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: Science

Natural Supplements for Healthier Turkeys

Large White turkey female. USDA-ARS photo by Scott Bauer.

Large White turkey female. USDA-ARS photo by Scott Bauer.

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.  

Let’s talk turkey. You’re going to hear a lot about food safety as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, but what you often don’t hear about is how U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists are working to make turkey, chicken and other poultry products safer to eat long before they reach your table. 

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are developing alternatives to antibiotics that can help prevent turkey diseases and reduce bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter—two of the main pathogens in poultry that cause foodborne illness in people. Read more »

Producing Statistics about Hard-to-Reach Populations through Adaptive and Network Sampling

Dr. Steve Thompson at the 25th annual Morris Hansen Lecture

Dr. Steve Thompson headlined the 25th annual Morris Hansen Lecture, November 17, 2015.

The number of people who had heart disease related surgeries, the percentage of Americans who take anti-depressants; the number of women who opt for natural childbirth, these are health statistics you likely hear about in the news frequently. But how do public health researchers obtain data about hard-to-reach, marginalized populations such as the homeless at-risk of contracting specific things like HIV/AIDS?

Producing statistics about hidden, underserved populations was one of the topics explored by Dr. Steve Thompson, professor of statistics at Simon Fraser University during the 25th annual Morris Hansen Lecture hosted by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The lecture series was established by the Washington Statistical Society to honor Morris Hansen and his pioneering contributions to survey sampling and related statistical methods during his long and distinguished service at the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 200 people attended this year’s lecture at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium in Washington. Read more »

Genomics and Precision Agriculture: The Future of Farming

A variable-rate center-pivot irrigation system in a field in Bushland, Texas

A variable-rate center-pivot irrigation system in a field in Bushland, Texas, equipped with infrared thermometers that collect temperature data and a neutron gauge to measure soil water content. High-resolution data such as these are used by scientists to optimize crop performance in specific environmental conditions.

For nearly 400 years, Thanksgiving has been a time in North America when families come together to celebrate food and agriculture. As we reflect on yet another year, agricultural scientists at USDA continue to keep a wary eye on the future. At the end of what may be the hottest year on record, a period of drought has threatened the heart of one of the most important agricultural production zones in the United States. Water demands are increasing, and disease and pest pressures are continually evolving. This challenges our farmers’ ability to raise livestock and crops.  How are science and technology going to address the problems facing our food supply? 

To find answers, agricultural scientists turn to data—big data.  Genomics, the field of science responsible for cataloging billions of DNA base pairs that encode thousands of genes in an organism, is fundamentally changing our understanding of plants and animals.  USDA has already helped to fund and collect genomes for 25 crop plant species, important livestock and fish species, and numerous bacteria, fungi, and insect species related to agricultural production. Other USDA-supported research projects expanding these efforts are currently underway, including genome sequencing of 1,000 breeds of bulls and 5,000 insect species in the i5K initiative. But classifying and understanding DNA is only part of the story. Read more »

Tribal Communities Strive to Regain Food Sovereignty

A crew from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians taking care of crops inside a high tunnel

A crew from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians takes care of crops inside a high tunnel constructed with Community Food Projects (CFP) funds. CFP grants help local communities take control over their local food supply. (Photo courtesy of John Hendrix)

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.

For thousands of years Native Americans thrived in self-sustaining communities.  Now, many have to make do with whatever food and basic goods can be hauled in by truck.

“The Oglala Lakota people thrived for centuries as a self-sustaining community.  They utilized the bounty of their local environment to provide food and shelter,” said Nick Hernandez, Community Food Project director at South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation.  “In modern times, 95 percent of food and basic goods are hauled onto the Oglala Lakota Nation, perpetuating a phenomenon known as a ‘food desert’.” Read more »

Rural Health Week: How the Affordable Care Act is Helping to Build a Stronger, Healthier Rural America

ACA #RuralHealth Infographic

Getting covered is good for rural America. (Click to enlarge)

Keeping our rural communities healthy is key to building a stronger America. That’s why as we kick off this year’s Rural Health Week, I’m proud of the new affordable health insurance options that are available because of the Affordable Care Act, helping to give rural families piece of mind across the country.

Quality health care is critical to the success of rural children and families – and open enrollment for health insurance coverage only happens once each year. From now until January 31, 2016, you can sign up for an affordable plan that’s right for you and your family. If you currently have coverage, you might qualify for a plan that can save you money. Read more »

A Commitment to Scientific Integrity

David Marshall, research leader of the USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit, examining rust infections in a greenhouse in Muree, Pakistan

USDA and its scientists are dedicated to excellence, transparency, and cutting-edge scientific research.

USDA is one of the world’s leading scientific research institutions for agriculture, food and nutrition. We also have the largest forestry research resource in the world. At just one USDA agency – the Agriculture Research Service – more than 2,000 scientists publish more than 4,000 research papers each year in peer-reviewed journals on their work to ensure high-quality, safe, and sustainable food and other agricultural products. This work continues year after year, and the volume and quality of our research is particularly impressive when you consider that overall funding for both public and private spending on food and agriculture research has been stagnant for many years.

Our research extends from the farm field to the kitchen table, and from the air we breathe to the energy that powers our country.  Recent work by our researchers has produced a way to use radio frequencies to kill harmful salmonella in eggs; gene silencing technology that controls mosquito populations without harming pollinators; and a new soil nitrogen test that reduces fertilizer application amounts, reduces costs for farmers, and benefits the environment. Read more »