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 »
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.
When I look at tree leaves, the stems always strike me as remarkable. Although typically slender, they’re pretty resilient, firmly anchoring the leaves to the branches to withstand the extreme whims of Mother Nature.
In the same way that stems provide a sturdy foundation so that the leaves can make food for the tree, science, technology, engineering, and math (frequently referred to as STEM) education provides a strong base for a wide range of activities. Read more »
Nelson Foster inspecting cages used to test the effectiveness of different baits used to suppress grasshoppers.
Grasshoppers and Mormon crickets of the West beware: R. Nelson Foster, of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is roaming the rangelands looking for you, and when he finds you, he’ll stop your feeding frenzy right in its tracks.
Foster serves as Assistant Laboratory Director at APHIS’ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology in Phoenix, Arizona. For over forty years, he has worked in the lab and in the field conducting groundbreaking research mainly on grasshoppers and similar insects such as Mormon crickets. Read more »
In the largest survey of food security and food spending among SNAP participants to date, researchers from Mathematica Policy Research found that participation in SNAP for about six months was associated with a significant decrease in food insecurity. The study was funded through a contract from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Infographic credit: Mathematica Policy Research. Click to enlarge image.
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is America’s first line of defense against hunger and new research released today makes it clear that SNAP improves food security, particularly among low-income children.
The study, funded by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and conducted by researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, found that participating in SNAP for about six months corresponded with a significant decrease in food insecurity. That effect was even more pronounced in households with children. Read more »