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 »
USDA Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (center) tours the Mandela Foods Cooperative run in West Oakland by Mandela Marketplace Inc., a non-profit organization that has used USDA funding to help develop the community-owned grocery store, as well as community farm stands and a food distribution program. Mandela MarketPlace's projects have brought 500,000 pounds of fresh produce into low-income West Oakland.
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.
In recognizing February as Black History Month, President Obama called officials to “…reflect on our progress…” and “recommit to advancing what has been left undone.” At USDA, this topical charge is simply how we do business all year. We can’t adequately expand economic opportunity through innovation, promote sustainable agricultural production, or protect our natural resources without recognizing our past and tackling the challenges of today. Our Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area’s engagement with the African-American community is not confined to a calendrical month; it is a thread in the institutional tapestry of broader dedication to service through agricultural research and education. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell makes welcoming remarks at the"A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES)" conference in Crystal City, VA. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
What is the monetary value of a supply of clean water? Or the value of clean air or having places available to hike and fish?
For decades we have taken these resources for granted, or at least we have not put a monetary value on their benefits. That’s changing. Participants from 30 nations met this week at the ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services; Linking Science, Practice and Decision Making conference to talk about just how we can value these benefits and include that in our decision-making and planning. As the conference kicked off, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tidwell talked about the need to quantify the benefits of public lands, building consensus and support for a multi-generational outlook, moving away from short term objectives and toward “sustaining the health and diversity of our forests and grasslands.”