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Category: Science

Secretary’s Column: The Farm Bill at Work in Your State

Last week, USDA marked the six-month anniversary of the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill. I am proud to say that we’ve made important progress on every title of the Farm Bill, including issuing disaster assistance payments, updating risk management tools, modifying farm loan programs, announcing new support for agricultural research, establishing new conservation programs, and much more.

My team and I at USDA have gathered together some top statistics that show how the Farm Bill is at work in your state—and the record results we’ve achieved this time around. For example: Read more »

Uniting Industry Leaders to Propel Agricultural Research

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.

Everyday at USDA, we work to ensure that American agriculture delivers safe, nutritious food and clean, plentiful water. But we’re facing serious challenges worldwide affecting agriculture and natural resources. With our agricultural system under stress, we must partner to find new ways to approach solutions to these challenges.

A new partnership that’s creating a lot of excitement is the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR).  The Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, established this new, private, non-profit Foundation to foster research, innovation, and public-private partnerships important to America’s agricultural economy.  This independent nonprofit foundation will consult with USDA to fund complementary research activities to address challenges relating to plant and animal health, production and products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and the environment; agricultural and food security; agriculture systems and technology; and agricultural economics and rural communities.   Congress provided $200 million for the Foundation, and this money must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects.  In this way, the Foundation will leverage private donations to fund research activities making this a truly public-private partnership. Read more »

“Seeding” the Next Crop of Scientists

Future scientists conduct their first experiment: 1st grade students at the Salish School of Spokane hypothesize how different food choices and chemical scents will affect insect behavior and then record and discuss the actual results. Photo courtesy of ARS.

Future scientists conduct their first experiment: 1st grade students at the Salish School of Spokane hypothesize how different food choices and chemical scents will affect insect behavior and then record and discuss the actual results. Photo courtesy of 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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

2014 marks the eighth year of “Pumping Up the Math and Science Pipeline: Grade School to College,” an innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational outreach program developed and administered by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) employees David Weller and Kathleen Parker in cooperation with Washington State University-Pullman (WSU) and other partners.

“The goal of the program is enhance the flow of students from underserved and rural communities into STEM professions. We do this by engaging students of all ages in one-on-one and hands-on STEM education and other activities,” explains Weller, who leads the ARS Root Diseases and Biological Control Research Unit in Pullman. Read more »

#AgCensus and MyPlate Serve up Lessons in Math, Nutrition, and More

Map includes the following commonly eaten grains: oats, popcorn, rice, rye, wheat. Source: 2012 Census of Agriculture. Click to enlarge.

Map includes the following commonly eaten grains: oats, popcorn, rice, rye, wheat. Source: 2012 Census of Agriculture. 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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Where was the food on your plate grown? Do you know in which state the apple in your lunchbox was mostly likely harvested? Or where the milk from your milk carton was mostly likely produced?

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is helping students, parents, and teachers get revved up for a healthy school year by exploring U.S. agriculture production and the food they eat. Using the maps to display learning the most recent Census of Agriculture results, NASS is showing where foods in the five main food groups, dairy, fruits, grains, proteins, and vegetables, according to USDA’s MyPlate, are grown in the United States.  And the conversation and learning opportunities continue online using the hashtag #AgCensus. Read more »

Why is Cogongrass So Successful at Invading the South?

Widely used in landscaping, the cold-tolerant cogongrass Red Baron variety does not produce viable seed, but its pollen could present problems in the future. (Auburn University/David Teem, Bugwood.org). Photo used with permission.

Widely used in landscaping, the cold-tolerant cogongrass Red Baron variety does not produce viable seed, but its pollen could present problems in the future. (Auburn University/David Teem, Bugwood.org). Photo used with permission.

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.

Cogongrass makes kudzu look like a lightweight. A perennial grass, it grows on every continent except Antarctica and has earned a reputation as one of the worst weeds on Earth. In the South, cogongrass ranks among the top 10 plant marauders, invading forests, rights-of-way, and agricultural fields, literally taking over the landscape and altering ecosystems.

Native to Southeast Asia, the weed first arrived in the United States in 1912 as packing material in orange crates imported to Grand Bay, Alabama.  A few years later, farmers planted cogongrass in Mississippi as a possible forage crop. Since then, it’s spread to more than 66,000 acres throughout the South, its progress limited only by winter cold. Landowners and agencies have fought this weed for years with limited success. Read more »

The Important Role of Volunteers in Human Nutrition Studies

ARS is looking for volunteers for a study examining how the body absorbs plant-derived nutritional compounds, called polyphenols, which are found in apples, berries and tea.

ARS is looking for volunteers for a study examining how the body absorbs plant-derived nutritional compounds, called polyphenols, which are found in apples, berries and tea.

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.

How would you like to learn more about your personal health while contributing to science as a volunteer in a human nutrition research study?

Seventeen years ago, I saw an ad for such a study. I attended an information session to learn more, applied and was accepted. Looking back, it was a positive experience for me, and I’d do it again if I could. Read more »