USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.
Making a success in agriculture and rural communities in today’s competitive world requires a toolbox of cutting-edge knowledge and ways to put that information in people’s hands so they can put it to work. Whether it’s designing these tools, developing the data to prove them, or breeding a new crop variety to outwit a plant disease to avoid a harvest’s devastation, the scientists of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are always coming up with something new to enhance rural opportunities.
Here are five research highlights from 2015 you should read: Read more »
The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.
USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.
What we teach our children about food can shape how they eat, learn, grow and live. While I was on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, I saw firsthand how a community garden can bring learning to life.
Planting a garden near their school, elementary students in Cannon Ball created a hands-on, outdoor classroom where they are taught how to grow their own food, a skill that will last a lifetime. The garden not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, it improved the students’ behavior and performance at school and developed their appreciation for the environment. Read more »
Shelly Ziesch, in tractor, loves being able to work side-by-side with her husband and kids on their family ranch.
NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ll feature the stories of America’s Harvest Heroes who, like farmers across the nation, are working this harvest season to secure the bounty of healthy food American agriculture is renowned for. From laying the foundation for the next generation of farmers putting down roots in rural America, supporting the fruit and vegetable growers who are helping to build healthier communities, bolstering new markets for the products of agricultural innovation, to harvesting renewable energy that is made in Rural America, with USDA’s support our farmers are yielding strong results for every American.
Farming and ranching in central North Dakota is a family affair for the Zieschs. Shelly and Robin Ziesch have three daughters who are all involved in agriculture, from ranching on their own to agriculture education to helping out on the family farm. These soon-to-be grandparents take great pride in their oldest daughter, Bailie, a nurse who also ranches with her husband Russell just south of Mandan, ND. Their middle daughter, Cassidy, attends North Dakota State University and is studying to be an agriculture teacher. She comes home often (whenever there isn’t a home football game) to help out. Their youngest daughter, Morgan, is a junior in high school and between her many sports and activities helps out on the ranch.
Both Shelly (SZ) and Morgan (MZ) share their insights into what it means to be a woman in agriculture and how each of them thinks about the future of their family operation. Read more »
Reed Fitton has enhanced honey bee habitat on the pastures he manages near Gays Mills, Wisconsin.
Reed Fitton grazes cattle on the same hilltop farm where the late conservationist Ben Logan grew up and later featured in his memoir, “The Land Remembers.” Fitton carefully manages the farm near Gays Mills, Wisconsin with a broad conservation ethic, preventing soil erosion and protecting waterways. He has also transformed the Ben Logan’s “Seldom Seen Farm” into an oasis for honey bees and other pollinators.
When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched a new coordinated effort to improve honey bee habitat in 2014, Fitton was one of the first to participate. He works closely with NRCS to make improvements to the land that provide better forage for his cattle, improve existing hayfields and convert former corn fields into healthy pasture. Read more »
A cover crop mixture that includes oat, proso millet, canola, sunflower, dry pea, soybean and pasja turnip. Photo by Mark Liebig, ARS.
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.
Whether you’re a home gardener or a commercial grower of vegetables, cotton, or other agricultural crops, as soon as the growing season is over, you may want to consider planting cover crops—grasses, legumes and small grains that protect and improve the soil.
Cover crops, which are typically grown off season, help reduce soil erosion, increase organic matter and control weeds. At the same time, they can lessen the effects of extreme weather conditions such as drought and help improve water and air quality as well as wildlife habitat. Read more »
50,000 acres of rangeland in North and South Dakota have permanent protection when enrolled into a carbon offset program through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. These offsets will be sold on the voluntary market. Photo credit: Scott Bauer.
Environmental markets—the buying and selling of ecosystem services like clean air and water, and wildlife habitat—help more private landowners get conservation on the ground. Markets attract non-Federal funding to conservation, complement USDA’s work with agricultural producers, and can yield natural resource improvement at a lower cost to other approaches.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a Federal leader in supporting the development of environmental markets, largely through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Among CIG recipients are one of the earliest and most successful water quality trading programs in Ohio’s Great Miami River watershed and the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program, a recipient of the U.S. Water Prize this year. Also through CIG, USDA hosted an event in November 2014 celebrating a first-of-its-kind transaction—the purchase by Chevrolet of carbon credits generated on ranch lands in North Dakota. Read more »