USDA Grants $3 Million to Address Food Security and Hunger through Improved Plant Health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $3 million in grants designed to mitigate crop losses by arthropods and diseases. The awards to support research, education, and extension efforts were made through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), which is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“These grants will increase our knowledge of plant systems and the various biological factors, such as arthropods and diseases, that affect plant productivity,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “This will enable the U.S. agriculture industry to mitigate critical challenges in areas such as food security, sustainability, bioenergy, climate change, and an increasing global competition.”

NIFA made the awards through the AFRI Food Security challenge area, which seeks to increase sustainable food production. Priority was given to projects that will improve prevention, early detection, rapid diagnosis, or recovery from new, foreign, or emerging plant diseases, arthropods, or nematodes that have the potential to cause major impacts on food security. NIFA made additional awards in April 2015 through the AFRI Food Security challenge area that focuses on minimizing livestock losses to pests.

Examples of funded projects include a grant to Pennsylvania State University to develop online tools, information products, and expert commentary for detection and management of new, foreign, or emerging pests; a project at the University of Idaho to respond to Globodera, an invasive nematode pest threatening the potato crop; and a grant to the University of Georgia to improve control of Sorghum halepense, an extremely invasive, noxious weed.

The fiscal year 2014 Mitigating Crop Losses awards include:

  • Auburn University, Auburn, Ala., $150,000
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., $50,000
  • University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $887,795
  • University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, $474,906
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $49,835
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa., $1,400,000

The purpose of AFRI is to support research, education, and extension work by awarding grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of food and agriculture. AFRI is NIFA’s flagship competitive grant program authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill and supports work in six priority areas: 1) plant health and production and plant products; 2) animal health and production and animal products; 3) food safety, nutrition and health; 4) bioenergy, natural resources and environment; 5) agriculture systems and technology; and 6) agriculture economics and rural communities.

By Jennifer Martin, USDA NIFA

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