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Posts tagged: Kansas State University

A Giant Crop-Scanner Is Turning Heads in Arizona

A giant electronic scanner in Maricopa, Arizona

ARS scientists and their partners are using a giant electronic scanner in Maricopa, Arizona to study the growth characteristics of sorghum plants as part of a project designed to speed biofuel crop development. Photo by Jeffrey White, Agricultural Research Service.

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.

With its 30-ton frame and 50-foot-high catwalk, the newest scanner for measuring crop plants in Maricopa, Arizona, can be seen for miles. It looms over a tract the length of two football fields and moves along steel rails.

“When people saw this big apparatus being built here, they started asking if we were going to be looking for space aliens,” says Jeffrey W. White, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist with the Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa. Rather than studying the heavens, the scanner is measuring the individual characteristics of thousands of energy sorghum plants growing underneath it. The effort could play an outsized role in meeting the Nation’s future energy needs. Read more »

Growing Rural Economies and Opportunities through Social Media

KSU Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement Facebook screenshot

Kansas State University used a FSMIP grant to develop social media strategies for rural businesses to expand their customer base.

From Facebook to Snapchat, rural businesses are exploring how to use social media to improve their customer’s experience and expand their customer base. Over the last eight years, USDA and the Obama Administration have partnered with rural communities to build more opportunities that support rural small business owners, farmers and ranchers through applied research.   Today USDA awarded nearly $1 million in Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grants to support market research to strengthen markets for U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.

Administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), FSMIP projects make a real difference to diverse stakeholders and largely benefit rural communities.  For example, in 2013, FSMIP awarded a 2-year grant to Kansas State University to develop social media strategies for small green businesses, including nurseries, garden centers and lawn care operations, and to explore the potential of social media to expand their markets and profitability.  Social media holds promise as a strategy for these rural businesses which frequently have a small customer base and struggle to be profitable throughout the year, given the seasonal nature of their business.  Through social media, business owners could reach more potential customers for little to no cost but they often do not know how or why they should use these tools. Read more »

Wheat Blast, Bangladesh, and Biosecurity: NIFA-Funded Research Works for Global Food Security

Wheat blast

Wheat blast is a fungal pathogen that can devastate a crop and ruin entire harvests. Photo courtesy of Guillermo Isidoro Barea Vargas

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.

An epidemic of wheat blast is underway in Bangladesh, published reports say, and losses may be substantial in the six southeastern districts where it has been reported. Wheat blast is a crop disease caused by the Triticum pathotype of the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae (MoT). In nations where broad wheat blast epidemics have occurred, 30 percent losses have been noted, but localized areas have experienced 50-100 percent losses, according to Dr. Barbara Valent, fungal molecular geneticist at Kansas State University (KSU).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), has provided nearly $5.4 million since 2009 to support research on wheat and rice blast. KSU leads a multi-institutional research project that brings together expertise from University of Arkansas, University of Kentucky, the Ohio State University, Purdue University, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Read more »

New Study Highlights Redcedar’s Impact on Prairie Chickens, Helps Improve Conservation Efforts

Photo of prairie after redcedars are removed

Photo of prairie after redcedars are removed.

A new study offers the first empirical data proving that female lesser prairie-chickens avoid grasslands when trees are present. The study, highlighted in a Science to Solutions report by the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), underscores the importance of removing woody invasive plants like redcedar to restore grassland habitat. The new data will help guide USDA’s conservation efforts.

Though sometimes called the “green glacier” for its steady progress across the prairie, redcedar encroachment is far from glacial in speed. Open grasslands can become closed-canopy forest in as little as 40 years, making the land unsuitable to lesser prairie-chickens and other wildlife. Read more »

Food Safety 101 Webinar Series: Bringing Food Safety To Your Kitchen

Food poisoning is a serious public health threat. CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) could suffer from food poisoning illness this year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. This September, to celebrate Food Safety Education Month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will help get the word out about important safety tips and tools to combat foodborne illness by hosting a free two-part webinar series: “Food Safety 101”. The series will be hosted by FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff, and will feature speakers from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, FSIS’ Office of Public Health Science, Kansas State University, and the International Food Information Council.

The webinars will emphasize USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill and offer a unique opportunity to hear from FSIS’s educators, researchers and partners. “Back to Basics”, the first webinar in this series, will occur on September 10th from noon to 1:30 pm EST and cover basic food safety tasks and the risks that can be avoided with proper food safety practices. “Everyday Application” will occur a week later on September 17th from noon to 1:30 pm EST. Participants of the second webinar will be able to identify common kitchen food safety blunders, and alternatives to keep your family foodborne illness free. Read more »

Consortium Uses Innovative Research to Tap Key Groundwater Source for Rural Region

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.

As a major underground water source, the Ogallala Aquifer plays a key role in the economic vitality of vast stretches of the rural Midwest.  The aquifer covers around 225,000 square miles in 8 states from South Dakota to Texas, supplying 30 percent of all U.S. groundwater used for irrigation.

But as with other natural resources that seem inexhaustible, the aquifer is effectively a nonrenewable resource. Demand from agricultural, municipal and industrial development on the Great Plains has meant that water is pumped out of a large portion of the aquifer much more quickly than it can ever be replenished. Read more »