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Technology to Help Us Deal with Drought

USDA-ARS agricultural engineers Susan O’Shaughnessy and Nolan Clark adjust the field of view for wireless infrared thermometers.

USDA-ARS agricultural engineers Susan O’Shaughnessy and Nolan Clark adjust the field of view for wireless infrared thermometers mounted on a center pivot irrigation system. The wireless sensors are used to measure crop canopy temperature for indications of water stress.

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.

With droughts becoming more severe, water tables getting lower and an increasing demand for water from growing suburbs and cities, farmers know they need to use water more sparingly. That’s why recently patented technology developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Texas is so important.

Steve Evett, Susan O’Shaughnessy, and their colleagues at the ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas have spent years trying to help growers maximize water in a region that depends on the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive underground reservoir under constant threat of overuse. They recently developed two complementary technologies that offer practical ways to ensure that crops get only as much water as they need. Read more »

Crop Insurance and Conservation Compliance

Just-picked green zucchini squash waits to be loaded onto a processing trailer at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA.

Just-picked green zucchini squash waits to be loaded onto a processing trailer at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA. Kirby Farms is a third-generation family farm that covers 500 acres and generates produce and grains on a year-around operation. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Crop insurance has long been an important part of the farm safety net, providing a reliable and cost-effective risk management tool that ensures farmers can continue to farm even after tough years. Just as important is the planning and good stewardship of the land that farmers perform to ensure a sustainable food supply.

USDA has a long standing mission of helping people help the land. USDA provides assistance to producers with farm-level natural resource assessments and conservation planning as well as financial and technical assistance through a variety of voluntary conservation programs. USDA also provides the technical services necessary to implement conservation compliance provisions. Read more »

Answering Questions about the World’s Water Security Problems

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.

Global water awareness and future water security happens locally—one student, one teacher, and one lesson at a time.

Often we hear that better thinking is needed to address particularly prickly societal problems, business challenges, or scientific conundrums.  ThinkWater is a national project supported by a $900,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The project is designed by educators, scientists, and activists in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Extension to add thinking skills and awareness into existing water education lessons. Read more »

Historic Handwoven Rug Lays Path for US Forest Service Employee to her Shinaali

Nanebah Nez looking at her great-great-grandmother's rug.

Nanebah Nez connected to her past in a recent visit to the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum, where a rug made by her great-great-grandmother is part of the museum’s trove of historical pieces. (U.S. Department of Interior/Tracy Baetz)

Nanebah Nez turned to a roomful of U.S. Department of the Interior employees and asked quietly for a moment to herself. When the group of curators left, Nez turned her attention to an 80-year-old piece of her ancestral past and quietly began her private prayer in Navajo, “Yáat’eeh Shinaali,” or “Hello, grandmother.”

Bahe Shondee is a great-great-grandmother to Nez, an archeologist on the U.S. Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest north of Phoenix. Bahe Shondee, also known as Bull Snake Springs Woman, spent two years in the early 1930s preparing the yarn then weaving the 13-foot-by-12-foot rug “Sandpainting of the Arrow People.” Read more »

USDA and Landowners Work Together to Overcome Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Conservation Work in the Gulf States, fiscal years 2010-2014 conservation map.

Tens of thousands of farmers in the five Gulf states have put conservation practices on more than 22 million acres from fiscal years 2010-2014. Click to watch video.

In a time of need, America’s private landowners voluntarily made conservation improvements to their land to aid recovery following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico region. Landowners are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to put conservation systems to work on their farms, ranches and forests that clean and conserve water, boost soil health and restore habitat – all while making their working lands more resilient.

Since 2010, tens of thousands have made conservation improvements to more than 22 million acres in the five Gulf states during fiscal years 2010-2014.

“Landowners are really interested and committed to doing good things on their lands, said Wesley Kerr, NRCS area conservationist in southern Mississippi. Read more »

Water Quality Trading Program Awarded For Innovation

A Conservation Innovation Grant recipient accepts award

A Conservation Innovation Grant recipient accepts award from the U.S. Water Alliance. Photo courtesy NRCS.

When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 2009, the notion of administering the nation’s largest water quality trading program in the Ohio River Basin was a twinkle in the eye of EPRI scientist Jessica Fox.

Fast forward to 2015—the multi-state water-trading program is a reality, and the Institute was one of three entities to be awarded this year’s Water Prize by the U.S. Water Alliance. Read more »