NIFA Update - June 3, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                        June 3, 2020

Making a Difference

Among the regionally recommended fruiting varieties available from Hartmann’s is Geneva 3. Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.

Among the regionally recommended fruiting varieties available from Hartmann’s is Geneva 3. Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.

University of New Hampshire Kiwiberry Team Boosts Commercial Production

One of the main barriers to commercial kiwiberry production for regional growers is knowing which varieties are the most ideal to grow in the region. Now for the first time, growers can source commercially grown kiwiberry plants that have been genetically verified as being recommended to grow in New England by University of New Hampshire (UNH) researchers.

The kiwiberry is a grape-sized relative of the common fuzzy supermarket kiwi, but with a smooth skin and a sweet tropical taste. Kiwiberry can be grown in colder climates and has recently increased in popularity, but is not yet widely commercially grown. In 2013, UNH Associate Professor of Specialty Crop Improvement Iago Hale established the Kiwiberry Research and Breeding Program at the (UNH) Agricultural Experiment Station’s Woodman Horticultural Research Farm, to develop the kiwiberry into a novel, high-value crop. This research is funded by USDA’s NIFA and the state of New Hampshire. For more information, read the UNH article.

Among the regionally recommended fruiting varieties available from Hartmann’s is Geneva 3. Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire.



Milk Findings May Help Infants Worldwide. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Milk Findings May Help Infants Worldwide

Billions of people drink milk every day. In America, the average consumption of milk is about 146 pounds (17 gallons) per person per year (per 2018 data from USDA’s Economic Research Service). Most importantly, milk is meant to be the sole source of nutrition for infants until age 6 months. Milk naturally contains infection-fighting properties. Commercial baby formula usually does not. Funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and other sponsors allowed University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Professor Janos Zempleni to explore an element of milk that could be used as a supplement in baby formula to boost nutrition and stave off infection. This same element can help balance your gut bacteria when you take antibiotics. For more information, read the NIFA blog.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

USDA's Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins

USDA Invests $4.8 Million In Three 1890 Centers of Excellence

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) recently announced an investment of $4.8 million to support Centers of Excellence at 1890 Land-Grant Institutions in America. The investments in these institutions is made possible through the NIFA 1890 Centers of Excellence Grants program, funded through the FY 2019 Federal Appropriations Bill.

“Access to research and educational opportunities is a cornerstone of prosperity, and this investment will help provide opportunities for America’s underserved and disadvantaged farmers by providing access to research and educational opportunities that will enhance the quality of life in our rural communities,” said Deputy Under Secretary Scott Hutchins. Hutchins leads USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area and provides strategic leadership for the mission area’s scientific research portfolio. For more information, read the full USDA press release.

News for You

Image of the People's Garden courtesy of the USDA.

CoxHealth, Springfield Community Gardens Start Farm to Feed Community

CoxHealth has announced they will be developing a farm in connection with Springfield Community Gardens, growing a variety of produce at Cox facilities for patients, and also for employees to purchase. The funding comes in part from USDA grants totaling just over $1.645 million. $597,918 comes from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) for a beginning farmer program to address the needs and enhance the success of young, beginning, and underrepresented farmers in rural and urban areas of Greene County. $374,605 comes from NIFA to foster self-sustaining solutions to make healthy foods available to families living in low-income neighborhoods, awarded through the Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program. These projects increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems to improve the self-reliance of community members. For more information, read the CoxHealth article.

Image of the People's Garden courtesy of the USDA.

Texas Tech logo

NIFA Grant Investigates Antimicrobial Resistance in High-risk Beef Cattle

With the world dealing with a global pandemic, the food supply chain has seen drastic changes as public consumption and purchasing habits have changed. Those changes are having a effect on supplies of beef, chicken, pork, and other meats. Food industry experts and farmers work extensively to deliver safe meat for the public. Reducing the amounts of antimicrobials used in food animals is of particular concern in order to produce the healthiest meats possible. Now, that effort will have help from Texas Tech University.

Tech's Thornton Distinguished Chair and associate professor Kristin Hales has been awarded a nearly $1 million grant from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture for her project, Investigating the Emergence and Ecology of Antimicrobial Resistance in High-Risk Beef Cattle. For more information, read the Texas Tech article.

Jonas Baltrusaitis

Nitrogen-efficient Fertilizer Research Could Have Lasting Impact

The world's population will continue to grow, but the amount of arable land to feed that population will not. "So people will continue to add more fertilizers to grow more crops in the same areas," says Lehigh University’s associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Jonas Baltrusaitis. "You can't grow crops without fertilizer. It's just not happening."  

He recently received a four-year, nearly $435,000 grant through the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture for his proposal, "Mechanochemical Synthesis of Nitrogen Efficient Fertilizer Materials." For more information, read the Lehigh University article.

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine logo

University of Minnesota Receives $1 Million for Tactical Work on Agricultural Biosecurity

The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Secure Food System team received $1 million from USDA-NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for the team’s proposed work involving tactical sciences for agricultural biosecurity. Secure Food System team collaborates with public and private partners to develop tactical biosecurity strategies to limit disease spread for specific animal movements based on risk-based science. This NIFA-AFRI program area has long aimed to narrow gaps in food and agricultural defenses and to increase national capacity to prevent, rapidly detect and respond to biological threats to the U.S. food system. In April, AFRI added funding opportunities for rapid response to the novel coronavirus. This work at UMN will result in several proactive risk assessments and will provide the scientific basis needed to make live animal and animal product movements during an outbreak. For more information, read the UMN article.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $8.3 Million to Improve the Soil Health of Agricultural Ecosystems

NIFA recently announced 18 grant awards in the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) – Soil Health priority area. AFRI provides funding for fundamental and applied research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. NIFA seeks to improve our understanding of the physical and biogeochemical interactions and processes within and between the soil and the environment. This effort will lead to the development of tools, practices, techniques, and/or innovations for improving soil health and the resilience and sustainability of agricultural production systems and ecosystem services. These awards will include practices that contain soil-based enhancement of nutrient and water efficiencies, reduced inputs, and a reduction in chemicals of environmental concern.

NIFA Invests $5.3 Million in Plant Physiology Research

NIFA recently announced 16 Plant Physiology Research awards that advance research to improve plant production, which is critical to the sustainability and competitiveness of United States agriculture. The genetic basis of important traits identified through these studies are expected to translate into plant varieties with improved yield or product quality, or increased resilience to adverse environmental conditions. The awards support research in plant growth and developmental processes, mechanisms of plant response to abiotic stresses, and nutrient uptake, assimilation, and/or utilization. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $4.7 Million in Economics, Markets, and Trade Research

NIFA announced 14 Economics, Markets, and Trade awards that will promote American agricultural products and exports. Research efforts include the effects of regulatory measures on U.S. and global agricultural trade, quantitatively evaluating food safety monitoring and enforcement tools, the economic viability and growth of organic farming, and a regional dynamic model of U.S. beef cattle to assess the economic impacts of movement restrictions in an event of foot-and-mouth disease. This research will also help U.S. farmers provide a safe, nutritious and secure food supply while promoting rural prosperity and economic development. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program.

NIFA Invests $3.6 Million Rural Prosperity and Economic Development Research

NIFA recently announced 10 rural economics awards that will provide insights into improving rural prosperity and economic development. The projects address the role of innovation in rural business startup and vitality, measure and build on local food system vitality for communities in the South, explore opioid risks in rural areas, and develop a research-based entrepreneurial curriculum for rural business startup and survival. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program.

Tweet of the Week

NIFA University of Nebraska tweet - Daniel Ciobanu, left, and Hiep Vu have received separate NIFA grants focused on swine viral diseases.