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Press Release: WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2018 - Report Outlines USDA Technology Innovations

Media Contact:
Damon Thompson
(202) 720-1375


WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2018 – Research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) generated 166 new inventions and 68 patent applications in the 2017 fiscal year, according to a report issued today. USDA research innovations included tornado “safe rooms” built of cross-laminated wood, “sachets” that extend the life of produce, soybean germplasm with heat-tolerant genes, and tires of rubber made from a flowering desert shrub. The annual Technology Transfer Report lists technology produced through research either conducted or supported by USDA.

“USDA research not only improves agriculture, but it also creates business opportunities and jobs through innovations affecting all areas of daily life,” said Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics “This report illustrates why studies show that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to our economy.”

The 434-page report tracks information, tools, and solutions developed through USDA’s agricultural research efforts, including collaborative partnerships with the private sector, and formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreements. The innovations outlined in the report show how these efforts have translated into public-private partnerships that help American agriculture and other businesses compete in the world marketplace.

Science-based innovations from USDA intramural research, often developed through public-private partnerships, create new or improved technologies, processes, products and services. Private sector involvement in technology transfer adds the benefits of creating new or expanded businesses, jobs, and economic prosperity.

The full report is available online at Highlights include:

  • Tornado “safe room” constructed from cross-laminated timber: U.S. Forest Service (FS) engineers have constructed a low-cost safe room prototype out of engineered wood panels that can withstand winds up to 250 mph. They are working to develop a shelter that is ready to assemble, easy to ship, and quick to fabricate. (Page 268)
  • Soybean germplasm with heat tolerance gene: Heat above 90 degrees Fahrenheit damages soybean seeds and creates economic loss for producers in areas where temperatures are consistently high, such as the Mississippi Delta region.  Agriculture Research Service (ARS) scientists released the first U.S. soybean germplasm line that commercial and public plant breeders can use to develop heat-tolerant soybean cultivars for producers. (Page 143)
  • Produce-protecting sachets: With support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Hazel Technologies of Chicago has developed sachets that are the size of a sugar packet that can be tossed in alongside packed produce. The packets emit an ingredient that inhibits ethylene - a natural plant-ripening hormone – which keeps produce looking and tasting better for a couple of weeks versus a couple of days. (Page 389)
  • Guayule-rubber tires: Currently, the U.S. tire industry relies on 100 percent imported natural rubber. ARS and NIFA have supported research to produce passenger tires with rubber made from guayule, a flowering shrub native to the southwestern United States. The result was tires developed by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. that passed both the specified testing by the U. S. Department of Transportation and the more stringent internal industry testing.  (Page 108)

In addition to innovations by ARS, NIFA and FS, the report lists innovations by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Economic Research Service (ERS), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Rural Development (RD).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area is responsible for advancing scientific knowledge related to agriculture through research, extension, and education in food, agricultural, and natural resource science. REE responsibilities are carried out by four agencies: the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the National Agriculture Statistical Service (NASS), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). More information is available online at