Little brown bats, like these found in a cave in Maine in 2013, are increasingly being found with white-nose syndrome. The U.S. Forest Service is researching many angles to help wildlife managers and the public to combat the disease. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Take a moment to look at the night sky and watch the swift flight of bats on their daily mission as they dart through your backyard or forest. Now, think about how it’s becoming harder to spot these winged wonders, and ask why. The answer: The quickly growing spread of a disease known as white-nose syndrome has been decimating bat populations, as explained in a recently released film on the subject.
This increasingly devastating disease has killed more than six million bats in just six years, a serious problem for a creature that provides so many benefits to the environment – as both a plant pollinator and as a major predator in keeping insect populations in check. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Lab researcher John Hunt (front, right) shows panels made with manure to former USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman (front left). Jim Jensen and Caleb Walker, representatives from Noble Environmental Technologies, an agency partner, look on. (U.S. Forest Service)
A film crew from Discover Wisconsin, a television program showcasing the many treasures of the Badger State, recently visited the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., as part of their America’s Dairyland series. This series takes a look at Wisconsin’s largest and most important industry.
So, what does this have to do with forest products? Read more »
Harvard Forest staff renovated a pole barn to house the boiler room and modern wood shop. The new boiler room (left side of the building) contains three wood gasification boilers, a 2,500-gallon thermal storage tank, a propane-fired backup boiler and associated pumps and system controls. The sloped roof on the left of the building provides a dry storage area for racks of firewood prior to loading in the boilers. (U.S. Forest Service/Rob Clark)
I recently had the opportunity to speak at the dedication ceremony for the Harvard Forest Wood Energy Project, an exciting venture partially supported by the U.S. Forest Service Northeastern Area. This woody-biomass heating system will support 50,000 square feet of the central campus buildings and five dormitories, replacing fuel-oil with renewable firewood that comes from Harvard Forest, a 3,500-acre laboratory and classroom in Petersham, Mass., and owned by Harvard University.
A unique aspect of this project is that it is at the heart of a long-term forest carbon research project. Not only are carbon flows in the Harvard Forest where the wood for the new energy system will come from already being closely studied, but now every aspect of the new installation will be very closely monitored and studied as well. Read more »
Producers endure the weather across the Midwest and wonder if it will be too wet to plant, too wet to harvest, too wet to spray, or if the rain will come at the right time to produce a bumper or just an average crop. In all of the presentations I have given on climate and agriculture across the Midwest, during the last year the prevailing question has been about whether the increasing variation in precipitation and temperature we’re experiencing is the “new” normal during the growing season. Producers point to the last four growing seasons as examples of the variation they face each year: 2010 was hot and wet during the grain-filling stage of growth causing the crops to mature more quickly, 2011 was almost normal with some dry periods during the last part of the growing season, 2012 was a drought year, and 2013 experienced two different extremes. In 2013, it was wet in the early growing season, delaying and in some places preventing planting, followed by a dry summer. Across the Midwest, the early spring rains are increasing erosion from fields. Producers are now asking what they can do to protect their natural resources and the crops that depend on them, and what the next season will be like. If these extremes continue, how do they adapt their farming operations? Read more »
American innovation is one of our most special traditions, fueling our nation to new heights over the course of our history. Innovation is critically important in rural America, where research is helping to grow American agriculture, create new homegrown products, generate advanced renewable energy and more.
Continued research has the capacity to lead the way to economic opportunity and new job creation in rural areas – and USDA has been hard at work to carry out these efforts. But we need Congress to get its work done and provide a new Farm Bill that recommits our nation to innovation in the years to come. Read more »
A mother and son shop for veggies and flowers—both specialty crops—at a local farmers market. Over half the foods we eat are considered specialty crops. Support for this vital sector of agriculture relies on the stability provided through a comprehensive Farm Bill. Photo by Melinda Shelton.
“Specialty crops”—the label may sound like exotic foods or something reserved for a special occasion, but this area of agriculture represents more than half the foods we eat on a daily basis. Defined as fruits and veggies, tree nuts, herbs, dried fruit, decorative plants and flowers, these crops are not only a key component of a healthy diet—they are also key to sustaining U.S. farms and agriculture. Read more »