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Posts tagged: #AgInnovates

Building Technology that Supports Organic Integrity

Representatives of the database development team

Representatives of the database development team (from left to right) are: Jennifer Tucker (USDA), Indu Shekhar (Harmonia), Aleksey Gasnikov (Harmonia), Dirk Otto (Intact), Manisha Amdiyala (Harmonia), Stacy Swartwood (USDA), Swathy Mudhagouni (Harmonia), Kristin Tensuan (USDA), and Thomas Lorber (Intact).

If you have accessed the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) list of certified organic operations recently, you may have noticed a new look to the site, and new ways to search for organic operations.  These changes reflect an early release of the Organic INTEGRITY Database, a system funded by the 2014 Farm Bill and built by the AMS National Organic Program and Information Technology Service with support from Intact and Harmonia Holdings Group.  

The changes you see on the site are only a small part of the database development project.  For example, underlying the new site is a brand new classification system (or taxonomy) for categorizing products that carry USDA organic certification. Previously, organic certifiers reporting farm and business information to USDA submitted a single text list of certified products for each operation.  Certifiers reported data differently and there was no method to catch spelling or spacing problems. For example, one listing included the item “grapechickenapples.” An interesting appetizer or, a big data quality problem! Read more »

Collaboration and Innovation are Keys to Organic Success

USDA Certified Organic Operations graphic

With 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and nearly 28,000 certified organic operations from more than 120 countries around the globe, organic agriculture has seen enormous growth and success over the last two years.

For years, the organic industry has experienced enormous growth, defying expectations and creating exciting opportunities for producers and entrepreneurs around the world. 2014 was another record year for the organic community, with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and nearly 28,000 certified organic operations from more than 120 countries around the globe.

The retail market for organic products is now valued at more than $39 billion in the U.S. and over $75 billion worldwide. With its rapidly growing market and high consumer interest, USDA is focused on helping this area of agriculture achieve even greater success. In May 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued guidance that identified organic priorities for the Department, including training and outreach, growing the organic sector, reducing paperwork, improving research, and gathering data. Read more »

Harnessing the Power of Global Open Data

At the 70th United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly Meeting, the U.N. Member States agreed to a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) to eradicate poverty and hunger, protect the planet, and create sustainable economic growth globally. High-quality statistics and data are critical to achieving these goals by enabling us to better target our actions, develop innovative solutions to these global challenges, and ensure prosperity for all. 

Recognizing the importance of this data, the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data (Global Data Partnership) was launched on September 28.  This partnership envisions a world in which the power of timely, accurate, and high quality data leads to sustainable development — leaving no one behind.  It envisions a world in which data is produced, organized, shared, and used in an environment of trust, inclusion, creativity, efficacy, and efficiency, a world where “the right data is available to the right people at the right time to make the right decisions for the right outcomes.” Read more »

A Diet to Help Conserve Bees When Food Is Scarce

Bees eating MegaBee

MegaBee, an artificial diet developed by ARS and S.A.F.E. R&D, LLC, helps sustain honey bees in the face of pressures such as poor nutrition, pathogens, parasites and sublethal exposure to pesticides.

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.

The fact that honey bees are a critical link in pollinating plants, especially our crops, has become better known to the public in the past few years. In exchange for their labor, flowers provide bees with pollen and nectar as food. But few people wonder what’s available for bees to eat when there are few plants blooming in the late fall and early winter.

During such times of the year, with little natural food available, honey bee colonies usually fade a little. But this is exactly the time of year when beekeepers want their colonies to be producing lots of healthy, robust bees ready to be trucked to California to plunge into pollinating millions of almond blossoms in February. Read more »

USDA is Making Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Possible through STEM and Collaboration

Today, USDA will engage with citizen-science professionals, researchers, and stakeholders from local, state, Federal, and Tribal governments, as well as representatives of the academic, non-profits, and private sector to celebrate citizen science at the first-ever White House citizen science forum on “Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People” – co-hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council. The forum will raise awareness of citizen science and crowdsourcing as innovative approaches that can be used to solve complex real-world problems and encourage more Americans to take advantage of them. For example, Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary of USDA’s Research, Education and Economics mission area, is moderating a panel discussion on citizen science in areas related to water and agriculture. Read more »

A New Online Tool to Help Growers Select the Right Cover Crop

A cover crop mixture

A cover crop mixture that includes oat, proso millet, canola, sunflower, dry pea, soybean and pasja turnip. Photo by Mark Liebig, ARS.

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.

Whether you’re a home gardener or a commercial grower of vegetables, cotton, or other agricultural crops, as soon as the growing season is over, you may want to consider planting cover crops—grasses, legumes and small grains that protect and improve the soil.

Cover crops, which are typically grown off season, help reduce soil erosion, increase organic matter and control weeds. At the same time, they can lessen the effects of extreme weather conditions such as drought and help improve water and air quality as well as wildlife habitat. Read more »