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Category: Science

Getting Geeky at the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When you think of agriculture do you think of science and engineering? You should! Farmers are some of our original scientists, tinkering with plant varieties and farming techniques to find ways to reliably grow food. At USDA, we still do that kind of research in a never-ending effort to find better ways to produce food, fuel, and fiber. We also do a lot of research you might not think of when you think about agriculture: from forensic genetic analysis to track down unwanted pests to figuring out how to turn spent grain from distilleries into biodegradable kitty litter.

On April 26-27, the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival took over the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Over 325,000 people came out to celebrate discovery and innovation through over 3,000 hands-on activities and 150 performances and lectures.  USDA pulled all of the stops to show our geeky side and hopefully convince a few young booth visitors to consider agriculture when they think about careers in science. Read more »

Ag Research Month at the “People’s Department”

ARS cotton technologist Paul Sawhney (left) and research leader Brian Condon examine needled-punched nonwoven products made with classical raw cotton and precleaned raw cotton, respectively.

ARS cotton technologist Paul Sawhney (left) and research leader Brian Condon examine needled-punched nonwoven products made with classical raw cotton and precleaned raw cotton, respectively.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

During the month of April we have taken a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.

Ag research month has been an excellent opportunity to showcase all the ways in which USDA is truly the “People’s Department.”

That’s how President Lincoln described it after USDA was established in 1862. More than 150 years later, we continue to find innovative ways to improve agricultural production and create new products to benefit the American people. Read more »

What’s a Pine Cone Got to do With It? Educators use them for Art and Science

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

A pine cone has many purposes. It could serve as a home for birds and insects. Pine cones contain seeds to use in reforestation projects. They even can be made into fanciful ornaments to adorn the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree.

That’s exactly what students learned during a recent Science Fusion program at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

As part of an overarching mission to the world of science, technology, engineering and math, these special Saturday programs afford underserved Minnesota youth the opportunity to interact with local scientists, engineers, inventors and science educators through hands-on activities. Read more »

Researcher with NIFA Roots Earns International Prize

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at University of California–Davis, is co-winner of the 2014 Wolf Prize in agriculture. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at University of California–Davis, is co-winner of the 2014 Wolf Prize in agriculture. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.  Today we look at USDA support for a researcher striving to improve wheat through developing better disease resistance, nutritional value, and yield.

One of America’s most renowned agricultural researchers, a man who has already collected two of the USDA’s top honors, has now earned international recognition with the Wolf Prize in Agriculture.  The Wolf Foundation began awarding six prizes – agriculture, the arts, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics – in 1978 to recognize outstanding scientists and artists for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples.

Jorge Dubcovsky, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California–Davis and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute–Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation investigator, is sharing the Wolf Prize with Leif Andersson, from Uppsala University in Sweden.  Dubcovsky’s previous awards include USDA’s National Research Initiative Discovery Award and the USDA Secretary’s Honor Award.  Dubcovsky will receive the Wolf Prize June 1 at Knesset Israel (the Israeli Parliament) from Israeli President Shimon Peres. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Makes Learning about Invasive Species Easy for Kids

The Insects Invade magazine developed by the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with Scholastic Inc. was distributed to 25,000 teachers nationwide this year.  (U.S. Forest Service)

The Insects Invade magazine developed by the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with Scholastic Inc. was distributed to 25,000 teachers nationwide this year. (U.S. Forest Service)

Our forests are under attack. And the U.S. Forest Service is hoping that the Nation’s fourth and fifth graders can help fight back.

The Forest Service distributed Insects Invade, a teacher’s package to 25,000 teachers nationwide.  The teacher’s package includes 30 copies of a 12-page full color magazine called Insects Invade, a teacher’s page that has two lesson plans, as well as a comment card for feedback. The magazine was developed in conjunction with Scholastic Inc., a company that has delivered books, magazines and educational materials to schools and families for 90 years.

The Insects Invade educational product resulted as an idea to build awareness among fourth and fifth graders elementary school children about invasive insects. Read more »

Celebrating Our Glorious Planet

Map of USDA’s Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) sites and farm resource regions.

Map of USDA’s Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) sites and farm resource regions.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine. For example, finding sustainable ways to produce food for Americans and the growing global population.

Today is Earth Day, which gives us the opportunity to celebrate the magnificence of our planet.  It’s a day to observe and support our environmental commitment to our planet now and in the future.

USDA scientists play an important role in protecting our environment.  Much of our research is focused on finding sustainable agricultural solutions to producing food, feed and fiber to meet our nation’s and the world’s ever-growing demand.  We develop environmentally friendly practices that farmers, ranchers, and others involved in food production can integrate into their operations. Read more »