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Category: Science

Knowledge at Your Fingertips Makes Every Penny Count

Quick Facts for Producers graphic

Quick Facts for Producers graphic (Click to enlarge photo)

America is a nation blessed by agricultural bounty.  Unfortunately, that blessing comes with price-suppressing surpluses being the norm for most of the past century with occasional periods of short stocks, and temporary prosperity for the nation’s grain farmers.  Margins are tight and every penny counts.

Recently I started receiving calls from producers who were experiencing devastating price discounts for wheat – 3 cents per 10th of a pound of test weight below 60.1 pounds – resulting in a 33 cent per bushel discount for 59 pound wheat.  At today’s prices, that is approaching at or very near a ten percent discount on wheat that has a test weight one full pound above the U.S. No. 1 wheat grade standards minimum. Read more »

Taming Big-Data for Practical Scientific Research with Microchip Biology

Dr. Ramana Gosukonda with students

Dr. Ramana Gosukonda, left, associate professor of agricultural sciences at Fort Valley State University’s College of Agriculture, prepares to work with students in the university’s new bioinformatics program. Photo credit: Dr. Ramana Gosukonda

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.

At Fort Valley State University (FVSU) the next generation of leaders in agricultural and life sciences are coming face-to-face with technology that will help them solve the toughest challenges of the future.

“Bioinformatics is ‘biology in silico,’ or ‘digital biology,’ and it is transforming biological research into an informational science,” said Dr. Ramana Gosukonda, associate professor of agricultural sciences at FVSU’s College of Agriculture. Read more »

NoroCORE: A Comprehensive Approach to a Near ‘Perfect’ Human Pathogen

Blond woman with a painful expression sitting on a grey sofa at home with her hands placed on her stomach

About 5 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness each year. (iStock photo)

Today’s guest blog features the USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative (NoroCORE- Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research, and Education), a food safety initiative with the ultimate goal to reduce the burden of foodborne disease associated with viruses, particularly noroviruses. Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the United States accounting for around 5 million of the 21 million annual cases associated with contaminated foods. Cost of illness is estimated to be billions of dollars per year.

By Dr. Elizabeth Bradshaw, NoroCORE extension associate, and Dr. Lee-Ann Jaykus, NoroCORE scientific director

Even if you have not experienced a norovirus infection personally (consider yourself fortunate!), you probably know someone who has or have heard of an outbreak of the “stomach flu.”  Most people know norovirus by its symptoms: a couple of memorable days of vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with a fever and a headache. Read more »

Measuring Hazelnuts in Oregon

Yamhill variety hazelnut orchard in Oregon

This is the oldest Yamhill variety hazelnut orchard in the State of Oregon. Yamhill is a newer, disease resistant variety developed by Oregon State University. The orchard is owned by Birkemeier Farms of Canby, OR.

Few realize that Oregon produces 99 percent of the hazelnuts in the United States. That means that an accurate forecast of hazelnut production in the Beaver state assists the industry in determining marketing plans and price. To do that, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service runs a joint project with the Hazelnut Marketing Board of Oregon, which allows us to measure the most accurate production yields and forecasts for hazelnut production possible. This project is called the Oregon Hazelnut Objective Yield Survey.

When it comes to forecasting production of a particular commodity, there are various methods we can use. Predominantly we survey growers to get their estimate of their own farm production. We combine the farmers’ responses with objective yield measurements. In brief, we use the objective yield survey to count and measure the crop prior to harvest so that we can see what kind of crop we can truly expect by the end of the growing season. Read more »

Citizen Science is Sound Science Provided by You

Volunteers traversing the North Cascades Mountains

Volunteers traversing the North Cascades Mountains looking to track butterflies. Photo credit: National Park Service

Have you ever seen a cool bird in your backyard and wondered if there was some way to share what you saw with others? Better yet, have you thought about sharing your observations and having them used to help study and conserve those birds? These thoughts are an indicator that you might have the makings of a great citizen scientist!

The Forest Service is engaged in a wide variety of citizen science projects that encourage public involvement in natural and cultural resource science and conservation. Volunteers can contribute by forming research questions, collecting and analyzing data, or interpreting results. If you have a sense of wonder and discovery, citizen science may be for you. Read more »

When it Comes to Cotton, Texas Rules

NASS interviewers conducting objective yield measurements

NASS interviewers conducting objective yield measurements in a field near Lubbock, Texas.

Lone Star state growers are responsible for 56 percent of the U.S. acres planted to cotton and about 45 percent of the total cotton production. But how do we measure this crop accurately enough to make dependable forecasts for cotton yield and production? That’s where our measurement process, known as the objective yield kicks in.

All of the objective yield measurements are done by a well-prepared team of National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) enumerators. For this growing season, we spent the week of July 12-14 training 43 enumerators with a combination of classroom and hands-on field practice. Since approximately 63 percent of the Texas crop, which represents 30 percent of the U.S. total cotton crop, comes from the High Plains of Texas, this group has the bulk of the samples in Texas. Read more »