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Category: Science

Why is Cogongrass So Successful at Invading the South?

Widely used in landscaping, the cold-tolerant cogongrass Red Baron variety does not produce viable seed, but its pollen could present problems in the future. (Auburn University/David Teem, Bugwood.org). Photo used with permission.

Widely used in landscaping, the cold-tolerant cogongrass Red Baron variety does not produce viable seed, but its pollen could present problems in the future. (Auburn University/David Teem, Bugwood.org). Photo used with permission.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Cogongrass makes kudzu look like a lightweight. A perennial grass, it grows on every continent except Antarctica and has earned a reputation as one of the worst weeds on Earth. In the South, cogongrass ranks among the top 10 plant marauders, invading forests, rights-of-way, and agricultural fields, literally taking over the landscape and altering ecosystems.

Native to Southeast Asia, the weed first arrived in the United States in 1912 as packing material in orange crates imported to Grand Bay, Alabama.  A few years later, farmers planted cogongrass in Mississippi as a possible forage crop. Since then, it’s spread to more than 66,000 acres throughout the South, its progress limited only by winter cold. Landowners and agencies have fought this weed for years with limited success. Read more »

The Important Role of Volunteers in Human Nutrition Studies

ARS is looking for volunteers for a study examining how the body absorbs plant-derived nutritional compounds, called polyphenols, which are found in apples, berries and tea.

ARS is looking for volunteers for a study examining how the body absorbs plant-derived nutritional compounds, called polyphenols, which are found in apples, berries and tea.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

How would you like to learn more about your personal health while contributing to science as a volunteer in a human nutrition research study?

Seventeen years ago, I saw an ad for such a study. I attended an information session to learn more, applied and was accepted. Looking back, it was a positive experience for me, and I’d do it again if I could. Read more »

Calling All Open Data Partners

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

What data have you opened to the world lately?

In a time of increased global challenges in food and agriculture, a shared approach is essential to developing solutions for us all.  That’s why the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) remains determined to make agricultural and nutritional data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide. Read more »

In Brazil, a Search for Fungi to Control Disease-Spreading Insects

A high-magnification image of the spores and spore-bearing cells of the same fungus, Beauveria bassiana, taken from a Diabrotica beetle in Oregon.

A high-magnification image of the spores and spore-bearing cells of the same fungus, Beauveria bassiana, taken from a Diabrotica beetle in Oregon.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

If you want to find a fungus that controls disease-spreading insects, you might want to go somewhere known for its biodiversity. So it makes sense that USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) microbiologist Richard Humber will be traveling to Brazil over the next three years to join Brazilian scientists in searching for fungi to control black flies, sand flies and the types of mosquitoes that spread malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

Fungi are now used to control insects on crops. Beauveria bassiana, a fungus found in soils throughout the world, is widely sold for controlling thrips, whiteflies, aphids and beetles. Different types of fungi are also sometimes used to control mosquitoes, but they are not easy to handle or to apply, and their effectiveness has been questioned. Read more »

Discovery Brings Wheat Flowering Mechanism to Light

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at the University of California–Davis (pictured), and fellow UC Davis researcher Clark Lagarias uncovered a key determinant in the time it takes wheat to flower. Their discovery could lead to further research that would allow wheat growers to produce greater yields to feed the world’s growing population. Their work is published in this month’s edition of edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky.

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at the University of California–Davis (pictured), and fellow UC Davis researcher Clark Lagarias uncovered a key determinant in the time it takes wheat to flower. Their discovery could lead to further research that would allow wheat growers to produce greater yields to feed the world’s growing population. Their work is published in this month’s edition of edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

That handy chart on the back of seed packets tells backyard gardeners when it’s time to plant based on where they live.  Things get a bit more complicated, however, when your goal is to feed the world.

Researchers at the University of California–Davis have unlocked a long-held secret into how wheat determines when it’s time to flower.  This information is critical to wheat growers because flowering marks the transition between the plant’s growing period and the reproductive stage when the actual grain is created.  Equipped with this knowledge, breeders can develop better adapted varieties to help growers maximize yield. Read more »

Partnering with Retailers and Food Manufacturers to Make Healthy Choices Easier

The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.

The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Achieving a good diet requires access to nutritious food, but it also requires good choices from among the many thousands of products available at grocery stores and other food retailers – a real challenge for consumers. How can we shape a store environment that makes healthy choices easier?

Researchers working with the Food and Nutrition Service recently conducted a thought experiment to encourage healthy purchases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The researchers asked a number of leading experts to imagine a labeling system in place that clearly identifies the healthiest options in the stores, and develop strategies to promote them, especially for shoppers with limited resources. The strategies had to be feasible, sustainable, cost-effective, and appealing to all stakeholders: food manufacturers, food retailers, and consumers.  The study team first identified key characteristics of labeling systems — including the need to inform consumers without requiring complex interpretation, and to align with retailers’ and manufacturers’ competitive strategies and business practices. Read more »