The National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers research grants to help respond to the world's water security issues. (iStock photo)
April 22 marks the 45th celebration of Earth Day, with its theme of “It’s our turn to lead.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is a leader in its support of cutting-edge sustainable and organic agricultural research.
The USDA estimated that 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten in the United States. It’s not just people throwing away food after “super sizing;” food waste can begin at the farm, where crops are sometimes not harvested because they lack a perfect appearance. Waste also occurs through spoilage or improper cooking.
As bad as this is in terms of not feeding the hungry, wasting food is also wasting energy, water, and everything else required to grow, process, transport, and prepare food. Improving resource efficiency would also decrease the amount of nitrogen released to the environment. Read more »
How much do you know about this iconic plant that brightens lots of homes this time of year?
Happy Poinsettia Day!
Of the countless iconic holiday season images in American homes, perhaps the most popular and colorful of them started off as a humble bush from our neighbors to the south.
The poinsettia was introduced to this country in the late 1820s by Joel Poinsett, the first American ambassador to Mexico, but only started on the path to holiday season superstardom in the early 1900s. By 2013, poinsettias accounted for 23 percent of sales for flowering potted plants – to the tune of $146 million. Read more »
Ash logs undergoing vacuum treatment to kill emerald ash borer larvae. (U.S. Forest Service)
The shiny green one-half-inch-long, one-eighth-inch-wide emerald ash borer has destroyed tens of millions of ash trees in the U.S. since the beetle’s discovery in 2002 in Detroit.
The real Ash trees comprise around seven percent of the trees in eastern U.S. forests. In urban areas, ash trees make up about 50 percent of street trees.
Ash trees are important both economically and ecologically. A wide array of products are made from ash wood, including baseball bats, tool handles, pool cues, furniture, cabinets, oars, and acoustic and electric guitars. Ash seeds are an important food source for birds, mice, squirrels, and other small mammals. Ash trees also provide essential habitat for cavity nesting birds, such as woodpeckers, owls, and wood ducks. Read more »
Left to right: Coach John Galbraith, with students Tyler Witkowski, Kyle Weber, Emily Salkind, Caitlin Hodges, Nancy Kammerer, Bianca Peixoto, Julia Gillespie, Brian Maule, and Coach Chris Baxter.
While many tuned in to watch the World Cup to see which team would become the globe’s soccer champs, others watched a competition of a different kind: one that named the earth’s best identifiers of slices of earth.
College students from the United States competed with teams from nine other countries to see who could best interpret soil. America took first and second in the inaugural International Soil Judging Contest. And American contest Tyler Witkowski also won second place overall of 45 contestants.
“Soil and land judging at the high school and college level is a baseline entry for young people to study the land and learn to read the landscape so that they can better manage and protect it,” said Maxine Levin, with the National Soil Survey Center of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. NRCS is the United States’ premier private lands conservation agency, originally founded to conserve and map the nation’s soils. Levin helped prepare the contest and served as a judge. Read more »