Banks of light-emitting diodes (LED) illuminate plants in greenhouses. Purdue University researchers discovered that LEDs can provide a more beneficial light spectrum to greenhouse plants than conventional lighting while using 75 percent less electricity. Courtesy of Celina Gomez.
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.
For about 2,000 years – since Roman emperor Tiberius demanded fresh cucumbers for lunch year ‘round – farmers have been looking for better ways to extend the growing season. Now, a team of researchers led by Purdue University has found a way to grow more produce and save money doing it.
Greenhouses and other structures protect crops from harsh environmental conditions. Over the last 50 years or so, some growers have added artificial lighting to compensate for shorter winter days or when conditions are cloudy. However, the problem with most lighting systems is that they are relatively costly to install and do not provide the light spectrum that is most efficient for photosynthesis in plants. Read more »
Last week’s cover of TIME magazine featured a story about the rapid rate of decline of honeybee populations across the globe. The article focuses on the question of the price we’ll pay if we don’t figure out what is killing the honeybee. A daunting thought when you think about the fact that one-third of all food and beverages are made possible through pollination and pollinators are valued at $15 billion annually.
This morning, Jim Jones from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), author Hannah Nordhaus and I joined TIME journalist Bryan Walsh on Twitter to discuss the topic and what is being done and what needs to be done. If you happened to miss the Twitter chat, you can follow what was said by searching #TIMEbees. Read more »
Anthony Arredondo takes a water sample at the Freer Water Control and Improvement District Arsenic Removal System Site in Freer, TX on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
Arsenic is poisonous. It is also just about everywhere, but it is especially prevalent in the groundwater of the Southwest. In the economically challenged City of Freer, Texas, citizens rely on the Freer Water Control and Improvement District (FWCID) to draw water from the underground Catahoula aquifer and deliver safe drinking water. Naturally occurring arsenic levels have remained constant in the region for more than a century. Then, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new national standards took effect and the City of Freer turned to FWCID to take action.
Aided by financial assistance from the USDA Water and Environmental Program, the FWCID has completed a two-phase approach to meeting the district’s water supply and public safety needs. FWCID first received USDA funding to drill two new water wells, each rated at 167 gallons per minute (now a total of eight wells); 13,600 feet of well collection lines; and 15,000 linear feet of well control line to remotely control the wells, and the delivery of raw water from the well site’s million-gallon holding tank to the new Arsenic Removal System (Phase II). Previously, water flow was manually controlled by FWCID personnel and gravity fed from the well facility to its customers. Read more »
When you think of steps that can be taken to improve our environment and mitigate climate change, “reducing food waste” probably doesn’t come to mind right away. But in fact, food waste is an important factor in climate change, because wasted food represents 20 percent by weight of the solid waste going to landfills. This decomposing food quickly generates methane, a greenhouse gas 21 percent more potent than carbon dioxide.
Wasted food also represents a drain on natural resources–after all, land and water are needed to produce that food. That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to launch the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, calling on producer groups and others to join in efforts to reduce food loss and waste, recover wholesome food for human consumption, and recycle discarded food to feed animals, produce compost or even generate energy. Read more »
“Thank you for the generous donations of produce that you have given to assist us with our outreach mission. With your help we are able to provide food for needy senior citizens,” said Denise Smartt Sears from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in New Rochelle, NY.
It is a simple idea. If you have more than you need, share with those who don’t have enough. An estimated 50 million Americans do not have access to enough food. So what can be done? Amazing things can happen when you implement a simple idea by combining a love of agriculture and commitment to community with a government program.
For over 10 years, samplers working for the Pesticide Data Program, a part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, have been donating excess food from their samples to local organizations including food banks, homeless shelters, senior citizens centers, battered women shelters, and churches. The Program requires samples of fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products at markets and chain store distribution centers throughout the country for testing and analysis of pesticide residues on agricultural commodities in the U.S. food supply. Read more »
On June 4th, 2013, in advance of World Environment Day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe announced their agencies’ commitments to reduce, recover and recycle food waste – and called on others to join in the effort. At the event were representatives from private-sector partners and supporters, including Rio Farms, Unilever, General Mills, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, Feeding America, and Rock and Wrap It Up!. Read more »