NIFA Update Jan. 10

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                      Jan. 10, 2018

Making a Difference

Jim Westwood, professor at Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences examines Dodder plant. Image provided by Virginia Tech.
Jim Westwood, professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences examines Dodder plant. Image provided by Virginia Tech.

How Parasites Hack Victims to Seize Control of Genes in Plant-To-Plant Warfare

Dodder, a parasitic plant that levies millions of dollars' worth of damage on crops each year is a stealthy invader with the ability to wage war on the genes of its host plants. The assailant utilizes a highly sophisticated method of disarming its victims involving cross-species gene manipulation that has never before been seen from a parasitic plant. Understanding dodder's covert communications weaponry system, which operates much like a computer virus, could provide researchers with a method to engineer parasite-resistant plants.

A paper describing the research by a team of scientists from Virginia Tech and Penn State appeared this week in the journal Nature.

"The big news is that we now have evidence of a function for RNA that is being exchanged between dodder and its quarry," said Jim Westwood, professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, an author of the paper. Read the full Science Mag article.

NIFA News

AFRI Physiology of Agricultural Plants Project Directors Meeting

AFRI Physiology of Agricultural Plants Project Directors Meeting

 

NIFA will host the annual AFRI Physiology of Agricultural Plants Project Directors (PD) Meeting before the Plant and Animal Genome (PAG XXVI) Conference, Jan. 12 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Town and Country Resort and Hotel & Convention Center in San Diego, California. The PD meeting brings together awardees to share the progress of their projects, identify current research needs, potential collaborations, and we receive updates on any program priorities and NIFA news. The meeting booklet, which includes links to awardee progress reports, is available upon request. Contact Agnes Hong for more information.  

News for You

Nebraska 4-H education team member Ashley Goodman helps 4-H students

Nebraska 4-H Supports Positive Youth Development for Military Families

For military families, constant relocation and deployments are a way of life. These circumstances can lead to numerous challenges when it comes to positive youth development. To support these families, Nebraska 4-H, along with 4-H Clubs across the United States are active on military installations across the country and around the world.   

According to the NIFA, there are 1.9 million children with a parent serving in the military. Research suggests that children of deployed parents experience more stress than their peers. Active duty installations, the National Guard and Reserves partner with the nation’s land-grant universities to provide youth a safe environment with consistency in belonging through 4-H. Read the full University of Nebraska-Lincoln article.

 

Image caption: Nebraska 4-H education team member Ashley Goodman helps Tiana(left) and Joshua apply lotion to their hands during a healthy lifestyle activity during a 4-H session at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. 
(Haley Apel - IANR Media)

In Memory

Wilma Jean Brand

Jean Brand, passed away, Dec. 20, in Columbia, Missouri. Jean came to USDA in 1961 to join the Federal Extension Service. She worked in the National and International Information and Education Capacities until her 1979 retirement as Director and State/Regional Communications Liaison for the Science and Education Administration.  Read the Coeur d’Alene Press Obituary






RFA Grant and Award Announcements

NIFA Announces Support for Crop Breeding Research

NIFA announces support for Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) to speed the development of new crop varieties. Funding is made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which seeks to address challenges in food and agricultural sciences through research, extension, and education opportunities.  

EAGER is established jointly among NIFA, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Biological Sciences Directorate, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom to foster the development of breakthrough technologies for advancing crop breeding. Additionally, EAGER addresses the barriers to improving crop varieties, such as producing hybrids, understanding recombination, and epigenetic inheritance. This EAGER opportunity invites proposals to overcome these barriers to crop breeding in highly innovative and transformative ways. Read the full request for applications announcement.
  

NIFA Announces Support for Collaborative Robotics

NIFA announced support through the joint National Robotics Initiative (NRI-2.0) to research the development and use of collaborative robots. NIFA’s funding is made through AFRI.  

The NRI-2.0 program is a partnership between NIFA, the NSF, the Department of Defense, and U.S. Department of Energy. It supports foundational research in robotic science and technology. There are four main areas of research to advance the goal of ubiquitous co-robots: scalability, customizability, lowering barriers to entry, and societal impact. Read the full request for applications announcement.

 

NIFA Announces Support for Organic Agricultural Programs

NIFA announced $3.8 million in available funding to address critical issues related to organic agriculture. Funding is made through NIFA’s Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants – Organic Transitions (ORG) program. 

ORG supports the development and implementation of research, extension, and education programs that enhance organic livestock and crop production. Organic agricultural systems provide many ecosystem services, and natural resources stewardship is a key principle in organic farming. Read the full request for applications announcement.

 

NIFA Announces Support for Organic Agriculture Research, Extension, and Education

NIFA announced the availability of $17.6 million in grants focused on organic agriculture research, education, and extension activities. These grants are funded through a competitive process by NIFA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

OREI supports research, education, and extension programs that enhance the ability of producers and processors who have already adopted organic standards to grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. Priority areas include biological, physical, and social science research, including economics. Funded projects will aid farmers and ranchers with whole-farm planning by delivering practical, research-based information to improve their ability to develop an Organic System Plan required for certification. Read the full request for applications announcement.

 

NIFA Announces Support for Small Business Innovation Research

NIFA announced support for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II program. The SBIR program was established under the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 to address scientific problems and create opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits. Additionally, the program stimulates technological innovations in the private sector and strengthens the role of federal research and development in support of small businesses.
 
The SBIR program is carried out in three separate phases. Phase I determines the scientific or technical feasibility of ideas submitted by applicants on research topic areas solicited. Phase II require a more comprehensive application, outlining the proposed effort in further detail. Phase III’s focus is to stimulate technological innovation and return on investment from research carried out in Phases I and II. Read the full request for applications announcement.

 

NIFA Announces Support for Agricultural Science Education in Insular Areas

NIFA announced support for projects that strengthen food and agricultural science education in insular areas of the United States. Funding is made through three NIFA programs: 

  • Resident Instruction Grants Program for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas, which work to strengthen institutional educational capacities in instruction and curriculum within a broadly defined arena of food and agricultural sciences-related disciplines,
  • Distance Education Grants for Institutions of Higher Education in Insular Areas, which support projects to improve formal, post-secondary agricultural sciences education through distance education technology, and
  • Agriculture and Food Sciences Facilities and Equipment program, which supports the construction or upgrade of agriculture and food science facilities and equipment necessary to conduct tropical and subtropical agricultural research. 

Read the full award announcement