Bill Gates learns to pollinate wheat from Cornell University assistant professor Jessica Rutkoski, while ARS geneticist Edward Buckler looks on. Photo credit: Robert Barker, Cornell University.
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 profile.
Bill Gates, once simply of Microsoft fame, is now as famous for his dedication to reducing hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa and other goals that drive the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He recently visited Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit in Ithaca, NY, to learn what two geneticists are doing to improve crop breeding decisions that could be used in that part of the world.
At the research unit, ARS geneticist Edward Buckler is turning the encyclopedic amount of genetic information he has developed about corn into helping the crop yield the kind of improvements in Africa that have been made in North America. Varieties bred for North American climates simply do not work in Africa where they currently produce only about one-fifth the harvest they do in this country. Millions of hungry and extremely poor people can’t afford the hundred years it would take for conventional breeding that was once the path taken in the United States. Read more »
Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills announces Farm Bill funding support to improve water quality in the Delaware River Basin. NRCS photo.
The Delaware River watershed is one of our nation’s most treasured resources. It is home to more than 7 million people and the water supply for more than 15 million in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. An historic new Farm Bill program at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help farmers and local leaders make investments to keep the watershed healthy and vibrant for years to come.
Secretary Vilsack recently announced the recipients of the 2014 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards. This new program will invest $1.2 billion over five years in innovative, partner-driven strategies to protect air and water quality, make more efficient use of water resources, restore habitat and protect open spaces. This year’s RCPP awards nation-wide total more than $370 million dollars. Counting the dollar-for-dollar partner match, almost three quarters of a billion dollars will be invested in private land conservation through the RCPP. Read more »
USDA Under Secretary Cathie Woteki reviews the hydroponic garden at Food and Finance High School in New York City, which is fed nutrients from sediment collected in Dr. Warner’s basement fish tanks and pumped up four floors to the garden.
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.
Schools of fish may be common things to see, but watching some fish school high school students from a basement in Manhattan’s West Side is a different experience altogether. Cathie Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, observed such a program recently during a visit to Food and Finance High School in New York.
There on West 50th Street, Cornell University operates laboratories that represent the latest in scientific technology to raise fresh, clean fish in addition to garden produce in a sustainable urban setting. Renowned Cornell scientist and educator Philson Warner developed a system for continuously re-circulating and reconditioning water to raise more than 10,000 tilapia and other fish at a time in the basement lab. The nutrient-rich water from the fish is then transferred to a hydroponic garden located a few floors up on campus. That garden produces nine types of lettuce, Chinese cabbage such as bok choi, and a variety of herbs that include sweet basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. The plants then clean the water, which is sent back to the fish. Read more »
The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vermont was able to upgrade the city's water treatment plant with support from USDA. The Department is working through several agencies to help improve water quality in the lake. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
In recent years, blue-green algae blooms have frequented Lake Champlain, impairing the lake’s water quality. Through a new partnership with USDA, nearly 20 organizations in the area will work together with farmers and ranchers to help improve water quality of the lake and reduce algae blooms.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources are uniting partners to engage and support farmers and forest landowners who use voluntary conservation practices that lead to cleaner water. Called the “Accelerated Implementation of Agricultural and Forestry Conservation Practices in the Lake Champlain Watershed of Vermont and New York,” this project will provide outreach to farmers throughout the watershed and help connect them with innovative conservation solutions for their land. Read more »
It’s not hard to list our accomplishments here at USDA: After all, our progress on the much anticipated 2014 Farm Bill has been lauded as “the most successful Farm Bill implementation.” We also launched a website for New Farmers and started a conversation with women in agriculture that will continue to grow for many years to come.
What is sometimes less obvious is the people whose lives these programs and initiatives impact. So, to wrap up the year, I wanted to share a few of my most cherished memories from my first year as Deputy Secretary. Read more »
Idaho potatoes – the phrase rolls off the tongue easily because Idaho leads the country in growing potatoes. Check back next week as we spotlight another state and the results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
When it comes to potatoes, Idaho is #1. Results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture confirmed it. According to the census, Idaho farmers led the United States in acres of potatoes harvested, at 345,217 acres. And believe it or not, this was done by only 794 farms. On these farms, 58 percent of the potato harvested acres were for the fresh market and 42 percent were for processing.
Of course, the other parts of our agriculture are no small potatoes either. Overall, in 2012 we had 24,816 farms in our state, and our farmers sold more than $7.8 billion worth of agricultural products. Nearly a third of that amount – $2.3 billion – came from milk sales. Only three states, California, Wisconsin, and New York, had more milk sales than Idaho. Idaho’s Gooding County ranked fourth in the nation for milk cow inventory. The 2012 census counted nearly 179,000 head of milk cows there. Read more »