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Category: Science

Frost on the Chickens

Robert Frost (1874-1963), one of the most popular and respected American poets of the twentieth century, was also a chicken farmer and egg producer in New Hampshire. Photo by Fred Palumbo, 1941, Library of Congress.

Robert Frost (1874-1963), one of the most popular and respected American poets of the twentieth century, was also a chicken farmer and egg producer in New Hampshire. Photo by Fred Palumbo, 1941, Library of Congress.

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.

A phone call to USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) seeking the original magazines with Robert Frost’s first published prose has now given rise to the library’s newest online exhibit. But why did a Frost aficionado call an agricultural library looking for these?

Because, before Robert Frost became ROBERT FROST, he was a chicken farmer with 300 white Wyandotte hens from 1900 to 1909 in Derry, New Hampshire. However, Frost wasn’t ever really a good fit for farming—he had serious hay fever, for one—and coops and eggs were a long way from four Pulitzer prizes for poetry. Read more »

Cutting Edge Genetics Research for Wildlife and Fish Conservation

Kellie Carim, eDNA coordinator for the Genomics Center, collects and processes samples. (Photos by Michael Schwartz (left) and Katie Zarn, U.S. Forest Service)

Kellie Carim, eDNA coordinator for the Genomics Center, collects and processes samples. (Photos by Michael Schwartz (left) and Katie Zarn, U.S. Forest Service)

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 U.S. Forest Service has a long history as a leader in conservation genetics, and this recently took an exciting step forward with the launch of the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation.

The Forest Service’s wildlife genetics lab, which has been central to the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s conservation genetics program since 1998, has been reorganized and renamed to better reflect the scope of its work nationwide. The Center is a leading edge facility for advanced genomics research, nationally recognized, and works extensively with states, tribes, universities and private groups to address the management issues of over 60 fish and wildlife species. Read more »

Bill Gates, Computerized Plant Breeding and Contending with Hunger

Bill Gates learns to pollinate wheat from Cornell University assistant professor Jessica Rutkoski, while ARS geneticist Edward Buckler looks on. Photo credit: Robert Barker, Cornell University.

Bill Gates learns to pollinate wheat from Cornell University assistant professor Jessica Rutkoski, while ARS geneticist Edward Buckler looks on. Photo credit: Robert Barker, Cornell University.

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.

Bill Gates, once simply of Microsoft fame, is now as famous for his dedication to reducing hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa and other goals that drive the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  He recently visited Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit in Ithaca, NY, to learn what two geneticists are doing to improve crop breeding decisions that could be used in that part of the world.

At the research unit, ARS geneticist Edward Buckler is turning the encyclopedic amount of genetic information he has developed about corn into helping the crop yield the kind of improvements in Africa that have been made in North America. Varieties bred for North American climates simply do not work in Africa where they currently produce only about one-fifth the harvest they do in this country. Millions of hungry and extremely poor people can’t afford the hundred years it would take for conventional breeding that was once the path taken in the United States. Read more »

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 »