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Posts tagged: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

Enhancing the Flavor of Food through Plant Breeding

Butternut squash

Plant breeding can lead to new varieties that taste great and are easier to grow, giving you choices if you are growing them or getting them from a farmers market or grocery store.

Vegetables are becoming more flavorful and sustainable through plant breeding. Plant breeding is at the core of the seed-to-table movement—using selective breeding to develop plant varieties that possess exceptional culinary properties and the ability to thrive in a sustainable production system.

One plant variety leading the way in this movement is a series of mini-butternut squash developed by a Cornell University researcher, Michael Mazourek. He began the project as part of a $2.5 million Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant awarded to Oregon State University, which resulted in a national network of organic plant breeders, the Northern Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). The grant is funded by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

Answering Questions about the World’s Water Security Problems

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.

Global water awareness and future water security happens locally—one student, one teacher, and one lesson at a time.

Often we hear that better thinking is needed to address particularly prickly societal problems, business challenges, or scientific conundrums.  ThinkWater is a national project supported by a $900,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The project is designed by educators, scientists, and activists in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Extension to add thinking skills and awareness into existing water education lessons. Read more »

iCook Makes Healthy Living Fun for Kids

Maine 4-H learn some knife skills as part of the University of Maine’s “iCook” program.  Four other states are joining Maine in this childhood obesity prevention program. (Courtesy photo from Maine 4-H)

Maine 4-H learn some knife skills as part of the University of Maine’s “iCook” program. Four other states are joining Maine in this childhood obesity prevention program. (Courtesy photo from Maine 4-H)

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years, leading to increased risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and breathing problems.

Researchers from the University of Maine have developed the 4-H iCook project to tackle this issue in the home. The program encourages families to cook, eat, and exercise together while improving culinary skills and increasing physical activity. Read more »

NIFA and the Farm Bill: A Year Later

February 7 marks the first anniversary of the Agriculture Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill. This milestone provides an opportunity to report on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) efforts during the last year to implement the many provisions of relevance to the agency.  Here are a few of the more significant provisions that have been implemented: Read more »

The Grass is Cleaner on the Other Side

Research suggests that sorghum can be beneficial as both a fuel source and as a sinkhole for greenhouse gas. (iStock image)

Research suggests that sorghum can be beneficial as both a fuel source and as a sinkhole for greenhouse gas. (iStock image)

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.

Liquid fuel, charcoal, and electric power are all possible byproducts of biomass feedstocks. But what if there was a feedstock that not only produced bioenergy, but acted as a greenhouse gas “sink” as well? According to Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research, there is: bioenergy sorghum.

Each region contains locally generated biomass feedstocks, ranging from grains to animal byproducts. Sorghum is a group of grasses with about 30 species, which can be used in a variety of bioenergy production processes, like starch-to-ethanol, sugar-to-ethanol, and plants-to-bioenergy. Read more »

Farmers go Digital to Confront Changing Growing Conditions

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.

American farmers have a long history of overcoming obstacles. In 1938, they helped the country emerge from the Dust Bowl by switching to contour plowing and eradicated the boll weevil forty years later by employing integrated pest management techniques.  In both cases – and many others – USDA was there to help farmers achieve success.

Many of the obstacles they face today are on a much larger scale, associated with climate change and seasonal weather variability. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is helping farmers get the tools they need to meet those challenges. Read more »