Fresh from the Field, Feb. 8, 2018

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Fresh from the Field is a weekly album showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Editor: Falita Liles                                                                                                   Feb.8, 2018

Success Stories

Photo credit Jordan Gross and Philippe Vidon Fresh from the Field

Removing Nitrate for Healthier Ecosystems

Nitrogen can present a dilemma for farmers and land managers. On one hand, it is an essential nutrient for crops. On the other, excess nitrogen in fertilizers can enter groundwater and pollute aquatic systems. This nitrogen, usually in the form of nitrate, can cause algal blooms. Microbes that decompose these algae can ultimately remove oxygen from water bodies, causing dead zones and fish kills.

In a new study, University of North Carolina (UNC) researchers identified nitrate removal hotspots in landscapes around agricultural streams. “Understanding where nitrate removal is highest can inform management of agricultural streams,” said Molly Welsh, lead author of the study. “This information can help us improve water quality more effectively.”

NIFA supports this research through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Read the full story at the Soil Science Society of America. Photo credit Jordan Gross and Philippe Vidon.

News Coverage 

Photo by UW Madison Fresh from the Field

Sequencing the Potato Beetle Album Genome

The Colorado potato beetle is notorious for its role in starting the pesticide industry and for its ability to resist the insecticides developed to stop it. Managing the beetle costs tens of millions of dollars every year, but this is a welcome alternative to the billions of dollars in damage it could cause if left unchecked.

To better understand this tenacious pest, a team of scientists led by University of Wisconsin-Madison entomologist Sean Schoville sequenced the beetle’s genome, probing its genes for clues to its surprising adaptability to new environments and insecticides. The new information sheds light on how this insect jumps to new plant hosts and handles toxins, and it will help researchers explore more ways to control the beetle.

NIFA supports this research through Hatch Act funding.

Read the full article at UW Madison CAL News. Photo credit UW Madison.

The Library 

USDA photo by Alice Welch Fresh from the Field

Studying a Mass Media Health Campaign's Reach and Effect on Obesity 

The combined overweight and obesity prevalence in American Samoa currently stands at roughly 94 percent, making American Samoa the most overweight and obese country in the world. That obesity rate is directly associate with the high prevalence of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases. Health educators from American Samoa Community College partnered with TVZK, the local public television station, to broadcast the HBO series The Weight of the Nation, in the first widespread, continual health communications and social marketing campaign to combat the problem locally. All viewers who responded to a survey reported increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity and about 47 percent of residents reported growing the highly nutritious, edible laupele in home vegetable gardens.

NIFA supports this research through Hatch Act funding.

Read the article at the National Conference on Health Care Communication, Marketing, and Media. USDA photo by Alice Welch. 


Photo credit G Rowsey UTIA Fresh from the Field Feb 8

No-Till Cotton in Tennessee

Cotton, a major crop grown in the Southeast, leaves very little residual biomass after harvest. Without a crop covering the ground, soil exposure can lead to erosion from winter rains and runoff. To remedy this situation, producers have steadily adopted no-till agriculture as a way to save topsoil and reduce soil erosion in their fields.

Chris Boyer and other researchers from the University of Tennessee (UT looked at the data from the past 29 years to determine whether including cover crops in an erosion management strategy is profitable. They found that while cover crops can cut into profitability over the short term, there are a number of benefits over long-term adoption. "The benefits are accumulated and it takes a number of years before you see them," said Boyer.

The study found that conventional tillage practices result in higher profits than no-till practices; however, continuous no-till planting reduces risk exposure by decreasing yield variability.

NIFA supports this project with Hatch Act funding.

Watch the video from UT. Photo credit G. Rowsey/UT.

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