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Posts tagged: Science Tuesday

Using Gypsum to Help Reduce Phosphorus Runoff

USDA agricultural engineer Jim Fouss observing an algal bloom on Alligator Bayou, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana

USDA agricultural engineer Jim Fouss observes an algal bloom on Alligator Bayou, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These blooms, a particular problem during hot summer months, can be caused by high concentrations of fertilizer nutrients from agricultural drainage waters.

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 it rains it pours. Whether we get a passing shower or a day-long downpour, the runoff ends up in rivers, streams and waterways. That runoff may include nutrients from fertilizers, and one of those nutrients is phosphorus.

Phosphorus runoff is causing blooms of harmful algae that deplete waterways of oxygen, resulting in “dead zones” that damage ecosystems vital for aquatic life. It’s a problem in many of the waterways we all depend on for recreation and drinking water, including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.  Just last year, Maryland’s outgoing governor proposed land use regulations designed specifically to reduce phosphorus runoff in the Chesapeake watershed. Read more »

The Nuna Bean: ‘Power Popper’ Has Funny Name, Serious Nutritional Benefits

Nuña beans

Nuña beans. USDA-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.

Indigenous people of the Andes Mountains in South America have farmed the nuña bean (a.k.a. “Peruvian Popping bean”) as a staple crop for centuries. Its colorful, nutty-flavored seed is especially prized for its tendency to pop open when roasted—a cooking method that requires less firewood than boiling in fuel-scarce regions.

At the Agricultural Research Service’s Western Regional Plant Introduction Station in Pullman, Washington, plant geneticist Ted Kisha curates an edible dry bean collection that includes 91 accessions of high-altitude nuña beans grown by Andean farmers in Peru, the origin for this legume member of the Phaseolus vulgaris family. Read more »

Food Safety is Everybody’s Business

A plate of hamburgers beside vegetables on skewers, ketchup, mustard and a pepper shaker

Consumers should be vigilant about handling and cooking food properly—food safety is everybody’s business.

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.

USDA’s summer road trip may have come to an end, but many folks are still firing up the grills as summer winds down. With that, consumers still need to be conscious of food safety—from checking temperatures of grilled meat to discarding perishables that have been sitting out too long. A quick U-turn on our road trip explores USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food safety research program, which addresses complex food safety challenges by developing scientific information and new technologies to control foodborne contaminants. Read more »

UTEP Researchers Take a Different Path to Tackle International Drought Issues

UTEP text and the state of Texas layered onto an image of a river

Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are helping policy makers and residents manage their ever-shrinking water resources using new and different approaches. (Image 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.

Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are working with stakeholders to determine the course their research will take.  The result, they say, is better science that is more useful to end users – and the scientists learn a lot, too.

Rather than have their own science-based questions direct their research, Dr. Josiah Heyman and his research partner Dr. William Hargrove will let stakeholders – the actual users of their science – point the way.  According to Heyman, this “participatory approach” is science for the public’s sake, not for the scientists’ sake.  The two lead a multi-institutional, multi-national project that is tackling drought-driven water supply issues in the Southwest. Read more »

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 »