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Category: Science

Distance Learning and Telemedicine projects

Some of the best stories about successful rural health projects are often from those who offer medical services, or those who benefit from those services.  It was inspiring to hear from an Oklahoma woman who cared for her elderly mother, thankful because broadband and telemedicine services meant she no longer had to spend the better part of an hour sending medical data to a hospital over 100 miles away via dial-up service and then wait another hour for medication instructions.

USDA funding for broadband and Distance Learning and Telemedicine services helps connect rural communities to medical services and improve access to quality care from health care experts. For example, Norton Healthcare Foundation in Kentucky provides specialty care to patients in rural communities using telemedicine technology.  Providers consult with specialists to determine changes in care and whether care can be managed locally.  This reduces unnecessary transfers and allows patients to remain in their community where their support system is.  Read more »

Racing for alternatives in the age of antibiotic resistance

Alice and the Red Queen in Peter Newell’s Through the Looking Glass. Biologist Leigh Van Valen is credited for hypothesizing the need for organisms to constantly adapt and evolve by referencing the Red Queen’s race. (Illustration by Peter Newell.)

Alice and the Red Queen in Peter Newell’s Through the Looking Glass. Biologist Leigh Van Valen is credited for hypothesizing the need for organisms to constantly adapt and evolve by referencing the Red Queen’s race. (Illustration by Peter Newell.)

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness week and ‘Get Smart About Antibiotics’ week. Learn more about how USDA works to ensure antibiotics remain effective to treat both people and animals when necessary and the alternatives available to traditional antibiotics.”

For billions of years, microbes such as bacteria and viruses have been in a struggle for survival in the face of naturally occurring antimicrobial substances. This struggle has continued in nature and into human society, where humans, plants, animals, and microbes themselves constantly ward off disease-causing microbes. The plight for adaptation and survival is not unlike the Red Queen’s race in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, where it takes all of the running one can do to remain in the same place.  Read more »

ERS Makes FoodAPS Purchase and Nutrition Data Easier to Access

FoodAPS data show the sources of food acquisitions (e.g., store types, restaurants, and schools) by SNAP households and by non-SNAP households of differing income levels.

FoodAPS data show the sources of food acquisitions (e.g., store types, restaurants, and schools) by SNAP households and by non-SNAP households of differing income levels.

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) has developed a unique treasure trove of data from a survey on food purchases and acquisitions by U.S. households – USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey FoodAPS. To protect individual survey respondents’ privacy, access to the data had been restricted to researchers from academic institutions and government agencies. Now, a modified version that aggregates information so individuals cannot be identified, but still provides valuable data for research and planning is available to everyone.

What can FoodAPS data tell us? USDA’s investment in FoodAPS was undertaken to fill a critical knowledge gap and encourage research that can support an evidence-based approach to Federal food assistance policies and programs. The data are being used to address a range of questions such as where households acquire food in a typical week, which foods they acquire, how much they pay for the food and how the acquired foods match recommendations for a healthy diet. Read more »

Washington State Lab Sows the Seeds of Tomorrow’s Scientists

Virginia State University undergraduate Christos Galanopoulos learns about agricultural research and collecting field samples during his internship at ARS’s Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research Unit in Pullman, Washington. Photo by Jinguo Hu, Agricultural Research Service.

Virginia State University undergraduate Christos Galanopoulos learns about agricultural research and collecting field samples during his internship at ARS’s Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research Unit in Pullman, Washington. Photo by Jinguo Hu, Agricultural Research Service.

Christos Galanopoulos, a rising senior from Virginia State University (VSU), recently interned with ARS under the guidance of Jinguo Hu and Brian Irish at ARS’s Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research Unit in Pullman, Washington.  He conducted a range of projects directly related to his academic field of study, agriculture. Galanopoulos, along with fellow intern John Few, IV, participated as part of ARS’s partnership with VSU’s College of Agriculture

Galanopoulos spent the first week working with Clare Coyne, a geneticist who curates the USDA cool season food legumes (pea, chickpea, lentil, etc.) collection. Coyne also collaborates with breeders to develop new varieties of legume crops offering disease resistance, higher yield, and other desired traits.   Read more »

What’s the Alternative?

Prescription Bottle

Prescription Bottle

We know that antibiotics are those miracle drugs Alexander Fleming stumbled upon in the 1920’s when his lab was left untidy. Since that happy accident, scientists have identified additional naturally-occurring antibiotics and developed synthetic drugs to add to our arsenal to combat bacterial infections.

So we’ve had bacteria, through their need to survive, learning how to develop resistance to naturally occurring antibiotics in the environment for eons; long before we started purposefully adding more antibiotics to the mix. So though we need antibiotics, it would be really nice if we could find ways to rely on them less. Read more »

NIFA, Agricultural Research Tackle Society’s ‘wicked’ problems

NIFA-funded research used genetics to hornless dairy cattle.  (Image courtesy of Recombinetics)

NIFA-funded research used genetics to hornless dairy cattle. (Image courtesy of Recombinetics)

Our charge in the food and agricultural sciences is to move from evolutionary discoveries, which contribute to marginal changes over long periods of time, to revolutionary thinking to deal with ‘wicked’ problems by deploying transdisciplinary approaches that solve complex societal challenges. Similar to how the Internet-driven disruptive technologies have transformed America and the rest of the world, advances in data science, information science, biotechnology and nanotechnology can transform agriculture and our capacity to address societal challenges.

Advances in the field of genomics have helped breeders produce desirable varieties of crops and livestock and overcome challenges that had previously been undertaken via conventional breeding. For example, in the dairy industry, most cattle are mechanically or chemically dehorned early in life to protect against injury to other cattle and their handlers. To eliminate this bloody and painful process, a team of NIFA-funded researchers at Recombinetics have successfully used gene editing to introduce the hornless gene into the cells of horned bulls. While the majority of hornless cattle generated via conventional breeding produce low quality milk, gene editing offers a simple and rapid solution of generating hornless cattle that produce high quality milk. Read more »