Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Category: Science

100 Years of U.S. Forest Service Research and Development

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

U.S. Forest Service Research and Development celebrates a century of existence this year and while we don’t all get the opportunity to work directly with our researchers and scientists, we all benefit from their contributions.

We are extremely fortunate as an agency to have our own Research & Development branch. It has allowed us to not only develop the science that we need to do our jobs but also to apply it to our present and future initiatives. We are a science-based organization and many of the solutions to the challenges we face derive from the team’s work. Read more »

Improving the Safety of Leafy Greens

Sadhana Ravishankar with a bag of leafy greens

Sadhana Ravishankar, associate professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, led a team of researchers at the University of Arizona that discovered natural methods to sanitize leafy vegetables.

Food safety is a top priority for consumers, especially when it comes to the leafy greens in salads. Researchers at the University of Arizona have discovered natural methods to sanitize these vegetables using ingredients commonly found in the kitchen, such as oregano, cinnamon, and vinegar.

Plant extracts, essential oils, and organic sanitizers have all proved effective in killing bacteria on leafy greens and extending their shelf life. When emulsified in the water used to wash these leaves, the approach compares to (and sometimes even works better than) bleach or hydrogen peroxide. Read more »

Red, White and Blue: Sustainable, Domestic Dye for Denim

Indigo plants

“Many farmers in the Southeast are planting indigo as a cash crop alternative to tobacco.” (Image courtesy of Sarah Bellos)

Blue jeans are a classic symbol of American fashion, but did you ever wonder how your blue jeans got their color?

Synthetic indigo dyes are used to give jeans their hue, but that was not always the case. Only two countries, China and Germany, currently manufacture the dyes that are used to color jeans, with China producing 90 percent.

Synthetic indigo is derived from coal tar and toxic chemicals that are fused together under conditions so extreme that making it in the United States is cost prohibitive, due to strict environmental and safety regulations. Read more »

Bioenergy, Bioproducts Education Program Builds Student Confidence, Equips Educators

Morina Ricablanca

Morina Ricablanca teaches bioenergy and other subjects to special needs students at East Hoke Middle School in North Carolina. (Image courtesy of Morina Ricablanca)

Being an educator is in Morina Ricablanca’s blood. Growing up in a family of teachers in the Philippines, she knew she would someday pursue a career in education. Ricablanca participated in an outreach program assisting troubled youth while attending Manuel L. Quezon University Law School in Manila. She realized then it was time to join the family business of teaching.

Her decision has led her to a successful career working with special needs students at East Hoke Middle School in rural North Carolina. Ricablanca was named the “2014 Teacher of the Year” for her school district, partly due to her work helping three of her students win the school’s science fair. Read more »

Food Safety is Everybody’s Business

A plate of hamburgers beside vegetables on skewers, ketchup, mustard and a pepper shaker

Consumers should be vigilant about handling and cooking food properly—food safety is everybody’s business.

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.

USDA’s summer road trip may have come to an end, but many folks are still firing up the grills as summer winds down. With that, consumers still need to be conscious of food safety—from checking temperatures of grilled meat to discarding perishables that have been sitting out too long. A quick U-turn on our road trip explores USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food safety research program, which addresses complex food safety challenges by developing scientific information and new technologies to control foodborne contaminants. Read more »

UTEP Researchers Take a Different Path to Tackle International Drought Issues

UTEP text and the state of Texas layered onto an image of a river

Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are helping policy makers and residents manage their ever-shrinking water resources using new and different approaches. (Image by Stephanie Engle)

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.

Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are working with stakeholders to determine the course their research will take.  The result, they say, is better science that is more useful to end users – and the scientists learn a lot, too.

Rather than have their own science-based questions direct their research, Dr. Josiah Heyman and his research partner Dr. William Hargrove will let stakeholders – the actual users of their science – point the way.  According to Heyman, this “participatory approach” is science for the public’s sake, not for the scientists’ sake.  The two lead a multi-institutional, multi-national project that is tackling drought-driven water supply issues in the Southwest. Read more »