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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 »

Industry Associations Use USDA Market News to Create Apps

Screenshot of the ASI Market News mobile app.

Screenshot of the ASI Market News mobile app.

For nearly 100 years, USDA Market News has been collecting market information on behalf of those working in American agriculture to provide current, unbiased price and sales information.

Covering both domestic and international markets, the data is disseminated within hours of collection to help market and distribute farm commodities.  It is all provided publicly and free of charge via the Internet and other electronic means, in printed reports, by telephone recordings, and through the news media.  The agricultural industry relies on the thousands of market reports across hundreds of commodities, often using the data to create reports of their own. Read more »

Alpine Team Leading the Way to Stewardship Success in Texas

When the sign-up window opened for USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in 2012, the five-member NRCS Alpine Resource Team was ready. The team is responsible for more than nine million acres of the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, and protecting the region’s natural resources comes first.

CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers who are already participating in NRCS conservation programs to take their efforts to the next level. Participants address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner with financial and technical assistance from NRCS—not only by tackling new practices, but also by maintaining, improving and managing the existing conservation measures on their operation. The program, begun in 2009, was still fairly new in 2012. Read more »