Widely used in landscaping, the cold-tolerant cogongrass Red Baron variety does not produce viable seed, but its pollen could present problems in the future. (Auburn University/David Teem, Bugwood.org). Photo used with permission.
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.
Cogongrass makes kudzu look like a lightweight. A perennial grass, it grows on every continent except Antarctica and has earned a reputation as one of the worst weeds on Earth. In the South, cogongrass ranks among the top 10 plant marauders, invading forests, rights-of-way, and agricultural fields, literally taking over the landscape and altering ecosystems.
Native to Southeast Asia, the weed first arrived in the United States in 1912 as packing material in orange crates imported to Grand Bay, Alabama. A few years later, farmers planted cogongrass in Mississippi as a possible forage crop. Since then, it’s spread to more than 66,000 acres throughout the South, its progress limited only by winter cold. Landowners and agencies have fought this weed for years with limited success. Read more »
U.S. Army Major General Charles E. Williams, (Retired) gives the keynote address at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Communications (OC) celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 at USDA in Washington, D.C. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols
Where were you? Fifty years ago when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, where were you and what were you doing? That was the question asked last week as a capacity audience filled a conference room at the USDA Whitten Building to commemorate the passage of this landmark legislation. The observance, sponsored by USDA’s Office of Communications, attracted dignitaries including USDA Deputy Assistant Secretary Malcolm Shorter, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Ed Avalos and Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien.
The featured speaker was retired Major General Charles Williams, who now serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Tuskegee University. Read more »
Wellington Cardoso, an undergraduate student from Brazil, is visiting the Forest Operations research unit in Auburn, AL. (Photo Credit Dana Mitchell.)
Wellington Cardoso, an undergraduate student from Brazil, arrived in Auburn, Ala., this past January to begin an internship with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station where he’s been studying a biomass harvesting operation.
“The research unit has been examining harvesting technologies for short rotation woody crops,” said Dana Mitchell, project leader of the Forest Operations research unit, which is hosting Cardoso. “Cardoso’s internship ends in July, and he has been able to witness field operations in action.” Read more »
Today’s guest post comes from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization that aptly describes itself as “a catalyst for children’s health.” While the Alliance has been active in many settings, we at USDA particularly appreciate the dedication they have shown to improving school nutrition. In this post, Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO, describes some of the successes that his team has witnessed in school cafeterias.
Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH, Chief Executive Officer, Alliance for a Healthier Generation
Our nation’s students, some of whom consume up to half of their daily calories at school [see also this publication from the US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health], want and deserve healthy choices throughout the school building—in the cafeteria line, vending machines, and school stores.
Just ask eight-year-old Farrah from the William J. Christian School in Birmingham, Alabama: “It’s important to have healthy foods as part of school lunch so that kids can have the opportunity to try many fruits and vegetables and see that these foods are delicious,” she told the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “At the same time we can learn that these foods are good for you…Eating healthy can be fun.” Read more »
Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.
Across the country, food banks are committed to providing healthy food for those in need. Food banks also have a vested interest in building stronger local economies and creating additional opportunities for the communities they serve.
There are currently more than 200 food banks in the country, with more than 63,000 affiliated agencies like (food pantries and shelters). This network distributes more than 2.5 billion pounds of food to needy Americans each year.
Strategic integration of local foods into a food bank’s operation is one way to create economic opportunities for farmers and provide fresh food to families and children. This is especially important in rural areas, which have rich agricultural assets but tend to experience higher poverty rates than metropolitan areas. Read more »
Who knew? Now you do! Check back next Thursday for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Alabama may be known as the Cotton state, but there’s a lot more to our agriculture than cotton, a point reinforced by the data in the most recent Census of Agriculture. While more than 376,000 acres of nearly nine million acres of farmland in the state are dedicated to cotton farming, there are now more farms growing corn (2,112 farms) and soybeans (1,502 farms) in Alabama than those growing cotton (925 farms).
All in all, it was great to see how well our farming is doing, especially considering that in 2012 we saw one of the worst droughts in history. More than 90 percent of Alabama was affected by the drought that year. Despite these tricky conditions, our farmers sold more than $5.5 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012, a 26 percent increase from the previous census, taken in 2007. Read more »