NIFA Update - July 29, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                          July 29, 2020

Making a Difference

A honey bee visits a blueberry blossom, photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

A honey bee visits a blueberry blossom, photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

Specialty Crop Farmers Can Increase Yields Through Improved Pollination

Most of the world’s crops depend on bees and other insects for pollination, so the decline in honey bees and wild bee populations raises concerns about food security. Crop yields for apples, cherries, and blueberries across the United States are being reduced, according to a new research study from the Integrated Crop Pollination Project coordinated by Michigan State University and led by Rutgers University researchers.

“We found that many crops are pollination-limited, meaning crop production would be higher if crop flowers received more pollination. We also found that honey bees and wild bees provided similar amounts of pollination overall,” said senior author Rachael Winfree, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Through the multi-state Integrated Crop Pollination Project, scientists collected data at 131 farms across the U.S. and in British Columbia, Canada, on insect pollination of crop flowers and yield for apples, highbush blueberries, sweet cherries, tart cherries, almond, watermelon, and pumpkin. The Integrated Crop Pollination Project was funded by NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative program. For more information, read the Michigan State University article.


Webinar graphic from YouTube.

NIFA FAQs Relating to Flexibility for Applicants and Recipients Webinar

This FAQ website covers the most asked questions about impacts of the COVID-19 emergency on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grants. NIFA continues to evaluate options and flexibilities related to coronavirus impacts and will announce updates to this FAQ in the NIFA Update. You are invited to a NIFA FAQs Relating to Flexibility for Applicants and Recipients webinar August 7, at 3:30 p.m. (ET). Register for this free webinar online. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. The webinar will be recorded and posted to the NIFA website if you are unable to attend.

Mysterious seed image from Google.

USDA Investigates Packages of Unsolicited Seeds

USDA is aware that people across the country have received suspicious, unsolicited packages of seed that appear to be coming from China. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and State departments of agriculture to investigate the situation.

USDA urges anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to immediately contact their State plant regulatory official or APHIS State plant health director. Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions. Do not plant seeds from unknown origins. For more information, read the APHIS announcement.

USDA news radio graphic

A New and Free Online Farm Stress Management Course

Some say that farmers today are under more stress than perhaps ever before. There is a new online stress management training course for farmers and anyone connected with agriculture. USDA’s Gary Crawford talks with University of Illinois Extension Dr. Courtney Cuthbertson and Montana State University Extension Specialist Alison Brennan has more about it farmer and rancher stress prevention course. For more information, listen to the USDA broadcast.

NIFA flower identifier graphic

NIFA Career Opportunities

We are hiring! Remember to check out NIFA's Career Opportunities webpage, where there is a direct link to all open positions. You can also explore NIFA jobs at the website. Current openings in Kansas City, Missouri:

Staff Accountant, GS 13
Closing date: 7/31/2020            

Biological/Social Science Specialist (National Program Leader), GS 13-15
Closing date: 9/30/2020

News for You

University of West Virginia graphic logo

Walmart Foundation Grant to Expand Access to Healthy Foods in West Virginia

The Walmart Foundation provided a $658,000 grant to the West Virginia University (WVU) Extension Service Family Nutrition Program to help West Virginians access to fresh, healthy and locally grown foods and research-based nutrition education. The grant was made through the WVU Foundation, which is the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the university. The WVU Extension Service Family Nutrition Program’s work is supported by NIFA’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. For more information, read the WVU article.

John Bekkers Professor of Poultry Science Harshavardhan Thippareddi. Photo courtesy of University of Georgia.

University of Georgia Researcher Improving Sustainability, Profitability for Poultry Processors

Over time, the U.S. poultry industry has bred strains of birds that grow rapidly to meet consumer demand for chicken products, but that rapid growth has led to a higher incidence of muscle tissue defects that could lead to revenue loss. Now a team of University of Georgia (UGA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture poultry scientists has received a Critical Agricultural Research and Extension (CARE) grant from the USDA to help develop ways to use the meat that increase sustainability and profitability. Led by Harshavardhan Thippareddi, the team received a $300,000 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to support their work. For more information, read the UGA article.

John Bekkers Professor of Poultry Science Harshavardhan Thippareddi. Photo courtesy of University of Georgia.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $14.6 Million in Animal Health and Disease Program

NIFA recently awarded 32 animal health grants that advance research to understand, diagnose, control, and prevent diseases of agricultural animals, including horses and aquaculture. Awards focus on new and improved vaccines, diagnostics, current antimicrobial alternatives, breeding disease resistant animals, and understanding better ways to manage animals to minimize disease outbreaks. Enhancing the health of animals increases farmers and ranchers profitability and assures consumers that they have abundant, safe, nutritious, and affordable food animal products. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

NIFA Invests $4.1 Million for Research in Tools and Resources for Animal Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics Research

NIFA recently awarded 10 animal breeding, genetics, and genomics grants to improve the quality of genome sequences, characterization of genes along with their function and control, and analytics for animal selection and breeding. Awards include two projects to improve the collection of traits at the farm level, and application of genome editing in agricultural animal species. These projects will lead to higher efficiency of agricultural animals through precision breeding that will improve productivity and profit. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

NIFA Invests $3.5 Million for Pollinator Health Research

NIFA recently awarded 10 Pollinator Health Research grants for research to sustain healthy populations of pollinators, which are crucial to the nation’s food security and environmental health. Pollinator health projects address the current problem of declining populations of managed and wild pollinators, such as bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles and bats. Pollinators play a vital role in the production of healthy crops for food, fiber, and other agricultural uses. These grants are a part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program.

NIFA Invests $1.4 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 to improve the quality of life and alleviate poverty. These grants are part of NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

SBIR Awards nearly $600,000 to Develop Conservation and Natural Resource Commercial Innovations

USDA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, administered by NIFA, recently awarded six grants to U.S. small businesses to increase sustainability and profitability of farms and ranches. The awards will advance conservation and natural resources by allowing small businesses to develop a novel system to reduce poultry production air pollution, a low-cost sensor to quantify wind erosion, a handheld device to detect E.coli, a new biobased polymer, and a low-cost solar desalination method for agriculture drainage management.

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