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Category: Science

Cooperative Extension Programs Help Strapped Rural Communities

A farmer in Navasota, Texas uses modern technology to navigate a harvester through his wheat sorghum crop.

A farmer in Navasota, Texas uses modern technology to navigate a harvester through his wheat sorghum crop.

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 profile.

Low prices for commodity crops are never good for agricultural producers. But for small farmers, many of whom already depend on off-farm income, this is not a good scenario.

Navigating this uncertain financial terrain is not for the faint of heart; fortunately, at-risk residents in rural communities have the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) on their side to provide them with the information they need.  Land-grant universities (LGU) provide research-based information through non-formal, non-credit to residents in their state. Read more »

Automated Weeder Separates Friend from Foe

New technology being developed by the University of California – Davis is putting precision weed control onto farm equipment, which will eliminate the need for much of today’s manual labor.  (iStock image)

New technology being developed by the University of California – Davis is putting precision weed control onto farm equipment, which will eliminate the need for much of today’s manual labor. (iStock image)

This is not your granddad’s weed whacker.

It is, in fact, a weed control system that farmers have only dreamed of – a high-speed machine that can not only distinguish weeds from the value crop, but can eliminate those weeds as carefully as a backyard gardener working by hand.

David Slaughter, of the University of California – Davis’ Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and his team are developing new technologies that can accurately detect, locate, and kill weeds without damaging the cash crop.  Their robotic cultivator is being developed as part of a $2.7 million Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

How Industries Create a Research and Promotion Program

Currently a proposal for an Organic R&P is getting closer to Step 1 in the creation process. While a proposal has not been formally submitted to USDA, a proponent group is working with stakeholders to develop a draft. USDA photo courtesy of Sam Jones-Ellard.

Currently a proposal for an Organic R&P is getting closer to Step 1 in the creation process. While a proposal has not been formally submitted to USDA, a proponent group is working with stakeholders to develop a draft. USDA photo courtesy of Sam Jones-Ellard.

We often talk about the many ways research and promotion (R&P) programs benefit both ag industries and the consumer. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers leverage these programs and the pooled resources they collect to help overcome marketing barriers and connect with consumers. R&P programs are self-help initiatives that are national in scope and funded by the industry to help these businesses continue to strengthen their rural economies and the communities they support.

To form a new R&P, there are specific steps that the industry and USDA follow: Read more »

The Matrix Helps Teachers Bring Ag to the Classroom

Students learn about agriculture by using materials available online through the Ag in the Classroom’s Matrix. (iStock image)

Students learn about agriculture by using materials available online through the Ag in the Classroom’s Matrix. (iStock image)

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 profile.

The Matrix is in a classroom near you – not the 1999 hit movie, but a blockbuster nonetheless.

The National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix is a new approach to grow agricultural literacy among K-12 students.  The Matrix, part of the National Agriculture in the Classroom’s (AITC) website, is an online collection of educational resources that are relevant, engaging, and designed to meet the educational requirements and agricultural literacy outcomes for formal educators. Read more »

GODAN Partnership Continues to Flourish in the Netherlands

Jaime Adams, Senior Advisor for International Affairs, participates in GODAN strategic planning discussions.

Jaime Adams, Senior Advisor for International Affairs, participates in GODAN strategic planning discussions.

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.

Good day, or “Goede dag as they say in Dutch.  And a good several days we experienced in the Netherlands at the 3rd Annual meeting of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) partnership.  Although the tulips had not yet blossomed, the excitement about the accomplishments and vision for the GODAN partnership were in full bloom among all attendees.

I recently accompanied Dr. Cathie Woteki, USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, to the GODAN meeting hosted by the Government of the Netherlands, along with Wageningen University.  This was the first GODAN partner meeting organized by CABI who has been selected to lead the effort on the GODAN executive secretariat. Read more »

Local Food Systems: What Do We Know About National Trends?

Farms with intermediated sales of local foods are located largely in urban counties. Source: USDA Economic Research Service, data from Census of Agriculture, 2012; Agricultural Marketing Service, 2014.

Farms with intermediated sales of local foods are located largely in urban counties.

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.

American consumers are enjoying increasingly more opportunities to buy food directly from farmers and to patronize grocery stores and restaurants that offer local foods. Policymakers have taken notice, and as part of Congress’s FY14 Appropriations Bill, the House Agriculture Committee asked the Economic Research Service (ERS) to report on the scope of local and regional food systems and recent national trends. The result – Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress – details the latest economic information on local food producers and consumers, and reviews policies supporting local food systems.

The ERS report poses questions like how rapidly direct-to-consumer farm sales are growing, some characteristics of local-food farms, and the level of organic farm participation in local food sales. It addresses consumer issues such as willingness to pay premium prices for some local foods, and how local food prices compare with those at retail outlets. Read more »