NIFA Update May 16

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                           May 16, 2019

Making a Difference

Close up of young and old farmers holding carrots. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Close up of young and old farmers holding carrots. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Building a Better Carrot

The U.S. organic industry continues to grow, with sales of organic food reaching $45 billion in 2017 and the number of organic farms estimated at over 14,200, an 11 percent increase in one year. Organic carrots increasingly make up a larger share of the overall carrot production.

Growing carrots organically isn’t easy, however, given the extensiveness of the major diseases and pests and the cost of managing weeds. More than 80 percent of U.S. carrot acreage is infested with one or more common pests of diseases: root-knot nematodes, Alternaria leaf blight, and other foliar and storage diseases, such as cavity spot. The future of organic carrots, therefore, relies on the development of effective, non-chemical methods for addressing these challenges, including managing weeds.

“Organic farming takes a whole-systems approach to addressing plant nutrition and challenging weeds, disease, and pests,” says Micaela Colley, program director for Organic Seed Alliance. “In important ways, organic growers rely on the genetic characteristics of the seed they plant even more than other growers, since most pesticides and fertilizers are not allowed under organic regulations. That is where plant breeding comes in.”

Seed provides growers the genetic tools to confront day-to-day challenges in the field. Enter the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture project. The first publicly funded organic carrot breeding project in the U.S. and the USDA’s Organic Research and Extension Initiative grant program recently awarded the project a second round of four-year funding. Read the full Carrot Country article beginning on page 4.



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2020 NERAOC Topics Due by June 28

University of Missouri and Lincoln University will host the 2020 National Extension and Research Administrative Officers Conference (NERAOC), April 19-22 in St. Louis, Missouri. As planning gets underway for the 2020 conference, the National Planning Committee is seeking your valuable input and ideas for potential sessions and speakers, use the online form to suggest topics. Topics will be accepted until June 28th. If you have any questions or need assistance, contact any of NIFA’s NERAOC Coordinating Committee members Sharon LumpkinErin Daly, or Lisa Read.

Revisions to the FY 2019 Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program RFA

Formerly the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI)

The Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program supports projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by providing incentives at the point of purchase. Read the full Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program request for applications.

News for You

Image of wheat field, by Penn State University.

Interdisciplinary Research Project on Water and Agriculture Launches Website

Water for Agriculture, a Penn State-led interdisciplinary research project funded by NIFA, has announced the launching of its website. The project aims to address the water and agriculture issues that matter most to communities through effective stakeholder engagement.

“Our purpose is to transform the way scientists, the cooperative extension system, technical services providers, agency officials, engagement practitioners, and communities can collaboratively approach critical water and agricultural issues,” said Kathy Brasier, Penn State University professor of rural sociology in the College of Agricultural Sciences and the project’s principal investigator. “The website is one tool that we plan to use to share information and build our network of collaborators.” Read the full NIFA blog.

Image of wheat field, by Penn State University.


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Revision to Non Land Grant College of Agriculture (NLGCA) Definition

Invitation to Request NLGCA Designation

Federal Register on May 16 published a notice entitled "Designation as a Non Land Grant College of Agriculture.”

Section 7102 of the Agriculture Act of 2018 revises the definition of a Non Land Grant College of Agriculture and requires the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) ensure compliance with the revised definition by proposing revocation of Non Land Grant designations where prior designees do not comply with the new NLGCA definition. All institutions certified prior to December 21, 2018 must reapply for certification and meet the new criteria for NLGCA certification. NLGCA designation satisfies the eligibility requirement for the Capacity Building Grants for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture program. Read the full Federal Register Notice.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $5.2 Million to Advance Food Manufacturing Technologies

NIFA recently awarded six integrated research, education, and extension grants that will advance the nation’s food manufacturing technologies and improve its global competitiveness. Advanced food manufacturing encompasses engineering, processing technologies, packaging, sanitation, high-speed automation, robotics, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and quality/safety inspections. New technologies can streamline logistics, extend shelf life, minimize food waste and loss, and utilize by-products toward better environmental and economic sustainability. Innovative food manufacturing technologies will produce new or improved food products with increased nutrient value, safety, and quality, improve energy, and water use efficiency. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $8.1 Million to Improve Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production

NIFA recently awarded 21 Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production grants that will advance development of publicly available cultivars bred to improve the production efficiency, yield, sustainability, resilience, healthfulness, product quality, and value of U.S. agricultural plants while increasing farmer profitability and exports. The awards include both classical and genomics-enabled plant breeding research focused on pre-breeding and germplasm enhancement, cultivar development, selection theory, and applied genetics. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.