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Posts tagged: Cornell University

RISE Volunteers Mentor Young Gardeners

RISE Volunteers with the People’s Garden national leadership team at Grandview Elementary School

RISE Volunteers with the People’s Garden national leadership team at Grandview Elementary School

In 2011, Washington State University won a USDA People’s Garden School Pilot Project grant. The University used the funds to start the “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” project, a multi-year research project that engages elementary students in creating edible gardens in schools across the country.  School gardens are an effective way to introduce kids to healthy foods and create a passion for agriculture and Washington State is helping lead the way.  We’re excited to provide an update on how the project is going. The following post was written by Brad Gaolach, the Project Director for the program.

Guest post by Brad Gaolach, Project Director, Washington State University Extension

Grandview Elementary School in Monsey, NY is one of 50 schools across the U.S. taking part in USDA’s People’s Garden School Pilot Project – “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” (HGHY). This research and education project aims to understand the impact of school gardens on fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, science and math learning, and other outcomes.

Grandview Elementary also enjoys a unique partnership with another research project: “Retirees in Service to the Environment,” or RISE. Created by Cornell’s Institute for Translational Research on Aging, RISE provides opportunities for older adults to become involved in local environmental projects.  Research has shown there are greater mental and physical health benefits from environmental volunteering compared to other types of service. As environmental stewards, older adults not only gain from being engaged in civic issues, they also contribute their knowledge and passion to sustaining the environment for future generations. Read more »

Stop Stink Bug Project

The brown marmorated stink bug, a winged pest from Asia that is eating crops and infesting U.S. homes. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are launching a campaign to ask volunteers to count the number of stink bugs in their homes. USDA-ARS photo by Stephen Ausmus.

The brown marmorated stink bug, a winged pest from Asia that is eating crops and infesting U.S. homes. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are launching a campaign to ask volunteers to count the number of stink bugs in their homes. USDA-ARS photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Calling all insect enthusiasts and frustrated gardeners!  USDA scientists need your help in documenting Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB) in your home. Beginning September 15th through October 15th, we’re asking citizens across the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States to record daily counts of this pest on the exterior of their homes, along with their location and the time of each count. While USDA scientists are focusing on the Mid-Atlantic region, any data they can get from other U.S. regions would also be helpful to their research.

The quest to find out just how many stink bugs there are, and how they behave, is the brainchild of a consortium of researchers from USDA, the University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, Virginia Tech, the Northeastern IPM Center, Oregon State University, North Carolina State University, Cornell University, the University of Delaware and Washington State University. This project is represented on the website, “Stop BMSB (www.stopbmsb.org),” which was launched in 2011. Read more »

A New World-Old World Problem and How Genetic “Fingerprints” May Help

ARS scientists and NIFA-funded researchers work to improve the tools and processes to develop better grapes and grapevines. Their discoveries will make it easier for grape breeders to identify vines that combine the most desirable traits.

ARS scientists and NIFA-funded researchers work to improve the tools and processes to develop better grapes and grapevines. Their discoveries will make it easier for grape breeders to identify vines that combine the most desirable traits.

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.

When it comes to grapes, there’s a New World-Old World dichotomy. Grapevines originating in the Americas (e.g. Vitis labrusca, Vitis riparia) can resist pests and diseases, but they generally don’t have the taste or aroma of grapes with European origins (Vitis vinifera).  But European grapes are more susceptible to pests and disease.

Grape breeders try to combine the best of both worlds, but here’s the problem: if you cross one grape with another, there is no guarantee your progeny will inherit the desirable traits. And because it takes so much time to grow a grapevine, produce grapes from those vines, and for those grapes to be evaluated, bringing a new grape to market can take 20 years or more. Scientists can speed things up by identifying genes that give grapes the right blend of the best characteristics. Identifying the genes will tell you the characteristics of the vine without having to wait for it to grow. Read more »

Digitizing Our Agricultural History; 77 Years of Annual Statistics Now Online

<em>Agricultural Statistics</em> has a long history of publication and is an important archive for researchers to study the history of U.S. farming.

Agricultural Statistics has a long history of publication and is an important archive for researchers to study the history of U.S. farming.

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.

Did you know that more than 11 million Americans worked on farms in 1930, of which 8.3 million were family workers? Compare that to the fewer than 1.5 million workers employed in agriculture during the peak harvest months of 2011.

Every year, the Department of Agriculture releases a reference book of major agricultural statistics for the United States and countries around the world. It is a one-stop location for annual production, consumption, trade, and price data for all sorts of crops and livestock, as well as spending for government programs, farm economics, and lots of other statistics important to our country’s agricultural system. Agricultural Statistics has a long history of publication, and is an important archive for researchers to study the history of U.S. farming. Read more »

Breeding Local Seed for Local Food

They say that variety is the spice of life. Well, you can’t get much more variety than in the plant world. Genetic variation exists for many traits in all crops. For example, although most carrots on grocers’ shelves are orange, carrots can also be white, yellow, green, or purple. Most potatoes are susceptible to potato late blight, but some wild potato species are immune. Carrot color may be unrelated to where the carrots are grown, so a local grower can grow whatever color carrot people enjoy. Variation for disease resistance or tolerance to different soil types, however, does affect local adaptation.

Many local foods can be bred specifically to adapt to local conditions and preferences. Since local breeding takes manpower, the costs for these seeds can spill over to the customers. One solution is participatory plant breeding where breeders and farmers collaborate to contribute genetic variation; resources such as fields and labor; and expertise in breeding, crops, and farming. Read more »

Nanotechnology Project Opens at Disney World

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.

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A visit to the happiest place on earth now opens a window to some of the smallest things on earth.

A new long-term exhibit at Walt Disney World’s INNOVNTIONS at Epcot® opened last month to educate the public about nanotechnology and the science of the very small. Take a Nanooze Break features a number of interactive activities that allow visitors to explore common objects at the nanometer scale, manipulate models of molecules and interact with scientists and engineers who conduct the latest nanotechnology research.

The exhibit gives new meaning to the phrase “it’s a small world after all” using six dynamic videos produced by Cornell University researcher Carl Batt and funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  The episodes, which were produced in collaboration with the international radio program EarthSky, cover both the potential benefits and risks of nanotechnology.  As part of the grant to Batt, the public will be surveyed to gain an understanding of their opinions about nanotechnology and the information conveyed by the videos.

Nanotechnology is the science of studying and producing materials and devices of nanometer size–billionths of a meter, or about 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.  The emerging field of nanotechnology will no doubt lead to unprecedented understanding and control of the fundamental building blocks of all physical things. Potential applications are possible in plant and animal agricultural production, diagnostic devices to ensure food safety, food processing and manufacturing, human health and nutrition, biotechnology, medicine and drug delivery, information technology, homeland defense, energy production and efficiency, and environmental improvement.

Additional USDA funding into nanotechnology research has led to the development of a fabric that can detect biohazards such as E. coli, biosensors that can help detect diseases on farms and in hospitals, and to tracers that can uncover the sources of pollution in farm fields and waters.

The Epcot exhibit was based on the National Science Foundation-supported Nanooze children’s magazine and Web site designed to get kids excited about science and nanotechnology. With millions of people who visit Epcot each year, this work presents a great opportunity to share the latest advances in nanotechnology and how it can benefit our daily lives.

NIFA-funded videos are part of this exhibit, now being displayed at Epcot Center. Credit: Cornell University Chronicle
NIFA-funded videos are part of this exhibit, now being displayed at Epcot Center.
Credit: Cornell University Chronicle

Dr. Hongda Chen, National Program Leader for Bioprocessing Engineering and Nanotechnology at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.