NIFA Update March. 7

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                         March 7, 2018

Making a Difference

Blackberries image from Pixabay
Blackberries image from Pixabay

Spinach Protein, Blackberry Dye Give Juice to Biohybrid Solar Cells

Plants convert solar energy to chemical energy at a global rate of 90 terawatts through photosynthesis. Scientists at Vanderbilt University discovered that combining a natural dye from blackberries with photosynthetic proteins extracted from spinach leaves creates a device that can produce vastly more voltage than a solar cell made from spinach protein alone. Biohybrid solar cells that incorporate natural materials can become a cost-effective source of electricity if their energy is increased. The technology is at an early stage, comparable to silicon solar cells of 30 to 40 years ago that were limited to powering electronic watches and calculators. Read the full Vanderbilt University article.


NIFA Annual report image

NIFA’s 2017 Annual Report Now Online

 NIFA’s 2017 Annual Report: “User Inspired Science, Transforming Lives,” has been published. This year’s report highlights the exciting work undertaken by NIFA-funded grantees in the areas of research, education, and extension.

As our director, Sonny Ramaswamy, notes in his introduction, “Our partners are transforming agricultural production systems in environmentally responsible ways, mitigating the impacts of extreme weather, advancing the bioeconomy, and ensuring that fiber and nutritious foods are produced in ways that are sustainable, safe, and accessible for consumers here and abroad. The many NIFA-supported educational programs nurture the next generation of farmers, livestock producers, scientists, and other professionals needed in food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences. I am excited about the future of our nation’s food and agricultural systems.”

The 2017 annual report is available online.

Antimicrobial Resistance Discussion

Antimicrobial Resistance group image

NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy participated on the “Innovation and the Fight Against Superbugs” panel discussion. The briefing was at capacity, with about 100 Congressional staff members in attendance. NIFA’s Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) focus is to study the role of agriculture in antimicrobial resistance, reduce potential negative impacts from the use of antibiotics, and identify alternative strategies for mitigating AMR in the food chain. The goal is to reduce or negate any potential negatively adverse impact of antimicrobials used in agriculture that may have potentially adverse effects on the treatment of human diseases. Antimicrobial resistance-related projects are currently funded through the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) Foundational Program (Animal Health; Food Safety) and the Food Safety Challenge Area.

Since FY 2012, seven research projects and three conference grants have been funded through AFRI’s “Effective Strategies for Mitigating Antimicrobial Resistance” program. In addition to AFRI funding, NIFA has also funded both competitive and non-competitive projects on antimicrobial resistance through Hatch and Evan’s Allen programs, the National Research Initiative's program, and the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative Competitive Grants Program to improve understanding of AMR.

The moderator of the panel was Allan Coukell, Senior Director of Health Programs, The Pew Charitable Trusts, with welcoming remarks by Paul Auwaerter, President, Infectious Diseases Society of America. The panelists were: Anne Schuchat, Acting Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Rick Bright, Director, Biomedical Advances Research and Development Authority; and Sonny Ramaswamy, Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

News for You

Our Farms, Our Future Conference

Four Weeks Until the Our Farms, Our Future Conference!

Today's conversations shape tomorrow's thoughts and actions. In April, the Our Farms, Our Future Conference will bring hundreds of stakeholders from the sustainable agriculture community to St. Louis, Missouri to have important conversations about the future of our food system. Participants in this exciting, once-in-a-decade event will attend engaging plenary panel sessions featuring USDA leaders, food systems experts and innovative farmers and ranchers. Register today to take part in this extraordinary event. Registration closes on March 27, so grab your spot while you can!

RFA Grant and Award Announcements

NIFA Announces Support for Educational, Workforce Development in Agri-Science

NIFA announced support to enhance post-secondary educational programs in food and agricultural science. Funding is made through NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program. 

HEC Grants Program seeks to improve formal baccalaureate and master’s degree programming in food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences (FANH) education and first professional degree-level education in veterinary medicine. Projects may improve the economic health and viability of communities through the development of degree programs emphasizing new and emerging employment opportunities. They may also address the national challenge to increase the number and diversity of students entering the FANH sciences. Read the full request for applications announcement

NIFA Announces Funding Opportunity for Innovations in Food, Energy, and Water Systems

NIFA announced funding to understand how interactions across the food, energy, and water systems nexus are likely to affect the world, and how to proactively plan for increased resilience. This is a joint federal research partnership between NIFA and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy and Water Systems (INFEWS) supports a systems approach to research that incorporates social, behavioral, physical, natural, and biological processes. Project outcomes should transform the understanding of the connections between food, energy, and water systems to produce new technologies and improve decision support. Read the request for applications announcement