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Category: Science

A Giant Crop-Scanner Is Turning Heads in Arizona

A giant electronic scanner in Maricopa, Arizona

ARS scientists and their partners are using a giant electronic scanner in Maricopa, Arizona to study the growth characteristics of sorghum plants as part of a project designed to speed biofuel crop development. Photo by Jeffrey White, Agricultural Research Service.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

With its 30-ton frame and 50-foot-high catwalk, the newest scanner for measuring crop plants in Maricopa, Arizona, can be seen for miles. It looms over a tract the length of two football fields and moves along steel rails.

“When people saw this big apparatus being built here, they started asking if we were going to be looking for space aliens,” says Jeffrey W. White, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist with the Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa. Rather than studying the heavens, the scanner is measuring the individual characteristics of thousands of energy sorghum plants growing underneath it. The effort could play an outsized role in meeting the Nation’s future energy needs. Read more »

USDA Farmers Market Shoppers Participate in Behavioral Economics Study about Food Choices

Visitors at USDA's Farmers Market on iPads

Visitors to USDA’s Farmers Market on Sept. 30, 2016, weren’t playing Pokemon. They were helping with a behavioral economics field study about food choices. (Ken Melton, USDA)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

What were visitors to USDA’s Farmers Market on Friday, Sept. 30, doing with the iPads they were holding?  They certainly weren’t playing Pokemon Go!  Instead, they were participating in a behavioral economics study about food choices.

The USDA Farmers Market, managed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and located just steps from the National Mall in downtown Washington, D.C., is a “living laboratory” for farmers markets around the country.  It’s also a great place to learn about the factors that influence customers’ buying decisions. Read more »

2016 GODAN Summit: A Large Display of USG Support for Agriculture and Nutrition Open Data

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the GODAN Summit 2016

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (third from right at center table) participated in a high-level meeting at the United Nations as part of the two-day GODAN Summit 2016. The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative (GODAN) meeting was the largest ever event dedicated to open data in agriculture and nutrition, convening over 750 attendees including world leaders, researchers, farmers, students and others – public, private and non-profit - united around a collaboration on agriculture and nutrition data openness. Photo credit: Perry Bindeglass

Open agriculture and nutrition data is a powerful tool for long-term sustainable development.  The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative – comprising more than 350 international organizations representing governments, donors, businesses, and not-for-profits – continues to be a leader in advocating for the adoption of open data policies.  GODAN’s focus on opening agriculture and nutrition data as a mechanism to support sustainable development has the potential to solve longstanding global food security challenges.

As a founding partner of GODAN, the United States Government (USG) has implemented policy to support the creation of open data resources and provided technical support to make open data work for agriculture and nutrition—through the release of open data sets, through the development of standards that allow different types of data sets to be integrated with one another, and through the creation of new databases to house open data.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has served as the U.S. Government lead on the GODAN initiative since its creation in 2013, and has been highly involved in open data efforts. Read more »

Knowledge at Your Fingertips Makes Every Penny Count

Quick Facts for Producers graphic

Quick Facts for Producers graphic (Click to enlarge photo)

America is a nation blessed by agricultural bounty.  Unfortunately, that blessing comes with price-suppressing surpluses being the norm for most of the past century with occasional periods of short stocks, and temporary prosperity for the nation’s grain farmers.  Margins are tight and every penny counts.

Recently I started receiving calls from producers who were experiencing devastating price discounts for wheat – 3 cents per 10th of a pound of test weight below 60.1 pounds – resulting in a 33 cent per bushel discount for 59 pound wheat.  At today’s prices, that is approaching at or very near a ten percent discount on wheat that has a test weight one full pound above the U.S. No. 1 wheat grade standards minimum. Read more »

Taming Big-Data for Practical Scientific Research with Microchip Biology

Dr. Ramana Gosukonda with students

Dr. Ramana Gosukonda, left, associate professor of agricultural sciences at Fort Valley State University’s College of Agriculture, prepares to work with students in the university’s new bioinformatics program. Photo credit: Dr. Ramana Gosukonda

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

At Fort Valley State University (FVSU) the next generation of leaders in agricultural and life sciences are coming face-to-face with technology that will help them solve the toughest challenges of the future.

“Bioinformatics is ‘biology in silico,’ or ‘digital biology,’ and it is transforming biological research into an informational science,” said Dr. Ramana Gosukonda, associate professor of agricultural sciences at FVSU’s College of Agriculture. Read more »

NoroCORE: A Comprehensive Approach to a Near ‘Perfect’ Human Pathogen

Blond woman with a painful expression sitting on a grey sofa at home with her hands placed on her stomach

About 5 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness each year. (iStock photo)

Today’s guest blog features the USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative (NoroCORE- Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research, and Education), a food safety initiative with the ultimate goal to reduce the burden of foodborne disease associated with viruses, particularly noroviruses. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States accounting for around 5 million of the 21 million annual cases associated with contaminated foods. Cost of illness is estimated to be billions of dollars per year.

By Dr. Elizabeth Bradshaw, NoroCORE extension associate, and Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus, NoroCORE scientific director

Even if you have not experienced a norovirus infection personally (consider yourself fortunate!), you probably know someone who has or have heard of an outbreak of the “stomach flu.”  Most people know norovirus by its symptoms: a couple of memorable days of vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with a fever and a headache. Read more »