Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Deer Sign of the Times: Pellet Surveys Reveal Whitetail Abundance

Deer pellet group in Pennsylvania spring woods

A classic example of a pellet group in the Pennsylvania spring woods - evidence that white-tailed deer overwintered in this area. The shed antler was a bonus find on this particular plot. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

It’s a cool 37 degrees Fahrenheit as Alex Royo and I step out of the Forest Service truck and on to the muddy forest road. With the meteorologist calling for sun and a high of 66 degrees by lunchtime, I am already faced with the day’s toughest decision – do I keep my warm jacket on or leave it in the truck? Either way, half of my 3.5-mile hike is going to be uncomfortable. A quick glance at Alex reveals that he has opted to leave his jacket behind. As we walk into the forest, I can’t help but notice the contrast of colorful spring beauties and trout lilies against the dull brown forest floor. And already, there is the object of my hike — deer pellets. To find pellets so early in the day one has to wonder, just how many deer are out here?

That’s the question that vexes hunters, scientists, and land managers throughout Pennsylvania and beyond. Each and every spring, a small army of individuals from the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, the Allegheny National Forest, multiple private land managing partners, and volunteers hike hundreds of miles of Pennsylvania’s forests to help determine how many deer the forest holds by counting the most visible part of a deer – deer pellets, which is the nicest term for deer waste. Read more »

USDA Scientists, Volunteers Map Soils under New Jersey’s Barnegat Bay

Man and woman at Barnegat Bay

Barnegat Bay is one of 28 estuaries across the country classified as nationally significant.

Soil scientists don’t just map what’s under our feet but what’s below the water’s surface, too. Scientists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are mapping and documenting the permanently submerged subaqueous soils of Barnegat Bay, a troubled estuary in New Jersey that is home to environmentally-sensitive habitats.

The bay’s ecosystem has degraded over the years from pollution, human development and other causes. NRCS soil scientists are now working an inventory of the bay’s soils that will identify the sources of the estuary’s decline and aid in its restoration.

To make this happen, NRCS is collecting vibracores and field notes and describing soil samples as part of mapping the floor of the bay. Vibracores are samples of underwater soils collected in tubes. Read more »

Bringing the Scientist to the Student

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 the Terrebonne Parish Main Library in Houma, Louisiana, issued flyers asking local science and engineering professionals to spend a few hours mentoring students on their science-fair project ideas, Michael Grisham didn’t hesitate.

Indeed, you might say that Grisham has had a lifelong affinity for science fairs—first as a student and, today, as a plant pathologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), where he leads the agency’s Sugarcane Research Unit (SRU) in Houma. Read more »

Do You Know the Biosecurity Steps to Protect Your Poultry from Avian Influenza? Get Advice From the Experts with #chickenchat2015 on April 16

Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.

Anyone who owns or works with poultry—whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/backyard farm—should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Even if you are already familiar with biosecurity, now is a good time to double-check your practices. You are the best protection your birds have! Read more »

Candy Company Finds Sweet Success on Southeast Asia Trade Mission

Kizable LLC’s Brian Shroeder (far left) and Michael Busby (third from left) take a moment during the Southeast Asia ATM to introduce Under Secretary Michael Scuse to one of the company’s one-on-one business meeting counterparts in the Philippines.

Kizable LLC’s Brian Shroeder (far left) and Michael Busby (third from left) take a moment during the Southeast Asia ATM to introduce Under Secretary Michael Scuse to one of the company’s one-on-one business meeting counterparts in the Philippines.

Southeast Asia is a rapidly growing market for U.S. farm and food products, and exporters like Florida-based Kizable Kandy are eager to meet the demand.

But Brian Schroeder, Kizable’s director, noticed his company had a gap when it came to Southeast Asia. Kizable currently ships its candy, which comes in fun, designer tins, to more than 30 countries around the world – but it didn’t have a solid customer base in Southeast Asia, despite the region’s strong economic growth and increasing demand for high-value products. Read more »

April Brings Forth Crop Progress Reports

A tractor turns the cover crop into the soil in preparation for planting at Leafy Greens, a farm in the Salinas Valley of California. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

A tractor turns the cover crop into the soil in preparation for planting at Leafy Greens, a farm in the Salinas Valley of California. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

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.

It’s been said, “April showers bring forth May flowers.”  For USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and others involved in farming, April also brings forth the start of each year’s planting season for many key U.S. crops and the weekly Crop Progress report series.

With the help of about 4,000 reporters, including extension agents, Farm Service Agency staff, and others whose jobs involve frequent visual observations of farms and interaction with growers, NASS tracks and reports on planting, maturity, and harvest of major crops, such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton. Read more »