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Posts tagged: ARS

“Seeding” the Next Crop of Scientists

Future scientists conduct their first experiment: 1st grade students at the Salish School of Spokane hypothesize how different food choices and chemical scents will affect insect behavior and then record and discuss the actual results. Photo courtesy of ARS.

Future scientists conduct their first experiment: 1st grade students at the Salish School of Spokane hypothesize how different food choices and chemical scents will affect insect behavior and then record and discuss the actual results. Photo courtesy of ARS.

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.

2014 marks the eighth year of “Pumping Up the Math and Science Pipeline: Grade School to College,” an innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational outreach program developed and administered by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) employees David Weller and Kathleen Parker in cooperation with Washington State University-Pullman (WSU) and other partners.

“The goal of the program is enhance the flow of students from underserved and rural communities into STEM professions. We do this by engaging students of all ages in one-on-one and hands-on STEM education and other activities,” explains Weller, who leads the ARS Root Diseases and Biological Control Research Unit in Pullman. Read more »

USDA’s Agricultural Ties Run Deep

Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.

Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.

Earlier this year, in preparation for the 2015 opening of a new business history exhibition, American Enterprise, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History put out a call for current and past members of the National FFA Organization to submit their FFA jackets accompanied with their own personal agricultural history. The jackets and stories, to be featured in the agricultural portion of the exhibition, will examine the significance that agricultural education continues to play to our national identity.

At a ceremony last week, five jackets and their stories were selected; among them, a jacket from President Jimmy Carter and a jacket from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service employee Mary “Louise” Reynnells. USDA employees work every day to ensure that American farmers have access to the opportunities they need, and many of their ties to agriculture extend well beyond their time at USDA. Here is Mary “Louise” Reynnells’s story, and with it, her contribution to our agricultural heritage. Read more »

The Important Role of Volunteers in Human Nutrition Studies

ARS is looking for volunteers for a study examining how the body absorbs plant-derived nutritional compounds, called polyphenols, which are found in apples, berries and tea.

ARS is looking for volunteers for a study examining how the body absorbs plant-derived nutritional compounds, called polyphenols, which are found in apples, berries and tea.

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.

How would you like to learn more about your personal health while contributing to science as a volunteer in a human nutrition research study?

Seventeen years ago, I saw an ad for such a study. I attended an information session to learn more, applied and was accepted. Looking back, it was a positive experience for me, and I’d do it again if I could. Read more »

In Brazil, a Search for Fungi to Control Disease-Spreading Insects

A high-magnification image of the spores and spore-bearing cells of the same fungus, Beauveria bassiana, taken from a Diabrotica beetle in Oregon.

A high-magnification image of the spores and spore-bearing cells of the same fungus, Beauveria bassiana, taken from a Diabrotica beetle in Oregon.

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.

If you want to find a fungus that controls disease-spreading insects, you might want to go somewhere known for its biodiversity. So it makes sense that USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) microbiologist Richard Humber will be traveling to Brazil over the next three years to join Brazilian scientists in searching for fungi to control black flies, sand flies and the types of mosquitoes that spread malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

Fungi are now used to control insects on crops. Beauveria bassiana, a fungus found in soils throughout the world, is widely sold for controlling thrips, whiteflies, aphids and beetles. Different types of fungi are also sometimes used to control mosquitoes, but they are not easy to handle or to apply, and their effectiveness has been questioned. Read more »

At World Cup in Brazil, USDA Grasses Score Big

University of Georgia-licensed TifGrand turfgrass is installed in Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, one of three World Cup stadiums to use the turf this year. TifGrand was bred by UGA/USDA-ARS plant breeder Wayne Hanna and UGA entomologist Kris Braman. Photo Credit: University of Georgia

University of Georgia-licensed TifGrand turfgrass is installed in Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, one of three World Cup stadiums to use the turf this year. TifGrand was bred by UGA/USDA-ARS plant breeder Wayne Hanna and UGA entomologist Kris Braman. Photo Credit: University of Georgia

Here’s something to kick around: About half of the soccer matches at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil have been played on turfgrass bred jointly by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Georgia.

Turfgrass is a billion-dollar industry, creating jobs at nurseries, sod farms, golf courses and a variety of stadiums and other athletic facilities. ARS has been breeding warm-season turfgrasses since the 1950s, and has worked closely with scientists at the University of Georgia for decades. It’s been a particularly productive partnership and is responsible for producing turfgrasses that are used on some of the world’s top golf courses and athletic fields.

Of the 12 stadiums that are World Cup sites this year, three are using Tifway 419, a bermudagrass developed in Tifton, Ga., and released in 1960 by the late Glenn Burton, a pioneering ARS grass breeder. Three other stadiums are equipped with TifGrand, a shade-tolerant and extremely wear-resistant bermudagrass released jointly by ARS and the University of Georgia in 2008. Another Tifton-bred variety, TifSport, was used at the 2010 World Cup in Durban, South Africa. Read more »

Workshop Discusses Delving Deeper into the Animal Genome

Data gathered from the AgENCODE project will ultimately improve cattle breeding.

Data gathered from the AgENCODE project will ultimately improve cattle breeding.

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.

The idea that around 80 percent of human DNA is “junk” DNA with no real purpose never sat well with scientists.  So in 2003, researchers funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health started working on a project called ENCODE, which was designed to study the role of non-coding “junk” DNA in genetic expression and to define basic functional units in the human genome.

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are spearheading a parallel project called AgENCODE, which takes a similar approach to exploring the mechanics of DNA regulation in key livestock species. “We can identify 70 to 90 percent (or more) of the DNA coding elements in animal genomes, but we don’t know much at all about the non-coding elements,” says ARS National Program Leader Jeffrey Silverstein, who is helping to organize the AgENCODE effort. “We think many of these non-coding segments regulate gene activity, and we need to understand how these segments affect the expression of an animal’s physical traits, which is very important in breeding.” Read more »