NIFA Update - June 17, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                        June 17, 2020

Making a Difference


StressCam, a low-cost camera system to monitor crop stress, shown over a field of soybeans at the Sandhills Research Station. Photo courtesy North Carolina State University.

North Carolina State U. Researchers Launch “StressCam” 

Being able to identify crop problems early can make the difference between saving a crop and losing it, but high-tech solutions can be costly.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers thinks a new approach leveraging existing technology may be part of the solution. North Carolina State University researchers in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are launching an inexpensive camera system that can monitor crop stress remotely. These low-cost sensors can help researchers studying ways to make agricultural systems more resilient; plant breeders breeding more drought-tolerant varieties; and someday may be able to alert farmers when their fields need to be irrigated.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports this research. Read complete story by Mollie Rappe. 


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NIFA Invests $4.8 Million to Train Agricultural Workforce Through Community Colleges

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) recently announced an investment of $4.8 million to support 12 projects that will offer workforce training by community colleges. These awards are made possible through the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Agricultural Workforce Training program priority area. This is the first time NIFA has specifically targeted community colleges to increase training opportunities for the food and agricultural workforce.

“Community colleges provide substantial workforce development throughout the nation,” said NIFA Director Scott Angle. “These awards will lead to workers earning a two-year degree or an industry-accepted credential, which will open better job opportunities in the food and agricultural sector.” For more information, read the NIFA release.  

News for You

Chancellor Ronnie Green at Fillmore County Fair in Geneva, Nebraska. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication.

Creativity, Teamwork Key to Providing 4-H Youth a Fair Experience in 2020

Across Nebraska, county fair boards and ag societies are working to determine how their fairs will look in 2020. Some counties have cancelled their fairs, while others continue to weigh the pros and cons.

Nebraska 4-H is committed to making sure every single youth involved in 4-H across the state has the opportunity to show their livestock and exhibit their projects this summer, whether or not their county is having a fair, and no matter what that fair looks like, said Nebraska Extension Dean and Director Chuck Hibberd. For more information, read the University of Nebraska article.

Chancellor Ronnie Green at Fillmore County Fair in Geneva, Nebraska. Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication.

Texas A&M Offers Free Webinars on CARES Act Funding Distribution

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension developed three recorded webinars about the distribution of CARES Act funding to state and local governments, small businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions and more. All three webinars may be viewed free of charge:

Federal Relief: An Overview for Local Governments This course explains the distribution of the CARES Act Funding to state and local governments, small businesses, homeland security, healthcare providers, labor, education, and arts organizations, justice and police departments, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, agriculture and food programs, and education institutions.

CARES Act: Implications for Farmers and Ranchers: This training discusses Phase 3 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act as it relates to economic assistance for agricultural operations.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Training: This course covers the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP. This program provides direct assistance to agricultural producers who have experienced losses due to COVID-19.

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Tuskegee University Awarded $1.6M USDA Centers of Excellence Grant     

Tuskegee University is one of three land-grant institutions to each receive $1.6 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture for its Center for Innovation and Sustainable Small Farms, Ranches and Forestlands. NIFA’s total $4.8 million award supporting Centers of Excellence at these 1890 Land-Grant Institutions in America is made possible through the agency’s 1890 Centers of Excellence Grants program, funded through the FY19 Federal Appropriations Bill.

“Access to research and educational opportunities is a cornerstone of prosperity, and this investment will help provide opportunities will 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 USDA's Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Scott Hutchins. For more information, read the Tuskegee University article.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $11.4 Million to Improve Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production

NIFA recently awarded 22 Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production grants that will advance the 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 research focused on pre-breeding and germplasm enhancement, applied quantitative genetics and selection theory, as well as testing and evaluation for cultivar development, including high-intensity phenotyping sites, innovation hubs and collaborative partnerships. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program.

NIFA Invests $4.8 Million to Advance Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology for Agricultural and Food Systems

NIFA recently awarded 12 research grants under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Nanotechnology for Agricultural and Food Systems program to support nanotechnology-based solutions that improve food production, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and food safety. Nanotechnology is the science of studying and producing materials and devices of nanometer size--about the size of one hundred-thousandth of the thickness of a sheet of newspaper.

NIFA Invests $3.9 Million to Develop Agricultural Education Professionals

NIFA recently awarded 15 Professional Development and Secondary School Teacher grants that will increase the number of K-14 teachers and educational professionals trained in the food and agricultural sciences. Teachers develop skills necessary for integrating food and agricultural science into their classes; explore food and agricultural science career paths; and forge mentorships with agricultural professionals, business leaders, and university faculty. Funded projects support best practices in teaching that enhance student learning outcomes. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI).

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