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Posts tagged: NIFA

Insects for Dinner? Potential Tool in the Toolkit to Achieve Global Food Security

As an entomologist, the notion of eating insects isn’t new to me. However, for most Americans, the thought can make their stomachs churn. And yet, maybe seeing insects on their dinner plates is something Americans should get used to seeing.

Yesterday, I delivered the keynote address at the Insects as Food Conference, which was hosted by the FAO and Wageningen University in the Netherlands. As director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), my goal is to ensure that the science we invest in leads to solutions to today’s most pressing challenges. One of those challenges relates to our world’s growing population, which is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050. We need to find new ways to feed all people while minimally impacting the environment. This “9 Billion Problem” has implications for how we grow and view food now and in the future. Read more »

Helping Honey Bees’ Health

The black dot on this honey bee is a varroa mite--a parasite that sucks vital fluids like a tick, although it also acts like a mosquito transmitting viruses and other pathogens to the bee.

The black dot on this honey bee is a varroa mite--a parasite that sucks vital fluids like a tick, although it also acts like a mosquito transmitting viruses and other pathogens to the bee.

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.

You’ve probably heard that the honey bees in this country are in trouble, with about one-third of our managed colonies dying off every winter. Later this week, we will learn how the honey bees survived this winter. With severe weather in a number of areas in the U.S. this winter, a number of us concerned about bees will be closely watching the results.

While scientists continue work to identify all the factors that have lead to honey bee losses, it is clear that there are biological and environmental stresses that have created a complex challenge that will take a complex, multi-faceted approach to solve.  Parasites, diseases, pesticides, narrow genetic diversity in honey bee colonies, and less access to diverse forage all play a role in colony declines.  To confront this diverse mix of challenges, we require a mix of solutions – the odds are that we won’t find one magic fix to help our honey bees. Read more »

Getting Geeky at the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

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.

When you think of agriculture do you think of science and engineering? You should! Farmers are some of our original scientists, tinkering with plant varieties and farming techniques to find ways to reliably grow food. At USDA, we still do that kind of research in a never-ending effort to find better ways to produce food, fuel, and fiber. We also do a lot of research you might not think of when you think about agriculture: from forensic genetic analysis to track down unwanted pests to figuring out how to turn spent grain from distilleries into biodegradable kitty litter.

On April 26-27, the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival took over the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Over 325,000 people came out to celebrate discovery and innovation through over 3,000 hands-on activities and 150 performances and lectures.  USDA pulled all of the stops to show our geeky side and hopefully convince a few young booth visitors to consider agriculture when they think about careers in science. Read more »

USDA Grants Assist Small Farmers Who are Making a Big Impact in Agriculture

Small and medium-sized farmers could see help in growing their operation thanks to programs that will be developed at 10 universities that were funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week.

Small and medium-sized farmers could see help in growing their operation thanks to programs that will be developed at 10 universities that were funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week.

Farming and ranching is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Agriculture in the United States is a mixing bowl of diversity, and it’s most evident when comparing large- and small-scale farming operations. Having grown up on a small, family farm in Iowa, I saw first-hand not only how important our small farmers and ranchers are to the nation, but also the challenges they face daily.

There is much variation among small family farms and ranches. No one definition comes close to capturing the richness and diversity of these operations. For example, while many farmers and ranchers are loyal to their traditional production systems, others constantly seek new opportunities and experiment with alternative crops, production methods and innovative marketing approaches. As a result, the United States produces a striking range of food and fiber, from soybeans to sesame, from beef to buffalo. Read more »

Researcher with NIFA Roots Earns International Prize

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at University of California–Davis, is co-winner of the 2014 Wolf Prize in agriculture. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at University of California–Davis, is co-winner of the 2014 Wolf Prize in agriculture. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.  Today we look at USDA support for a researcher striving to improve wheat through developing better disease resistance, nutritional value, and yield.

One of America’s most renowned agricultural researchers, a man who has already collected two of the USDA’s top honors, has now earned international recognition with the Wolf Prize in Agriculture.  The Wolf Foundation began awarding six prizes – agriculture, the arts, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics – in 1978 to recognize outstanding scientists and artists for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples.

Jorge Dubcovsky, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California–Davis and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute–Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation investigator, is sharing the Wolf Prize with Leif Andersson, from Uppsala University in Sweden.  Dubcovsky’s previous awards include USDA’s National Research Initiative Discovery Award and the USDA Secretary’s Honor Award.  Dubcovsky will receive the Wolf Prize June 1 at Knesset Israel (the Israeli Parliament) from Israeli President Shimon Peres. Read more »

Microwave Pasteurization: A New Industrial Process Producing High Quality and Safe Food

A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit.  MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit. MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, like innovative ways to make food safer.

More than 90 percent of American households have microwave ovens where people heat their food, yet this same technology is seldom used for large-scale production in the food industry.

As home cooks know, microwave ovens do not excel at heating food evenly.  The lack of commercial-scale microwave processing technology is, in part, due to the challenge of designing equipment that is capable of pasteurization – heating all of the food evenly to a predetermined temperature for a certain length of time.  Pasteurization makes food safe to eat, by inactivating bacterial and viral pathogens that can make people sick. Read more »