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Posts tagged: NIFA

A New World-Old World Problem and How Genetic “Fingerprints” May Help

ARS scientists and NIFA-funded researchers work to improve the tools and processes to develop better grapes and grapevines. Their discoveries will make it easier for grape breeders to identify vines that combine the most desirable traits.

ARS scientists and NIFA-funded researchers work to improve the tools and processes to develop better grapes and grapevines. Their discoveries will make it easier for grape breeders to identify vines that combine the most desirable traits.

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.

When it comes to grapes, there’s a New World-Old World dichotomy. Grapevines originating in the Americas (e.g. Vitis labrusca, Vitis riparia) can resist pests and diseases, but they generally don’t have the taste or aroma of grapes with European origins (Vitis vinifera).  But European grapes are more susceptible to pests and disease.

Grape breeders try to combine the best of both worlds, but here’s the problem: if you cross one grape with another, there is no guarantee your progeny will inherit the desirable traits. And because it takes so much time to grow a grapevine, produce grapes from those vines, and for those grapes to be evaluated, bringing a new grape to market can take 20 years or more. Scientists can speed things up by identifying genes that give grapes the right blend of the best characteristics. Identifying the genes will tell you the characteristics of the vine without having to wait for it to grow. Read more »

Finding the Future of Agriculture

During the North American Indian Days Celebration in Montana, Under Secretary Ed Avalos (foreground), witnessed the pride and commitment of youth as they celebrated their cultural and agricultural roots.

During the North American Indian Days Celebration in Montana, Under Secretary Ed Avalos (foreground), witnessed the pride and commitment of youth as they celebrated their cultural and agricultural roots.

Agricultural producers in rural America represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet they produce almost 75% of the food we eat in this country and much of the food eaten throughout the world. Among that 1%, the average age of the American farmer is 57 years old—making it imperative for us to engage and encourage young people to pursue agricultural careers.

Earlier this summer, while visiting Browning, Montana, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Billie Jo Kipp, President of the Blackfeet Community College (BCC) and Mr. Terry Tatsey, Director of Agricultural Programs at the college.  Their efforts and commitment to educate local students and keep young people in agriculture is inspiring. Read more »

Taking the Summer On: AMS Interns Gain Valuable Experience

AMS interns at the USDA Internship Meeting at USDA Headquarters. During their internship, they met with senior USDA officials, including AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row in the center with black coat and white dress).

AMS interns at the USDA Internship Meeting at USDA Headquarters. During their internship, they met with senior USDA officials, including AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row in the center with black coat and white dress).

Without farmers and the agricultural businesses that support them, no one can eat. This is a simple concept, but it implies that people will continue to choose careers in agriculture. Here at USDA, one of the ways that we encourage younger generations to choose these careers is offering grants to institutions that offer agricultural curriculums. 

Through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA enables students to expand their knowledge of the agricultural industry. NIFA provides grants to schools such as the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) through the Hispanic Serving Institutions Program. This allows these institutions to offer top-notch agricultural curriculums. Read more »

Virginia Tech Animal Breeding Graduate Program Makes Strides in Online Learning

A Virginia Tech student participates in the online animal breeding graduate program. Credit: Ron Lewis, Virginia Tech.

A Virginia Tech student participates in the online animal breeding graduate program. Credit: Ron Lewis, Virginia Tech.

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.

Imagine a graduate school that combined the faculty expertise of seven universities throughout the United States. Imagine this program focused on animal genetics, using the latest research data to teach students.  Best of all, students can attend with the click of a mouse.

It’s not some futuristic university—this is a digital learning center created by faculty at Virginia Tech, and funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  Ron Lewis, professor of animal genetics at Virginia Tech, received a grant from NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge Grant Program to launch this on-line graduate-level training in animal breeding and genetics in 2007. Read more »

USDA Talks Honeybees on Twitter

Last week’s cover of TIME magazine featured a story about the rapid rate of decline of honeybee populations across the globe. The article focuses on the question of the price we’ll pay if we don’t figure out what is killing the honeybee. A daunting thought when you think about the fact that one-third of all food and beverages are made possible through pollination and pollinators are valued at $15 billion annually.

This morning, Jim Jones from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), author Hannah Nordhaus and I joined TIME journalist Bryan Walsh on Twitter to discuss the topic and what is being done and what needs to be done. If you happened to miss the Twitter chat, you can follow what was said by searching #TIMEbees. Read more »

Quinoa: A Plant with a Lot of Potential

Quinoa is a grain with high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world.

Quinoa is a grain with high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world.

In February of this year, the United National declared 2013 the International Year of the Quinoa. Yet, I’m sure not many people have even heard of quinoa, let alone know about its nutritional qualities.

Originating from Bolivia, Chile and Peru around 5,000 years ago, quinoa is a grain that is growing in popularity across the country. Consumed like rice and used to make flour, soup, cereals or alcohol, quinoa is very nutritious due to its high protein content, making it an important food crop in alleviating hunger and food security in impoverished areas of the world. Read more »