• Food securityThe 100th meridian, where the Great Plains begin, shifting eastward

    In 1878, the American geologist and explorer John Wesley Powell drew an invisible line in the dirt—the 100th meridian west, the longitude he identified as the boundary between the humid eastern United States and the arid Western plains. Now, 140 years later, scientists that the line appears to be slowly moving eastward, due to climate change. They say it will almost certainly continue shifting in coming decades, expanding the arid climate of the western plains into what we think of as the Midwest. The implications for farming and other pursuits could be huge.

  • Food securityClimate change could increase food insecurity risk

    Weather extremes caused by climate change could raise the risk of food shortages in many countries, new research suggests. The study examined how climate change could affect the vulnerability of different countries to food insecurity – when people lack access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

  • Food securityEngineering crops to conserve water, resist drought

    Agriculture already monopolizes 90 percent of global freshwater—yet production still needs to dramatically increase to feed and fuel this century’s growing population. For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25 percent without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants.

  • Antibiotics & food“Zero not an option”: Antibiotic use in agriculture

    In November 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) took a significant step in its campaign to address the crisis of antibiotic resistance, calling for an overall reduction in the use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals. The WHO recommendations included a complete restriction on the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals, a step that has already been taken by several countries and is not considered particularly controversial. Although the use of antibiotics for growth promotion has long been a practice in animal agriculture, it has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, both from the scientific community and the wider public. But the WHO also recommended that farmers stop using medically important antibiotics for preventing diseases that have not been clinically diagnosed — and that, one expert says, is where things start to get a little tricky.

  • Water securityWith glaciers disappearing, will water become scarce?

    There are around 200,000 glaciers worldwide. They play a central role in the water cycle, particularly in the middle and low latitudes, by offsetting runoff fluctuations. Rivers are lifelines on which billions of people depend worldwide, either directly or indirectly. The world’s largest rivers begin in glaciated mountain regions. Climate change may cause many glaciers to disappear. Will water become scarce? Will the Alps, the Himalayas, the Rocky Mountains and the Andes continue to act as water towers? Climate change is a global problem with local consequences. If the international community succeeds in restricting the temperature rise to an acceptable level via contributions from each individual member, the effects may be mitigated. Many glaciers would still shrink significantly even with major climate protection efforts, but the consequences for water resources would be more moderate.

  • Food safetyFDA indefinitely delays enforcing 4 FSMA provisions

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that, for now, it will not enforce four rules related to the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a law passed in 2011 that signaled the biggest overhaul in the U.S. food safety laws in seventy years. The provisions the FDA does not intend to enforce include aspects of the “farm” definition, requirements related to written assurances from a manufacturer’s customers, requirements for importers of food contact substances, and requirements related to certain human food by-products for use as animal food within three of FSMA’s rules that relate to human and animal food safety, foreign supplier verification, and growing standards for human food.

  • Food securityPredicting the effect of climate change on crop yields

    Scientists now have a new tool to predict the future effects of climate change on crop yields. Researchers are attempting to bridge two types of computational crop models to become more reliable predictors of crop production in the U.S. Corn Belt. “One class of crop models is agronomy-based and the other is embedded in climate models or earth system models. They are developed for different purposes and applied at different scales,” says the principal investigator on the research. “Because each has its own strengths and weaknesses, our simple idea is to combine the strengths of both types of models to make a new crop model with improved prediction performance.”

  • Food safetyGaps in FDA food recall process

    A new report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was lacking when it came to following food recall protocols. Timeliness, or lack thereof, was the theme of the HHS’s report.

  • Food securityNortheast farmers face warming climate, drenched fields

    For the past two decades, the Northeast has been getting warmer for longer periods of time. It also has seen a 71 percent increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation events – more than any other region in the United States. Farmers in the Northeast are adapting to longer growing seasons and warming climate conditions – but they may face spring-planting whiplash as they confront fields increasingly saturated with rain.

  • MegadroughtsThe odds of a megadrought in western, southwestern U.S.

    In the southwestern United States, water management is a top concern. If a megadrought occurs, large-scale water management decisions affecting millions of Americans must be made to protect agriculture, the ecosystem and potable water systems. Understanding the odds of a widespread megadrought becomes important for planning purposes. To help untangle fact from speculation, climate scientists have developed a “robust null hypothesis” to assess the odds of a megadrought – one that lasts more than thirty years – occurring in the western and southwestern United States.

  • Animal diseaseS&T funds training of the next generation of animal health experts

    Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) are highly contagious with high morbidity and mortality. These diseases quickly cross-national borders, negatively impacting a country’s economic stability and public health by reducing exports, food quality and quantity, and the availability of livestock products and animal power. They pose serious threats to a country’s well-being, and scientists around the world are continuously investigating new methods to prevent their spread. This past summer, DHS S&T funded two programs — Texas A&M University’s Bench to Shop program and Kansas State University’s Transboundary Animal Disease Fellowship — to train the next generation of animal health experts.

  • Food securityNOAA-funded effort to better predict droughts

    On average, droughts cost an estimated $9 billion in damages every year in the United States, according to NOAA. A single drought in 2012, which spread across the U.S. and brought very dry conditions to Michigan, caused some $32 billion in damage nationwide, mostly due to widespread harvest failure. Scientists work to develop a better system to predict droughts.

  • Food securityMillions may face protein deficiency as a result of human-caused CO2 emissions

    If CO2 levels continue to rise as projected, the populations of eighteen countries may lose more than 5 percent of their dietary protein by 2050 due to a decline in the nutritional value of rice, wheat, and other staple crops. Researchers estimate that roughly an additional 150 million people may be placed at risk of protein deficiency because of elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is the first study to quantify this risk.

  • Livestock diseaseHelping prepare for livestock disease outbreaks

    The United States is the world’s largest producer of beef. In 2015, the latest year data is available, the beef industry was valued at $105 billion Protecting millions of cattle from potential disease outbreaks is thus a crucial part of our nation’s economic security, as well as a public health priority. Two new web-based tools funded by the DHS S&T are making it easier for public officials and livestock farmers to predict cattle shipments and prepare for potential disease outbreaks.

  • Food securityFarming practices require dramatic changes to keep pace with climate change

    Major changes in agricultural practices will be required to offset increases in nutrient losses due to climate change. To combat repeated, damaging storm events, which strip agricultural land of soil and nutrients, farmers are already adopting measures to conserve these assets where they are needed. Researchers investigating nutrients in runoff from agricultural land warn that phosphorus losses will increase, due to climate change, unless this is mitigated by making major changes to agricultural practices.