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Posts tagged: Science Tuesday

USDA Researchers Study Hydromulches with Guar Gum Substitutes

ARS scientists are studying alternative, less expensive binders for hydromulch, a mixture of seed, mulch, water and other ingredients sprayed on bare soil. The binder helps the hydromulch stick together. (ARS photo)

ARS scientists are studying alternative, less expensive binders for hydromulch, a mixture of seed, mulch, water and other ingredients sprayed on bare soil. The binder helps the hydromulch stick together. (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.

In the depths of winter, planting grass seed isn’t at the top of one’s to-do list. But soon, spring will arrive and landscaping companies will be out, spraying that green mixture of seed and mulch on patches of bare ground.

Hydromulch, a temporary, porous layer that can help protect newly sown seeds, contains water, dye, a mulching material, and a binder, which keeps the mulch intact. Typically the binder is made from guar gum, made by grinding beans of the guar plant into powder. When water is added, the powder forms a viscous gum. Read more »

Kitty Litter: Potential New Use for Spent Corn Grains

ARS scientists have developed a nearly 100 percent biodegradable kitty litter made from dried distiller's grains, left over from corn-ethanol production.

ARS scientists have developed a nearly 100 percent biodegradable kitty litter made from dried distiller's grains, left over from corn-ethanol production.

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.

Sometimes, the results of USDA science show up in the most unlikely places—maybe even in your cat’s litter box.

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have discovered a way to make kitty litter that’s nearly 100 percent biodegradable by processing spent grains left over from corn ethanol production.

And what’s good for you and your cat may also be good for the environment. ARS researcher Steven F. Vaughn and his colleagues have shown that litter made with these grains as the starting material may prove to be more environmentally friendly than popular but nonbiodegradable, clay-based litters that mostly end up in landfills. Read more »

Science that Sells

New certification programs could open market opportunities in the European Union, Russia, China and others.

New certification programs could open market opportunities in the European Union, Russia, China and others.

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.

Agriculture is key to any nation’s success.  American farmers continue to be more innovative and productive, providing affordable foods for the U.S. consumer while supporting a robust export market. Global agricultural trade is complex, constantly changing, with multi-layered requirements that have to be met before a grower can get his product into another country.

Although a general export certificate is issued for most agricultural products, some countries require certification based on scientific testing.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service provides the service and scientific expertise that helps American farmers export their products. Read more »

Behind the Scenes with Ag Statistics

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 is astounding to reflect at the end of the year and realize once again how many pieces came together each day, each week, and each month to make sure the United States has the best official agricultural statistics. It is something of a well-oiled machine made up of America’s farmers, statisticians, modern technology, deep agricultural knowledge, and the most basic elements of human interaction – trust and hard work – that brings forth these useful and objective data on time year after year since 1840.

It takes hundreds of thousands of producers responding to a multitude of surveys each year, in addition to the every-five-year Census of Agriculture which USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducted this year, to provide the source information about U.S. farm production.  For this, we thank each individual producer who takes the time to complete the surveys.  Get a first look at the 2012 Census of Agriculture data on February 20, 2014 at the Ag Outlook Forum. Read more »

NIFA Signs Pact to Promote and Support U.S.-Israeli Agricultural R&D

NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, right, and Edo Chalutz, executive director of the U.S.–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on November 22.  The MOU promotes, supports and expands the robust agricultural research and development on-going between the two countries.  (Photo by Julia Lewis)

NIFA Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, right, and Edo Chalutz, executive director of the U.S.–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on November 22. The MOU promotes, supports and expands the robust agricultural research and development on-going between the two countries. (Photo by Julia Lewis)

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 November 22, the United States and Israel came one step closer to renewing agricultural research and development activities that could produce new knowledge and innovations beneficial to both countries and increase the economic bottom line for farmers and ranchers.

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Edo Chalutz, executive director of the U.S.–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote collaboration via NIFA among U.S. and Israeli scientists and engineers. BARD and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s intramural research agency, have cooperated on research together since BARD’s inception. Read more »

Jointly Developed Watershed Assessment Model Being Used in Yosemite National Park

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California (USDA-NRCS photo by Ron Nichols).

Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California (USDA-NRCS photo by Ron Nichols).

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.

An award-winning watershed assessment tool, the Automated Geospatial Watershed Assessment (AGWA), was deployed to assess potential Rim Fire threats in Yosemite National Park in California.  The park experienced a devastating fire that began on August 17, 2013, and took several months to contain. The fire burned more than 400 square miles in and around the park, cost $125.8 million to date, and is considered one of the largest wildfires in California’s history.

BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) is a multi-agency group that includes USDA’s Forest Service and others, and is responsible for identifying potential threats such as downstream flooding and developing plans to rehabilitate and restore burned areas. BAER teams use AGWA to target immediate efforts to prevent threats to people, wildlife and the land.  Using AGWA combined with the burn severity map produced by BAER teams, experts can rapidly pull together information on pre- and post-fire conditions. For example, knowing where to apply mulch after a fire can reduce runoff and erosion and can help minimize downstream risks from fire induced land cover and soil changes. Read more »