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Wheat Genome Sequenced in Breakthrough for Global Food Security

Researchers in Njoro, Kenya, evaluating wheat for resistance to Ug99 in October 2005.

Researchers in Njoro, Kenya, evaluating wheat for resistance to Ug99 in October 2005.

The Journal Nature today published a paper reporting that scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), as part of an international team, have completed a shotgun sequencing of the wheat genome. The achievement is expected to increase wheat yields, help feed the world and speed up development of wheat varieties with enhanced nutritional value. Wheat is one of the world’s “big three” crops, along with rice and corn, upon which the world’s growing population depends for nutrition.

Sequencing the genome of wheat was unusually daunting because the wheat genome is five times the size of the human genome, and has 94,000 to 96,000 genes.  This sequencing effort involved the identification of essentially all of those genes and mapping their relationship to other genes.  Previously, the size and complexity of the wheat genome had been significant barriers to performing a complete analysis, but the scientists overcame that problem by developing a new strategy that compared wheat genetic sequences to known grass genes, such as from rice and barley. Read more »

Food for Thought Exhibit: Putting the Dietary Guidelines into Action at the Koshland Science Museum

Dr. Robert Post, Deputy Director, CNPP, judges meals prepared by culinary students from DC Central Kitchen at the Koshland Science Museum’s Healthy Plate Cook-Off, on November 15, 2012.  Photo by: Chaya Pooput, Ph.D.

Dr. Robert Post, Deputy Director, CNPP, judges meals prepared by culinary students from DC Central Kitchen at the Koshland Science Museum’s Healthy Plate Cook-Off, on November 15, 2012. Photo by: Chaya Pooput, Ph.D.

On November 15, 2012, the National Academy of Sciences Koshland Science Museum here in Washington, DC, premiered its new Food for Thought exhibit. This engaging experience offers an interactive and thought-provoking opportunity for visitors to explore the practical how-to of healthy eating.

To kick off the grand opening of the exhibit, the Koshland held its second Healthy Plate Cook-Off, which featured healthy meals prepared by teams of students from the DC Central Kitchen culinary training program. The student teams were required to follow the guidance that supports MyPlate (at ChooseMyPlate.gov) in preparing their recipes and meals. The teams’ meals were judged by a panel of nutrition and health professionals for taste, appearance, and nutritional value.  I was honored to represent the Department and serve as a judge at this event. Read more »

In Sandy’s Wake, Partners Work to Save Pets

FEMA and animal care experts discuss information about Federal relief efforts and resources to help those in need.

FEMA and animal care experts discuss information about Federal relief efforts and resources to help those in need.

Hurricane Sandy brought together an un-tested coalition of animal welfare groups, local governments and federal agencies focusing on one primary goal: Using already established human assistance networks to help states feed pets impacted by the massive storm.

A team of animal care experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) responded to the urgent need. Inside the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Response Coordination Center in Washington, they pulled long shifts before, during and after Sandy’s devastation to locate tons of available pet food throughout the United States — overcoming nature’s torrential fury and cutting through delays. Read more »

Tribal College Program Fills Veterinary Void in the Southwest

Navajo Tech Veterinary Technology Program uses NIFA grant to teach students animal care.

Navajo Tech Veterinary Technology Program uses NIFA grant to teach students animal care.

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 profile.

USDA honors the achievements of American Indians during Native American Heritage Month and year-round.  With educational funding and support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, N.M., is one of the many tribal colleges and 1994 land-grant institutions doing considerable work in the scientific fields. Read more »

Native American Heritage Month Observance at USDA

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center employee Bahe Rock gives the blessing at USDA's Native American Heritage Month Observance in the Jefferson Auditorium at the USDA South Building in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center employee Bahe Rock gives the blessing at USDA's Native American Heritage Month Observance in the Jefferson Auditorium at the USDA South Building in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.

I was honored last week to participate in the annual Native American Heritage Month observance at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium.  A near-capacity crowd watched as the Vietnam Era Veterans Intertribal Association presented the colors. That gesture was especially fitting, given this year’s theme of “Serving with Honor, Pride and Devotion: Country, Land and People.”

Following the blessing, given by Bahe Rock of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources Arthur “Butch” Blazer, a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, read a letter of support on behalf of Secretary Vilsack and noted that “When President Obama issued a proclamation designating November as Native American Heritage Month, it made me proud to be an American and a Native American.”  He spoke of the continuing efforts of the Secretary to promote diversity in hiring at USDA. Read more »

Thursday #AskUSDA Twitter Chat: USDA Conservation Efforts and Reconnecting with the Great Outdoors

Do you have questions about national conservation or wildlife preservation efforts? Have you ever wondered about the effect of wildfires in our national forests? Wondering how you can give back to the great outdoors? You’re in luck!

USDA Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Environment and Climate Change Robert Bonnie will be hosting a live Virtual Office Hours session on Twitter this Thursday to answer your questions about USDA’s record conservation achievements and efforts to reconnect Americans to the great outdoors. Read more »