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Teaching Rural Alaskans to Farm is her Passion

The following guest blog from University of Alaska Fairbanks highlights the professionalism and dedication of educators in the Cooperative Extension System.

By Debbie Carter, University of Alaska Cooperative Extension

Heidi Rader planned to become a farmer when she graduated from college.

During high school and college, she worked a succession of jobs at greenhouses and farms that seemed to be leading to an agricultural career.  For her master’s degree, she grew snap beans and lettuce, and studied high-tunnel production at University of Alaska Fairbanks’ School of Natural Resources and Extension Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

Digital Plant Diagnosis: Turning a Mobile App into an Agricultural Game-Changer

Ireland lost about 20 percent of its population to starvation and emigration during the great famine of 1845-1849 because disease destroyed that nation’s major food source – potato.  Today, an Irish-born professor at Penn State University believes that a similar situation in other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, could be a thousand times worse.

But there’s hope, he said, because modern food producers have a tool the 19th century Irish did not – smartphones and mobile apps, like PlantVillage.

Smart Phones: The Latest Tool for Sustainable Farming

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.

Seems like there’s an “app” (application) for everything these days—perhaps because mobile phone use is becoming increasingly global. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Jeff Herrick and colleagues have jumped on that trend in their efforts to promote sustainable land-use practices and world food security.

This past April, they released the first two of a suite of mobile phone apps that, once all are issued, will connect agricultural producers around the world and provide them with shared knowledge on ways to maximize their land’s productivity while protecting its resources for future generations.

Meet Your Wellness Goals in the New Year with the USDA DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals App

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 USDA National Agricultural Library’s (NAL) Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) today launched its mobile application, or “app,” which calculates Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).  The “USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals” app allows users to keep track of nutrient calculations and recommendations that are based on the DRI values in a more convenient and user-friendly format. Through this new app, healthcare professionals can save time in the nutrition care process for patients and clients, while having access to credible nutrition guidance.

The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine first developed the DRIs in the mid-1990s. DRIs are recommended amounts of each nutrient a healthy person should consume to prevent deficiency or harmful health effects. Initially presented in tables, this information allows healthcare professionals to use the DRIs to assess and plan diets for groups or individuals. For example, if you are a female between 19 and 50, your registered dietitian or doctor may recommend that you increase your dairy consumption to meet the 1,000mg/day calcium recommendation outlined in the DRIs. The DRIs are also used in policy-making such as setting calorie and sodium guidelines for healthy school lunches.

Developing Solutions for an Off-line USDA

As the world’s focus on mobile computing intensifies, several USDA agencies are working towards solutions for technology users in an off-line environment. These agencies are developing mobile applications that allow workers to input and collect data in the field, help firefighters share wildland fire information as it happens, and keep employees in the field and out of the office connected - all without a Wi-Fi connection.

With more and more organizations embracing the mobility movement as a way to improve communication and productivity, off-line technology users are in danger of being left behind. Without connectivity, their tablets and smartphones are little more than costly accessories. They cannot share essential information with their colleagues. They waste valuable time travelling to a fixed workstation to submit paperwork – paperwork that they could have otherwise submitted via a mobile tablet. Bottom line: users of USDA applications need the ability to work anywhere, whether they are connected or not.

New Mobile App Eases Nutrient Application Recordkeeping Requirements

Balance sheet, database, ledger, fertilizer.  Which of these does not belong?

Trick question – they all belong and all are important to a farmer, but sometimes even farmers don’t realize just how important.

Farmers face a multitude of challenges every day, but record keeping is usually not the first one that comes to mind. Now, thanks to a team of researchers at University of Vermont (UVM), farmers have an easy-to-use tool that can help them save money and avoid potential fines.

NIFA Ag Research Counts

To recognize the contribution that research in agriculture makes in our daily lives, we’re focusing this month’s Science Tuesday blogs on the successes that USDA science agencies have achieved for us all.

For over a century, USDA research has spurred innovation and created many great products for our families, but we haven’t done it alone. Partnering with a vast network of university scientists -- as well as other federal agencies, private industry, and other groups -- the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supports agricultural research and extension through competitive grants on topics of great importance to us all. NIFA is also committed to educating our youth in science and agriculture, supporting opportunities for rural communities, 4-H, and scholars programs. So, today we’re focusing on the research of NIFA and its partners because “Ag Research Counts” every day, for every American. We’re continuing our trivia contest on Facebook with questions from past ‘Science Tuesday’ blogs. Feel free to participate on Twitter using the hashtag #AgResearchCounts. Here are this week’s blogs featuring NIFA-funded research that impacts each of us every day:

Global Event Hatches Backyard Poultry Software

Coming one day to a smartphone or tablet computer near you: An application that helps backyard poultry farmers protect their birds from disease. It might even help make them profitable, if you want.

That’s the plan after a team of Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) officials announced the winner of NASA’s 2013 International Space Apps Challenge. Billed as “the largest hackathon ever” to solving a range of problems in space – and here on Earth – the April event drew more than 9,000 people in 83 cities across 44 countries and all seven continents.

New API Helps Satisfy the Nation's App-etite for Farmers Markets

America is developing quite an app-etite. The number of U.S. smartphone owners is approaching 130 million, resulting in more and more demand for mobile access to our information. Combine that with the increase in consumers wanting access to fresh, local products, and it’s obvious why there’s such a high demand for the data in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.

Mobile Apps Help Dairy Farmers Compute Costs and be Environmentally Friendly

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 profile.

It’s a digital world – and agriculture is no exception. More and more, farmers and ranchers are moving away from traditional methods of getting their news and information. Mobile devices are convenient, budget-friendly ways for farmers and ranchers to stay up-to-date on a variety of agricultural issues.