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A New Weapon in the Fight to Protect America’s Ash Trees is Under Evaluation

Photo of S. galinae by Jian Duan, Research Entomologist, USDA ARS Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit

Photo of S. galinae by Jian Duan, Research Entomologist, USDA ARS Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit

May 18-24, 2014 is Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

In our efforts to preserve and protect American ash trees from the damaging and invasive emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle, APHIS is working diligently to find and implement solutions that have the potential to successfully conserve this beautiful natural resource. Spathius galinae (S. galinae) just could be that newest weapon in the arsenal.

The tiny stingless wasp, about the size of a typical mosquito, targets and attacks EAB larvae living under the bark of ash trees.  Crawling along the bark ridges and furrows, S. galinae somehow senses EAB larvae hidden below.  The wasp not only accurately locates its target, but also is able to determine relative size—showing preference for large EAB larvae.  Once a suitable larva is detected, the female wasp uses its long egg-laying organ (ovipositor) like a hydraulic drill to bore down through the layers of bark and deposit between 5 and 15 eggs on its host.  After the eggs hatch, the wasp offspring feed on the EAB larva, eventually killing it.  A new generation of S. galinae emerges in about 35 days. Read more »

Bouncing Back from Destruction

David Smith of Smith Farms in Missouri received disaster assistance from the Farm Service Agency after a tornado destroyed three of his grain bins. The 2014 Farm Bill reinstated the disaster programs that help producers recover from natural disasters.

David Smith of Smith Farms in Missouri received disaster assistance from the Farm Service Agency after a tornado destroyed three of his grain bins. The 2014 Farm Bill reinstated the disaster programs that help producers recover from natural disasters.

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

When a tornado touched down in the rural southeast Missouri town of Puxico it sent some ranchers into survival mode.   David Smith, owner of Smith Farms was one of them.

“It was a tough setback, financially,” said Smith.

The tornado destroyed three grain bins and damaged two others, causing a loss of about 3,400 bushels of wheat and 4,000 bushels of corn used as feed for over 1,500 cattle. Within minutes Smith saw thousands of dollars blow away, along with fences, a hay barn, outbuildings and feeding equipment. Read more »

Wolverine Packing Company Recall: What Consumers Need to Know

You may have heard about the FSIS announcement this week that the Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit, MI was recalling 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.  This recall is linked to 11 patients in four states.  I wanted to provide an update on what FSIS is doing based on the evidence available.

FSIS was notified of the first illness on May 8 and immediately began working with our partners at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find the source of these illnesses.  Based on the initial findings in the investigations, FSIS and CDC were able to establish a direct link to ground beef products supplied by Wolverine Packing Company. Read more »

USDA Announces Support to Improve Water Quality in Targeted Watersheds

Andreas Farm installed a buffer to help improve water quality. NRCS photo.

Andreas Farm installed a buffer to help improve water quality. NRCS photo.

Running an economical and environmentally friendly dairy operation is a tough job but Andreas Farms is dedicated to meeting the challenge. That challenge involves running an efficient milking operation of more than 1,500 dairy cows while also managing tons of animal waste.

Dan Andreas is a dairy man who runs the successful operation that produces 38 million pounds of milk each year, and he’s a conservationist who strives to protect his hometown’s watershed. The East Branch South Fork Sugar Creek watershed is one of three priority Ohio watersheds that are in critical need of water quality improvements. Read more »

Preserving an Ancient Hawaiian Treasure

(L-R) Flint Hughes, research ecologist at the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, and Rebecca Most from The Nature Conservancy transport debris across the anchialine pool to a staging area where it will be chipped into mulch. (U.S. Forest Service)

(L-R) Flint Hughes, research ecologist at the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, and Rebecca Most from The Nature Conservancy transport debris across the anchialine pool to a staging area where it will be chipped into mulch. (U.S. Forest Service)

It’s National Preservation Month, and people all over the country are participating in events to enrich and preserve the treasures within their communities that make them special.

Staff from the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station recently helped to restore an ancient Hawaiian fishpond in Kīholo, Hawaii, that has a rich history and tradition of providing a sustainable food source for the surrounding communities on the Big Island. Working in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy and Hui Aloha Kīholo, Station staff from the Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry cleared and hauled debris from the fishpond perimeter in order to reduce the accumulation of sediments caused by overhanging non-native plants, which improved foraging habitat for native fish and turtles. The group also replanted culturally and ecologically appropriate native species, restored habitat for rare invertebrate species, removed invasive weeds, and participated in native plant care within an area surrounding a nearby anchialine pool, which will be used as a nursery for future restoration activities. Read more »

Watching Our Water

Preventing movement of agricultural chemicals from crop fields to streams is a key part of protecting our water quality.  Here, an ARS scientist examines a farmer’s subsurface drain pipe.  Photo by ARS.

Preventing movement of agricultural chemicals from crop fields to streams is a key part of protecting our water quality. Here, an ARS scientist examines a farmer’s subsurface drain pipe. Photo by ARS.

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.

There’s no farming without water. Recent droughts in the United States and elsewhere underscore our need to conserve water in agricultural production, and studies have identified agricultural management practices that help protect water quality.  USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers are making key contributions to these efforts.

For instance, ARS scientists use moisture information collected by satellites to develop the Evaporative Stress Index.  In 2012, this tool predicted that drought conditions were developing weeks before other drought monitoring networks made the same call. ARS researchers also use satellite data to design methods of estimating rainfall amounts in regions where setting up sampling stations would be a challenge, work that has long-range potential for improving precipitation estimates globally. Read more »