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Posts tagged: North Carolina

An Amphibian Only a Mother (or Biologist) Could Love Needs your Attention

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches.  Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators.  (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches. Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators. (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)

Hiding beneath a pile of rocks in a clear mountain stream flowing from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina lurks North America’s largest salamander, the Eastern hellbender.  It is also locked in battle between its perilous decline and valiant struggle for survival.

Sediment from runoff, prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic and veterinary drugs, personal care products such as soaps, fragrances and cosmetics, other chemical pollutants, and the physical disturbance of its rocky lairs by unknowing recreationalists are all suspects contributing to the hellbender’s decline. Read more »

Sunlight to the Seagrasses: U.S. Forest Service Research Shines Light on Threatened Coastal Plant

Healthy seagrass meadows prevent erosion on coasts, store carbon, and provide marine animals with food and habitat. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency)

Healthy seagrass meadows prevent erosion on coasts, store carbon, and provide marine animals with food and habitat. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency)

Just off Florida’s 8,000 miles of coastline and tidal areas, in shallow sunlit waters, over two million acres of seagrass meadows waft in the ocean currents.

Besides providing food and habitat for manatees, sea turtles, shellfish, and other animals, seagrasses protect coasts from erosion and store vast quantities of carbon dioxide.

“Seagrasses grow off the coast of many other U.S. states, including North Carolina and Virginia, as well as around the world,” said U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station scientist Zanethia Choice. “Globally, their economic value is nearly $4 trillion.” Read more »

New Farmers and Ranchers: Ever Thought About Exporting?

The first step in running a successful farm or ranch business is identifying a product to create and connecting that product to potential customers.  For some new and beginning farmers, it can be a challenge to connect to the right market opportunities and to build a business that fits.

At USDA, we are working to make sure that there is access to markets at all levels – so that whether a new or beginning farmer wants to sell locally, regionally, nationally, or globally, they have access to tools that support their business and business development. Read more »

It’s Quite a Pickle To Be In

Pickles of many kinds fill grocery store shelves, all of them safe for consumers thanks to the work of an ARS food safety lab in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Pickles of many kinds fill grocery store shelves, all of them safe for consumers thanks to the work of an ARS food safety lab in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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.

Pickles are a popular food, but are even trendier today as more and more craft brands show up in stores and farmers’ markets all over the country. But did you know USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has helped commercial pickle-makers, from small brands to the nation’s largest, meet the highest standards of food safety?

While pickling—storing in an acid liquid, usually vinegar—has been recognized as a food-preserver since long before the discovery of bacteria, the kind of data that today’s precise food safety standards require was not established until recently. Read more »

Spraying Smarter Strengthens Strawberry Production

Thanks to a USDA NIFA grant, strawberry growers in Florida are benefiting from a smart system that helps them time spraying to prevent diseases – saving the farmers money while minimizing the environmental impacts. The system is being adapted for growers in other states.

Thanks to a USDA NIFA grant, strawberry growers in Florida are benefiting from a smart system that helps them time spraying to prevent diseases – saving the farmers money while minimizing the environmental impacts. The system is being adapted for growers in other states.

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.

With the U.S. being the world’s leading producer of strawberries, the success of these tart and sweet treats is essential to the economy of a state like Florida. In fact, with a $366 million-per-year industry, the state comes second only to California as the nation’s largest strawberry producer. Naturally, strawberry growers are looking for ways to sustain their harvests and profitability.

Enter Natalia Peres, University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center professor of plant pathology.  With funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Peres and her research team developed an online web tool, the Strawberry Advisory System (SAS), which helps farmers spend less money on fungicides yet achieve better results with what they do spray. Read more »

Why Test Seeds?

AMS’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division scientist conducts a test to detect the presence of harmful pathogens in grass seed. USDA photo.

AMS’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division scientist conducts a test to detect the presence of harmful pathogens in grass seed. USDA photo.

Before the late 1800’s, there weren’t any standards or laws overseeing the seed trade.  This allowed individuals to take advantage of the unorganized seed market by selling low quality seed to buyers.  In some instances, what was sold wasn’t even seed at all.

Unfortunately, even the most seasoned seed buyers can’t always tell what they will get when purchasing seed.  Will the seed grow?  If it does grow, what will it grow into?  Will these seeds contain a disease that will hurt my other crops?  Will the packet contain other unwanted weeds that will reduce my yield, hurt my animals, or destroy my land?  The worst part is that the outcome of your purchase won’t be known for months after you buy and “try” to grow them.  In the late 1800’s, these questions asked by millions of people around the world led to the rapid development of laboratories tasked with using science to predict seed quality.  Read more »