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Posts tagged: Research

The Science Behind Fire

Researchers preparing for the next phase in examining physical fire processes

Researchers prepare for the next phase in examining physical fire processes by adding the effect of a slope. Photo credit: Mark Finney

In recent months, we have all become familiar with images in the media of wildland firefighters digging lines, air tankers dropping retardant and fire engines dispersing water. You may wonder “how do these firefighters know what it takes to fight fire?”

The short answer is: research.

Before a wildland firefighter sees his or her first fire, they are given the tools and training on how to fight fire and its behavior. The information passed onto them is not learned overnight but rather through years of research. Read more »

Nutritional Security Through Sustainable Agriculture

Bertha Etsitty helping 4-H members make traditional blue corn mush

Bertha Etsitty helps 4-H members make traditional blue corn mush during a club activity. Photo by Leah Platero

Nutritional security is defined as “a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Achieving nutritional security in the context of the burgeoning population, climate change, diminishing land and water resources, environmental degradation, and changing incomes and diets will require not just approaches to sustainably producing more food, but also smarter ways of producing food, dealing with food waste, and promoting improved nutritional outcomes.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve these societal challenges. NIFA’s portfolio of support for nutritional security and sustainable agriculture includes literally thousands of impactful efforts across our nation; below are just a handful that speak to the transformative work transforming lives.  For example: Read more »

Spring Climate Trends Changing in the Northeast

Freezing rain covering a flower

Freezing rain covers flowers, plants and trees in Falls Church, VA, like when unseasonably warm March is followed by last frost. USDA photo by Lance Cheung

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

You might have noticed spring-like weather in the Northeast is arriving earlier than usual.  There is reliable evidence from many studies that conditions in the Northeast and upper Midwest have become warmer and wetter in recent decades, especially before the coming of winter and spring.  The spring-like warmth has snow melting faster and plant growth starting sooner.  On average, the last spring frost in the Northeast is about a week earlier now than it was 30 years ago.  The change is not as positive as one might expect since the start of growth for many plants has shifted even earlier than the last frost date leading to increased chances of frost damage.  This happens most often when unusually warm temperatures in March are followed within 2-5 weeks by a frost event.  In 2012, record high March temperatures were followed by record low temperatures (for the date) at the end of April with terrible consequences for fruit growers across Michigan, Ontario, New York, Vermont, and surrounding states.  In some places losses were almost total.  In something of a repeat, unusual warmth in the Northeast this past winter was interrupted by very cold outbreaks in mid-February and early April.  This combination was particularly bad for peaches in New Jersey, Connecticut, parts of New York, and other northeastern states where greater than 90% losses have been reported. Read more »

Spotting Trends Based on ‘What We Eat in America’

Two women looking at different serving sizes

Using a computerized dietary-intake survey program and serving-size aids, interviewers are able to help volunteers recall their dietary intakes. (USDA-ARS photo taken by Stephen Ausmus)

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

The U.S. food supply is abundant, but many consumers are experiencing nutritional shortfalls. Some are overfed but undernourished at the same time. Observing trends in U.S. diets is possible based on food-consumption data collected during the annual “What We Eat in America/NHANES” dietary-intake survey.

The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is responsible for the consumption interview, one of several components of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The dietary survey is managed by researchers at the Food Surveys Research Group in Beltsville, Md., part of the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center. Read more »

Roadmap Sets the Table for Nutrition Research

USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Woteki speaking

USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Woteki served as Co-Chair of the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research (ICHNR), which released the National Nutrition Research Roadmap earlier this month.

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.

I serve as Co-Chair of the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research (ICHNR), which on March 4 released the first-ever National Nutrition Research Roadmap. This document will help guide government, academia, and the private sector to more effective collaboration on federally funded human nutrition research. Accordingly, the Roadmap itself is the result of more than a year of collaboration among 10 different federal departments and agencies, more than 90 federal experts, and numerous public comments.

The American people are keenly interested in knowing which dietary choices will help them to be healthy and prevent chronic diseases. Research on this relationship between nutrition, dietary choices, and health is important, because even a small impact on health could have large economic benefits to society. In fact, improved nutrition could be one of the most cost-effective approaches to address many societal, environmental, and economic challenges facing the US and nations around the globe. The Roadmap will help make federally supported nutrition research more effective and productive by identifying knowledge gaps and breakthrough opportunities that can be addressed through coordination and collaboration. Read more »

Woodland Buffers Protect Amphibians, Ecosystems

Red-backed salamander

Red-backed salamanders and other amphibians are key players in ecosystem health. (iStock photo)

Forested areas that border wetlands help protect wildlife, but until recently their efficacy has been untested for most amphibian species.  Now, recently published results of a six-year study explore how the loss or reduction of amphibians could affect the ecosystem.

At the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Kimberly Babbitt and a team of graduate students conducted landscape-scale experiments that tested the impacts of forest buffer width vernal pools on population size and structure, body size and condition and population genetics of two amphibian species in the northeastern United States. A grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supported the project. Read more »