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NIFA Awards Speciality Crop Grants and Pre/Post-Doc Fellowships

October 22, 2011

On October 14,  Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the award of 29 grants across 19 states to develop science-based tools to address the needs of America’s specialty crop industry.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants, totaling $46 million, through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).

SCRI supports the specialty crop industry by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops.  Specialty crops include fruits, vegetables, nuts, and horticulture and nursery crops.

The projects funded address research and extension needs for crops that span the entire spectrum of specialty crops production, from researching plant genetics to improving crop characteristics; identifying and addressing threats from pests and diseases; improving production and profitability; developing new production innovations and technologies; and developing methods to respond to food safety hazards.

There are several grants among the awards that support projects working to create more sustainable food systems:

  • North-South Institute, Davie, Fla., $284,106 – This project will link small scale producers to sustainable market opportunities for ethnic specialty crops.
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., $2,044,335 – This project will address bird damage to blueberries, cherries, wine grapes, and apples and will provide producers with cost-effective, environmentally sustainable bird management strategies.
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Wyndmoor, Pa., $5,739,966 – This project will develop economically and environmentally sustainable pest management practices for the brown marmorated stink bug.

The entire list of SCRI awardees can be found here.

Fellowship Awards

Along with the SCRI grants, NIFA also awarded 54 fellowships to pre- and post-doctoral students in the first class of NIFA Fellows on October 20.  The fellowships are intended to train and develop the next generation of agricultural, forestry and food scientists.  The goal of the fellowship program is to support the intellectual talent needed to meet the challenges facing the nation’s agriculture, natural resource, and food systems, through helping pre- and post-doctoral students develop their careers as researchers, educators, and innovators.

Several fellowships were granted to individuals working on projects pertaining to the development of sustainable agricultural systems.  For instance, a project at Washington State University will assess whether variation in temperature and precipitation affect landscape-wide natural enemy biodiversity and resulting pest densities, and then determine if reduced-input farming practices might reverse climate-based degradation of predator biodiversity and restore natural pest control.

Also of note, a Penn State project will examine how the largest global retailer, the Walmart Corporation, has increased its supply of regionally-produced fruits and vegetables and how these changes in procurement patterns affect producers.  In addition, it will analyze whether regional sourcing increases the availability and accessibility of fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income consumer.

The full list of NIFA fellowships can be found here.

Categories: Grants and Programs, Local & Regional Food Systems, Research, Education & Extension

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