Despite what people may think, there is still time to help water conservation, even in rapidly growing urban areas.
The University of Massachusetts – Amherst discovered that surface runoff can increase significantly due to reduction in green areas while urban areas are built. However, while still in the construction phase, planners can reduce water runoff by restoring wetlands, installing rain gardens that will absorb the runoff and adding bioretention swales – a system that partially treats water runoff – to parking lots. Implementing these processes while an urban area is still in planning can help water shortages and quality in the future.
The two-year study used simulations to explore the effects of weather to determine the effect of urbanization on water resources – read more about their research here.
Want to eat healthy but are concerned about sticking within your budget?
Iowa State University Extension has created a new website and accompanying mobile app that will help you make healthy food choices, plan meals, and save money at the store. Their website, Spend Smart, Eat Smart, has over 150 healthy, delicious, and inexpensive recipes in addition to how-to videos for cooking techniques, meal planning templates, and tips to save money.
The mobile app also has a unit price calculator to take with you when shopping. Read more about Spend Smart, Eat Smart here.
How much do you know about farming? Three out of four consumer know nothing or very little about the industry, and the percentage is even higher for youth.
New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension looks to change that with Food Camp for Kids, a one-week program that teaches youth where their food comes from and includes field trips, cooking activities, and more. The camp aims to educate youth on all aspects of food – including food safety practices! – to help bridge the divide between youth and their meals.
Field trips included visits to a pig farm, a raw milk dairy, and orchard – read more about the program here.
April showers have spread into May as many states experience recent heavy rains that have resulted in flooding and pooling near crops. While water is necessary for growth, excessive water and flooding can carry contaminants while spring crops continue to ripen. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers food that is contacted by flood water to be contaminated and cannot be sold to the public.
Purdue Extension offers management tips to help manage flooded produce as flooding presents growers with difficult choices. Producers should document the extent of flooding before considering additional factors such as whether the edible portion of the crop was in contact with the water.
How to revitalize your field after a flood? Purdue Extension also includes suggestions here.
Looking for your greatest yield yet? The key might lie in robotic technology.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is developing a semiautonomous robot that will gather and transmit real-time data about growth and development of crops that will help breeders and farmers identify genetic traits in plants. Analyzing this information – such as stem diameter, plant height, and environmental conditions – will upload the data to the grower’s computer to predict a plant’s growth and development. The data will then help producers make decisions that will enhance production and enable more crops in a yield.
The researchers also hope to keep the robot within a lower price range to increase access to all farmers. Read more about the technology here.
With the expansion of juiceries, wineries, and craft beer booming in the United States, producers have the opportunity to think outside the box when it comes to distribution.
Alabama Cooperative Extension says creating and marketing value-added products can boost farmers’ operation profits by targeting businesses like wineries or creating additional products like ham, salsas, and syrups. And these creative outlets also have benefits to our food system – many of these market areas use fruit that may be unsellable or leftover due to appearance at a farmers’ market.
Looking to get started with a winery or creating your own jam? Alabama Extension can help – read more here.
Do you ever wonder how safe your food actually is? Well, if you’re eating a potato that came from Wisconsin, you’ll be happy to hear about the process it undergoes before it reaches your plate.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison grow their potatoes in a sterilized test tube with bacteria and virus-inhibiting chemicals, creating what is known as “seed potatoes.”
The process continues as researchers turn up the heat to kill possible viruses which maintains the product’s quality and keeps you safe from foodborne illnesses. The team then clips up a portion of the shoot and replants the seed in a clean test tube, which means eight potato plants become 30. Then those 30 become 80. With this process, the program certifies 200 million pounds of potatoes every year, so it’s safe to say your next potato might be Wisconsin-approved.
Learn more about how plant pathology researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are keeping your food safe.
Getting caught in a storm is one thing, but suffering home and property damage can be catastrophic. Recent storms in Indiana have caused major flooding concerns but, thanks to the Purdue Extension, Hoosiers can be better prepared to protect their homes and farms.
Purdue University’s Extension Disaster Education Network has offered a list of online resources to help Indiana homeowners and farmers deal with the aftermath of recent heavy rainfall, which resulted in flooding. The resources can be used to educate residents how to prevent future flood damage and take steps to recover if a home or farm is damaged by floodwater.
Looking for tips on how to prevent flooding in your home or on your farm? Take a look at Purdue’s resources.
How many times have you seen the latest diet fad flash on the news or social media? While the headlines might be interesting, they often do not provide all the details about the study.
North Dakota State University Extension has published a list of questions to help you sort through the latest health finding such as asking yourself: Does the advice or product promise a quick fix? Or, are the recommendations based on a single study? All their questions will make sure what you’re reading is right in the study and right for you.
Check out the other top questions you should ask yourself the next time you come across new and exciting research.
Still craving guacamole after Cinco de Mayo? There may be way more avocados available now, thanks to the University of California Cooperative Extension.
Avocados can be difficult to grow in California, especially with recent droughts and the rising cost of water. But with special spacing, incorporating bees, and using moisture meters, avocado yields in the UC Cooperative Extension study has more than doubled. Which means they’ll be guac-ing your Cinco de Mayo for years to come.
The average production in California was 6,500 lbs per acre – UC Cooperative Extension raised it to 15,000. Read more about their process here.
In the longest-running survey of its kind, the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll has been surveying farmers since 1982 to evaluate issues of important to agricultural stakeholders.
Iowa State University analyzes the results to help policymakers and farmers know which practices, such as nutrient loss reduction, are being implemented. Not only will the results help stakeholders review recommended practices, it also helps communicate conservation efforts and benefits to farmers. For example, a recommended practice of applying nitrogen during the growing season can reduce nutrient loss and runoff in water sources, but also may increase farmers’ profits.
Curious which processes are implemented the most? Read more about the survey here.
According to the CDC, one in five school-aged children is obese – a rate that has more than tripled since the 1970s.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension has combined several programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program, 4-H, and The Learning Child to encourage healthy habits in kids and reduce childhood obesity rates.
Last year, the program reached over 63,000 Nebraskans and focused on how teaching youth how to choose healthy food and beverages, how to prepare food safely, and fun ways to be active.
The partnership also helps schools implement smarter lunchroom strategies. Read more about the Extension’s fight against child obesity here.
Plants without soil? This isn’t a science fiction story– it’s reality down in Georgia.
Fort Valley State University is using hydroponics, growing plants and produce in a nutrient solution instead of water or soil. While this might be an unconventional method now, hydroponics requires less labor, incurs less weather damage and bacterial contamination, which means higher production and income for farmers.
Hydroponics also requires less space which is perfect for urban gardeners – read more about the practice here.
South Carolina may be impacted by tropical storms and hurricanes, but in the state, researchers say they are always just one month away from a drought. In fact, last summer marked the driest summer season in 122 years.
Clemson University organized an annual conference that will bring together experts across the country to discuss resources and research on water use, availability and management. Stakeholders agree that consistent communication among groups is crucial to water resource management and with an annual conference to prepare stakeholders, droughts may be less catastrophic.
Clemson University is also working on a program that will be able to sense and monitor the state’s water availability for agricultural, recreational, and industrial use – read more here.
Clemson University has created a GPS software to track soil sampling that will help farmers not only with profitability but also environmental efforts. The software will locate exactly where soil samples are taken to help producers ensure they are taking adequate samples and then evaluate the soil for nutrient recommendations.
With accurate soil data, growers can maximize yields or lower operating costs by managing their nutrient inputs. Knowing the correct amount of nutrients will also help fertilizer reduction and assist with water conservation efforts within the community.
Each sampling zone gets their own ID and recommendations on nutrients such as potassium and phosphate – read more how the software works here.
Curious if a research project includes your farm? The University of Nebraska-Lincoln now has a database that makes research more accessible to local farmers and producers in the state.
The Nebraska On-Farm Research Network, which includes over 600 studies, allows growers to click and view research projects conducted throughout farms in their area. Farmers can navigate the database by keyword, year, crop and more to help them with a variety of issues such as farmer production, profitability, and natural resources.
Ready to check if your farm is part of research? Click here.
Healthy soils impact everything in American agriculture by ensuring global food security, protecting water quality, mitigating climate change, and providing safe environments.
Seventeen land-grant universities are working together to protect soil health by improving soil testing, expanding soil databases, develop quality sensors to monitor quality, and teaching others how to manage their soil. By maintaining soil health, farmers can make smarter decisions about irrigation, fertilization, and production that will increase yields.
Land-grant universities participating include:
University of California-Davis
University of Florida
University of Illinois
Iowa State University
Kansas State University
University of Maryland
Michigan State University
University of Minnesota
University of Missouri
University of Nebraska
University of Nevada
North Dakota State University
Oregon State University
Pennsylvania State University
University of Wisconsin
Read more about the land-grant universities’ specific research here.
Kale might be a superfood, but did you know that leafy greens are at an increased risk for transmitting foodborne illnesses, especially when eaten raw?
The University of Maryland has developed the first system model that simulates effects on a farm to identify how E. coli develops in green veggies. By measuring the factors in a farm setting, such as soil, rainfall, and irrigation, the University of Maryland has discovered processes to help prevent food borne illnesses in the future and maintain food safety.
The University of Maryland’s research will help prevent over 600 outbreaks that occurred over the past forty years – read more here.
The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to low income families and over 80,000 individuals in North Dakota participate in the program, with 46% under the age of 18.
The North Dakota State University Extension Services offers SNAP education to individuals who receive, or are eligible, for SNAP benefits. Over 4,000 adults and 10,000 youth across the state participated, which resulted in 85% of youth eating more fruit, 61% of youth adopting more physical activities, and 60% of adults making more meals at home proving that direct education achieves results when it comes to healthy choices.
The North Dakota Extension worked with 205 partners and 63 low-income schools – read their impact statement here.
This past year, parts of Alabama went more than 70 days without measurable rainfall, hurting famers and communities that were unprepared and relying on the wet weather. Droughts occur and then last for a longer period of time than most weather patterns, contributing to their unpredictability.
The Water Resources Center, part of Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Alabama Agricultural Experiment station and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, looks to improve drought preparedness by monitoring and detecting early signs for drought. With this information system, the team hopes to move the nation from a reactive approach to proactive to better prepare producers and local governments.
The monitoring system is just one piece of the puzzle at the Water Resources Center – read more about other water management tools here.
Every year, there are dozens of frozen food recalls. As consumers value convenience more and more due to increasingly busy schedules, producing safer prepackaged food has never been more important.
Washington State University has created the first national Center of Excellence for Food Safety using Microwave Energy that will focus on creating safer prepackaged frozen food for consumers. The center will help to share knowledge of processes and technologies so food companies, both large and small, can create healthy, high quality products.
Read about the center’s two new technologies that will help small and medium companies develop their own packaged products here.
Reducing nutrient runoff and increasing efficiency use of irrigation systems are top priorities for Louisiana State University AgCenter that discussed several projects to address water quality at the Louisiana Groundwater, Surface Water and Water Resources Symposium.
For example, one project monitors water quality by reusing runoff collected in a reservoir – nutrients also get reused which ends up reducing pollution in nearby water sources. Another project researches the best conservation practices in specific areas to remove additional nutrients and sediments from runoff.
These two projects are just several examples from the AgCenter’s work – read more about their research here.
Finding your pantry stocked with food you don’t eat? We all know to avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach to prevent impulse buys but there are other ways to make sure the items you buy are items you intend to eat.
Ohio State University has tips to help you prevent food waste and save extra green. For example, did you know most stores stock more expensive items at the consumer’s eye level? Check the upper and lower shelves and you may find a better deal!
Check out other tips from the Ohio State University for smarter shopping here.
It turns out there’s a bigger difference than just “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol.
The University of California at Davis found that the “good” cholesterol, HDLs, vary in their structure and different ones impact the body’s immune and inflammatory responses. With this discovery, researchers will be able to predict an individual’s susceptibility to inflammatory diseases and certain infections. And now, with further research, the team will be able to analyze how altering individuals’ diet may impact their resistance to diseases.
The HDL compositions differs from healthy individuals and individuals undergoing dialysis – read more about their function here.
Ready for your spring planting? Planting is one of the most critical steps that leads to good yields in the future, and Penn State University Extension has you covered by discussing what factors matter most:
Check out more of Penn State University Extension’s tips here to get the most out of your planting.
Farmers have the power to support conservation efforts to reduce nutrient runoff in waterways. Iowa State University surveyed farmers on which conservation practices they were using – tillage and cover crops, nitrogen management, and structural practicers, such as terraces – all of which reduce nutrient waste.
Many are incorporating the recommended practices, but there is still more work to be done. Further nutrient runoff can be prevented through additional methods, like cover crops, and the Extension looks forward to continuing outreach to farmers to address the benefits of conservation practices.
Iowa State University takes survey results for their Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy – read more about their conservation goals here.
Ever buy veggies only to have them turn brown before you can use them? Purdue University and Fort Valley State University are teaming up to research how solar power can lengthen shelf life for your produce.
Solar power preservation, essentially sun-drying produce, will help producers prepare crops for shipping and in turn, will improve crop shelf life by dehydrating the produce. Not only will this prevent food waste for the consumer, farmers will also be able to receive tax incentives for sustainability.
Purdue and Fort Valley State make a perfect pair– read more about their grant research here.
Nutrition labels alone can be confusing, but food labels designating freshness can also trick consumers. University of Connecticut Extension helps to decipher the safety and quality labels.
You’ve all seen the labels: “sell by,” “use by,” “best before.” All of these are “open dating,” where the date is an estimation of how long the product will be at its best quality. The keyword is estimation, as a lot of perishable foods are safe past the date stamped on them. Did you know eggs are as safe as many as 4-6 weeks after the sell-by date?
University of Connecticut Extension lays out the guidelines for perishable foods so you can balance between food safety and food waste.
Questions about frozen or packaged foods? University of Connecticut has an answer to that here.
For the past few months, Florida has been experiencing an extreme drought, but the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension program has saved nearly 65 million gallons of water – all through community outreach.
The UF Extension conducted water-saving workshops tackle common household problems like water retention, irrigation practices, and more. The workshops helped to educate Floridians on not just conservation strategies, but the benefits of water conservation, such as saving money. With over 87,000 people participating in 2016, it’s no wonder the workshops achieved such success!
So far, using less water has resulted in savings of over $200,000 for Floridians – read more about the workshops’ impact here.
We all know eating healthy is good for your body, but did you know that it also impacts your brain?
University of New Hampshire Extension links healthy eating to better reading skills in youth from a study in the Journal of Nutrition by researchers in Finland. Children who follow a healthy diet generally had higher test scores in reading than their peers who did not follow a healthy diet.
The Extension recommends promoting healthy meals for your children and limiting processed foods. Their body – and their brain – will thank you.
The diet included more fruits, fish, veggies, whole grains, and unsaturated fats – read more about the study here.
The University of Arizona launched a new website that will help ranchers in more ways than one. The new site, DroughtView, will not only allow ranchers to track greener pastures, but also help determine where drought conditions may exist, in order to better deter the possibility of wildfires.
The site includes imagery of a 16-day period and has a feature where users can enter impact reports based on their own observations of plants and wildlife. It is already utilized by a local drought impact group, environmental scientists, plant geographers, federal and state land management agents, and ranchers to help take control of unpredictable weather patterns.
Curious about how the new application works or want to use it yourself? – read more about DroughtView and the University of Arizona’s work here.
Have you ever run faster on a treadmill at the gym, because the person next to you won’t stop? Competition might be the way to go to increase fitness levels, and the University of Wyoming and the Virginia Cooperative Extension is testing this theory with a new fitness program.
The FitEx competition, which runs through May, is meant to promote healthy lifestyles by having participants set fitness goals, creating an accountability system to reach those goals, and increasing overall health outcomes. Teams will work together to improve physical activity, as well as eat more fruits and vegetables. And the best news? It’s open to everyone, so sign up today and see if you can beat Old Dominion and the Equality State.
Click here and catch up to other competitors today.
When it comes to learning about water systems, middle and high school is the perfect time to start.
The University of Nebraska – Lincoln developed a new curriculum to help students have a stronger knowledge of water and water resources. Through participation in water literacy workshops and water science research projects, students will be able to link water to global issues like food, climate, and energy to brainstorm new approaches to age-old problems.
Read more about the effort to educate students on water systems in order to tackle the real- world challenges of the future here.
Have you ever been unsure whether food has gone bad or not? Did you throw it out anyway?
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that about 30 percent of food is lost or wasted at the retail and consumer level, but there are ways to protect food safety and help your wallet.
Along with the Food Marketing Institute and the USDA, Cornell University has developed the Foodkeeper app that will help consumers ensure they’re preparing foods properly and when to throw food away. With the app’s help, consumers will be able to keep food for longer and save money by preventing unnecessary food waste.
Curious about tips on preventing food waste? Wonder what the Use By dates actually mean? Check out Cornell’s highlight in US News article here.
Quick – did your breakfast this morning have added sugar?
The answer might be yes – nearly 60 percent of packaged foods and drinks include some form of added sugar. While added sugar is used to make foods more appetizing, the sugars have little nutritional value and add calories to your intake which can increase weight gain, poor nutrition, and tooth decay.
Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences offers suggestions to reduce your added sugar consumption, such as recognizing their names, studying nutrition labels, and adjusting your diet so you can stay healthy.
Even “organic” labels may have added sugar – check out Ohio State University’s recommendations here to avoid the extra sugar.
Did you know one tiny molecule can save an entire harvest from being destroyed?
Aflatoxin is a toxic substance that comes from fungi on crops. This element can destroy entire harvests due to its dangerous impact on humans as it can stunt children’s growth or increase susceptibility to HIV.
University of Arizona researchers, however, have discovered a naturally occurring molecule that will prevent fungi on crops from producing aflatoxin. The molecule will need to be tested and approved for widespread use, but if it succeeds, it can save producers, and consumers, plenty of headaches.
The discovered molecule can also be used in developing countries, who may not test for aflatoxin yet – read more about the impact here.
Mississippi State University Extension is finding variety is good when it comes to rice production. Alternating wet and dry production (AWD) is a new system that starts with an initial flooding of crops, letting the water drain below the surface, before refilling the field again with water.
Mississippi Extension has been testing this system and while there is no difference in yields, compared to traditional production, the benefit comes in conserving water. AWD uses 20 to 25 percent less water than traditional rice management which means more water, and money, is saved.
Farmers are already adopting this new method due to its water conservation and financial benefits – read about their personal experiences here.
We hear ideas about how to increase children’s intake of vegetables, but what about adults? According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 9 percent of Americans eat two to three cups of vegetables every day, per recommendations.
The University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences researched ways to encourage adults to eat more veggies, such as using more spices in cooking. This was the first study to test this theory and determine which spices are used most frequently, or how they were used in cooking, to figure out the best way to get those greens.
The research showed variances among social and economic factors, among other discoveries – check them out here.
As we officially welcomed spring last week, the winter season is coming to an end, and the University of Connecticut researchers are evaluating the consequences of salting roads in the winter.
Road salt is necessary to prevent accidents during inclement weather, but the sodium and chloride used on the streets flow into surface and ground water. University of Connecticut researchers found that those chemicals then runoff into neighborhood water sources, impacting water and ecological systems. The team also found that the quantity of salt is what is contributing to the impact so next winter, be sure to reduce salt application for healthier water in the spring.
Researcher also discovered how we can redirect salt runoff to help in addition to reducing supply – read more here.
As more and more farmers are faced with rising operating costs and labor shortages, new options must be made available to help producers maintain production yields. Especially as organic farmers cannot use chemicals to treat weeds on their farms, farmers are stumped on alternative options.
The University of Arizona Extension has created a new machine that will integrate technology with farming. A prototype of the new weeding machine will be able to remove weeds without contaminating the crops in any way, making sure farmers can improve profitability, sustainability, and environmental integrity of produce systems.
The machine uses a camera-based system to differentiate between crops and weeds – see more about how the technology works here.
Though part of the country is getting over a cold front, it’s still springtime and you know what that means? Planting season is here!
Iowa State University has a few tips to help prepare your soil for this gardening season. And with healthy soil comes hearty vegetables– check out these tips from Iowa State University Extension:
Check out Iowa State University Extension others tips and fact sheet here.
Mississippi may be one of the highest states with obesity and heart disease rates, but with Mississippi State University Extension, Mississippians will soon understand nutrition, food safety, and healthy lifestyles to make their state healthier.
The Extension has created weekly videos to connect with locals about how to eat healthier. “The Food Factor” series addresses food topics that relevant, fact-based and relatable to the average consumer such as coffee drinks or recommended refrigerated times for food. Every video is available to the public and aims to encourage healthier choices for everyone.
Ready to see what the commotion is all about? Check out one of their videos on food safety here.
A diet can be seen as a short-term solution. For individuals who want to improve their health, establishing a longer-term healthy eating pattern is more beneficial.
An eating pattern is more than a short-term diet, such as ones that last a couple weeks. Instead, an eating pattern encompasses all food eaten over the course of time, and changing that pattern, from caloric levels to nutrient intake, is key to preventing obesity and related diseases. To help transition to a better eating pattern, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff recommends replacing one less healthier choice with a nutrient-dense food over time to create a transition that will stick.
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has additional suggestions to make your eating pattern healthy and lifelong here.
Is it possible for fast food to be healthy? Alabama Cooperative Extension says it’s all about the ingredients.
Many fast food restaurants are offering grilled meat items and other healthier food items such as salads and fruits. The key is moderation and maintaining a balance between protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and water, and avoiding the salty, fatty foods, and sugary drinks. So, if you’re ever crunch for time, don’t feel too bad about making a stop at a fast food restaurant, just be sure to keep your order in check!
If you’re frequenting fast food places because of budget, Alabama Cooperative Extension has a solution to that too.
Water conservation has a new champion in local farmers, according to a recent report from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.
To combat ways to reduce nutrients from agriculture and identify strategies to protect the Chesapeake Bay, Penn State organized a conference with farmers, representatives from environmental groups, and local, state, and federal government officials. The session resulted in “champion farmers,” farmers who will help lead other producers in conservation efforts. With conservation efforts coming from the inside, maintaining productive agriculture while meeting water-quality goals will be revitalized.
The conference outlined four areas in how to increase efforts in conservation. Read them here.
Cover crops are planted after the main harvest to help revitalize the soil while also protecting the area from weeds. However, cover crops aren’t just environmentally friendly— they also help protect local water quality by reducing nutrient run-off and preventing erosion.
The University of Vermont has outlined the benefits of cover crops and other green farming practices in a short video illustrating how the planting goes beyond soil revival. With making cover crops more accessible, producers will be able to protect their soil and their local water sources.
Using cover crops also help farmers meet EPA goals – watch the University of Vermont’s video here to see how planting cover crops will benefit you.
Scroll through Instagram and you’re sure to see mouth-watering photos of delicious food but did you know that foodie photos might have health benefits?
Food images can help keep track of dietary patterns and provide intake information to consumers, but also individuals who work with a nutritionist such as a diabetic patient. Oregon State University researchers found that image-based dietary assessment can help reduce or eliminate inaccuracies found in written food journals and, with more accurate reporting, consumers can identify potential issues in their diet and how to be healthier.
Oregon State University surveyed more 100 nutrition and dietetics students and their ability to judge food and serving sizes through photos – read more about their research here.
Screaming for ice cream? The University of Delaware has created its first off-campus ice cream shop, but there’s more scoop to this story.
UDairy Creamery will offer students an on-hands agricultural education by teaching them not only how to create locally-sourced ice cream and other menu items, but customer service, food science and safety, and marketing – all needed skills to help future producers succeed. Next time you’re in Wilmington, satisfy your sweet tooth and encourage more farm-to-table, educational options.
Other menu items, such as salads, will come straight from the University of Delaware’s organic garden! Read more about the creamery here.
Looking to start selling your homemade food products? The specialty food market, foods that are unique and made in small qualities with high-quality ingredients, is growing as more individuals create innovative products, consumers value local items, and retailers continue to sell the special goods.
University of Maine has resources to help new producers break into this thriving business. With fact sheets, workshops, and business planning, potential producers can contribute their own goods to the local food market.
The specialty food industry grew 19.7% between 2013 and 2015 – check out all of the University of Maine’s resources here.
What if farmers and consumers could see how much local food was bought, where produce is bought the most, and which local partners help increase access to local food? That’s exactly what North Carolina State University tracked with their new online dashboards describing local food spending in the state.
With these dashboards, farmers can figure out the best outlet to capitalize their produce, consumers can compare prices, and local community leaders can effectively plan for increasing access to local food sources in their area.
North Carolina encouraged businesses and individuals to use 10% on local produce – did they reach the goal? Find out here.
Did you know the U.S. imports more than 80 percent of its seafood? While aquaculture (fish farming) is increasing in popularity, domestic farmers find it hard to raise fish because treating waste can be an expensive and difficult process.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign created an economical and green way to treat wastewater using wood chips. Filtering water from a fish tank, the wood chips naturally remove nitrogen pollutants. Finding an effective and sustainable way to treat wastewater in aquaculture will encourage more produces to raise fish domestically, helping increase food security as the seafood momentum continues.
The woodchips are placed in a container called “bioreactors” – read more about how the system works here.
With researchers’ help, plants can up their natural defense against predators, diseases, and drought.
Washington State University discovered an enzyme called proteases that protects the plant from insects and increases resistance to disease and drought. However, researchers can raise protease levels in adult plants by increasing protease activity, which means healthier and drought-resistant crops in our future.
The protease enzyme may also help cancer research. How? Read here.
Urban gardens are increasing in popularity and for good reason: the neighborhood gardens increase access to fresh local produce, especially among low-income residents, and benefit the community with reduced crime and education and job opportunities. But local organizations who hope to create urban gardens contribute many of their own resources to manage the new garden, usually without much farm experience.
Virginia State University is now offering a 10-week certificate program in urban agriculture to help train new urban agriculture professionals. The program covers not only gardening courses but also city and environmental policy and business principles to help prepare individuals to start and maintain successful urban gardens.
Did you know urban gardens help decrease “food deserts,” areas with little access to fresh fruit and veggies? Read more here.
The Colorado River Basin has been in a drought since 2000 and the lack of rain has taken its toll. Colorado State University researchers discovered 81 percent water reduction of Colorado River’s flow, affected by high temperatures and low precipitation. Nearly forty million people rely on the Colorado River for water and the drought has reduced the river by at least .5 million acre-feet – the amount of water used by two million people in one year.
This study is the first of its kind quantifying the effects of temperatures and precipitation, and the team hopes it will provide water managers with insight on weather patterns to prepare for future impact and better regulate water use across the region.
University of Colorado collected 25 years of data to determine the effect of the river’s flow – read about their climate model here.
It’s National Nutrition Month and University of Missouri Extension Master Gardeners are partnering with local food pantries to increase access to healthy foods.
In their local county, more than 15% of the population is food insecure, and nearly another 10% experience hunger at times. And with high food insecurity rates come diet-related health conditions such as obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
The partnership with the Master Gardeners provides opportunities for food pantry recipients to plant community garden plots with tools, supplies, and support from the experts themselves. The local gardens will help neighborhoods fight against health problems and build stronger communities.
The community garden is just one aspect of the community food system – read about the other benefits here.
Do you have a pond or fountain in your neighborhood? These local bodies of water help prevent flooding in communities and treat polluted runoff during rainstorms to protect bigger water sources. If not properly maintained, however, your local pond can contribute to poor water quality, shoreline erosion, and damage biodiversity.
Clemson University Extension has launched a new website that provides information on maintaining and protecting local ponds in neighborhoods and on community and business properties. Visit their website handbook to learn how to manage your pond’s water quality, prevent contamination, and identify disruptive species.
Ponds are so prevalent in South Carolina – the Extension added an advertising campaign to emphasis proper pond management solutions. Read more about their campaign here.
In underserved rural and urban communities with dry climates, there is a heavy reliance on rainwater harvesting systems, but the water quality of these systems is sometimes questionable as they are exposed to pollution. Nearly one-third of the world’s population lives in this type of environment.
University of Arizona is analyzing the safety and quality of water collected through these systems to increase access to clean water and provide water for agriculture. The university will work with nearly 200 families to monitor water quality from harvesting systems, which will improve water access not just in Arizona, but the world.
Families will collect water samples over three-years, with tools and resources from the University of Arizona. Read more about the study here.
It’s no secret family dinners have positive effects on a child’s development, but it can be difficult to plan a healthy dinner and grocery shop when time, transportation, and motivation get in the way.
Alabama A&M University Extension has created an app to help families plan for healthy meals and activities. The app, Body Quest, texts parents three times a week with healthy recipes, tips, and prompts to encourage families to make positive decisions throughout the week. With this text-based education, 74% ate more vegetables, 82% cut back on sugary drinks, and 81% engaged in more physical activities with their child.
The app was created as part of the Extension’s obesity prevention initiatives – read more about the success of Body Quest here.
Did you know March is National Nutrition Month? This year’s theme is to “put your best fork forward,” and the University of Alaska – Fairbanks Extension has tips that start with you.
You can swap mealtime favorites for a healthier version – such as using whole grain pasta – or using smaller plates for better portions. And of course, meals should have plenty of veggies, whole grains, and protein!
University of Alaska has more healthy eating tips for National Nutrition Month here.
In low-income neighborhoods, access to grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and high quality food can be difficult; however, there’s an easy way to increase access to healthy foods in lower-income communities: Master Gardeners.
Master Gardeners are volunteers with special horticulture training for research, teaching, and creating gardens in local communities, and Fort Valley State University Extension’s Master Gardener program in Lowndes County is working with local schools to bring local produce straight to the cafeteria. So far, eight schools participate in the program where students learn how to grow food. Lowndes County has an estimated 23,000 individuals experiencing food insecurity, and the Master Gardeners program will soon change that.
Curious who a Master Gardener is? Meet two from Fort Valley Extension here.
It’s easy to check the weather and see if rain or sunshine is in the forecast but it’s a lot harder to predict droughts. Droughts do not appear suddenly in regions and can remain for a long period of time, making them unpredictable.
Auburn University’s College of Agriculture is developing a Drought Early Warning System for the Southeast, which will monitor, forecast, and prepare the region for droughts. By predicting droughts, states can manage their farm economies and water resources more effectively and farmers will be able to prepare irrigation in advance.
The Drought Early Warning System is just one of the tools Auburn University is working on to fight back against drought. Read about the others here.
Quinoa might be the latest superfood craze, but did you know the seed is actually difficult to produce? Quinoa is coated in saponin, hardening the seed to protect it from birds and insects, but also making it very expensive for farmers to remove. As quinoa is adaptable to many different environments and is a great source of nutrients, cracking the quinoa code is vital to making it easier for farmers to produce.
Washington State University has discovered the quinoa genome responsible for its hard coating, giving farmers the option to remove the bitter coating. This will help the nutritious crop be more accessible for farmers who may not be able to afford the process to remove saponin and increase availability of the protein-packed crop for in-need communities.
Washington State University created an ancestral family tree of quinoa, dating back from 3 million years ago, to track quinoa’s genetic code. Read more about their research here.
If you’ve given up your New Year’s resolutions to get healthier this year, it’s not too late to get back on track! Many assume there is a quick fix for weight loss, but switching to healthier habits take time, according to New Mexico State University (NMSU) Extension.
Defining long-term goals, eating balanced meals with whole grains, proteins, and vegetables, and monitoring activity levels all contribute to a healthier you. And don’t forget – your local Extension office can offer nutrition and wellness advice!
Stressed out? NMSU recommends meditation as stress causes the body to store fat – see more tips from the Extension here.
Do you know what the world’s seventh most important crop is? Sweet potatoes have increased in popularity lately with sweet potato fries and sweet potato casseroles, and researchers at North Carolina State University are investigating how to make this beloved potato even more nutritious.
The team at NC State University will research the genetics of the sweet potato to optimize the crop’s nutrition and adaptability to specific regions. Their work will help alleviate hunger and malnutrition by increasing access to this nutritious crop.
How do you research a vegetable’s genetics? The NC State University team has two ideas here.
Crop irrigation can be a tricky balancing game – water too much and you might see a loss of nutrients. Water too little and a dry field reduces crop yield.
University of Missouri Extension takes the guessing out of irrigation with their new app, Crop Water Use. The app sets itself up with the farm’s soil information and location to input the correct rainfall information. Then, all farmers have to do is enter the irrigations they make for their personalized recommendations on when to irrigate next. The Extension encourages farmers to register now before spring to make your crop yield your best yet.
The app incorporates two different methods to calculate recommendations– one from the 1960s! Read about its development here.
Irrigation systems help supplement water to crops, but the systems might also be impacting the farmers’ perspective on climate change.
As irrigation systems maintain crops’ growth without impact from droughts and other weather patterns, farmers are less likely to realize climate change in their region. This causes unawareness in producers, and they are less likely to implement green processes that help prevent climate change.
University of Vermont links this realization to show the impact of farm infrastructure on climate perception. With this knowledge, Vermont can educate producers everywhere on the importance of recognizing climate change and incorporating preventative measures.
University of Vermont’s study is the first of its kind – read the report here.
Contrary to what you may think, warmer climates create a slower and earlier snowmelt during the winter. The snow starts melting sooner in the season and earlier during the day, as days are shorter. With a slower melt, the amount of water reaching the ground where it doesn’t evaporate is reduced so most of the snowmelt doesn’t create a runoff and never reaches downstream.
University of Nevada – Reno discovered that with a reduced runoff, there is less water available for drinking and agriculture as the snowmelt never reaches reservoirs. Nearly 60 million people depend on snowmelt for their water supply so with continued warmer climates, water availability will be greatly reduced.
Read exactly how warmer climates affect water availability here.
Every year, droughts and other natural disasters impact agricultural production across the United States contributing to food insecurity and rising prices.
To reduce droughts’ impact on crop production, Tuskegee University researched forecasting to measure long-term effects of weather patterns on crops. By monitoring weather data, farmers can manage risks in the future and form preventative measures. Not only will this increase food production, it will also stabilize produce prices when natural disasters occur.
Did you know the research started in Tanzania? Read more about the project here.
During American Heart Month, there are constant reminders to improve our heart health. Heart disease is the #1 killer of Americans every year, and prevention begins with you. So, for this month, Alcorn State University offers tips you can take to keep you from being a statistic.
One of the simplest changes to help prevent heart disease is incorporating healthy foods into your diet. Eating more fruits and veggies keep blood pressure in check and provide the recommended nutrients needed to stay healthy so visit your local farmer’s market and stock up!
Check out Alcorn State University’s other tips for a heart healthy life here.
In 2015, 15.8 million households were considered “food insecure,” which means they had inconsistent access to healthy food. For Massachusetts, nearly one in ten households (almost 200,000 children) don’t receive food they need.
To help , University of Massachusetts Extension implemented nutrition education programs to low-income families and youth. Over 65,000 individuals participated in their programs with great results – over half of participating adults changed their dietary intake, improved their ability to choose foods, and acquired skills to be more food secure. With these programs, food insecurity may continue to decline for Massachusetts and provide an example for other states to follow.
How did they do it? Read what the nutrition education program offered to communities here.
Rice is one of the most consumed crops in the world but did you know it contains arsenic? Arsenic is a known carcinogen, a substance capable of causing cancer, and traces of the chemical are found in rice. Rice absorbs arsenic through groundwater and soil, so if a region has water contamination, the chances of arsenic poisoning through rice consumption is higher.
To date, no government authority has set up regulations on arsenic-related exposure in foods so the University of Delaware (UD) has teamed up with Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) to set the standard and keep rice safe for the world.
See UD and BAU’s research methods to protect rice in action here.
As consumers continue to rely on convenience when it comes to food, ready-to-eat food has seen an increase in purchasing. What else is increasing? Foodborne illnesses.
Cornell University has developed new technology to specifically treat ready-to-eat foods to prevent foodborne pathogens and extend shelf life. The answer is a high-pressure food processor, which surrounds food packages with water and then puts the package through 87,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. The processor will not only answer increasing consumer demand for ready-to-eat foods, but help ensure safer healthier choices.
Want to see how the processor works? Click here.
It’s no surprise that climate change affects weather patterns and contributes to rising temperatures, which can also raise sea levels. However, those rising sea levels affect animal and plant life in coastal ecosystems, and when the change happens suddenly, the damage can be significant.
To help predict rising sea levels and prepare ecosystems for a change, New Jersey Institute of Technology studied environmental trends such as water temperature, water pressure, and salinity, which change before sea levels actually rise. Now, by monitoring these factors, scientists can anticipate rising sea levels and prepare ecosystems for the change.
Curious how NJIT figured out the environmental trends? Read more about their research here.
Droughts are a real problem throughout the United States, and America’s farmers have been particularly hit hard with lower crop yields over the past few years. This month, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is sending surveys to over 5,000 state producers to understand how to proactively help Tennessee farmers during the next drought.
The university plans to use this research as a way to educate all farmers about the different types of technology and resources they have at their disposal. For example, having more Tennessee farmers make use of cover crops – crops known to help promote soil moisture – would help maintain their crop yields during a dry period.
What other information are University of Tennessee researchers collecting to help their state’s farmers? Click here to learn more.
Sanja Ilic, the state food safety specialist for the Ohio State University Extension, is currently analyzing five years of research on greenhouse vegetable production. It is an effort being undertaken to ensure that food production in greenhouses meets the safest standards possible.
Dr. Ilic and her colleagues visited 26 greenhouses across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala to research differences in production among greenhouse vegetable growers by testing thousands of samples from irrigation water, food contact, environmental surfaces, and the vegetables being grown. The results will help consumers enjoy fresh, safe vegetables no matter the season.
Read more about Dr. Ilic’s food safety efforts here.
A new approach to tracking fish migration patterns has been launched with help from Oregon State University researchers. The researchers are calling the results of their method, an ichthyograph, a chart that depicts key characteristics of a water source like stream flow, water temperatures, and the timing of upstream migration of fish.
The ichthyograph allows fisheries managers and fish biologists to better understand upstream migration patterns and will help to explore how climate change and human-related activity like water control, floodplain stabilization, and road construction affects fish migration.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a qualified health claim for products containing high-amylose maize starch, which cites its effectiveness in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. The starch was tested for health benefits with the help of researchers from the Agricultural Center at Louisiana State University.
Along with his colleagues, Professor Michael Keenan of the LSU AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences has been working with the starch for about 15 years. With a qualified claim from the FDA, food marketers are now allowed to promote the diabetes risk reduction benefits of the starch, if it is found in their products, and help improve blood glucose control among the public.
Read more about how researchers are attempting to reduce the risk of diabetes here.
Prairie View A&M University is studying the soil moisture of strawberries for big implications. Through 60 soil moisture sensors and a weather station to monitor the moisture within and below the root system, the team is determining irrigation requirements, plant water use, and excess water losses for organically grown strawberries.
The research collected will be shared with limited resource farmers in the southeast region, especially in Texas and Arkansas, to increase production. The research is also part of a project to evaluate organic pest control products that will help control damaging diseases and insects in strawberries.
A class offered in Prince William County, Virginia is helping individuals who live with diabetes manage the disease. The Virginia Cooperative Extension has been providing the “Living Well with Diabetes” class in recent years to help local residents control and live with diabetes. Throughout its implementation, 34 people have attended the course, and many say that it has made a positive change in their health and lives. Some attendees with diabetes have even experienced a decrease in A1C levels, which measures a person’s average levels of blood sugar over a three-month span.
The class aims to educate attendees about helpful lifestyle changes for people with diabetes, which is the sixth leading cause of death in Virginia. Class participants learn about nutrition, physical activity, medication compliance, and stress management throughout the course, which includes four sessions and a follow-up session.
To read more about how the Virginia Cooperative extension is helping patients with diabetes, click here.
While algae might be an unsightly nuisance in home aquariums, the plant can improve wastewater efficiency at a low-cost. Most wastewater is treated with a bacterial process, which produces sludge that can cause disposal issues. Treatment systems using bacterial processes also cost more through facility upgrades.
Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences discovered a system that uses conveyor belts with multiple layers of algae on them to treat wastewater. Not only is the system more cost-effective, it is also more sustainable as the algae produced from the process can be used as fertilizer. The Iowa team hopes the system will be implemented in small communities that may not be able to afford costly treatment upgrades to comply with new regulations.
Maintaining sustainability in communities revolves around the community itself, according to Timothy Waring at the University of Maine. When smaller groups of people cooperate as one, sustainability is better managed and easier to maintain.
Waring is developing a “theory of sustainability” to further understand how communities manage natural resources successfully. His work has already identified that smaller social groups are better at managing resources, especially when supported by social and institutional factors.
Waring will continue to study his theory using Maine’s own natural resources – lobsters and blueberries – as an example for other communities to institute and make sustainability more possible.
Utah State University is encouraging children to play with their food – with surprising results. Created by Heidi Wengreen, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science, the game FIT increases children’s vegetable and fruit intake through role play.
Every day, the game’s superheroes, known as Field Intensive Trainees (FITs), give the students a new school-wide goal, such as eating more vegetables to power the ship. The game has doubled the student’s vegetable eating.
Because FIT is low-cost and does not require technology, the game is accessible for schools to eventually program themselves.
Read more about the FIT game and its success here.
The best way to improve water quality might be allowing farmers the freedom to do so themselves. Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences surveyed nearly 7,000 farmers who implemented water-quality best management practices voluntarily to reduce nitrogen and sediment levels in local water sources. The result? The Chesapeake Bay’s water quality improved.
This is the first report of its kind to accurately capture and report self-implemented water-quality practices. Previously, government reporting has not tracked voluntarily efforts, but with Penn State’s help, Pennsylvania farmers’ efforts will count when documenting the state’s conservation progress. This report and the success of voluntarily practices will help other states track farmers’ self-implementation and increase the accuracy of states’ conservation reporting.
Read more about the report documenting Pennsylvanian farmers’ conservation practices here.
Every year, Americans waste 40% of our food, but the actual figure might be even larger than that. Farm-level food waste, produce that never reaches the food supply, has not been accounted for in previous calculations which leads to an estimated 20.2 billion pounds of produce that is missing from the food waste equation.
Farmers generally plant more than needed to accommodate potential disease, weather patterns, and other unexpected negative effects on their crops. However, this creates a surplus of produce that is unharvested due to timing, cost, or quality and then attributed as “farm-level loss.” Growers are not required to report these losses, and many studies on food waste only focus on post-harvest produce, ignoring farm-level loss.
North Carolina State University has developed a way to estimate why and how much produce remains in a farmer’s field. By doing so, the university can look to identify ways to harvest the remaining crops to reduce food waste, increase our food supply, and make our farms more efficient.
Read more about North Carolina State University’s work in food waste here.
Libby Beard became the owner of a nursery about thirty years ago. Little did she know that she was holding onto a business that would blossom into influential horticulture.
Thanks to Mississippi State University Extension, Beard was able to rely on the resources provided by the university to continue to grow the success of her business. Like Beard, individuals in communities all across the nation rely on their universities to provide guidance into agriculture needs.
A new type of biofuel using biological non-food sources may soon be readily available, and
Washington State University discovered that consumers were willing to pay more for a more environmentally friendly type of fuel.
First generation biofuels typically use food sources, like corn, which can increase the price of food and is less sustainable than second generation biofuels, which use materials like wood scraps. While this new biofuel does not exist commercially yet, if consumers are willing to pay a greater premium, the market of new biofuels might not be far behind.
Read more about Washington State University’s study on new biofuels here.
We may still be awhile off yet for self-driving vehicles on the typical farm, but Controlled Area Network (CAN) systems and GPS are providing an easier way to streamline harvests. CAN, along with GPS, come equipped with newer tractors and track a vehicle’s state, whether it’s in harvest, travel, delay, idle, or downtime.
Brian Luck, a professor of Machinery Systems and Precision Agriculture Biological Systems Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says the data can then be used to see patterns and gaps in efficiency. This will help farmers perfect the number of tractors running at once for better crop yield and to receive the most efficient harvest possible.
Read more about how drones and devices improve farming efficiency here.
Iowa State University Extension program has a robust network for beginning farmers that is continuously growing. This program, which began in November, allows beginning farmers to build relationships with other experienced and new farmers in the region for advice and support.
The Farmers Network also supports food-based farmers to strengthen the local food economy and by producing more food in the region. Northern Iowan farmers now have a support system as well as a group that allows them to collaborate.
Forget their nutritional benefits – legumes are also genetically superior to other crops with their ability to convert nitrogen from the air we breathe to a form crops can use. All other crops have to receive nitrogen from the soil, which is why nearly $800 million was spent on nitrogen fertilizer in past years.
Clemson University looks to change that. The recipients of a three-year National Science Foundation grant, three Clemson University researchers are investigating the genetics in legumes’ roots that allow them to convert nitrogen without a fertilizer. If all crops had this genetic capability, farmers would save money and runoff from nitrogen fertilizer, which frequently pollutes water sources, would significantly decrease.
Read more about Clemson’s genetic research on legumes’ root and its impact here.
The solution to consumers throwing away over 30 percent of the total food supply may be as simple as changing a few words. Auburn University, in conjunction with Cornell University, found that date labels on produce and food, such as “use by” or “sell by” directly impacts how consumers view the product’s value.
By using different date labels (“best by,” “fresh by,” “use by,” and “sell by”) and sized packaging, researchers were able to determine that consumers are very responsive to package size and dates and their willingness to waste food is based on that information. Therefore, different packaging and labeling of dates may help prevent consumers from wasting food, which tends to end up in landfills and contributes to greenhouse gases.
Read more about the study and how food labeling impacts consumers here.
In the first app of its kind, Ag Water, designed by University of Arizona and University of California, Davis researchers, determines whether a water source is safe to use on produce. Ag Water predicts the quality of water from a source by using the user’s location, historical water quality data, and weather information. A user can also input certain qualities such as water temperature to strengthen the accuracy of Ag Water’s prediction.
Ag Water not only helps with maintaining water quality, but also increases food safety by ensuring contaminated water is not used on produce. The app also helps growers test their water sources regularly, in conjunction with the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2015.
Read more about the Ag Water app here. The app is available for download in iTunes and Google Play stores.
While many households in cities have access to grocery stores with fresh fruit and vegetables, lower income neighborhoods often do not have the same opportunity. Growing an urban garden in such communities can increase access to produce and help families add to their vegetable intake.
The University of California Cooperative Extension surveyed 85 community gardens and 50 home gardens to determine the impact of urban gardens in lower income neighborhoods. Through growing tomatoes, peppers, green peppers, and cucumbers, residents were able to double their vegetable intake. This cost-effective approach can be implemented in other cities to increase produce access and food security among lower income neighborhoods.
One of the most common resolutions for a new year is to lose weight and get healthier, and companies know it by pushing numerous diet and exercise plans on consumers. However, many of these diet suggestions aren’t the safest or healthiest plan.
Louisiana State University’s AgCenter explores various current diet trends, such as paleo and gluten-free, and states that many lack important vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. And because these diets restrict a certain type of food, they are usually unsustainable for long-term weight loss. Instead, LSU AgCenter recommends following the U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate guide or Dietary Guidelines.
Read more about LSU AgCenter’s diet recommendations and why diet trends don’t work here.
Looking for more information on field crop diseases to protect your crops? The Crop Protection Network (CPN) produces collaborative Extension research on diseases affecting field crops in both the United States and Canada. The program hopes to communicate necessary information that will not only help identifying crop field diseases, but also manage their destruction.
Currently, there are 24 full-length publications that focus how to identify and manage corn and soybean diseases, and the program consistently adds new resources as they are produced.
Land Grant Universities involved are: Purdue University, Iowa State University, University of Wisconsin and Michigan State University Extension
Oregon State University has created a hybrid online-and in-person course to teach farmers the essentials to creating and developing a successful business.
“Growing Farms” is meant to benefit novice farmers and those interested in farming for business better understand how to cultivate within the industry. The course is Oregon focused, however, it can be taken solely online from all over the country!
Does buying local produce really give back to local farms and the communities? University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center teamed up with UVM Department of Community Development and Center for Rural Studies to find out.
Using hospital purchasing data from 2012, the researchers investigated whether purchasing local food positively impacted the Vermont economy. First, purchases from local producers and distributors keep the money circulating in the local community as opposed to buying produce from a grocery store, where a portion of your money goes back to the corporation out of state. The researchers also discovered that if a producer can sell to a local hospital, that proves the vendor has solid quality that will appeal to other wholesale buyers, increasing the amount of produce a vendor could sell.
Studies like this show the importance of instituting food programs in the community – it’s not only good for your health, but also good for the local economy!
A new irrigation technique, subsurface systems, may be the solution to wasted water and high water costs when it comes to irrigation efficiency for turfgrass.
Subsurface irrigation limits irrigation to the exactly the right area that needs to be irrigated by using buried drip lines to water the area. Subsurface systems have been used in agriculture for decades, but New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences decided to test the system with turfgrass. This will help conserve water and save costs for places like athletic fields and golf courses.
Read more about NMSU’s irrigation research on subsurface systems here.
Christmas might be over, but you can keep your tree looking fresh until New Years! University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has tips to keep your Christmas tree last longer and offers suggestions for disposal when you’re ready.
First, you can check the freshness of your tree with a quick test by how many needles fall off when you run a branch through your fingers. The fewer needles that come off, the fresher the tree is. Your tree also needs about 2 pints to a gallon of water every day. Always be sure the water level never falls below the base of the tree to keep it hydrated and ready for 2017.
Finally, when you’re ready, you can recycle your tree at a location that grinds trees into mulch or by sinking it in a pond or lake.
See more tips on Christmas tree maintenance and safe disposal options here.
Beginning January 1, 2017, North Dakota State University Extension Service will launch, “The Family Table: Eat, Savor, Connect.” This program developed by family scientist and food and nutritionist at NDSU Extension is meant to provide families with meal plans, recipes and guidelines to help make family meals happen.
Families that eat meals together are shown to have better bonds, eat healthier and the children are less likely to get involved with drinking, drugs and smoking. You can sign up for the electronic newsletter and follow the program at www.facebook.com/ndfamilytable.
Is it a struggle for your child to fit in one serving of fruits and vegetables a day, let alone the optimal five to thirteen? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nine out of ten children still don’t have enough vegetables in their diet, but Iowa State University has some tips to make sure your child gets their nutritional needs.
For example, parents can change how vegetables and fruit are prepared, let children pick what produce they want at the grocery store, and involve children with the cooking. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also created a website for videos, activities, and recipes for parents to use to help their children eat more fruits and veggies.
Check out more tips from Iowa State University here.
With variable weather patterns, it can be tricky to know when to plant crops in order to receive the best possible harvest. Oregon State University has created a new tool, called Croptime, to help vegetable farmers take the guessing out of planting.
Croptime uses temperature data, weather, and climate forecasts and calculates the optimal time for the planting of vegetable crops. The predictive web-based tool is currently in use in Oregon and calculates times for over 10 vegetable varieties already. The team hopes to add another 40 vegetables to the system during 2017 and spread its use. This tool will help keep accurate timing of harvests, which will lead to more profits and more product.
‘Tis the season when family members from far and wide join you in your home, and that means the refrigerator door will open, shut and sometimes not close all the way. This can cause food in your refrigerator to spoil without you knowing!
University of Minnesota Extension shares helpful tips to keep your family and guests safe this holiday season and all year round:
It’s that time of year where families are decorating their homes for the holiday season. However, the ongoing drought has affected Christmas tree farms in states as far as New York to Florida.
Horticulture expert, Bert Cregg, weighed in on the vulnerability of young Christmas trees,“This is because the new transplants are still establishing their roots systems, and their roots do not extend very deep into the soil.”
Rest assured, a majority of Christmas trees will survive this winter and make it to your homes. It’s the future supply of seasonal conifers that farmers share concern.
Potatoes are already nutritious, delicious and versatile, but what if researchers could improve the nutritional benefits in potatoes?
This is exactly what is being done at New Mexico State University. The university has partnered with USDA research geneticist Dr. Kathy Haynes, as her nearly 30-year study to improve the health benefits of the potato gains traction.
Potatoes are the most widely consumed vegetable. With additional research, this vegetable could continue to feed millions at a low-cost and add nutritional value to a family’s diet, while saving their wallets and their health.
Spicy food isn’t for everyone, but the demand for hot peppers is growing in the United States.
New Jersey and surrounding region have a very diverse and immigrant heavy population that requires unique ingredients for cooking, such as hot peppers, which may not be accessible in colder climates. And, as the hot pepper sauce industry continues to grow, demand for the hot peppers is also surging. Rutgers University’s Exotic Pepper Breeding Program is meeting that demand by growing these peppers and creating a market for them within that region.
Not only are hot peppers more accessible now, but this opportunity will allow farmers in New Jersey to specifically grow hot peppers that other states in the northeast region are incapable of growing.
Over the past decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) saw a steady decline in herbicide innovation. Due to the lack of innovation over the years, those within the EPA believe that agriculture is now behind the curve, which has led to an increase in herbicide resistance.
Does this mean that as crops evolve they will no longer be resistance to weeds or disease?
Many of the companies that developed herbicides did not see the benefits within their market share, but as crops have evolved to resist stronger herbicide, companies are seeing their need now more than ever. Farmers believe that they can assist with the innovation, as they see their crops evolving firsthand. With their help, not only will weeds and plant diseases be controlled, but farmers will be able to harvest and produce more crops for our growing population.
In this video below, see how the University of Wyoming Extension uses coffee grounds found in your kitchen to benefit gardens at home.
Research has shown coffee grounds can prevent pathogenic molds from developing in your garden plants. Click here to watch the video.
Raw or undercooked food can be especially dangerous for babies, pregnant women, older adults and young children. Washington State University helps us to better understand food safety when you’re hosting guests this holiday season.
The key to keeping your family and guests safe is heating up the eggs and meringue before serving. Baking your meringue-topped pies and cookies at 350 degrees for at least 15 minutes is one safety measure that WSU Extension suggests.
The holidays are a great time to sit down with friends and family for a festive meal to celebrate the season. But do you know how to safely prepare food for your guests?
Join CDC, NBC News Health, and food-smart connoisseurs on December 7 from 2-3 PM ET for a Twitter chat on holiday food safety. Learn tips and tricks to ensure your holiday meal is a healthy and safe success. Submit questions with the hashtag, #CDCFoodChat.
When we think of algae, we think of the green, slimy plant that is part of our aquatic ecosystem or home aquarium. However, researchers at Cornell University have reason to believe that microalgae may be the solution to combat global warming’s effect on our natural resources to make biofuels.
Microalgae is found in freshwater and marine systems. By harvesting microalgae, scientists can make biofuels, which will reduce the use of fossil fuels by aviation and cargo shipping industries, combating global warming. The nutrients remaining after the microalgae harvest can also be made into animal feed and potentially used for human consumption, assisting with energy and food insecurity crises as well.
Most new homes don’t come with a manual. Luckily, the University of Florida Extension has created a class to help new homeowners navigate maintenance, saving energy, and being a good neighbor.
The program, called Homeflow, was originally created to help Habitat for Humanity candidates learn the basics of home maintenance, but is open to all Florida residents. The “flow” of the program relates not only to better home improvements, but better communication between occupants and between neighbors. The program will soon have 60 graduates statewide.
If you’re in agriculture, you may not immediately think of lentils as something that can thrive in the winter. However, new research by Texas A&M is testing those steadfast beliefs; since Texas doesn’t get enough precipitation in the summer, the university has turned to alternative crops for cultivation.
That’s where lentils come in. Initial studies have been using a variation of traditional lentils to test how they fare against winter wheat and canola.
If studies prove positive, crop diversity and crop options in Texas and other sunbelt states would improve dramatically.
Pop quiz: are egg yolks good or bad for you this season? Every year, this questioning happens like clockwork: a new list of “miracle foods” crop up and last year’s heralded list receive a swift dismissal. Moreover, many flip-flop between “foods to eat” and “foods to avoid” every year.
It also happens to coffee, wine, and, perhaps most needlessly, milk. In milk’s case, don’t listen to the ever-changing research landscape and go with your gut. Literally: lactose in milk favors gut bacteria that aid in digestion.
Recently, the Ohio State University has brought on a dairy scholar, Rafael Jimenez-Flores, whose goal is to promote and teach the values of a healthy diet. And, for him, it all starts with milk.
Most Washingtonians have never seen a farm, let alone an urban farm. University of the District of Columbia students created a food truck to mobilize nutritional education to DC residents. Educating people on healthy lifestyle choices is essential to create nutritional change, and UDC Causes is helping to educate those living in the District.
Serving as a mobile education unit, the food truck will provide nutritional education using produce grown on the green roof, Firebird Farm, and East Capitol Urban Farm.
Read more here!
Nidhi Rawat, a research assistant at the University of Maryland, is part of the multi-institutional panel who discovered the cloning of a resistance gene. The Fhb1 gene’s ability to deliver broad-spectrum resistance will put a halt to the reduction in crop yield and the millions of dollars lost world wide each year.
The resistance gene will also help aid a variety of human dietary plants such as tomato and potato plants that are affected by a fungal pathogen called Fusarium graminearum- a toxin unhealthy for human ingesting.
Read more about it here!
K-State launched KSUantibiotics.org, a site for livestock producers and individuals to research information on antibiotics and antibiotic alternatives because once an antibiotic develops resistance, it threatens thousands of livestock used for food supply.
The website includes factsheets and resources that provide readers an overview on antibiotic resistance and why producers should be alert. K-State producers believe that it is important for producers to hone their knowledge on how antibiotic resistance happens and the effects it has on livestock to control diseases in the future.
Read more about K-State’s new website here!
The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, run by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, has opened a fourth lab. This new facility will help bolster UC Davis as a leading animal health-food research university that will to protect animal health and performance, and safeguard public health and the food supply.
“California is proud to be home to the largest and most diverse agriculture in the world,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the Department of Food and Agriculture.”
Once the lab is fully equipped it will provide rapid detection and response to both routine illnesses and catastrophic, emerging animal diseases.
Read more here!
Wild soybeans are expert survivalist due to their hard skin, however, this has proven difficult for cultivation, until now. Professor of Agronomy, Jianxin Ma at Purdue University Extension has discovered the genetic factors responsible for the soybean’s hard seed coat.
While soybeans’ hard skin protects the bean in severe conditions, it also prevents the seed from germinating quickly and predictably, especially in different climates. This discovery will not only help scientists in the future to identify additional genes in other plants, but also help cultivate soybean diversity to improve its planting success in different regions.
Read more about the research here!
A land-grant university team, led by Montana State University, has been awarded a grant to develop new technology for food, energy, and water systems. The project will focus on biofuels and carbon-capture technologies, and see if they can be introduced to the Upper Missouri River Basin. The impact of the study will help to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which is the leading contributor to climate change.
The grant will run until 2020, and is a collaborated effort by Montana State University, University of Wyoming, and the University of South Dakota.
Read more about the grant award and its study here.
With the recent water crises in the United States, such as Flint, Michigan, the University of Delaware conducted a study on the best way for the public to protect drinking water.
Messaging related to clean drinking water impacts policy, investment, and preparation for potential future issues. By developing the right message, an organization can move more people to protect drinking water.
Read more about Delaware’s recommendations for messaging on water here.
University of Georgia animal and dairy research scientists Sha Tao and John Bernard think that feeding cows betaine, a natural chemical compound, can increase the milk production and metabolism of dairy cows.
Through the first two-months of observation, Tao and Bernard found an increase in milk production and an increase in milk fat. Researchers also found that the cows that birth during the summer coped better with the addition of betaine.
Read more here!
Utah State University’s equine program helps war veterans and their families through animal therapy with horseback riding.
War veterans and their families have adjustments to make once their loved ones return from deployment. Utah State University developed this program a year ago, and they realized through animal therapy and nature, individuals are able to express themselves more.
Read more and check out the video here!
The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity University of Connecticut’s recent study confirms that modifications made in 2009 in the federal Women, Infants, and Children food assistance program (WIC) are notably positive.
Revisions for the program were created to provide healthier food alternatives to increase the nutrition of low-income expecting mothers, new mothers and their children. The availability of healthier food options has helped transition families that rely on WIC to purchase healthier food products.
WIC’s modifications increased the volume of healthy food purchased by WIC households by 3.9 percent, while purchases of moderation decreased 24.7 percent in volume. Cost-neutral revisions were made possible without the increase of taxpayers costs.
Kansas State University Feed the Future received an award from the U.S. Agency of International Development to boost Cambodia’s innovation and growth in agriculture. 80% of the Cambodian population is involved in agriculture. The award will be used to establish the Center of Excellence on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification and Nutrition at the Royal University of Agriculture in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The Feed the Future project will work with other U.S. universities, including Kansas State University, and provide an international exchange program that will help bridge international knowledge for economic growth, rural development and strengthen global food security.
Read more here!
Washington State University biologist Mechthild Tegeder has developed a way to exponentially increase the quality and yield of soybeans using nitrogen. This may be a way to increase food in the world as the world population continues to grow.
Nitrogen is a macronutrient essential for plant growth and with Tegeder’s manipulation of nitrogen, she and her graduate assistant, Amanda Carter, were able to find the rate of nitrogen in order to boost the plant growth into overdrive.
Read more about the research here!
The agricultural industry is the largest consumer of water in the country, and farmers are always looking for new ways to maximize efficiency and reduce use.
Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center has developed a smartphone app to help growers plan and monitor their water use in the field. The “Irrigation Scheduler Mobile” app helps growers find and plug irrigation leaks, save water, and ultimately make more money.
Read more about this technology here!
From steamed carrots to roasted peppers, cooked vegetables can be absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the heat involved in preparing them often reduces the nutrient content.
A new Ohio State’s College of Food, Ag & Environmental Sciences guide details the best ways to maximize nutrient retention in your cooked veggies. The key is to limit the amount of water they are exposed to so that water-soluble vitamins don’t get washed away.
Read more here!
Stephen D. Green received the 2016 Excellence in Extension Award last week for his “visionary leadership, excellence in programming and positive impact on [his] community.” Community impact is a core value of Cooperative Extension; it helps take the land-grant research and expertise and spread it across the country.
Stephen Green is an Assistant Direct and child development expert at Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. Over his 15-year career Green has developed programs like Fathers Reading Every Day, a highly effective program that builds kids’ early literacy. Other teacher-facing programs like the Early Childhood Educator Online Training Program help educators with their professional development. Green is also a prolific speaker and writer, having delivered hundreds of educational presentations and authored 60 articles.
Read more about the award here!
Farmers have relied on Methyl bromide for the past 40 years to protect their crops from fungi, insects and weeds. Unfortunately, this highly effective pesticide is also an ozone depleting compound, so farmers have been phasing it out in favor of more environmentally friendly alternatives.
The University of California’s Division of of Agriculture and Natural Resources devoted the most recent issue of their peer reviewed journal to the various Methyl bromide alternatives available to agricultural producers.
Read more here!
Water restrictions and drought affect millions of Americans and costs the economy billions of dollars. The issue is critically important to the agricultural industry. Farmers need accurate and up to date data about drought trends to guide their irrigation and harvest strategies.
Most rely on the United States Drought Monitor, a state of the art weather service located at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. They have published weekly data and maps since 1999 that track the intensity of droughts across the country. Offering more than a snapshot of the current drought situation, the USDM website has interactive tools that let you compare the current drought situation with any date over the last 16 years.
Check out the Drought Monitor resources here!
The 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act was the largest regulatory overhaul of the food safety system since the 1930s. It represents an important shift at the Food and Drug Administration from reacting to food borne illnesses to preventing them.
Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station has been leading the nationwide effort to develop the new rules that will govern fresh produce. They work to help producers implement the new standards, and with an efficient “train-the-trainer” strategy, Cornell is training extension educators who will go out into the field and spread the new practices throughout the country.
The net result will be a safer food supply and a healthier population. Read more about Cornell’s work here!
People who rely on food banks to put meals on the table suffer from higher than average rates of obesity and diabetes. Part of the problem is that food banks are often overwhelmed with junk food: sugary sodas, refined grains, and high-sodium soups.
The University of Wisconsin Extension is raising public awareness about the issue and working to narrow the gap between food that is needed at food banks and what is actually available. In June they published a landmark study on food insecurity, and program coordinator Karen Early recently took to the opinion pages of the Green Bay Press-Gazette to call for higher quality food donations, not just high quantity. She suggests donating cheap but nutritious items like canned fruit, whole grain pasta or cereals, and peanut butter.
Read Karen’s article in the Press Gazette here!
Plants pull nutrients out of soil, that’s why fertilizer is so important; it replenishes the potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen levels to help crops thrive. But fertilizers represent a significant financial expense on a farm so producers have an incentive to use just enough to replace what was removed over the previous growing cycle.
The University of Illinois Extension has been studying the removal rates of grain so that farmers can find the perfect balance between soil health and economic efficiency. They will present their findings in January at a regional Illinois Crop Management Conference and online. The research promises to enhance the global food supply and strengthen an economic sector that employs 21 million American workers.
Read more about the new research here!
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have engineered a new strain of “super yeast” that doubles the efficiency of certain types of biofuel production. Their breakthrough was in expanding the types of sugars in biomass that can be converted into fuel.
Prior biofuel production left nearly half of all plant sugars untouched – a huge missed opportunity. Now, producers can harness the hard-to-reach xylose sugars in grasses, woods, and non-edible portions of biomass.
The breakthrough enhances the economic feasibility of biofuels, which promises to deliver both environmental and industry benefits.
Read more about the discovery here!
People who rely on food pantries to put meals on the table disproportionately suffer from health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or gluten intolerance. A University of Wisconsin Extension study released earlier this year found that the majority of respondents reported having difficulty finding suitable food at food banks.
This shows how it’s important to think about not only the quantity of donations to food pantries, but also the quality and nutritional diversity. Many pantries report frequently receiving donations of sugary cereals, high sodium soups and other unhealthy packaged foods. Next time you donate, consider giving fresh fruit or other nutritious produce.
Read more about University of Wisconsin Extension’s good pantry suggestions here!
Plants pull different nutrients out of the soil at different rates. Without fertilizer or a crop rotation, this process would eventually leave soil barren.
The University of Illinois Extension has been studying Potassium and Nitrogen removal rates over the past three harvests to get the most up to date numbers. They will present their updated findings in January at a regional Illinois Crop Management Conference and online. The research is an update to the current University of Illinois Crop Handbook from 2009.
Read more about the new research here!
Headlines were predicting a major pumpkin shortfall this time last year as half of the crop was threatened by the combination of early rains and fast spreading diseases.
The University of Illinois Extension reports that this year’s harvest is in much better shape. The weather has been much more forgiving, and an initially scary outbreak of downy mildew was confined to a small area of that state.
Read more about state of the pumpkin harvest here!
Visiting an apple orchard is a popular fall tradition for many Americans, but there are only so many apple pies you can make. What else can you do with the plethora of Gala, Fuji and Golden Delicious apples you harvested this year?
Iowa State Extension has six tasty ideas that you have got to try. From spiced apple rings to dehydrated apple leather (think apple “fruit rollups”!), these recipes will have you eating apples all day and keep the doctor away.
Read more here!
Unpredictable weather patterns leave grape growers unsure of what each yield will return. A warm and dry New England summer meant smaller yields for most grape growers in the region this year.
Cornell University scientists found a silver lining to the reduced harvest, noting that the grapes we did get are higher quality and intensely flavored. Furthermore, dry conditions also mean fewer crop diseases. While a smaller yield is by no means ideal, there are positive effects that come from the change in weather.
Read more here!
Family meals are one of the most important things that a parent can do for their children. Conversations with adults build a child’s vocabulary, and the open communications can help create family memories.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is encouraging parents to make more time for family meals to help contribute to their children’s health and mental development. They point out that as an added benefit home cooked meals tend to be healthier than meals prepared in a restaurant.
Read about more of the benefits here!
In many ways agriculture is a perfect match for veterans looking for the next stage of their career. The work is peaceful and meaningful, and there is a trained farm labor shortage in many parts of the country.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension is working to connect veterans with jobs on the farm through their Small Farms Program.
Read more here!
15.8 million American households are food insecure, meaning that they don’t have reliable access to nutritious and affordable food.
Land-grant university programs like the Iowa State University Master Gardeners are doing their part to take on this serious problem by donating fresh produce to local food pantries. Heading into harvest season, the ISU Master Gardeners set a goal of donating 1,500 pounds of vegetables, which will provide roughly 30,000 individual portions!
In the wake of Hurricane Matthew some scientists are wondering if the deadly storm could have been better predicted.
Scientists at Rutgers University Agricultural Experiment Station are working on just that – they are studying historical storms to understand and predict future natural disasters.
Read more here!
While it is obvious that plants need macronutrients such as carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen to thrive, micronutrients like chlorine, copper, and iron are just as vital to plant health. However, micronutrients are often overlooked and can quickly inhibit growth. The exact amount of micronutrients needed has been obscure in the past, so farmers, even the ones who do measure their soil nutrients, don’t always know which amounts they need of the different nutrients.
Iowa State University Extension wants farmers to have the right numbers. ISU published suggested soil micronutrients that will aid farmers in routinely measuring accurate soil nutrient levels. The publication reports on the purpose of and amount needed for each nutrient.
Read more here!
South Carolina suffered a month of severe drought in September 2015, followed by disastrous flooding during Hurricane Joaquin. The disasters stressed the need for increased data about river systems.
Clemson University’s Water Resources Center hosts conferences bringing scientists and policy makers together to discuss and implement plans for the state when a natural disaster occurs. Data driven research will assess the state of the land and then will be used to manage when disaster strikes. The better the land is understood, the greater the response can be when issues arise.
Read more here.
Many millennials are experiencing underemployment in the workforce. College graduates receive their degree and instead of obtaining jobs in their preferred field, they are often forced to settle for outside occupations that have little to do with their interests and strengths.
It’s a different story when it comes to career opportunities in agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts continued long-term job growth in the industry.
Land-grant universities like the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State offer programs that help students develop the skills required to get into agriculture. These programs aim to bridge the gap between those familiar and those unfamiliar with the abundant job opportunities in the field.
Read more here!
Hailstorms can cause extensive damage to broadleaf crops. Affected farmers need accurate guidance about how to salvage the situation; is it better to the plow the damaged crop under and start over, or will the plants make a comeback?
Israel Calsoyas at New Mexico State University College of Agriculture manages a project that is gathering this information by studying chile peppers. Calsoyas’ experiment simulates hailstorms by blasting plants with water during three different stages of the plants’ growth. This will reveal how farmers can better understand the impact of hail on their crops during different parts of the season and make more informed decisions to maximize yields.
Read more here!
Nurseries contribute $1.2 billion and 36,000 jobs to Michigan’s economy, but at the expense of local water systems. Runoff from this water heavy industry can pollute local lakes, rivers, and ground waters.
Michigan State University researchers are testing different irrigation techniques to combat the excess water usage. By reducing and recycling the initial input of water, the nursery plant industry can continue to thrive and move toward a more sustainable framework.
Read more about how MSU researchers are helping nurseries get the most out of their water.
Where can hobby gardeners turn with questions about launching and maintaining their gardens?
The land-grant university system has valuable resources that can help, like Texas A&M Agrilife.
AgriLife has thousands of employees and a hundred thousand volunteers who can answer any question related to gardening or farming.
Check out this great write up about Agrilife in the Dallas Morning News!
As prices drop, producers look to store their grain until prices rise again, which has led to shortages of storage space across the country.
A recent University of Kentucky Extension article offers advice on alternative storage options. Covered outdoor piles and grain bags can effectively protect crops and minimize spoilage if the proper steps are taken. The key steps are properly drying the grain beforehand and keeping it in a well-aerated space that is protected from pests.
Read more about alternative grain storage options here.
Most people don’t think twice about fall yard work. When leaves fall, you rake and bag them.
The University of Virginia Cooperative Extension has a great way to save yourself some work and boost your lawn’s soil health. Going over your lawn with a lawn mower will shred the leaves and leave behind organic nutrients that improve “soil tilth and increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil.”
Read more here!
Coffee is a morning ritual for millions of Americans, and it results in vast quantities of used coffee grounds that make their way to landfills.
University of Wyoming Extension suggests putting this organic byproduct to work in the garden as mulch. Just one half-inch layer of coffee grounds helps kill weeds and brings moisture into the soil.
Watch the video here.
Industrial hemp has a range of practical industrial applications, but Colorado farmers don’t have enough information about the crop to grow it efficiently and profitably.
Colorado State University is conducting research (with the permission of the federal government) to determine which varieties of hemp are the best for US climates. According to the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, “Our registrants are passionate and dynamic entrepreneurs who are developing uses that weren’t imagined just a few years ago. It will be exciting to see how this industry develops in the years to come.”
Read more about the industrial hemp research here.
The soybean harvest takes place every year during a short time period. Harvesting combines are expensive, and as a result, farmers have a strong incentive to boost their efficiency as much as possible.
The latest issue of Discovery Magazine, a University of Arkansas College of Ag journal, writes about a research initiative that studied combine efficiency on three local soybean farms. Their research indicates that the largest factor in increased efficiency was the use of geo-referencing a field, which boosts precision.
Read more about the research here.
Therapeutic horsemanship uses horseback riding as a tool to help people with special needs develop attention, confidence, and motor skills. It can be really helpful for clients like mentally disabled kids or veterans with PTSD. The only problem is that there aren’t enough therapists trained in the technique to meet demand.
The SUNY Cobleskill College of Agriculture just started offering a special major to train the next generation of horse therapists. According to the Daily Star, students “will take classes in equine science, education, psychology, sociology and business.”
Read more about this heartwarming program here!
Crop losses from plant disease significantly contributes to crop losses each year, costing the US economy $60 billion a year, and reducing the global food supply. What if there was a way to predict these detrimental pathogens and be prepared for the damage they cause? MSU researchers have found an innovative way to use human medical technology to combat plant diseases.
Michigan State University researchers from the Human Medicine, Plant Genetics and Plant Pathology departments developed a biosensor that will scan plants in the field to predict track epidemic-spreading diseases. This on the ground data can help farmers make rapid and informed management decisions in a crisis. By reducing crop loss, plant epidemiology may also offer a solution to reducing food insecurity.
Read more about this interesting technology here!
On the surface, safflower may not seem that important. But according to the Western IPM Center, safflower is actually an important plant for rejuvenating soil health. Safflower has a unique way to lower the salt levels in soil by opening up channels for salt to wash down below the root zone.
However, safflower is extremely vulnerable to lygus bugs, and growers have a hard time protecting the plants. The University of California Cooperate Extension helped a local farmers association develop an effective integrated pest management system. They found that nearby farms were spraying for lygus at different times. As a result, the bugs survived in pockets and quickly repopulated the entire area.
University of California’s solution was one coordinated area-wide spray. This approach protected the safflower and actually reduced the total amount of spraying that the farmers had to do.
Read more about safflower and integrated pest management here!
48 million Americans struggle with food insecurity, including 15 million children. The issue can be solved if we get better about reducing food waste. Currently, 40% of the food produced in the US is thrown away.
The University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources is hosting a series of events over the month to educate students about how to reduce food waste at home and on campus.
UConn hopes to use these events to educate youth about the US Environmental Protection Agency’s “Food Recovery Hierarchy,” which lists how to minimize food waste and use recovered food in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. One initiative is through the Department of Dining Services, which will prepare a free “Tasty Waste Lunch” from food that would otherwise be discarded.
Read more about the UConn food waste program here!
Drones are a revolutionary technology that has a myriad of applications in agriculture, forestry and environmental stewardship.
Cornell University Cooperative Extension aims to introduce the next generation to drones in a three part engineering challenge that had youth diving into the world of drone engineering at the 4H National Youth Science Day. Children got to experiment with fixed and rotary wing designs and explore the concept of remote sensing.
The drone challenge is part of a larger 4-H STEM initiative that has 5 million kids every year complete projects in agricultural science, robotics, environmental science, and other fields.
Read more about the event on the National Youth Science Day webpage.
The familiar Nutrition Facts label on your packaged food has a new look! Texas A&M AgriLife Extension explains in a video what the changes mean for consumers.
One of the main changes involves the way that food manufacturers have to calculate and report on serving size. The new label presents nutritional data in a way that “allows you to make more informed decisions about what you are eating and drinking.”
Check out all the new changes in the video here!
You’re growing grapes to make your own wine. What do you do when birds start to feast on your precious vines? Protecting these grape harvests without sacrificing sun exposure can pose a predicament for growers.
The University of Wyoming Extension’s “From the Ground Up” YouTube series suggests using netting. The thin mesh keeps birds away but doesn’t block sunlight from reaching leaves. It’s a simple, inexpensive, and practical solution.
Want to try it? Watch the video here.
A University of Wisconsin Extension survey found that the majority of farms either landfill or burn their waste plastic due to a lack of convenient recycling programs. That translates into hundreds of millions of pounds annually in the United States.Agricultural plastics are essential for the storage and protection of high quality hay, but the widespread lack of recycling poses a problem.
UW hopes to make recycling easier and more available for these farmers. Their survey found that nearly all respondents were willing to transport their waste for free disposal. Based on a two-year pilot study with UW-Extension Green County, Arkansas-based Revolution Plastics will be providing a free plastic recycling program in several Wisconsin counties.
To read more about how UW-Extension plans on connecting farmers to recycling services, click here.
According to the International Labour Organization, there are over 150,000 workplace fatalities in agriculture across the world annually, but many of them can be prevented by following safety best practices. As harvest time is upon us, Iowa State University Extension has compiled helpful resources on farm safety.
Some of the easiest steps to boost safety are to simply get a full night’s sleep and take regular breaks. More deliberate steps include always powering down machines before trying to clear entanglements.
Read more here [pdf].
Ranchers are eager to meet increased consumer demand for free range meat, but this method of ranching also has unique challenges. How do you collect critical information on herds of roaming animals that are scattered over a large area? What are they eating, how much ground do they cover each day?
Students at the New Mexico State University have come up with a clever high tech solution for ranchers. They developed an enclosure for a camera that allows it to be attached to cows’ neck harnesses, kind of like a GoPro. The project will allow them to gather important information and keep tabs on their cows with an unprecedented level of detail.
Read more about the project here.
The huge growth of craft breweries in recent years has led to increased demand for high quality, unique ingredients. Local producers in Michigan have been trying to get their hands on Spartan barley, which had a reputation for high quality in the 1930’s but it fell out of favor after World War II. Today it is all but extinct.
Researchers at the Michigan State University College of Agriculture & Natural Resources have successfully revived the Spartan barley from a small, five gram seed sample that was saved in a USDA gene bank. They now have 10 acres of Spartan planted, and according to Michigan Live, ‘local maltsters … are anxious to give it a try.”
Read more about the Spartan barley miracle here.
Coffee producers are having a hard time meeting the massive global demand for their product due to disease and narrow genetic diversity. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that coffee plants haven’t benefited from advanced scientific study in recent years.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research aims to take on these challenges at their new Center for Coffee Research and Education. The Center will focus its initial efforts on quick projects where they can rapidly deliver solutions to producers.
Read more about the research at the Center for Coffee Research website.
Students who want to get involved in organic farming, farmers markets, or food trucks face a unique set of economic challenges. The skills needed to bring in a bountiful harvest don’t help when it comes to writing a business plan.
The student-run farm at the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is specifically designed to help build these commercial skillsets. According to the TerpFarm website, the project is “economically sustainable by closely following a strong business plan that transitions away from reliance on grant funds towards profitability.” The farm engages students with the economics and networks behind agriculture while supplying nutritious food to the UMD dining halls and food truck.
Read more about how UMD students are learning on the farm in the latest issue of Edible DC.
100 billion plastic bags make their way into American landfills each year. A plastic bag may be used for mere minutes, but it sticks around as waste for much longer.
A variety of public policies across the country have tried to reduce this waste, and each have a different set of associated pros and cons. The University of New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station is conducting new research to assess which policies are optimal.
They found that a small tax (roughly 5 cents per bag) had the best outcome, by creating an incentive for consumers who skip the bag, while also generating revenue from the remaining bag sales. This information can help inform environmental policy makers at the national, state and local level.
You can read more about UNH’s plastic bag research in BioCycle.
Excessive sediment in US river systems can harm aquatic life and threaten watershed ecosystems. The waterborne soil can also clog up reservoirs and dams.
Researchers at the University of Delaware College of Agriculture & Natural Resources are working to analyze restoration efforts around the Delaware River Watershed, and their insights could be applied across the country to restore river systems.
Read more about the project at the University of Delaware CANR blog.
New technology like drones, cloud computing and smartphones have the potential to transform many aspects of the agricultural industry. The University of New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station has harnessed mobile technology to developed a more efficient way for farmers to monitor pregnant cows during the night.
They created a non-invasive sensor that attaches to a cow’s tail and sends a text message to a UNH employee when the cow goes into labor. It does this by measuring tail movement that is associated with a cow having contractions.
The device was covered in a great article on Fosters.com.
Farmers who use multiple pesticide technologies can have a hard time keeping track of which one is in use where. Conventional crops without herbicide technology traits could be killed if they are accidentally sprayed. The University of Arkansas Extension Service developed a cheap and easy solution to help farmers juggle multiple technologies: colored flags.
The approach, called “Flag the Technology” essentially demarcates fields with colored bicycle flags that are color-coded to indicate what kind of pesticides are used on which crops.
According to a recent blog post from the University of Missouri Extension, the use of Flag the Technology is spreading across the Midwest and South.
Kevin Bradley of Missouri Extension explained how the system helps farmers: “When they pull into a field to apply herbicide, the flags help to assure them that they have the right chemical in their tank to match the traits in that field . . . Also, they might be able to look at fields across the road, and if there are different colored flags in nearby fields, then we hope applicators will think twice before spraying in windy conditions.”
Read more about Flag the Technology on the University of Arkansas Extension website.
As we head into September, it is time for gardeners to start prepping for changes in the weather.
The University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service has put together a helpful checklist to get you started. There are tips about how to protect your soil from snowfall, storing tools, and planning for the next season. Taking basic steps now, like turning compacted soil and mulching, will help your soil next spring.
Download the fall & winter gardener checklist on the University of Alaska website here.
Researchers at Kansas State University are investigating humans’ emotional reaction to animal live streaming videos. They want to find out if viral videos like the Eagle Cam or Panda Cam can be leveraged as a new way to drive public interest in conservation.
The Bear Cam study is based in Katmai National Park in Alaska, but because of the live stream it is able to reach audiences across the country. According to K-State, the technology could also help National Parks create “visitor opportunities that reach global audiences who may not be able to travel to national parks.”
The National Park system, which celebrated its 100 year anniversary last week, had 282 million visitors in 2015. Live streaming videos have the potential to vastly spread the experience, as the Decorah Eagle Cam alone has attracted 341 million views.
The Bear Cam study began in the Spring and will continue for several years. You can tune in to the video and read more about K State’s study here.
Innovet is St. Louis based construction company that seeks to employ as many veterans as possible. As of 2015, there were 495,000 unemployed veterans in the United States.
Innovet reached out to the Missouri Business Development program (an UM Extension initiative) for help obtaining new government contracts. Now, business “is working out real well and sales have been increasing” said Charlie McCarty, co-founder of Innovet.
Read more about the Innovet success story here.
A Virginia Tech research team from the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences has developed a way to use yeast cells instead of petroleum in a range of consumer products. The breakthrough could improve the environmental footprint of products such as cosmetics, detergents and lubricants. Collectively, these industries are a $3 billion annual market.
The team was lead by Xueyang Feng, who found a way to trick yeast cells into producing an important type of fatty alcohol that previously could only be obtained from fossil fuels.
Read more about the details of the research on the Virginia Tech website.
As many areas of the United States combat summer drought conditions, homeowners are left wondering how to maintain lawns while under water restriction. South Dakota State University Extension horticulturists have tips on watering, mowing, and fertilizer use to help you care for your drought-stressed lawn.
For more resources please visit the SDSU iGrow website.
The summer of 2016 has brought record rainfall and disastrous flood events to thousands of Americans from Louisiana to West Virginia to Indiana. When the floodwaters recede and people return to their homes, their first instinct is to jump into repairs as quickly as possible.
However, doing so can actually make the damage worse.
According to the Extension Disaster Communication Network specialist Steve Cain, homeowners should wait to start repairs until the damaged areas have had a chance to dry out. “The tendency is to get to work as soon as possible, but that could lead to problems later,” Cain said. “Putting up insulation, drywall or paneling before the wood studs have completely dried out could trap moisture in the walls and lead to mold growth.”
For more tips on flood recovery visit Purdue University’s Flood Recovery Resources page where you can download a free copy of “First Steps to Flood Recovery.”
Human and wildlife coexistence can sometimes produce unique challenges. Animals and insects can wreak havoc on crops, and some animal-borne diseases pose a threat to the food supply. According to Mississippi State University, these conflicts cause roughly $22 billion in damages across the country.
Mississippi State recently partnered with USDA to launch the Center for Resolving Human-Wildlife Conflicts to address this problem. The center will host a range of programs, “including protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically-engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act, and carrying out wildlife damage management activities.”
Read more about the center here!
Developing new crops, such as a drought resistant vegetable variety, is a time intensive and costly process. It is also critical work for regions with dwindling water resources like California. The Department of Energy has teamed up with the University of Arizona’s College of Ag & Life Sciences to build a big data solution to the problem – a giant robotic fieldscanner.
The 30-ton steel machine moves back and forth over the 1.5 acre research field like a huge printer and generates a “extremely high resolution” data stream that fills 5 terabytes of hard drive space every day. By comparing data on different plant varietals growth, the scientists can conduct scientific investigations with more efficiency.
Read more about the robotic scanner here!
John Cobourn, a water resources specialist at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has received the Joint Council of Extension Professionals Award for Creative Excellence.
The award recognizes his 25 years of work addressing flash floods, drought tolerant landscaping, and water quality issues.
“It’s really gratifying to be recognized for the work I’ve done in watershed management at Lake Tahoe and in other parts of northern Nevada,” Cobourn said.
Read more here!
Texas A&M AgriLife researcher Dr. Stephen Smith recently presented about his research into the health benefits of Beef Brisket.
“Brisket has higher oleic acid than the flank or plate, which are the trims typically used to produce ground beef,” Smith said at the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course.
Stephen Smith’s work is being published by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in a upcoming series of studies.
Read more here!
93% of the 510 American residents who have contracted Zika live in Florida.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has made Zika prevention a top priority. In addition to studying ways to reduce mosquito pesticide resistance, they launched an informative website and are holding Zika educational workshops throughout Florida.
Read more here!
College students across the country are getting ready to head back to campus. Many people struggle to maintain a healthy diet when the school year’s heavy workload sets in.
The North Dakota State University Extension Service blog compiled 10 helpful tips to eat well and avoid “snack attacks”.
Check it out here!
Douglas Firs are particularly sensitive to the drought affecting California and much of the Western United States.
A new study from the University of California – Davis’ College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences pinpointed exactly how the trees are being harmed. They analyzed core samples, gathered from up and down the West Coast, to understand how Douglas Firs growth rates have changed over the past century.
According to project lead Christina Restaino, “Throughout the life of these trees, Douglas firs have experienced a lot of different conditions … The conditions that have been the warmest and the driest have slowed their growth the most.”
Read more about the study here.
The limited water and high temperatures that often accompany droughts can pose a threat to horses’ health.
Alabama Cooperative Extension specialist Dr. Courteney Holland compiled some helpful tips for how much your horses should be eating (and drinking), and how to help them cope with the heat.
Check it out here!
People without reliable transportation may be unable to get to and from farmers markets. North Dakota State University’s Extension Service tackled this problem by launching a mobile farmers market. They used a USDA grant to purchase and convert a “mobile market and education trolley.”
The mobile market draws on the strengths of food trucks and can go to where the market demand is.
Read more about the Grand Forks mobile Farmers Market here!
In addition to stocking top quality products, it is important for vendors to think about the best way to display their food. The Oregon State University Small Farms program offers advice specifically for vegetable vendors.
For example, subconscious aesthetic principles like diversity of color and variation of depth can help your veggies stand out.
Consumers are more likely to buy unfamiliar produce when they are accompanied by a recipe that calls for them. Try including recipe cards on your stand as a handout, which can also act as a promotional tool.
Check out more tips here!
In celebration of National Farmers Market Week we’re sharing a series of articles about the importance of these unique resources. There are over 8,000 farmers markets in the United States and they stimulate local economies, increase access to fresh food, and support healthy lifestyles.
Farmers markets across the country receive assistance from their local land-grant partners. These resources run the gamut from business and marketing expertise, to assistance securing grants and permits.
Farmers market vendors and land-grant educators are animated by a similar goal: to help support a thriving American food system.
The Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is home to a vibrant community of craft breweries and cideries. Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) works to enhance this sector’s productivity and has joined forces with industry leaders to provide resources for the area’s brewers, malters, and grain growers.
With CCE’s help, the Finger Lake’s region has gotten advice on avoiding potential pitfalls, the growing basics and cidery set up, legal and supply chain analysis, and more.
This research and advice were on display at the second annual Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Conference hosted by CCE of Seneca County in Seneca, New York.
Noel McCarthy, a resident from the area and home brewer who attended the conference, stated: “I heard from brewers, grain growers, and educators, and all the other kinds of people in the industry about trends and best practices they see across the state, it’s given me a better sense of how everything fits together.”
The research and shared expertise promoted a collaborative culture between attendees and speakers. It had a personal feel as educators, growers, and scientists shared their stories and experiences with participants, and provided good insight for those in the industry.
Read more here.
The student-run organic farm at Iowa State University, which emerged in the 1990s, has continued to bond the community through the shared passion of farming, writes Iowa Public Radio.
The farm runs on a Community Supported Agriculture model. Members who donate their time to farming get boxes of fresh and nutritious produce. “It’s hands-on learning, it’s just-in-time learning, it’s eating what you’ve just learned to do,” said advisor Mary Weidenhoeft. “And so that’s why the student organic farm is really unique.”
The land grant from Iowa State University has given students the opportunity to grow food, manage a business, and get other’s engaged. The surplus produce grown at the organic farm is donated to those in need within the community, allowing students to understand the importance of giving back. Within a season, students will grow up to 40 different vegetables and fruits, showing other students the importance of fresh, organic produce.
Read more here!
Food consumers have a growing interest in learning about where their food comes from, and wanting to connect to the farmers who produced it. Several NIFA- funded projects have created new local food hubs to address this issue.
The Molokai Food Hub (MFH) was established to address the heightened rate of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases in that Hawaiian community. The food hub provides outreach and education on healthy choices when buying food. They suggest buying more local and fresh products versus processed foods.
Fresh from Foley, a food hub in Foley, Alabama teams up with local producers and distributers to collect, package, and ship locally grown produce to restaurants, schools, and grocery stores in the area.
Farmers of Chicago program provides resources for urban farmers so that they can distribute locally grown produce year-round.
Finally, Common Market Food, based in Philadelphia works with local farmers to provide alternative solutions to the mainstream distribution network.
NIFA’s funding has allowed communities all over to become educated and make smarter, healthier choices by eating fresh produce.
Read more here!
Penn State teamed up with Texas A&M – Galveston to measure the impact of the land-grant system over past decades. They found that cooperative extension programs have helped over 137,000 farmers stay in business since the 1980’s.
The cooperative extension program started in 1914 with the Smith-Lever Act, and has had a profound impact as a job creator, according to the researchers. “Compared to the costs of other job creation programs, cooperative extension is a remarkably good investment,” said Stephan Goetz of Penn’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “Over our 26-year sample, this federal spending amounted to only $265 per farmer per year, while agricultural research spending added another $140.”
Read more here!
North Carolina State University Extension Service has a useful collection of resources about farmers markets. Consumers can locate their nearest market through the local food directory. Other marketing resources are aimed at vendors of all experience levels, from a getting started guide to a publication that will help you sell your whole truckload.
Today there are over 8,500 farmers markets nationwide, a 50% increase in the last five years. They play a key role in our local communities, and benefit both producers and consumers.
Read more here!
Do plants bleed after a cut?
A researcher from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources looked into this and solved one of the mysteries of plant biology. After a cut, a plant directs nutrients to the incision to section the area off and protect the rest of the plant. This is similar to what happens with clotting in the human body.
A plant transmits information and minerals through holes in the cell walls, which is called plasmodesmata. Plasmodesmata is guarded by a glucose-like wall, which constrict and open the passages to control the flow within a plant’s cells.
The research was conducted by Weier Cui for her Ph.D. thesis, it was published in the journal Nature Plants.
Read more here!
A segment of the US horticultural industry focuses solely on producing new varieties of ornamental plants. The new flowers, trees and shrubs being developed are beautiful, but adaptability testing is often an afterthought. Species that thrive in a greenhouse may end up being poorly suited for nurseries.
This is why consumers need accurate and impartial information about new ornamental plants in order to make economic and environmental choices. A collaborative research project “SERA-027” studied and rated new ornamental plant varieties. They were able to identify several superior plants that are currently being underutilized. The factors they looked at include cold hardiness, heat tolerance, growth rate, environmental adaptation limits, and other qualities.
SERA-027 was funded in part through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Read more about the project here!
Potatoes are one of the top three vegetable crops in the Eastern United States. The NE-1031 research project aims to help potato farmers by fostering the development of improved potato varieties. The researchers facilitate collaboration between researchers, farmers, and bring the scientific innovations to the field.
The NE-1031 project was supported by the Multistate Research Fund and USDA NIFA.
Read more about the research project here!
The NCERA-193 research project aimed to create an integrated pest management system (IPM) for in nurseries, landscapes, and urban forests.
Nurseries are the fastest growing portions of the American agriculture industry. This amounts to $147 billion each year to the economy, and it supports over 600,000 workers.
This project reduced health threats to workers and brought together scientists to create IPM solutions faster.
The NCERA-193 project was supported by the Multistate Research Fund, which is apart of the United States Department of Agriculture.
Read more about the research project here!
The Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis is storing rainwater to be dispersed during the dry season to winemakers. This recyclable water helps make the winemaking process more available while also protecting natural resources.
UC Davis hosted a symposium called “The Basics of Tea: Tea and People” on the cultural significant of tea as apart of its tea education program.
The program also created a center for the study of tea culture with plans to make UC Davis a leader in tea research.
A University of Illinois Extension educator recommends container gardening for people without outdoor availability for plants.
As long as a container is able to hold water and has drainage pathways available, it can be used to grow plants.