USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.
In 2015, we’ve seen agriculture and natural resources at the crossroads of the world’s most critical problems: establishing sustainable food production, providing clean and abundant water, responding to climatic variability, developing renewable energy, improving human health, and strengthening food safety. The immensity and diversity of the difficulties Americans face allowed USDA an excellent opportunity to once again demonstrate our ability and capacity to rise and meet the greatest of challenges.
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 »
Farmers have long looked to the clouds for signs of relief, but a new competition launched by USDA and Microsoft will tap the Internet cloud to help farmers and our food systems to adapt to climate change. The “Innovation Challenge” is asking software developers to create applications that will use more than 100 years of USDA data to explore how our food system can achieve better food resiliency.
Climate change will likely affect every aspect of the food system—whether it’s the ability to grow food, the reliability of food transportation and food safety efforts, or the dynamics of international trade in agricultural goods. Even so, we don’t yet fully know how to anticipate and mitigate any negative changes. Read more »
Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center taking a look at the red leaf lettuce being grown at the 144 Acre Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation.
This year I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of urban agriculture operations. From California to Cleveland, the ability of individuals to realize the multidimensional benefits of agricultural production and leverage them in an urban context has been nothing short of amazing.
This past week I visited a University that is heavily involved in both the research and extension aspect of urban agriculture — right in the backyard of the Department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The University of the District of Columbia’s (UDC) Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation is located about 20 minutes north of the school’s D.C. campus. Upon arrival I found everything from activists passionate about learning how to best provide their neighbors with fresh produce, to researchers developing improved hydroponics systems; and even students working with community organizations on rice varieties suitable to be grown in urban areas. Read more »
Getting from Point A to Point B is sometimes a difficult task; that’s why we have maps. However, making maps is not always easy, either, especially when the image you’re trying to capture is carried on the wind.
For nearly 40 years a coalition of government, education, industry, and other organizations has worked to monitor “precipitation chemistry” – in other words, tracking the makeup and whereabouts of acid rain. Their latest efforts have resulted in maps that indicate how nitrogen deposition in the United States threatens aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more »
As an ecosystem ecologist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators are near and dear to me. Not only are they vital to agricultural production, providing billions of dollars in pollination services for the fruits, nuts and vegetables that contribute to a healthy diet, they are also important members of natural ecosystems, pollinating the plants that many other organisms rely on for food and habitat. Yet pollinators have been having a rocky time, lately. Beekeepers have struggled to maintain their honey bee colonies, the primary pollinators for our crops in the United States. They are managing a suite of simultaneous and interacting stressors to bee health, including severe weather episodes, inadequate nutrition, exposure to pesticides, and numerous damaging pests and diseases. Native pollinators also seem to be struggling with some of these same stressors, as well as land use change and habitat loss. Because of the incredible diversity of native pollinators, we know much less about their individual populations and the factors affecting their health. Read more »