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New Toolset Helps Identify Key Water Conservation Options

A free computer-based toolset developed by USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists was launched this month.  The toolset can help conservation planners, landowners and researchers better manage watershed runoff, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, while also supporting agricultural production.

Excess nutrients from watershed runoff—from sources that include farming—affect the ecological quality of aquatic environments. A watershed is an area of land from which all of the water that runs off its surface flows to the same location, typically a stream or river, but lakes and ponds also have watersheds. There are thousands of watersheds of varying sizes that cover the continental United States.

Answering Questions about the World's Water Security Problems

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.

Global water awareness and future water security happens locally—one student, one teacher, and one lesson at a time.

Often we hear that better thinking is needed to address particularly prickly societal problems, business challenges, or scientific conundrums.  ThinkWater is a national project supported by a $900,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The project is designed by educators, scientists, and activists in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Extension to add thinking skills and awareness into existing water education lessons.

Cooperative Extension Programs Help Strapped Rural Communities

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.

Low prices for commodity crops are never good for agricultural producers. But for small farmers, many of whom already depend on off-farm income, this is not a good scenario.

Navigating this uncertain financial terrain is not for the faint of heart; fortunately, at-risk residents in rural communities have the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) on their side to provide them with the information they need.  Land-grant universities (LGU) provide research-based information through non-formal, non-credit to residents in their state.

Farmers go Digital to Confront Changing Growing Conditions

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.

American farmers have a long history of overcoming obstacles. In 1938, they helped the country emerge from the Dust Bowl by switching to contour plowing and eradicated the boll weevil forty years later by employing integrated pest management techniques.  In both cases – and many others – USDA was there to help farmers achieve success.

Many of the obstacles they face today are on a much larger scale, associated with climate change and seasonal weather variability. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is helping farmers get the tools they need to meet those challenges.

Have Fun Outside This Weekend - But Keep the Ticks Off

Many people are squeezing in the last bit of summer by enjoying the outdoors through walks, hiking on trails, biking, camping, outdoor sports, and picnics in parks and forests.  Unfortunately, these activities – sometimes even in our own backyards – increase our risk of being exposed to ticks and the diseases they carry.

Ticks are a nuisance.  No one wants anything on their body that drinks their blood or – worse than that – also give you a disease.  Most people are familiar with Lyme disease, but not the many other equally serious diseases that ticks carry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now lists 14 diseases that ticks in the United States can transmit and cause human disease.  The CDC website also has regional distribution maps with pictures of the ticks that carry these diseases and where in the nation they are most like to be.

On the Road to Success for Local and Regional Food

Rivers, roads and rails—the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line. Finding the best path forward can be difficult as city traffic gets worse each year, frustrating commuters and thwarting deliveries. Also in the transportation mix are farmers traveling the same roads trying to bring the freshest produce to city markets.  With the $7 billion-per-year market for local and regional food continuing to grow, more and more goods are being transported along local routes.

Developing creative ways to navigate transportation challenges is critical for farmers and consumers alike to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food.  Farmers relying on local and regional food systems may not have the scale or capacity to use established food freight systems. That’s why USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has taken a fresh look at food distribution issues, especially for the local and regional markets.