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Category: Plant and Animal Health

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way from the Summit: How REE is Using New Strategies to Reach Even Newer Poultry Handlers

USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan

(Left to right): USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan, pose wearing the latest in functional and fashionable wear before visiting a backyard chicken coop.

During a walk along tree-shading sidewalks in the “burbs”; you’re accustomed to seeing games of hopscotch, bike rides, and maybe even the occasional Golden Retriever. However, one residential backyard, nearly 6 miles from downtown Atlanta, calls into question whether this is suburbia at all. There were swings, a tree house, and even patio furniture. Yet one feature certified this was not your mother’s suburban home: over a dozen chickens living comfortably in a custom made “Coop de Ville.”   

The rise of “backyard poultry” is one of many agricultural phenomena tied to a growing food consciousness and increased urbanization. And while USDA’s fundamental job doesn’t change, the Department does because the challenges do.  The recent cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at increasingly popular backyard chicken coops underscore this. While this concern was not clearly expressed in the 1862 Act of Congress that created the Department, the mandate was. USDA still works to “acquire and to diffuse…information” towards facilitating the protected growth of American agriculture. That service is what brought Research, Education, and Economics Undersecretary Dr. Catherine Woteki to this residence in Decatur, GA. Accompanied by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials and a man known best as the “Chicken Whisperer,” Dr. Woteki toured the site and helped to shed light on current HPAI research and important biosafety measures. Read more »

From Over 100,000 to 1: Partners Band Together to Beat the European Grapevine Moth

Close up of damage on a grape cluster with EGVM webbing

Close up of damage on a grape cluster with EGVM webbing and the head of larva emerging. Photo courtesy of the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner's Office.

Last fall, the results of trapping for the European Grapevine Moth (Lobesia botrana or EGVM) in California were recounted during a conference call for the partners working to eradicate this invasive insect: zero, zero, zero, one moth.

We’ve gone from more than 100,000 EGVM trapped in 2010 to just one in 2014. This success makes the EGVM detection and eradication partnership one of the most effective programs for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), county departments of agriculture, University of California Cooperative Extension (UC Coop), and growers in the last decade. Read more »

A Sweet Camp for Native Youth

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush. NIFA grants support camps that allow tribal youth to experience cultural tradition while learning about plant science. (iStock image)

Many children look forward to gathering pumpkins in the fall. For some Native American children, another well-loved tradition is gathering maple syrup in early spring.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Nutrition (NIFA) provides grants to support a unique camp where reservation youth can experience their cultural traditions while learning plant science.

Maple syrup is one of the oldest agricultural products in the United States and is one of the foods the first Americans shared with European settlers. Dr. Steven Dahlberg, director of Extension at White Earth Tribal and Community College (WETCC), used part of a $100,000 NIFA’s Tribal College Extension Grant to support four seasonal camps for at-risk youth, including one where they learn to keep their traditions alive at sugar bush camps.  A “sugar bush” is a grove of maple trees used to produce syrup. Participants also discover how to transform watery maple sap into the syrup we know and love.  In Minnesota, the Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, and White Earth tribes hold sugar bush camps in spring when most trees are full of sap.  No fancy machinery is required here; campers use the traditional method of cooking sap over a wood fire, where it often takes days to process the syrup. Read more »

Helping Businesses Grow: NWRC Wins 2015 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer

Engineers from Applied Design Corporation in Colorado test the delivery of aerial bait cartridges

Engineers from Applied Design Corporation in Colorado test the delivery of aerial bait cartridges from a helicopter. Photo by USDA.

John Eisemann spends much of his time on the phone or in meetings talking to USDA National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC, Center) partners and stakeholders.  As the Technology Transfer Program Manager for the Center, John works with private companies, international groups, and non-governmental organizations to encourage the development and licensing of new wildlife damage management products.

The Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 changed how Federal Government research and development entities, like NWRC, do business. The Act allows Federal laboratories and industry to form commercial partnerships that enhance the development of new technologies and move them to the marketplace to meet public and consumer needs. Read more »

What You Need to Know About the Current Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreaks

Today I had a press call with our USDA partner, Dr. Alicia Fry from CDC and Dr. David Swayne of USDA’s Southeast Poultry Research Lab to help get out some important information about the avian influenza event currently occurring in the United States.

Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (migratory paths for birds). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in some backyard and commercial poultry flocks. Read more »

Do You Know the Biosecurity Steps to Protect Your Poultry from Avian Influenza? Get Advice From the Experts with #chickenchat2015 on April 16

Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.

Anyone who owns or works with poultry—whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/backyard farm—should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Even if you are already familiar with biosecurity, now is a good time to double-check your practices. You are the best protection your birds have! Read more »