NIFA Update - April 15, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                         April 15, 2020

Making a Difference

Purdue University's Natalia Dudareva and Joseph Lynch.

Natalia Dudareva and Joseph Lynch discovered a link between the compound and the plant hormone auxin. Image courtesy of Tom Campbell with Purdue Agricultural Communication.

Scientists Find Link Between Key Plant Amino Acid and Essential Hormones  

Purdue University scientists searched for a way to increase a plant’s production of phenylalanine, a compound important for plant survival and used by humans in flavors, fragrances, biofuels, insecticides, and pharmaceuticals. This led to a discovery last year of a previously unknown metabolic pathway that could be engineered to allow plants to produce more phenylalanine than they do on their own.

Plants use phenylalanine as building blocks for compounds to attract pollinators, for defense, reproduction, growth and development. While sufficient for those purposes, the amounts are small for human uses. The researchers discovered plants also can produce phenylalanine in cytoplasm and may be able to make larger quantities there. They grew petunias to maturity and then induced production of an enzyme that increased phenylalanine production in the cytosol, three-fold. This science, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, was informed by a project previously funded by NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. For more information read the Purdue University article.

Angle's Update

J. Scott Angle, NIFA Director

Tomorrow, NIFA will host a webinar from 2-3 p.m. Central time, for our Land Grant University and other science partners to clarify answers to frequently asked questions about how the current situation caused by COVID-19 will affect NIFA programs. Please register if you would like to attend. Kindly send any questions you have, in advance, to my Chief of Staff, Bill Hoffman.


Matthew Faulkner

NIFA Welcomes New Office of Grants and Financial Management Deputy Director

Matthew Faulkner has been selected for the position of Deputy Director, Office of Grants and Financial Management. He joins NIFA from USDA's Rural Development mission area where he was the Director of Enterprise Risk Management and Director of the Continuous Process Improvement Office. Prior to this, he worked at the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, USDA as the Director of the Credit, Travel, and Grants Policy Division. Faulkner has extensive Departmental experience in multiple Farm Bill implementations, full lifecycle management of federal assistance programs including credit and grant programs, strategic and operational performance management, and enterprise deployment of continuous process improvement. During his 35 years at USDA, he has strived to improve program efficiency and effectiveness to benefit customers, stakeholders, and employees. He led USDA’s Grants Management Line of Business initiative with 14 grant-making USDA agencies, establishing the To-Be Process for end-to-end grants management. This initiative provided the requirements for ezFedGrants; a comprehensive grants and agreements management solution that allows agencies and their customers to efficiently manage online throughout the entire agreement lifecycle. Besides his 24 years in Washington, D.C., he also has worked at a county office providing program services to farmers and ranchers. 

Nicole Steinmetz

Firing Up Your Immune System with Plant Viruses

In this episode of Nano Matters (a podcast that explores specific nanotechnology topics), Nicole Steinmetz, Professor of Nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego, California, discusses how she uses plant viruses to treat cancer. She recently received funding from NIFA’s AFRI A1511 Nanotechnology for Agriculture and Food System program. Listen to Nano Matters podcast.

News for You

Natriez “Nate” Peterson

Prairie View A&M University’s New Extension Program Specialist

Congratulations to Natriez “Nate” Peterson on his promotion from Extension Agent to Extension Program Specialist. As an agent, he implemented, developed, and evaluated innovative educational programs that focused on small business development, agri-business, government contracting, homeownership, and youth entrepreneurship for limited-resource individuals and communities throughout Harris County, Texas. Read the full Prairie View A&M University article.

Chautauqua County 4-H youth at the recent Western District Dairy Quiz Bowl.

New York Youth Excel in Dairy Quiz Bowl

Local 4-H dairy members represented Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County’s 4-H Youth Development Program by participating in the Western District Dairy Quiz Bowl competition. The objective of the 4-H Dairy Bowl Contest is to provide an opportunity for 4-H youth to demonstrate their knowledge of dairy-related subject matter in a competitive setting where attitudes of friendliness and fairness prevail. Dairy Bowl is an educational experience for both participants and spectators. Teams from five Western New York counties competed in the beginner, junior, and senior levels. Read the full Observer Today article.

Chautauqua County 4-H youth at the recent Western District Dairy Quiz Bowl.

USDA Message

USDA NAL alternative crop image

Crops Making the "Alternative" Scene

More farmers are looking at growing alternative crops for profit as well as other benefits. But what is an alternative crop? And what are some examples? USDA’s Rod Bain looks at alternative crops and their potential for ag producers in this edition of "Agriculture USA." Rod talks with Pennsylvania Deputy Agriculture Secretary Fred Strathmeyer about what makes and alternative crop. Listen to the USDA broadcast. USDA’s National Agricultural Library has a list of alternative crop and livestock species to help start non-conventional farming enterprises.

Funding Opportunity

1890 Institution Teaching, Research and Extension Capacity Building Grants (CBG) Program

The 1890 CBG program strengthens teaching, research, and extension programs in the food and agricultural sciences by building institutional capacities of the 1890 Land-Grant Institutions. CBG supports projects that strengthen teaching programs in the food and agricultural sciences in areas of curriculum design, materials development, faculty development, and more. CBG also supports integrated project grants. The intent of this initiative is to increase and strengthen food and agriculture sciences at the 1890s through integration of education, research, and extension. For more information read the CBG funding opportunity.

Methyl Bromide Transition Program

The Methyl Bromide Transition Program (MBT) addresses the immediate needs and the costs of transition that have resulted from the phase-out of the pesticide methyl bromide. Methyl bromide has been a pest- and disease-control tactic critical to pest management systems for decades for soilborne and postharvest pests. The program focuses on integrated commercial-scale research on methyl bromide alternatives and associated extension activity that will foster the adoption of these solutions. Projects should cover a broad range of new methodologies, technologies, systems, and strategies for controlling economically important pests for which methyl bromide has been the only effective pest control option. For more information read the MBT funding opportunity.

Tweet of the Week

NIFA Penn State baby food tweet