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COMET-Farm™: Conservation Calculation

Healthy soil captures and stores carbon. Photo by Ron Nichols, NRCS

Healthy soil captures and stores carbon. Photo by Ron Nichols, NRCS

USDA’s new online carbon-capture calculator, COMET-Farm™, has nothing to do with comets. This tool is all about farms and their potential to help planet Earth. Since its recent release more than 4,200 visitors have already explored the new online COMET-Farm™ tool to learn how they can become part of the climate change solution.

Record-breaking concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are accelerating climate change. Agriculture has the unique opportunity to help contribute to a solution, as demonstrated by COMET-Farm™.

“When farmers use conservation practices, they improve soil health,” NRCS air quality scientist Dr. Adam Chambers says. “Healthy soil captures and stores carbon, effectively removing it from the atmosphere.” Read more »

A USDA-Funded Project Brings Hope to Illinois Valley’s Homeless

Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Patrice Kunesh recently visited Lily PADS Resale Boutique in Peru, IL, a community-supported funding vehicle for two Illinois Valley “Public Action to Deliver Shelter” (PADS) homeless shelters. Rural Development’s 2009 partnership with Hometown National Bank secured a loan guarantee, which PADS used to construct a new retail facility that enabled the organization to warehouse and sell goods from one location. The store has been so successful that Lily PADS recently expanded its storerooms and retail space again.

“This project exemplifies the significance of USDA funding to essential community facilities such as Lily PADS,” Kunesh said. “Because of the USDA Community Facility Guarantee, the owner’s dream to serve the community became a reality; and because of the owner’s perseverance, the resale boutique became successful.” So successful in fact that the bank was able to relinquish the guarantee earlier this year. “This is exactly the kind of project USDA Rural Development envisioned – community based and financed, playing a vital role in this rural community, and giving back in multiple ways!” Read more »

Virginia Tech Animal Breeding Graduate Program Makes Strides in Online Learning

A Virginia Tech student participates in the online animal breeding graduate program. Credit: Ron Lewis, Virginia Tech.

A Virginia Tech student participates in the online animal breeding graduate program. Credit: Ron Lewis, Virginia Tech.

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.

Imagine a graduate school that combined the faculty expertise of seven universities throughout the United States. Imagine this program focused on animal genetics, using the latest research data to teach students.  Best of all, students can attend with the click of a mouse.

It’s not some futuristic university—this is a digital learning center created by faculty at Virginia Tech, and funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  Ron Lewis, professor of animal genetics at Virginia Tech, received a grant from NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge Grant Program to launch this on-line graduate-level training in animal breeding and genetics in 2007. Read more »

Travel Citrus Safe this Summer

With summer winding down and school starting soon, there’s just enough time for one last trip! No matter where your travels take you, be sure to bring back lots of photographs, souvenirs and memories—but one thing you don’t want to bring home with you is citrus.

Moving citrus may seem completely harmless, but it can come with huge consequences. One little tiny bug, the Asian citrus psyllid could be hiding on citrus fruit, trees, clippings or nursery stock. It can carry citrus greening disease, or Huanglong Bing (HLB), a certain death sentence for infected trees. Pests carrying the disease can spread it to healthy trees. Throughout the U.S. and abroad, millions of acres of citrus trees have already been destroyed. Read more »

The Foundation is in the STEM

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.

When I look at tree leaves, the stems always strike me as remarkable.  Although typically slender, they’re pretty resilient, firmly anchoring the leaves to the branches to withstand the extreme whims of Mother Nature.

In the same way that stems provide a sturdy foundation so that the leaves can make food for the tree, science, technology, engineering, and math (frequently referred to as STEM) education provides a strong base for a wide range of activities. Read more »

USDA Talks Honeybees on Twitter

Last week’s cover of TIME magazine featured a story about the rapid rate of decline of honeybee populations across the globe. The article focuses on the question of the price we’ll pay if we don’t figure out what is killing the honeybee. A daunting thought when you think about the fact that one-third of all food and beverages are made possible through pollination and pollinators are valued at $15 billion annually.

This morning, Jim Jones from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), author Hannah Nordhaus and I joined TIME journalist Bryan Walsh on Twitter to discuss the topic and what is being done and what needs to be done. If you happened to miss the Twitter chat, you can follow what was said by searching #TIMEbees. Read more »