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Category: Science

USDA Celebrates the Public Service of 12 Unsung Heroes

USDA colleagues and teams honored at Unsung Hero Award Ceremony

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, outstanding USDA colleagues and teams from around the country were honored at the Department’s 31st Annual Unsung Hero Award Ceremony in Washington, DC. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Every day, USDA employees are hard at work providing safe, nutritious food for our families and children; conserving our land and natural resources; supporting our nation’s farmers and ranchers; expanding market opportunities for American agriculture at home and abroad; and investing in our rural economies.  Recently, Secretary Vilsack penned a moving essay as to why he dedicates his life to public service at the USDA.

Nearly 100,000 USDA employees serve our country with pride and dedication. As part of Public Service Recognition Week, I joined the Organization of Professional Employees at the Department of Agriculture to honor 12 outstanding colleagues and teams from around the country in our 31st Annual Unsung Hero Award Ceremony.  I invite you to congratulate these extraordinary public servants for their dedication to their jobs and their communities. Read more »

Measuring Environmental Effects of Conservation Practices

Drip irrigation

Drip irrigation is a system used to deliver slow, precise application of water and nutrients to a plant roots zone. This system maintains an optimum moisture level within the root zones, efficiently conserving water and helps prevent runoff while providing the proper balance of water and air needed for successful plant growth. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

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.

Have you ever heard the saying, “In God we trust, all others bring data?” Those are the words of William Edwards Deming, a distinguished American statistician and researcher. As an agricultural statistician at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), collecting and distributing reliable data are the most important things I do. The data we provide help shape many key decisions about all sorts of things related to agriculture, including conservation practices.

But I don’t only collect and distribute data. I get to administer the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) survey – something I’m especially proud of. CEAP is a major project led by our sister agency the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The results of the survey contribute to a first-hand look into how operators maintain agricultural lands for tomorrow. This insight is so important because soil erosion, climate change, water shortages, and feeding ever-increasing populations are common concerns today. Read more »

Honduran Agronomy Students Tour Unique USDA Laboratory

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.

This was not your typical class trip. The group of agriculture students from Honduras who visited USDA’s National Soil Dynamics Laboratory (NSDL) in Auburn, Alabama, were given tours of a one-of-a kind research facility that features, among other things, 13 soil bins, about the length of football fields, that look like huge outdoor bowling lanes. These gigantic soil bins have a special purpose: they are used to study the effects of farm machinery on the soil.

The NSDL, operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), has played a key role over the years in helping farmers in southeastern United States produce quality food in sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly ways. Built in 1935, the NSDL was the world’s first full-size outdoor laboratory for tillage tools and traction equipment. Work there has influenced the design of almost all modern agricultural equipment and is credited with spawning the scientific discipline of soil dynamics. The site has been designated as an historic landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. Read more »

Going Wild about Water at the World Water Forum

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.

Water is a precious resource and will become scarcer as the human population continues to grow.  In many areas, climate change is expected to affect weather patterns. In general, the wetter areas are expected to get wetter and the drier areas are expected to get drier. This year, California’s drought has highlighted how important it is for land managers and producers to exercise best practices to increase water quality and quantity so there is enough to go around.

This year, USDA participated in the 7th Annual World Water Forum in Daegu, Republic of Korea. Every three years, the World Water Council hosts the Forum and develops the program in cooperation with the private sector, governments, industry, international governmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations and academic groups. Read more »

Weaving Up New Uses for Cotton

Glandless cottonseed machine

Glandless cottonseed is being used to demonstrate that the elimination of gossypol provides an opportunity to produce high value foods for humans as well as animals. The oil will be used to fry food in a college cafeteria. The used oil will be taken back to the experiment station where it will be converted into biodiesel and used to run the station’s irrigation pumps. The protein, which was also squeezed out during the crushing process, will be used to feed shrimp in an aquaculture experiment and ultimately sold. Photo courtesy of the Cotton Board.

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.

In the agriculture industry, having a green thumb can help businesses improve their yield and their bottom line. As good stewards, our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and agricultural business are also committed to another type of green. Through sustainable and conservation practices, ag businesses are finding multiple uses for products, which reduces land and water usage.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) witnesses these efforts first-hand while overseeing industry Research and Promotion Programs. These self-help programs that are requested for and completely funded by the industry are charged with developing cutting-edge marketing campaigns and supporting nutrition research that benefits all of the industry’s members. Many of their research projects focus on sustainable practices and conservation. While we know that the list of these types of projects is endless, we would like to highlight a few of the things that the cotton industry is doing. Read more »

Technology to Help Us Deal with Drought

USDA-ARS agricultural engineers Susan O’Shaughnessy and Nolan Clark adjust the field of view for wireless infrared thermometers.

USDA-ARS agricultural engineers Susan O’Shaughnessy and Nolan Clark adjust the field of view for wireless infrared thermometers mounted on a center pivot irrigation system. The wireless sensors are used to measure crop canopy temperature for indications of water stress.

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.

With droughts becoming more severe, water tables getting lower and an increasing demand for water from growing suburbs and cities, farmers know they need to use water more sparingly. That’s why recently patented technology developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Texas is so important.

Steve Evett, Susan O’Shaughnessy, and their colleagues at the ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas have spent years trying to help growers maximize water in a region that depends on the Ogallala Aquifer, a massive underground reservoir under constant threat of overuse. They recently developed two complementary technologies that offer practical ways to ensure that crops get only as much water as they need. Read more »