NIFA Update Oct. 17

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                           Oct. 17, 2018

Making a Difference

Hydroponic lettuce, image provided by University of New Hampshire.
Hydroponic lettuce, image provided by University of New Hampshire.


UNH Opens Aquaponic Greenhouse Facility to Support Sustainable Agriculture

Story by Lori Wright, UNH

In an effort to support sustainable agriculture, the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has opened a new aquaponic greenhouse facility that aims to provide a model for integrating land-based aquaculture systems with hydroponic plant production that can be used locally and regionally to increase sustainable food production.

“Over half of the world’s seafood is produced from aquaculture. Eighty percent of the seafood we eat in the United States is imported, resulting in nearly an annual $11 billion trade deficit for seafood alone. We need to take control of our food production systems by developing a sustainable, U.S.-based aquaculture industry,” said NH Agricultural Experiment Station researcher Todd Guerdat, assistant professor of agricultural engineering, who is leading the project at the Kingman Research Farm.

Specifically, scientists are investigating how to balance nutrient production from the fish and nutrient uptake by the plants, studying food safety concerns, developing integrated pest management (IPM) solutions, and optimizing the designs based on economic modeling. They plan to demonstrate the results to producers by offering hands-on workshops covering a full range of topics, including hydroponics, aquaculture, and integrated aquaponic system design and operation. This project is supported by NIFA capacity funding.

Read the full University of New Hampshire story.

NIFA News

Plan of Work graphic image

Plan of Work (POW) Redesign – Institutional Profile

The first phase of the new Plan of Work (POW) system, called the Institutional Profile, goes live Oct. 19, in just a few short days. This is one early action to address the recommendations of the 2015 Plan of Work Panel of Experts, which included both research and extension representatives from every region. NIFA personnel have worked with National Extension and Research Administrative Officers Conference attendees and POW system webinar participants from many of the land-grant university partner institutions to ensure that the Institutional Profile’s design will meet the needs of NIFA and LGUs subject to the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act (AREERA) reporting requirements.

NIFA is integrating POW into REEport, as one system, beginning with the 2020 Plan of Work.

New features include:

  • A modernized dashboard to manage AREERA reporting,
  • Streamlined reporting requirements with reduced data entry, and
  • New state-defined critical issues that will organize and help "tell the story" of how we are working together to advance agricultural research and extension across the nation.

Look for additional programmatic guidance for populating the new system to come out shortly. Please refer to the Plan of Work (POW) and REEport Integration: Institutional Profile for more information on this release and the overall integration effort.

NIFA looks forward to working closely with our land-grant partners for the second phase of the POW/REEport integration effort to include the development of an extension program initiation in the REEport system.


NIFA Listens graphic image

RSVP for NIFA’s In-person Stakeholder Listening Sessions  

NIFA wants to hear from you about priorities and opportunities in agricultural science! There are two ways to share your thoughts and ideas: a series of four in-person listening sessions hosted in different regions across the country, and submission of written comments. RSVPs must be submitted no later than Oct. 18 if you wish to attend the next in-person listening session in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Upcoming locations and dates:

Regardless of attendance at in-person events, submissions of written comments will be accepted via the input form through Nov. 30.

To those of you joining us tomorrow at our listening session in New Orleans, we are excited to see you! We really want to hear from you about priorities and opportunities in agriculture! Please join us at one of our in-person listening sessions held in different regions across the country, or submit submit your written comments.

Our next listening session is Oct. 25, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Remember to RSVP by Oct. 18, if you wish to attend. You must complete your RSVP via the input form.

Visit NIFA website for more information.

News for You

New Mexico State University logo

Report Values Economic Impact of NMSU’s College of ACES at $266 Million

An independent report examining the work of New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences calls the college, its Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service systems, “a unique and valuable resource for New Mexico.” The report, produced by consultants from TEConomy Partners of Columbus, Ohio, notes that “together, ACES, the Experiment Station System, Extension and academic programs represent a uniquely pragmatic system, designed to meet very real needs across the state for knowledge and actionable information and dedicated to imparting the skills required to put knowledge into action for the betterment of New Mexico’s economy and society.” TEConomy has evaluated the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and conducted impact assessments for multiple colleges of agriculture, experiment station systems, and/or Extension services in the U.S. including those at Ohio State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Nebraska and University of Missouri. Read the full El Paso Herald-Post story.


Aquaponic and hydrophonic workshop graphic image

United States and Israel Collaborative Research: Safe Recycle of Aquaponics and Hydroponics Water 

Scientists from the University of Illinois and Agricultural Research Organization in Israel are collaborating to reduce the use of water in aquaponics and hydroponics. To prevent plant pathogens from spreading in these soilless environments, water disinfection is required. The researchers found that disinfection with ozone created lower toxic effects than with chlorine. They also found that lower concentration of disinfectants over a longer exposure time created lower toxicity in the recycled water. The results were presented to aquaponics and hydroponics producers in Illinois. Watch the Aquaponic and Hydroponic Workshop on the Illinois Local Food YouTube Channel.


Photo of root rot in lentils by Mary Burrows, MSU. 

MSU Recipient of $3.2 Million USDA Grant for a Better Lentil Crop

Montanans have grown lentils for two decades, at times producing more lentils than any other state. But growers and scientists still have many questions about managing the crop that is said to be uniquely suited for the northern Great Plains and Pacific Northwest. Take root rot, for example. Caused by complex fungi that thrive under dry conditions, it's a major threat to the lentil industry in North America and worldwide. "We are just shooting in the dark on how to mitigate it," said Charlie Cahill of Scobey, a grower and owner-operator of a seed company with his wife, Tammy. Looking for answers, Montana State University (MSU) has received a $3.2 million grant from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. It allows MSU Extension Plant Pathologist Mary Burrows, along with a team of scientists from Montana, North Dakota, and Washington, to conduct a four-year project investigating root rot and effective ways to prevent or overcome it. The multidisciplinary team is composed of agronomists, food scientists, plant geneticists and plant pathologists as well as farmers, industry representatives and other stakeholders from Montana, North Dakota, Washington and Canada. Read the full MSU news story.

Photo of root rot in lentils by Mary Burrows, MSU. 

Award Notification

NIFA Invests Over $6 Million in Food Safety Outreach Programs

NIFA recently announced 31 Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) grants to address the needs of owners and operators of small to mid-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially-disadvantaged farmers, small processors, or small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers. These programs facilitate the integration of Food Safety Modernization Act food safety guidelines into a variety of agricultural production and processing systems. FSOP encourages participants from local communities, community-based and non-governmental organizations, universities, extension, and state and federal agencies to develop and implement food safety outreach programs. In FY 2018, FSOP awards were made under three categories: Regional Centers, which support food safety education, outreach, and coordination across the their regions and the United States; Community Outreach Projects, which support the expansion of current, local food safety education and outreach programs; and Pilot Projects, which foster the development of new, food safety education that addresses the needs of non-traditional, niche, or hard-to-reach audiences.

NIFA invests $4.7 Million in Capacity Building Projects for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture

NIFA recently announced 17 Capacity Building Projects for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture (NLGCA) to enhance research, education, and outreach projects at non-land-grant colleges and universities. These projects will increase the number, quality, and diversity of qualified graduates entering the food and agriculture workforce, as well as support the economic vitality of rural communities by funding new degree programs that emphasize new and emerging employment opportunities. The NLGCA program allows eligible institutions to carry out educational, research, and outreach activities that address priority concerns of national, regional, state, and local interest. Funding can be used to promote food security, food safety and improve production agriculture. Faculty can use the funding to develop curricula and enhance agricultural related programs at their institution. 

NIFA Invests $4.1 Million in IPM Regional Coordination for Crop Protection and Pest Management

NIFA recently awarded four Regional Coordination Program Area grants to provide an Integrated Pest Management Center (IPMC) in each region of the United States. IPMCs increase regional and national coordination of integrated pest management research and extension efforts that address priority pest issues impacting agricultural production, natural resources, and urban areas. IPMCs facilitate local and regional collaboration across states and disciplines to promote the development and adoption of integrated pest management practices through information networks, team building, broad-based stakeholder participation, and enhancement seed grants. These awards are a part of NIFA’s Crop Protection and Pest Management Program.

NIFA Invests $4.7 Million to Address Critical Pest Problems

NIFA recently awarded 16 applied research and development grants to enhance the development, adoption, and implementation of innovative, ecologically-based, sustainable integrated pest management (IPM), technologies, tools, tactics and strategies that address regional and/or national IPM priorities. Among the projects funded include are the use of photobiology and lighting technologies for suppression of powdery mildew in strawberry production, developing techniques for management of Sclerotinia stem rot on soybeans, optimizing lures to detect invasive wood-boring insects, supporting homeowner IPM programs, and variable precision planting for maximizing weed suppression and yield increases in row crop systems. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Crop Protection and Pest Management Program, which addresses integrated pest management solutions for emerging weed, disease, and insect pests.

USDA SBIR Program awards $996,519 in Small and Mid-Size Farms Grants to Small Businesses

The USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, administered by NIFA, recently awarded nine grants to US small business to promote and improve the sustainability and profitability of small and mid-size farms and ranches.

USDA SBIR Program awards $898,544 in Air, Water and Soil Grants to Small Businesses

The USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, administered by NIFA, recently awarded nine grants to US small business to develop and commercialize technologies and innovations for conserving, monitoring and protecting air, water and soil resources while sustaining optimal farm and forest productivity.

NIFA Invests Over $920,000 in Nutrition and Agriculture Service Learning

NIFA recently announced support for five awards that will increase the knowledge of agriculture, improve the nutritional health of children, and increase the capacity for food, garden, and nutrition education. The Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program brings together stakeholders from the distinct parts of the food system and fosters community engagement between farms and local schools. The program complements other farm to school and school nutrition efforts conducted by other USDA agencies. 

Updated Notification – Originally Posted Oct. 10


NIFA Invests $21 Million to Help Boost Organic Farming and Ranching

NIFA recently announced 25 grants that support farmers and ranchers grow and market high quality organic food, fiber, and other products through the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and Organic Transitions Program (ORG). Fifteen OREI grants totaling $17 million helps fund research, education, and extension projects to improve yields, quality, and profitability for producers and processors who have adopted organic standards. Ten ORG grants totaling $4.48 million supports research, education, and extension efforts to help existing and transitioning organic livestock and crop producers adopt organic practices and improve their market competitiveness.