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Wheat Blast, Bangladesh, and Biosecurity: NIFA-Funded Research Works for Global Food Security

Wheat blast

Wheat blast is a fungal pathogen that can devastate a crop and ruin entire harvests. Photo courtesy of Guillermo Isidoro Barea Vargas

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.

An epidemic of wheat blast is underway in Bangladesh, published reports say, and losses may be substantial in the six southeastern districts where it has been reported. Wheat blast is a crop disease caused by the Triticum pathotype of the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae (MoT). In nations where broad wheat blast epidemics have occurred, 30 percent losses have been noted, but localized areas have experienced 50-100 percent losses, according to Dr. Barbara Valent, fungal molecular geneticist at Kansas State University (KSU).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), has provided nearly $5.4 million since 2009 to support research on wheat and rice blast. KSU leads a multi-institutional research project that brings together expertise from University of Arkansas, University of Kentucky, the Ohio State University, Purdue University, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Read more »

Kentucky “Landowner of the Year” Makes Conservation a Way of Life

Burchel Blevins holding his Landowner of the Year award

Burchel Blevins of Knox County, was named the ‘Landowner of the Year’ for the southeastern region, by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

When Burchel Blevins drives visitors around his rural Kentucky farm, he points out the numerous conservation practices he has implemented to protect and preserve his land. Blevins owns more than 650 forested acres and 70 acres of open forest and grass land in different parts of Knox County, and he’s worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 15 years.

“You learn a lot working with them,” said Blevins, referring to NRCS staff.

Using NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (now part of EQIP), Blevins has made many conservation improvements to his land. Read more »

Celebrating World Water Day along the Eastern Continental Divide

Graphic showing the streamflow from the Monongahela National Forest to the Gulf of Mexico

Streamflow that originates on the Monongahela National Forest flows to the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. During that journey, it supplies drinking water to many municipalities in nine states and Washington, DC. (US Forest Service graphic)

Today, March 22, is World Water Day, and the U.S. Forest Service joins the international community in celebrating water and inspiring good stewardship of this vital resource. Forests are essential to our survival and well-being due in large part to the ecosystem services they provide, including our fresh water.

Surface water that originates on our national forests has many important purposes, one of which is providing drinking water for millions of people in the United States. Surface water is water in rivers, streams, creeks, lakes and reservoirs. Surrounding trees and forests play a major role in keeping these waterways clean and healthy. Read more »

Fighting Crime with Fiber Optics

Patrolman Josh Kennedy at his desk

At the Oneida Police Department, Patrolman Josh Kennedy uses the online systems to access instant data on wanted fugitives and other criminals.

Near Stearns, Kentucky, a state trooper monitored traffic, watching for a car described in a just-issued bulletin. A car passed. No match.

Stearns is situated on the Upper Cumberland Plateau, McCreary County which is home to just 18,000 people.

Another car flashed by. Read more »

Partners in Agroforestry

The Black Brook Watershed’s landscape

Potato production is an important part of the Black Brook Watershed’s landscape. Photo credit: J. Owen /Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

When thinking about how to reduce run-off from potato fields in New Brunswick, Canada, researcher Josée Owen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada turned to a tool created by Mike Dosskey, a U.S. Forest Service researcher at the USDA National Agroforestry Center.

With others at the University of Kentucky and the Forest Service, Dosskey created AgBufferBuilder, a GIS-based computer program used for designing vegetation buffers around agricultural fields. Soil can erode, and fertilizer and pesticides off of fields while suspended in water. Buffers with trees, shrubs and other plants help to filter this water by trapping sediment and nutrients. Read more »

Designated Promise Zones Keep Rural America Strong

A child smiles after poking his face out in a hole on the Local Food Tastes Better sign

Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone invests in local foods.

As a law student, I spent a summer working and living with the Sokoagon Band of the Chippewa, a Native American tribe located in rural Northern Wisconsin.  Tribal leaders and members extended to me their kindness, friendship, passion and laughter.  They are some of our country’s finest.

But, make no mistake, the Sokoagon face challenges shared by many persistently poor rural communities across our country.

That summer, I saw with new eyes the importance of dependable and consistent employment, housing, health care systems and education.  That summer I also saw that for many rural Americans these things, taken for granted by many, are luxuries. Read more »