Researchers are harvesting beetle-killed trees in the Rocky Mountain region for use as feedstock for biofuel. (iStock image)
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.
Trees killed by bark beetles have, for years, been a source of fuel for forest fires. Now, those very trees are being turned into biofuel and biobased products.
This vast bioenergy resource—approximately 46 million acres—requires no cultivation, circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns, and may have a highly favorable carbon balance compared other forestry feedstocks. The problem, however, is that beetle-killed biomass is typically located far from urban industrial centers in relatively inaccessible areas, which means transportation costs are a key barrier to widespread utilization of this vast resource. Read more »
NRCS staff participated in a cover crop field day in Merced County, California as part of its tour of the state to look at ways farmers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon on their lands. NRCS photo by Kari Cohen.
Staff from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon visited California recently to meet with state officials and farmers and ranchers to discuss how farms and ranches can store carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially benefit financially by providing greenhouse gas offsets under California’s cap-and-trade program.
Also along for the trip were researchers from Colorado State University, who partnered with NRCS to develop USDA’s greenhouse gas accounting tool called COMET-FARM. The tool enables producers and technical specialists to estimate the beneficial impacts of implementing conservation practices that store carbon or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Read more »
The new Climate Hubs Northern Plains website provides producers with science-based information.
This fall, ranchers, farmers, and land managers in the Northern Plains from Bartlett, Nebraska to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming will be making decisions that will affect their operations in the coming year. Land managers often consider markets, weather and changing climatic conditions using data and information from various sources including newspapers and popular press publications, Cooperative Extension agents, State Climatologists, and the Internet.
With the recent launch of the USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub website, ranchers, farmers, and land managers have a new source for region-specific, science-based information, practical management and conservation strategies, and decision-support tools. The national Hubs site features links to the latest climate news, events, thematic climate highlights (e.g. Croplands, Forestland, Grazing Lands and Livestock) as well as educational materials, factsheets, and regional contact information. Read more »
Brewing tanks from a craft brewery. Massachusetts used a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant to help local farmers tap into the $14.3 billion craft brewing industry. Photo courtesy Greg Peverill-Conti.
Over the years, the way we look at food in America has changed and evolved. As people explore new tastes, adjust their diets and become more familiar with new ingredients, it is up to farmers and ranchers to stay innovative and responsive to new demands. Through my role at USDA I often visit with farmers and ranchers about what it takes to grow their businesses, to remain competitive in a global market, and how USDA is an important partner to help meet these challenges.
The Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP), administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is designed to support research projects that improve the marketing, transportation and distribution of U.S. agricultural products. FSMIP is a collaboration between Federal and State governments that puts matching funds from each towards projects that bring new opportunities for farmers and ranchers.
Read more »
Healthy soil captures and stores carbon. Photo by Ron Nichols, NRCS
USDA’s new online carbon-capture calculator, COMET-Farm™, has nothing to do with comets. This tool is all about farms and their potential to help planet Earth. Since its recent release more than 4,200 visitors have already explored the new online COMET-Farm™ tool to learn how they can become part of the climate change solution.
Record-breaking concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are accelerating climate change. Agriculture has the unique opportunity to help contribute to a solution, as demonstrated by COMET-Farm™.
“When farmers use conservation practices, they improve soil health,” NRCS air quality scientist Dr. Adam Chambers says. “Healthy soil captures and stores carbon, effectively removing it from the atmosphere.” Read more »
A Virginia Tech student participates in the online animal breeding graduate program. Credit: Ron Lewis, Virginia Tech.
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.
Imagine a graduate school that combined the faculty expertise of seven universities throughout the United States. Imagine this program focused on animal genetics, using the latest research data to teach students. Best of all, students can attend with the click of a mouse.
It’s not some futuristic university—this is a digital learning center created by faculty at Virginia Tech, and funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Ron Lewis, professor of animal genetics at Virginia Tech, received a grant from NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge Grant Program to launch this on-line graduate-level training in animal breeding and genetics in 2007. Read more »