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USDA Meteorologist Talks With Producers “In the Field”

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.

Ever wonder how USDA is able to make a forecast – either economic or weather?  It takes a lot of work.

Last week, USDA’s U.S. meteorologist Brad Rippey met with producers in southwestern Michigan. The first stop, on a rainy, stormy morning, was with Bryan Bixby, owner of Bixby Orchards in Berrien Springs.  Bixby described how spring wetness has been detrimental to fieldwork and crop quality.  For example, wet, humid conditions shortened the southwestern Michigan strawberry season and reduced fruit quality.  In addition, wetness has impeded Bixby’s efforts to complete soybean planting.  During a tour of his orchards, Bixby described how the recent winter was Michigan’s harshest since 1976-77, causing substantial mortality in peach trees — requiring him to buy peaches from South Carolina in order to meet customer demand. Read more »

What’s On Your Plate This Fourth of July?

Go red, white and blue, all the way to dessert!

Go red, white and blue, all the way to dessert!

Happy Birthday America! It’s the Fourth of July and time to celebrate American life. What do you have planned? A family reunion at the beach? A backyard barbeque with family and friends? A picnic in the park? Or a few friends on your patio? Here are some quick and easy tips to make your family’s Fourth of July meals and snacks healthy and delicious!

Get creative and let MyPlate be your guide. Read more »

Employment and Mentoring Opportunities Support Youth and Veteran Programs Across the U.S.

A recent tree planting and habitat restoration service project at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was part of activities to announce $6.7 million in grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands. From left, Erin Connelly, Forest Supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands; Agnes Mukagasana a youth from Groundwork Denver; Daniel Jirón a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service; and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer were part of the tree planting and habitat restoration service project. (U.S. Forest Service)

A recent tree planting and habitat restoration service project at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was part of activities to announce $6.7 million in grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands. From left, Erin Connelly, Forest Supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands; Agnes Mukagasana a youth from Groundwork Denver; Daniel Jirón a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service; and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer were part of the tree planting and habitat restoration service project. (U.S. Forest Service)

Agnes Mukagasana, an eager, next-generation youth involved in conservation, paused for a moment to adjust her hat in the afternoon Colorado sun and assess her well-honed tree-planting technique.

She learned her skills as an employee of Groundwork Denver, an organization dedicated to the sustained improvement of the physical environment through community-based partnerships including federal land management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.

Mukagasana and other area youth recently took part in a ceremony where the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior joined representatives of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and several other partners at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The ceremony announced $6.7 million in joint USDA, Department of Interior and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands around the country as part of the President’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Initiative. Read more »

Eat It to Beat It – 2014 Garlic Mustard Challenge

A Petersburg (West Virginia) Elementary School student proudly displays his first garlic mustard haul. Volunteers are key to the removal of invasive species, such as the garlic mustard. (U.S. Forest Service)

A Petersburg (West Virginia) Elementary School student proudly displays his first garlic mustard haul. Volunteers are key to the removal of invasive species, such as the garlic mustard. (U.S. Forest Service)

Spring is often associated with ramps, rain, flowers and frogs, but on the Monongahela National Forest, the season of rebirth is focused on protecting our woods from garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard is a non-native invasive plant first brought to America by European settlers in the 1800s. They enjoyed eating it because of its zesty garlic-like flavor. They just had no idea that this plant would become one of the biggest threats to the diversity of plants and animals found in our eastern forests.

In an effort to fight the spread of this invasive species, the Monongahela, along with several partners, hosts an annual Garlic Mustard Challenge to increase public awareness about the threat of non-native invasive species and to achieve boots-on-the-ground results.  Last year, elementary school students in Grant County, West Virginia, removed more than 13,000 pounds of garlic mustard from the Monongahela. Read more »

APPlying New Strategies to Nip Invasive Species in the Bud in New Jersey

NRCS Partner Employee Elizabeth Ciuzio Freiday, certified wildlife biologist, in a field of the vine kudzu, which is highly threatening to native communities. Photo by New Jersey Audubon Society, used with permission.

NRCS Partner Employee Elizabeth Ciuzio Freiday, certified wildlife biologist, in a field of the vine kudzu, which is highly threatening to native communities. Photo by New Jersey Audubon Society, used with permission.

The New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team is working to prevent the spread of emerging invasive species across New Jersey, and they’ve created a smartphone app to help.

Using part of a 2013 Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the team has released an app that can help you identify and report sightings of new invasive species.

The new app, called New Jersey Invasives, can help farmers, forest landowners and outdoor enthusiasts quickly identify newly discovered and localized invasive species and get information on how to combat them before they become a larger and more costly problem. Read more »

Florida Discovers the Cover and Grows Soil Workgroup

Cheryl Mackowiakl strolls through rye on the Fulford Farm adjacent to Brock’s property.

Cheryl Mackowiakl strolls through rye on the Fulford Farm adjacent to Brock’s property.

It started as an informal gathering of interested extension agents, agronomists, farmers and staff of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, who came to Gainesville, Fla. to attend an Internet-based conference sponsored as part of this year’s soil health campaign.

But much of the information was based on Midwestern experience.  Everyone knows Florida is different, with sandy soils and a longer growing season.

So perhaps it wasn’t surprising when the Gainesville group suggested taking the discussions further.  In a flurry of emails, the follow-up meeting evolved into a small tour of cover crop practitioner Kirk Brock’s farm, and then grew to include neighboring Fulford Farms. Read more »