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Kake Forests Provide More than Just Trees

Alaska's oval-leaf blueberry, Vaccinium ovalifolium.

Alaska's oval-leaf blueberry, Vaccinium ovalifolium.

On a typical late summer day in Kake, Alaska, residents prepare for the day by layering heavy-duty rain gear, protective gloves and rubber boots over jeans and fleece. Most of these Alaskans will head to work supporting the local fishing industry. A select few, however, will be bundling up for a slightly different catch: wild organic blueberries. Read more »

The Undisputed Champ in Almond Exports Goes to Russia

With Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) earlier this year, there is a growing interest in doing business with the Russian food and agricultural sector. This week, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) Michael Scuse leads a U.S. delegation of more than 20 U.S. companies and five state departments of agriculture on an agricultural trade mission to Moscow and St. Petersburg. The goal of the mission is to continue a concerted effort by the Obama Administration to expand export opportunities for U.S. businesses with nations around the world, including Russia.

One example of a successful U.S.-Russia agricultural partnership is the export of California almonds to Russia for use in the confectionery sector. Russia is the second largest confectionery market in the world, and demand for high quality ingredients such as U.S. nuts and dried fruits have been increasing. With that in mind, Under Secretary Scuse and the state department delegates visit the Red October Chocolate Factory in Moscow, where they will see how this Russian company uses U.S. almonds. Read more »

Innovation Helps Fuel Growth for Winter Farmers Markets

A group finishes putting the outer skin on a hoop house in Michigan. The hoop house has helped local farmers lengthen the short Michigan growing season by two full months, giving them additional crops to sell at winter markets.  Photo courtesy Brittain Family Farms.

A group finishes putting the outer skin on a hoop house in Michigan. The hoop house has helped local farmers lengthen the short Michigan growing season by two full months, giving them additional crops to sell at winter markets. Photo courtesy Brittain Family Farms.

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  New and old traditions bring friends and family together to celebrate, cheer for their favorite football teams or just to share a hearty meal and some spirited conversations.  As the weather gets cooler, my family gravitates toward comfort foods and traditional family favorites, picking up fresh ingredients from our local winter farmers market. And, based on the growth in winter market listings this year, we’re not the only ones who have made this a part of our fall and winter traditions. Read more »

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 »