NIFA Update Aug. 1

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

NIFA Update Banner

Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                            Aug. 1, 2019

Making a Difference

American chestnut fruits (Castanea dentata) GettyImages-596073964

American chestnut fruits (Castanea dentata) GettyImages

Scientists Seek to Understand Genomic Variation in American Chestnut to Help Restore it to North American Forests

At the turn of the 20th century, the American chestnut accounted for a quarter of the hardwood trees in some parts of Appalachia. The large tree was a crucial food source, producing nuts that were a staple in the diets of white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and bears.

The characteristics of its wood make it an excellent wood for woodworking. Strong, rot resistant and relatively lightweight, Chestnut coloration is uniquely beautiful among native American hardwoods and has been described as “the tree that built America.”

In 1904, a fungal blight was first discovered on trees in New York City, accidentally introduced from imported Asian chestnut trees. The blight spread quickly. Just a half-century after it was discovered, the blight had all but eradicated mature American chestnut trees from the North American landscape, infecting an estimated 4 billion trees and irrevocably altering Appalachian forest ecosystems.

Now, a $500,000 grant from NIFA will help Virginia Tech Associate Professor Jason Holliday research methods to utilize the genetic diversity of remaining trees as part of broader efforts to introduce disease-resistant American chestnuts to U.S. forests. Read the full VA Tech article.



PECASE awardees Megan O’Rourke, Virginia Tech University and Jennifer Kao-Kniffin, Cornell University

Congratulations to NIFA funded awardees Jennifer Kao-Kniffin, Cornell University and Megan O’Rourke, Virginia Tech University, who received PECASE awards from Kelvin Droegemeier director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

USDA symbol

USDA Scientists, Engineers, Grantees Honored at White House with PECASE Awards

Government Recognizes Researchers Displaying “Exceptional Promise”

The White House honored seven USDA scientists, engineers, and grantees July 25 as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). PECASE is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology.

“The innovative work by USDA scientists, engineers and grantees is helping to produce an agricultural renaissance in this country,” said Scott Hutchins, Deputy Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area. “These awardees represent the true spirit of scientific innovation, and they help ensure a bright future for agricultural research and our nation.” Read the full USDA press release.

News for You

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education graphic logo

Cover Crop Economics

Farmers around the country are planting cover crops on millions of acres to protect and improve the soil, and the more that farmers use cover crops, the more they value this conservation practice. “Cover Crop Economics: Opportunities to Improve Your Bottom Line in Row Crops” looks at the economics of cover crops in corn and soybean rotations to help farmers answer that big question, when do cover crops pay? Read the full Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education publication.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $1.5 Million in Immune Reagents Research

NIFA recently announced three Immune Reagents for Agricultural Animals grant awards to develop publicly available, reasonably priced, and readily accessible essential immunological reagents needed to study challenges affecting the health, management, and production of agriculturally-relevant animals. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA awarded $1.5 million for 3 new $500,000 species awards for:

NIFA Invests $1.1 Million in Social Implications of Agricultural Technologies

NIFA recently announced four Social Implications of Agricultural Technologies awards to advance research on public engagement and the implications of gene drive and other gene editing technologies. The research investment comes from NIFA’s Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities (AERC) program area. AERC supports rigorous social science projects, behavioral and experimental economics research, and analysis that inform decision-making and policy design to enhance the sustainability of U.S. agricultural production systems enhance the quality of life and alleviate poverty. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

RFA Grant Announcements

Small Business Innovation Research Program - Phase I

Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Phase I projects should prove the scientific or technical feasibility of the approach or concept. Projects dealing with agriculturally related manufacturing and alternative and renewable energy technologies are encouraged across all SBIR topic areas. SBIR's flexible research areas ensure innovative projects consistent with USDA's vision of a healthy and productive nation in harmony with the land, air, and water. Read the full SBIR’s request for applications announcement.

Smith-Lever Act Capacity Grant

Smith-Lever capacity funds, authorized under Sections 3(b) and 3(c) of the Smith-Lever Act, are investments in agricultural extension work. NIFA will accept applications from only 1862 land-grant institutions. Read the full Smith-Lever Act Capacity Grant request for applications.