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Category: Science

NIFA Supports Annual Science, Engineering Festival to Spur Future Scientists

Victor Villegas educating young participants on the many uses of drones in agriculture

Victor Villegas also known as the ‘Drone Singer’ educates young participants on the many uses of drones in agriculture, including crop surveillance.

The link between agriculture, science, and engineering is quite simple. Whether you live in a rural or urban setting, those three components work together to make a more sustainable environment. Thousands of students had the chance to learn about that and more, April 15-17 at the 4th Annual Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.

Several members of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) participated in the festival to encourage children to become the next generation of agricultural professionals. Read more »

USDA Engages Public through Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

CitizenScience.gov homepage screenshot

Check out CitizenScience.gov to learn about crowdsourcing and citizen science projects in your area, and get involved.

Recently, USDA participated in the White House launch of the Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (CCS) Toolkit. By providing federal employees with information about developing CCS activities, the Toolkit will eventually allow the Federal government to design more programs that ask citizens to help us in solving both simple and complex problems.

Now, USDA is excited to announce our role in helping to harness “the power of the crowd” with the official release of CitizenScience.gov. Read more »

ARS Helps Veterans Weigh a Career in Agriculture

Veterans participating in building a chicken hoop house

Veterans participate in building a chicken hoop house, which is used to house and move poultry across pastures. Participants are instructed and assisted by veteran mentor Terrell Spencer of Across the Creek Farm. Photo credit: USDA-ARS

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.

For many veterans, agriculture may be a career choice worth exploring when they return to civilian life. Veterans have discipline, passion and a sense of service—qualities that would translate well for anyone interested in getting into agriculture.

That may be why a collaborative USDA training project is such a hit. The program, run by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their partners in Fayetteville, Arkansas, trains veterans in the basics of agricultural practices by offering workshops, online courses, internships and “Armed to Farm” boot camps at various sites, including the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville. Read more »

Deciphering County Estimates Process

2015 Soybean Yield graphic

2015 Soybean Yield graphic. Click to enlarge.

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.

Farmers love data. And while big picture items are great, growers tell us they really want and can use local data. In addition to national and state-level statistics, some of our most popular data are the county-level agricultural production information that we collect and publish.

Collecting local data is not an easy task. For example, in Iowa, where I oversee agricultural statistics, to determine 2015 county-level numbers, we surveyed 11,500 farmers in December and January to supplement data from nearly 3,000 Iowa farmers surveyed for the January 12th Crop Production Annual Summary report. These statistical surveys are designed so all farmers in the state have a chance to be selected for participation. In order to publish county data, we need responses from at least 30 producers in each county or yield reports for at least 25 percent of the harvested acreage in a county. Luckily, here in Iowa, we received 50 or more farmer reports for many counties but we still had a couple of counties that did not make the 30 report requirement for publication. Read more »

‘Bee’ing at White House Day at the Lab

Students from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. schools trying out different scientific careers like ARS bee researcher at the White House Day at the Lab

Students from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. schools try out different scientific careers like ARS bee researcher at the White House Day at the Lab.

“Whoa! Do you have bees in there?” is not something the Secret Service asks every day, even of scientists when they come to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which sits next to the White House West Wing and houses most of the staff offices.

It was just a month ago that agronomist Eton Codling, from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Crop Systems and Global Change Lab, and I, research leader of the ARS Bee Research Lab, were on our way into the White House. We were there to represent USDA at the White House Day at the Lab to give young students a taste of exciting science careers they may never have considered or even known about otherwise. Read more »

Public Engagement as Necessary as Math, Science

King Whetstone, (right), regional director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Northeastern Regional Field Office, meeting with attendees

King Whetstone, (right), regional director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Northeastern Regional Field Office, meets with attendees, Jan. 15, at the 2016 Pennsylvania Farm Show, the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the United States.

It goes without saying a successful statistician must have strong math, analytical and technical skills. You might be surprised to learn, then, just how much of my time is dedicated to listening to and talking with people. To be sure, I still use math and science daily. Two decades into my career, however, it’s those intentional, important interactions with farmers who answer my agency’s requests for information, as well with those who use my agency’s data, researchers, analysts and farmers themselves that keep me busiest.

Why? Because NASS is the “go to” source for official government statistics on U.S. agricultural production, economics, land, water, energy, environmental management and farmer demographics. Part of my job includes making sure farmers want to respond to our surveys and censuses and that researchers choose to use our data because it is the most accurate and unbiased. Read more »