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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.