NIFA Update Nov. 21

Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.

NIFA Update Banner

Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                         Nov. 21, 2018

Making a Difference

Measuring water-use efficiency. Tony Studer's method speeds up the process significantly. Photo courtesy of University of Illinois.

Measuring water-use efficiency. Tony Studer's method speeds up the process significantly. Photo courtesy of University of Illinois.

Breeding Corn for Water-Use Efficiency May Have Gotten Easier

With approximately 80 percent of our nation's water supply going towards agriculture, it's fair to say it takes a lot of water to grow crops. In a climate with less predictable rainfall patterns and more intense droughts, scientists at the University of Illinois (U of I) are working to reduce water consumption by developing more efficient crops.

In their current study, Tony Studer, assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I, and his colleagues developed a new method to screen hundreds or even thousands of plants without the need for time-consuming field measurements.

The method, which tests leaf samples in the lab, measures the carbon in carbon dioxide, which exists in two forms in the atmosphere: a more-abundant and lighter form (12C) and a less-abundant and heavier form (13C). After entering through leaves, plants convert carbon dioxide into sugars. Scientists can then measure the amounts of 12C and 13C. For many plants, the ratio of 12C-to-13C is indicative of their water-use efficiency. But until now, scientists didn't know if the ratio could reliably reflect water status in corn. Studer's study shows it can. Read the full University of Illinois story. NIFA supported this research.


From left to right: Dr. Virginia M. Moxley, Dr. Caroline E. Crocoll, Dr. Rick Lewis, and Dr. Judy Harrison.

APLU Presents 2018 Board on Human Sciences Awards

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) Board on Human Sciences (BoHS) presented the 2018 Board on Human Sciences Awards Nov. 12 at the APLU Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

The awards support the development and stewardship of academic excellence in human sciences; advocate for visibility and leveraging resources to support human sciences research, extension, and teaching programs; and educate leaders regarding the capacity of the human sciences to solve human problems. The honors are part of the broader BoHS mission of promoting the intellectual integrity and stature of the human sciences at APLU-member institutions.

This year, the 2018 Ellen Swallow Richards Public Service Award was presented to Dr. Caroline E. Crocoll, NIFA's director of the Division of Family and Consumer Sciences and acting director of the Division of Youth and 4-H at NIFA. The award honors a nationally-recognized leader who has a significant history of promoting and advancing the human sciences.

  • 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Virginia M. Moxley, dean emerita of the College of Human Ecology at Kansas State University.
  • 2018 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award: Dr. Rick Lewis, professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and director of the Bone & Body Composition Laboratory at the University of Georgia.
  • 2018 Outstanding Engagement Award: Dr. Judy Harrison, professor in the Department of Foods & Nutrition at the University of Georgia.

From left to right: Dr. Virginia M. Moxley, Dr. Caroline E. Crocoll, Dr. Rick Lewis, and Dr. Judy Harrison.

USDA-ARS scientists identifying bacterial pathogens. USDA photo by Peggy Greb.

USDA Works to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance

Scientists from USDA developed the tools to mass produce penicillin, which was used for treating wounded soldiers over 70 years ago during World War II. Antibiotics are still important in treating microbial infection in humans, animals, and plants. However, microbes can develop resistance to some antibiotics, making them less effective. USDA agencies continue to work on numerous issues related to antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). NIFA has invested more than $30 million since 2013 to support transdisciplinary systems-based research, education, and extension projects on AMR. NIFA grantees further extend AMR knowledge and expertise by partnering and collaborating with colleagues at universities and colleges, in the private and public sectors, and in non-governmental organizations at the national and international levels. Read the full USDA story.

USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists identify bacterial pathogens in the lab. Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA

News for You

Daniel J. Robison, new dean of Iowa State University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Photo by ISU.

Iowa State Names Next Endowed Dean of Ag and Life Sciences

Dr. Daniel J. Robison from will be the next endowed dean of Iowa State University’s (ISU) College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and director of the Iowa Agricultural and Home Economics Experiment Station.

Robison is currently dean of West Virginia University's Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design and director of the West Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station. He will begin his tenure  at Iowa State on March 31, 2019. “Dr. Robison has the vision, leadership experience, and land-grant spirit to further strengthen the college’s international reputation for excellence in teaching, research and extension,” said ISU President Wendy Wintersteen. “In partnership with our students, faculty, staff, and the agricultural community, he will advance the college’s mission of creating a better, more sustainable future for Iowa and the world.” Read the full Iowa State University story.

Iowa State University graphic logo

Iowa State Scientists Earn NIFA Award for Drainage Research

Two Iowa State University (ISU) scientists and a USDA research partner have received a national honor for their roles in a multistate research collaboration to find solutions to water quality challenges related to agricultural drainage. NIFA presented its 2018 National Excellence in Multistate Research Award to the group officially known as the North Central Extension Research Activities 217 Committee on Drainage Design and Management Practices to Improve Water Quality. The received the award Nov. 11 at the annual meeting of the Association of Public Land Grant Universities in New Orleans. Read the full Iowa State University story.


USDA Invests to Support Military Veterans Pursuing Farming and Ranching Careers. USDA photo of U.S. Navy Veteran Jason “JT” Tucker by Lance Cheung.

USDA Supports Veterans Who Pursue Farming and Ranching Careers

NIFA announced six awards to help military veterans pursue farming and ranching careers. Grants are made through NIFA’s Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Competitive Grants Program (AgVets). AgVets provides grants to nonprofit organizations to establish training programs and services to enhance farming and ranching opportunities for military veterans. Read the full NIFA announcement.

USDA Invests to Support Military Veterans Pursuing Farming and Ranching Careers. USDA photo of U.S. Navy Veteran Jason “JT” Tucker by Lance Cheung.

Award Notifications

NIFA Awards Nearly $10 Million to Address Veterinary Shortages

NIFA is distributing $10 million to address shortages in food supply veterinary medicine through two programs: the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) and the Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP). VMLRP awarded $7.1 million to 74 veterinarians working in designated shortage areas to offset their educational loans. The program incentivizes veterinarians to practice in rural communities where their services are desperately needed. This year's awardees will fill shortage areas in 30 jurisdictions (e.g. states, territories), the most in the nine-year history of the program. The National Veterinary Medicine Service Act helps qualified veterinarians offset up to $75,000 of the debt incurred in pursuit of their veterinary medicine degrees in return for three years of service in certain high-priority areas. VSGP granted $2.5 million in to qualified entities (e.g., academic institutions, veterinary practices) to support activities and programs to relieve veterinary shortage situations. Veterinarians are critical to America’s food safety and security, as well as to the health and well-being of both animals and humans.

NIFA Supports Programs for At-Risk Children, Youth, and Families

NIFA announced seven  grants that support and equip at-risk children, youth, and families with the skills they need to lead positive, productive, and contributing lives. Funding is made through NIFA’s Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk Sustainable Community Projects (CYFAR SCP) program. Through CYFAR, NIFA marshals resources of the land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Systems (CES) so they may develop and deliver educational curricula. At-risk communities include those with children and families coping with military deployments, violence, obesity, poverty, poor school achievement. The seven awardees will receive $880,000 the first year and up to $7,260,000 over a five-year period. In addition, NIFA awarded one CYFAR Professional Development and Technical Assistance (PDTA) grant was awarded with initial funding amount of $872,900 and a four-year total of up to $3,422,900. CYFAR-PDTA provides professional development and technical assistance to CYFAR SCP to ensure continued development and implementation of the programs


SBIR Awards $2.8 Million to Develop Commercial Innovations

USDA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, administered by NIFA, recently awarded five grants to U.S. small businesses to increase sustainability and profitability of farms and ranches. The awards will help develop plant, animal, organic, and natural products; enhance farm safety; increase operation efficiency; and conserve natural resources.


SBIR Awards $1.7 Million for Forest and Related Resources

The SBIR program recently awarded three grants to U.S. small businesses to focus on the health, diversity, and productivity of forests and grasslands. Projects will sustain forest resources, address climate variability impacts, develop value-added materials, and protect existing ecosystems.


SBIR Awards $1.1 Million to Develop Innovations in Aquaculture

The SBIR program recently awarded two grants to U.S. small businesses to increase reproductive efficiency and improve genetics in fish and shellfish; enhance animal health, food safety, production efficiency, and cost-effective production of alternative proteins; and reduce water usage.


SBIR Awards $1.6 Million for Animal Production and Protection

The SBIR program recently awarded three grants to U.S. small businesses to develop and market innovative technologies to help agriculture animal producers improve production efficiency, prevent diseases and outbreaks, conserve resources, and reduce costs of production.