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Wheat Blast, Bangladesh, and Biosecurity: NIFA-Funded Research Works for Global Food Security

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.

An epidemic of wheat blast is underway in Bangladesh, published reports say, and losses may be substantial in the six southeastern districts where it has been reported. Wheat blast is a crop disease caused by the Triticum pathotype of the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae (MoT). In nations where broad wheat blast epidemics have occurred, 30 percent losses have been noted, but localized areas have experienced 50-100 percent losses, according to Dr. Barbara Valent, fungal molecular geneticist at Kansas State University (KSU).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), has provided nearly $5.4 million since 2009 to support research on wheat and rice blast. KSU leads a multi-institutional research project that brings together expertise from University of Arkansas, University of Kentucky, the Ohio State University, Purdue University, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

High Five: NIFA-Funded Research Improves Agriculture

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 National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in agricultural sciences that turn research into action by taking groundbreaking discoveries from laboratories to farms, communities, and classrooms.  Scientific advances that result from NIFA-funded research – more than $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2015 – enhance the competitiveness of American agriculture, ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, improve the nutrition and health of communities, sustain the environment and natural resources, and bolster the economy.  The following blogs are examples of the thousands of NIFA projects that impact the lives of Americans every day.

Helping Farmers in Pakistan and the U.S.

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.

Plant diseases can easily cross international borders and damage crops in neighboring countries. The good news is that in Pakistan, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are working toward a solution.

David Marshall, a research leader at the USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit in Raleigh, North Carolina, has been collaborating with Pakistani scientists in recent years to prevent losses there from wheat rust diseases including Ug99, a fungal disease that threatens wheat production worldwide. Ug99, which was first reported in Uganda in 1999, has not yet been detected in Pakistan (or in the United States). But it is transmitted by wind-blown spores and has been detected in neighboring Iran. It is widely expected to reach Pakistan in the near future.

The New Wave of Wheat: Increasing Resistant Starch to Improve Health Benefits

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.

Bread and pasta are mealtime favorites and household staples for many, but carbohydrates may also present a problem for many who struggle with health issues brought on by obesity.  With this in mind, researchers are developing wheat that has positive health implications.

A University of California-Davis-led Triticeae Coordinated Agricultural Project (T-CAP) is introducing changes into durum wheat genes that can increase resistant starch content by more than 750%.

South Dakota Becoming an Agriculture Powerhouse

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

South Dakota is growing to be quite an agricultural powerhouse, as the most recent Census of Agriculture results showed. In 2012, the year for which the latest Census was conducted, our farmers and ranchers sold more than $10 billion worth of agricultural products. That’s an incredible 55 percent increase from 2007 Census of Agriculture.

Our farms are also defying a downward national trend. While the number of farms is decreasing in most states, in South Dakota, our farm numbers actually grew by 3 percent between the 2007 and 2012 censuses of agriculture. As of 2012, there are nearly 32,000 farms in The Mount Rushmore State.

Farming Going Strong in Kansas According to #AgCensus

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The Kansas state seal and state flag both feature a farmer, and looking at the results of the most recent Census of Agriculture, it is not hard to see why. In 2012, the year for which the Census was conducted, there were almost 62,000 farms covering more than 46 million acres of land in Kansas. That year Kansas producers sold close to $18.5 billion worth of agricultural products.

Crops have long been a symbol of Kansas farming. According to the Census, in 2012 Kansans produced almost 360 million bushels of winter wheat from more than 9 million harvested acres. More than 20 percent of all winter wheat in the U.S. that year came from Kansas – more than double both the acreage and production of Oklahoma which was the second-largest winter wheat producer in the nation.

Agriculture is on Upswing in Nevada

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

When people think of Nevada, most imagine Las Vegas with its casinos and other entertainment venues, or a vast expanse of dry land. Few imagine a dynamic agricultural sector fueled by farming and ranching. In reality, however, Nevada had one of the fastest growing agriculture sectors in the nation according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

In 2012, Nevada’s producers sold more than $764 million worth of agricultural products, a whopping 49 percent increase since the 2007 Census. All of these products were grown and raised on Nevada’s 4,137 farms and ranches. Since 2007, the number of our farms has grown 32 percent. Nevada also boasts some of the largest agricultural operations in the nation. According to the 2012 Census, an average size of a Nevada farm or ranch was 1,429 acres. Only three states, Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico average larger farm sizes than Nevada.

Waving Wheat Still Smells Sweet in Oklahoma

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Oklahoma consistently ranks in the top five states for beef cattle and winter wheat, but our agriculture is much more than just rolling fields of wheat and cattle. With more than 80,000 farms counted in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Oklahoma remains in 4th position in the number of farms in the nation. The bulk of our farms are less than 500 acres in size, but contributed $2.2 billion dollars to the market value of agriculture products sold (including government payments).

The average age of farmers nationally and in Oklahoma is now 58.3 years, increasing in both since the last census. Here in Oklahoma however, this increase is happening at a significantly slower rate than the U.S. average.

Bill Gates, Computerized Plant Breeding and Contending with Hunger

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.

Bill Gates, once simply of Microsoft fame, is now as famous for his dedication to reducing hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa and other goals that drive the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  He recently visited Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit in Ithaca, NY, to learn what two geneticists are doing to improve crop breeding decisions that could be used in that part of the world.

At the research unit, ARS geneticist Edward Buckler is turning the encyclopedic amount of genetic information he has developed about corn into helping the crop yield the kind of improvements in Africa that have been made in North America. Varieties bred for North American climates simply do not work in Africa where they currently produce only about one-fifth the harvest they do in this country. Millions of hungry and extremely poor people can’t afford the hundred years it would take for conventional breeding that was once the path taken in the United States.

Montana Agriculture Keeps Growing

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

When you think of Montana agriculture, wheat and cattle come to mind. And why shouldn’t they? After all, our state ranks third in wheat production and tenth in cattle and calves inventory, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. That year, the combined market value of ag products sold for grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas was $1,787,162,000 and cattle and calves was $1,783,908,000. Montana’s total market value of agricultural products sold per farm was $151,031; which was up 59 percent from the previous Census of Agriculture in 2007, while the U.S. average was up 39 percent.

We have 28,008 farms and ranches in our state with an average size of 2,134 acres, which is down 5 percent from 2007.  Female principal operators of farms and ranches account for 15 percent of the total principal operators in the state while American Indians account for just 5 percent. Like most other states, the average age of our producers continues to increase to 58.9 years, climbing 1.1 years from 2007.