USDA Invests $6.8 Million for Research and Extension Grants on Pollinator Health

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced seven grants totaling $6.8 million for research and extension projects to sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation’s food security and environmental health. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables, are pollinated by honey bees alone,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “With the recent declines in pollinator populations owing to various factors, it is imperative that we invest in research to promote pollinator health, reduce honey bee colony losses, and restore pollinator habitats.” 

AFRI is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. The grants in this announcement were made under the AFRI Food Security Challenge Area. Funded projects address the current problem of declining populations of managed and wild pollinators, such as bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, and bats.

The recipients of fiscal year 2016 AFRI Pollinator Health grants are:

  • Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, $932,284
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology, Ames, Iowa, $999,317
  • Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, $934,489
  • University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, $999,960
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, $999,882
  • The University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, $999,319
  • North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, $934,749

Among these projects, Michigan State researchers will investigate ways to enhance Great Lakes regional landscapes to foster healthy pollinator populations. A North Carolina State University project will investigate the factors that affect the reproductive quality of queen bees and develop a ‘Queen and Disease Clinic’ to help producers and beekeepers generate healthier queens for robust colonies.

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

Secretary Sonny Perdue declared June 19-25 as National Pollinator Week at a June 6 event at the Vice President’s residence in Washington. Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, installed a honey bee hive on the grounds of the residence at the event and encouraged Americans to take similar steps to promote pollinator health.

Between 2008 and 2014, NIFA invested approximately $42 million in competitive grants on research, education, and extension programs on bee health. Among these projects, a team led by Michigan State University researchers is developing sustainable pollination strategies through the Integrated Crop Pollination project, funded by NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative. NIFA also supported the Bee Informed Partnership, a nationwide, extension-led consortium of bee researchers and extension specialists, to gather data from beekeepers such as winter losses and management practices to control pests and diseases. This information will be used to develop best management practices to help produce healthier honey bee colonies.

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