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USDA’s Four-Legged Federal Workers Don’t Believe in Horsing Around

Mules on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest move equipment from a back country California Conservation Corp camp.

Mules on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest move equipment from a back country California Conservation Corp camp.

It seems being a working mule or horse on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest can be a pretty good thing – especially during the holiday season. Read more »

A New Tool for Breeding Better Wheat

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

An international team of scientists, including some from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, has identified the 90,000-plus genes that make up the wheat genome. This was a monumental task, considering that the wheat genome is five times the size of the human genome.

Why does this matter?  Wheat is one of the world’s “big three” crops, along with rice and corn, and unlocking its secrets will help researchers develop an overall picture of the plant’s genetic makeup and broaden their understanding of how genetics and environment determine a crop’s health and viability. Why is one variety of wheat susceptible to drought or a particular disease, but not another? Why does one variety grow well in one type of soil, but not another? The genome map will help scientists find those answers by making it easier to link specific genes with important traits and develop genetic markers that can lead to breeding of new wheat varieties that produce higher yields and better tolerate drought, diseases and pests. Read more »

A Green Menace Threatens a Mohawk Community

APHIS plant health specialists investigate for Emerald Ash Borer. Examples of traditional basketry created by the Mohawk community from ash trees.

APHIS plant health specialists investigate for Emerald Ash Borer.

For centuries, the Mohawk community of the Akwesasne (pronounced AHG – weh – SAUCE – knee) have created traditional basketry from the abundance of ash trees found along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Thousand Islands area in New York.

But for the last three years, the trees and the matchless creativity of the Akwesasne have been threatened by a particularly harmful insect called the Emerald Ash Borer. Read more »

Year-End Statistics Critical to Farm Disaster and Insurance Programs for Producers

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 profile.

At the end of the year, some producers may be feeling survey fatigue from responding to numerous requests from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) for data about their farm operations.  All of the survey responses received during the year are important, as the resulting statistics serve farmers directly in many ways.  NASS’s end-of year surveys, for example, are critical for USDA to administer farm disaster and insurance programs, which are as important as ever with recent extreme weather conditions. And this is a great asset for farmers who can in turn use this information to make sound decisions for their businesses. Read more »