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.
As a boy, Steven Cannon helped his grandfather in the garden grafting fruit trees, all the while developing an interest in plants. As an adult, Cannon has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, working with USDA as a scientist—but only after first taking a different, though ultimately, complementary career path.
After graduating college, Cannon worked various jobs, including one as an educational software designer that used his knack for computing. In 2000, he rekindled his early interest in plant biology, earning a PhD and practical experience as a postdoctoral researcher assigned to a genome mapping project. In 2006, he accepted a position as a plant geneticist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit in Ames, Iowa. Read more »
This fish tank is located in Honolulu, HI at the President William McKinley High School, and illustrates the cleanliness of water in an aquaponics/aquaculture system. For aquaponics, when the system is properly balanced, the water can be maintained at maximum clarity. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
If you’re wondering what aquaponics is, you’re not alone. Tracing its roots back to the Aztecs and rice cultivation in South China, aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics – growing fish and plants together in a symbiotic system. Basically, the plants keep the water clean for the fish to grow, and the fish fertilize the plants. Both help the other to survive and thrive.
A wide variety of foods—lettuce, beans, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, herbs, strawberries, melons, and tomatoes, for example—all flourish through aquaponics farming. Read more »
Grasses grown from the NRCS Plant Materials Center in Los Lunas line the edge of Mather Point in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
For more than 20 years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been growing seeds for the Grand Canyon National Park and other national parks.
When the National Park Service renovated the Grand Canyon’s South Rim visitor center in 2008, they looked to the NRCS Plants Materials Center in Los Lunas, N.M. to produce the seed needed to restore native grasses in the area.
Now, driving along eight miles of twists and turns of the South Rim, you can see the bright green grasses surrounding the parking lots, roads, and popular viewpoints including Prima Point, Hermit’s Rest and the Bright Angel Trailhead. Read more »
Daucus: Top-view of the flower structure of Daucus carota, Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot, Bedford County, Virginia. Doug Goldman, USDA-NRCS-NPDT
Recently the PLANTS website crossed a milestone with the uploading of its 50,000th image. The database, managed by the National Plant Data Team at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s East National Technology Support Center, hosts images of plants that grow in the U.S. and its territories.
The PLANTS site is one of USDA’s most frequently visited websites.
Besides images, PLANTS provides basic information on plants, including scientific names and distribution. It is used worldwide by scientists, educators, conservationists, students, farmers, horticulturists and others. All of this information assists people in identifying plants with the correct scientific names. Read more »
NRCS Soil Conservationist Rob Pearce collecting nahavita corms. Photo by Ken Lair, NRCS.
Native American agriculture techniques once dominated the continent, but after the arrival of Europeans, many of those traditions were nearly lost. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with tribal communities and ethnobotanists to restore some of these techniques and crops.
NRCS Earth Team volunteer Ken Lair is working with the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley in California to test a cultivation technique to stimulate growth of the plant nahavita, or blue dicks.
Traditionally, when native people harvested geophytes through digging, they did more than just retrieve the largest bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes for eating—they also replanted the smaller ones so that they could grow into new plants. Lair is testing this cultivation technique by growing nahavita at the Big Pine Indian Reservation. Read more »
The Cranberry Mountain Nature Center Native Plant and Pollinator Garden is located along an accessible walkway with views of the highland Scenic Highway. (U.S. Forest Service photo/Diana Stull)
With a view of majestic mountains in the background, visitors to the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center of the Monongahela National Forest find themselves immersed in a bevy of beautiful plants in bloom and fluttering monarch butterflies. Beneath the natural grandeur, a very essential ecosystem service is taking place – pollination.
In celebration of National Pollinator Week, June 17-21, 2013, the Forest Service invites you to come and visit the beautiful gems called Native Plant and Pollinator gardens currently in bloom in the Eastern Region. Read more »