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Longleaf Pine Savanna Helps Educate Farmers, Others on Value of Forest

Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.

Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.

The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, an hour west of Tallahassee, Florida, protects nearly 6,300 acres of restored sandhill habitat. Young longleaf pines stand in thick waves of golden wiregrass. Wild turkey, bobwhite quail, gopher tortoise and Florida pine snake once again populate what 25 years ago were rows of industrial timber and bare sand.

About 50 people recently toured the preserve to see for themselves the beauty and benefits of the longleaf pine, many of them landowners interested in restoring stands on their properties.  They learned how The Nature Conservancy hand planted millions of longleaf pine seedlings and wiregrass plugs.

Foresters from Florida Forest Service explained how regular prescribed burns promoted the growth of native groundcover and kept hardwood and invasive species in check. Biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed how wildlife is managed in longleaf pine forests. Read more »

NIFA Research is Working to Make Every Day World Health Day

USDA is observing World Health Day today.

USDA is observing World Health Day today.

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.

April 7 is World Health Day and food safety is the primary focus—and with good reason.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that, in the United States alone, every year there are 48 million foodborne illnesses and 3,000 deaths from unsafe food.

Most of these illnesses are the result of bacteria, such as Salmonella, that finds its way into various types of food.  About half of all microbial foodborne illnesses are associated with animal foods, and about half from produce.  CDC reports that most illnesses come from leafy greens, which could be contaminated on the farm, during processing, at retail or in the home. Chemicals, such as mercury in fish or mycotoxins from molds are also a concern. Read more »

USDA and the World Health Organization Highlight Food Safety this World Health Day

Everyone involved in the farm to table continuum has an interest in making our food safe to eat.  Because safe food is important to consumers around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has picked Food Safety as the theme of World Health Day 2015. Today, April 7th, as we observe World Health Day, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what a safe food supply means globally and domestically. WHO estimates that unsafe food causes 2 million deaths each year, with 1,000 of those deaths occurring in the United States.  Here at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), we focus on food safety day in and day out, working around the clock to prevent foodborne illness and protect public health.

In the United States, we are fortunate to have one of the safest food supplies in the world. In the last eight years, the U.S. has seen a decrease in the number of foodborne illnesses with 50,000 fewer reported illnesses since 2007. This decrease is the result of our work to develop innovative ways of educating consumers about safe food handling, our efforts to modernize how we inspect food, and the work we have done with establishments to prevent bacteria from contaminating food. We are committed to using an inspection system based in science—science that derives from the work of researchers and public health experts.  It is important to remember how far we’ve come, but our work is not done. Read more »

USDA-NASA’s Global View of Earth’s Soil Holds Many Benefits

The launch gantry is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite aboard at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. SMAP will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.

The launch gantry is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite aboard at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. SMAP will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.

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.

When we think about space missions, we tend to look toward the stars to planets like Mars where robotic rovers roam, gathering data and sending it back to Earth. Rarely do we think about missions closer to home. But a view of Earth from 426 miles above is helping us monitor droughts, predict floods, improve weather forecasts and assist with crop productivity.

This year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a new satellite called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active-Passive) with the help of a team that included U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hydrologist Susan Moran at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Southwest Watershed Research Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona, and physical scientist Wade Crow and hydrologist Thomas Jackson at ARS’s Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. Read more »

Latino Youth Conservation Leaders, Forest Service Leaders Share Blissful Experience of Transformational Conservation Successes

Green Ambassadors from Austin High School and The University of Houston interact with Woodsy Owl to spread the message of conservation education at the Austin and Chavez High School 9th Annual Future Farmers of America Livestock Show and Sale. (Photo Courtesy of the Houston East End Greenbelt)

Green Ambassadors from Austin High School and The University of Houston interact with Woodsy Owl to spread the message of conservation education at the Austin and Chavez High School 9th Annual Future Farmers of America Livestock Show and Sale. (Photo Courtesy of the Houston East End Greenbelt)

(Editor’s note: Luis Cruz is a youth conservation leader with Latino Legacy and PLT GreenSchools!, part of the Houston East End Greenbelt project. These projects are part of an eight-year partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Friends of the National Forests and Grasslands of Texas-Latino Legacy program, which promotes conservation education to diverse audiences in urban schools and communities surrounding national forests. Cruz was part of a group that came to Washington, D.C. to participate in a week-long program designed to connect youth to nature and establish a conservation ethic. The program also develops educational and career pathways in natural resources.)

By Luis Angel Cruz, Senior, Furr High School, GreenSchools! Co-op Green Ambassador Captain and Curriculum Lead, Houston, Texas

Meeting with the Chief and the executive leadership team of the U.S. Forest Service in March was like meeting your all-time favorite super heroes!

We are high school, middle school and college students and educators who are energized and alive with ideas to continue making a difference as part of our working partnership with U.S. Forest Service leaders to promote conservation education to Latino and diverse audiences. Read more »

#GimmeFive Ways to Boost Your Garden and Keep Pollinators Buzzing

A monarch butterfly collects nectar from a flower. USDA photo by Charles Bryson.

A monarch butterfly collects nectar from a flower. USDA photo by Charles Bryson.

The USDA’s People’s Garden team is joining the fun at the White House Easter Egg Roll today to introduce the crowds to some very important garden workers – pollinators. Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, and beetles are all crucial to sustaining plant growth, and in fact nearly two-thirds of the foods we often consume are pollinated by bees alone. Doing your part to keep these creatures healthy in turn ensures a nutritious food supply for you and me.

Honey bees are responsible for pollinating more than 100 crops and one out of every three bites of food Americans eat. These foods give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition.  Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinator habitat and pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment. Declining pollinator populations across the country pose a threat to our environment, economy and human health, but supporting pollinators is not hard to do. Read more »