Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks to winners of the 1st International Soil Judging Contest during their visit to USDA on Aug. 18. American college students took the top two places in the first ever international competition.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted the world’s eight best soil judges last week after they earned the top spots at the 1st International Soil Judging Contest in Jeju, South Korea, in June. The Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Science Division was actively involved in organizing the event and mentoring the winners. The first and second place teams, both from the U.S., along with their coaches, participated in a roundtable discussion with Secretary Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller to talk about soil judging, the importance of soil health, and careers in soil science. In addition, NRCS’ Landscape Architect, Bob Snieckus, led the students and coaches on a tour of USDA’s green projects, including the rooftop garden and The People’s Garden.
It was the first international soil judging contest, but soil judging in the United States dates back to at least 1960. The events involve the description, classification and interpretation of soil, with the main purpose of helping students recognize important soil and landscape properties and to consider these characteristics when deciding how to use soils. A contest involves “judgers,” or students interested in soil science, entering a soil pit to examine the profile. The judgers then determine where the different horizons are and describe each one, looking at factors such as soil type, color, depth, consistency, shape, structure and other features. The soil is classified, and site and soil interpretations are performed. Read more »
First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez and others plant seeds in People’s Garden.
Puerto Rico’s First Lady is a big fan of the home garden, and actually, the garden at the governor’s mansion, called La Fortaleza, is part of USDA’s national garden movement.
First Lady Wilma Pastrana Jiménez’s garden was the first People’s Garden at a Puerto Rico state government facility and the third on the island.
The garden joins more than 2,000 across the nation as part of the People’s Garden Initiative, started in 2009 by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read more »
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Kevin King (right) explains an edge of field water quality monitoring station to Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby, farm owners Joe and Clint Nester in the Western Lake Erie Basin near Bryan, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. The device allows tracking of both surface and underground water moving thru field tile. Monitoring stations results help determine what may be best farming practices on different types of soil in the watershed. USDA photo by Garth Clark.
USDA has a long history of investment in water quality and quantity issues. Still, Toledo, Ohio Mayor Michael Collins issued an emergency water advisory leaving about 500,000 people without clean tap water to drink or cook with from Aug. 2 to Aug. 4. The reason for the advisory: toxins produced by algae in Lake Erie got into the city’s water supply. Residents were forced to rely on bottled and trucked-in water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth. The Lake Erie algae bloom incident shows we all have a lot more work to do to ensure adequate water supplies for now and into the future.
In response to the algae bloom incident, USDA leadership, represented by Terry Cosby, NRCS state conservationist, joined Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Marcy Kaptur, this week to immediately announce $2 million in new federal emergency funds to reduce runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Read more »
Sammy Soil is NRCS' mascot and was created by a district conservationist back in the 1970s. NRCS photo.
Teaching people about soil conservation is one of our top goals at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and fortunately, we have a special helper.
Sammy Soil, everyone’s favorite little clump of earth, has managed to capture the public’s attention for more than 40 years. The little dirt clod, as he is sometimes called, was birthed through rock particles, water, air, leaves and the artistic mind of long-time employee Ernest “Howard” Whitaker.
Sammy Soil started as a water color drawing by Whitaker, who worked as a NRCS district conservationist in Tennessee. Read more »
Grace Opono uses her oxen to implement new conservation techniques she learned thanks to USDA's Food for Progress Program.
Standing next to her healthy oxen, Grace Opono explains how new conservation techniques have doubled her maize yield over just two seasons. She is also earning a second income by providing tilling services to neighbors with her oxen. She tells me she can now afford to pay the school fees for her children and reinvest money in her land. This story of achievement shows that USDA’s Food for Progress Program is making a difference.
On a recent trip to Uganda, I saw first-hand the difference USDA-funded projects are making in people’s lives. The Food for Progress Program, administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, helps developing countries and emerging democracies introduce and expand free enterprise in the agricultural sector. U.S. agricultural commodities donated to recipient countries are sold on the local market and the proceeds are used to support agricultural, economic or infrastructure development programs administered by government agencies and private volunteer organizations (PVOs). Read more »
NRCS interns met with Juan Hernandez, NRCS state conservationist for Maine, to learn more about the agency.
Interns at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) bring new energy and insight to the workplace. Plus, internships equip students with real-world skills that will help them in their future careers.
Interns this summer had an opportunity to work in a variety of fields, including data analysis, accounting and staffing – all important facets of the nation’s private lands conservation agency.
Meet Cindy Lee, who worked as a management analyst intern in NRCS’ Office of Regional Conservationists. Lee is a recent graduate of the University of California, Irvine, where she studied political science and social policy. Read more »