NIFA Update - Nov. 11, 2020

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Editor: Kelly Sprute                                                                                November 11, 2020

Making a Difference

Cow and calf bonding. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Cow and calf bonding. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Aspirin After Calving Can Provide Relief to Dairy Cows, Increase Milk Production

Dairy cows that received a short course of anti-inflammatory medication after calving had lower metabolic stress and produced more milk than untreated cows, according to researchers, who say the regimen they tested could be adopted more easily by producers than previously studied treatment strategies.

"Dairy cows experience systemic inflammation and stress around calving, and these responses increase the risk of diseases, negatively affecting the cows' health and performance," said lead researcher Dr. Adrian Barragan, clinical assistant professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Barragan noted that stress and inflammation related to calving can increase the incidence of diseases such as mastitis, an infection of the udder, and clinical metritis, which is a bacterial infection of the uterus that can affect up to 40% of postpartum animals. Previous research suggests that each case of clinical metritis can cost producers about $359, and the total estimated costs of metritis to the dairy industry are estimated at $650 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported this work. For more information, read the Penn State article.



Diversity and inclusion workshops in action. Photo courtesy of Shannon Jackson, University of Florida.   

Equal Opportunity Staff Diversity and Inclusion Success Stories

 Faculty of the University of Florida’s Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (FYCS) currently lead 21 NIFA-funded Hatch projects, 10 of which are multi-state projects, and many of them study vulnerable and minority populations. Additionally, the FYCS Department has one of the largest minority enrollments in the UF College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Their students come from diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.

Despite the expertise and experience of the faculty, in early 2016 they realized that Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) was an area where improvements were needed. To address this need, they developed a new process model for creating a climate for D&I work within the department that is being considered collegewide.

The FYCS Department’s D&I Committee established a firm foundation and brought D&I to the forefront of departmental discussions and planning. The Committee’s key accomplishments include developing a department survey based on an Appreciative Inquiry framework, and faculty and staff retreats, during which discussions helped department members identify specific priority areas for growth. With a foundation in the Appreciative Inquiry framework, survey data, and department priorities, the department transitioned from a committee model to a “Diversity Opens” phase of the model.

The “Diversity Opens” (DO) model moved beyond traditional power structures, such as committees, and put the responsibility of D&I growth into the hands of all department members.  The goal of DOs were to:

  • break down the barriers to engagement, allowing any faculty or staff to suggest and/or lead smaller activities;
  • diffuse the responsibility for D&I improvement from the centralized committee to the broader network of faculty and staff; and
  • establish a culture of prioritizing D&I throughout all department activities, particularly research.

Lowering the barrier to engagement has been especially important for faculty from minority backgrounds, as research suggests that diversity-related service often falls to these faculty and can be detrimental to their careers.

Based on the leadership provided by the D&I Committee, the FYCS Department adopted a unique framework of Appreciative Inquiry for guiding equity efforts and developed an innovative model for continuing this work - Diversity Opens. While many departments focus on diversity policies or procedures, FYCS emphasized embedding diversity and inclusion within the culture of the department.

Over time, these efforts will have long-term, positive impacts on the quality of faculty and staff work, particularly research with diverse, vulnerable, and marginalized populations.

These efforts were recognized in October 2020 by the Experiment Station Section and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU); The University of Florida, FYCS Department received the National Experiment Station Section Diversity and Inclusion Award.  

Diversity and inclusion workshop in action. Photo courtesy of Shannon Jackson, University of Florida.   

Various images of hurricane damage; courtesy of University of Florida and LSU AgCenter.

NIFA Funds Disaster Response Efforts

Did you know the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides funding to mitigate the impact of disasters through Cooperative Extension programming? Funding is made through NIFA’s Smith-Lever Special Needs Competitive Grants Program, which supports innovative, education-based projects that address emergency preparedness and specific responses related to natural and human-made disasters. For more information, read the NIFA blog.

Various images of hurricane damage; courtesy of University of Florida and LSU AgCenter.

News for You

Image courtesy of GoFarm Hawaii.

Developing Local Farmers in Hawaii

The University of Hawaii’s successful farmer-training program, GoFarm Hawaiʻi, is the only project in the state to be awarded a Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The $600,000 grant will support education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers or ranchers. The primary goal is to improve success through projects that provide the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to make informed decisions for their operations and enhance their sustainability. For more information, read the University of Hawaii news article.

Image courtesy of GoFarm Hawaii.

Oklahoma State University logo

Oklahoma State, NEO, USDA Team Up to Enhance Native American Education Opportunity

Oklahoma State University and Northeastern Oklahoma Agriculture and Mechanical College are collaborating to provide four Native American students with scholarships to complete dual undergraduate degrees in plant and soil sciences and entomology. The collaborative scholarship effort is being funded by a $289,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture as part of its New Beginning for Tribal Students program, which makes competitive grants available to provide support specifically targeted for students of America’s tribal nations. For more information, read the Oklahoma State University article.

USDA Messages

Oregon Naked Barley image courtesy of Oregon State University. 

New Barley Varieties Going Au Naturel

Naked barley has been around for centuries, and now land grant university researchers are developing new varieties with multiple benefits. USDA’s Rod Bain talks with Oregon State University’s Patrick Hayes about how this barley variation could have multiply uses. Part of the research for the Oregon Naked Barley Blend was funded by NIFA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative. For more information, listen to the USDA broadcast.

Oregon Naked Barley image courtesy of Oregon State University. 

USDA graphic symbol

USDA Announces OneUSDA Internship Program for Summer 2021

Get the first leg up on your career ladder with a summer 2021 internship at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As part of the federal Pathways Program, USDA offers paid federal internships at USDA agencies and offices around the country. USDA is hiring interns from high school to graduate level for a broad range of occupational fields, from veterinary science, to engineering, to natural resources management, and finance. For more information, read the USDA press release.

Award Announcements

USDA SBIR Program Awards $601,321 in Plant Production and Protection Grants to Small Businesses

The USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, administered by NIFA, recently awarded six grants to small business to improve plant production and protection. The SBIR program stimulates technological innovations in the private sector and strengthens the role of federal research and development in supporting U.S. small businesses.

Correction to last week's award announcement

NIFA invests $32 million to encourage low-income families to buy healthy food through the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program. Read the announcement for more information.

Tweet of the Week

NIFA tweet - NIFA tweets - A Cornell-led, researchers developing computer vision, automation, robotics to prune and optimize apple tree production.