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USDA Plant Breeding Community Strengthens Efforts

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.

The average consumer might not think about it, but for decades, USDA plant breeding research has been producing varieties that have been helping feed the world and preserve the environment. We know that you look for the plumpest, juiciest strawberries at your neighborhood market, so USDA plant breeding scientists worked to find the genes to make them taste even better.  And to help farmers in Northern climates produce more food for our tables, USDA plant breeding researchers developed corn that would mature early before the bitter cold arrived. This important work plays a significant role in our lives and USDA hopes to build on all these positive outcomes to make sure even more keep coming.  Therefore, to coordinate work on plant breeding and maximize the results from ever more limited resources, USDA formed a new Plant Breeding Working Group (PBWG) earlier this year. Read more »

Forest Service Employee Helps Georgia School Achieve National Green Ribbon Status

U.S. Forest Service Southern Region Endangered Species Specialist Dennis Krusac talks pollination with Mary Kalafut, her son Michael (left) and Edward Lynch at Ford Elementary School’s recent Evening in the Garden event.

U.S. Forest Service Southern Region Endangered Species Specialist Dennis Krusac talks pollination with Mary Kalafut, her son Michael (left) and Edward Lynch at Ford Elementary School’s recent Evening in the Garden event.

In Acworth, Ga., children at Ford Elementary School live almost every child’s dream – outdoor classrooms and science labs in a butterfly garden.

The school was selected as one of 64 U.S. Department of Education’s National Green Ribbon Schools for 2013. The department’s recognition program honors schools that are exemplary in reducing environmental impact and costs; improving the health and wellness of students and staff; and providing effective environmental and sustainability education. The Ford school program focuses on a broad array of environmental and science education goals and involves students, teachers and parents as volunteers in hands-on learning experiences to educate students.

Among the volunteers are Dennis Krusac, an endangered species specialist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Region in Atlanta, and Jackie Belwood, Krusac’s wife and an assistant professor of biology with Georgia Highlands College. Read more »

Speak Up: You Can Help Protect America’s Hardwood Trees against the Asian Longhorned Beetle!

An invasive ALB perched on a branch. August is "Tree Check Month" when adult ALB like this one can be easily spotted on or around hardwood trees. Photo by R. Anson Eaglin.

An invasive ALB perched on a branch. August is "Tree Check Month" when adult ALB like this one can be easily spotted on or around hardwood trees. Photo by R. Anson Eaglin.

From the moment an Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) infests a tree, there is no cure. No amount of treatments will drive this deadly pest from the comfort of America’s heartwood, leaving thousands of trees dead and dying in the northeastern U.S.  However, as bleak as this may sound, there is a way to stop this beetle, but we need your help.  The American public could be one of the ALB’s greatest opponents, and in stopping the beetle you can help save trees.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the U.S. Forest Service, the Nature Conservancy, and American Forests held a joint news conference at the National Press Club on July 29, 2013 to urge the public to report signs of the invasive pest that threatens recreational areas, forests, and suburban and urban shade trees.  These agencies have named August “Tree Check Month” in order to encourage the public to examine their trees for signs of ALB. Read more »

Acting Deputy Secretary Discusses the Need for a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to Boost the Rural Economy

Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse (center) talks to reporters after announcing USDA Grant funding to help Ottawa, Illinois refurbish its downtown. Scuse said it is important to the future of rural America to get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed as soon as possible. USDA photo.

Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse (center) talks to reporters after announcing USDA Grant funding to help Ottawa, Illinois refurbish its downtown. Scuse said it is important to the future of rural America to get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed as soon as possible. USDA photo.

Anyone that is familiar with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) knows of the important role that our local delivery system plays throughout the country. Farmers and residents can visit the USDA Service Center in their area to receive localized assistance. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Rural Development (RD) staff in these offices often come together to highlight programs that each can offer and support projects in the area. This concept of One USDA was evidenced recently as representatives of these agencies welcomed the Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Michael Scuse, to Illinois.

While in Illinois, Mr. Scuse joined the Illinois Directors of FSA, NRCS and RD to visit LaSalle County. The Acting Deputy Secretary moderated a roundtable discussion with administrators and students at Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC). Topics included the President’s Climate Change Action Plan, USDA’s role in renewable energy investments, and a discussion of the need for a five-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Scuse said the bill is designed to continue the expansion of America’s rural economy, and that’s a primary reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed as soon as possible. Read more »

Farmers Markets as Community Centerpieces

Click to enlarge image.

Farmers markets have become a critical ingredient to our nation’s economy, food systems, and communities. Connecting rural to urban, farmer to consumer, and fresh ingredients to our diets, farmers markets are becoming economic and community centerpieces in cities and towns across the U.S.

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to kick off National Farmers Market Week at a wonderfully diverse and thriving market—the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace in Washington, DC.  Columbia Heights represents what I envision many farmers markets are like– a market with a deep sense of community that provides local residents with access to fresh, locally produced fruit, vegetables, meats, baked goods, and much more.  It’s also a place where neighbor meets neighbor, and the many benefits of having a farmers market nearby are felt throughout the community. Read more »

Conservation Tour Showcases an Awe-Inspiring Partnership

NRCS Soil Scientist Roger Windhorn shows participants the differences in soil layers and what makes a healthy soil.

NRCS Soil Scientist Roger Windhorn shows participants the differences in soil layers and what makes a healthy soil.

A recent tour in Livingston, Ill. showcased the successes a powerful partnership has had in the Indian Creek Watershed.

The 6th Annual Conservation in Action Tour was organized by the Conservation Technology Information Center to highlight community efforts in the watershed taking place under the auspices of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative.

Through the initiative, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and partners work with landowners and farmers to address nutrient loading in priority small watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin. Program participants implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands and enhance wildlife habitat while allowing them to sustain or improve agricultural productivity. Illinois is one of the 13 states included in the initiative. Read more »