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Nothing Fishy about Probiotics

Researchers Dr. Kenneth Cain, University of Idaho, and Dr. Douglas Call, Washington State University with fish in a net

Researchers Dr. Kenneth Cain, University of Idaho, and Dr. Douglas Call, Washington State University, have developed a probiotic that fights Coldwater Disease in trout and salmon. They found the probiotic bacteria in the fish’s own gut. (Photo by Shelly Hanks, Washington State University)

After searching 15 years for a way to combat a devastating disease among salmonids (salmon and trout), researchers at Washington State University (WSU) and the University of Idaho (UI) found an answer inside the fish itself.

Dr. Kenneth Cain’s team at UI’s Aquaculture Research Institute cultured a bacteria from the fish’s gut (designated Enterobacter C6-6) and found that it inhibited the growth of Flavobacterium psychrophilum, the organism that causes Coldwater Disease.

Cain and Dr. Douglas Call, his WSU-based research partner since 2001, found that by adding C6-6 to fish feed as a probiotic they could limit the damage caused by Coldwater Disease – but they’re not quite sure why.  “We know that C6-6 produces a toxin,” Call said.  “This toxin kills the bacteria although we’re trying to get more funding to figure out how this works in the fish itself.” Read more »

Survey: Lesser Prairie-Chicken Population Continues to Climb

A lesser prairie-chicken

A recent survey commissioned by WAFWA shows lesser prairie-chicken numbers climbed 25 percent between 2014 and 2015. NRCS photo.

The population of the lesser prairie-chicken is on the rise, according to survey results released last week by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). Based on aerial surveys, biologists estimate the lesser prairie-chicken numbers about 29,000, a 25 percent increase from 2014.

WAFWA commissioned the annual survey, which showed increases in three of the four ecoregions the bird inhabits. The sand sage prairie region of southeastern Colorado showed the biggest gain with about a 75 percent increase between 2014 and 2015. Read more »

Fun in the Sun – #USDARoadTrip Through Conservation and Recreation

United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite (SMAP). Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.

United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite (SMAP), a remote sensing mission designed to measure and map the Earth's soil moisture distribution and freeze/thaw stat with unprecedented accuracy, resolution and coverage. Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.

The second stop on our #USDARoadTrip is our recreation and conservation portfolio, including our vast and spectacular forest and grassland system managed by USDA’s Forest Service as well as some of the cooperative conservation efforts underway by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA). 

With Independence Day fireworks behind us for 2015, USDA gives you another reason to look up into the night sky. With a new satellite, NASA and USDA have partnered to map Earth’s soil moisture from orbit, letting us monitor droughts, predict floods and forecast the water supply in major cities. Read more »

Drones can be Deadly for Wildland Firefighters

An Airtanker dropping fire retardant on a wildfire

An Airtanker drops fire retardant on a wildfire. (USFS Photo)

Imagine if a hostile country sent an Unmanned Aircraft System or UAS, otherwise known as a drone, to disturb the efforts of firefighters during a catastrophic wildfire. The confusion that might ensue could cause loss of life and property as flames jump fire lines simply because resources have been diverted or grounded to identify and remove the UAS.

But these threats aren’t coming from an enemy state. They are being flown by our own citizens and impeding the job of our firefighters.  This isn’t a script for a Hollywood film. It’s really happening.

Recently, unauthorized drones disrupted wildfire operations in southern California twice in one week. Because of these drones, Airtanker operations were suspended on both the Sterling Fire and Lake Fire on the San Bernardino National Forest. Read more »

The Morrill Act: 153 Years of Innovations for American Agriculture

Justin Smith Morrill portrait

Justin Smith Morrill served as a Vermont Representative and Senator from 1855-1898. He is best known for authoring the Morrill Act in 1862, which created the land-grant university system, and the Second Morrill Act in 1894, which expanded the system to include historically black colleges and universities. (Historical photo)

July in America.  It is summer time and school’s out. It is about vacations and maybe a trip to the beach. It is Independence Day—the 4th of July—and parades and fireworks.  It is about barbecues, hotdogs, and burgers. 

2015 marks America’s 239th birthday.

July is also the month for another important birthday in America—passage of the Morrill Act on July 2, 1862, which established the land-grant university system, ensuring access to education for all people. Read more »

Genetic Studies Reveal a Tree’s History to Ensure its Future

Ponderosa pines standing tall in front of Yosemite Falls in California

Ponderosa pines stand tall in front of Yosemite Falls in California. Photo by Kevin Potter, USFS.

It can reach heights of 200 feet and live 500 years, and occupies landscapes across the western United States. Some say its bark has an unforgettable smell resembling vanilla or even cinnamon, and this tree is one tough cookie. It grows in a variety of soils and climates and survives fires that consume other species. It is also an ecologically and economically valuable tree that provides food, habitat and ponderous (heavy) lumber.

It is the iconic ponderosa pine. But the world is changing, and ponderosa pine is vulnerable to climate shifts, high-intensity wildfires and bark beetles — as well as development that replaces trees. To keep the ponderosa pine standing tall, researchers are looking for answers in its genes. Read more »