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Posts tagged: Science Tuesday

Discovery Could Rekindle Interest in a USDA Trailblazer

Fruits and vegetables in a basket

David Fairchild was instrumental in establishing gardens nationwide to screen plants from overseas with potential for improving U.S. diets, gardens, and landscapes. ARS photo by Keith Weller.

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.

Bountiful harvests don’t magically appear on store shelves and supermarkets. USDA scientists strive to make sure that the variety of meats, fruits, vegetables and grains we enjoy are hardy enough to withstand insects, diseases, droughts and other natural threats familiar to anyone with a garden or farm.

David Fairchild, a USDA scientist, was a key part of that effort. Fairchild collected plants from all over the world so they could be studied and bred. He organized the USDA’s Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction and served as its chairman for more than 20 years. He is credited with introducing about 30,000 plant species and variations into the United States, and he was instrumental in establishing gardens throughout the United States to screen plants with potential for improving our diets, gardens and landscapes. Read more »

Pollinator Week Brings Focus on Honey Bee Health

A bumblebee on top of a flower

Pollination by honey bees alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. It is possible that pesticide residue exposure may play an indirect role in pollinator decline, which is why analyzing residue continues to be an important part of the puzzle. USDA Photo Courtesy of Teresa Prendusi.

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.

The buzz of a honey bee and the flutter of a butterfly bring happy thoughts of beautiful gardens. These pollinators are also hard at work providing vital services that are critical to our national and global food supplies. Honey bees to native bees and birds, bats and butterflies help ensure the production of plentiful fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Pollination by honey bees alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. Unfortunately, the number of pollinators has been declining in recent years due to many factors. Read more »

Moving Back to Rural America: Why Some Return Home and What Difference It Makes

People eating together

A recent Economic Research Service report explores reasons for returning to live in remote rural areas and the impacts return migrants make on their home communities. Photo by John Cromartie.

Population loss persists in rural America, especially in more remote areas with limited scenic amenities. Communities in these areas are attuned to the annual out-migration of their “best and brightest” high school graduates, typically a third or more of each class.

But stemming rural population loss–and spurring economic development–may depend less on retaining young adults after high school and more on attracting former residents some years later. Researchers at the University of Montana and USDA’s Economic Research Service visited 21 rural communities during 2008 and 2009 and conducted 300 interviews at high school reunions. The aim was to better understand what motivates return migration and the barriers to such moves. Reunions allowed for simultaneous interviews with both return migrants and nonreturn migrants. Read more »

Widely-Anticipated Surveys Coming in June

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.

Weddings, dads, and grads make June a joyful month, but here at the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, June is eventful for a different reason altogether. It’s when we conduct some of the most widely-anticipated agricultural surveys. During the first two weeks of the month, we’ll survey more than 125,000 farmers across the United States. Although NASS surveys and publishes reports throughout the year, June means game on!

In this single month, we conduct the June Area Survey, the June Agricultural Survey (also known as the Crops/Stocks Survey), and the June Hogs and Pigs Survey. Through these, we will gather information about this season’s crop production, supplies of grain stocks, livestock inventories, land use, detailed estimates on the number of acres producers planted of particular agricultural commodities, and much more. Because of the prominent influence and impact these surveys have in the agricultural industry and on government programs and policy, its important farmers and ranchers participate. Read more »

The New Wave of Wheat: Increasing Resistant Starch to Improve Health Benefits

Brittany Hazard, a University of California-Davis doctoral student collecting samples from a wheat field

Brittany Hazard, a University of California-Davis doctoral student working on wheat and resistant starch research, collects samples from a wheat field for analysis at the UC Davis’ Dubcovsky Lab.

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.

Bread and pasta are mealtime favorites and household staples for many, but carbohydrates may also present a problem for many who struggle with health issues brought on by obesity.  With this in mind, researchers are developing wheat that has positive health implications.

A University of California-Davis-led Triticeae Coordinated Agricultural Project (T-CAP) is introducing changes into durum wheat genes that can increase resistant starch content by more than 750%. Read more »

Transferring Dead Trees from Source of Wildfire Fuel to Biofuel

Mountain lake with pine beetle damaged forest

Researchers are harvesting beetle-killed trees in the Rocky Mountain region for use as feedstock for biofuel. (iStock image)

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.

Trees killed by bark beetles have, for years, been a source of fuel for forest fires.  Now, those very trees are being turned into biofuel and biobased products.

This vast bioenergy resource—approximately 46 million acres—requires no cultivation, circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns, and may have a highly favorable carbon balance compared other forestry feedstocks. The problem, however, is that beetle-killed biomass is typically located far from urban industrial centers in relatively inaccessible areas, which means transportation costs are a key barrier to widespread utilization of this vast resource. Read more »