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Category: Science

A Banner Year for Research: 5 Innovative Projects Aimed at Helping Growers

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

Making a success in agriculture and rural communities in today’s competitive world requires a toolbox of cutting-edge knowledge and ways to put that information in people’s hands so they can put it to work. Whether it’s designing these tools, developing the data to prove them, or breeding a new crop variety to outwit a plant disease to avoid a harvest’s devastation, the scientists of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are always coming up with something new to enhance rural opportunities.

Here are five research highlights from 2015 you should read: Read more »

Walnuts Have Fewer Calories than the Label Suggests, ARS Researcher Discovers

Walnuts

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have found that walnuts have fewer calories than previously thought. Studies also show that eating tree nuts, as part of a healthy diet, can lead to improved cardiovascular health and a reduced risk of obesity.

USDA scientists have found that walnuts have 21 percent fewer calories than previously thought, which is good news for the weight-conscious nut lover!

Researchers with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service fed volunteers a controlled diet consisting of walnut halves and pieces (45 grams) for three weeks. After measuring the calories in the walnuts consumed, they found that a typical 28-gram serving actually contains 146 calories, 21 percent fewer than the 185 calories currently assigned by the USDA.  The study, published this month in The Journal of Nutrition, was partially funded by the California Walnut Commission. Read more »

In 2015, A #HighFive for Farmers

#HighFive for Farmers text box overlaid onto an image of a barn and crops

Throughout December, be sure to follow #HighFive to see just what we’ve been up to in the last 12 months, and stay tuned as we look forward to a 2016 that promises to be better than ever.

This year, millions of rural businesses and families were positively impacted by USDA investments in their communities. From helping farmers and ranchers bring their products to tables here and abroad, to building critical infrastructure in America’s rural areas, to conserving our nation’s natural resources with long-lasting partnerships, USDA is continuously working toward better results each year for the American people. As 2015 draws to a close, we want to thank our nation’s farmers and ranchers and rural families for all they’ve done by highlighting some of the most moving and motivating stories of the year. Read more »

Poinsettias: Helping an Icon to Bloom at the Right Time

A close-up of a poinsettia

Even though their sales period is just 6 weeks each year, poinsettias rank as one of the country’s best selling potted plant.

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.

Poinsettias are more than just an icon of the Christmas season. They’ve become the go-to plant for decorating homes, hotels, offices and just about everywhere from the Friday after Thanksgiving to well past New Year’s Day.

This wasn’t always the poinsettia’s story. In the 1950s, poinsettias were flashy plants that made a brief appearance in public places shortly before Christmas, only to drop their leaves and colorful flower-like bracts a few days later. They were expensive to grow because their blooming time was difficult to synchronize with the holidays, and the plants easily grew tall and leggy. Read more »

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 »