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Final Yearly Snowpack Forecast Divides West into a Wet North and Dry South

NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.

NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.

Every winter Westerners look to the mountains and may not realize they’re peering into the future. More snow cap means more water come spring and summer. Many lives and livelihoods depend on nature’s uneven hand.

Thanks to USDA’s National Water and Climate Center, what used to be speculation is now science. Through a network of high-elevation weather stations across the West, the center accurately forecasts how much water Western states will receive from snowmelt.

The data benefits everyone in the path of the streamflow. The center’s water supply forecasts empower states to take action to prevent flooding or prepare for drought. Some farmers look to the water supply forecast when deciding what crops to grow. It’s like playing chess with nature, and you can almost see nature’s next move. Read more »

It’s National Pollinator Week: Bee with Us Friday for a Twitter Chat with Beekeepers & Join Us for the Fifth Pollinator Week Festival at USDA

Pollinator Week Festival. June 20, 2014. 10 am – 2pm outside USDA headquarters.

Pollinator Week Festival. June 20, 2014. 10 am – 2pm outside USDA headquarters.

How do pollinators affect your life? Well, if you’ve ever eaten a blueberry, chocolate bar or tomato, you can thank a pollinator. Pollinators are birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees. They are responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites of food we eat. But these invaluable creatures are facing declines. That’s why USDA agencies, other federal departments and partners share knowledge and collaborate on efforts to help increase awareness and tackle challenges facing pollinators.

Last month, USDA launched a webcam that is literally buzzing with activity at the People’s Garden Apiary, located here on the roof of USDA headquarters in Washington, DC. Observing these social insects at #USDABeeWatch is fascinating and addicting. If you’ve been watching then you probably have a lot of questions about honey bee behavior and beekeeping. Meet our Beekeepers Nathan Rice and Andy Ulsamer virtually on Friday at Noon and ask them questions about what you’re seeing. Tweet to us @USDA and use #USDABeeWatch. Feel free to send your questions ahead of time, and we will respond to as many as possible during the chat. Read more »

USDA Rural Development Housing Programs: The Faces Behind the Numbers

The Sumner family moved into their USDA-financed home just four days before baby Holly was born.

The Sumner family moved into their USDA-financed home just four days before baby Holly was born.

As part of USDA’s ongoing celebration of National Homeownership Month, I visited several communities bordering Illinois and Missouri last week to meet some of the people whose lives have been changed with homeownership.

Joe and Heather Sumner had been renters in Highland, IL, who needed more space for their growing family. They were struggling to find affordable financing options, until they learned about Rural Development from their real estate agent. They soon qualified for a USDA Direct Housing Loan, and they were able to move into their new home in time for their new baby, who arrived just four days later.  Mrs. Sumner told me they were especially pleased with the amount of house they could afford through the Rural Development program. Read more »

New Web-Based Tool Helps Land Managers Plan for Forests’ Future

U.S. Forest Service planning teams must complete rapid assessments of ecosystem conditions on national forests and the effects on those ecosystems (such as this one at Cedar Lake) from stressors, such as climate change. U.S. Forest Service photo

U.S. Forest Service planning teams must complete rapid assessments of ecosystem conditions on national forests and the effects on those ecosystems (such as this one at Cedar Lake) from stressors, such as climate change. U.S. Forest Service photo

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.

From South Carolina’s coastal plain to the North Carolina mountains to the tropics of Puerto Rico to the southern Sierra Nevada region of California, climate change is on the minds of forest planners.

That’s because U.S. Forest Service planning teams in these areas are among the first to revise their land and resource management plans under the 2012 Planning Rule. To help them in their planning, land managers from the Francis Marion, Nantahala, Pisgah, El Yunque, Inyo, Sequoia, and Sierra national forests will turn to a web-based tool known as the Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options.

Forest Plans help guide the management of national forests and are typically revised every 10 to 15 years. The plans help ensure that national forests and grasslands continue to meet the requirements of the National Forest Management Act—for clean air and water, timber and other forest products, wildlife habitat, recreation and more. Read more »

Turning Up the Heat in Battle Against Chili Pepper Root Rot

Peppers are part of the Solanaceae family, which includes potato, tomato, and eggplant.

Peppers are part of the Solanaceae family, which includes potato, tomato, and eggplant.

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.

Good news for those who crave culinary heat.  From the chili pepper aficionados who “eat fire” to those who prefer more subtle flavors, researchers have found a way to help ensure that more of their favorite foods will be available on store shelves.

Scientists at University of California–Davis have identified a candidate gene that encodes natural resistance to Phytophthora capsici, a fungus-like pathogen that causes root rot in peppers.  P. capsici is a major limiting factor to chili production worldwide. Read more »

Cultivating Seeds of Success in a Global Marketplace

The international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

The international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

Did you know that corn and soybeans account for 50 percent of the harvested acres in the United States?  Together, these two commodities had $106 billion in sales in 2012—not bad for products that start off as humble seeds.  The U.S. seed industry is valued at more than $7 billion, and accounts for 34 percent of the world’s international seed trade.  Our top seed exports are corn, soybean and sunflower seeds.  And the international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

In today’s global market, limitations in manufacturing capabilities, shifts in climate, or simple geography all impact a country’s ability to satisfy all of its own needs.  This means economies and agriculture systems around the globe are interconnected. Through trade, countries are able to market their resources to boost their economies and ensure access to a stable supply of food and products. Read more »