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agricultural research service

Meet the Experts: USDA’s National Agricultural Library Launches New Online Food Safety Video Collection

Food is necessary and can be quite enjoyable, but it must also be safe to eat. Unfortunately, about one out of six Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food at some point during the year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) work for one of the federal agencies that conducts research to help make the foods we eat safer. To help the public more easily access USDA food safety research information, the department’s National Agricultural Library’s Food Safety Research Information Office (FSRIO) has launched a new “Meet the Experts” online video collection available on the NAL website.

What's the Alternative?

We know that antibiotics are those miracle drugs Alexander Fleming stumbled upon in the 1920’s when his lab was left untidy. Since that happy accident, scientists have identified additional naturally-occurring antibiotics and developed synthetic drugs to add to our arsenal to combat bacterial infections.

So we’ve had bacteria, through their need to survive, learning how to develop resistance to naturally occurring antibiotics in the environment for eons; long before we started purposefully adding more antibiotics to the mix. So though we need antibiotics, it would be really nice if we could find ways to rely on them less.

USDA’s Collaborative and Active Engagement in the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System is Twenty Years Old and Going Strong

Today kicked off “Get Smart about Antibiotics” week in the United States and the World Health Organization’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week in 2016. During this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its other federal partners want to remind families and communities about the importance of responsible antibiotic use in both humans and animals, to help reduce the development of resistant bacteria. This week, we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).  Through NARMS, USDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborate on everything relating to antimicrobial resistant bacteria.   Since 1996, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have been active participants in this combined federal surveillance program.

So, what is antimicrobial resistance?  As you might recall, in 1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, a drug that revolutionized the treatment of bacterial infections. In the years following, penicillin and the discovery and therapeutic use of other antibiotics, we have relied on antibiotics to treat and cure a variety of illnesses - in both humans and animals, across the globe. The use of these drugs has aided in the development of resistant strains of bacteria. Unfortunately, this development means that some previously treatable forms of bacterial infections are now resistant to the antibiotics that were designed to treat them. It is estimated that the decrease in effectiveness of antibiotics, results in more than two million U.S. cases of antibiotic resistant infections, annually. Some of these types of infections might require longer hospital stays and are more costly to treat successfully. 

Pairing Plant "Buddies"

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.

People generally don’t go out of their way to attract insects. But on a few small farms outside Tallahassee, Florida, that’s precisely what some growers are doing—with guidance from scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Florida A&M University (FAMU).

Northeast Climate Hub, University Partners, to Assist Producers and Land Managers Adapt to Climate and Weather Variability

As Director of the USDA Northeast Climate Hub, I am pleased to announce new partnerships with 12 land grant universities. This partnership effort will give the region’s farmers, foresters, and land managers better access to information and tools for adapting to climate and weather variability.

The Northeast Climate Hub is one of seven hubs around the country formed to address increasing climate and weather related risks to agriculture such as devastating floods, crippling droughts, extreme storms, fires, and invasive pests.

Midwest Climate Hub to Help Producers, Coordinate Climate-Related Agricultural Research

Flooding and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watershed

Producers endure the weather across the Midwest and wonder if it will be too wet to plant, too wet to harvest, too wet to spray, or if the rain will come at the right time to produce a bumper or just an average crop. In all of the presentations I have given on climate and agriculture across the Midwest, during the last year the prevailing question has been about whether the increasing variation in precipitation and temperature we’re experiencing is the “new” normal during the growing season. Producers point to the last four growing seasons as examples of the variation they face each year: 2010 was hot and wet during the grain-filling stage of growth causing the crops to mature more quickly, 2011 was almost normal with some dry periods during the last part of the growing season, 2012 was a drought year, and 2013 experienced two different extremes. In 2013, it was wet in the early growing season, delaying and in some places preventing planting, followed by a dry summer.  Across the Midwest, the early spring rains are increasing erosion from fields. Producers are now asking what they can do to protect their natural resources and the crops that depend on them, and what the next season will be like. If these extremes continue, how do they adapt their farming operations?

The People’s Garden First Honey Harvest: Part 3

This story has three parts. Read Part 1 here. Read Part 2 here.

For an hour or so, that’s how it went: on one side of the roof, I smoked the bees and removed capped frames, volunteers ran the capped frames over to the extractor on the other side of the roof, and the extractor team spun the honey out of the trays with the hand-cranked extractor. The centrifuged honey slid down the sides of the extractor into a sweet puddle at the bottom of the metal barrel. Everyone had a turn spinning the extractor (and maybe sneaking a taste of the fresh honey; but I can’t say for sure—I was on the other side of the roof). 

The People’s Garden First Honey Harvest: Part 2

This story has three parts. Read Part 1 here. Stay tuned for Part 3 later.

The hive is basically a stack of wooden boxes. Within each box a series of frames rest vertically. Each frame is about an inch thick and has built-in cells. The cells are where the bees place the nectar they’ve taken from flowers while foraging. As the water evaporates from the nectar, it becomes thicker, turning into honey. When the bees cap the full cells with wax, the frames are ready for us to harvest. (The bees flying in and out of the rooftop hive use an entrance in the side of the bottom-most box, so we’re able to remove frames from the top without stopping the work of the hive.)

The People’s Garden First Honey Harvest: Part 1

This story has three parts. Please look for the next two parts over the next two days.

July 15 was one of the most exciting days I’ve experienced in my short time as co-beekeeper for the USDA People’s Garden. It was hot, humid, and hazy that morning, when I—together with seven partners and volunteers—went up to the roof of the USDA headquarters building, just off the National Mall, to harvest the first batch of honey ever produced by the USDA People’s Garden beehive.