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Posts tagged: Science Tuesday

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 »

USDA-Brazil Team Examines Biodegradable Food Packaging

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.

A taste of Brazilian culture is presenting a favorable research environment for USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist Atanu Biswas, who just returned from one of three trips he will be taking to Fortaleza, Brazil.

Biswas was awarded the “Science without Borders” fellowship, sponsored by the Brazilian government’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), to lead a collaborative research team investigating new food packaging based on natural biodegradable plastics. He is the first ARS scientist selected to participate in the competitive program. Read more »

Bridging the Language Barrier for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

AAPI Month - May 2015. Celebrating Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. A man holding a girl on his shoulders with a tree behind them.

AAPI Month - May 2015. Celebrating Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. A man holding a girl on his shoulders with a tree behind them.

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 Asian-Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population is projected to reach 35.6 million in the next 40 years, making it the fastest growing racial group in the country. One of those communities is that of the Hmong.

Over the past several decades, Hmong immigrants have adapted the traditional agricultural activities of their home environment to this country. Despite the contributions Hmong farmers make to the agriculture and food enterprise of our nation, they have faced a language barrier in the marketplace. Read more »

Serving Up Statistics More Efficiently

Ag Census Importance Infographic

The Census of Agriculture and the resulting data help inform decisions made across the agricultural spectrum, ranging from producers to policymakers. (Click to enlarge)

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.

On any given day, a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) employee or representative might be contacting a farmer or rancher to request information about his or her operation. At the same time, another employee could be analyzing data provided by other producers, while other employees prepare one of the many statistical reports we publish each year on U.S. agriculture to help with business, research and policy decisions. 

Although the general cycle of data collection, analysis and publication of our agricultural estimates and census of agriculture programs is like a well-oiled machine, the recent rate of change is much more rapid than I can ever recall in the years I’ve worked in government statistics. New technology and changes in budgets, communications, leadership and workplace culture has allowed us to modernize to better serve the American public. Read more »

Measuring Environmental Effects of Conservation Practices

Drip irrigation

Drip irrigation is a system used to deliver slow, precise application of water and nutrients to a plant roots zone. This system maintains an optimum moisture level within the root zones, efficiently conserving water and helps prevent runoff while providing the proper balance of water and air needed for successful plant growth. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

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 profile.

Have you ever heard the saying, “In God we trust, all others bring data?” Those are the words of William Edwards Deming, a distinguished American statistician and researcher. As an agricultural statistician at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), collecting and distributing reliable data are the most important things I do. The data we provide help shape many key decisions about all sorts of things related to agriculture, including conservation practices.

But I don’t only collect and distribute data. I get to administer the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) survey – something I’m especially proud of. CEAP is a major project led by our sister agency the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The results of the survey contribute to a first-hand look into how operators maintain agricultural lands for tomorrow. This insight is so important because soil erosion, climate change, water shortages, and feeding ever-increasing populations are common concerns today. Read more »

Honduran Agronomy Students Tour Unique USDA Laboratory

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 profile.

This was not your typical class trip. The group of agriculture students from Honduras who visited USDA’s National Soil Dynamics Laboratory (NSDL) in Auburn, Alabama, were given tours of a one-of-a kind research facility that features, among other things, 13 soil bins, about the length of football fields, that look like huge outdoor bowling lanes. These gigantic soil bins have a special purpose: they are used to study the effects of farm machinery on the soil.

The NSDL, operated by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), has played a key role over the years in helping farmers in southeastern United States produce quality food in sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly ways. Built in 1935, the NSDL was the world’s first full-size outdoor laboratory for tillage tools and traction equipment. Work there has influenced the design of almost all modern agricultural equipment and is credited with spawning the scientific discipline of soil dynamics. The site has been designated as an historic landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. Read more »