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Posts tagged: Science

Hundreds of Free Webinar Series Offer On-Demand Conservation Training

2016 Planned Conservation Webinars screenshot

NRCS offers conservation webinars year-round. Hosting, automated reminders and CEU accreditation; made possible by our conservation partner, Southern Regional Extension Forestry. (Click for a larger version)

Conservation science is a broad, deep field that’s growing all the time. To help people brush up on conservation practices and learn about new technologies, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers hundreds of free conservation webinars from its online Science and Technology Training Library.

Available live or on-demand, these webinars also count as Continuing Education Units for many different certifying organizations and programs. Read more »

Where Passion Meets Purpose: The Snow Survey

Hydrologist Randy Julander

Hydrologist Randy Julander has been managing Utah’s snow survey program for the past 24 years.

“To say I enjoy my job is an understatement,” said Hydrologist Randy Julander. “Monday is my favorite day of the week, because I get to go back to work.”

As the Snow Survey Data Collection Officer in Utah, Julander’s job is a mix of science, adventure and artistry. He weaves information from data. “Data are just numbers on a page; but information – now that’s something meaningful, something that informs decision makers,” he explained. Read more »

Genomics and Precision Agriculture: The Future of Farming

A variable-rate center-pivot irrigation system in a field in Bushland, Texas

A variable-rate center-pivot irrigation system in a field in Bushland, Texas, equipped with infrared thermometers that collect temperature data and a neutron gauge to measure soil water content. High-resolution data such as these are used by scientists to optimize crop performance in specific environmental conditions.

For nearly 400 years, Thanksgiving has been a time in North America when families come together to celebrate food and agriculture. As we reflect on yet another year, agricultural scientists at USDA continue to keep a wary eye on the future. At the end of what may be the hottest year on record, a period of drought has threatened the heart of one of the most important agricultural production zones in the United States. Water demands are increasing, and disease and pest pressures are continually evolving. This challenges our farmers’ ability to raise livestock and crops.  How are science and technology going to address the problems facing our food supply? 

To find answers, agricultural scientists turn to data—big data.  Genomics, the field of science responsible for cataloging billions of DNA base pairs that encode thousands of genes in an organism, is fundamentally changing our understanding of plants and animals.  USDA has already helped to fund and collect genomes for 25 crop plant species, important livestock and fish species, and numerous bacteria, fungi, and insect species related to agricultural production. Other USDA-supported research projects expanding these efforts are currently underway, including genome sequencing of 1,000 bulls and 5,000 insect species in the i5K initiative. But classifying and understanding DNA is only part of the story. Read more »

A Commitment to Scientific Integrity

David Marshall, research leader of the USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit, examining rust infections in a greenhouse in Muree, Pakistan

USDA and its scientists are dedicated to excellence, transparency, and cutting-edge scientific research.

USDA is one of the world’s leading scientific research institutions for agriculture, food and nutrition. We also have the largest forestry research resource in the world. At just one USDA agency – the Agriculture Research Service – more than 2,000 scientists publish more than 4,000 research papers each year in peer-reviewed journals on their work to ensure high-quality, safe, and sustainable food and other agricultural products. This work continues year after year, and the volume and quality of our research is particularly impressive when you consider that overall funding for both public and private spending on food and agriculture research has been stagnant for many years.

Our research extends from the farm field to the kitchen table, and from the air we breathe to the energy that powers our country.  Recent work by our researchers has produced a way to use radio frequencies to kill harmful salmonella in eggs; gene silencing technology that controls mosquito populations without harming pollinators; and a new soil nitrogen test that reduces fertilizer application amounts, reduces costs for farmers, and benefits the environment. Read more »

The Biology of Fall Leaves: It’s all about Chemistry

Aspens in the Fishlake National Forest

The golden leaves of aspens shimmer in the midst of other fall colors on the Fishlake National Forest in Utah. (U.S. Forest Service)

Forests become a veritable garden in the fall, presenting a riot of color in national forests as well as on the streets where we live.

But what exactly is going on in those leaves? How – and why – do leaves change color, and why is there so much variety? It boils down to chemistry. Read more »

Planting the Seeds for Tomorrow’s STEAM Leaders

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center), helping a Jefferson Middle School student finish up the planting of “Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce” in a garden box, in The People's Garden at USDA's Whitten Building.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center), helps a Jefferson Middle School student finish up the planting of “Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce” in a garden box, in The People's Garden at USDA's Whitten Building. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Did you know that NASA has a mini veggie farm at the International Space Station that grows lettuce? Every day, ground-breaking scientific research is taking place to improve food production practices in order to feed people on Earth and in space.

Earlier this week in USDA’s People’s Garden, local 4-H and FFA students gathered to plant sister seeds to lettuce grown on the International Space Station, which will be harvested in about a month. By getting their hands dirty, students were able to ask questions about what it takes to grow food under a variety of conditions. This is particularly important as our nation’s farmers and ranchers look to feed a growing world population. Read more »