NIFA Update, Dec. 8

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The NIFA Update is a weekly compendium of news and information that may be of interest to Land-Grant and non-Land-Grant Universities, NIFA stakeholders, and other subscribers. Editor: Judy Rude                               Dec. 8, 2016


Success Stories

Study: Restaurants Not Good At Explaining Risks of Undercooked Meat to Customers

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 2013 Model Food Code, it is the duty of a food establishment to disclose and remind consumers of risk when ordering undercooked food such as ground beef. The purpose of this study was to explore actual risk communication activities of food establishment servers. Secret shoppers visited restaurants in seven geographic locations across the United States, ordered medium rare burgers, and collected and coded risk information from chain and independent restaurant menus and from server responses. The majority of servers reported an unreliable method of doneness (77%) or other incorrect information (66%) related to burger doneness and safety. These results indicate major gaps in server knowledge and risk communication, and the current risk communication language in the Model Food Code does not sufficiently fill these gaps. The research was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2012-68003-30155 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The paper, “Assessment of Risk Communication about Undercooked Hamburgers by Restaurant Servers,” was published in Dec. 1 issue, Journal of Food Protection. 


Microbial Traits, not Plants, Determine Abundance of Soil Organic Matter

A team of University of New Hampshire scientists have uncovered evidence that microbial pathways–not plants–are the chief originator of the organic matter found in stable soil carbon pools. The new insight provides promise for designing agricultural systems that promote microbial communities to optimize soil organic matter formation. 

The research was conducted by Cynthia Kallenbach, former University of New Hampshire (UNH) graduate student, her advisor, Stuart Grandy, UNH associate professor of natural resources, and Serita Frey, UNH professor of natural resources. 

Their results were published in Nature Communications journal, "Direct evidence for microbial-derived soil organic matter formation and its ecophysiological controls." The work was supported by the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (DEB-1311501) and the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station through joint funding of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

News from NIFA

Soil Graphic

Fact Sheet: The Obama Administration Announces New Steps to Advance Soil Sustainability

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), in collaboration with federal agencies and private-sector stakeholders, announced new steps to work towards the long-term health and sustainable use of one of America’s most important natural resources: its soil. OSTP is also releasing today a federal framework for soil science, developed in collaboration with more than a dozen Federal agencies, with input from approximately 80 stakeholders from academia, industry, non-profit organizations, and the agricultural community. Read full fact sheet online

Oral Histories

USDA-REE Leadership Oral History Series

As part of the National Agricultural Library’s Oral History project, USDA and the Research, Education and Economics recently released six leadership videos. The individual videos include:  Catherine Woteki, Under Secretary for REE and Chief Scientist (1 of 2); Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for REE; Mary Bohman, Administrator, Economic Research Service, Sonny Ramaswamy, Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture; and Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Administrator, Agricultural Research Service. These oral histories can be viewed on YouTube.

Foundation Offers Matching Funds for Rapid Response to Agricultural Emergencies 

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that supports innovative science, invites groups to self-organize around a commodity or commodities to take advantage of matching funds for emergency research and outreach through the Foundation’s Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program. ROAR provides nimble deployment of funds to support one-year grants in the event of emerging or unanticipated threats to the nation’s food supply or agricultural systems. If and when a threat arises, ROAR consortia may apply for FFAR matching funds and receive a decision within one week. Consortia members may include researchers, extension agents, institutions, commodity and industry representatives, diagnostic laboratories, and relevant state and local government representatives. Pre-establishing expert teams for research and outreach will accelerate first response to agricultural emergencies. When emergency situations arise, response time is critical. ROAR fills the gap until traditional, longer-term funding sources can be secured. Go to FFAR website for more information.

Gale Buchanan

Feeding the World: A Legacy of William Henry Hatch

Dr. Gale A. Buchanan has dedicated his life to agriculture and agriculture research. On Nov. 14, he delivered, “Feeding the World: A Legacy of William Henry Hatch.” This William Henry Hatch Memorial Lectureship was presented at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) in Austin, Tex. He was honored by presenting the 2016 Hatch Memorial Lecture.

His lecture is available on NIFA's website.

SARE publication

Systems Research Handbook: Innovative Solutions to Complex Challenges

As farmers and ranchers strive to maintain profitability, they face a multitude of pressures such as protecting water and air resources, conserving biodiversity and limiting soil erosion. Too often, however, single-faceted agricultural research fails to account for the complex links between critical environmental, social and economic factors. The result? Piecemeal solutions to complex and interrelated problems. 

Now, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education's (SARE) groundbreaking Systems Research for Agriculture provides the theories and tools that researchers and producers need to design and conduct interdisciplinary systems research projects that advance sustainable agroecosystems. Order or download Systems Research for Agriculture now.

CBPR Model in Preventing Overweight and Obesity Among 6-8 Grade Youth in Low-Income Racial/Ethnic Communities Webinar Recording

The Community-Based Participatory Research Model in Preventing Overweight and Obesity Among 6-8 Grade Youth in Low-Income Racial/Ethnic Communities webinar was held Nov. 21. This seminar is part of the Institute of Food Safety and Nutrition (IFSN) Seminar Series. These monthly seminars aim to disseminate new knowledge, engage with partners and stakeholders, and inspire the next generation of food safety and nutrition experts. For full information on the series, visit the seminar webpage and for the CBPR webinar recording.


NIFA Announces $3 Million in Funding for Robotics Research 

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced $3 million in available funding for robotics research, application, and education for agricultural systems that benefit consumers and rural communities. This funding is made available through the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), a federal research partnership that includes NIFA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Defense, and Department of Energy. The RFA deadline is 5 p.m. on Feb. 2, 2017. Visit the NIFA website for more information.



Daniel Schmoldt Retires

Sixteen years after coming to NIFA, Daniel Schmoldt, national program leader in the Division of Agricultural System and the Institute of Food Production and Sustainability, is retiring this month. He has worked with multiple technology-related programs and provided leadership to land-grant universities, national laboratories, industrial partners, and other federal agencies in advanced technology.