Secretary Vilsack Announces $36.5 Million for Specialty Crop Research and Extension Investments

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced 19 grants totaling $36.5 million for research and extension to support American farmers growing fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops including floriculture. The grants are funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“America’s specialty crop farmers face many challenges ranging from a changing climate to increasing production costs. Investing in cutting edge research helps uncover solutions to keep their operations viable and ensures Americans have access to safe, affordable and diverse food options,” said Vilsack. “The universities, state departments of agriculture and trade associations that partner with USDA address challenges at the national and local levels to help sustain all parts of America’s food and agriculture system, whether the farms are small or large, conventional or organic.” Continue reading

USDA Calls for Residents to Check Trees in August, Help Find and Eradicate the Asian Longhorned Beetle

NOTE: This pest so far is not in any states in the southern region, but several states in the Southeast have a suitable habitat for it.

August is Tree Check Month, the peak time of year when the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) can be found, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is asking residents to help eradicate this invasive pest by looking for signs in their trees. APHIS and local agricultural departments need to be made aware of any infested trees and new outbreaks so they can be quickly contained to keep the beetle from spreading.

The Asian longhorned beetle has the potential to destroy millions of acres of America’s treasured hardwoods, including maple, birch, elm, willow, ash and poplar trees, and others. The beetle is slow to spread on its own during the early stages of an infestation, so early detection and reporting is critical to containing it. People can also help by not moving firewood, which can transport the beetle hidden inside to new areas. Continue reading

Zika Surge in Miami Neighborhood Prompts Travel Warning

In the New York Times

by Pam Belluck

Federal health officials on Monday urged pregnant women to stay away from a Miami neighborhood where they have discovered additional cases of Zika infection — apparently the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people not to travel to a place in the continental United States.

Florida officials said the number of Zika cases caused by local mosquitoes had risen to 14 from the four announced on Friday: 12 men and two women. They declined to say whether either woman was pregnant. All of the cases have been in one neighborhood. Continue reading

Tips for being successful with your fall garden

Janet Hurley, Extension specialist and School IPM specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife, included an article in her School IPM newsletter last week about creating a school garden. The information in the article was really useful for anyone who wants to plant a fall garden, even at home, so I thought I would use the information in her article and make it applicable to an urban audience. If you’re a teacher and plan to create a garden at your school, be sure to read her article.

If you’re planning on turning your summer garden into a fall garden, before you begin planting, there are certain things you want to consider. First, if your garden is overgrown with weeds, and you’re planning to apply herbicides, be sure that you and your children stay out of the area for at least 4 hours. At home I usually wait at least a day before I walk on the area again. Continue reading

Could a Zika epidemic start in your state? Absolutely

Michael Merchant, Extension Entomologist for Texas A&M AgriLife, shares the story of a Texas pest management professional who contracted Zika while on a mission trip in Dominica.

More than 1600 cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S. so far, but until last week all of these had been in travelers–people who caught the virus somewhere else and brought it here.  As of last week, however, the picture is changing.  Last week four cases among people who had not traveled outside of their town were reported from north Miami in south Florida.  In an alarming development for Miamians this morning, 10 new locally acquired cases were reported today, likely signaling the first home grown epidemic of Zika infection in the U.S. All cases so far have been restricted to the north Miami neighborhood of Wynwood.

Could this happen in Texas, or other states?  Absolutely. Continue reading

APHIS Seeks Input on Draft International Phytosanitary Standards

The International Plant Protection Convention has posted for comment draft international phytosanitary standards on the following topics:

APHIS urges U.S. stakeholders to review and submit comments. Submit comments no later than Friday, August 26. You can download the draft standards from the IPPC consultation site or by clicking the links above. Specific instructions for submitting comments are available on the APHIS Web site. For more information contact Marina Zlotina at Marina.A.Zlotina@aphis.usda.gov. Continue reading