Several hundred non-native forest insect species have become established in the U.S. Recent arrivals, such as this adult Asian longhorned beetle, have killed millions of trees and altered urban landscapes in the Northeast and Midwest. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Kenneth R. Law, courtesy of Bugwood.org)
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.
Wood makes great packaging material—it’s inexpensive, abundant and versatile—but there’s one drawback: destructive forest pests stowaway in the pallets, crates and dunnage (wood used to brace cargo) used in international shipping. Over many years, international trade has resulted in the inadvertent introduction of many non-native wood-feeding pests and plant pathogens in the U.S. and throughout the world. Some of these non-native insects, including the emerald ash borer and the Asian longhorned beetle, have become highly invasive and caused serious environmental and economic impacts.
But an international standard for wood packaging material is slowing the inadvertent export of invasive bark- and wood-boring insects, according to a study conducted by Robert Haack, a research entomologist with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Lansing, Mich., and a team of scientists. Researchers found as much as a 52 percent drop in infestation rates in the U.S., where the standard was implemented in three phases between 2005 and 2006. The study was published May 14 in the journal PLOS ONE. Read more »
You may have heard about the FSIS announcement this week that the Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit, MI was recalling 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This recall is linked to 11 patients in four states. I wanted to provide an update on what FSIS is doing based on the evidence available.
FSIS was notified of the first illness on May 8 and immediately began working with our partners at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find the source of these illnesses. Based on the initial findings in the investigations, FSIS and CDC were able to establish a direct link to ground beef products supplied by Wolverine Packing Company. Read more »
This week, USDA and its partners released the results of the eight annual national survey of honey bee losses. The survey shows good news—fewer honey bee colonies were lost this winter than in previous years. According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide.
That figure is a significant improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported last winter, but it is still higher than the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent and still far above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability.
While we’re pleased to see improvement this year, these losses are still too high. Read more »
This month USDA will be highlighting the value of conservation with a different focus each week.
Sometimes the benefits of conservation can be abstract. For example, think a minute about the dollar value of a single tree. Can you come up with a number?
Did you consider that the tree creates oxygen, captures carbon and provides wildlife habitat? Or that the tree serves as a windbreak, shades and cools the surrounding area, and improves water quality? Don’t forget, these benefits extend for many decades over the lifetime of a healthy tree. Read more »
The 2014 Farm Bill has already set in motion and accomplished so much for our country. With historic support for specialty crop producers across the country, the bill will touch every one of our lives through one of the most basic of human needs: food.
Specialty crops make up the bulk of what we eat—all of our fruits and vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits—as well as things like cut flowers and nursery crops. They are half of MyPlate at every meal, and the daily source for most of our vitamins and nutrients. For many in rural America, these crops not only provide nutrition, they are also a primary source of income.
For nearly a decade, USDA supported specialty crop growers across the country through the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program. These grants enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, sustain the livelihood of American farmers, and strengthen rural economies. Read more »
USDA airport biologist Bobby Hromack holds his first captured short-eared owl. Although it weighs no more than 16.8 ounces, the species can pose an aviation safety hazard due to its 33-43 inch wingspan and low, rolling flight style.
Seeing a short-eared owl in November on the Pittsburgh International Airport, where I work as an airport wildlife biologist, was a unique occasion. However, as the number of owls grew to eight, I recognized the challenge ahead: Like all birds of prey, short-eared owls are a recognized potential aviation hazard. Their low rolling flight and difficult-to-disperse reputation means they pose an aviation safety threat. From 1990-2012, short-eared owl strikes with aircraft in the United States caused over $1 million in damage, and often are fatal to the birds. Convincing them to leave would be difficult but important.
The task would be harder because short-eared owls are listed by the State as an endangered species. Common in many areas globally, Pennsylvania is the southernmost edge of their breeding range. These owls likely migrated from Canadian breeding grounds to winter in Pennsylvania. Read more »