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ARS Labs Unravel Genetics of Greenhouse Gas Emissions

SASL team member graduate student Milutin Djurickovic samples greenhouse gases in the long-term Farming Systems Project. (Photo credit Michel Cavigelli)

SASL team member graduate student Milutin Djurickovic samples greenhouse gases in the long-term Farming Systems Project. (Photo credit Michel Cavigelli)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Understanding the causes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agricultural landscapes is truly a multi-scale challenge, with GHG sources ranging from whole plant, to the microscopic microbe level.  For example, denitrification, the production of nitrous oxide, is the result of the action of just a few unique enzymes produced by a small number of bacteria and fungi in the soil.  These small players have huge importance because nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Increases in nitrous oxide and other GHGs have been implicated in major global changes such as increased mean annual temperatures, resulting in melting glaciers, increasing floods, and more frequent heat waves. Read more »

Apply Within: Matching Grants to Boost State Research Efforts

Tomatoes on the vine in Hopewell, NJ.  The Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) is a grant program designed to support research projects that improve the marketing, distribution and transportation of agriculture products locally and internationally. Photo by Nosha

Tomatoes on the vine in Hopewell, NJ. The Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) is a grant program designed to support research projects that improve the marketing, distribution and transportation of agriculture products locally and internationally. Photo by Nosha

In 2010, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture developed a plan to help local growers find new opportunities to bring their fresh, healthy food to consumers and markets within the state.  They partnered with Rutgers University’s Food Innovation Center and the New Jersey Department of Family and Community Health Sciences to create healthy recipes from locally grown ingredients that were also tasty and affordable options for school menus. Read more »

Featured in Smithsonian Magazine: Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

In its January 2012 issue, Smithsonian is featuring a look at the world famous site where, on May 18, 1980, a mountain exploded with devastating force.

Located 96 miles south of Seattle and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument provides outstanding recreation, research, and education opportunities — and has a key mission to protect the public in downstream communities. Read more »

A Partnership to Create Jobs and Develop Energy Efficient Housing for Rural Residents

A houseboat manufacturer in Kentucky builds a prototype energy-efficient single family home with support from the University of Kentucky, USDA Rural Development and other partners.

A houseboat manufacturer in Kentucky builds a prototype energy-efficient single family home with support from the University of Kentucky, USDA Rural Development and other partners.

A ribbon cutting was held last month, for the first prototype from the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Houseboat to Energy Efficient Residences (HBEER) initiative in an established residential area near downtown Monticello, Kentucky. The HBEER initiative has created green jobs and is bringing back 575 skilled workers and 1,000 related jobs that were lost in the houseboat manufacturing and marine industries due to the economy. Read more »

Volunteers Make a Difference on the Historic Iron Goat Trail

Dennis Evans, 2011 Forest Service Pacific Northwest regional Trails Volunteer of the Year.  Photo courtesy Volunteers for Outdoor Washington.

Dennis Evans, 2011 Forest Service Pacific Northwest regional Trails Volunteer of the Year. Photo courtesy Volunteers for Outdoor Washington.

Located near Skykomish, Wash., the Iron Goat Trail occupies the upper and lower sections of an abandoned Great Northern Railway grade.  Hikers enjoy the trail today, thanks to the vision of Volunteers for Outdoor Washington and the Forest Service.

About 10,000 people a year walk the historic trail which wanders through nine miles of lovely forests of ferns, alders, and evergreens and is barrier-free for nearly two-thirds of its length. Read more »

The Business of Local Foods

Cross posted from the Huffington Post Food blog:

This week I was at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago to talk about the business of local food. The conversation focused on how USDA and other federal agencies can work together with the private sector to harness the economic potential of local food across the Midwest. Joining me were executives, economic developers, and experts from businesses you may have heard of — Sysco, Chartwells, SuperValu, General Electric, Feeding America, Whole Foods Market and FamilyFarmed.org. There were also representatives from local, state and federal government ranging from USDA’s agencies to the Illinois Commerce Department — each recognizing how investments in local food can help stimulate the economy, create jobs and complement our country’s current agricultural system.

According the USDA’s own research, local food sales made through direct marketing sales like farmers markets, CSAs, and farm stands plus via supermarkets, restaurants and institutional buyers were close to $5 billion. Fruit, vegetable and nut growers selling into local and regional markets employ 13 fulltime workers per $1 million in revenue earned. Why is this? Part of it is consumer demand. In 2011, over 85 percent of the customers polled by National Grocers Association said they chose grocery stores based in part on whether they stock local products. Part of it is flexible business models that can nimbly and quickly respond to the market. Farms selling locally may grow a wider variety of crops, they may pack or process on the farm or use workers to transport and market their products. Regardless, local food has big potential for job creation and economic opportunity. Read more »