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020912_usdaFarmers and water managers may soon have an online tool to help them assess drought and irrigation impacts on water use and crop development, thanks to the work of two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Martha Anderson and Bill Kustas have developed an evapotranspiration (ET) and drought modeling system at the ARS Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. The modeling system also will help forecasters monitor ET and drought conditions across the United States and overseas.

ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency, and the research supports the USDA priorities of responding to climate change and promoting international food security.

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020812_invasive_plantsOver a decade of research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has resulted in the development of a new matrix for invasive plant management.

The model was created by scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Burns, Oregon, and helps land managers recognize how rangeland degradation processes vary across landscapes. ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency.

Using the model can also increase the success rate of restoring native vegetation on damaged landscapes, which supports the USDA priority of responding to climate change.

Ecologist Roger Sheley synthesized a range of findings from scientific literature and field research to develop the model, which is called Ecologically Based Invasive-Plant Management (EBIPM).

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A new web-based tool developed by Dr. William F. Lazarus, Extension Economist and Professor in the Department of Applied Economics, is now available. The web-based calculator may be used to compare the economic value of manure from alternative manure application rates and methods.

The value is based on crop nutrient needs for a specific field and crop rotation, fertilizer prices, manure hauling costs, manure type and application method.

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020112_cornA specific gene in corn seems to confer resistance to three important leaf diseases, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their university colleagues.

This discovery, published in 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could potentially help plant breeders build disease-resistance traits into future corn plants.

The research team included Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticists Peter Balint-Kurti, Jim Holland and Matt Krakowsky in the agency's Plant Science Research Unit in Raleigh, N.C., and scientists with the University of Delaware, Cornell University, and Kansas State University. ARS is the USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

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Under pressure from farm groups, the Labor Department has agreed to modify a plan that's intended to keep children away from some of the most dangerous farm jobs.

The proposal now will include broader exemptions for children whose parents are part owners or operators of farms, or have a substantial interest in a farm partnership or corporation, officials said. The rules would ban children younger than 16 from using most power-driven equipment and prevent those younger than 18 from working in feed lots, grain bins and stockyards.

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