NIFA Update Aug. 8

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                           Aug. 8, 2018

Making a Difference

Jay Speirs Auburn University image
Jay Speirs with Auburn University.

Agricultural Research Grants Address Cost, Efficiency

Cost and efficiency are high on the list of concerns for Alabama farmers and equally high on the list of priorities for Auburn University researchers. The Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station’s (AAES) Production Agriculture Research (PAR) grants program, now in its second year, is committed to finding timely solutions to problems that may prevent the state’s farmers from being profitable.

Administered through AAES with NIFA’s Hatch funding and matching state appropriations, the PAR program is funding nine research projects this year, with a total commitment of $446,138. “These projects address needs identified by farmers, commodity groups, and other agricultural stakeholders in Alabama, and cost and efficiency are at the top of everyone’s list,” said Henry Fadamiro, associate dean for research for the College of Agriculture and associate director of the AAES. Read the full Auburn University article


Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue

USDA Invests $345.5 Million in Rural Electric Infrastructure to Improve Service in 14 States

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently announced that USDA is investing $345.5 million in 20 infrastructure projects to improve rural electric service for more than 1 million residential and commercial consumers in 14 states.

“Delivering reliable and affordable electricity to power rural America will help lay the groundwork for increased rural prosperity and economic opportunity,” Secretary Perdue said. “USDA is partnering with rural electric utilities and cooperatives so they can continue to invest in infrastructure improvements to provide electric power to those who live and work in rural areas.”

USDA is making the investments through the Electric Infrastructure Loan Program. Read the full USDA press release.

Typical premature whitening of a wheat head infected with the fungus that causes Fusarium head blight. Photo by USDA-ARS

Employing Wheat's Bacterial Partners to Fight a Pathogen

Fusarium head blight is a devastating fungal disease affecting wheat and barley crops worldwide. According to the American Phytopathological Society, this disease has cost U.S. wheat and barley farmers more than $3 billion since 1990. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service scientists, together with land managers and other scientists at research universities, are taking a variety of approaches to solving this problem. These include breeding resistant cultivars, using massive disease-forecasting models and applying fungicides during critical junctures in crop growth to prevent fusarium head blight. Recently, many scientists have also become interested in the idea of employing microbial species that already live on and inside crop plants to do the dirty work of controlling disease epidemics. Read the full USDA blog.

Typical premature whitening of a wheat head infected with the fungus that causes Fusarium head blight. Photo by USDA Agricultural Research Service.

News for You

Classroom image provided by PVAMU

Empowering Students is the Solution

It is no longer enough for students to be knowledgeable on the subject matter of a particular major, they must also empowered with the soft skills necessary to enhance their employability. Prairie View A&M University’s Cooperative Agricultural Research Center teaches students effective oral communication by hosting mock oral and poster research symposiums. With globalization having a profound effect on education, the active and reflective application of knowledge that innovates better prepares students to compete in their future careers. Because the exercise focuses on practicing public oral presentation, the symposiums expose students to opportunities that promote the productive exchange of ideas and findings in research specific forums as well as non-scientific communities. Read the full PVAMU article.

Award Announcement

Farmer holding a box of produce.  Photo by GettyImages

NIFA Invests $21 Million to Encourage Low-Income Families to Buy Healthy Food

NIFA announced 24 grants totaling $21 million to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants increase their purchases of fruits and vegetables by providing incentives at the point of purchase. The funding comes from the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.
FINI is a joint program between NIFA and USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and is responsible for evaluating the impact of the variety of incentive programs that are deployed by FINI grantees. The program brings together stakeholders from different parts of the national food system to improve the nutrition and health status of SNAP households. The FINI program supports a wide range of small pilot projects; multi-year community programs; and multi-year, large-scale initiatives. Read the full award announcement

Award Notification

NIFA Invests Nearly $500,000 to help Small Businesses Ensure Healthy and Productive Forest Ecosystems

NFA recently awarded five research grants under the Forest and Related Resources topic area of the USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. Including qualified small businesses in the nation's R&D arena that stimulates high-tech innovation. SBIR strengthens the United States entrepreneurial spirit as it gains specific research and development needs. These early stage innovation grants focus on protecting the nation’s forested lands and resources to help ensure the continued existence of healthy and productive forest ecosystems. Forest and Related Resources is one of 10 SBIR topic areas.