Skip to main content

Agricultural Research Service

USDA’s Role in Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance

Scientists from USDA developed the tools to mass produce penicillin, which was used for treating wounded soldiers over 70 years ago during World War II. Antibiotics are still important in treating microbial infection in humans, animals, and plants. However, microbes can develop resistance to some antibiotics, making them less effective. USDA agencies continue to work on numerous issues related to antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The Makings of a Good Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes, which are native to the Americas, sustained our founding pioneers with beneficial nutrients like beta carotene, calcium, fiber, and a host of vitamins. No wonder it’s a holiday favorite, especially during Thanksgiving. But what makes a good sweet potato?

USDA Research Progress Towards Global Food Security

Most of us living in the United States are fortunate enough not to wonder where our next meal will come from. Yet across the globe, at least some time during the year, nearly 800 million people do. Not having access to stable and nutritious food sources – or food insecurity — negatively impacts people’s lives. Food security, on the other hand, means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

APHIS and Partners Sponsor Annual Honey Bee Survey Directed at Monitoring Bee Health

About one mouthful in three in our diets directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. That makes bees critically valuable to humans’ existence. For this reason the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) documents issues affecting honey bee health through the annual National Honey Bee Survey (NHBS). The survey collects data on bee health to understand long term trends, factors that drive bee health, ways to safeguard bee populations in the United States. Bee pollination is responsible for $15+ billion in added crop value -- particularly for specialty crops such as almonds and other nuts, berries, fruits, and vegetables. We need the economic benefits, as well as the nourishment, that bees provide to us through their role in pollination.

Vertical Farming for the Future

Imagine walking into your local grocery story on a frigid January day to pick up freshly harvested lettuce, fragrant basil, juicy sweet strawberries, and ripe red tomatoes – all of which were harvested at a local farm only hours before you’d arrived. You might be imagining buying that fresh produce from vertical farms where farmers can grow indoors year-round by controlling light, temperature, water, and oftentimes carbon dioxide levels as well. Generally, fresh produce grown in vertical farms travels only a few miles to reach grocery store shelves compared to conventional produce, which can travel thousands of miles by truck or plane.

Employing Wheat's Bacterial Partners to Fight a Pathogen

Fusarium head blight is a devastating fungal disease affecting wheat and barley crops worldwide. According to the American Phytopathological Society, this disease has cost U.S. wheat and barley farmers more than $3 billion since 1990. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, together with land managers and other scientists at research universities, are taking a variety of approaches to solving this problem. These include breeding resistant cultivars, using massive disease-forecasting models and applying fungicides during critical junctures in crop growth to prevent fusarium head blight. Recently, many scientists have also become interested in the idea of employing microbial species that already live on and inside crop plants to do the dirty work of controlling disease epidemics.