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A Kentucky Professor Works to Improve Irrigation Efficiency, Soil Health in High Tunnels

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff  view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

Seasonal high tunnels have emerged in the past few years as an important tool for farmers wanting to extend their growing seasons. Right now, thanks to a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA, a University of Kentucky professor is studying them – and how they can be made more efficient.

Krista Jacobsen, an assistant professor of horticulture, is studying the soil inside of high tunnels and the possibilities of catching rainwater to irrigate crops inside of them. High tunnels are plastic-covered structures that enable farmers to have crops ready earlier or later in the season. Read more »

Grains, Trains and Global Success

Asia-bound grains, including soybeans, are commonly shipped by rail to ports in the Pacific Northwest. The cost to ship by ocean is the main driver for the choice of port for export, because inland barge transportation to the Mississippi Gulf is usually more efficient and less expensive than rail. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Asia-bound grains, including soybeans, are commonly shipped by rail to ports in the Pacific Northwest. The cost to ship by ocean is the main driver for the choice of port for export, because inland barge transportation to the Mississippi Gulf is usually more efficient and less expensive than rail. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Fall is harvest time and our rural communities are bustling with activity.  For American soybean farmers the days start in the early dawn, and they stay until the last light is gone, tending fields that seem to stretch to the end of the world.  But success for them relies on more than just growing a good crop.  Their soybeans must also move efficiently from the fields to the far corners of the world.

Helping farmers understand the importance and impact of transportation trends is one of the services provided by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  AMS helps growers and exporters by gathering agricultural transportation data for a wide array of publications that are available to everyone on our agricultural transportation website. Read more »

What is Wilderness? Experience Exceeds the Definition

A fall dusting hints that winter is coming to the high country at Charlia Pass in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the Olympic National Forest. The pass offers breathtaking views of Mt. Constance, Del Monte Ridge and Charlie Lake. (U.S. Forest Service)

A fall dusting hints that winter is coming to the high country at Charlia Pass in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the Olympic National Forest. The pass offers breathtaking views of Mt. Constance, Del Monte Ridge and Charlie Lake. (U.S. Forest Service)

As I reach the pinnacle of this stretch of trail my heart is racing, my calves are burning, and my face is dripping with perspiration. I feel strong. I remove the pack from my aching shoulders and grab my water bottle. I am refreshed as I gulp it down. This is sweet mountain water that will eventually trickle down to taps in the city below. Up here, it’s clear and icy cold and the only type of water I have consumed during my five-day wilderness experience.

I lower the bottle from my mouth to admire my accomplishments. The top of the mountain pass has rewarded me with spectacular views of surrounding peaks. I feel alone, but not forlorn. I unravel the contents of my pack and begin to set up my final camp. Read more »

USDA Plant Experts Help Cemetery Tame Slope with Native Grasses

NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.

NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.

Pristine landscaping covers the 355 acres of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.  On a day where caretakers dutifully trim the grass and care for the about 200,000 headstones marking the final resting place of veterans and their families, three plant specialists with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) begin work in the southeast portion of the cemetery.

They are returning a hilly slope overlooking the Mississippi River to its native landscape with native warm-season grasses. In stark contrast to the recently laid turf just inches from the edge of the slope, the native grasses will provide functionality while also restoring a small plot of land to its native species. Read more »

Food for Progress Helps Female Farmer Forge Path to Success in Ethiopia

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden stands with dairy farm owner Ms. Yetemwork Tilahun on Tilahun’s farm near the city of Mojo, about 50 miles south of Addis Ababa, Ethopia on Aug. 28, 2014. USDA photo.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden stands with dairy farm owner Ms. Yetemwork Tilahun on Tilahun’s farm near the city of Mojo, about 50 miles south of Addis Ababa, Ethopia on Aug. 28, 2014. USDA photo.

On a recent trip to Africa, I spent time in Ethiopia witnessing how USDA’s work there is helping the country’s agricultural sector to grow and thrive, especially for women farmers.

I visited a small-scale, woman-owned dairy farm near the town of Mojo, about 50 miles south of Addis Ababa, to see how the Feed Enhancement for Ethiopian Development (FEED) project, an activity supported by USDA’s Food for Progress program, has boosted milk production through better feeding practices and farm management. Read more »

Do YOU Have a Plan for Your Pets Should Disaster Strike?

A dog at the APHIS Animal Care joint emergency exercise in Baton Rouge, LA.

A dog at the APHIS Animal Care joint emergency exercise in Baton Rouge, LA.

Let’s face it—there’s nothing quite as frightening as when a natural disaster strikes.  Even fictional movies about natural disasters leave you on the edge of your chair.  Whether in the movies or real life, the important lesson is—planning ahead can save…you or your family’s…life.

It’s National Preparedness Month.  USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) wants to remind you to take steps that not only protect your family members but your pets in the event of an emergency situation.  The same planning that goes into making your human family safe also should be extended to your furry, scaly, finned or feathered family too.  Contact your local emergency management agency for specific information about your area before disaster strikes.  They know the history of the types of emergencies typically affecting your area, and also will have critical information about local resources, such as where you can evacuate with your pet.  These few simple steps provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will help you prepare for your pet’s safety during a disaster.  And your local emergency management organization can help you with the points marked below with a * star. Read more »