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Category: Science

Hawaii’s Women in Technology Program Cultivates the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

Girls building their Geodesic Dome

Middle and high school girls at MEDB'S 4-H TECH CONNECT engaged in an activity called Geodesic Domes. Students worked in competitive teams to build the strongest geodesic dome using toothpicks and gumdrops! Whose engineering design is the strongest?

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.

If America is to maintain its role as a global leader, it needs to develop more world-class talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), especially among underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities.

This need is especially true in rural Hawaii, where developing renewable and sustainable energy is vital due to the isolation of island living and high energy costs. Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the nation and is more dependent on imported fossil fuels than any other state. Preparing students for entry into the renewable energy industry could help the state’s economy and overall economic sustainability. Read more »

Climate-Smart Practices Keep the Land Covered

Jessa Kay Cruz of the Xerces Society with participants at Lockeford Plant Materials Center

Jessa Kay Cruz of the Xerces Society (with net) examines wild bees along with participants at the Lockeford Plant Materials Center’s Open House in April 2015. Photo by Amber Kerr.

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.”

There are many ways that farmers can use plant cover to mitigate and adapt to climate change. To learn climate-smart practices, farmers can turn to resources like USDA’s Plant Materials Center in Lockeford, California (CAPMC) which is one of 25 PMCs nationwide.  Established in the 1930’s to help with plant-based tools to combat the Dust Bowl, the PMCs test, develop, and deploy plant mixtures and cultivars to solve conservation challenges.  These challenges include soil erosion, water and air pollution, riparian degradation, loss of wildlife habitat – and now, climate change. Read more »

Will Chestnuts Roast on an Open Fire Again Someday?

A chestnut tree

The iconic American chestnut tree is rebounding from virtual extinction, thanks to transgenic research funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

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. Today we learn more about how the National Institute of Food and Agriculture invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.

Seventy years ago, when Nat “King” Cole first regaled us about roasted chestnuts in The Christmas Song, not many Americans could actually enjoy the treat because American chestnut trees were in dire straits.

The predominant tree in Eastern American forests was nearing the tail end of a 50-year blight that killed an astonishing three to five billion trees, making the species functionally extinct. Now, however, researchers supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) are working to restore the American chestnut and may be only a few years away from bringing back the iconic tree. Read more »

Public Service Recognition Week: Thank You, AMS!

Associate Deputy Administrator Melissa Bailey (center) with staff from Fort Worth, Texas PACA division

Associate Deputy Administrator Melissa Bailey (center) with staff from our Fort Worth, Texas PACA division. Since implementation, over 3,700 claims worth more than $66 million have been resolved by our Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) division, which helps protect the American produce industry.

At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our 4,000 employees work hard every day to support the country’s diverse agricultural operations. Whether it’s individual farmers or international businesses, we have a long tradition of collaborating, innovating, and evolving to keep American agriculture competitive in the global marketplace.

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, I would like to introduce you to some of our employees and tell you about the remarkable work they do each and every day. Read more »

Wheat Blast, Bangladesh, and Biosecurity: NIFA-Funded Research Works for Global Food Security

Wheat blast

Wheat blast is a fungal pathogen that can devastate a crop and ruin entire harvests. Photo courtesy of Guillermo Isidoro Barea Vargas

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.

An epidemic of wheat blast is underway in Bangladesh, published reports say, and losses may be substantial in the six southeastern districts where it has been reported. Wheat blast is a crop disease caused by the Triticum pathotype of the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae (MoT). In nations where broad wheat blast epidemics have occurred, 30 percent losses have been noted, but localized areas have experienced 50-100 percent losses, according to Dr. Barbara Valent, fungal molecular geneticist at Kansas State University (KSU).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), has provided nearly $5.4 million since 2009 to support research on wheat and rice blast. KSU leads a multi-institutional research project that brings together expertise from University of Arkansas, University of Kentucky, the Ohio State University, Purdue University, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Read more »

How College Catapults Students to Ag Careers

Gracie Valdez explains how traveling around the world helped her to want to pursue a career in international agricultural development and trade.

Growing up, the question of the day often started with “why” or “how” because I loved discovering things. Though my specific interests morphed from archaeology to geology to biology, I knew I wanted to be a scientist since the 5th grade.  In college, I chose to study biology, which exposed me to many different aspects of the field.  College was the springboard that sharpened my focus and led me to becoming the ecosystem ecologist I am today.  Recognizing National College Signing Day, I hope that today’s inbound students consider studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects to help meet our future agricultural challenges. Read more »