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New Guide Helps Citizens Customize Their Gardens for Native Bees

A native Andrena bee species gathering nectar and pollen from a pear flower

A native Andrena bee species gathers nectar and pollen from a pear flower (Jim Cane, 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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Dogged by pests, pathogens, poor nutrition, and other problems, the European honey bee is having a rough time these days. The bee pollinates over 90 different kinds of fruit, vegetable and nut crops. These same crops are also pollinated by native bees, particularly on smaller or diversified farms and especially in home gardens. Together, their pollination services are an $18 billion annual asset to U.S. agriculture, and concern over their welfare prompted the White House in May to issue a directive aimed at bolstering their numbers and health through a series of initiatives including improving and expanding pollinator habitat.

Citizen involvement is another component. Among the actions citizens can take is growing nectar- and pollen-rich flowering plants; another is “customizing” garden or landscaping areas to make them more hospitable to these pollinators—especially native bees, says entomologist Jim Cane, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS)  Pollinating Insect–Biology, Management, Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah. Read more »

USDA: Leading the Way Towards Preserving and Restoring Our Water, Soil and Lands

A man canoeing on Little Bear Brook Pond

Across our 175 national forests and grasslands, we provide American people and visitors from across the world opportunities for both adventure and solitude.

Conservation of our nation’s natural resources is at the heart of USDA’s mission.  Our work on public and private lands supports clean air, clean water, and thriving wildlife habitat.  These conservation efforts strengthen rural economies by providing farmers and ranchers the resources they need to thrive and feed our nation. And this conservation allows us to support gateway communities and a robust recreation economy.  

USDA’s management of our national forests and our support for farmers’ and ranchers’ stewardship of private working lands helps us meet our moral obligation to the next generation to leave our land, water, and wildlife better than we found it. Read more »

From Commerce to Conservation, Coastal Areas Reap Rewards

NRCS Assistant Chief, Kirk Hanlin, inspecting created marshes in the Houston Ship Channel

NRCS Assistant Chief, Kirk Hanlin, inspects created marshes in the Houston Ship Channel.

Looks can be deceiving. Take the Houston Ship Channel located just east of the city of Houston. To the casual observer with a windshield view, they might briefly note the shipping vessels, grain elevators and day-to-day commerce as they speed by.

However, it’s on the Houston Ship Channel’s waters where, for some, the real action is taking place. This is where commerce meets conservation.

According to the Port of Houston Authority, an estimated 200 million tons of commodities and products annually pass through the 52-mile ship channel aboard more than 8,000 shipping vessels. To keep the channel deep enough for these large ships to navigate through, the channel has to be dredged on a continuous cycle. Read more »

Forest Employees Partner to Provide Improved Access to Historic Cemetery

The new trail to the cemetery

The new trail was constructed with a more gradual grade to allow elderly members of the Land Grant Association easier access to the cemetery. (USFS Photo)

Since the 1800s, heirs of the San Joaquin del Rio de Chama Land Grant in northern New Mexico have been tending to graves and religious sites in a small cemetery at the top of a mesa in the Chama River Canyon. For at least three decades, they had to travel by foot up the hill to reach the cemetery, which was assumed to lie within the boundaries of the Chama River Canyon Wilderness Area. 

Under that Wilderness designation, motorized access to the site was prohibited. As the trail disintegrated, elderly members of the community were no longer able to make the journey.  Through a unique effort, the Forest Service found a way to provide easier access to the cemetery. Read more »

Reducing Food Waste is Child’s Play

The famous Julia Child once said “people who love to eat are always the best people,” but what would Julia say about eaters who waste food? In the United States, consumers discard about 20 percent of all food purchased. That adds up to approximately 90 billion pounds of food each year, costing each person $370 annually. For a family of four, that’s nearly $1,500.

While it may seem daunting, there are many simple ways to reduce food waste right at home. Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of your groceries: Read more »

New Land Ownership Data Add Value to Many Policy and Research Questions

Percent of U.S. Farmland Expected to Transfer in Next Five Years, by Region, 2015 chart

Percent of U.S. Farmland Expected to Transfer in Next Five Years, by Region, 2015 chart (Click to enlarge)

Whether they farm the land themselves or rent it out to others to farm, those who own agricultural land are taking measures to keep the land in their families. This is good news for those who worry about the United States losing agricultural land to competing pressures.

At USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, we just released the findings from a survey of agricultural landowners conducted earlier this year. It confirmed some things we know already and generated lots of new information that farmers, policymakers, businesses and others will use to understand more about who owns farmland, who has and will have access to farmland in the future, what kinds of conservation and production decision landowners are making, and lots more. Read more »