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Posts tagged: Science Tuesday

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 »

USDA Scientist’s Discoveries Boost Poultry Health

Dr. Hyun Lillehoj, ARS Research Molecular Biologist. ARS photo.

Dr. Hyun Lillehoj, ARS Research Molecular Biologist. ARS photo.

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 Hyun Lillehoj began her career as a scientist some 30 years ago, she never imagined that someday she’d receive a “thank you” in person from the President of the United States.

But that’s exactly what happened this past winter when Lillehoj was honored by President Barack Obama as winner of a Presidential Rank Award, one of several presented recently to honorees from various government agencies. Read more »

Family Farms Remain the Cornerstone of U.S. Agriculture

Small Family Farms as Percent of Total Farms, by State, 2012. NASS infographic.

Small Family Farms as Percent of Total Farms, by State, 2012. NASS infographic.

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.

As you can imagine, Census of Agriculture is a virtual data gold mine for an agricultural demographer. And as we celebrate U.S. agriculture this week, with the help of the Census data we can focus on the key element of our nation’s agriculture – family farms.

Of the 2.1 million farms in the United States in 2012, 97 percent were family-owned operations. Eighty-eight percent of all farms were small family farms. This group included farms such as retirement farms, farms with operators working part-time off-farm, as well as farms with less than $350,000 in gross cash farm income. Read more »

Tips for Starting an Organic Garden

Backyard organic gardening can be easier than you think – if you learn the basics. (Photo by Stephanie Engle)

Backyard organic gardening can be easier than you think – if you learn the basics. (Photo by Stephanie Engle)

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.

Even though there’s still snow on the ground over much of the country, it’s about time to start thinking about the logistics of planting your garden later this spring.  And while you’re thinking about it, why not consider going natural?

Whether you’re an avid gardener or just starting out, the idea of creating a garden using organic methods can seem overwhelming at first. But organic gardening is less daunting than you may think if you understand some basic principles; it’s about creating a more holistic, natural ecosystem and can be done right in your own backyard. Read more »