal flora in rural agricultural areas is largely lacking. Adequate information is not available to the bioaerosol researchers regarding the choice of single versus multiple sampling stations for the monitoring of both viable and non-viable airborne fungi. There is no long-term study estimating the ratios of viable and non-viable fungi in the air and earlier studies did not focus on the fractions of airborne allergenic fungi with respect to the total airborne fungal load. To fill these knowledge gaps, volumetric paired assessments of airborne viable and non-viable fungi were performed in five outdoor sampling stations during two consecutive years in a rural agricultural area of India. Samples were collected at 10-day intervals by the Burkard Personal Slide Sampler and the Andersen Two-Stage Viable Sampler. The data on the concentrations of total and individual fungal types from five stations and 2 different years were analyzed and compared by statistical methods. The allergenicity of the prevalent airborne viable fungi was estimated by the skin-prick tests of >100 rural allergy patients using the antigenic fungal extracts from isolates collected with the Andersen sampler. The ranges of total fungal spore concentration were 82–2365 spores per cubic meter of air (spores/m3) in the first sampling year and 156–2022 spores/m3 in the second sampling year. The concentration ranges of viable fungi were 72–1796 colony-forming units per cubic meter of air (CFU/m3) in the first sampling year and 155–1256 CFU/m3 in the second sampling year. No statistically significant difference was observed between the total spore data of the 2 years, however, the data between five stations showed a significant difference (P<0.0001). No statistically significant difference existed between stations and years with respect to the concentration of viable fungi. When the data of individual allergenic fungal concentrations were compared between stations and years, no statistically significant difference was observed in all cases except for Aspergillus japonicus and Rhizopus nigricans, which showed significant difference in case of stations and years, respectively. The ratios between the total fungal spores collected by the Burkard sampler and the viable fungi collected by the Andersen sampler from all sampling stations ranged between 0.29 and 7.61. The antigenic extracts of eight prevalent viable airborne fungi (A. flavus, A. japonicus, A. fumigatus, Alternaria alternata, Cladosporium cladosporioides, Curvularia pallescens, Fusarium roseum, and R. nigricans) demonstrated >60% positive reactions in the skin prick test. These selected allergenic fungi collectively represented 31.7–63.2% of the total airborne viable fungi in different stations. The study concluded that: (i) a rich fungal airspora existed in the rural study area, (ii) to achieve representative information on the total airborne fungal spores of an area, the monitoring in multiple sampling stations is preferable over a single sampling station; for viable fungi, however, one station can be considered, (iii) the percentage of airborne fungal viability is higher in rural agricultural areas, and (iv) approximately 52% of the viable airborne fungi in the rural study area were allergenic. [1]

Epidemiological Study of High Cancer among Rural Agricultural Community of Punjab in Northern India

Based on a citizen’s report, a house-to-house survey was conducted in Talwandi Sabo and Chamkaur Sahib Community Development Blocks in Bathinda and Roop Nagar District respectively in Punjab state located in a northern part of India to identify the number of existing cancer cases, and the number of cancer deaths that occurred in the last 10 years. Age adjusted prevalence of confirmed cancer cases per 100,000 population was 125 (107/85315) in Talwandi Sabo and 72 (71/97928) in Chamkaur Sahib. Cancer of female reproductive system, i.e., breast, uterus/cervix and ovary were more common in Talwandi sabo whereas cancer of blood and lymphatic system, esophagus, and bones were more common in Chamkaur Sahib. Cancer deaths per 100,000 populations per year were 52 in Talwandi Sabo compared to 30 at Chamkaur Sahib. A comparison of the characteristics of randomly selected individuals, from the villages where a cancer case existed or death due to cancer had occurred in last 2 years, revealed that involvement in cultivation, pesticide use, alcohol consumption and smoking were more common in Talwandi Sabo as compared to Chamkaur Sahib. Limited studies show that in drinking water the levels of heavy metals such as As, Cd, Cr, Se, Hg were generally higher, and pesticides such as heptachlor, ethion, and chloropyrifos were also higher in samples of drinking water, vegetables, and blood in Talwandi Sabo as compared to Chamkaur Sahib. As multiple factors were responsible for significantly higher prevalence of cancer cases in Talwandi Sabo, therefore, a multi-pronged strategy to discourage the indiscriminate use of pesticides, tobacco and alcohol needs to be adopted for cancer prevention, and a cancer registry should be set up for elucidation of the role of pesticides and heavy metals in the etiology of cancer in this area. [2]

Seasonal Variation in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in a Rural Agricultural Community

Background – Seasonal variation in fruit and vegetable consumption has been documented in a limited number of previous investigations and is important for the design of epidemiologic investigations and in the evaluation of intervention programs.

Objective – This study investigates fruit and vegetable consumption behaviors among Hispanic farmworkers and non-farmworkers in a rural agricultural community.

Design – A larger study recruited 101 farmworker families and 100 non-farmworker families from the Yakima Valley in Washington State between December 2004 and October 2005. All families were Hispanic. An in-person administered questionnaire collected information on consumption of locally grown fruits and vegetables and sources of obtaining fruits and vegetables. Data on dietary intake asked whether or not the respondent had consumed a given fruit or vegetable in the past month. Data were collected longitudinally, coinciding with three agricultural seasons: thinning (summer), harvest (fall), and nonspray (winter).

Statistical analyses performed – Generalized estimating equations were used to test for statistical significance between proportions of the population who consumed a given fruit or vegetable across agricultural seasons. Multivariable logistic regression was performed and corresponding odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals are reported.

Results – The proportion of respondents who ate apples, pears, plums, peaches, apricots, peppers, corn, and cucumbers was highest in the fall harvest season, whereas the proportions of those who ate cherries and asparagus were highest in the summer thinning season. Compared to non-farmworkers, a higher proportion of farmworkers reported having eaten peaches, apricots, cherries, green beans, carrots, peppers, corn, pumpkin, squash, and onions, in the past month.

Conclusions – Epidemiologic investigations and public health interventions that examine the consumption of fruits and vegetables should consider seasonal variation in consumption patterns, especially in agricultural communities. [3]

Student Airborne Science Alumni Fly High

The Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) is now in its eighth summer. Many SARP alumni have gone on to get advanced degrees, others now work at NASA centers, national labs and universities, and some even participate on NASA Airborne Science Program research campaigns. [4]

Determinants of Demand for Formal Agricultural Credit in Rural India

The present study aimed to analyze the impact of major determinants of participating in formal credit market and amount of credit borrowed at household level in rural India. National Sample Survey Organization’s household level data on debt and investment (70th round, 2012-13) was used for analysis. Heckman sample selection model was employed to analyze the functional relationship between amount of credit availed and household level characters. Larger farm size, Kissan Credit Card and bank account holding were the major factors determining the accessibility of more amount of formal agricultural credit in rural regions. [5]


[1] Adhikari, A., Sen, M.M., Gupta-Bhattacharya, S. and Chanda, S., 2004. Airborne viable, non-viable, and allergenic fungi in a rural agricultural area of India: a 2-year study at five outdoor sampling stations. Science of the Total Environment, 326(1-3), pp.123-141. (Web Link)

[2] Thakur, J., Rao, B., Rajwanshi, A., Parwana, H. and Kumar, R., 2008. Epidemiological study of high cancer among rural agricultural community of Punjab in Northern India. International journal of environmental research and public health, 5(5), pp.399-407. (Web Link)

[3] Locke, E., Coronado, G.D., Thompson, B. and Kuniyuki, A., 2009. Seasonal variation in fruit and vegetable consumption in a rural agricultural community. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(1), pp.45-51. (Web Link)

[4] Student Airborne Science Alumni Fly High

by Emily Schaller / PALMDALE, CALIFORNIA / (Web Link)

[5] Umanath, M., Paramasivam, R., Kavitha, V. and Thangadurai, T. (2018) “Determinants of Demand for Formal Agricultural Credit in Rural India”, Asian Journal of Agricultural Extension, Economics & Sociology, 28(1), pp. 1-7. doi: 10.9734/AJAEES/2018/32150. (Web Link)

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