NIFA Update Dec. 12

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                           Dec.12, 2018

Making a Difference

4-H students compete at Texas Tech G.E.A.R. Photo courtesy of Prairie View A&M University.

4-H Agrobotics Shifts Perception of Agriculture

By Cynthia Pierfax

“The kids enjoyed the contest incredibly!” 4-H Parent Christopher Komound said his student was fully engaged at the recent Texas Tech G.E.A.R. (Get Excited About Robotics,) competition. The Prairie View A&M University’s Cooperative Extension 4-H and Youth Development program is committed to redefining the perception of Agriculture for Texas youth by incorporating 21st Century skills into programming such as AgRobotics. Through AgRobotics, 4-Hers learn new and exciting 21st Century and employable skills. This year, PVAMU 4-H and the Brazos Valley County Fair partnered to bring Texas Tech’s G.E.A.R. contest to Brazos County area youth. Read the full Prairie View A&M University story.

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 1890 Extension Formula Program projects under Section 1444.

4-H students compete at Texas Tech G.E.A.R. Photo courtesy of Prairie View A&M University.


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Career Opportunity

NIFA is recruiting for the position of Director of Communications. This is a crucial leadership position for NIFA. The position is posted on USA Jobs and the NIFA website under Careers. The job announcement NIFA-M18Y-0515 is open to current permanent federal employees with competitive status and NIFA-S18Y-00514 open to all U.S. citizens. All applications must be received by Dec. 28, 2018.

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USDA Announces Plenary Speakers for the 2019 Agricultural Outlook Forum

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plenary speakers for the 2019 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 21–22, 2019, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

The opening plenary session will feature keynote remarks from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, welcoming comments from Deputy Secretary Steve Censky, and “The 2019 Economic Outlook for Agriculture” presented by USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson. Read the full USDA press release.

News for You

Brown root rot observed on trees in the Marianas. Photo courtesy of Meghan Borja.

Fungus Observed on Marianas Endemic and Fruit Trees

An aggressive fungus known as Phellinus noxius has been widely observed to cause “brown root rot” on trees in many parts of the Asia-Pacific region extending from Malaysia to as far as American Samoa. Experiments pertaining to P. noxius and brown root rot research have been ongoing since 2013 in the regions of Micronesia by USDA Forest Service agents Dr. Phil Cannon and Dr. Ned Klopfenstein involving field surveys and DNA-sequencing methods in hopes to gain a better understanding of climate preferences to potentially predict the distribution of the fungus. On Guam, brown root rot is most often observed on a few particular species of tree that are commonly seen throughout the northern limestone forests, such as the paipai and pengua, which are both endemic to the Marianas Islands; in fact, our pengua is the only Macaranga in the Marianas. In 2016, Dr. Robert Schlub, University of Guam Extension Plant Pathologist, and members of his team, discovered brown root rot on an avocado tree at a residence in Yona. What was interesting about this particular case is that the symptoms were not characteristic of typical P. noxius symptoms. As the progression of the fungus P. noxius continues to endure, our trees succumb to the effects of its disease, depleting their numbers and eliminating their fruit production. Last year, the University of Guam Cooperative Extension Service, published a similar article seeking help from the public to be watchful for potential signs of brown root rot on trees around their homes or when trekking through the jungle. This and other Phellinus-related activities are in part sponsored by the University of Guam, U.S. Forest Service, and NIFA. Read the full Pacific Daily News story.

Brown root rot observed on trees in the Marianas. Photo courtesy of Meghan Borja.


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Report Outlines USDA Technology Innovations

Research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) generated 166 new inventions and 68 patent applications in the 2017 fiscal year, according to a report issued today. USDA research innovations included tornado “safe rooms” built of cross-laminated wood, “sachets” that extend the life of produce, soybean germplasm with heat-tolerant genes, and tires of rubber made from a flowering desert shrub. The annual Technology Transfer Report lists technology produced through research either conducted or supported by USDA. “USDA research not only improves agriculture, but it also creates business opportunities and jobs through innovations affecting all areas of daily life,” said Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics. “This report illustrates why studies show that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns $20 to our economy.” Read the full USDA-REE press release.

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Happy Holidays!

NIFA Update will be going on holiday hiatus after this issue. We will return in the new year, Jan. 9, 2019. Everyone at NIFA wishes you all the best this holiday season.