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Grant Helps Farmers’ Sustainability Goals, Embrace New Technology

Young soybean plants thrive in the residue of a wheat crop. This form of no till farming provides good protection for the soil from erosion and helps retain moisture for the new crop. NRCS photo.

Young soybean plants thrive in the residue of a wheat crop. This form of no till farming provides good protection for the soil from erosion and helps retain moisture for the new crop. NRCS photo.

How can farmers reduce their fertilizer costs, maintain yields, reduce their environmental impacts, and take advantage of a new and emerging source of income? A project funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant is showing how.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded a CIG grant in 2011 to the Delta Institute to develop an innovative opportunity for farmers to receive greenhouse gas emissions reductions payments from the voluntary implementation of more efficient nitrogen fertilizer management techniques.

The Delta Institute engaged a variety of partners in the project, including American Farmland Trust, Conservation Technology Information Center, Environmental Defense Fund and agricultural retailers. Read more »

An Airport is No Place for an Owl

USDA airport biologist Bobby Hromack holds his first captured short-eared owl. Although it weighs no more than 16.8 ounces, the species can pose an aviation safety hazard due to its 33-43 inch wingspan and low, rolling flight style.

USDA airport biologist Bobby Hromack holds his first captured short-eared owl. Although it weighs no more than 16.8 ounces, the species can pose an aviation safety hazard due to its 33-43 inch wingspan and low, rolling flight style.

Seeing a short-eared owl in November on the Pittsburgh International Airport, where I work as an airport wildlife biologist, was a unique occasion. However, as the number of owls grew to eight, I recognized the challenge ahead:  Like all birds of prey, short-eared owls are a recognized potential aviation hazard. Their low rolling flight and difficult-to-disperse reputation means they pose an aviation safety threat.  From 1990-2012, short-eared owl strikes with aircraft in the United States caused over $1 million in damage, and often are fatal to the birds.  Convincing them to leave would be difficult but important.

The task would be harder because short-eared owls are listed by the State as an endangered species.  Common in many areas globally, Pennsylvania is the southernmost edge of their breeding range.  These owls likely migrated from Canadian breeding grounds to winter in Pennsylvania. Read more »

Digging into a Farm’s History Helps Teach About Soil

NRCS Maryland leadership joined the midshipmen for the service project. NRCS photo.

NRCS Maryland leadership joined the midshipmen for the service project. NRCS photo.

In the middle of the Broadneck Peninsula in Cape St. Claire sits a part of Maryland history that was neglected until a few years ago. The empty house resting on 30 acres was once part of Goshen Farm, a working farm that nearly covered the entire peninsula. Corn, wheat, beets, buckwheat and cabbage, as well as food for oxen, cows, pig, sheep, horses and mules grew abundantly, nourished by the rich and healthy soil.

Now, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with the Goshen Farm Preservation Society, Inc. to protect this farm – and put it back to work. NRCS and the society want to raise awareness of the importance of healthy soils for long-term, sustainable agricultural production, and Goshen Farm is the perfect place. Read more »

MyPlate Celebrates the 4th Anniversary of Let’s Move

Four years ago, the First Lady launched Let’s Move!, to help Americans create a healthier future.  To celebrate, First Lady Michelle Obama is asking individuals, families and communities to Show Us How You Move! Use the hashtag #LetsMove to share the steps you’re taking to live healthier. From climbing the stairs instead of the elevator to eating more veggies, let the First Lady see how you move.

First Lady Michelle Obama appeared on the “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on February 20, 2014 to launch the campaign. In a skit with Fallon and Will Ferrell, she promoted healthy habits (“Exercise is not ew!”).  FLOTUS is asking everyone to post photos or videos with the hashtag #LetsMove on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook or YouTube! Invite friends and followers to join the fun through the end of February! Read more »

Developing Solutions for an Off-line USDA

As the world’s focus on mobile computing intensifies, several USDA agencies are working towards solutions for technology users in an off-line environment. These agencies are developing mobile applications that allow workers to input and collect data in the field, help firefighters share wildland fire information as it happens, and keep employees in the field and out of the office connected – all without a Wi-Fi connection.

With more and more organizations embracing the mobility movement as a way to improve communication and productivity, off-line technology users are in danger of being left behind. Without connectivity, their tablets and smartphones are little more than costly accessories. They cannot share essential information with their colleagues. They waste valuable time travelling to a fixed workstation to submit paperwork – paperwork that they could have otherwise submitted via a mobile tablet. Bottom line: users of USDA applications need the ability to work anywhere, whether they are connected or not. Read more »