NIFA Update Sept. 12

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                         Sept. 12, 2018

Making a Difference

Bramblebee autonomous robot. Image provided by West Virginia University.
Bramblebee autonomous robot. Image provided by West Virginia University.

BrambleBee: An Autonomous Robot to Pollinate Bramble Plants


Researchers at West Virginia University have developed an autonomous robot inspired by bees, that can pollinate bramble plants in a greenhouse environment. “BrambleBee” uses state-of-the-art localization and mapping techniques, as well as other tools that enable visual perception, path planning, motion control, and manipulation. NIFA supports this project under the National Robotics Initiative. Read the full TechXplore article


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Hurricane Resources

USDA is prepared to provide food, emergency housing, community, as well as farmer and rancher assistance to individuals and small businesses affected by severe storms and flooding. USDA works with states affected by severe storms and flooding regarding requests for various assistance, waivers, and flexibilities in administering federal nutrition assistance programs. Learn more about USDA disaster resources

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USDA Partners with HHS to Support Rural Communities Combating Opioid Misuse

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that a group of Cooperative Extension partners will have the opportunity to apply for grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help communities combat opioid use disorders. HHS intends to build on successful 2017 and 2018 National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Rural Health and Safety Education projects that focus on opioid abuse.

“With the impact opioid misuse is having on rural America, we cannot build strong, prosperous communities without addressing this crisis,” said Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett. “USDA is committed to working hand-in-hand with rural leaders and fellow mission-driven organizations – including other members of the federal family – to be a strong partner in this battle.” Read the full Southeast AgNet story

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NIFA Listens Initiative Seeks Stakeholder Input

NIFA is soliciting stakeholder input on the emerging needs and opportunities in food and agricultural sciences through the “NIFA Listens: Investing in Science to Transform Lives,” initiative.

These listening sessions are your opportunity to provide feedback on these questions:

  • “In your field, what is the most-needed breakthrough in science/technology that would advance your agricultural enterprise?”
  •  “When considering all of agriculture, what is the greatest challenge that should be addressed through NIFA’s research, education, and extension programs?”
  • “What is your top priority in food and agricultural research, extension, or education that NIFA should address?”


NIFA wants to hear from you about priorities and opportunities in agricultural sciences. This will help inform NIFA on prioritizing science emphasis areas, identifying gaps in programming, and determining which programs are redundant or underperforming. Learn more about NIFA Listens and provide your input.

News for You

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University of Illinois Leading the Way in Global Food Security  

The University of Illinois and the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) are championing efforts to improve the way we produce, enhance and deliver technologies needed to improve our food systems. The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL) at Illinois is improving the entire soybean value chain in Sub-Saharan Africa. SIL provides the evidence-based guidance, knowledge and innovations necessary to sustainably develop soybean production and utilization value chains in developing countries. This important work not only reduces food insecurity in Africa, but also spurs the economic growth necessary to produce a growing market for U.S. agricultural exports. Read the full Agri-Pulse article

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National HSIs Week

Each year, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) calls on Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) to join in observance of HSIs Week. This week recognizes HSIs work throughout the nation in educating and empowering Hispanic youth. This year, HSIs Week is Sept. 17-23, and coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month. Campus activities are encouraged to heighten awareness of the role HSIs play in improving access to education and advancing equity for underserved students. Learn more about HSIs week and how you can celebrate

Award Notifications

NIFA Invests $13.87 Million in Animal Health and Disease Program

NIFA recently awarded 37 animal health grants that advance research to understand, diagnose, control, and prevent diseases of agricultural animals, including horses and aquaculture. Awards focus on new and improved vaccines, diagnostics, current antimicrobial alternatives, breeding disease resistant animals, and understanding better ways to manage animals to minimize disease outbreaks. Enhancing the health of animals increases farmers and ranchers profitability and assures consumers that they have abundant, safe, nutritious, and affordable food animal products. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $6.5 Million in Research in Animal Reproduction

NIFA recently announced 17 Animal Reproduction awards that will lead to better strategies for animal production systems by enhancing reproductive management. These advances will come from basic and applied research on the cellular, molecular, genomic, and whole animal aspects of animal reproduction. NIFA invests into science-based management practices that help America’s agricultural enterprises thrive and meet growing consumer demand. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

USDA SBIR Program Awards $798,986 in Animal Production and Protection Grants to Small Businesses

The USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, which is administered by NIFA recently awarded eight grants to US small business to improve both productivity and efficiency of food animals. The Animal Production and Protection topic area aims to develop innovative, marketable technologies that will provide significant benefit to the production and protection of agricultural animals.

Notification - Updated Sept. 14

NIFA Invests $1.8 Million in Methyl Bromide Transition Research and Outreach

NIFA announced four Methyl Bromide Transition awards that will improve the management of major pests impacting U.S. watermelon production, tomato production, the country ham industry, and the wood products industry. The multi-tactic research and extension outcomes from these awards will result in the development of integrated, sustainable and economically viable management strategies targeting major pests impacting these production systems. The Methyl Bromide Transition program seeks to solve significant pest problems in key agricultural production and post-harvest management systems, processing facilities, and transport systems for which methyl bromide has been withdrawn. These grants are part of NIFA’s Methyl Bromide Transition Program, Integrated Activities.


RFA Announcements

NSF - NIFA Plant Biotic Interactions Program

The Plant Biotic Interactions (PBI) program supports research that mediates beneficial and antagonistic interactions between plants and their viral, bacterial, oomycete, fungal, plant, and invertebrate symbionts, pathogens and pests. This joint National Science Foundation- National Institute of Food and Agriculture program focuses on current and emerging model and non-model systems and agriculturally relevant plants. The program’s scope extends from fundamental mechanisms to translational efforts, with the latter seeking to put into agricultural practice insights gained from basic research on the mechanisms that govern plant biotic interactions. Read the full request for funding announcement