Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Category: Plant and Animal Health

What does Maple Syrup Have in Common with an Invasive Insect?

Two Asian longhorned beetles on maple tree

Two Asian longhorned beetles on maple tree

Today is National Maple Syrup Day!  So, what does maple syrup have in common with an invasive insect?  Well, if the insect is the Asian longhorned beetle, then they both can come from maple trees.  Obviously, we want the maple syrup and not the invasive beetle.  But who cares?  And why should anyone care?  Well, I care and here’s why:

Not only do I work for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency that is actively fighting known infestations of Asian longhorned beetle in three different states, but I also am a native of Vermont. Read more »

Range of Bull Trout in Oregon’s McKenzie River Indicates Improved River Health

Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)

Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)

The bull trout in the McKenzie River on the Willamette National Forest have a survival story to tell, thanks to U.S. Forest Service stewardship of local rivers and fresh, healthy sources of groundwater.

“We’re reintroducing the top predator back into the river ecosystem,” said Ray Rivera, the district fisheries biologist on the forest’s McKenzie River Ranger District. “Their presence means two things to us. First, because bull trout are very sensitive to environmental changes compared to other salmonid fishes, their existence means the river’s water quality is excellent and the physical quality of their habitat is also good. Second, since bull trout are the top predator and they are doing well this means the overall ecosystem is doing well. Their presence is an excellent barometer of a river’s health.” Read more »

Rehabilitated Bear Cubs Return Home to the Wild

Earlier this year (see July 31 blog), the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center’s (NWRC) field station in Millville, Utah, agreed to house two orphaned black bear cubs as part of a collaborative rehabilitation effort with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (Division).

The bears did well in captivity gaining enough weight to be re-released into the wild in early November. The young bears arrived at the facility weighing approximately 30 pounds and left weighing over 120 pounds. The two young male bears were fed bear chow (similar to dog food), fish, nuts, and fresh fruits and vegetables donated from a local grocery store and farmers. In addition to being well-fed, the bears had plenty of enrichment opportunities in their pen including a tire swing, climbing trees and logs, and a mini swimming pool. Read more »

Hooked on Aquaponics

This fish tank is located in Honolulu, HI at the President William McKinley High School, and illustrates the cleanliness of water in an aquaponics/aquaculture system.  For aquaponics, when the system is properly balanced, the water can be maintained at maximum clarity. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

This fish tank is located in Honolulu, HI at the President William McKinley High School, and illustrates the cleanliness of water in an aquaponics/aquaculture system. For aquaponics, when the system is properly balanced, the water can be maintained at maximum clarity. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

If you’re wondering what aquaponics is, you’re not alone.  Tracing its roots back to the Aztecs and rice cultivation in South China, aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics – growing fish and plants together in a symbiotic system.  Basically, the plants keep the water clean for the fish to grow, and the fish fertilize the plants. Both help the other to survive and thrive.

A wide variety of foods—lettuce, beans, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, herbs, strawberries, melons, and tomatoes, for example—all flourish through aquaponics farming. Read more »

On the One Year Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, USDA Looks Ahead

U.S. Forest Service crewmember Bill Scripp finishes the job of sawing downed trees at Forest Park in Queens, NY on Nov. 4, 2012 to make passage safe for residents. The park is a major walking thoroughfare, including popular recreational trails. Bill Scripp belongs to the Wayne National Forest, in Ohio Valley, OH. USDA photo by Dave Kosling.

U.S. Forest Service crewmember Bill Scripp finishes the job of sawing downed trees at Forest Park in Queens, NY on Nov. 4, 2012 to make passage safe for residents. The park is a major walking thoroughfare, including popular recreational trails. Bill Scripp belongs to the Wayne National Forest, in Ohio Valley, OH. USDA photo by Dave Kosling.

All this week, Americans are pausing to reflect on the devastation caused when Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore on the eastern seaboard.  Over 160 people died, property was damaged, lives were disrupted, families were torn apart and jobs were affected.

USDA helped the recovery effort in a number of ways, and while we are proud of our work, we also learned from the experience in order to assist those affected by future catastrophes.

Our first task was helping those who were facing hunger.  Following a disaster, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides nutrition assistance to disaster survivors through disaster USDA Foods Distribution Programs and by authorizing the implementation of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D­ SNAP).  In addition, FNS approves waivers that simplify the SNAP benefit replacement process to aid ongoing SNAP households affected by a disaster. Read more »

Residential Citrus Growers: Help Us Stop the Spread of Citrus Disease

Example of citrus greening leaves.

Example of citrus greening leaves.

If you are like millions of other Americans, there’s a chance you have a citrus tree or two growing in your yard. As a residential citrus grower, it is very important to check your trees regularly for signs of disease.

A diseased tree in your yard may seem like no big deal; however, it can easily spread disease to other nearby trees and make its way to large commercial groves where significant damage can be done. If citrus disease were to spread out of control, it has the potential to destroy the entire U.S. citrus industry, causing the loss of billions of dollars and millions of jobs. Read more »