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.
This was not your typical class trip. The group of agriculture students from Honduras who visited USDA’s National Soil Dynamics Laboratory (NSDL) in Auburn, Alabama, were given tours of a one-of-a kind research facility that features, among other things, 13 soil bins, about the length of football fields, that look like huge outdoor bowling lanes. These gigantic soil bins have a special purpose: they are used to study the effects of farm machinery on the soil.
The NSDL, operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), has played a key role over the years in helping farmers in southeastern United States produce quality food in sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly ways. Built in 1935, the NSDL was the world’s first full-size outdoor laboratory for tillage tools and traction equipment. Work there has influenced the design of almost all modern agricultural equipment and is credited with spawning the scientific discipline of soil dynamics. The site has been designated as an historic landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. Read more »
Dr. Carolyn Brooks had little exposure to agriculture while growing up in the city but, thanks to a love for biology nurtured at a 1890’s Land Grant University, she knows plenty now and even served as dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, MD.
Like many city kids growing up in Richmond, Va., Carolyn Brooks didn’t know much about agriculture and had never heard of 4-H. That changed quickly, however, as she was the first in her family to graduate from college—earning a B.S. and then a M.S. in biology from one of the foremost agricultural schools in the country, Tuskegee University, where she said, many people “helped me, guided me, and cared about my success.”
Brooks said that before moving to Tuskegee, Ala., she “knew nothing about the South. I had never been in that kind of environment – in a predominantly black community.” Read more »
A group of students build a mini-filtration system. NRCS photo.
Although it’s no longer her job, Anna Miller still takes time to volunteer for the Lee County Water Festival every spring in Auburn, Alabama. The annual event has attracted hundreds of fourth graders with lessons on aquifers, the water cycle and water filtration, since it first began in 2004.
“Students learn about their environment; they learn about water and how precious it is,” said Miller. Read more »
Tens of thousands of farmers in the five Gulf states have put conservation practices on more than 22 million acres from fiscal years 2010-2014. Click to watch video.
In a time of need, America’s private landowners voluntarily made conservation improvements to their land to aid recovery following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico region. Landowners are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to put conservation systems to work on their farms, ranches and forests that clean and conserve water, boost soil health and restore habitat – all while making their working lands more resilient.
Since 2010, tens of thousands have made conservation improvements to more than 22 million acres in the five Gulf states during fiscal years 2010-2014.
“Landowners are really interested and committed to doing good things on their lands, said Wesley Kerr, NRCS area conservationist in southern Mississippi. Read more »
Cross-posted from the Department of Commerce blog:
Yesterday, President Obama announced new commitments in the “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, which is charged with bringing together federal trade-related resources for rural communities and businesses. This announcement reflects the Administration’s strategy for ensuring workers and businesses of all sizes, from communities large and small, benefit from the nation’s economic resurgence.
The Department of Commerce also released data yesterday that show 26 states set new export records in 2014, and many of those states are in the nation’s heartland. Read more »
Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah stands at the head of the historical trail where marchers began their trek across the Edmund Pettus bridge enroute to Montgomery, Alabama seeking voting rights for African-Americans.
On my first trip as the Under Secretary for Rural Development, I visited Alabama and Mississippi. It seemed fitting for me to begin my trip in Selma, Alabama given the historical significance of the location. The march from Selma, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., embodied our most human desires: to be treated fairly, to be heard, to be treated with decency-to not be denied access and opportunities due to the color of our skin, our gender identity, our gender expression or our political identity.
I was raised in Oregon by my father, an immigrant from Ghana and my mother, an Iowa farm girl. Standing there in Selma, the sacrifices made by those before me came into focus. As an African-American woman, I’m now very honored to be at an agency that plays an important role in bringing new investments to rural America. Read more »