NIFA Update - Sept. 23, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                  September 23, 2020

Making a Difference

KernzaⓇ is the trademark name for the perennial grain. Image courtesy of University of Minnesota.

KernzaⓇ is the trademark name for the perennial grain harvested from new varieties of intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium). Image courtesy of University of Minnesota.

Multi-state Coalition Aims to Advance Agriculture by Driving Research, Education, and Adoption of Nation’s First Perennial Grain Crop

A multi-state coalition of researchers, farmers, educators, industry leaders, policy experts, and climate scientists were recently awarded a competitive five-year, $10 million grant through USDA NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s - Sustainable Agricultural Systems program to scale the research, production, awareness and commercialization of Kernza, the first commercial perennial grain in the United States.

Kernza is the trademark name for the perennial grain harvested from new varieties of intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium), a forage grass that has been used by farmers across the United States for decades. As a perennial, Kernza is planted once and provides several years of harvestable grain. Kernza has a deep-root system that provides multiple environmental benefits, including improving water and soil quality and reducing soil erosion. Additionally, research has shown that this new perennial grain can increase farm income due to decreased inputs and costs from reduced tilling, pesticide requirements and nutrient runoff. For more information, read the University of Minnesota article.



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Restoring Groundwater and Reducing Flood Damage at the Same Time

One California farmer's innovative idea for rebuilding rapidly depleting groundwater supplies is catching on. USDA’s Gary Crawford talks with California farmer Don Cameron and Sustainable Conservation specialist Ashley Boren on how you can both restore the groundwater and reduce flood damage in this edition of Agriculture USA. For more information, listen to the USDA broadcast.

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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 Washington, D.C. and Kansas City, Missouri:

Biological/Social Science Specialist (National Science Liaison), GS 15
Located in Washington, District of Columbia
Closing date: 9/29/2020

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

Equal Opportunity Specialist, GS 9-11
Located in Kansas City, Missouri
Closing date: 10/05/2020

News for You

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University of Nebraska Researchers Linking Cattle Behavior to Efficient Beef Production

Range cattle spend most of their time grazing, ruminating, resting and watering. Using collars fitted with GPS and accelerometers, technology similar to that found in a Fitbit that collects data on movement patterns, University of Nebraska–Lincoln researchers are tracking the movements and behavioral patterns of beef cattle and how they link to efficient beef production systems.

The team is tracking the movement of 30 cows and calves using a GPS collar and accelerometers. The researchers can evaluate the influence of a cow’s milk ability, measured by periodic milking of the cows using a milk machine, on suckling and grazing behaviors of calves. This will then be tied into production characteristics such as weaning weight. The team received a three-year, $299,999 NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative - Critical Agricultural Research and Extension grant. For more information, read the University of Nebraska article.

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Cover Crops at the Center of Search for Sustainable Ag Solution

Cover crops can be integral to a vegetable grower’s production cycle for several reasons: soil erosion reduction, weed control, and more. A new research project backed by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) aims to dig a little deeper by quantifying the nitrogen cycling benefits of cover crops across different organic vegetable production systems in Florida. The three-year study, led by an interdisciplinary research team from University of Florida, is powered by a $496,271 grant as part of NIFA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. According to University of Florida’s Assistant Professor Gabriel Maltais-Landry, the overall goal is to optimize cover crops management in organic vegetable systems. For more information, read the University of Florida article.

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New Mexico State University Launches Program to Support Minority Students

A $1 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grant will support an innovative cross-campus collaboration at New Mexico State University that aims to transform the educational experience and increase accessibility and workforce opportunities for underrepresented students in natural resources and agriculture. NMSU’s associate professor Alvaro Romero will lead the collaboration, known as “Enhancing Hispanic Access to Natural Resource and Agricultural Careers through Education, Mentorship, and Training,” or “ENHANCEMENT.” For more information, read the NMSU article.

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SARE Sabbatical Research and Education Grant Program Grant Opportunity

The Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Western SARE) program announces the call for proposals for the 2021 Sabbatical Grants. The Sabbatical Grants provide an opportunity for faculty around the world to partner with farmers, ranchers, agricultural professionals, and researchers of the Western U.S. region for conducting research, education, and extension activities. Projects focused on unexplored topics in underserved communities and understudied geographic locations are of special interest. For more information, read the Western SARE grant proposal.  

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Prairie View A&M University Researchers Publish Drought’s Impact on Crop Production

PVAMU scientists Ram Ray, Peter Ampim, and Ming Gao provided a critical and comprehensive review of recent studies on the impact of drought on crop physiology, morphology, yields, and global food security. They also commented on available genetic and agronomic tools available to address drought stress and protect crops under drought conditions. This book chapter contributes to improvements in adaptation strategies suitable for crop production under drought conditions for sustainable agricultural management practices. The chapter titled “Crop Protection Under Drought Stress” is published by Springer Nature in the book, “Crop Protection Under Changing Climate.” For more information, read the PVAMU article.

This work was supported by the Evans-Allen project of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Award Announcements

NIFA Invests $4.5 Million in Higher Education

NIFA recently awarded 20 Higher Education Challenge (HEC) grants to enhance the quality of instruction at higher education intuitions and to increase the number and diversity of students who pursue and complete a postsecondary degree in the food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences (FANH). NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge Grants Program supports colleges and universities in their efforts to educate the next generation of the food and agriculture scientific and professional workforce. HEC seeks to improve formal, baccalaureate or master’s degree-level FANH education along with first professional degree-level education in veterinary medicine. HEC projects improve the economic health and viability of communities through the development of degree programs that emphasize new and emerging employment opportunities.

Tweet of the Week

NIFA awarded over $10.7 million to 24 Hispanic Serving Institutions - tweet image