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Category: Plant and Animal Health

Improving the Safety of Leafy Greens

Sadhana Ravishankar with a bag of leafy greens

Sadhana Ravishankar, associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, led a team of researchers at the University of Arizona that discovered natural methods to sanitize leafy vegetables.

Food safety is a top priority for consumers, especially when it comes to the leafy greens in salads. Researchers at the University of Arizona have discovered natural methods to sanitize these vegetables using ingredients commonly found in the kitchen, such as oregano, cinnamon, and vinegar.

Plant extracts, essential oils, and organic sanitizers have all proved effective in killing bacteria on leafy greens and extending their shelf life. When emulsified in the water used to wash these leaves, the approach compares to (and sometimes even works better than) bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Read more »

Opportunities for Native Youth Available through APHIS’ Safeguarding Natural Heritage Program

2015 Safeguarding Natural Heritage Diné College summer youth students

2015 Safeguarding Natural Heritage Diné College summer youth students, Mansi (left), Thomasina (middle) and Tenaya (right) weed a corn field as a part of learning about Navajo traditional farming, from community elders Ferlin and Gwen Clark. Students weeded several corn field plots, helped build a taller fence around the field, and listened in on traditional teachings from the elders. Photographer: Amy Redhorse

The land and our strong ties to the earth as humans are a source of culture and livelihood throughout Indian Country. Native youth carry the hopes of their ancestors forward, and many tribes have visited with me at the Office of Tribal Relations, interested in learning how their children and grandchildren can discover more about the world around them.  Through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Safeguarding Natural Heritage (SNH) program, the USDA partners with Tribal Colleges and Universities to promote youth exposure to agriculture, natural resources, and wildlife biology. 

Since 2007,  the SNH program has served as a 2-week outreach program for students 14 to 17 years of age, bringing APHIS experts—as well as Tribal elders, Tribal professionals, and university professors—together with Tribal youth for instruction and mentoring.  SNH students pay only the cost of transportation to and from their homes to the participating campus, and APHIS covers the cost of tuition, room and board, and laboratory supplies.  Tribal Colleges and Universities work with APHIS to develop workshops and trainings to help students learn how to safeguard the natural world within and outside Tribal boundaries.  Activities often include hands-on labs, workshops, discussions, and field trips. Read more »

Second Morrill Act Redux: America’s 1890s Land Grant Universities Academic Excellence

1890s 125th logo

USDA joins everyone celebrating 125 years of the Second Morrill Act, which has provided educational opportunities for all.

Booker T. Washington.  George Washington Carver.  Educators par excellence.  Pioneers in food and agricultural scientific research. Dedicated their lives to helping “lift the veil of ignorance” by bringing knowledge to African-Americans and others with limited resources.

For 125 years, since passage of the Second Morrill Act on Aug. 30, 1890, which created a “broader education for the American people in the arts of peace, and especially in agriculture and mechanics arts,” the legacy of innovations has been sustained. Read more »

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 »

APHIS Partners with Pennsylvania to Fight the Spotted Lanternfly

An adult spotted lanternfly

An adult spotted lanternfly (Photo courtesy of Bugwood)

Last year, an invasive pest known as the spotted lanternfly was found in the United States for the first time ever in Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Tucked away in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Berks County may seem an unlikely location to find a foreign pest, but with today’s global economy unwanted pests can show up almost anywhere. 

In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to stop this pest from spreading.  APHIS has already contributed more than $1 million in Farm Bill funding to support the response effort in Pennsylvania, and PDA quickly established a quarantine area and regulated the movement of potential host material to help protect other communities. Read more »

It’s Time to Talk about the Birds and the Bees — and the Butterflies, Bats and Beetles

Cross-posted from the Department of Interior blog:

From birds and bees to butterflies, bats and beetles, pollinators are a diverse group and are critically important to terrestrial life on our planet. Without our help, however, their populations will continue to decline as a result of numerous stressors including loss of habitat, pests and pathogens, and exposure to pesticides.

Bees and other pollinators are essential to America’s agricultural economy and maintain the beauty of our iconic landscapes. Without them, we wouldn’t have most of our vegetables, flowers, fruits or nuts. Honey-bee pollinations alone contribute more than $15 billion in value to U.S. agricultural production each year, but beekeepers reported losing just over 23 percent of honey bee colonies last winter. Other pollinators that help sustain food production and the environment—such as native bees and bats—also are declining. Read more »