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Category: Conservation

USDA Celebrates a Record of Conservation Successes

USDA Results tile

We're taking a look at how historic investments over seven years have helped USDA build lasting partnerships to care for our nation’s unparalleled public lands and support producers as they conserve our nation’s land, water and soil.

Throughout the last seven years, the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service have made great strides in conserving private working lands and our public lands for future generations. We have pioneered approaches to conservation that use incentives and partnerships to work with landowners across property boundaries and conserve watersheds, wildlife and large landscapes.  What’s more, USDA is demonstrating that conserving our natural resources creates economic opportunities for rural communities across the country.

Today, we are launching the second chapter of USDA Results, a progressive year-long storytelling effort of the Obama Administration’s work on behalf of those living, working and raising families in rural America.  This month’s chapter tells the story of how we are working to conserve our natural resources. Throughout February, we will be announcing new projects and highlighting the work we have done over the last seven years. Read more »

Accountant to Farmer: Finding Moisture in Dry Soil Conditions

Douglas Poole in front of his tractor

Douglas Poole is an evangelist who saved his own soil. Now he wants to help others save theirs. Photo: Jennifer Cole.

“Nothing motivates me quite like being told I can’t do something. They told me no-till doesn’t work here, and you’re not supposed to be able to grow any type of canola. Well, look around. Here we are.”

When Douglas Poole speaks, you can hear the passion in his voice for healthy soil and how it has helped his farm. Poole wasn’t always a soil health proponent; he used to be an accountant. Read more »

Brown Tree Snake Research Wins DoD’s 2015 Resource Conservation Project of the Year

Brown tree snake in grass

USDA Wildlife Services research has led to the development of an aerial bait to control invasive brown tree snakes on Guam. The effort was awarded the Department of Defense’s 2015 Project of the Year Award for Resource Conservation and Climate Change.

This month USDA highlights some of the important partnerships that work with us to care for our land, air and water.  The work stretches into areas and takes USDA employees to places you wouldn’t suspect.

For example, the damage wreaked by invasive brown tree snakes on Guam is hard to imagine.

Infestations of the snake have led to the loss of all but two of the twelve native forest birds on the island, millions of dollars in damages to the island’s electrical power grid, and physical injuries to residents from snake bites. Read more »

Navajo Nation Highlights the Value of the Environmental Justice

Arthur “Butch” Blazer and colleagues on a tour of Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona

Arthur “Butch” Blazer and colleagues on a tour of Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona led by Michelle Curry. Diné College is a community college serving the Navajo Nation

I recently traveled to New Mexico and Arizona to visit with local Navajo government leaders, Tribal College officials, and community members to hear about life on the Navajo Reservation. Michael Burns, from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was also there to discuss an important new collaboration, the College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP).

CUPP develops partnerships between underserved communities and geographically close colleges and universities to provide technical support through faculty, students and staff at no cost to those communities. One of my top priorities is for USDA to help EPA expand the CUPP program to involve Tribal communities and colleges to advance the cause of environmental justice. Read more »

Chicken Ranching Boosts Pasture Soil Health on Iowa Farm

A woman with the hens

The hens rotate 72 hours behind the cattle herd to provide insect control, and the bus provides easy mobility from paddock to paddock.

When bison roamed the Great Plains, prairie chickens and other fowl played an important role as the clean-up crew. They would follow the herds feasting on the larvae in bison manure.

In Doug Darrow’s 160-acre mob grazing system near Oxford, Iowa, his 300 chickens have the same job, but they ride in style from paddock to paddock in an old school bus that doubles as a chicken coop. “This means there are fewer flies to pester the cows,” said Darrow. This natural form of pest control, improves herd health and rate of gain, while providing another income source from the eggs laid by the clean-up crew. 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 »