NIFA Update March 28

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                         March 28, 2019

Making a Difference

Matthew Jones, Washington State University.

Matthew Jones, Washington State University.

Food Safety: Dung Beetles and Soil Bacteria Reduce Risk of Human Pathogens

Food safety regulations increasingly pressure growers to remove hedgerows, ponds and other natural habitats from farms to keep out pathogen-carrying wildlife and livestock. Yet, this could come at the cost of biodiversity. New research published in the Journal of Applied Ecology encourages the presence of dung beetles and soil bacteria at farms as they naturally suppress E. coli and other harmful pathogens before spreading to humans.

Wild and domesticated pig faeces have been known to contaminate produce in the field, leading to foodborne illnesses. Wild, or feral, pigs especially pose a risk of moving around pathogens as farmers cannot control where or when these large animals might show up.

Matthew Jones, who led the research as part of his doctoral project at Washington State University, said, “Farmers are more and more concerned with food safety. If someone gets sick from produce traced back to a particular farm, it can be devastating for them. As a result, many remove natural habitats from their farm fields to discourage visits by livestock or wildlife, making the farmland less hospitable to pollinators and other beneficial insects or birds,' he added. Dung beetles bury feces below ground and make it difficult for pathogens to survive. Read the full Laboratory Equipment article.

NIFA funded this research through the Organic Transitions program.



NIFA graphic identifier

Plan of Work and REEport Integration Update

NIFA deployed the most recent release to the Institutional Profile on March 22, 2019. The enhancements provide the necessary functionality to support the 2020 Plan of Work (POW) reporting process.

The release provides two key features particularly relevant to our partners’ ability to complete and submit their 2020 POW reports. The first major feature enables our land-grant partners to manage roles within the Institutional Profile. Land-grant institutions may administer system access to ensure the right individuals have the appropriate access to meet the 2020 POW report deadline of June 1, 2019. The second feature relates to the alignment of NIFA’s Science Emphasis Areas (SEAs) with state-defined critical issues. This alignment will facilitate further integration activities with REEport information collection, improve data quality and integrity, and provide a more clear connection between state-defined and NIFA priorities.

A third highlight pertains to the addition of new extension sites to the REEport system. REEport site administrators from 1862 and 1890 land-grant university (LGU) sites will soon be assigned to the newly created extension sites affiliated with their institutions. The creation of these sites and administrator assignments are in anticipation of the extension program initiation reporting that will be required later this year. NIFA encourages LGU deans and directors to work together to determine who will be the most appropriate site administrator to manage future REEport roles for these extension sites. The assigned site administrator will have the ability to manage the access and roles as decisions are made.

For more information visit Plan of Work and REEport Integration: Institutional Profile and Plan of Work and REEport Integration: Frequently Asked Questions for more information on this important initiative. For questions contact

Louise Brunelle, EFNEP educator from University of Vermont Extension, conducts a hands-on healthy cooking class . Photo courtesy of UV Extension.

EFNEP at 50: Half a Century of Improving Health, Well-Being

Millions of Americans struggle every day to make ends meet, and every day there are people helping them to lead healthier lives.

For 50 years, educators from the nation’s land-grant universities have brought EFNEP – the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program – to low income Americans, giving them the tools they need for better eating and health. Through the shared leadership of NIFA and program directors nationwide, EFNEP’s educators provide tailored lessons on diet quality and physical activity, food resource management, food safety, and food security to meet the specific needs of their respective program participants. Read the full USDA blog.

Louise Brunelle, EFNEP educator from University of Vermont Extension, conducts a hands-on healthy cooking class to program participants. Photo courtesy of University of Vermont Extension.

NIFA Webinars

Alfalfa Seed and Alfalfa Forage System Program RFA Webinar

An Alfalfa Seed and Alfalfa Forage System (ASAFS) Program RFA webinar is April 4 at 2 pm EDT. Staff will discuss the 2019 RFA and answer questions. No need to register, just follow the ASAFS webinar link to join. ASAFS supports region-based, integrated research and extension projects to expand the use and acreage of alfalfa through increased alfalfa forage or seed yields, forage quality, and profitability. Applications for 2019 awards are due April 19. Contact NIFA National Program Leader, Ann Marie Thro, for more information.

Higher Education Challenge Grants Program Webinar

NIFA is hosting a webinar, April 10 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. EDT, for applicants interested in the FY 2019 Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program. No need to register, just follow the HEC Webinar link to join. Call-in number 1-888-844-9904, access code 204 647 3. Contact NIFA National Program Leader, Dr. Joyce Parker, for more information. HEC focuses on improving formal, baccalaureate, or master’s degree level food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences education and first professional degree level education in veterinary medicine. More information about the HEC funding opportunity is available on NIFA’s website

Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program Webinar

NIFA will hold an informational webinar April 3, at 2 p.m EDT., to provide information regarding the Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Education Grants Program’s Fiscal Year 2019 Request for Applications. No need to register, just follow the HIS webinar link to join. Call-in number 1-888-844-9904 and conference access Code: 975 526 3. Contact NIFA National Program Leader, Dr. Irma Lawrence, for more information.

News for You

Scott Cagle stands in front of the iconic stables at Lone Oaks Farm.

UT Extension Welcomes New Director to Lone Oaks Farm

University of Tennessee (UT) Extension has named a new director for Lone Oaks Farm, the 4-H Youth Development and Conference Center in Middleton, Tennessee. Scott Cagle took the helm March 1 and will oversee the working farm, which also serves as a site for hands-on agriculture, STEM education, and recreation opportunities.

Lone Oaks Farm encompasses 1,200 acres of pastures, woodlands, and lakes. While 4-H camps, field trips, and STEM education programs are already taking place here, Cagle will be responsible for supervising the construction of the 4-H STEM and Farm Center and 4-H camp facility as well as expanding educational opportunities. Additionally, there are plans to complete a shotgun clay target shooting complex, a hospitality complex, and an adult leadership center. Read the full UT announcement

Scott Cagle stands in front of the iconic stables at Lone Oaks Farm. Photo courtesy of UT Extension. 

RFA Announcements

Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program

This competitive grants program promotes and strengthens the ability of Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI) to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences. Programs aim to attract outstanding students and produce graduates capable of enhancing the nation's food and agricultural scientific and professional work force. Learn more about the HIS request for applications.

Children, Youth, and Families at Risk Sustainable Community Projects

The Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) funding program improves the quality and quantity of comprehensive community-based programs for at-risk children, youth, and families. Supported by the Cooperative Extension System, CYFAR marshals the resources of the Cooperative Extension System and land-grant universities to develop and deliver educational programs that equip limited resource families and youth with the skills they need to lead positive, productive, contributing lives. Learn more about the CYFAR request for applications.

Potato Breeding Research

This grant program supports potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) research programs that focus on varietal development and testing and potato varieties for commercial production. As used herein, varietal development and testing is research using conventional breeding and/or biotechnological genetics to develop improved potato varieties. Learn more about the Potato Breeding program request for applications.