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Posts tagged: NIFA

How 4-H Rocks for Missouri Youth of All Abilities

Missouri 4-H’er Riley Tade working

Missouri 4-H’er Riley Tade works with one of the goats in his 4-H project. Riley, who has cerebral palsy, is one of many youth in Missouri who don’t let special needs get in the way their love of agriculture and 4-H. (Image courtesy of University of Missouri Extension)

4-H is about more than barnyard animals, it’s about emerging sciences, like rocketry and geographic information systems.  4-H is also about leadership, citizenship, and many other things, but one quality truly stands out: 4-H is about inclusion.

In Missouri, 4-H clubs take an inclusive approach to working with youth who have special needs. “We don’t have set-aside or separate programs or activities for youth with special needs,” said Alison Copeland, campus 4-H specialist with University of Missouri Extension. “Rather, we provide our staff and volunteers with the tools and resources, such as sensitivity activities, to help staff increase their ability to work with youth of varying abilities in the same club or program.” Read more »

Nanostructured Biosensors Detect Pesticide, Help Preserve Environment

Artist conception of the creation of a biosensor that is created with graphene ink

Artist conception of the creation of a biosensor that is created with graphene ink. (Image reproduced by permission of Dr. Jonathan Claussen from Nanoscale, 2016, 8, 15870.)

When does too much of a good thing become a bad thing? That’s the question Dr. Jonathan Claussen, assistant professor at Iowa State University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and his team of researchers aim to help farmers answer when it comes to pesticide use. Underuse can harm farmers’ crops, while overuse can result in runoff into the soil or waterways.

Claussen and his team created a flexible, low cost and disposable biosensor that can detect pesticides in soil. This biosensor is made of graphene, a strong and stable nanoparticle, and provides instantaneous feedback, as opposed to the time and money it would otherwise take to send a sample to a lab and await results. Read more »

Small Town 4-H’er Reaches for the Stars

Peggy Whitson monitoring a soybean plant growth experiment

Peggy Whitson monitors a soybean plant growth experiment on one of her previous International Space Station (ISS) expeditions. Whitson, a former 4-H’er, is now the ISS commander. (NASA photo)

Many kids gaze up into the night’s sky and dream of touching the stars. Peggy Whitson, NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, turned that dream into reality.

Whitson grew up in the small town of Beaconsfield, Iowa, completing standard chores like mowing the lawn and caring for animals, but never lost her determination to fly and eventually go to outer space. At the age of nine, Whitson became involved with the 4-H program. Her brothers and sisters were active with the local Ringgold County 4-H club and it was a natural fit for her. The program played a key role in helping her develop from a shy girl into an exceptional leader. Read more »

NIFA, Agricultural Research Tackle Society’s ‘wicked’ problems

NIFA-funded research used genetics to hornless dairy cattle.  (Image courtesy of Recombinetics)

NIFA-funded research used genetics to hornless dairy cattle. (Image courtesy of Recombinetics)

Our charge in the food and agricultural sciences is to move from evolutionary discoveries, which contribute to marginal changes over long periods of time, to revolutionary thinking to deal with ‘wicked’ problems by deploying transdisciplinary approaches that solve complex societal challenges. Similar to how the Internet-driven disruptive technologies have transformed America and the rest of the world, advances in data science, information science, biotechnology and nanotechnology can transform agriculture and our capacity to address societal challenges.

Advances in the field of genomics have helped breeders produce desirable varieties of crops and livestock and overcome challenges that had previously been undertaken via conventional breeding. For example, in the dairy industry, most cattle are mechanically or chemically dehorned early in life to protect against injury to other cattle and their handlers. To eliminate this bloody and painful process, a team of NIFA-funded researchers at Recombinetics have successfully used gene editing to introduce the hornless gene into the cells of horned bulls. While the majority of hornless cattle generated via conventional breeding produce low quality milk, gene editing offers a simple and rapid solution of generating hornless cattle that produce high quality milk. Read more »

Training Growers, Growing Trainers: Preparing for New Food Safety Requirements

A grower and an internal auditor look over records during a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit. The grower is in the GroupGAP Program, which allows grower groups to pool their resources to establish food safety best practices, lead food safety trainings, develop quality management systems, and pay for certification costs. Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.

A grower and an internal auditor look over records during a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit. The grower is in the GroupGAP Program, which allows grower groups to pool their resources to establish food safety best practices, lead food safety trainings, develop quality management systems, and pay for certification costs. Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.

Are you preparing to meet the new Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Produce Safety rule standards?  Have you heard about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)?  Maybe you’ve heard that they can get buyers to notice your products and improve your access to the market place – but you need more information to know if it can work for you.

USDA is hard at work connecting growers with training and resources to support GAP certification and expand their food safety know how. We’ve made big investments in food safety education for growers in recent years, supporting projects through AMS grant programs—the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Federal-State Market Improvement Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, and Local Food Promotion Program. Read more »

Veterans Returning to Civilian Life Bring Skill and Talent to Farm and Ranch

The U.S. flag

Each day, nearly 1,300 veterans and their family members return to civilian life. USDA is helping many veterans transition from the military to agriculture.

In honor of Veterans Day, Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam provided Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with an overview of USDA’s support for veterans. Baccam, a proud army veteran, also serves as the Department’s Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison. Read more »