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.
During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.
There are “game changers” in politics, sports, art, music and the like. So it should come as no surprise that there are game changers in agricultural research as well—discoveries that changed the way food is produced, and even created new industries to feed a growing world.
Last week’s seminar commemorating Norman Borlaug’s work to launch the Green Revolution is a great example of how a strong science foundation has helped ensure a steady food supply as the world’s population has grown.
USDA science has generated more than its share of groundbreaking research over the years. Playing a key role in these research discoveries are the four major Research Utilization Centers that are now part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Originally established in early 1940s for the purpose of finding new uses and markets for farm commodities, the Centers are located in Wyndmoor, Penn.; Peoria, Ill.; New Orleans, La.; and Albany, Calif.
At New Orleans, for example, scientists gave a shot in the arm to the cotton industry by developing cotton fabric that was wrinkle-free and fire-resistant. At Albany, researchers worked out the appropriate times, temperatures, and other factors for freezing fruits and vegetables to help jump-start the frozen food industry.
If you enjoy milk but are lactose-intolerant, you may use Lactaid™ so you can still enjoy dairy products. Scientists at Wyndmoor established the basis for that product and many other dairy-related technologies. Researchers at Peoria found a way to mass-produce penicillin, saving many lives as a result. Over the next few years, the four utilization centers will be celebrating 75 years of research excellence that continues going strong.
Some recent examples of products stemming from ARS studies: ChoiceBatter, a gluten-free rice flour batter that is now being marketed and sold by CrispTek, LLC; a new vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease, a foreign disease that could devastate the livestock industry if an outbreak occurred in the United States; and the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which changed how consumers and the plant industry access this information.
We will be discussing other groundbreaking research accomplishments not only from ARS, but other USDA agencies in USDA’s throughout this month. These examples of Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America underscore the critical role that USDA scientists play in discovering game-changing research to solve agricultural problems. These discoveries not only benefit the American public, but people around the world.