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Improving Forest Practices One Beehive at a Time in Ghana

Two men talking near the Coastal Sustainable Landscapes Project Apiary sign

U.S. Forest Service assistance on beehive construction and honey production can conserve tree cover while providing alternative sources of income and food for local households. (Photo credit Mr. Richard Adupong)

All over the world, deforestation and forest degradation are under the microscope because together they comprise the second greatest driver of climate change. If you focus on the country of Ghana, you’ll find one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa.

In fact, the country has lost nearly 90 percent of its original forests. The losses are due to a variety of factors including wood extraction and agricultural expansion. The remaining forests are home to forest elephants, Diana monkeys and many types of rare, endemic amphibians—and many rural communities that often struggle to support their families. Read more »

Creating a Gentler, More Profitable Way to Harvest Blueberries

Berry impact recording device (BIRD) with blueberries

The berry impact recording device (BIRD) was developed with a blueberry’s size, shape, weight, and external texture. BIRD records the rough ride berries take from harvest to the market so producers can find and eliminate sources of yield loss. (Photo courtesy of Changying Li)

Although automation in agriculture is often synonymous with efficiency, that has not been the case with harvesting and processing berries.  That is about to change.

Automated berry processing systems often damage the fruit, which results in lower profitability for growers and marketers.  To counter this, a University of Georgia (UGA)-led research team is developing an advanced sensor system to help harvest and process fresh-market highbush blueberries at high-speed and with low yield loss. Read more »

Agricultural Production in Brazil: Adapting to a Resilient Climate

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Fruit and Vegetable Programs Market News Chief of the International Reports Section Dr. Luis Palmer (second from right with blue shirt) touring the market with MIOA members. Photo by Francisco Stuckert, CONAB

The Market Information for the Organization of the Americas (MIOA) members also toured the local wholesale market, Centrais de Abastecimento do Distrito Federal S.A (CEASA-DF) in Brasilia, Brazil. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Fruit and Vegetable Programs Market News Chief of the International Reports Section Dr. Luis Palmer (second from right with blue shirt) tours the market with MIOA members. Photo by Francisco Stuckert, CONAB

Over the last 25 years, the American farmer has become increasingly aware of the impact of South American agricultural output on the global supply of grains and oilseeds.  For example, in recent years Brazil has risen to the number one position as an exporter of soybeans.  Further, the combined output of Brazil and its neighbors, Argentina and Paraguay, is challenging the United States’ position as the world’s leading supplier of corn.

Brazil is unique in that it has a relatively stable agricultural output trend due to improving production techniques, and in most years, abundant rainfall for production of various crops.  The climate and cropping patterns are behind the increases in agricultural production, which were made possible by the shift of production into regions less prone to drought.  There is also the potential for expansion into untapped lands, although infrastructure and land ownership issues are a limiting factor.  Meantime, thanks to ample rainfall and land resources enjoyed by producers, Brazil has the potential to become an agricultural powerhouse for years to come. Read more »

Designated Promise Zones Keep Rural America Strong

A child smiles after poking his face out in a hole on the Local Food Tastes Better sign

Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone invests in local foods.

As a law student, I spent a summer working and living with the Sokoagon Band of the Chippewa, a Native American tribe located in rural Northern Wisconsin.  Tribal leaders and members extended to me their kindness, friendship, passion and laughter.  They are some of our country’s finest.

But, make no mistake, the Sokoagon face challenges shared by many persistently poor rural communities across our country.

That summer, I saw with new eyes the importance of dependable and consistent employment, housing, health care systems and education.  That summer I also saw that for many rural Americans these things, taken for granted by many, are luxuries. Read more »

Simple Measures Pave Way to Recovery for Rare Kentucky Plant

White-haired goldenrod

The white-haired goldenrod, a bright yellow aromatic flower with a white haired covered leaf, is predominantly found on the Daniel Boone National Forest. Photo by: David Taylor

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.

A hike through Kentucky’s Red River Gorge is a trip that outdoor enthusiasts never forget. The adventure begins amid rugged terrain with towering sandstone cliffs that contour steep, forested slopes. Visitors discover hundreds of natural stone arches and other unique rock features that create some of the most splendid geological formations east of the Rocky Mountains. Within the beauty and solitude of the gorge resides a rare plant found nowhere else in the world.

The white-haired goldenrod occurs predominantly in the Daniel Boone National Forest, typically found growing along the base of cliffs or on ledges. In areas where the ground is undisturbed, this plant thrives in moist, sandy soil underneath rock shelters. During the fall, the plant blooms with bright yellow flowers along its upper stem. Alternating white-haired leaves line the stem from its base. Read more »

Farming Nature’s Way

The left sample, after 11 years of continuous no-till farming. The right sample, conventional tillage

These two soil samples are the same soil type. The one on the left is after 11 years of continuous no-till farming. The one on the right is conventional tillage.

No-till farming used to be only about reducing soil erosion. Today, continuous no-till is the preferred tillage system in some areas. Why? It’s all about soil health.

The loss of organic matter in soil, which is the lightest soil component and the first to wash away, is the healthiest portion of our topsoil. It is the house where the biological systems in our soils live and includes everything from the tiniest organisms like bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa to the more complex nematodes, micro-arthropods (think tiny spiders), and the more visible earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants. They are all part of healthy soil. Read more »