USDA Invests $7.6 Million for Research on Pests and Beneficial Species

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced 21 grants totaling $7.6 million for research to help manage pests and beneficial species that affect agricultural crops. The funding is made possible through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“There continues to be a critical need to develop new ways to defend our crops against pests,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “NIFA investments will also help to develop better strategies to foster the beneficial insects and microbes that have potential to combat pests.”

AFRI is America’s flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. This is the first round of grants made under the Pests and Beneficial Species in Agricultural Production Systems area of the AFRI Foundational program. Funded projects support research to promote beneficial organisms associated with pests, as well as to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that inform interactions between plants, pests, or beneficial species. The research is expected to lead to innovative, environmentally-sound strategies to manage agricultural pests and beneficial species.

The recipients of fiscal year 2016 grants are:

  • University of California, Riverside, California, $450,000
  • USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Albany, California, $466,857
  • USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Albany, California, $25,000
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, $474,766
  • University of Georgia Research Foundation, Athens, Georgia, $25,000
  • University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, $149,814
  • University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, $474,825
  • University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, $474,742
  • USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville, Maryland, $470,675
  • University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, $474,679
  • Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Ithaca, New York, $474,071
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, $474,650
  • Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, $382,032
  • The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, $469,220
  • Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, $474,852
  • Gordon Research Conferences, West Kingston, Rhode Island, $10,000
  • Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, $450,000
  • Texas A&M ArgiLife Research, College Station, Texas, $474,852
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, $475,000
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, $18,000
  • Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, $474,850

These projects include a University of New Hampshire project to determine if pesticide seed treatments inadvertently protect weed seeds in the soil from being attacked by naturally occurring invertebrate and fungal species. The University of Georgia is assembling a multi-state team to understand causes of dieback in the Eastern white pine, one of the most valuable conifer species in eastern North America.

Among past projects, a University of Arizona(link is external) researcher is seeking to better understand how the insect-killing nematode (a parasitic thread worm) benefits from symbiotic bacteria. This research may help develop tools to make nematodes more effective insect pest control agents. A Cornell University(link is external) researcher is studying how encounters between insect pests and predatory insects dramatically lower the pests’ appetite for potatoes. The research may lead to new, combined approaches to manage pests.

More information on these projects is available on the NIFA website (link is external).

Related to this funding opportunity, NIFA is partnering with Ireland and Northern Ireland under the United States – Ireland Research and Development Partnership(link is external) to support collaborative research on pests and beneficial species in agricultural production systems. This pilot partnership seeks to leverage fiscal, physical and intellectual resources to facilitate coordinated research that is mutually relevant in all three countries.

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