NIFA Update - July 1, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                        July 1, 2020

Making a Difference

Graphene biosensors that can detect histamine, an allergen and indicator of spoiled fish and meat. Image courtesy of Jonathan Claussen.

Researchers are using aerosol-jet-printing technology to create these graphene biosensors that can detect histamine, an allergen and indicator of spoiled fish and meat. Image courtesy of Jonathan Claussen.

Researchers Print, Tune Graphene Sensors to Monitor Food Freshness, Safety

Researchers at Iowa State University, Northwestern University, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have created sensors that can detect histamine, an indicator of spoiled fish and meat, down to 3.41 parts per million. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set histamine guidelines of 50 parts per million in fish, making these sensors more than sensitive enough to track food freshness and safety. To make the sensors, the researchers first printed graphene electrodes on a flexible polymer and then converted them to histamine sensors. This work is funded by the National Science Foundation, NIFA’s AFRI program, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. For more information, read the Iowa State University article.


Native Waters on Arid Lands Facebook graphic

NWAL COVID Action Coordination Group background

Beginning in mid-March 2020, the Native Waters on Arid Lands (NWAL) project initiated weekly Zoom meetings with tribal partners throughout the intermountain West (Southwest, Great Basin, and Northern Rockies) to collect information about the impacts of COVID-19 on tribal farmers, ranchers, and communities. Approximately 50-60 stakeholders and federal officials join these calls. Participants include Tribal Council members, Native farmers and ranchers, Federally-Recognized Tribal Extension agents (FRTEP), Tribal College and University (TCU) faculty, and leaders from USDA NIFA, USDA Office of Tribal Relations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Forest Service, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Issues addressed include impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on tribal agriculture, ranching, food security/food supply, medical supplies, economic relief, access to basic resources (water, firewood, household products), educational support needs, and COVID testing needs.

During these calls, TCU and FRTEP Extension agents provided crucial insight into the challenges the pandemic has created for community members in their regions. They also shared how they used their resources, expertise, and networks of contacts to help develop viable solutions to the identified problems. Visit the NWAL website for more information.

USDA News Radio graphic

The Dangers of Being Sleepless in America

Studies say that up to a third of us don't get the sleep we need to stay healthy, physically and mentally. Experts say that's causing some major problems. USDA’s Gary Crawford talks with University of Nebraska Extension Sleep Expert Susan Harris on how important a good night’s sleep is to keep us healthy. For more information, listen to the USDA broadcast

News for You

Rowcrop image courtesy of Pinterest.

Swarm Farming: Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

The evolution of autonomous robotic platforms keeps excitement growing around the potential and implementation of swarm farming for large scale agricultural production. A robotic platform for a specific crop production operation needs thoughtful considerations, especially when the expectation is to continually enhance agricultural productivity, profitability, and possibly, environmental sustainability. To realize swarm farming goals, these autonomous robotic platforms will require seamless integration and the functioning of numerous sub-systems. For more information, read the Precision Ag Review article.

This is a USDA-NIFA funded project under the National Science Foundation’s National Robotics Initiative Program with Kansas State University.

Riparian forest buffer workshop. Photo courtesy of the USDA National Agroforestry Center.

Trees and Shrubs Protect Crops and Generate Income for Farmers

Across the U.S., farmers are taking innovative approaches to foster environmental stewardship and economic viability through a common conservation practice called the riparian forest buffer. Multifunctional riparian buffers are trees, shrubs, and other plants alongside rivers, streams, and wetlands that produce products that can be harvested and sold. By widening these buffers and planting more year-round cover, farmers are enhancing water quality, improving wildlife habitat, and protecting soil, while also producing specialty crops that they can use or sell. Since 2016, the National Agriforestry Center has partnered with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, Penn State University, and other partners to host multifunctional riparian forest buffer workshops for ag and natural resource professionals. These workshops are partially funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. For more information, read the USDA article.

Technical assistance providers view the riparian forest buffer from the stream corridor during a multifunctional riparian forest buffer workshop. Photo courtesy of the USDA National Agroforestry Center.

Kansas wheat field, image courtesy of Kansas State University. 

Kansas State University will Lead Project to Improve Winter Wheat Varieties

The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has selected Kansas State University to serve as a center for efforts to improve U.S. winter wheat varieties. The university received $1 million to establish the International Wheat Yield Partnership’s (IWYP) Winter Wheat Breeding Innovation Hub. K-State will lead the effort to evaluate research findings from several IWYP projects that contribute to significantly improved wheat yields, according to officials. Hub partners will seek ways to stack – or combine -- desirable traits from those projects into elite winter wheat varieties for U.S. growers. Desirable traits may include genetic improvements that make winter wheat more resistant to pests, disease or drought, thus improving its yield potential. For more information, read the Kansas State University article.

Kansas wheat field, image courtesy of Kansas State University. 

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $9.7 Million in Research in Animal Nutrition, Growth, and Lactation

NIFA announced 23 Animal Nutrition, Growth, and Lactation grants that will lead to better management strategies for animal production systems, enhance production efficiency, and further develop high quality animal products for human use. These advances will come from new foundational knowledge into the cellular, molecular, genomic and whole animal management strategies brought about by the 23 projects. Rural prosperity brought about through greater farm profitability and increased exports are a two of the ultimate goals of the federal investment. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $4.1 Million in Small and Medium Sized Farm Research

NIFA recently awarded 11 small and medium sized farm research grants designed to enhance farm income and improve the quality of life of farm communities. These research efforts focus on alternative crop enterprises, marketing, and scaling up fruit and vegetable production to overcome marketing constraints. This research will enhance the economic efficiency and sustainability of small- and medium-sized farms, increasing their viability and competitiveness in local markets. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $4 Million in Inter-disciplinary Animal Research

NIFA recently awarded five Inter-Disciplinary Engagement in Animal Systems (IDEAS) grants. This program priority area seeks to bridge traditional disciplinary divides and address complex issues in animal agriculture, with special attention to precision animal management, environmental synergies of animal production, and societal aspects of animal welfare. This research and associated extension will enhance rural prosperity by tackling the complexity of social, cultural, environmental, economic, and technologic challenges facing the food and agriculture system in the United States today. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Tweet of the Week

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