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national science laboratory

Taking the Summer On: AMS Interns Gain Valuable Experience

Without farmers and the agricultural businesses that support them, no one can eat. This is a simple concept, but it implies that people will continue to choose careers in agriculture. Here at USDA, one of the ways that we encourage younger generations to choose these careers is offering grants to institutions that offer agricultural curriculums. 

Through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA enables students to expand their knowledge of the agricultural industry. NIFA provides grants to schools such as the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) through the Hispanic Serving Institutions Program. This allows these institutions to offer top-notch agricultural curriculums.

The Secret Lives of USDA Food Chemists

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Food chemistry is the study of the chemical processes and interactions that happen within our foods.  By examining different components like water, starches and fats found in foods, we can learn how to enhance or prevent different natural and unnatural chemical reactions from happening in our food.

USDA Science Lab Buzzing With “Sweet” Results

In an intense around-the-clock operation, more than 60,000 worker bees have churned out 30 pounds of raw honey from a USDA laboratory in Gastonia, N.C.

The People’s Garden Initiative beehives are managed by the staff of National Science Laboratory (NSL), a part of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). To support the 2011 Feds Feed Families initiative the team has donated all of the honey to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, which encompasses the Charlotte, N.C., metropolitan area.

The honey is a product of local poplar and Tupelo trees. In a process known as centrifuge extraction, the sweet nectar was spun from honeycomb and then poured into 1-pound bottles and labeled as shown below.

Pesticide Residue Detection in National Science Lab Beeswax

As part of the People’s Garden Initiative for Gastonia, North Carolina, the National Science Laboratory (NSL) built two beehives to produce honey without the use of pesticides.  If insect control was needed, we planned to use only what was allowed for use in organic products. When Varroa mites were discovered in the hives, we used thymol, a natural oil, to control them.

Several weeks ago, we collected honeycomb samples from each of our hives to test for about two hundred different pesticides.  The NSL has built a reputation for quality pesticide residue analysis. Many members of its staff have performed this work for over 20 years.  The equipment we use for analysis is the latest and greatest, producing detection limits of 1 part per billion—the equivalent to one drop of water diluted into 11,008 gallons, or about three seconds out of a century.