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Posts tagged: Science Tuesday

Bringing the Scientist to the Student

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 the Terrebonne Parish Main Library in Houma, Louisiana, issued flyers asking local science and engineering professionals to spend a few hours mentoring students on their science-fair project ideas, Michael Grisham didn’t hesitate.

Indeed, you might say that Grisham has had a lifelong affinity for science fairs—first as a student and, today, as a plant pathologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), where he leads the agency’s Sugarcane Research Unit (SRU) in Houma. Read more »

April Brings Forth Crop Progress Reports

A tractor turns the cover crop into the soil in preparation for planting at Leafy Greens, a farm in the Salinas Valley of California. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

A tractor turns the cover crop into the soil in preparation for planting at Leafy Greens, a farm in the Salinas Valley of California. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

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.

It’s been said, “April showers bring forth May flowers.”  For USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and others involved in farming, April also brings forth the start of each year’s planting season for many key U.S. crops and the weekly Crop Progress report series.

With the help of about 4,000 reporters, including extension agents, Farm Service Agency staff, and others whose jobs involve frequent visual observations of farms and interaction with growers, NASS tracks and reports on planting, maturity, and harvest of major crops, such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton. Read more »

NIFA Research is Working to Make Every Day World Health Day

USDA is observing World Health Day today.

USDA is observing World Health Day today.

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.

April 7 is World Health Day and food safety is the primary focus—and with good reason.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that, in the United States alone, every year there are 48 million foodborne illnesses and 3,000 deaths from unsafe food.

Most of these illnesses are the result of bacteria, such as Salmonella, that finds its way into various types of food.  About half of all microbial foodborne illnesses are associated with animal foods, and about half from produce.  CDC reports that most illnesses come from leafy greens, which could be contaminated on the farm, during processing, at retail or in the home. Chemicals, such as mercury in fish or mycotoxins from molds are also a concern. Read more »

USDA-NASA’s Global View of Earth’s Soil Holds Many Benefits

The launch gantry is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite aboard at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. SMAP will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.

The launch gantry is rolled back to reveal the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite aboard at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. SMAP will provide global measurements of soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.

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 we think about space missions, we tend to look toward the stars to planets like Mars where robotic rovers roam, gathering data and sending it back to Earth. Rarely do we think about missions closer to home. But a view of Earth from 426 miles above is helping us monitor droughts, predict floods, improve weather forecasts and assist with crop productivity.

This year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a new satellite called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active-Passive) with the help of a team that included U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hydrologist Susan Moran at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Southwest Watershed Research Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona, and physical scientist Wade Crow and hydrologist Thomas Jackson at ARS’s Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. Read more »

New USDA Survey Examines Where We Shop for Groceries and How We Get There

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.

We’ve long recognized that what we eat affects our health. But distances to stores offering healthy and affordable foods—as well as travel modes—can play a role in what gets purchased and consumed. Are the poor at a disadvantage when it comes to getting to a grocery store? How do shoppers—poor and not poor—travel to their main grocery store and how far do they travel to get there?

A new survey funded by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and Food and Nutrition Service is ideally suited to answer these questions. The National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) collected information from a national sample of 4,826 households between April 2012 and January 2013 about where they shop for food and other unique, comprehensive data about household food purchases and acquisitions. FoodAPS is unique because it sampled a relatively large number of households that participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as nonparticipant households from three income levels. Read more »

Needing a Clearer Crystal Ball

Example of a within season crop condition map synthesizing information for corn, wheat, soybeans and rice from a combination of information from national and regional analysts and earth observation data. Map courtesy of GEOGLAM Crop Monitor, February 2015.

Example of a within season crop condition map synthesizing information for corn, wheat, soybeans and rice from a combination of information from national and regional analysts and earth observation data. Map courtesy of GEOGLAM Crop Monitor, February 2015.

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.

If you think the local weather forecaster has trouble predicting if it will rain tomorrow, imagine how hard it is to forecast crop production world-wide.

If there is too little rain in Brazil in August, it could delay planting of the country’s summer maize crop and subsequently diminish that harvest. If the decrease is big enough, it could possibly have implications for international commodity prices and might even impact global food security. This in turn can translate into the need for policy makers to respond to economic and trade issues and problems in countries where food insecurity is a persistent threat. Read more »