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Happy World Statistics Day 2015!

Traffic beside a port

Traffic beside a port.

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 is World Statistics Day and countries all around the world are celebrating the impact accurate statistics have on their lives. Here at the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) we take pride in our long tradition of working with our counterparts around the globe. Not only are we actively networking with other United Nations member states, but we also partner with Canada and Mexico to cooperatively publish statistics. Read more »

The Biology of Fall Leaves: It’s all about Chemistry

Aspens in the Fishlake National Forest

The golden leaves of aspens shimmer in the midst of other fall colors on the Fishlake National Forest in Utah. (U.S. Forest Service)

Forests become a veritable garden in the fall, presenting a riot of color in national forests as well as on the streets where we live.

But what exactly is going on in those leaves? How – and why – do leaves change color, and why is there so much variety? It boils down to chemistry. Read more »

UPDATE: A Farmers Market Soars in Michigan

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (fifth from right) cutting the ribbon for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Chief Steve Pego

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (fifth from right) cuts the ribbon for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Chief Steve Pego.

To update you on a story featured previously, I was honored to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market. We broke ground on this project in June, and it is great to see the pavilion completed in time to share this summer’s produce. 

Tribal Chief Steve Pego sang a ceremonial song and a traditional offering of medicine was made to commemorate the occasion.  He noted that the response had been overwhelming and hoped it would lead to revival of interest in growing traditional crops and also improve the diet of tribal members, moving them away from processed food to fresh, locally-grown produce. Read more »

Gopher Tortoise Habitats Thrive along Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Gopher tortoise

Private landowners in Alabama and elsewhere in the Southeast are playing a crucial role in restoring habitat for gopher tortoises.

Longleaf pine forests once dominated the Southeast. But over the past two centuries, many of these forests have disappeared along with the wildlife that called them home. Recent efforts to enhance longleaf forests on private lands are helping the ecosystem rebound as well as wildlife like the gopher tortoise.

The gopher tortoise is a keystone species of the longleaf forest, known for their deep burrows that provide vital habitat and shelter for not only itself but many other species. The gopher tortoise is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the western part of the longleaf range, including parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Read more »

Support Healthy Markets this National Forest Products Week

A warehouse of forest products

A warehouse of forest products. Photo credit: Joel Prince courtesy National Association of State Foresters.

The following guest blog is part of a series featuring the Forest Service’s work with partners on restoration across the country.

By Scott Bissette, Assistant Commissioner of the North Carolina Forest Service and chair of the National Association of State Foresters Forest Markets Committee 

Our forests are renewable and vital resources when sustainably managed. From paper products such as food packaging and tissue paper, to lumber used for our homes and furniture, trees in our forests provide items we use every day.

Strong markets for these forest products are needed to restore many of our forests and ensure they continue to be managed and are healthy for future generations. That’s why all Americans should support National Forest Products Week from October 18-24, 2015. Read more »

South Florida Drought: Mobile Irrigation Labs to the Rescue

A person testing an irrigation system

Nurseries can take advantage of the free irrigation efficiency test. Photo: Gail Hendricks.

Widespread drought in California and other parts of the western United States has been widely covered, but earlier this year,  drought conditions in southeast Florida were  “extreme” and are still considered “abnormally dry” according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. This heavily populated area of Florida – which is home to more than eight million people and includes the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach – is also a major agricultural area.

Even though Florida is in its rainy season, lasting from May until October, the South Florida Water Management District reports that May and June rainfall totals were well below average across most of the region. District weather records show that this May and June period was the driest since 2004 and the ninth driest since recordkeeping began in 1932. Of course, a tropical disturbance or hurricane that contains significant rainfall, like the one experienced last month, can make up at least some of this deficit, but waiting for weather isn’t something to rely on to fix the problem. Read more »