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A New Tool for Breeding Better Wheat

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.

An international team of scientists, including some from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, has identified the 90,000-plus genes that make up the wheat genome. This was a monumental task, considering that the wheat genome is five times the size of the human genome.

Why does this matter?  Wheat is one of the world’s “big three” crops, along with rice and corn, and unlocking its secrets will help researchers develop an overall picture of the plant’s genetic makeup and broaden their understanding of how genetics and environment determine a crop’s health and viability. Why is one variety of wheat susceptible to drought or a particular disease, but not another? Why does one variety grow well in one type of soil, but not another? The genome map will help scientists find those answers by making it easier to link specific genes with important traits and develop genetic markers that can lead to breeding of new wheat varieties that produce higher yields and better tolerate drought, diseases and pests. Read more »

A Green Menace Threatens a Mohawk Community

APHIS plant health specialists investigate for Emerald Ash Borer. Examples of traditional basketry created by the Mohawk community from ash trees.

APHIS plant health specialists investigate for Emerald Ash Borer.

For centuries, the Mohawk community of the Akwesasne (pronounced AHG – weh – SAUCE – knee) have created traditional basketry from the abundance of ash trees found along the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Thousand Islands area in New York.

But for the last three years, the trees and the matchless creativity of the Akwesasne have been threatened by a particularly harmful insect called the Emerald Ash Borer. Read more »

Year-End Statistics Critical to Farm Disaster and Insurance Programs for Producers

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 profile.

At the end of the year, some producers may be feeling survey fatigue from responding to numerous requests from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) for data about their farm operations.  All of the survey responses received during the year are important, as the resulting statistics serve farmers directly in many ways.  NASS’s end-of year surveys, for example, are critical for USDA to administer farm disaster and insurance programs, which are as important as ever with recent extreme weather conditions. And this is a great asset for farmers who can in turn use this information to make sound decisions for their businesses. Read more »

New Jersey School Gardens Offer More Than Just Produce

New Jersey Farm to School Network and Edible Jersey Magazine recently awarded their inaugural School Garden of the Year Award to three projects for innovative efforts to connect their school gardens to the cafeteria, curriculum, and community.  How fitting that schools in the Garden State are host to a number of exemplary school gardens!

Students at Lawrenceville Elementary School in Lawrenceville, NJ cultivate their school garden from planting to harvest!

Students at Lawrenceville Elementary School in Lawrenceville, NJ cultivate their school garden from planting to harvest!

Read more »

Nevada Stronger Economies Together Team Spirit of Engagements Shows in Economic Blueprint

Nevada’s Stronger Economies Together (SET) Regional Team members met one last time Nov. 28 in Fallon, Nevada, to unveil the “Western Nevada Blueprint for Economic Development,”  a plan that set goals to develop five targeted economic sectors for a 33,000-square mile region of Nevada across nine counties, involving more than 200 people.

The 75 people who met in good cheer that morning at the beautiful old Oats Park Art Center, had a lot to celebrate.  They knew their region’s assets, they understood the barriers to growth, and they were starting to understand how working collaboratively benefits them all. Read more »

Energy Advisor Says a Host of Factors Affect Food Prices

Rob Green’s recent Wall Street Journal op-ed “The cause of higher grocery bills isn’t the drought. It’s the failed federal ethanol policy” fails to take into consideration a host of factors, other than demand for corn, that affect food prices.

In the domestic and global markets commodity, labor, transportation, energy costs, processing, and marketing costs all contribute to what we pay for food in our local grocery store or restaurant. In some cases, factors such as higher oil prices affect one or more of these underlying costs producing higher domestic and world food prices. Read more »