USDA Invests $17.7 Million in Plant Health and Production Workforce

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 54 grants totaling more than $17.7 million for plant research that helps optimize crop production, mitigate disease, and increase yield. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Plants are the foundation of diet for both humans and animals,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “It is imperative to invest in research to stay ahead of the biological and environmental constraints, and develop new technologies to produce a secure, nutritious food supply for a growing population.”

AFRI is USDA’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. The AFRI program area of Plant Health and Production and Plant Products supports projects on foundational knowledge of agricultural production systems, pests and beneficial species in agricultural production systems, physiology of agricultural plants, and plant breeding for agricultural production.

FY16 Plant Health and Production and Plant Products grants include:

Foundational Knowledge of Agricultural Production Systems

  • University of California, Berkeley, California, $500,000
  • NIFA Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, $400,000
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa, $500,000
  • University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, $500,000
  • Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, $400,000
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, $500,000
  • Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, $500,000
  • Alcorn State University, Lorman, Mississippi, $400,000
  • University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, $461,187
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, $461,187
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, $500,000

Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production

  • University of California, Davis, California, $490,000
  • University of California, Davis, California, $490,000
  • University of California, Davis, California, $25,000
  • University of California, Davis, California, $25,000
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Midwest Area, Peoria, Illinois, $490,000
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa, $490,000
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa, $490,000
  • Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, $150,000
  • University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, $20,000
  • Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, $244,618
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey, $456,727
  • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, $25,000
  • University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina, $490,000
  • Gordon Research Conferences, West Kingston, Rhode Island, $25,000
  • South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota, $244,618
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research, College Station, Texas, $490,000
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, $490,000
  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, $25,000

Physiology of Agricultural Plants 

  • Chapman University, Orange, California, $149,980
  • University of California, Davis, California, $499,995
  • University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, $150,000
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, $24,950
  • Florida International University, Miami, Florida, $116,830
  • University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, $455,000
  • University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, $451,747
  • University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, $410,000
  • USDA Agricultural Research Service, Midwest Area, Peoria, Illinois, $410,000
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, $470,000
  • Louisiana State University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, $499,627
  • American Society of Plant Biologists, Rockville, Maryland, $25,000
  • University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, $499,032
  • University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, $425,200
  • Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma, $135,578
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, $470,000
  • Gordon Research Conferences, West Kingston, Rhode Island, $20,740
  • Gordon Research Conferences, West Kingston, Rhode Island, $18,500
  • University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, $410,000
  • University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, $17,500
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Research, College Station, Texas, $455,000
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, $470,000
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, $410,000
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, $494,390
  • University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, $25,000

Among these FY16 projects, NIFA and a multistate consortium led by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, in response to the commodity board provision in the 2014 Farm Bill, are co-funding Iowa State University researchers to study the use of soil nitrate sensors and genotyping to improve yield prediction models for next generation breeders. Among other projects, Michigan Technological University researchers will investigate novel timber production systems to protect productivity and sustainability of northern hardwoods in the North-Central region. Rutgers University researchers will target cranberry fruit chemistry to develop cultivars for use in healthier, low-sugar products.

More information on these projects is available on the NIFA website.

To date, NIFA has awarded more than $68 million through the PHPPP program. Past projects include a University of Pennsylvania effort to aid plant pollination by producing improved honey bees. A University of Florida project sought to develop drought-resistant peanut cultivars and developed an irrigation scheduling tool.

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