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Posts tagged: Conservation

Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Other Species Benefit from Riparian Restoration Work in Utah

Southwestern willow flycatcher

The Southwestern willow flycatcher is an endangered bird that lives in the riparian areas of the Southwest. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo.

Jim Hook, owner of the Recapture Lodge and volunteer firefighter in Bluff, Utah, has been working for years to manage and restore the riparian habitat on his property along the San Juan River in southeast Utah.

Where the Cottonwood Creek and the San Juan River meet, Hook is working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to establish healthy riparian habitat. His hard work over the years has begun to yield results as the invasive plants have begun to die and native plants are taking their place. An endangered bird species, the Southwestern willow flycatcher, is one of the species that will benefit from his restoration work. Read more »

Weaving Up New Uses for Cotton

Glandless cottonseed machine

Glandless cottonseed is being used to demonstrate that the elimination of gossypol provides an opportunity to produce high value foods for humans as well as animals. The oil will be used to fry food in a college cafeteria. The used oil will be taken back to the experiment station where it will be converted into biodiesel and used to run the station’s irrigation pumps. The protein, which was also squeezed out during the crushing process, will be used to feed shrimp in an aquaculture experiment and ultimately sold. Photo courtesy of the Cotton Board.

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 the agriculture industry, having a green thumb can help businesses improve their yield and their bottom line. As good stewards, our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and agricultural business are also committed to another type of green. Through sustainable and conservation practices, ag businesses are finding multiple uses for products, which reduces land and water usage.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) witnesses these efforts first-hand while overseeing industry Research and Promotion Programs. These self-help programs that are requested for and completely funded by the industry are charged with developing cutting-edge marketing campaigns and supporting nutrition research that benefits all of the industry’s members. Many of their research projects focus on sustainable practices and conservation. While we know that the list of these types of projects is endless, we would like to highlight a few of the things that the cotton industry is doing. Read more »

Youth Conservation Corps Programs Make a Difference

Chippewa Youth Conservation Corps

The Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota hosted eight youth ages 15 to 18 in the paid summer employment Youth Conservation Corps program, to accomplish forest management goals, including removing invasive species, clearing brush, picking up trash, trimming back brush, and planting elm trees to increase tree diversity. Photo Credit: US Forest Service/ Michelle Heiker

As a young man, Tom Tidwell had a summer job with the Forest Service as a member of a Youth Conservation Corps crew.  Today, he is Chief of the Forest Service, overseeing an agency of forty thousand employees that honors a mission to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Chief Tidwell’s story is not entirely unique.  There are other leaders in the Forest Service who were introduced to the agency through Youth Conservation Corps, including National Forest System Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon and a host of other Forest Service employees. Read more »

No-Till and Cover Crops from a Farmer’s Point of View

Jamie Scott participated in a roundtable on climate change and agriculture with USDA Secretary Vilsack in East Lansing, Michigan on April 23rd, 2015. Mr. Scott is the Chairman of the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District and currently serves as the Vice-President of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Alongside my father Jim, I operate JA Scott Farms. Together we grow approximately 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Kosciusko County, Indiana. One-hundred percent of those acres are planted using a no-till conservation cropping system that incorporates cover crops every winter.

We use this approach to take advantage of the soil health benefits of no-till and cover crops. We have higher yields, richer soil, and improved water holding capacity. I am also encouraged that these practices can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. We have found that these benefits outweigh the added expense of labor and cover crop seeds. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Announces Partnerships with Farmers and Ranchers to Address Climate Change

America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners understand the threats that a changing climate can have on their operations and on their bottom line. As the world warms, that warming triggers many other changes to the Earth’s climate, including an increase in extreme events. Over the last 50 years, much of the U.S. has seen increases in excessively high temperatures, heavy downpours, and in some regions, severe floods and droughts. These events can drastically impact the agriculture and forestry sectors.  

Today, I announced USDA’s comprehensive plan to tackle these challenges by working with partners and producers on a voluntary basis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sequestration in agriculture and forestry by over 120 million metric tons over the next 10 years. Our strategy lays the foundation for agriculture and forestry to be part of the climate change solution. The plan will encourage farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to set an example for the world by showing that climate-friendly conservation practices can benefit the environment, individual farms and forest operations, and the economy as a whole. Read more »

The Earth Day Confessions of a Soil Health Geek

Unlock the Secrets in the Soil graphic

Farmers throughout the country are growing a new hope in healthy soil, which is cause for celebration on Earth Day 2015. Illustration by Catherine Ulitsky, NRCS.

I am a soil health geek.

I didn’t seek to become a geek. But the more I learned about our living and life-giving soil, the more I became convinced this miracle under our feet holds the promise of our future.

We are all connected to the soil. Without it, life as we know it would not exist. However, for years it was believed that the best hope for our precious soil was to slow its rate of erosion—to retard its inevitable decline. Read more »