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Smart Phones: The Latest Tool for Sustainable Farming

View of farmland and trees

New jointly-developed USDA apps will help promote sustainable land-use practices. ARS photo by Scott Bauer.

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.

Seems like there’s an “app” (application) for everything these days—perhaps because mobile phone use is becoming increasingly global. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Jeff Herrick and colleagues have jumped on that trend in their efforts to promote sustainable land-use practices and world food security.

This past April, they released the first two of a suite of mobile phone apps that, once all are issued, will connect agricultural producers around the world and provide them with shared knowledge on ways to maximize their land’s productivity while protecting its resources for future generations. Read more »

There’s Something Fishy Going on in Petersburg’s Food Desert

Vegetables and fish

Virginia State University used a NIFA grant to purchase facilities where they teach aquaponics and urban farming. The operation allows them to both raise fish and grow vegetables in a symbiotic environment. (iStock image)

Money’s tight in Petersburg, Va., and sometimes it’s difficult to put nutritious food on the table.  Like many other cities in America, Petersburg has found its way onto USDA’s list of food deserts – meaning that residents have limited access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.

Virginia State University has found a way to fill the void with a hands-on program that teaches students how to successfully sustain urban farming operations and helps put affordable nutritious food on the tables of community residents. Read more »

A Student’s Perspective: How Fuel Up to Play 60 Supports Farm to School

Andrew's school garden

The garden at Andrew’s school!

This post was written by Andrew, a Wisconsin seventh-grader and Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador. Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with USDA, to help encourage young people to lead healthier lives.

Guest Post by Andrew, a Wisconsin 7th Grader

I am a student ambassador (for Fuel Up to Play 60) at my middle school in Wisconsin. I live in a dairy state. We have a lot of farms. In the short six mile drive from my house to school, I go by seven farms! There are also some green thumb farmers in our school. That is why we have our very own school garden. Our gardens have 22 garden beds that are planted with different fruits and vegetables in them. With those fruits and vegetables, we can harvest them for our schools so we can eat them! Read more »

Heroes of the Harvest

Jonathan Cobb holding grain near his tractor

Jonathan Cobb says that with a new focus on soil health, "We got rid of all of the tillage equipment, and just dove in,” with cover crops. Photo: Ron Nichols.

NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ll feature the stories of America’s Harvest Heroes who, like farmers across the nation, are working this harvest season to secure the bounty of healthy food American agriculture is renowned for. From laying the foundation for the next generation of farmers putting down roots in rural America, supporting the fruit and vegetable growers who are helping to build healthier communities, bolstering new markets for the products of agricultural innovation, to harvesting renewable energy that is made in Rural America, with USDA’s support our farmers are yielding strong results for every American. For these reasons and more, America’s Harvest Heroes deserve our thanks.

Texas Producer Changes his Mind about Leaving the Farm

Jonathan Cobb had made up his mind. He was leaving the farm.

“I was disillusioned with farming in general because we were just pushing long days and chasing acres and it didn’t seem like there was very much reward,” Cobb said. “That quality of life was not very good. My wife was having to work a lot of hours full time and really support the family. Twenty-five hundred acres really didn’t support two families, and we weren’t living extravagant lifestyles by any means.” Read more »

Celebrate the Mysterious World of Caves, a Home for Bats during International Bat Week

Lesser long-nosed bat pollinating a saguaro cactus in the desert Southwest

Lesser long-nosed bat pollinating a saguaro cactus in the desert Southwest. Photo: Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International

What images enter your mind when you think of caves or bats? Many people’s initial thoughts center around small spaces, dark places and the misleading myths surrounding the world’s only flying mammal. Both caves and bats are part of a fascinating story found in your national forests and grasslands.

“Natural caves are some of the most unique and complex resources managed by the Forest Service,” said Cynthia Sandeno, a wildlife biologist for the Forest Service’s Eastern Region. “Caves are also home to many living things like bats that play a vital role in our everyday lives, by controlling insects and pollinating plants like agave.” Read more »

Fall Migration Underway – Make Sure to Protect Your Poultry with Good Biosecurity Practices

Chickens grazing on a pasture

Chickens grazing on a pasture.

Earlier this year, we experienced this country’s largest outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, affecting more than 200 commercial and backyard poultry flocks.  While there have been no new cases since mid-June, we ask that all poultry owners stay alert and be vigilant.  This virus can be carried by wild waterfowl (who do not get sick from it).  The fall migration is underway, so these migratory ducks, geese and other birds have the potential to bring the virus with them anywhere in the country.  It doesn’t mean they will – but they could.   So if you own or handle poultry, it is essential to follow good biosecurity practices at all times.

What is biosecurity?  Biosecurity means taking some simple steps to keep your birds away from germs AND germs away from your birds.   If you follow good biosecurity, you will help ensure your birds remain healthy.  As part of good biosecurity, you should prevent contact between your birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number: 1-866-536-7593. Read more »