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LED Lighting Improves Sustainability for Specialty-Crop Producers

Banks of light-emitting diodes (LED) illuminate plants in greenhouses.  Purdue University researchers discovered that LEDs can provide a more beneficial light spectrum to greenhouse plants than conventional lighting while using 75 percent less electricity. Courtesy of Celina Gomez.

Banks of light-emitting diodes (LED) illuminate plants in greenhouses. Purdue University researchers discovered that LEDs can provide a more beneficial light spectrum to greenhouse plants than conventional lighting while using 75 percent less electricity. Courtesy of Celina Gomez.

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.

For about 2,000 years – since Roman emperor Tiberius demanded fresh cucumbers for lunch year ‘round – farmers have been looking for better ways to extend the growing season.  Now, a team of researchers led by Purdue University has found a way to grow more produce and save money doing it.

Greenhouses and other structures protect crops from harsh environmental conditions.  Over the last 50 years or so, some growers have added artificial lighting to compensate for shorter winter days or when conditions are cloudy.  However, the problem with most lighting systems is that they are relatively costly to install and do not provide the light spectrum that is most efficient for photosynthesis in plants. Read more »

Celebrate Fall Season With Free Access to Public Lands on Sept. 28

National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands.  Here, volunteers perform trail maintenance. U.S. Forest Service Photo.

National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. Here, volunteers perform trail maintenance. U.S. Forest Service Photo.

The crisp fall air provides an invigorating environment for outdoor activity.  What better time to visit and volunteer on our national forests and grasslands than on Sept. 28, for the 20th annual National Public Lands Day and second annual National Tribal Lands Day. This is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation. This year’s theme is: “Helping Hands for America’s Lands.”

National Public Lands Day is one of six fee-free days in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, National Get Outdoors Day, and Veterans Day Weekend. Fees are waived generally for day use, such as picnic areas, developed trailheads and destination visitor centers. Fees are not waived for concessionaire-operated facilities or for overnight use such as camping or recreation rentals. Read more »

New Mexico Farmers Supply Local Food to Community with Conservation

El Rincon Farm’s high tunnel and crops of lentils, corn, Chimayó chile and other crops in Chimayó, N.M. Photo from NRCS.

El Rincon Farm’s high tunnel and crops of lentils, corn, Chimayó chile and other crops in Chimayó, N.M. Photo from NRCS.

Everything that siblings Adán and Pilar Trujillo do on their Chimayó, New Mexico, farm connects with the community. Their lettuce and chile peppers feed students at local schools. And they sell their rhubarb, rainbow chard and red Russian kale at the community market just down the road in Española.

Conservation work helps the brother-and-sister duo make this possible. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is honoring contributions made by Hispanic Americans like the Trujillos to our nation during National Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual commemoration held Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: The White House Rural Council: Partnering in Support of Rural America

Rural America faces tremendous uncertainty today. Congress has not yet passed a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, and the current extension of 2008 Farm Bill programs will soon expire. Additionally, thus far, no budget has been provided by Congress to continue funding the Federal government past September 30.

Amid this uncertainty, USDA remains focused on our mission and on our work to revitalize the rural economy.  We have delivered record investments under President Obama’s leadership, and we will continue working to do so.   In a time of reduced resources, we’ve also taken a wide range of new, collaborative approaches with other government agencies—complementing our public-private partnerships and creating better collaboration among state and local partners. Read more »

Nature High Summer Camp Connects Young People, Natural Resource Professionals

Sierra Hellstrom, Nature High Summer Camp director, explains to student about the core sample taken from an aspen tree.

Sierra Hellstrom, Nature High Summer Camp director, explains to student about the core sample taken from an aspen tree.

In a few short years, high school students at Nature High Summer Camp on the Manti-LaSal National Forest in Utah may become newly minted natural resource professionals who make a difference in the world of natural resources.

The 30 high-school students from Utah met as strangers on a Monday morning, but left Saturday as good friends who connected with nature in a way they had never before experienced.

“It’s amazing to see the changes in the students over the course of a week,” said Sierra Hellstrom, camp director who works in the U.S. Forest Service’s Intermountain Region. “They arrive shy and scared, with little knowledge of public land management. They leave enlightened and a very tight-knit group, and have a hard time saying goodbye to one another.” Read more »

How Can Rural Small Businesses Connect with USDA?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Small Business Connections is designed to provide small businesses and small farmer-owned cooperatives with the exposure and insight to help increase contracting participation with the federal government.  USDA’s continued commitment to broadening this access to contract opportunities stimulates small business ownership and economic growth, creates jobs, and results in improving the quality of life across America.

In support of the Obama Administration’s efforts to put Americans back to work and create an economy built to last, on Sept. 24 in Macon, Ga., the USDA Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization will host Rural Small Business Connections. This training event will provide small businesses with educational networking sessions and tips on how to successfully do business with USDA and other federal agencies. Read more »