NIFA Update Sept. 19

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                        Sept. 19, 2018

Making a Difference

Utah forest image. Photo by William Anderegg
Utah forest, photo courtesy of William Anderegg.

Diverse Forests are Stronger against Drought

Diversity is strength, even among forests. In a paper published in Nature, researchers led by University of Utah biologist William Anderegg report that forests with trees that employ a high diversity of traits related to water use suffer less of an impact from drought. The results, which expand on previous work that looked at individual tree species’ resilience based on hydraulic traits, lead to new research directions on forest resilience and inform forest managers working to rebuild forests after logging or wildfire. 

Surprisingly, says Anderegg, a forest’s hydraulic diversity is the predominant predictor of how well it can handle a drought. “We expected that hydraulic traits should matter,” he says, “but we were surprised that other traits that a lot of the scientific community have focused on weren’t very explanatory or predictive at all.” This research was funded by NIFA’s Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, Ecosystem Services and Agro-ecosystem Management program. Read the full University of Utah story.


USDA logo

USDA Provides Additional Food Options to SNAP Participants Impacted by Hurricane Florence

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a waiver that will allow participants in the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in North Carolina to buy hot foods with their benefits through Oct. 31, 2018.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue emphasized the importance of the waiver, noting that many North Carolina residents evacuated to shelters cannot store food and are lacking access to cooking facilities as a result. “As the state of North Carolina works to recover from this storm, USDA stands ready to provide common-sense flexibilities to help them meet the needs of their citizens,” Perdue said. Read the full USDA press release

National Geographic logo

Why Gene Editing Is the Next Food Revolution

A new technique has the potential to change the foods we eat every day, boosting flavor, disease resistance, and yields, and even tackling allergens like gluten—and scientists say they're working only with nature's own tools.

NIFA’s Dr. Shing F. Kwok helped develop the Crispr infographic. Read the full National Geographic article to see the infographic. 

News for You

Interdisciplinary Iowa State University team. Photo by ISU.

ISU Researchers to Develop Innovative Mathematical Models for Agriculture

An interdisciplinary team at Iowa State University is trying to bridge the gap between agronomy and engineering to increase efficiency and reduce uncertainty for a range of key agricultural issues. The group will apply innovative machine-learning and mathematical modeling to plant breeding and farm management practices. Their research will help farmers and crop breeders make more informed decisions by applying new techniques to perennial problems. Read the full Iowa State University article

From left: Lizhi Wang, William Beavis, Guiping Hu and Sotirios Archontoulis make up an ISU research team applying engineering approaches to plant breeding, farm management and other agricultural issues. Photo by Nicholas Fetty.

Brad Allred photo by David Naugle.

New Technology for Landowners and Resource Managers Revolutionizes Rangeland Monitoring

America’s vast western grazing lands produce food for the nation, recreation revenues for local communities, and habitat for wildlife. This widespread use makes it a challenge to track how vegetation has fared over time. To meet this challenge, the Rangeland Analysis Platform (RAP) provides the first-ever vegetation cover maps for rangelands from the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean. Created by the University of Montana in partnership with USDA and U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), RAP provides trends in rangeland resources, from 1984 to present, at the ranch, county, and watershed scales. Read the full USDA blog.

Brady Allred, the app’s creator, said the online platform provides the first-ever annual vegetation cover maps, which are designed to help improve America’s rangelands. Photo by David Naugle.

Award Notifications

NIFA Invests $8 Million for Research on Pests and Beneficial Species in Agriculture

NIFA recently awarded 21 grants for Pests and Beneficial Species research to help manage pests and beneficial species that affect agricultural crops. NIFA investments help to develop better strategies to foster beneficial insects and microbes that have potential to combat pests. Funded grants support research to promote beneficial organisms associated with pests, as well as to better understand the fundamental mechanisms that inform interactions between plants, pests, or beneficial species. This research will lead to innovative, environmentally-sound strategies to manage agricultural pests and beneficial species. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).