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Alaskan Forest Floors Sprout Array of Interesting Mushrooms

Fly agaric / Amanita muscaria (Copyright Steven A. Trudell; reprinted with permission)

Fly agaric / Amanita muscaria (Copyright Steven A. Trudell; reprinted with permission)

The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) sits on the forest floor in Alaska as if it is waiting to be cast in an Alice in Wonderland movie.

Its recognizable bright red cap dotted with white warts belies their toxic nature. Although the effects vary, experts warn against eating them. In Alaska, fly agaric is generally found around birch or spruce trees and loves the northwest environment. Read more »

Revolving Loan Funds Support Maine’s Rural Small Businesses

Susan M. Corbett owns and operates Axiom Technologies, a telecommunications company headquartered in Machias, Maine. Axiom was able to expand and purchase its own building with funding support through USDA. USDA photos.

Susan M. Corbett owns and operates Axiom Technologies, a telecommunications company headquartered in Machias, Maine. Axiom was able to expand and purchase its own building with funding support through USDA. USDA photos.

Earlier this month, Revolving Loan Fund partners representing 13 Maine Intermediaries and 8 Microenterprise Development Organizations gathered at the USDA State Office in Bangor to listen to and share ideas for investing in rural Maine businesses. This meeting was one of dozens of Revolving Loan Fund Roundtables taking place around the country to assist USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) and Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) providers share Best Practices and challenges encountered in financing business projects in rural areas. In Maine, there is approximately $9.3 million in existing revolving loan funds for credit-worthy businesses seeking capital. Read more »

Bringing Ag Data to Life through Satellite Imagery

Rick Mueller, Spatial Analysis Research Section Head, National Agricultural Statistics Service

Rick Mueller, Spatial Analysis Research Section Head, National Agricultural Statistics Service

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.

2013 is the International Year of Statistics. As part of this global event, every month this year USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will profile careers of individuals who are making significant contributions to improve agricultural statistics in the United States.

While most of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) statisticians studied mathematics, economics or agriculture in school, my career path started in a completely different place. I came to NASS in the 1990s as an IT specialist to help the agency evolve its use of geospatial technology and contribute to the remote sensing acreage estimation program. And so, while most of the agency staff learned about agriculture by visiting fields, my knowledge of this intricate subject came from studying and analyzing satellite imagery. Read more »

Feral Swine: Ripping and Rooting Their Way across America

Feral swine are not native to the United States. They are a cross between feral domestic swine introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s and the Eurasian boar. (Dana Johnson, USDA-APHIS)

Feral swine are not native to the United States. They are a cross between feral domestic swine introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s and the Eurasian boar. (Dana Johnson, USDA-APHIS)

Feral swine have been called the “rototillers” of nature. Their longs snouts and tusks allow them to rip and root their way across America in search of food.  Unfortunately, the path they leave behind impacts ranchers, farmers, land managers, conservationists, and suburbanites alike. April, Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month, is a great time to learn about this serious threat to both plant and animal health. Read more »

Open Agricultural Data at Your Fingertips

Yesterday, Secretary Vilsack officially launched the U.S. Government’s new Food, Agriculture and Rural virtual community on Data.gov. This will serve as a single access point for our related datasets, databases, tools, apps and data resources discussed throughout the G-8 Open Data for Agriculture conference. This effort supports our USDA Digital Strategy efforts to ensure high-value services and systems are available anywhere, any time and on any device.

Read more »

Using Data to Change The World One Goat at a Time

Goats are an important part of the solution to global food security. USDA-ARS Photo. Taken by Heather Huson.

Goats are an important part of the solution to global food security. USDA-ARS Photo. Taken by Heather Huson.

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.

USDA scientist Tad Sonstegard’s comparison of the World Food Programme’s “Hunger Map” to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s goat census statistics, reveals that 90 percent of all goats in the world are located in main ‘hunger zones’ of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.   What’s the connection?  Goats are a common animal of the poorest people, and they are an important part of the solution to global food security.   They are fairly low maintenance and easy to raise and farm. Read more »