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Fort Valley Experimental Forest: First in the Nation to Discover the Effects of a Changing Climate on Pines

Back when Arizona was designated a U.S. territory, scientists had already been exploring its vast landscapes which start from nearly sea level and climb to over 12,000 feet. They were paying particular attention to Arizona’s diverse vegetation and climate.

In 1889, biologist C. Hart Merriam traversed northern Arizona and found six of the seven world life zones he would later describe by latitude and elevation. The existence of such varied life zones across a short distance, and often with just a few hundred feet of elevation change, fascinated scientists. One particular life zone, the extensive stands of ponderosa pine growing at higher elevations from west of Flagstaff, AZ, eastward into New Mexico was particularly interesting to scientists and foresters. Read more »

An All-of-the-Above Approach to Energy in America

America needs and is developing a reliable, sustainable, fuel supply. If we are able to produce more of it here at home – rather than relying on foreign oil – we’ll generate good, middle-class jobs and strengthen our economy in the long run.  That is why USDA and the Obama administration are working with private industry to pursue an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to promote American-produced renewable energy coupled with oil production.

Today, biofuels are being developed using not just corn, but corn stover, soybeans, switchgrass, wood, camelina, energy cane, municipal solid waste, yellow oils, algae, and a host of other non-food feedstocks growing across the country. Read more »

University of Georgia Research Sheds Light on How Plant Cell Walls May Impact Biofuel Production

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.

One of the keys to improving biofuel production is to understand how plants are made and function. Two researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA)  have made strides in understanding how plant cell walls are made, opening a new door to converting plants to biofuels and other carbon-based products.

UGA researcher Debra Mohnen and her team discovered that two proteins (GAUT1 and GAUT7) come together in an unexpected way to make a carbohydrate, or a chain of sugar molecules, in plant cell walls. The work was funded through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Read more »

Salsa, Sabor y Salud: Miplato Celebra la Fortaleza de las Tradiciones Latinas

¿Cómo está celebrando usted el mes nacional de la nutrición?  Una manera fácil de incorporar la nutrición sana en su vida es hacer de MiPlato su plato.  Usted puede hacerlo en su propia mesa, y también puede ayudar a otros a hacerlo.  Comunidades a través del país están utilizando el plato hace tiempo para educar a los niños sobre cómo crear platos saludables y divertidos, que celebran las diversas culturas de las comunidades en los Estados Unidos.

Por ejemplo, Salsa, Sabor y Salud se ha  utilizado desde el año 2002 para enseñarle a estudiantes de escuelas primarias en qué consiste un plato saludable. Este es un programa bilingüe de nutrición creado por el Instituto Nacional para Niños Latinos (NLCI, por sus siglas en inglés), una  organización sin fines de lucro.  NLCI creó El Plato Saludable utilizando en ese entonces el modelo de MiPirámide para enseñar a los niños sobre los grupos básicos de alimentos.  Como resultado,  este programa innovador ha educado a más de 35,000 Latinos en 28 estados y Puerto Rico en los últimos diez años.  El año pasado, NLCI colaboró con el YMCA para desarrollar clases de nutrición en más de 90 YMCAs alrededor del país.  Este ao, tienen planes de expander el programa a otros 40 YMCAs. Read more »

Salsa, Sabor y Salud: MiPlato Celebrates the Strengths of Latino Traditions

How are you celebrating National Nutrition Month? An easy way to incorporate great nutrition every day is to make MyPlate your plate. You can do that at your own dining table, and you can also help others do so, as well. People across the country have been doing that for a long time by using the plate method to educate kids about building healthy, fun plates that celebrate America’s many cultures and communities.

For example, Salsa, Sabor y Salud has been teaching elementary students about healthy plates since 2002. It is a bilingual nutrition education program created by the non-profit National Latino Children’s Institute (NLCI).  Using USDA’s “My Pyramid,” the program created “El Plato Saludable” (“The Healthy Plate”) to teach students each food group. Through this innovative program, more than 35,000 Latinos in 28 states and Puerto Rico participated in nutrition education classes over the past decade.  Last year, NLCI partnered with the YMCA in order to expand nutrition education classes to 90 YMCAs across the country. This year, NCLI plans to expand their nutrition education classes into 40 more YMCAs. Read more »

Farming in the OC. Really.

On Friday, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan met with producers in America’s most significant and diverse agricultural state – California. Many people wouldn’t think of farming in Orange County, but there is significant specialty crop production just a few miles away from Disneyland. Farming in southern California’s urban environment is particularly challenging and Merrigan’s first stop was at Manassero Farms in Irvine where she discussed these challenges with local strawberry and tomato grower Dan Manassero.  Manassero’s family operation, which has been in business for several generations, has several successful farm stands, as well as commercial relationships with local grocery stores.

Deputy Merrigan then traveled to the headquarters of the Orange County Great Park where she and Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Val Dolcini held a roundtable listening session with dozens of local growers.  She also visited The Great Park, formerly home to El Toro Marine Air Station, which spans more than 1,300 acres (nearly twice the size of NewYork’s Central Park) and embraces environmental sustainability, Orange County’s agricultural heritage, and honors the military history of the former air base.  Merrigan then toured the Great Park Farm, a 114 acre working farm designed to provide fresh produce to local residents. Read more »