Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Need for Geospatial Data Grows Across the Country

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.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.

Over the past several decades, satellite imagery has emerged as one of the most valuable new tools in modern agriculture. At USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), we strive to remain at the forefront of this technology to continually advance our statistical products in service to U.S. agriculture. To keep abreast of how our counterparts in other countries are implementing this exciting new technology, last month we hosted representatives from the Canadian and Mexican agriculture departments in a Tripartite meeting. As geographic neighbors and statistical collaborators, we are particularly interested in each others’ work and how we can learn from each other.

It was exciting to see that Statistics Canada, working with Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, is researching new remote sensing-based yield models, using vegetative indices, agro-climactic data, and survey data for 21 crops. As a result of this innovation, Stats Canada is planning to use only remote sensing to set their official estimates for these crops rather than conducting traditional surveys. This is a tremendous step forward for a statistical estimates program that we will be watching with great interest. Read more »

Earth Team Volunteers Help USDA Soil Scientists Collect Data in Remote Minnesota

Earth Team volunteer Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS soil scientists with taking soil samples in a remote forest in Minnesota. Photo from NRCS.

Earth Team volunteer Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS soil scientists with taking soil samples in a remote forest in Minnesota. Photo from NRCS.

A group of dedicated volunteers helped make it possible for soil scientists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to collect soil samples in remote parts of Minnesota.

Today kicks off National Volunteer Week, and NRCS is celebrating the hard work of Earth Team volunteers like the seven people in Minnesota who aided in the soil survey.

Earth Team volunteers, the agency’s volunteer corps, make a big difference, said Larissa Schmitt, a soil scientist with NRCS. “The volunteers’ wilderness skills were a huge time savings to the soil scientists,” she said. Read more »

Stopping a Winged Purveyor of Disease and Death

The mosquito Aedes aegypti can spread several diseases as it travel from person to person. Only the females feed on blood. In this photo, the mosquito is just starting to feed on a person’s arm.

The mosquito Aedes aegypti can spread several diseases as it travel from person to person. Only the females feed on blood. In this photo, the mosquito is just starting to feed on a person’s arm.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.  For example, researching mosquitoes that spread diseases that threaten human health worldwide.

Today is World Health Day, and this year’s theme is vector-borne diseases—those diseases spread by organisms like insects, ticks and snails.  Significant vector-borne diseases in the Americas include dengue fever, malaria, leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis and schistosomiasis.

One of the most egregious offenders is the mosquito, and the scientists of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are taking aim at this winged attacker with weapons ranging from traditional remedies to computer modeling and satellite images. Read more »

Farmers Market Managers: Update or Add Your Listing to the National Directory

Local residents and town visitors enjoy fresh produce, meats and baked goods each Saturday at the Middleburg Community Farmers Market.  Having extra exposure by being listed in the National Farmers Market Directory helps markets like this one in Middleburg, VA connect with more customers. Photo courtesy Cindy Pearson.

Local residents and town visitors enjoy fresh produce, meats and baked goods each Saturday at the Middleburg Community Farmers Market. Having extra exposure by being listed in the National Farmers Market Directory helps markets like this one in Middleburg, VA connect with more customers. Photo courtesy Cindy Pearson.

Located in Virginia’s horse country, just an hour outside of Washington, DC, is the historic town of Middleburg. Deeply embedded in the town’s roots is a vibrant agricultural sector that is the driving force behind this small community’s success. Each Saturday morning from the spring through the fall, you can find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and baked goods at the Middleburg Community Farmers Market (MCFM). Raising the market’s visibility is vital to its continued success, so the MCFM recently updated its information in the USDA’s 2014 National Farmers Market Directory – connecting customers to fresh, quality items produced by its local farmers.

The directory, maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, is designed to provide consumers with convenient access to information about your farmers market listing including: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more. Thousands of farmers market managers around the country are taking a few minutes to update their market listing. Read more »

USDA-Funded Researchers Map the Loblolly Pine Genome

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, including research into trees that could fuel new energy solutions.

A team of researchers led by the University of California–Davis has mapped the complete genome of the loblolly pine. And if you don’t think that understanding the genetic makeup of loblolly pine is a big deal, perhaps you cannot see the forest for the trees.

Loblolly pine, the most commercially important tree in the United States, is the source of most paper products in this country and 58 percent of timber. On the surface, that might be reason enough for the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to invest $14.6 million in 2011 toward science that could increase the productivity and health of American forests. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: USDA Science You Can See

While most people have a mental image of research that involves scientists in lab coats, bubbling test tubes and beakers, and technical language that can seem complex, much of the groundbreaking research conducted by USDA scientists actually ends up on your plate, in your home, or on your back. Their discoveries in the lab truly translate into science you can see.

For example, many of us make a conscious effort to eat healthier and cut calories, but it can be tough when faced with a favorite snack, like French fries. USDA scientists have figured out a way to make French fries healthier. Before frying, scientists exposed potato strips to a few minutes of infrared heat. This forms a crispy outer shell on the outside of the fries, which helps to reduce their oil uptake and ultimately reduces calories per serving. If adopted commercially, this method is great news for both food processors and our waistlines. Read more »