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peach aphid

"BTI Researchers Discover Interactions Between Plant and Insect-Infecting Viruses"
Featured Scientist: Michelle Heck
Title: Molecular Biologist
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Emerging Pests and Pathogens Research Unit
Outlet: Seed World  
Brief: Researchers in Emerging Pests and Pathogens Research Unit, in collaboration with the Boyce Thompson Institute, used small RNA sequencing techniques to better peach aphids and the plant viruses they transmit.


"A New Rubber Source Could Save Water, Preserve Rain Forests And Even Prevent Allergic Reactions"
Featured Scientist: Colleen McMahan, chemist at the ARS Bioproducts Research Unit in Albany, CA and Gene Lester ARS National Program Leader for Nutrition, Food Safety and Quality in Beltsville, MD
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Bioproducts Research Unit
Outlet: Washington Post
Brief: On April 20 at the U.S. Botanical Garden, Gene Lester, ARS National Program Leader for Nutrition, Food Safety and Quality, gave a talk about the Agricultural Research Service's guayule research. Guayule, a desert shrub, is a domestic source of natural rubber.Research chemist Colleen McMahan is ARS's lead scientist for guayule rubber.


"Zojirushi Sponsors a Rice Paddy Growing in NYC"
Featured Research Units: USDA-ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center: Stuttgart, AR  and (former) USDA-ARS Rice Research Unit: Beaumont, TX
Outlet: 21 WFMJ   
Brief: Designed to foster community engagement, Zojirushi America Corp. and LUCKYRICE have installed a living rice paddy at the World Trade Center campus in New York City. Rice varieties include rice from America (Carolina Gold Rice). Carolina Gold is an heirloom rice variety that is credited with the establishment of the U.S. rice industry. ARS labs in Arkansas and Texas have been the provider of purified seed for commercial production of this niche market variety for 15 years.

fresh produce

"Why Frozen Fruit and Veggies May Be Better For You Than Fresh"
Featured Scientist: Gene Lester
Title: Plant Pathologist and National Program Leader
National Program Area: Nutrition, Food Safety, and Quality
Outlet: CNN  
Brief: Dr. Lester discusses the benefits of choosing frozen produce over fresh.


"From Potatoes to Coffee, Plant Breeders are Changing Crops to Adapt to an Uncertain Climate Future"
Featured Scientist: Beiquan Mou
Title: Plant Geneticist  
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Crop Improvement and Protection Research
Outlet: New Food Economy 
Brief: An article on climate change effects on crops mentions research by ARS research geneticist Beiquan Mou to identify the hardiest, most heat-tolerant varieties of spinach and lettuce and isolate their heat-resistant genes.

tomatoes on a dna map

"BTI Scientists Create New Genomic Resource for Improving Tomatoes"
Featured Scientist: James Giovannoni
Title: Molecular biologist
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Laboratory
Outlet: Seed World  
Brief: ARS molecular biologist James Giovannoni with the ARS Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Laboratory and BTI bioinformatics scientist Zhangjun Fei, both in Ithaca, New York, have finished constructing the pan-genome for the cultivated tomato and its wild relatives, mapping almost 5,000 previously undocumented genes.

Crystal McKenna

"The Changing Face of Scientists:  Generation Z"
Featured Facility: USDA-ARS Arid Lands & Agricultural Research Center, Maricopa, AZ
Outlet: TEDx 
Brief: Dr. Crystal McKenna, a former intern of Project Puente, presented a talk at a TEDx event about her experiences at ALARC and its impact on her pursuit in a career in STEM and becoming a scientist. Project Puente is a USDA-NIFA funded project by the Hispanic Serving Institutions Grant Program to Central Arizona College. Several former and current ALARC scientists are mentioned for their involvement with the Project Puente outreach activity that the location has been involved with for many years.



“Psyllid Movements Revealed Via Gut Content Analysis”
Featured Scientist: W. Rodney Cooper
Research Units USDA ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory
Outlet: Entomology Today
Brief: A new study conducted by USDA and several universities shows the DNA analysis of the gut content of psyllids can identify plants they previously fed on providing clues about the psyllids  movements and possibly enabling producers to predict which crops are at risk.

spotted lanternfly

"New Sequel II System Enables Rapid Characterization of Invasive Pests"
Featured Scientists: Kevin Hackett and Anna Childers at Beltsville, MD; Brian Scheffler at Stoneville, MS;  Brad Coates at Ames, IA; and Scott Geib at Hilo, HI
Research Units: USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory: Beltsville, MD, USDA-ARS Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Unit: Stoneville, MS, USDA-ARS Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research: Ames, IA, USDA-ARS Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research: Hilo, HI
Outlet: PacBio  
Brief: A team of ARS scientists sequenced and assembled a high-quality genome assembly from a female spotted lanternfly (L. delicatula)  using the PacBio Sequel II system. The new USDA assembly is 2-4 times larger, it is 13-63 times more contiguous than previous efforts.

wild peanuts

Peanut Genome Sequenced With Unprecedented Accuracy
Featured Scientists: Brian Scheffler at Stoneville, Mississippi; Steven Cannon at Ames, Iowa; and Baozhu Guo and Corley Holbrook at Tifton, Georgia.
Research Units: USDA-ARS Crop Genetics and Breeding Research, GA, USDA-ARS Crop Protection and Management Research, USDA-ARS Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research, IA, USDA-ARS Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Unit, MS
Outlet: Seed World
Brief: Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their collaborators have produced the clearest picture yet of the complex genomic history of the cultivated peanut. The effort is a continuation of the “International Peanut Genome Initiative” and involves scientists from four ARS laboratories and other partner organizations in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, China and India.


"From Apples to Popcorn, Climate Change Is Altering the Foods America Grows"
Featured Scientist: Anna McClung 
Title: Center Director  
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center
Outlet: New York Times

Brief: Dr. McClug was interviewed about rice production.


rose mite

"Study Sheds Light On Major Disease In Roses"
Featured Scientist: Gary Bauchan  
Title: Research Geneticist  
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Soybean Genomics & Improvement Labatory
Outlet: Morning Ag Clips
Brief: A study by researchers at the ARS Electron and Confocal Microscopy Unit and their colleagues produced stunning, high-resolution images that, for the first time, identified the mite’s “hiding spots” deep within rose flowers and leaf buds. Gary Bauchan, who is director of the unit, is the study’s corresponding author. Co-authors include ARS researchers from the National Arboretum’s Floral and Nursery Plants Research Unit also located in Beltsville.


A ring of different colored carrots

“Not All Carrot Germplasm is the Same — In Terms of Salinity Tolerance”
“To Secure the Future of Food, Look to the Ancestors of Eggplant”
Featured Scientist: Philipp Simon
Title: Plant Geneticist   
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Vegetable Crops Research Unit
Outlet: Seed World / NOVA
Brief: ARS researchers in conjunction with University of Wisconsin studied the response of diverse carrot germplasm to salinity stress and defined screening criteria for assessing salt tolerance.

Flowers on an ʻōhiʻa tree.

"Insights On Pbs Hawaii Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death"
Featured Scientist: Lisa Keith
Title: Plant Pathologist  
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research Unit
Outlet: Insights on PBS Hawaii
Brief: Dr. Lisa Keith and her University of Hawaii collaborator, James Friday, were interviewed by PBS Hawaii about Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, a new species of fungi killing trees on two islands.

Tubers infected with zebra chip disease

“Learning To Live With Less Water”
Featured Scientist: Emile Elias  
Title: Hydrologist, Acting Director of SW Climate Hub
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range
Outlet: Futurum
Brief: Futurum, a magazine and online platform in the UK aimed at inspiring young people to follow a career in the sciences, asked Dr. Elias to be the subject of an article and activity sheet sent to approximately 50,000 schools worldwide in March. Dr. Elias used this opportunity to talk about the USDA Southwest Climate Hub and the Climate Hub network.

Tubers infected with zebra chip disease

“Identification of a New Haplotype of ‘Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum’ in Solanum tuberosum
Featured Scientist: Kylie Dale Swisher Grimm
Title: Research Associate
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Yakima Agricultural Research Laboratory
Outlet: Plant Disease (The American Phytopathological Society)
Brief: Dr. Swisher Grimm published a paper that was chosen as the ‘Editor’s Choice’ for the March edition of the American Phytopathological Society. This acknowledges Dr. Swisher Grimm’s excellent service to growers and into the potato industry as well as providing additional information to those researchers working with the zebra chip pathogen.


“Something Is Rapidly Killing Young Apples Trees In North American Orchards. Scientists Are Stumped”
Featured Scientist: Ruhui Li
Title: Plant Pathologist
Research Unit: USDA-ARS National Germplasm Resources Laboratory
Outlet: Science Magazine
Brief: A research team that included ARS plant pathologist Ruhui Li of the National Germplasm Resources Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, discovered a previously undescribed apple luteovirus infecting dead trees.


"National Small Grains Collection Makes Cover of Crop Science"
Featured Facility: National Small Grains Collection
Research Unit: Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit
Outlet: Crop Science  
Brief: Barley accessions from the USDA ARS National Small Grains Collection made the cover of the latest issue of Crop Science.

Tim Gottwald

Featured Scientist: Timothy Gottwald
Title: Plant Pathologist
Research Unit: USDA-ARS U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory
Brief: ARS scientist Tim Gottwald at the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, FL, received two awards at two international meetings. Dr. Gottwald was made a Fellow of the International Organization of Citrus Virologists and he received the IRCHLB (International Research Conference on Huanglongbing) award. These two meetings were attended by over 500 participants from over 20 countries.

Photo courtesy of Michael Alvarez, Alvarez Photography


“Improving Fruit Quality in Strawberries”
Featured Scientist: Kimberly Lewers
Title: Plant Geneticist
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Genetic Improvement for Fruits & Vegetables Laboratory
Outlet: Vegetable and Specialty Crop News
Brief: At the North American Strawberry Growers Symposium Conference in Orlando, Florida, Dr. Kim Lewers discussed strawberry breeding research and her methods for improving fruit quality.

 Mary Nichols

"Healthy Rangelands: Control Gullies, Control Brush, Save Grasslands!"
Featured Scientist: Dr. Mary Nichols
Title: Research Hydraulic Engineer
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center
Outlet: Edge of Science (University of Arizona)
Brief: Old water control structures create drastic impacts on grasslands. Mary Nichols researches these structures and their roles in the formation of gullies in rangelands which convert them into predominately hosting brush.

Lisa Ainsworth

“Elizabeth Ainsworth to receive the 2019 NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences”
Featured Scientist: Dr. Elizabeth Ainsworth
Title: Research Molecular Biologist
Research Unit: USDA-ARS Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit
Outlet: National Academy of Sciences
Brief: Elizabeth Ainsworth will receive the 2019 NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences. Ainsworth led the evolution of the SoyFACE Global Change Research Facility, where she serves as lead investigator. Ainsworth was among the first to use functional genomic and metabolomics approaches to understanding mechanisms of response to global change and has recently used quantitative genetic approaches to dissect plant responses to these changes.

"Congress Approves a $43 Million USDA Facility on Auburn University’s Campus"
Featured Facility: USDA-ARS National Soil Dynamics Laboratory
Research Unit: Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit
Outlet: NBC News WLTZ
Brief: Auburn University received $43 million in federal funding backed by Sen. Richard Shelby for a new agricultural science facility to improve food production in Alabama. The funding, approved by Congress, will help build a new USDA Agricultural Research Soil Dynamics lab on the University’s campus. Paul Patterson, Dean of Auburn’s College of Agriculture, explains how this new lab will transform agriculture in Alabama.


“Schumer announces $68.9 million for USDA grape lab at Cornell AgriTech”
Featured Facility: Grape Genetics Research Laboratory
Research Unit: Grape Genetics Research Unit
Outlet: Cornell Cals / Ithaca Voice
Brief: U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Feb. 26 $68.9 million to build a new federal grape genetics research lab at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, New York. The funds will come from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Building and Facilities budget.